Tag Archives: Christian

Free! Get Tiger’s Paw for Free!

Do you love urban fantasy? Intrigued by the thought of secret societies fighting to remain secret? Military espionage, shapeshifters, and Elves in a world similar to our own. Exactly who can be trusted?

Find out when you pick up Tiger’s Paw for free today through Sunday.

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Book Review Wednesday – Honor

Honor: Second Novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano

Amazon Book Description:

The Earl of Dentin excels in his position as Securer of the Realm. But the king’s order to pluck an orphaned child from a loving home unsettles Dentin. When a dark-eyed woman challenges his honor regarding the mission, Dentin finds himself unable to justify his actions or get her out of his mind. Something about her lack of fear intrigues him.

Lady Elsa Reeve attempts to avoid the marriage of convenience her brother and mother demand of her. She understands the need to pay off her brother’s massive debt. She only wants her family to consider her wishes in the process.

As Elsa becomes further entangled in a snare of her brother’s creating, only one man defends her. But can she trust Dentin, her unlikely champion, and his motives? With a murderer on the loose, Elsa’s fate in jeopardy, and a traitor plotting against the king, Dentin finds his priorities shifting in an unexpected direction.

I have to say that after reading the first book in this series, Duty, I was on pins and needles waiting for Honor and it did not disappoint.

Plot – Grade A

The premise of this book rests on Dentin’s attempt to balance his personal honor with the orders of the king as well as hunting for murderers and traitors in his position of Securer of the Realm. Dentin is a self-professed man of honor but he is challenged not only by the difficulty of his latest task but also by Lady Elsa Reeve. Elsa has been treated like a pawn by her own family for years but she has a strong and loving spirit too, which steals away any preconceived notion that she’s your typical damsel in distress. Think medieval-esque Darcy and Elizabeth and you have a good glimpse into their contrasting yet complimentary temperaments. The dynamic between these two characters is definitely part of what makes the plot, which ranges from initial intrigue surrounding Dentin’s unpleasant task to a murder to treason, mesh well together. As compelling as each of the elements in the plot are on their own terms, Dentin and Elsa’s personalities and their brewing relationship really glues it together as a whole. A number of familiar faces from Duty show up in this book and there are passing references to events that occurred in that book that are now influencing characters and events in Honor five years later and while reading the first book enriches the experience for this one, Honor is able to stand on its own.

Content – Grade A

This is a clean fantasy. The romance between Dentin and Elsa builds up slowly and sweetly with their attraction becoming clear even though they both spend about half the book reminding themselves that they really shouldn’t be falling in love right now, especially Dentin. There are two or three kisses before they get married and some references to sharing a bed with a husband but it’s all handled very sweetly. I applaud Rossano for her ability to show the initial and growing attraction between the characters in a way that is very compelling without ever straying into crassness. There is also a reference to a girl being rendered unmarriageable by a scoundrel and a man having a mistress but these are also handled with care.

No language is written out. It’s all either cut off before the first syllable or is merely referenced to as “he cursed.” There is violence, including a character who is abusive to women, and there are also people who are wounded or killed. This violence is accomplished without gratuitousness. The violence occurs and characters react but there is nothing shown that shouldn’t be or that should have been toned down further. With the abuse in particular, the aftermath is what is mainly shown with one exception but it is never glorified nor overly gritty and one character warns the character being abused to escape her abuser because she’s seen this happen before and the last time it killed the girl who was married to an abuser.

There is spirituality present with the characters referencing, worshipping, and praying to the Kurios and asking for His guidance. There is also a reference to one character not being afraid of death because he long ago learned to turn to the Kurios for his security after death.

Technical – Grade A

This was a very well-written and compelling read. There were maybe four whole typos/slips in the entire story. One was a missing punctuation and there was a missing article that didn’t affect the reading of the sentence. There were two true typos. Most readers might not notice these unless they’re looking for them. There was maybe one slightly anachronistic phrase but I can’t make up my mind on it and it wasn’t egregious.

