Series Review: The Blades of Acktar

Last weekend I plunged into the world of Acktar and finally came up for air three books later. I’m not sure why I took so long to heed my friends’ raving reviews of this series! Since I read all three book in one week, I thought I’d do a series review instead of doing each book separately.

Acktar Series

Leith Torren knows much of the world’s darkness and little of the light. Since childhood, he’s been trained as an assassin. He’s good at his job. When a mission goes wrong because of a young teammate’s indiscretion, Leith’s life almost ends. Wounded and trapped in a blizzard, he stumbles upon Stetterly Manor and finds inexplicable compassion at the hands of girls he helped orphan. It’s his first taste of Christ’s love.

I loved so many things about the first three books in this series. In my reader’s heart, characters are king, so my first loves in these books are Leith, Brandi, Renna, Shad, and Jamie. Tricia does a great job of bringing them to life. Each character has a distinctive personality, struggles different from any of the others, and strengths that propel them to heroism. In fact, certain things about each character intrigued me enough that I’m planning a series of blog posts highlighting different members of the Blades of Acktar cast.

One word of caution. When you sit down to start this series (when, not if), choose a night you can start reading early. Otherwise you’ll stay up too late and be sleep deprived the following day!

Author Interview: Samara’s Peril

Samara's Peril Tour BannerWhen I received the invitation to be part of the Samara’s Peril blog tour, I submitted my author interview questions and waited eagerly to receive Jaye’s replies. I really wanted to know which characters she’d pick to play which roles in her wedding!

Jaye L Knight

What did writing Samara’s Peril teach you about life?

Actually, I think it was more the opposite—that life taught me how to write Samara’s Peril. The last several years of my life have had quite a few ups and downs. There’s been a lot of emotions to deal with. But the one thing I’ve learned through all of that is to really cling to faith, no matter how painful it is. So much of Ilyon Chronicles was born out of these emotions and struggles, especially with my main character, Jace. He really sinks into despair in this book, yet it’s when he reaches his lowest that he finally finds the hope he’s always looked for. That is often true in life.

Clinging to faith and trusting God no matter what is something I’ve been learning lately too. It’s encouraging to see that struggle (and the benefits of it) play out in characters’ lives!

What’s one piece of advice you’d give people about pushing through hard times–especially as a writer, but for other things too.

Never give up or lose faith. I know, it is so easy to do, and there are times where you don’t really want to care anymore, but even if you slip, keep hanging on. This can be applied to both life and being a writer. Being a writer is scary. You bare your soul for anyone to see and might get crushed a little sometimes, but keep pushing forward. With every book I’ve ever published, including Samara’s Peril, there are inevitably times I start to worry it’s not good enough—that I’m not a good writer. That can be really hard, but just keep going.

Hmm. I admit this question was largely for myself because I’ve been struggling to make progress on the sequel to Counted Worthy. I’m going to have to take this to heart!

If the characters of Samara’s Peril were going to be in your wedding, what roles would they play?

Good question. Well, supposing my fiancé (are you out there anywhere? ;), was cool with anything I chose, Jace and Kyrin would definitely be part of my wedding party. Kaden too. Meredith would be the flower girl, and I would definitely have Talas and some of his crete friends do the music. 🙂 Lenae would probably be in charge of the food. Oh, and I would have Timothy do the ceremony.

Meredith is so perfect to be the flower girl! ❤

In upcoming books, which character’s personality arc are you most looking forward to?

Daniel! 😀 He gets a whole storyline dedicated to him in book four, so I’m really looking forward to sharing that. Also, Jace, of course. He changes a lot in Samara’s Peril, but it doesn’t stop there. I love watching him continue to grow throughout the series.

Oooh! My brother and I have been hoping for Daniel to get more screen time.

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Author Interview: Morgan Huneke

Today isEspionage the release day for Morgan Elizabeth Huneke’s novel, Espionage! I’m excited to share her answers to a few interview questions.

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Without further ado…

If you were to create a devotional based off Espionage, what would the theme be?

Forgiveness and mercy. I don’t want to elaborate too much—if I do, I’ll give away the ending—but it’s a very important topic for the book, one I certainly did not put in there intentionally. No one deserves mercy. Absolutely no one. But that’s what makes it so much greater.

How did writing this book grow you as a person?

Well, it did help me to better understand the messages of forgiveness and mercy. None of the theological elements in the book were things I didn’t already know, but sometimes you know things with your head and not your heart. It’s tough to forgive someone who has wronged you. It’s tough to show mercy to someone who sought to ruin your life. But the consequences of not showing mercy are so much worse. Dying without Jesus is the worst thing that can happen to anyone. That last point really hit home for me when a relative died several years ago, and writing Espionage brought it back up and helped me to share just a bit of that. (Now, the two incidents are slightly different because I did care about the relative and I don’t like the character.)

Pick one of your favorite characters from Espionage. If s/he found an abandoned infant, how would s/he react? How does his/her backstory impact this reaction?

