Friday, March 6, 2015

Claire M. Banschbach - Rise of Aredor

Rise of Aredor
Rise of Aredor

By Claire M. Banschbach

Available on Amazon

Product Description (from Amazon)
Lost in a foreign land and separated from his family, Corin does his best to survive as a slave in the household of a Calorin lord. With newfound friends he fights for survival in ambushes and wars. For one act of bravery, he is awarded his freedom and returns to a home that has been invaded and ravaged by the Calorin armies. When Corin sets foot on Aredor's shores, he has one goal in mind: find his family. He is driven into the forest, where he is reunited with childhood friends. From the shelter of the woods, they begin a spirited rebellion against Corin's former cruel master, who now holds sway over Aredor. Follow Corin's path in his quest to free his imprisoned brother, find a father who has vanished, and ultimately free his country in The Rise of Aredor.

About the Author (from Amazon)
Claire Banschbach was born and raised in Midland, Texas, the fourth of eight children. She was homeschooled through high school and is now a proud member of the Texas A&M University class of 2014. Though she loves reading and writing, her professional goal is to become a physical therapist in order to assist people in leading a full life. When not scratching out stories and homework with pen and pencil, Claire enjoys watching the Boston Red Sox and Aggie football, as well as playing volleyball. She hopes her strong foundation in God will help to guide her writing.

O.Scarlett! REVIEW by Kendra

From the first time I heard about this book several months ago, when the author posted in a forum I frequent asking for reviews, I wanted to read this book. Unfortunately, I was rather overwhelmed at the time, and had to turn down the offer. However, last month she contacted me again, and since my plate was relatively emptier, and she's about to release the sequel, I agreed to it.

I read it in one night, staying up well past midnight to do so, but more because I was reading a PDF file and didn't want to loose my place, than because of the story itself. I was thoroughly intrigued by the premise, but it jerked awkwardly, especially at the beginning,  

The basic plot? The book's description did a pretty good job of sharing it. I don't know if I could do any better without telling you the whole book. The first half was a lot of set up and battle scenes, and could probably have done without a few of the chapters. The second half was about how Corin frees his native country from the oppressive power of the country that enslaved him. So, in a way, it's kind of a Joseph story, but more fighting.

A lot of reviewers are comparing the story to The Horse and His Boy, and it's a comparison it fully deserves. After all, if you have a missing prince named CORIN, made a slave in an Arabian-esque country called CALORIN (Calormen, anyone?) ... yeah, obvious connections can be made there, yes? However the writing style was very different from Lewis. It read more like a Henty novel, save for the fact that it didn't take place in actual history, and our hero wasn't married at the end. Good characters that can be sometimes hard to connect with, and an intriguing, twisting plot that took forever to get going.

A lot of readers are comparing the second half to Robin Hood, and I can see that ... but it reminded me more of William Wallace, since they weren't fighting off an oppressive government, but rather oppressive invaders.

But as much as I love Henty and Narnia, they didn't mesh well in this book. The magic of Narnia is the delightful world, and the rich truths that Lewis conveyed. The magic of Henty is the in-depth history and all of the historical figures that the hero rubs shoulders with. Rise of Aredor had neither, as its world is quite fictional, though realistic. While God - called Lleu - did have a presence in the book, He was usually only mentioned when things were going terribly wrong and they could no longer do it on its own. I would have liked to have seen the characters ask His guidance when making their troubles, to have seen a bit stronger faith. It made sense in the first half, but in the second, I would have really liked to have seen the characters asking Lleu's guidance BEFORE they made all of their grand schemes.

I did like the book, not enough to put it on my list of favorites, but enough that I'm tempted to buy a copy for my cousins (three rowdy boys who would love this sort of story) for Christmas, and enough that I'm eager to read the sequel, which is waiting for me on my Android. The author has a lot of potential, and I can't wait to see where the series goes.

Note: For some weird reason, I thought there were going to be eagle riders in the book. (Not sure where I got the idea, might have been the fact that I didn't look at the cover closely enough, and it got confused with another picture I'd also seen about that time). There were none. So ... yeah, slightly disappointed there.

