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So, it’s been over 2 years since I posted to my blog, but it’s been even longer since we recorded any new music. Just in case anybody still checks or stumbles upon my blog, I thought I’d share our 2 new songs. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll start blogging again, occasionally.

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I was quickly captivated by the world and the characters of Chiril. This was my first experience with the writings of Donita K. Paul. I’ve been curious about her writing for a while since I first noticed her Dragon Keepers books at the store. I wasn’t sure at the time that I wanted to get invested in a new series by an author I’ve never read. So I jumped at the chance to read and review The Dragons of Chiril, which is a prequel to her Dragon Keepers series and requires no prior knowledge of her previous novels. It was a thoroughly entertaining & rewarding read. I am now convinced to dive a little deeper into Paul’s world and try out her other books.

In The Dragons of Chiril, the main character is Tipper, a young woman who is forced to take over the responsibilities as head of her family because of her father’s mysterious disappearance and her mother’s subsequent disconnect from reality. To make ends meet, she sells many valued family possessions, including some artwork made by her father, a well-known artist. Then her father returns, just as mysteriously as he disappeared, with some strangers from far away, looking for three particular sculptures. Tipper had unfortunately already sold them and didn’t know their whereabouts. She quickly learns that her father’s life & even the existence of the whole world are imminently dependent on finding & reuniting these special sculptures. So they assemble a rag-tag group of trekkers and set out to track down and reacquire the sculptures before it’s too late.

The best things about The Dragons of Chiril, in my opinion, are the characters. They are unusual, endearing, & even amusing. And the dragons, which are characters too, are downright charming. The story, though not action packed, is quite compelling and enjoyable. It seems to unfold naturally. It was very enjoyable. In fact, it made me smile, sometimes even when I wasn’t reading it.

There are a few downsides, however. I was occasionally confused by some details, mostly pertaining to the setting and people in general. While it is not necessary to have read Donita K. Paul’s other books, I think there are certain details that would have been less confusing if I’d had some prior knowledge. When I came to the end of the book, I discovered a glossary that somewhat explained some of the things I had been wondering about. I wish I had known about it when I started, though.

The other, and more important quibble I had with the book was the ending, not the way the story ended, but the way the ending was written. It seemed rushed and confused, perhaps a bit chaotic at times, and then was suddenly tied up at the end. I would have liked it better if the climax had been drawn out a bit more. This was not enough to make me disappointed overall with the book. The book was truly great up until that point, and I can’t help but wonder if my impression has anything to do with my frame of mind at the time of reading the ending. I can still say that The Dragons of Chiril was well worth my time, and I would recommend it to others.

In exchange for sharing my thoughts about it, I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook/Multnomah through their Blogging for Books program. Please rate my review on their site.

You can buy the book here.  Check out the first chapter.

A few weeks ago, I read the finale of one of the best fantasy series I have read. I have been a devoted reader of The Auralia Thread since I read the first book, Auralia’s Colors, almost four years ago. The fourth and final book, The Ale Boy’s Feast, did not disappoint me. My strong attachment to the books has made approaching this review a bit overwhelming. I just don’t think I can do justice to the beauty and complexity of the story, the characters, and the fictional world of the Expanse that emerged so eloquently from Jeffrey Overstreet’s imagination. His writing inspires me. In fact, reading Auralia’s Colors partly deserves the credit for rekindling my lifelong desire to write.

I cannot write about The Ale Boy’s Feast without writing about my impressions of the series as a whole. The books are inseparable. They must be read in order. I would recommend The Auralia Thread to anybody who appreciates beautiful, almost poetic prose, and complex fantasy. There are a lot of characters, and most of them are intricately developed, complete with flaws, far from squeaky clean. It is admittedly not for everyone, however. If you don’t have the patience to start from the beginning and truly immerse yourself in the Expanse and invest yourself in the lives of the characters, then don’t bother. It is not an easy read. There are complex themes intwined in the story, challenging the reader to deeply consider such things as art, beauty, God, the Truth, and more. If you expect a cut and dry message or lesson from The Auralia Thread, you will be disappointed, because it is so much more than that.

The world of the Expanse is made up of four kingdoms or houses, each very different and none of them truly friendly with the others. The people of one house have succumbed to a horrible curse that has turned them into savage beastmen who are feared and despised by all. The series is primarily about House Abascar, where, in the beginning of the series, colors are illegal and imagination and exploration are suppressed. Enter Auralia, an orphan girl of unknown origin, who tries to wake up Abascar to the beauty around them and to the unknown. The series follows the people most affected by Auralia and her revolutionary view of the world. They fight against and flee a growing evil even worse than the house of the beastmen, an evil that is literally taking over the Expanse. That’s the series in a very small & insufficient nutshell. I really can’t say much more without going on and on and probably giving away some important details that are best discovered in the reading of the story. You really just have to read it.

