Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review: The Map Across Time

"Heaven is not impressed with power and strength, but favors those with a true heart.  Let your heart lead you, Adin, for love is what will drive you and protect you.  The solution to all your troubles lies in your past."

An ancient curse plagues the kingdom of Sherbourne, and unless it is stopped, all will fall to ruin. The King, obsessed with greed, cannot see the danger. But his teenage twin children, Aletha and Adin, know they must act. A hermit leads Adin to a magical map that will send him back in time to discover the origin of the curse. Once back, Adin must find the Keeper, who protects the Gate of Heaven, but all he has is a symbol as a clue to guide him. Unbeknown to Adin, Aletha follows her brother, but they both arrive in Sherbourne’s past at the precipice of a great war, and there is little time to discover how to counteract the curse.

One unexpected disaster after another forces the twins to make difficult choices. Adin’s only hope to correct the past is to return to the future to manipulate events so his quest can succeed. Through his trials and failures, Adin learns that nothing can stop heaven from accomplishing its goal, and that all events work for the good of those who trust heaven. An epic fairy tale with surprising twists, embracing the enduring power of love and faith. (From the back cover.)

Okay, I have to admit: I was expecting a good, fairy-tale read with not much force to the plot.  Good, but not great.  That was, in essence, the summary of my opinion of The Wolf of Tebron (Book One of the Gates of Heaven Series).

And I was so, so wrong.

First, I have to hand it to this author: C. S. Lakin has a way of packing a novel full of proverbs and truths (most of which come so naturally to the text that you don't think twice about it).  If you were a highlighting person, this would be one of those few fiction books to highlight.  There were tons of paraphrased verses and proverbs in this book that made the words jump off the page and into real life.

This book excelled where the other struggled: plot.  The story started out a little slow, with little mysterious tidbits to drive us on.  And then, around a fifth of the way through the book, The Map Across Time picks up until it grabs you by the throat and takes you on a wild ride to the satisfying end.  The plot twists are wonderfully shocking, as they should be, and most of the questions are answered by the final page. This was a huge improvement from the second book, making the series jump from "good" to "epic" in the four hundred pages of this novel.

It's mysterious enough that I may have to re-read the Wolf of Tebron to make the less obvious connections between this book and the first; no doubt, the next book will increase the connections even more.

The characters are fantastic.  Each character, to some extent (especially evident in the short snatches we had of a minor character, Merin) had their own unique voice, and all of them were very well-developed.  I loved them.  I really did.  This novel is definitely a prime example of character development.

This novel also had a subtly mysterious take on description.  The description and overall writing had almost a magical feel to it; it certainly enhanced the fairy-tale theme of the book, and made the pages turn quickly.  The use of Hebrew as the "language" helped make it "mysterious" as well.  It really added to the book.

There were very few cons with this one.  I found one or two typos, but nothing too bad.  There were several awkward scenes that could have been written better (like the sudden romance between two characters and a couple other instances), but it didn't detract too much from the story.  The whole time-travel thing became very confusing nearing the end (one time, no pun intended, I lost track of which time I was reading in), and it also made the book seem a bit circular.  The ending(s) reminded me a bit of the end of "Green" (one of Dekker's books that I really disliked), but this book actually had an ending.  The author pulled it off, and I really liked it.

And, to note one last thing: the cover art is definitely phenomenal.  The physical copy has this weird kind of sheen that makes it...glimmer.

All in all, I absolutely loved this book; mysterious, magical, engrossing, with a shining worldview.  I can't wait until the next one comes out.

Rated 9 out of 10. (Five stars.)  Read this book!  Or better yet, buy it!

(This book was given to me for free by AMG Publishers in exchange for a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spectacular News!

Greetings to all; Elves, Dwarves, Men, Hobbits, Goblins, Orcs (OO), and all manner of creatures!

I have come to announce some spectacular news; I have finished my OYAN novel, with a total of 25,110 words!  Since this is a very outlined and condensed curriculum (you are allowed 12 chapters with one scene per chapter), I am definitely excited that I reached my goal, 25k.  That means each chapter/scene is a little over 2,000 words.  Good, eh?

Now, along with the finishing of the novel, I shall reveal the title (for those of you who don't know it already): The War Horn.  It may not sound like much, but it has a great deal to do with the message of the story.

I really feel like, though the War Horn was the hardest novel I've ever written, it's one of my best.  It's totally in first person, and I think you all will like the characters.  It's definitely my best in terms of message and the clarity of that message.  And I put the character through all sorts of mental tortures; poor John is the most tortured character I've ever written.