Genre/Theme: Adventure, Non-magical Fantasy, Christian, 

Reading Level: TEEN - upper elementary to middle school 
Profanity: NONE - no offensive language 
Sexuality: NONE - not even hinted at. Not really any romance, either. 
There was some drinking, including some drunken enemy soldiers, however it was no more prevalent than in a typical medieval historical fiction. QUITE a bit of fighting, and torture (including, but not limited to, whipping and a poisoned knife), and the main character spends most of the book injured. Nothing graphic, but there's a LOT of it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rachel Rossano - Honor

Novels of Rhynan Book 2

By Rachel Rossano

Available on Amazon

Product Description (from Amazon)
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.

About the Author (from Amazon)
Rachel Rossano specializes in clean romantic fiction set in historical-feeling fantasy worlds. She also dabbles in straightforward historical romance and not-so-strict speculative fiction.

A happily married mother of three small children, she divides her time between mothering, teaching, and writing. She endeavors to enchant, thrill, entertain, and amuse through her work. A constant student, she seeks to improve her skills and loves to hear from readers.

O.Scarlett! REVIEW by Kendra

After reading and reviewing Duty, the first novel of Rhynan, I was eager to learn what happened next, and was thrilled when the author offered me a review copy. It did take me a while to actually get to read the story, but that was not for lack of eagerness. I just had a VERY busy last two weeks.

Once I opened up the book and immersed myself, I couldn't put it down ... except that I had to go to bed. First thing the next morning, I was reading again, and was finished by noon. The plot twisted here and there, and while I'll admit that I could see where it was going by the time I was halfway through the book, things were just so convoluted, I still couldn't put it down!

Dentin, the hero, is not a young man, nor does he have many friends. As the Securer of the Realm, he holds many secrets, and has gained more than his share of enemies as he performs the king's bidding. And, as the book opens, he fears making an enemy out of one of the few friends he has, as the king desires to take custody of the child Sir Irvaine and his wife have been fostering, and thus gain a level of control over him.

Elsa, the heroine, is caught in a situation typical of medieval heroines. Though her father has promised her choice in her marriage, her brother wants to marry her off to pay his "debts of honor," and her mother is pressuring her to marry soon - after all, her younger sister has just been married, why hasn't she?

Normally, their paths wouldn't cross, nor would he take especial notice of her ... but she has taken interest in the young boy he must pluck from his foster parents and - though she doesn't know it - has become entangled in a plot involving the princess herself. Although he's just trying to keep her safe, he finds himself caring for her - as he has never cared for a woman before.

When her father's murdered, the game changes completely. Her previous marriage choices disappear as her brother promises her to one of the most despicable men in the kingdom, thus dooming her to a life of misery.

Compared to the previous book, this story had the better plot. As much as I loved Duty, there were a few moments I lost track of what was going on. With Honor, I was frustrated by the multitude of secrets, but I always had a firm grasp of what was going on. Part of this was the fact that we had narration from both the hero and the heroine. I would have preferred it if the author hadn't used first person for both of them, but it was well marked, and there were only a few times where I lost track of who "I" was.

I will say that I preferred the romance of the first book, however. Elsa and Dentin were sweet, but I think it went a bit too fast, especially for two people who didn't fall in love easily. Also, Dentin called himself "unmarriagable" because of something in his past, but I don't think we ever learned exactly what it was. I would have liked a bit more closure in that area.

Worldbuilding was well-done. It's set in a fictional medieval set of countries that, apart from the fact that didn't actually exist, could well be our own world. We see more into the politics and power-play in this book, and I enjoyed seeing how she built the laws of her country.

I loved the story, just as I have loved everything else of Rossano's work that I have read. I'm thoroughly looking forward to the next book!

Note: A sweet romance for those who love romance, and filled with lots of political intrigue if that's what you prefer.

Genre/Theme: Romance, Christian, Non-magic fantasy

Reading Level: Mature TEEN - high school to college 
Profanity: NONE - no offensive language. Several distasteful characters swear, but we're never told what, exactly, they say
Sexuality: SUBTLE - hinted, but not explicit. Kissing and a few veiled references to the marriage bed. 
Lots of fighting, including a duel to the death. There are no battles, as in the previous book, most of the power-play is political. Elsa receives some abuse from her potential husband. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Jaye L. Knight - The King's Scrolls

The King's Scrolls
The Ilyon Chronicles

By Jaye L. Knight

Available on Amazon

Product Description (from Amazon)

Following the harrowing events that brought them to Landale Forest, Jace and Kyrin have settled comfortably into their new lives and the mission of protecting those under the emperor’s persecution. The fast approach of winter brings with it the anticipation of a quiet few months ahead. That is until the arrival of four mysterious, dragon-riding cretes who seek aid in a mission of great importance—not only to their own people, but to all followers of Elôm.