Final Grade – A or Five Stars

Overall this was an excellent medieval-esque fantasy that demonstrates how to combine romantic and political intrigue without them competing with each other or straying into boredom or disbelief. The plot is compelling and along with the characters kept me drawn in. The end of the book leaves one with all sorts of questions about what will happen next and I eagerly await the next novel of Rhynan. I would recommend this book to those looking for a clean Christian fantasy and those who enjoy fantasies set in a medieval-esque world. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

Next – Avalon: An Allegory by Valerie Howard

Launch Day is Here!

I’m very excited to announce that Tiger’s Paw: A Novella is now available on Amazon via Kindle and Paperback!

This novella launches my Clean New Adult Christian Urban Fantasy series The Therian Way.

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What if history didn’t quite play out the way we know it? What would stay the same? What would change? Even in a world where Elves and Humans coexist, there are secrets. Not all the old legends are accurate, but neither are they false. Hidden among the Humans are the Therians, those gifted with the ability to shift into beasts. How long they will remain unseen by Human eyes depends on how well they adhere to their code of life and honor – The Therian Way.

When secrecy is vital to survive among Humans and Elves, the Therian Way offers balance. The Fringe, a militant group of discontented Therians, threaten to expose their race to Mankind. It falls to General Baran to track down and remove the Fringe Nest before time runs out. Who can he trust when the fate of his people lies in the Tiger’s paw?


Tiger’s Paw originally started out as an entry in a short short story contest in 2013, which is when Baran first made his presence known and of course he wasn’t content with just the brief glimpse that turned into the first chapter of the book. The first draft revealed that there was a lot going on in this new story world that couldn’t be told in just one story. And The Therian Way was born.

There is a lot more to come in the world of Therians, Elves, and Humans with Book One releasing this winter.

I hope that you will enjoy coming to know Baran and his world starting with Tiger’s Paw.

Book Review – Goandria: The Schism Part I

Goandria: The Schism Part I by R. Michael

Amazon Book Description:

In this prequel to an upcoming novel, Goandria lies under the cruel rule of worlox demons. Emerging from an unknown realm, they claim large swaths of the northern territories for their own. The wizards, blessed with power from Voshnore, continue their fight against them with little success. Pushed back to the south, generation to generation, year by year, they labor in vain. Until now.

Lorkai, general of the wizard army, returns home after years of fighting. He brings long awaited successes on the battlefield. Yet those successes come with prices of their own. Several of Lorkai’s men now anguish in worlox occupied areas. Following a warm welcome, Lorkai’s request for aid is refused. Lorkai and his best friend, Evera, take matters into their own hands. The wizards uncover secrets about the worlox, which leads the friends to fight for their lives, and their humanity.

This short story paints an interesting backdrop for an upcoming novel.

Plot – Grade A-

For a short story, there’s limitations in certain areas of the plot but in Goandria the plot fits well into the pages used and doesn’t come away with a choppy feeling. However, I did have some difficulty with the middle of the story on the chapters focusing on Lorkai and Evera since my attention wasn’t snared by them as much as it was by the subplot with the worlox demons. Lorkai was a difficult character for me to understand even though he is one of the focuses of the story. I had difficulty empathizing him even though I felt that was what was intended and there was a tad too much whining going on for a famed, battle-hardened general once we got about halfway through the story for my taste. That said, this prequel is meant to provide some important background information for Michael’s upcoming novel and it achieves its mission. There were some areas where I wish a little more information had been shared, especially Evera and Lorkai’s relationship, but overall this short story stands well on its own even as it opens the door to further adventures.

Content – Grade A

This is a clean novel. While it deals with warfare and the requisite violence, injuries, and death, there is nothing gratuitous in how this is handled. There are serious injuries and references to horrible conditions in prisons but nothing that I would consider inappropriate for the intended audience of teens and young adults.

There is no language and no sensuality is present in this book. While this is a dark fantasy that deals with demons, it was not completely without hope. Most of the spiritual content in this prequel comes up with the Worlox and their fear of being returned to their prison and their attempt to usurp the wizards and Voshnore. The wizards’ magic comes from Voshnore and the reason for limits on their power is discussed. However, I would hope that more time is spent on the spirituality of this world in general and Voshnore in particular in the upcoming novel of the series so readers can come away with a better understanding of how this fantasy world works.