The Ale Boy’s Feast is the conclusion of the story and does a very good job of wrapping it all up. Most of the loose ends are tied up, but not always in the ways you would expect. Where would be the fun in that anyway? There are some questions that Overstreet intentionally left unanswered, and that’s okay. A little bit of mystery is good. I don’t want everything handed to me on a silver platter. The right kind of questions, even left unanswered, can lead us to the greatest and most beautiful Mystery of all.

I would like to thank the author, Jeffrey Overstreet, for sharing his inspiration, his heart, his vision with the world. Thank you for The Auralia Thread. I love it, and I hope many others will come to love it, too. It’s just too good to be kept a secret.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I did, however, buy the first three books on my own.

Please Rate My Review on Blogging For Books

You can buy The Ale Boy’s Feast by Jeffrey Overstreet here.

But first check out the first three books in the series. Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, and Raven’s Ladder.

Here is the first chapter of the first book, Auralia’s Colors, to get you hooked.

And if you’ve already read the rest of the series, then feel free to read this first chapter of The Ale Boy’s Feast.

Can a person overcome his upbringing, or is he doomed to carry on with what he has known? As an orphan raised by Floyd, a traveling huckster, Grady has only known deception. From the time he was a very young boy, he was trained to put on a show to convince gullible villagers that he was a savage, swamp-dwelling, alligator rasslin’ creature known by legend as a Feechie. Grady is even convinced at one point that he actually is a Feechie. What else could explain his extraordinary ugliness? They have a successful show for years until people stop believing in Feechies. So they are forced to try some other unscrupulous schemes to make a living.

The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers is written in a charming Southern narrative style, coloquial grammar and all. The story follows Grady, now a teenager, through a time of searching, as he wonders about his origin and what he should choose to do with his future. Will he continue to blindly follow Floyd and his schemes without any love or appreciation in return? Floyd is, after all, the only family, or even friend, that Grady has known in his life. Or will he strike out on his own and become an ordinary and honest man? He feels way too repulsive to really fit in anywhere. Grady’s very identity is bound up in the Feechie Trade that he grew up with. So he and Floyd decide that, one way or another, they must revive belief in Feechies, and their livelihood along with it.

When I started reading The Charlatan’s Boy, I was afraid I would have trouble overcoming my aversion to reading first person narrative style. It’s one of my personal quirks, and I try to stretch out of it a bit from time to time. In this case, though, Jonathan Rogers’ unusual writing voice made it more than tolerable, and it didn’t take long for me to get over it.

One thing that did cause a more substantial hang-up for me was that the story is very character based and it didn’t strike a very in-depth plot until the second half. I personally prefer an engaging plot that keeps me coming back, begging to know what happens next. Having a young child and little time to read, I’ve unfortunately become a little more impatient about reading than I previously was. The beginning of the book was a bit episodic, and while still very enjoyable, it wasn’t very suspenseful. During the first half of the book, I found myself forgetting about the book, leaving it sitting around for a few days at a time without reading. The second half, however, I devoured pretty quickly as the plot became more engrossing.

I have to say that the best thing about The Charlatan’s Boy is the ending. It was very satisfying and unexpected. At the end of the book it says there is another book about Grady coming out this fall. So, knowing that, the book makes more sense as an introduction to something bigger. The goal of this first book seems to be establishing the characters and the background for a greater story, making the slower plot more forgivable. So, despite the few stylistic conflicts I had with The Charlatan’s Boy, I can honestly say that I plan to read the next one, and perhaps some of Jonathan Rogers’ previous work.

I received a copy of the book from Waterbrook/Multnomah for this review through their Blogging for Books program. You can purchase The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers here.

Please take the time to rate my review on the Blogging for books site.

Please Rate My Review on Blogging For Books

Following is a sample chapter from the book.

From the beginning, this book piqued my interest. Christian sci-fi? While I am familiar with the fantasy genre within the Christian publishing industry, I haven’t seen that they have much to offer in the sci-fi genre. Flight of Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer is a good example of what such a genre could be.

Flight of Shadows takes place in a bleak post-war future where the societies of earth have fallen apart and re-structured themselves into a caste system where the “Influentials” are given carte blanche, while the people at the bottom have no rights at all and are essentially slaves. The people stuck in the middle just try to stay out of the way and not make any waves.