Hidden in the vast mining valley north of Valcré, a faithful crete has spent years sharing his knowledge with the destitute miners and their families and is known to possess what may be Arcacia’s last surviving copies of the King’s Scrolls—the Word of Elôm. Joining the cretes, those in Landale must find the crete teacher and bring him to safety, but it is a race against time. Should Daican’s men find him first, execution and the destruction of the Scrolls is certain.

When disaster strikes, all seems lost. Could Elôm have a plan even in the enemy’s triumph?

About the Author (from Amazon)

Jaye L. Knight is a mid-twenties homeschool-graduated indie author with a passion for writing Christian fantasy and clean new adult fiction. 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.

O.Scarlett! REVIEW by Kendra

I'm honestly not sure where to start with this review. I've loved Jaye's books since she was Molly Evangeline, and her Ilyon Chronicles are next to the Chronicles of Narnia for my favorite fantasies - even after having read one book. I didn't know how book two could be any better, but when Jaye asked if I would review it for her, I naturally jumped at the opportunity.

I had NO idea what would happen in the book, but had assumed that the plot of looking for the mysterious Crete and the scrolls he possesses, would be most of it. I was wrong, they actually found him fairly early on. This is a story of the importance of scripture, its value in strengthening a Christian's walk, as I had anticipated, but it was also the story of how God is still in control even when  things are spiralling into a mess and seem to be going horribly wrong.

The characters in this book were amazing, both the ones that we already knew from the first book, and the new faces. Jace and Kyrin are adorable, and I had a moment of hyperventilation when her father asked what the status of their relationship was. Kaden was so wonderfully protective of Kyrin, and I loved the fact that he got a dragon of his own in this book. I was expecting him to do that some time in the series, but not quite this soon. Technically, other characters received dragons, but Kaden's the only one who matters. And I loved the scenes with Prince Daniel. Poor fellow, I hope he finds Elom, and soon!

As for new characters, I loved the Cretes, especially Tallas and Timothy. They were both so sweet, each in their own way. Leetra was very interesting, and even though she rather annoyed me at the beginning, by the end, she'd grown on me. Also, I loved getting to know Kyrin's family. Kaden's still my favorite of her brothers (because he's her twin, and twins are awesome) but they're all amazing, each in their own way.

The villains were amazing as well, the sort that you just have to hate, though feel sorry for at the same time.

If there is any complaint I have, it's that one of my favorite characters died (can't say who, though!). I was in denial until the last moment, and even several moments after that, as I hoped and prayed that someone would be able to rescue him in time. BUT ... it was necessary to the plot, and really, in this genre, it's not realistic for characters to not die. After everyone survived book one, I knew that someone would have to go down in book two ... didn't keep me out of denial, however.

Also, I got lost a bit in some of the action sequences, particularly at the end ... but action sequences get me lost frequently, so it probably was just me. The end itself was so very sweet, and I'm really looking forward to book 3, whenever it comes out.

Note: I recommend this to anyone who loves Christian fantasy, or inspirational stories of life under persecution. There is no magic, if that's something that you watch out for.

Genre/Theme: Fantasy, Christian, Persecution

Reading Level:  TEEN - upper elementary to middle school to
Mature TEEN - high school to college 
Profanity: NONE - no offensive language 
Sexuality: NONE - not even hinted at 
Characters die, get whipped, get burned by dragons, and are otherwise injured 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Vicki V. Lucas - Toxic

The Trap Series

By Vicki V. Lucas 

Available on Amazon

Product Description (from Amazon)

In a fantasy world, a reckless teen must join forces with a determined student and an insecure musician to fight terrifying armies and powerful sorcerers to purify the poisoned water that is sweeping across the land.

While facing global annihilation from toxic water in Eltiria, Kai is trying to save his sister from death. But when he seizes his only chance to make enough money to pay for healers, his plans are torn to shreds, and he finds himself battling monsters as he is chased farther away from his family.