The only con is, I didn't have as much time as I would have liked (remember the 12 chapter/scene limit?) to flesh out my characters, so some of them are only seen briefly.  I think, however, that in the short time I had, I accomplished a lot of development.

If any of you ever consider the One Year Adventure Novel (what I have been referring to as OYAN) curriculum, I think it to be well worth the money.

So, let the fireworks begin!  Don't let 'em off in populated areas, please, and try not to get too carried away. o_O

*proceeds to make sure the farm is empty of unexpected visitors*

Thanks so much for all the encouragement you readers give me.  I'm in your debt.


*watches as one of St. Pierre's barrels are thrown up just 'cause*  Oooh...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Book of Shaldu: Cover Art!

That sounds really exciting, right?  No, I'm not getting it published just yet: but my sister and I have composed some cover art for The Book of Shaldu proof copy that I'll be getting from CreateSpace; as soon as I get my edit finished.

Want to see? 


Here it is.  Don't criticize it too much. ;)

(Click for a bigger size.)

I'll post the entire cover on here sometime; back, spine, and all.  And then you'll get to read the official blurb for The Book of Shaldu. 

Farewell for now, folks!  Tell me what you think of the cover!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review: Swords of the Six

Betrayed in ancient times by his choice warriors, the dragon prophet sets a plan in motion to bring the traitors to justice. He hatches daughters from eggs with human characteristics; however, their veins flow not with human blood but the strength of the dragon's.   Armed with the traitors' rusted swords, these brave daughters set out to face the first traitor.

Either the traitor will repent, or justice will be served.

What follows is a story of betrayal, love, and ultimate sacrifice.

(From the back cover.)

I found Swords of the Six to be a good read with a great message, marred by a few faults that lessened my opinion of this book.

The cons.  Bear with me as I walk through some of the things I struggled with in this book.  Maybe it's because I'm a writer myself, and a persnickety perfectionist writer at that.  But I'll try to give my honest opinion.

If I had to sum up the faults I found in this book, I'd say 'unrealistic'.  This book struggled with realism.

First, many of the fight scenes were unrealistic.  I was disappointed by this. In a fantasy novel, a fight scene often makes or breaks it.  And I couldn't imagine them.  There were many sentences like this: "Dantress stood, grasped her sword, and dashed to the scene of the kidnapping. Before the remaining four dragons could attempt to take off, she thrust one of them through the chest and stabbed another in the neck when it clawed at Rose'el."  Like I said, unrealistic.  I just can't imagine this.

And, from throwing an ax that happened to be lying about at a huge serpent (he managed to hit it, too), to hunting with a sword (how DOES that work?), I was constantly jerked out of the story as my Inner Editor woke up.

Second, the characters were unrealistic.  While some characters (like Specter and MiverÄ“) I really loved, the main characters kind of annoyed me.  Dantress never seemed to have a solid character; I never really felt attached.  She went this way one chapter, the other the next.  While some of these changes in character might have been realistic, the change just wasn't shown sufficiently.

The five other sisters, too, were not realistic.  They resolved in one section of the book not to kill, whereas in the next section they said they would kill to bring justice. I never felt like they were unique; they all seemed the same to me.  And then, what they did at the end just made me shake my head in disbelief.

Ilfedo seemed to be an engima.  The scene in which he started out made me think he'd be a bitter man for the rest of the book, but later in the book he seems to have not been affected by his own rampage.  Those emotions and characteristics completely disappeared.  He melted into a warm and rather gentleman-like guy.

And third, the writing was unrealistic.  It was dotted with places where the character apparently noticed her own long and dark, red-tinged hair (for it was described thus) and other such things.   Here's another one that bothered me: "She must have hit an artery because exorbitant amounts of green blood mixed with the rain-soaked mud and the monster fell."  Not only could we use a couple commas in there, but I don't even know what exorbitant means.  "Never use a long word when a short one will do," is a law I live by.  And we readers already know that the mud is rain-soaked; why tell us?

Now, forgive me if I ranted a bit here.  Like I said, I'm a persnickety, perfectionist writer.  Just because I spent a long section describing the cons doesn't mean the cons are all huge and major.

And for the more enjoyable bit: the pros.

I saw a lot of epicness hinted at for later in the series.  Several mysterious prophecies were given (and that I very much enjoyed), and the author himself said that this book is more of a prelude to the epic that is to come in his later books.

For this reason, I expect that the coming books in the series will improve.  I'll definitely be looking forward to reading them.  If Scott Appleton can redeem some of the faults I just described, I'm sure it will turn out to be a great series.

The character voice in Swords of the Six was likewise delightful.  From the easily recognizable tone of MiverÄ“ to the sound of the white dragon's voice, I found that the author excelled in this aspect.  Most of the characters had a favorite phrase or another that gave them their own flair.