Technical – Grade B-

I have to admit I was torn over this grade because on the one hand R. Michael writes very beautiful descriptive scenes. The opening scene was gorgeous and truly painted a picture and this happens almost every time Michael has a descriptive passage. On the other hand, there were enough technical issues that the grade had to come down. First, there a few homonym typos, such as “aide” when “aid” is what was meant based on context and “steeling” when it should be “stealing.” These didn’t happen often though.

Second, the characters’ thoughts were put in quotations and this just drove me nuts especially when Lorkai and Evera are in the same scene together and they had just been talking to each other but suddenly I see “talking” that is really thinking. This confusion on the reader’s part is one of the reasons that using quotes to delineate thoughts, even internal dialogue, is generally ruled a no-no in writing. Because it’s a short read, this wasn’t as much as a problem as it would be in a full-length novel but I do hope that in the future R. Michael swaps to italics when delineating thoughts.

Third, while Michael writes beautiful descriptions/narrative, the dialogue did not flow as well as it could have. This story is set in a medieval-esque fantasy world but there were far too many modern sayings and words being used and they do pull me out of the setting. “Yeah” and “okay” are constantly showing up and there were a number of small phrases that would fit more with a modern-day setting than the chosen medieval fantasy setting. The dialogue tags were perfunctory but occasionally awkward, which did clash with the beautiful narrative descriptions.

Final Grade – B or 4 Stars

Overall, I thought this story showed the great potential of this new author. For his first book, he creates a decent snapshot into the backstory of his series. There are some technical difficulties as far as anachronistic dialogue and the thoughts being delineated with quotes instead of italics. But, overall, I can see R. Michael’s potential to write some beautiful epic fantasy. His description and narrative is simply gorgeous and I feel confident that he can bring his dialogue up to that same level. I recommend this book for lovers of epic fantasy. Recommended for ages 13 and up.

*Please not I received a free copy of this book via a blog tour in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not paid or required to leave a positive review. My opinions are my own.

Goandria: The Schism Part I is available via Kindle

 

 

Welcome to Goandria! – Guest Post by R. Michael

Welcome to Goandria!

 

Gray and black clouds marched across the once-blue sky. The wind stripped many of the trees of their orange and red foliage. Before long, the darkened sky flashed with bolts of lighting, and thunder rolled in the distance like ominous war drums. A sea of hardwood trees swayed as far as the eye could see in every direction, but in the center of a clearing rose two towers.

The towers were tall, and their walls blazed white, even amongst the coming darkness. The polished stone flawlessly highlighted the craftsmanship of their architect. Each tower looked as if it was carved out of a single piece of stone. Compounding this illusion, no windows were set in the stonework, for their inhabitants did not require any such hindrances to the structures’ beauty. They were pyramidal in shape but elongated so they appeared stretched upward. They were joined by a bridge near the top of the towers which was accented by a series of flying buttresses. Statues of warriors lined the outside of the structures as well as several walkways that merged into a single road that was the only way in or out of the towers.

Along the stone road, a chocolate-brown horse bore its blue-cloaked rider. Two score similarly-clad individuals came out to greet the rider. The horseman threw back his hood, revealing a pronounced jaw and brow bone, long, brown hair, and a short beard that covered his face and neck. He stood taller than his peers, a little over six feet, and his entire frame was reinforced by bulging muscles. Beneath his cloak, he wore a steel breastplate with chainmail sleeves and a bronze-hilted, hand-and-a-half sword hung at his belt.

 

Goandria: The Schism introduces a storyline that has been in the works for nearly a decade and a half. This novel will give readers the first glimpse into a larger fantasy world that will unfold as the series continues.

 

The Schism sets up events for the next book, Goandria: Visions of War, and serves as a prequel to the entire series. It was a storyline I did not intend to release or write anytime soon, but as I started to near the end of my first manuscript, I began to realize how important The Schism storyline was. I also wanted to avoid continuity errors that commonly happen when releasing prequels after the main story.