Lizzy travels to a nearby city for safety, only to watch her older brother dragged away from her by monsters from myths. Running for her life, she must find a way to reunite her family as she is thrown into choices that lead her further from what she wants. Taryn knows it is his destiny to save the world through magic and is on his way to begin his journey to greatness. But then his beliefs are challenged as he is thrown off the path he has chosen for himself and into a life he never desired.

Guided by a mysterious winged horse named Eladar, they discover that the world is not what they thought and everything they believed was wrong. Can they locate the source of the poison and find their faith as they battle to find the truth in a world of chaos and destruction?

About the Author (from Amazon)

Vicki V. Lucas has always struggled with the question "What are you going to be when you grow up?" She received her Bachelor's in Psychology...only to find herself with no desire to counsel people. She obtained a Master's in Teaching English as a Second Language. Teaching at universities and colleges gave her incredible experiences and unforgettable friends from many different countries. However, the distant mountains called, and she responded. After traveling through quiet places, she settled in Missoula, MT with her family. She has begun to write the Christian YA fantasy stories she heard on the wind.

Toxic is the first of these stories. Set in the fantasy world of Eltiria, it is the tale of a young untrained warrior who has been sent on a quest to purify the poisoned water of the world. Together with the help of Lizzy and Taryn, they seek to find a solution for both their world and their own problems.

Vicki loves to hear what you have to say. Please leave a review or visit her webpage at But if she doesn't respond very soon, just remember that she may be off in the lonely mountains.

O.Scarlett! REVIEW by Kendra

I picked this story up for free at least a year and a half ago. I sent it directly to my android app, since I loved the cover and thought the theme sounded intriguing. I gobbled down the introduction and first chapter or so, and then the POV changed to a completely different character who I didn't identify with ... so I put it down and read something else.

Ever so often I would pull it back up and read another chapter, but for some reason, I couldn't connect to the story. It was following three very different characters on three very different paths, and I couldn't stay interested.

The other day, however, I stumbled across it on my new kindle, and since I really wanted to finish the book, pulled it up, prepared to plow through another chapter - except that suddenly the three stories converged and I was now interested! I finished the book that very day.

The three main characters are Kai, Lizzy, and Taryn. Kai is the son of a crippled race jockey, and his younger sister is sick with the plague. He wants to find a cure for her, and also achieve the fame that his father lost. Lizzy is the daughter of traveling musicians, who doesn't measure up to her older brother. She desperately wants to prove herself to her parents and earn their love. Taryn wants power. He thinks he has natural magic - and some of the people from the temple he talked with seemed to confirm it. There's also a wind spirit named Foehn, who was an interesting character.

The uniting issue they face is the fact that the water is poisoned. 

Kai seemed to be the main character, but unfortunately, I didn't connect to him, much preferring Lizzy's and Foehn's stories. So I kept wandering away from this book.

And then the three protagonists met, and from that moment on, I couldn't put the book down, and by the time I'd finished, it was on my list of the best Christian Fantasies I've ever read. The worldbuilding was amazing, though weird at moments (Zombie - I mean, Untwanted army anyone?). The plot moved quickly, and twisted enough I couldn't tell how it was going to end. And the Christian message was well done.

This was not an allegory. Yes, there was a Jesus figure, but he belonged to the world's history. I was really impressed with this, since prior to this book, I don't think I'd ever read a fantasy that had dealt with our Lord's Sacrifice and had chosen to treat it as history. It didn't loose any of its power for that, and it still played a huge role in the plot.

I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone.

Genre/Theme: Christian, Fantasy, Adventure

Reading Level:  TEEN - upper elementary to middle school 
Profanity: NONE - no offensive language 
Sexuality: NONE - not even hinted at, although one young man, after being stabbed in the stomach jokes that, had it been any lower, he wouldn't have been able to father any children. 
Lots of fighting. Some dabbling in magic, but it is portrayed as bad.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sarah Holman - Destiny of a Few

Destiny of a Few
The Destiny Trilogy

By Sarah Holman

Available on Amazon

Product Description (from Amazon)

On her quest to find the crown prince, Maria Morris faces an abundance of obstacles. Now a marked Christian, it will be difficult and dangerous for her to travel. The USF follows her every move. (as the vibrating chip in her arm irritatingly reminds her.) Yet knowing all of this, Maria puts her trust in God and, with the help of a few new friends, refuses to give up her mission. She must find the crown prince. The Destiny Of A Few depends on it.