The worldbuilding was quite good.  Although I think I still need some clearing up on actual locations, it appears that there's two worlds, dangerous creatures, towns, woods, and many, many ancient battles and struggles.  Some of them have only been hinted at; some we experienced for ourselves as readers.

I found the message of the book to be very good, even though I thought it could have been pulled off in a more emotional manner.  Sacrifice is a worthy moral.

The description, even if it was over-the-top and often used big words when small ones would do, was vivid in certain scenes.  It didn't quite deliver in some, but that was made up for in the more dramatic ones.

I found little visible plot to be found (it almost seemed to be two different storylines; thus, the book is divided into parts one and two).  This further adds to the feel of a "prologue" but I felt there could have been more to it.  There was absolutely nothing at stake, and that's what bothered me.  Nothing drove the story.  But if you don't mind a more character-driven story, I didn't find it that bad.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  It had a lot of promise. I hate to criticize it, but there were some serious faults.  There were some redeeming elements to it as well, though.

Rated 6.5-7 (as I'm torn how to rate this) out of 10.  Roughly 3.5 stars.

Thanks to AMG Publishers for the free copy of this book to review.  This is my honest opinion, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Politics and Toothy Cows

(Photo taken from

(Inspiration and overall layout of the list taken from here, which was taken from here.  The following list is a simplified version of both.)

FEUDALISM: You have two toothy cows.  You and your lord are eaten after your lord tries to take some milk.

PURE SOCIALISM: You have two toothy cows.  The government takes them and puts them with everyone else's cows.  The toothy cows eat the regular cows.  Then the government sends you in there to take care of them, telling you that they will give you all the milk you need if you do so.  You are eaten.

FASCISM: You have two toothy cows.  The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and then tries to sell them back to you at a low price after their President of Cattle Affairs is eaten.

PURE COMMUNISM: You have two toothy cows.  Your neighbors help you stay alive and take care of them, and as a result, you all live.  For a little while.

RUSSIAN COMMUNISM: You have two toothy cows.  The government makes you take care of them, and then feeds you to the cows.

CAMBODIAN COMMUNISM: You have two toothy cows.  The government takes both, shoots you, and then the President of Cattle Affairs is eaten.

PURE DEMOCRACY: You have two toothy cows.  Your neighbors decide who gets eaten first.

REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY: You have two toothy cows.  Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets eaten first.

BUREAUCRACY: You have two toothy cows. At first, the government regulates when the toothy cows are fed.  Then it pays you to starve them and thus provoke them into a bloody rage.  Then, it takes both, shoots one (while the other eats the President of Cattle Affairs).  And then they feed you to the remaining cow.  After that, the government charges your family for funeral fees.

LIBERTARIAN/ANARCHO-CAPITALISM: You have two toothy cows.  You manage to sell one (to whoever was foolish enough to buy it), and then set off in search of a toothy bull. 

SURREALISM: You have two bunnies.  The government sends you to search for a peaceful colony of flabbits.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review Links

Hey all!  I recently discovered that the BloggingForBooks program reset all of their settings due to people using the system dishonestly.  That means that all of my ratings have been cleared.

So, I have come to ask you to rank all of these reviews below.  O_o  It's a tedious task, but if you can complete it, I am much in your debt.  I think, if I get enough ratings, I could win something.  Which would be amazing.

Thank you very much!

Dug Down Deep:
(Click here for the review on my blog)

Sir Rowan and the Camerian Conquest:
(Click here for the review on my blog)

The Ale Boy's Feast:
(Click here for the review on my blog)

(Click here for the review on my blog)

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor:
(Click here for the review on my blog)

The Charlatan's Boy:
(Click here for the review on my blog)

All right!  I'm off again.  I must write a lot today.


Review: Dug Down Deep

What are you going to build your life on?

Dug Down Deep is systematic theology like you've never seen it before.  Readable.  Relevant.  Powerful.  As best-selling author Joshua Harris shares his own journey from apathetic church-kid to student with a burning passion to truly know God, you'll be challenged to dig deep into the truths of God's Word.

With humor, conviction, and compelling insight, Dug Down Deep covers the basics of faith—God, Scripture, Jesus, the Cross, salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit, and the Church.  Don't settle for superficial faith; dig deep.

(From the back cover.)

To speak simply, Dug Down Deep is three things.  First, it is a book that recounts various aspects of Joshua Harris's spiritual journey to faith and other similar stories (like his father's story).  Second, it is a book that explains the meaning behind words like doctrine, sanctification, and theology.  Thought you knew those words?  Think again.