 

What happens in Goandria: The Schism? Long ago, the worlox demons emerged from their prison and set themselves up as Lords over the world. The people were persecuted and oppressed, nearly to extinction. The only force that stood in the way of total worlox domination was the wizard order. The wizards, tasked with the protection of Goandria, had been locked in a stalemate with the worlox for generations until the events in this book unfolded.

 

I wish to deliver to the reader an Epic Fantasy tale that is very character driven. I hope that my audience can laugh and cry with the two main protagonists, Lorkai and Evera, as they push forward in their war against the worlox. This is only the beginning, so stay with the characters as their lives take unexpected turns.

 

R. Michael was born in Merrillville, IN, and grew up in rural Minnesota. He has aspired to become a writer since he was twelve years old and works toward that goal daily. Fantasy and R Michael author picScience Fiction are his passion, and he loves to get lost in a new world. A dedicated family man, he spends his time taking care of his family’s needs. He has one son and is happily married to his editor.

Part I of Goandria is free on Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/513226

No Three Star Rule or Why I Write Negative Reviews

Have you seen the blog articles that encourage reviewers to never give lower than three stars? Some of them even urge not writing a review lower than four stars. For the most part these bloggers (at least some of whom are also authors) firmly believe in the old adage “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” Others suggest that negative reviews shouldn’t be given due to the fact it pulls a book’s overall rating, which is unfair to the author. I can understand those arguments. However, I don’t necessarily agree with them.

As anyone who has read my past reviews can tell, I do not hold to a three star review rule. Yet, I have only reviewed three books that earned below three stars on my review grading scale. I firmly believe that it is important for reviewers to be honest. Now, I try not to get the genres I don’t enjoy or books that have warnings about mature or edgy content both because I don’t want to read those particular books and because I know I’m not the author’s target audience. And I also believe that negative reviews do not always equal spiteful reader. Nor do I believe that negative reviews primarily come from a jealous competitor. Negative reviews can sometimes be more helpful than the positive reviews because they glean out the readers who do not fall under the targeted audience who would probably leave more negative reviews in their wake.

No one wants to hear that their book fell apart in one area or just didn’t work for a reader. Not one writer wants to hear that and it’s a lot easier to assume the negativity is spouting from jealousy or spite than to admit the reviewer might be right about something not working. Our books are our babies. Getting a negative review can be like having some stranger come up to you and say “That is the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen and I don’t mean in an ‘it’s so ugly, it’s cute’ way either.” Ouch! But, as painful as it is, negative reviews can be helpful once you get past the initial sting . . . or crushing blow.

Negative reviews can have several long-term benefits.

  • They can point out plot holes or character flaws that deserve a second look.
  • They can identify weaknesses in our writing style.
  • They can divert potential future negative reviews from occurring by (a) alerting other readers who aren’t in our target audience that this isn’t the book for them and (b) letting potential readers who do fall in our target audience know this book is something they might want to check out.

It’s never fun to get a negative review but every book has its niche audience and not everyone fits into that audience. Everyone has different levels of what they like or don’t like in a book. POV, characters, storyline, plot, description, dialogue, pretty much anything can be a hit or a miss for readers. For example, I don’t particularly care for love triangles but sometimes an author convinces me that the triangle works for the storyline and the characters. It’s still not my favorite romance arc but it doesn’t “ruin” a book. Like any reader, I have my particular genres and subgenres I enjoy reading more than others and I always try to take a genre mismatch into account when I’m reviewing a book that is more miss than hit for me. A stale plot or less than perfect editing can be rescued by characters and the heart of the story. I’ve read some stories I consider diamonds in the rough because they need more editing rounds.