I’ll pick Kyle, though I think his reaction would be much the same as Vannie’s. He would take the baby home and take care of its needs right off. He would try to find out who the baby belonged to and why it was abandoned. If it was simply because the family was too poor to support it, he would provide them with what they needed. If the family truly didn’t want the baby, he would find a loving Christian family to adopt it. This is where he differs from Vannie, because Kyle’s home life is too terrible for him to bring someone else into it, and Vannie’s is secure and happy enough that she’d want her parents to be the ones to adopt the baby. How Kyle’s backstory impacts it. Mostly because he knows what it’s like to be neglected and unwanted. As nobility, he’ll never be physically abandoned, but he knows emotional abandonment well. And he’d never wish that on anyone else.

What do you want readers to know about yourself and Espionage?

Growing up involved in politics had a huge impact on this book. The whole conflict in the book is sparked by an alliance controversy. And that political side of things is very important to me. However, this is more of a personal book. It’s about family and friendship. About always doing what’s right. And about showing mercy. It’s a book that means a lot to me, and I hope it means a lot to you too.

About Espionage

“Sir Roland has invited us to visit for the Autumn Feast.”

“Do we have to go, Papa? I couldn’t feast with the most crooked politician in all of Briznom.”

As the daughter of a Briznomian vassal lord, Vannie Cumberland has spent her childhood immersed in the world of politics. Relations between Briznom and the neighboring country of Calhortz are strained due to the tyrannical rule of the strytes. A proposed alliance could calm relations between the two countries, but would come at the cost of Briznom’s freedom.

When her father’s political archenemy invites them to the Autumn Feast, Vannie uncovers an evil scheme endangering the life of someone close to her. Personal enmity comes to a dangerous head as Vannie struggles to expose the corruption and stop the alliance. Time is running out.

Events are becoming too big for her to handle. Will Sir Roland’s son help or will things finally spiral out of control?

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About Morgan

Morgan ElizabethMorgan Huneke_author Huneke is a homeschool graduate who lives in Georgia. She has enjoyed creating characters and writing stories since early childhood. Books have always been a big part of her life, never more so than when working at the local library. Her other interests include reading, playing the piano and violin, and politics.

You can connect with Morgan on her website, blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest.

 

Giveaway

Join in the excitement of Espionage and enter to win a special prize! The first prize winner will receive a signed copy of Espionage. The second and third prize winners will receive an eCopy of Espionage in the eBook format of his/her choice. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only.

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Book Review & Giveaway: Samara’s Peril

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Are you ready for an influx of posts about Samara’s Peril? I’m so excited to talk about this book because the more of the series I read, the more of a favorite it becomes. Dear readers, if the Ilyon Chronicles books aren’t on your read-as-soon-as-possible list, they should be.

Back Cover Blurb

When news arrives that Emperor Daican has been in contact with his chief war strategist, it signals potential doom for the country of Samara. Determined to intervene, the resistance in Landale, headed by Lady Anne, embark on a covert mission in hopes of unearthing further information. However, a shocking discovery leads to complications no one could have foreseen.

Armed with their newfound knowledge, they set out for Samara to warn the king. War is inevitable, and they must face two desperate battles—one on the walls of Samara’s great stronghold, and the other on the battlefield of Jace’s heart, where victory might only be achievable through great sacrifice.

Available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks!

My Thoughts

Every once in a while, you meet a fictional character that completely captures your heart. When they’re part of the series, you find yourself grinning when you begin the next book because you’re happy to be “hanging out” with this character again. Jace is one of those characters. There is something about his dogged integrity despite a crippling past that makes him compelling.

While past books in this series have caused me to contemplate broad issues like faithfulness in the face of persecution, Samara’s Peril was a very personal story. The majority of the narrative clung to Jace’s perspective, struggles, and eventual … well, let’s not give that part away. 😉 The moments of joy are bountiful, relieving joy because they’ve been hoped for and anticipated for so long. (One scene had me stumbling around the house with a grin on my face for half-an-hour.) The stretches of pain and doubt are heart wringing.

The bottom line is: the storytelling is amazing, the story itself is meaningful, and the characters will make a home in your heart and never leave.

Stay Tuned! Next Wednesday we’ll be featuring an author interview with Jaye, and next Friday I’ll share some practical, real-life takeaways inspired by Samara’s Peril.

About the Author

JayeAuthor2015Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Etsy.

Giveaway!

Share in the excitement of the release and enter to win a themed giveaway pack! Prizes include an autographed copy of Samara’s Peril, a John 3:16 necklace by FaithWearDesigns, and a green wire dragon bookmark by Wirelings! (Giveaway is open to US residents only. Cannot be shipped internationally.)

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Book Review: Beloved

BelovedFebruary is here, which means our month of devotional giveaways is over. To those who won books, I’d love to hear what you think of them as you start reading. To those who didn’t win, take a look over the reviews and consider investing a devotional to use in 2016. (My top recommendation remains Daily Light from the Bible.) Before I move on to today’s giveaway, there’s one more winner to announce.

The winner of When God Writes Your Life Story is…

Morgan Huneke

Congratulations, Morgan! I can’t wait to hear what you think. 🙂

And now for today’s book review of Beloved by Rachel Starr Thomson.