About the Author (from Amazon)

Sarah Holman, a homeschool graduate, lives in central Texas. When not pursuing her passion of writing, she can be found taking long walks, reading, sewing or spending time with her family. You can find out more about her at her blog, Destiny of One.

O.Scarlett! REVIEW by Kendra

After reading the first book of the series, I despaired of ever getting to know what happened next. While the first had only been 99 cents, and I had been able to buy it with a gift card, I had other books on my list of want to buy that were higher priorities.

But I put them on my wishlist and to my surprise and delight, the author, with whom I had been chatting with back and forth, sent me the kindle versions of the next two books. Needless to say, I gobbled them down.

Book two begins right where book one left off. Maria is headed to Rio with her friend Quint, in search of the girl who owns the passport she had been mistakenly given in the first book. Amazingly, the girl, Winter, belongs to a Christian family, though she herself denied being one, to avoid being branded. And, it just so happens, she has connections to the planet where Maria wants to go  - the planet where the prince was said to be taken - which turns out to be the capitol planet.

So she and Winter take a visit to the girl's aunt, and Winter gets suspicious as she realizes that Maria didn't come here to sight see. She keeps trying to guilt out of Maria the real reason, and finally takes her out of town, where they get caught in a sandstorm and get lost. They get shot at by soldiers, Winter gets injured, and they're rescued by a farmboy, who takes them to his far, where we spend pretty much the rest of the book.

I really enjoyed the book, and the message is one that I don't see tackled very often in Christian works. Yes, it's easy to risk your own life for the greater good. But what happens when it's not your life you're endangering, but that of your friends, even a stranger? It was well handled.

For the most part, the book was fast paced, and moved smoothly. The cast of characters were brilliant, mostly new faces. I loved Winter, for her reluctance to give her beauty is one with which I myself can identify.

But once they reached the farmhouse, and Maria started suffering from the guilt of Winter's injury, the plot stalled. Yes, it was a necessary emotion for her to work through, but she was finally receiving answers to her riddle - and she wasn't even paying attention. Maria was supposed to have memorized the riddle - having read it multiple times every day - but she still didn't pick up on things, even when they appeared right under her nose.

Also, I was confused by why the planet the prince was hidden on what just so happened to be the capitol. In the first book, I had been under the impression that that it was an out of the way planet that was hard to get to. Maybe I just read wrong and it had been specified that it was the capitol, and I just didn't pick up on it, but I was really thrown for a loop when I realized that the prince had been hidden under the noses of those who want him dead. I mean, why? It just felt sloppy to me. And if they just "happened" to make it the capitol after he was there, that would have been too much of a coincidence.

But that aside, I really enjoyed the book, loved seeing Maria grow, and it didn't feel like a middle book. It could have been paced a bit better, but I still would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good sci-fi adventure.

Genre/Theme: Sci-fi, Christian, Adventure

Reading Level:  TEEN - upper elementary to middle school 
Profanity:  NONE - no offensive language. One of the characters does bad language when in stressful situations, but we aren't told what, exactly, those words are.
Sexuality: NONE - not even hinted at 
Quite a bit of fighting with guns. Some characters are injured. Christians are branded with a fish symbol on their cheeks.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Rachel Heffington - Fly Away Home

Fly Away Home

By Rachel Heffington

Available on Amazon

Product Description (from Amazon)

Self Preservation has never looked more tempting.

1952 New York City:
Callie Harper is a woman set to make it big in the world of journalism. Liberated from all but her buried and troubled past, Callie craves glamour and the satisfaction she knows it will bring. When one of America's most celebrated journalists, Wade Barnett, calls on Callie to help him with a revolutionary project, Callie finds herself co-pilot to a Christian man whose life and ideas of true greatness run noisily counter to hers on every point.
The new friendship sparks, the project soars, and a faint suspicion that she is fall for this uncommon man grows in Callie's heart. When the secrets of Callie's past are exhumed and hung over her head as a threat, she is forced to scrutinize Wade Barnett and betray his dirtiest secrets or see her own spilled.