And third, most importantly, Dug Down Deep lays down the foundation of the Christian faith, chapter by chapter.  God.  The Bible.  Jesus.  He shows what the Bible says about each, in terms just about anyone could understand.  He shows how it's important to build your life on these truths, to dig down deep for them.

I found Dug Down Deep to be a fantastic read.  Before actually talking about truths you build your life on, Joshua Harris explains what doctrine really is.  "Doctrine is a clunky word for truths to build your life on," Harris says.  He also writes, later in the same chapter, "Doctrine is the meaning of the story God is writing in the world.  It's the explanation of what he's done and why he's done it and why it matters to you and me."

With this in mind, Harris plunges deep into the doctrines of Christianity.  Chapter after chapter, I felt the urge to grab a highlighter and highlight half the book. (I never highlight.)  The revelations I found in this book—and they were many—fed my thirsty soul and awakened it to dig down deep into Scripture in pursuit of a theology to build my life on.

Grab a highlighter, a Bible, and this book.  Be prepared for life-change.

Rated 9.1 out of 10.  It's a must read.

Check out the video for Dug Down Deep below:

Check it out here to buy on Amazon.

Here's my review on the Blogging For Books site.  I'd appreciate it if you'd rate my review!

If you want to read more about Dug Down deep, you can find an excerpt from the book here.

(This book was given to me for free by Waterbrook Multnomah.  I was not required to write a positive review.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Edits and Updates

(Not my image.  Cool, though, eh?)

I might not be the greatest blogger on earth, but at least I've been writing, right?  Here's what I've gotten done so far:
  • I'm on chapter four out of twelve in my OYAN novel; the word count is 6,629 words.  Roughly 26, 27 pages.  It's not too bad, yet, but I have a lot of brainstorming and researching to do in the next few chapters.
  • I rewrote several sections and did one quick edit over the entirety of The Book of Shaldu.  It is now 52,900 words, with an epic new ending chapter.  Like I have said before, I thought the ending too dark and ended up writing just one more chapter in The Book of Shaldu.  I sent it off to some friends to critique as soon as I finished.  (That made me really nervous.  This is the first time in history that Jake of the Sadaar's novels have been read by any mortal.  What?  What's that you say?  Of course I'm immortal.)
  • This blog post.  Yeah, I count them.  Judge me not!
Also, I'd like to post several other things: 

First, Michelle Archer at Arrowhead Reviews is having a giveaway of a book called Beyond the Dead Forest.  Don't join. ;) I want a free book! (Who doesn't?)

Second, I recently discovered (more like rediscovered) a Christian blogger who composes music.  His name's Jon Maiocco. I have listened to most everything he has up there, and I can assure you, that guy has some serious talent.  If you have a bit of time and some headphones, I'd encourage you to check out his Celtic song and his Isle of Swords song.  Those are my favorites. :)  Or you could just head to the main page of his blog to browse through them all.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Got Goals?

Well, June has dawned over the fields of Kansas, and it brings with it news: Mathe is dead, and school is almost finished.  (Technically, the last of my school is finishing a novel.)

But there's unseen news drifting in on the wind: Jake of the Sadaar has brought some goals with him into June.

I like to call summer the Season of Writing.  Made that up just now; clever, huh?

And I have some incentive for writing, too.  For instance, consider this: if you had 26 days until a writing conference, wouldn't you write?  But it's more complicated than that.  Because it's the OYAN [One Year Adventure Novel] conference: and that means you have to have an OYAN novel.  One I *ahem* haven't quite written one yet.  Yup, that's incentive.  Poor Procrastination doesn't stand a chance.

So here's some goals I have for this month of June, things I'd like to get done.  And it's a list!  Huzzah for lists!  Lists and bullets!  Double combination.

This list is in order of priority.

  • Write the OYAN novel.  This is pretty much a must.  Either that, or I'm showing up to the Conference with a blank novel to share.  (Yup, I'm going to be sharing my novel at that conference.  Now you ALL want to go, eh?)
  • Rewrite the Book of Shaldu.  This probably won't happen, since I need to have it formatted and edited and stuff for a proof copy from CreateSpace.  Believe it or not, I still haven't gotten my free proof copy from all the way back to NaNoWriMo.  Oh, and did I mention the free copy expires June 31st? ;)
  • Write the last section of A Battle Fought at Midday.  This is farther down the list, since my above works have an "expiration date".
  • Write in Revolution.  Probably won't happen, but there's a slim chance I'll have some time.  I'll probably pick it up next month
That's about it.  See you all next time.

(Postscript: Contact me if you want to do a rough-and-ready Word War.  I'm craving those right now; I gotta finish a novel before the 28th, right?)