“I was always told the Great God’s laws were oppressive, but what you read … this is not oppressive. This is good. I say so as a man who must go home and make reparations for wrongs done. But I will do it.”

Beloved is the final novel in a trilogy allegory of the Old Testament. The stars have long depicted the doom of the chosen people–Isha the Beloved races towards the jaws of the dragon. Beneath the night skies, the residents of the Holy City wantonly defile even the holiest places. Queen Izevel stirs up defiance against the Great God, ardently worshiping the dragon-headed Kimosh while her husband, king of The People, looses himself in wine.

Yet the stars still shine on a faithful remnant. The eye of the Great God rests upon the least likely of souls. Flora Laurentii hears His voice whisper Beloved to her soul and, for the first time in her life, does not feel ashamed. Quivering Recheb finds courage when she should be most afraid. And Alack, the shepherd boy turned prophet, finds a glimmer of hope in a prophecy of doom.

The people must repent. The dragon is read to swallow Isha and destroy the beloved, but the Great God is still willing to save. If you want to change a man, change his god. If you want to change the course of a nation, change the god they worship.

Of all Rachel Starr Thomson‘s books and series, I believe The Prophet Trilogy appeals to the broadest audience. The setting is similar enough to Old Testament times and the laws of nature close enough to our own that readers who are not hard-core speculative fans will be able to enjoy these books.

In every review of Thomson’s books, I try to put words to why they capture me. I don’t think I’ve ever been successful! Thomson has a way of speaking truth through her novels that not many authors can parallel.

So go ahead. Pick up Abaddon’s Eve and keep right on reading.

Book Review: Comes the Dragon

Comes the DragonJudgement is coming to the people of God, yet they choose to ignore the warnings.

Comes the Dragon is sequel to Abaddon’s Eve, which I reviewed last August. The players remain the same. Flora, Rechab, Alack, and other key players struggle to determine the paths they should walk in an increasingly confusing and dangerous world. By assuming Flora’s name, Rechab has new-found security and freedom, but she finds the burden of decision making almost too heavy to bear. Flora, cast out from the community where she has spent years worshiping God, fears her pagan birth will separate her from the Lord she loves. Alack continues as Kol Abaddon’s companion and apprentice, but his compassionate nature often puts him at odds with his mentor.

For me, Kol Abaddon, the voice of destruction to The People, was the most interesting character in this book. He didn’t receive much “screen time,” but my interest in his character was validated in the epilogue. This nameless prophet is tortured by a pain private between him and God. While Kol Abaddon is God’s mouthpiece, he doesn’t seem to have a particular warm relationship with the Great God he speaks for. And there’s a reason for that. (Read the book to find out what it is. 😉 )

Book Review: Orphan’s Song

Orphan's SongThis book has been sitting on my shelf since I got it for Christmas, waiting to strike my fancy in a moment I was searching for a new read. Fancy struck on a Thursday two weeks ago, but my day was so busy I carried it around all day and only read the first chapter. However, on that Friday my work got canceled because of snow (snow, on March 20th!) , so I ended up plowing through almost the entire book in one day.

The first few chapters had me worried. The story had it’s unique points, but seemed to fall into the tired pattern of many fantasy stories. You know the ones I’m talking about. Poor orphan with mysterious beginnings. Crotchety, abusive guardian. And a randomly talking animal.

Thankfully, uniqueness spun out of the mundane beginnings. The biggest strength of this story was the mystery. Gillian masterfully steered clear of explaining too much too soon. The mystery of The Song and the Songkeeper unravel slowly and require continued reading to discover what’s going on. The roots of pain that hold Amos to his past and cause him to fight destiny are slow reveal themselves. The reader must keep nose to book to learn what the prize the dark soldiers and the children of the Underground are fighting over is and why it’s important. And the talking cat? Well, he’s a mystery too. 😉

Read the synopsis of Orphan’s Song.

Book Review: Resistance

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00026]After my brother’s review of The King’s Scrolls two weeks ago, I decided it was time I read the first book in the series. Resistance. As a result, you’re getting the reviews rather out of order, but now that you’re interest has been piqued for book two, you should know a little something about book one! (Reviews of Ilyon Chronicles books should be in order of release from now on. I’ll definitely be on top of reading future installments!)

“But, my friends, we must resist this evil. We must never be idle while it destroys the lives and hope around us. If we don’t stand, who will?”

The emperor of Arcacia has positioned himself as ruler appointed by the gods and has plans to eliminate all threats to his claim. With immorality spreading through the country, the emperor’s cruelty is tightening around followers of Elom, the one true God. The time has come when faith in Elom must be courageous unto death or abandoned.

I started this book with interest due to the enthusiasm my brother and various online acquaintances have shown for the series. The beginning drew me but didn’t immediately demand my undivided attention. That changed quickly. The magnetic draw increased as the story progressed.

Reading true stories of Christian courage in the face of persecution has convinced me that these stories, both real and fictional, are among the most gripping, heartbreaking, and beautiful when told well. Resistance is told well and it is inspiring. I can’t wait to see what happens to Jace, Kyrin, Kaden, Trask, Trev and Daniel next.

Bonus Tidbit: Jaye announced today that she plans to release a series prequel about Jace this summer.