Here there is space for only one love, one answer: betray Wade Barnett to save her reputation, or sacrifice everything for the sake of the man she loved and the God she fled. The consequences of either decision will define the rest of her life.

About the Author (from Amazon)

Rachel Heffington is a Christian, a novelist, and a people-lover. Outside of the realm of words, Rachel enjoys the Arts, traveling, mucking about in the kitchen, listening for accents, and making people laugh. She dwells in rural Virginia with her boisterous family and her black cat, Cricket.

Rachel released her debut novel (Fly Away Home) in February, 2014, and is looking forward to the publication of her Cinderella-inspired novella (The Windy Side of Care) in the Five Glass Slippers collection being published by Rooglewood Press in June, 2014.

O.Scarlett! REVIEW by Kendra

Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres. I love visiting the years gone by, tasting the memories I came too late to experience for myself. However, most Historical Fictions are either stuffed so full of historical facts they become dry, or they're just overly sappy romances set in a different era, and half of the (few and far between) facts are inaccurate. Also, I prefer stories set at least two hundred years ago, preferably in some exotic country like China or Germany.

So it was with great trepidation that I approached this story. I had heard great things about it from my friends, some of whom had had the privilege of beta reading it, so I was willing to give it a chance. The fifties aren't my favorite era, and this was also a romance, but I still purchased a kindle copy as soon as it came out, and then sat down to read it.

I can't say that I read it in one sitting, or even completely in order (because I did skip ahead at one point to glance at the ending), but I was soon sucked into the rise and fall of the the story. Since I skipped ahead at one point, it obviously was dragging at one point, but I honestly don't remember where it was dragging. 

Callie was an interesting main character to follow, a mix of stubborn naivety, and jaded cynicism.  It's clear that she has been hurt somewhere in the past, and she's trying to leave that past behind her. She wants happiness and success, goals the reader can't help but wish her the best, but she thinks she can find them in the wrong places. Paired up against her is Mr. Wade Barnett, who is the personification of her ideals. He already moves through the circles she wishes to reach, already seems to have the respect she hungers after, and most importantly, he seems content - even happy - with his place in life.

I love the format the author used for the story, first person from Callie's point of view for the most part, but at the end of many of the chapters we get a letter from Mr. Barnett to some friends of his giving his side of the story. I haven't seen very many dual POV before, and I found this quite interesting.

The story begins with Callie trying to write obituaries for the paper she works at when her boss walks in with the news that she, the dispensable employee, has been chosen to work with Wade Barnett on one of his more experimental projects. We learn from his letters that he was looking specifically for her, as she was the last of her family, and he feels the need to find closure with this family for some reason.

Contrary to what her former boss had expected, their magazine, Ladybird Snippets, flourishes. What's more, she and Mr. Barnett get along very well, despite the fact that she finds him rather old-fashioned. She finds his insistence of talking about Christianity annoying, but he does introduce her to all sorts of famous people she had always dreamed of meeting.

Her path to greatness seems set and sure, until Jules, the non-dispensable worker who didn't get to work with Mr. Barnett, becomes jealous. He doesn't realize that her move had been meant as a demotion, and thinks that he should have gotten it instead. He threatens Callie, telling her that if she doesn't dig up some dirt on Mr. Barnett, her own great secret, the past she's been running from, will be brought out into the open for all to see.

She doesn't want to do this to him, because she's come to genuinely respect him despite his oddities, but self-preservation has been the name of her game for years. However, digging up dirt proves harder than she thought, since the man's life is pretty much spotless.

This book felt like I was watching one of those old 50's movies. I had honestly been transported back to that day and age, and I loved how the fictional characters interacted so easily with the truly historic. The conversations snapped with wit, and only once did we get one that felt preachy. The plot was simple, yet complex, and though I didn't quite understand why Callie's secret was so horrible, it may be because I don't live in that era. It did serve as a way to tie a few backstories together, and for that I give it points.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I look forward to more from the author.

Genre/Theme: Historical Fiction, Romance

Reading Level: TEEN - upper elementary to middle school 
Profanity: LOW - few mildly offensive words, mostly at the beginning
Sexuality: SUBTLE - hinted, but not explicit, 
References to murder, some smoking, and drinking.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Melody Jackson - The Dragon Within

The Dragon Within

By Melody Jackson

Available on Amazon

Product Description (from Amazon)

Are dragons good...or evil? 