Insert into this society a young woman, Caitlyn, who is the product of genetic experimentation resulting in a rather amazing deformity – wings. Having recently left her father, and the relative safety of her home in Appalachia, she is now hunted on all sides by those who want her body and blood for their own gain. She meets Razor, a mysterious young man who is a master of illusion. He offers his help, which she does not welcome. But when he helps her out of some tight spots, she is forced to trust him in order to survive.

There is a lot of back story prior to this book. Flight of Shadows is the sequel to Broken Angel, which I have not yet read. Of course, it was advertised on the back cover in the “About the Author” section that Flight of Shadows was written by the author of Broken Angel, but other than that little tidbit, it was not readily apparent that Flight of Shadows was a sequel until I started reading it. Therefore, in the beginning it was a bit confusing for me. The author, however, did a great job of filling in the gaps throughout the book without giving away all the details of the previous book. He still left enough unanswered questions that I am definitely going to read Broken Angel as well.

Most of the characters were very well developed so that I cared about them, or abhorred them, accordingly. Caitlyn’s character is complex and conflicted. Razor is mysterious and seductive. The villain of the story is very convincingly, and disgustingly, portrayed in all his evilness. The only exceptions were Caitlyn’s friends from Appalachia, with whom I had trouble connecting because I hadn’t been introduced to them in the first book, and they aren’t major players in this book until the near the end.

The story progresses at a good pace, with no time for the reader to get bored. Each chapter follows one of the characters, and then the next chapter takes over the story from another point of view. Most of the chapters are short, so it isn’t difficult to find a good stopping point. Then again, I had trouble putting it down when I saw that the next chapter was only a few pages long, and then the next one, and the next, too. So, like most good books, Flight of Shadows is quite compelling and suspenseful.

While the Christian worldview does not obviously dominate the book, it does provide much food for thought for the reader in ways that are often sorely lacking in much modern Christian fiction. Flight of Shadows brings forward the issues of the sanctity of human life, immigration, and other moral and societal issues. The world created by Brouwer is not as far-fetched as some would like to believe. It serves as a kind of warning of what our society could become if left unchecked. Though I haven’t read it yet, I assume that Broken Angel also contains such nuggets of wisdom, perhaps on the other side of the coin. While Flight of Shadows is set in a secular society, Broken Angel apparently takes place in Appalachia, a theocracy which seceded from the United States. I am curious to see what kind of atrocities can be found within this “godly” fictional nation.

Even despite the disadvantage of not having read Broken Angel, I thoroughly enjoyed Flight of Shadows and highly recommend it. Of course, it would be best, (and I recommend) reading Broken Angel first. Besides catching up with that book, I also plan to read more from Sigmund Brouwer in the future. Though I did receive a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for writing a review, I can honestly tell you that Flight of Shadows was well worth my time and yours. This book will have a permanent place on my bookshelf.

You can purchase the book here.

Please, also go here & rate my review.

I’m Back

Okay, it’s been a long, long, long time. Lots has happened. We added a couple of new rooms onto our house, and I’m teaching my son preschool at home. So I’ve been pretty busy. My little man can read now!!! Just short simple words for now, but it’s the beginning of a great adventure. I’ve also been working, off and on, on writing my novel.

I’m reviving my blog now because I found out about a program called Blogging for Books from Waterbrook/Multnomah. So I’m going to start posting book reviews on here, and perhaps other stuff too, if I get into the habit. I hope people will read them. Stay tuned. I know you will be waiting on the edge of your seat. I promise not to leave you hanging too long.

A Book Recommendation

I’ve gotten back to writing a bit. I’ve restrained myself from crocheting for a while. I’ve been reading this week though. I don’t get a chance to read very often. When I read, I tend to tune out the rest of the world, and if it’s really good I won’t take a break until I find a good stopping point. I can’t let myself do this very often with a four-year-old. This time I’m trying to spread it out over several days so I don’t completely ignore him.

A new book by one of my favorite authors just came out, “Raven’s Ladder” by Jeffrey Overstreet. His books are awesome, anybody who reads this should check out his Auralia Thread books. His writing is full of imagination, beauty, and fascinating characters. Every time I read one of his books, it inspires me to write more.

I don’t have much time to write today. I have to read some more, of course. Also, I need to catch up on dishes, etc. and still find time to play outside with my little man. The weather has finally become tolerable enough to go out. It’s been cold, icy, & icky for so long that I think he’s forgotten that the outdoors even exist.