For the three stories I gave less than three stars to, the key factor I looked at was the content and whether or not I thought it really fit the stated goal audience. I always try to take into account whether the book is written for a secular or Christian audience because different audiences lead to different expectations and I do hold books written for Christian audiences at a higher standard. I also hold books for YA and children to a higher standard for content. I firmly believe writers can address tough topics and include violence and romance without being gratuitous so when I read a book where the content seems to be hugging the gratuity factor a little too much for my taste I ask “Is it necessary?” Is it essential to the plot for this character or scene to be there? Does it add to the story or distract from it? Should I recommend it to people who have different reading tastes than I do? I also admit that I can be really thrown off when anachronistic words show up in medieval/early history settings especially in fantasies because they yank me out of the story mood. Lots of other readers won’t even bat an eye at these things. But I mention these instances in my reviews because I know there are other readers who don’t like anachronistic moments/words to be a surprise and are more tolerant of them if they go into the book knowing they are going to show up or they pass and another negative review is avoided. I also mention them for the authors since many a time it is extremely easy to accidentally use  period/setting-inappropriate words, phrases, and terms because we use them all the time in everyday life. Like I said before, what is a complete miss for me can be or is a hit with a lot of other readers based on other reviews simply because we all have different tastes.

Honest reviews can hurt at times. Especially if they’re not positive. I debated a long time over what the overall grade for the books should be because I didn’t like giving low stars but I also didn’t feel I could just inflate the score or not review at all. But I also tried to recommend possible fixes for the authors to take to help avoid negative reviews in the future. One of the books was by a Christian author who went very gritty and edgy. Just a brief head’s up in the product description would have been enough for me to know I should probably pass because it doesn’t fit my reading tastes. I respect authors for writing the stories they want to write even when it’s not necessarily a story I want to read. It takes courage to put your book out there for the world to see, especially when you know what is sweet or compelling for one reader might be sour candy for another. And of course, one person may love the sour candy and dislike the sweet candy. It all depends on one’s outlook. For example, I’ve discovered I’m not really a steampunk girl so I’m less likely to pick up steampunk for review anymore. But, if someone asks me about Christian steampunk writers, I know what names to give them.

Not every writer or every book is for every reader but for every book and writer there is going to be an audience. I like happier, more hopeful stories. I have friends who like grim, dark stories. I like romance with comedy over outright horror or techy sci-fi. I have friends who like horror, techy sci-fi, and thrillers over any hint of romance or fantasies with humor. I like arranged marriages and friends falling in love over a period of time over love triangles and insta-love. I have friends whose likes are the exact opposites. But we have different options because there are so many books available. I also have taken to reading negative reviews first to see what people are saying and if there are any specific mentions of content or plot twists that would lessen my enjoyment of a book. I don’t want to read a book I don’t enjoy or at least like a lot. Who does? Reviews are naturally biased to your own preferences even though I do try to take these into account and be as fair as possible. Every person’s measure of content, editing, plot, and characters is subjective. This is what writers need to keep in mind when the negative review shows up. Take negative reviews with a grain of salt, this reviewer was not your intended audience, but also keep in mind that negative reviews with solid reasoning can help attract your intended audience, cut down on the future negative reviews, and also give you things to consider with your writing style.

Negative reviews are unpleasant and can be devastating to a writer’s feelings but they are not always bad news.

 

Book Review Wednesday – Devil’s Pathway

Devil’s Pathway (DAWN: Warriors of Valor Book 1) by Vicki V. Lucas

Amazon Book Description:

I force myself to live by one rule: Don’t look at the demons. The two times I broke this rule still haunt me. Tonight I made another mistake. As a huge demon leered at us, I couldn’t fight the urge. I looked. And he saw me. Maybe it’s not a big deal. Nothing happened as my aunt sped beyond it in the car. Besides, I only have one year of high school left. I’ll be fine. But I know exactly what could occur. I’ve seen it too many times. Two men lurked with the demon I saw tonight. Evil clung to them, as if they had given their souls in exchange for something else. I shudder when I consider what they could be. But do vampires really exist? With everything I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be too surprised. Where are the good guys? If there’s darkness, shouldn’t there be light? How come the angels don’t battle the demons if that is the case? Or do they? Maybe there’s a war around me that I don’t see. I just want to be left alone, and after tonight, I don’t think that’s going to be a choice.