Kaena Armae doesn’t really care either way. No one’s seen a dragon in over twenty years, so why should she even care? 

But when she comes face to face with the shocking truth in the forest near her home, she is forced to choose sides in a feud that 
started centuries ago. 

And the real war is just beginning. 

Now, Kaena must convince opposing sides to join together to combat an ancient evil, or face the destruction of their whole world, forever. 

But what if they’re fighting the wrong enemy?

About the Author (from Amazon)

Melody Jackson lives in the unbearably hot state of Arizona, (well, at least it's a dry heat) and enjoys writing, singing, playing guitar, and, well, more writing. She lives with her crazy family, as well as a menagerie of animals, including her four siblings, cats, and one grumpy chinchilla.

O.Scarlett! REVIEW by Kendra

I have mixed feelings about this book.

For an author's first book, it wasn't bad, In fact, I found it to be a very clever slant on dragons. The character cast was engaging, the worldbuilding delightful, and the spiritual truths well done. The plot kept me on the edge of my seat, and I had NO idea how things could possibly sort themselves out. However the characters also had a habit of falling flat, and the plot jerked uncomfortably in places, and there were formatting issues.

The book begins with a Kaena trying to catch a chicken that has run into the forest - dragon territory. When she actually runs into a dragon and finds herself able to communicate telepathically, and, when men attack and she's able to use a sword despite - as far as she can remember at least - never having picked one up in her life, she begins to question everything she thought she knew. Then the dragon gives her an egg, which hatches in her bedroom, and she then has to conceal the cute baby dragon that grows, as is typical of dragons, rather quickly. The common opinion on dragons is that they should be eradicated.

Her brother, Jarden, is of that opinion. In fact, he's working with the guy who's at the head of dragon eradication, who he thinks is his uncle. He discovers her baby dragon, and tries to get her to give it up. When she refuses, he feels he has no choice but to bring the matter to the "uncle."

With help from her father, who has also realized that she has a dragon, but is on the dragon's side, she escapes, and flies away to the house of someone who he told her would help her. While there, she discovers that her memory had been wiped as a child, and that her real parents are leaders on the dragon's side, and that she used to come here as for sword training. But even here she isn't safe and she and Toran, the son in this household, have to run again. Eventually, they end up where her parents are, and then in the middle of a war.

It was a very detailed world, and I can tell that Melody put a lot of time and effort into it, though I found a few details, such as timing, hazy. Also, one of my favorite characters, Treya, is obviously half dragon - she has a pair of blue wings - but when you meet her parents, both appear to be human. Also, I would have liked a scene where she and her half brother actually sat down and talked about their relationship once he found out about it, but it never happened.

As for the spiritual side, while I really liked how she managed the theme of how everyone has an evil nature, "the dragon within" per se, and especially Jarden's struggle. However the Sacrifice scene, while it isn't the worst allegory ever done, there was a high level of "blink and you miss it," and I think I blinked. Also, the Jesus character was a bit too fond of "bending the rules" for me to be comfortable with.

And, finally, the formatting. I don't like to bring formatting into reviews, but this one had two big issues. I read the Smashwords version, and I don't know if Kindle has the same issue, but first of all, the book is in the file twice. Literally. Part of the reason I had no idea what was going to happen next was that, I thought I wasn't yet half-way through the book when things started to tie up. And then it ended and went into character lists and such. And then the story started over. The other problem was that, in the first go-round of the story, the first line of every chapter was missing. The same didn't seem to be true of the second go-round when I skimmed over it to confirm that, yes, the book was here twice.

But all that aside, this was a very good book for a first-time author, and I enjoyed my journey through this world that Melody created. The plot was thought-provoking. And, while I went into the book hoping for a story about half-dragons (for some reason, I had that theme on my mind when I came across the book), I wasn't disappointed in the plot I found. I fully intend to read the sequel when it comes out.

Genre/Theme: Fantasy, Dragons, Adventure, Christian 

Reading Level: TEEN - upper elementary to middle school 
Mature TEEN - high school to college 
ADULT - self-explanatory 
Profanity: NONE - no offensive language 
Sexuality: NONE - not even hinted at. I think there was a kiss at the wedding at the end, but that would be as far as it went. 
Other: Lots of fighting and people dying. At one point, Teran goes to a 

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