***

This young adult fantasy novel weaves angels, demons, and vampires into a thrilling adventure in which angels and humans wage war on demons and vampires. The action doesn’t stop as Nic, the main character, is forced into choosing which side of the fight he is on while both sides are desperately urging him to join their army. Devil’s Pathway is a Christian fantasy novel for teens who are ready to get serious about their faith. If you like Frank Peretti’s “This Present Darkness” or novels by Ted Dekker, you’ll like Devil’s Pathway.

I haven’t really enjoyed the angel/demon subgenre of speculative fiction, too many conflicts with Scripture, but I accepted this book for review because the author made a compelling case and I had enjoyed reading one of her earlier books. Have to say, I am so glad that I took that chance.

Plot – Grade A

This book dug its claws into me and held on from the first page to the last. The plot puts an original spin on the typical angels vs. demons storyline. A spiritual war rages around Nic who is trying desperately to remain neutral instead of choosing one side or the other. Nic is an empathetic character who I related to quite easily. The angels and demons and, yes, even vampires have interesting roles but they don’t steal the spotlight away from Nic. The book ending is resolved without being truly resolved. There are still many questions that I expect Book Two will answer but this book can stand well on its own. The ending comes at a natural breather story-wise and was written in such a way that it left me eager for more without making me feel as though there was absolutely no resolution.

Content – Grade A

This a clean read but it also handles a number of sensitive topics, in particular a school shooting is referenced and later shown via flashback as well as the murder of a parent in front of the child. I applaud Lucas for handling these sensitive situations in a way that showed the horror and grief of such events without descending into morbid bloodbaths, especially in a first person POV. In keeping with having vampires, there are descriptions of a few initial attacks and the aftermath of those attacks; however, there aren’t any gratuitous descriptions of gore.

There are a few instances of mild language, one “damn” and two or three “craps”. Hell is also referenced many times in its proper spiritual context. There isn’t any true sensuality in this book although there are some references to an abandoned mining town having a whorehouse.

The topics of bullying in school and abusive relationships are also addressed and handled with appropriate care. This a spiritually active book as is expected in this subgenre. What I appreciated was not only that the presentation of demons and vampires wasn’t glamorized but the importance of prayer and having a strong spiritual walk was also underlined without descending into the realm of preachiness. The struggle for Nic was real and didn’t come across as flat or like he was merely a puppet. Even I wasn’t entirely sure whether Nic would make the choice I wanted him to make. There is also a tie between Christians’ prayers and the angels’ strength in spiritual battle, which I found very interesting since I don’t recall seeing such a tie before.

Technical – Grade A

This is a very well edited book. There were three or four minor typos in the middle but nothing jarring. The book switches between first-person present for Nic’s narration and third-person past for the sections featuring other narrators (primarily the second-in-command demon, the angel Eli, and Rob). There is one section near the finale where the angel leader’s pov is in third person present, which was only slightly confusing since only Nic had been in present tense. Now, I don’t usually care for present tense but Lucas’ writing was strong enough and compelling enough for me to still be hooked. The characters are fleshed out to the point I actually found myself rooting for them to do what I knew they needed to do if they would just cooperate and I cheered whenever there was a hard-won victory.

Final Grade – A or 5 stars

I devoured this book in about five hours because I could not put it down. Lucas created a spiritual battle that resonated with me and made me think. Devil’s Pathway handles sensitive topics without crossing into crassness or gratuity; however, I would recommend this book to older teens and for parents to be prepared to discuss the topics raised, especially in regards to school violence and abusive relationships. Lucas handles these matters in such a way that I believe it can help open the door for discussions between parents and teens. I eagerly await Book Two. I recommend this book for fans of spiritual thrillers, Frank Peretti’s Present Darkness series, and it’s also a good choice for Christians who, like me, aren’t really fans of Ted Dekker. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

*Please note I was gifted a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not paid or asked to leave a positive review. My opinions are my own.

Devil’s Pathway is available via Kindle.

Next Week – Honor: Second Novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano