Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review- Half-Blood

For all his years as a slave, Jace has known nothing but the hatred people hold for his mixed blood--one half human, the other half the blood of a race considered monsters. Always, he is the outsider and quickly learns it is better to keep to himself. Yet, when his volatile ryrik blood leads him to do the unthinkable, he is thrown into a world of violence and bloodshed. 

Forced to become a gladiator, Jace finds more and more of his heart dying as his master works to break down his will not to become the monster everyone believes he is. When a stranger interferes with his master's harsh punishment, Jace's world is upended yet again. But with it comes the possibility of hope that has long since died. Could the man possibly hold the key to escaping the hopeless darkness that is Jace's life? Is there such a thing as life beyond the cruelty of slavery? 

See where Jace's story all began . . . 

It has taken me forever and a day to get this review up. I actually won a copy of Half-Blood in a photo contest weeks ago. Then I had to read it (a very dangerous concept, reading a book for pleasure when you are desperately trying to finish high school). And finally I had to review it. But here it is now in all of its rushed glory.

*Tears and wailing*, oh Jace! Bless your heart, you poor baby! I wanted to reach into the words on the page and grasp the face of this gentle-hearted young man and sob, "You are not worthless! There is such a thing as love, and light! Hang in there sweetheart, Elom is sending help!"

I may have to reread some parts from Resistance and The King's Scrolls with Jace and Kyrin. I need to read the moments where he is given a chance to show how truly gentle and caring he is. And I  especially need the moments when Kyrin refuses to give up on him, or reaches him with a gentle word or touch. It's that or therapy, so I figure rereading the books is cheaper.

Regardless of all of the pain this book brings to your poor heart, it was so neat to finally get a deeper glimpse into Jace's background, well, his soul really. Knight forcing you to endure Jace's suffering only made him all the more real a character, and it only made the other books seem richer. I have an even greater appreciation for who Jace is, and who he will continue to become. 

And I am so shipping Kyrin and Jace even more than I ever was before! Let's hope we get some more relationship developments in the next book, Samara's Peril.

Check out the fantastic author Jaye L. Knight on her website, Facebook, and Twitter. And check out the other books in her Ilyon Chronicles on Amazon. There is also more Ilyon fun here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Review- Machiavellian

On their way back to Earth from the newly discovered world of Kainus Ge, the Surveyor rescues the personnel of a malfunctioning science station. Young medical assistant Andi quickly befriends the newcomers, particularly the charming captain, but things get complicated when the scientists offer the impossible--a way to improve the barren planet and the lives of all its inhabitants. There's only one problem: their solution requires the Surveyor to enter the one area of the galaxy which is off-limits to travel. As the Captain struggles with his decisions, Andi and her father become suspicious of the “accidents” that keep happening on the ship. Could it be coincidence, or is someone trying to sabotage their mission? Can they uncover the truth in time to stop the Captain from wrecking his career and losing his ship forever?

Does the end justify the means? That's really the big moral dilemma presented in Machiavellian. You would think that it might be something of a cliche, but Pennington does a fabulous job handling the question.

There are a lot of raw emotions in the characters carried over from In His Image, particularly by Andi. This gave the book a great feeling of continuity and really made the series feel well put together.

Again, Andi is very real to life as she struggles with a situation where truth and her emotions are colliding.

I will say this, I am about ready for another book, and even more than that, I NEED A ROMANCE! I am about ready to start a petition to get fella for Andi.

Check out Machiavellian on Amazon and read my reviews for Radialloy and In His Image.

Book Review- In His Image

It was supposed to be a routine check of a parched planet. That was what Andi expected when she joined the small exploration team, but when their shuttle crash landed, the unthinkable happened — they encountered intelligent life. Now stranded on the strange world, the team accidentally angers the iron-fisted leader of the village, and the compassionate intervention of a young native named Elasson may be all that's keeping them alive. Their shuttle seems beyond repair, the oppressive heat is sapping their strength, and the local ruler is determined to execute them. Can Andi help find a way to escape before it's too late?

This book is probably my least favorite of the Firmament series, with Radialloy being my top favorite. That fact has nothing to do with poor writing, I just hate sandy deserts. Trust me, this is book you want to read in air conditioning.

I love how normal and real to life the character of Andi is. She is very intelligent and resourceful, and yet, she has a very humble attitude about herself. She loves her people deeply, and earnestly desires to know the truth.

However, desiring to know the truth and actually figuring out what truth is are two very different things. One of the very best features of this series is Pennington's skill at weaving very difficult questions about morally gray areas. Or, in the case of this book, what to do when what you believe and know to be true seem to be contradicted by what you see or experience. These books force you to think.

I loved the character of Elasson in this book. He is sweet, intelligent, and has a very caring heart. I loved the way Pennington wrote how he and Andi bridged the communication gap of two different languages. I personally love languages and have spent a great deal of time trying to imagine how I would communicate with someone when there is a language barrier. Even as I was reading this book I was coming up with ideas of how Andi could express herself to Elasson.

One thing that did bug me about this book was I could not tell for sure if two characters had fallen for each other or not. I feel like it was maybe hinted at, but perhaps I am just suffering from heat stroke. Applause to Pennington once more for upsetting my ego, and I thought I was so great at smelling out a romance!

All in all, In His Image is a fantastic book and very vital to the ongoing Firmament series. Check it out on Amazon! And check out my review for the first book in the series, Radialloy. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Do I Write Christian Stories? (J. Grace Pennington)

Have you heard that joke about Christian fiction?  You know, the one that goes “I tried to baptize my book, but the pages got all wet.”

What makes fiction “Christian” anyhow?  After all, books can’t be Christians.  People can be Christians.  So are we talking about books that mention Jesus?  If so, that includes a lot of stories that use the name only as a swear word.  So, books that feature Christianity in a positive light?  That could include books that have lovable Christian characters and terrible overall morals.  How about stories that have an overall biblical message?  But then, that could include books that have no mention of God or Christ whatsoever.

It’s a more vague term than you might think.

That’s why I don’t especially like to call my writing “Christian.”  I hope it always points to Christ.  I hope it always promotes godly values.  I hope it always comes out of a biblical worldview.  But that looks different for every story.  My Firmament series is more what I’d label “explicitly” or “overtly” Christian.  The main characters pray.  They think about the presence of God in their lives.  They try to live by His word.  It’s very much on the surface.  Never is a bit more subdued.  The characters have been to church in their pasts, and thoughts about God come close to the surface a few times.  One of the brothers even prays at one point.  But it’s not quite so plain and simple.

Then there’s the book I’m releasing today, Implant.  It doesn’t contain a single prayer, Bible verse, or reference to God.  The main character is not a Christian, and is foolish, angry, and impetuous.  Another character smokes constantly and drinks often.  The morality is complex and actions desperate.  Why would a Christian author write such a book?

The same reason a Christian finds value in hearing stories about non-Christians who have done great and good things, made hard choices, changed the world for the better.  Christians don’t, in fact, have a monopoly on truth.  God does.  And sometimes God reveals His truth and gives His grace to those who don’t believe in or serve Him.  He causes His rain to fall upon the just and the unjust.  And every person on the face of the earth is made in His image.  Which means every person’s story is valuable.

Why should fiction be different?

The characters don’t have to be Christians or be perfect for us to marvel at their gifts and be inspired by their actions.  To me, the important thing is that the core of the story is true and good and right.

So do I write Christian fiction?  No.  I write true fiction.  The people may not be real, but the underlying truths, to the best of my ability, are.  And in the end, all truth points us back to the Author of truth.


J. Grace Pennington has been reading stories as long as she can remember, and writing them almost as long. She is also a prolific medical transcriptionist, amateur musician, chocolate eater, daughter, sister, friend, and laundry folder. She lives in Texas, and if she was part of the Implant society, her role in the rebellion would probably be monitoring current events and correspondence in the computer center.

Check her out on Facebook, Twitter, and at her blog! Also, check out her exciting new book Implant!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

TV Show Review- Ties That Bind

"Ties that Bind" revolves around Allison McLean (Kelli Williams), a tough and experienced police detective, mother and wife in suburban Seattle. When she and her police partner (Dion Johnstone) must arrest her brother (Luke Perry) for aggravated assault, her world drastically changes as he's convicted and sent to prison, leaving his two teenagers teetering on the brink of foster care. Ultimately, she takes them into her home, ending up with four teenagers to raise as well as her demanding job solving local crimes. 

It is rare for a family with our very particular values to find a show that all eight of us can all watch. It's even better if the show is entertaining. The absolute icing on the cake with fireworks on top is when the show is exciting and manages to get our heart rates up and hold us at the edge of our seats.

Tonight, we had the distinct pleasure of viewing a new original series from Up , Ties That Bind.

I have to say, I am deeply impressed.

Ties That Bind met all of the qualifications that I have when it comes to an excellent TV series. Clear photography, believable and intriguing characters, a well written plot, definite looming peril, and a story with great potential. And guess what! In case you weren't already excited enough, this show is FAMILY FRIENDLY.

Not ABC Family (oh dear, did my children actually just see that) "family friendly". No, this episode was legit family friendly.

There was no cussing, no inappropriate scenes, and while there was danger and some blood, it was not unnecessarily gory. Honestly, they could turn the danger/gore factor up a few notches and it would still be unoffensive.

Yes indeed ladies and gents, it is possible to make a good TV show without selling your soul and throwing your morals out of a third-story window. I am very pleased with what Ties That Bind had to offer me tonight, and I hope and believe that if the pilot episode was any indication, I have more to look forward to.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Book Review- Radialloy

The year is 2320. Andi Lloyd is content with her life as the assistant to her adoptive father, a starship doctor, but her secure world turns upside down when she begins uncovering secrets from her past. When her father mysteriously starts losing his mind, she finds that she can no longer count on him to guide or help her. With mutiny breaking out on the ship, and two factions desperate for a valuable secret she holds, she must race to help her father and herself before time runs out.

In preparation for the release of J. Grace Pennington's book Implant, I decided to review her Firmament series.

This was truly the first real science fiction book I had ever read. I chose well. Radialloy literally kept me at the edge of my seat and constantly guessing. Towards the end of the book, I wasn't sure if it the story was going to end well or not. I figured Andi would probably make it out since she has the special privilege of nine lives that comes with being the main character. But I had absolutely no faith that anyone else would make it.

If you are wondering if this book has a Star Trek feel, then yes, you would be correct. But this is a much more earth based type of Star Trek. No emotionless Vulcans or aggressive Klingons to take the spotlight, nor are they needed, the plot of this story and agony of the characters is about all that you can handle. But do sit back and enjoy the fine luxury of living on a Starship. The setting of this book was beautifully used to accent and highlight the intensity of the story.

Something I greatly appreciate about this series and Pennington's writing is that she weaves very true-to-life spiritual problems into her characters' lives, without making it feel pushy or domineering. Andi is a real person with very real struggles and emotions. She is a very relate-able character in that way.

But my favorite part? The fact that Pennington was able to keep me guessing, right up until the last moment! That doesn't happen often, I have become a pretty adept mystery solver and am very quick about getting all of my ducks in a row, or, so I thought.

No, Pennington upset my self-satisfied little idea that I knew what I was doing when it came to solving mysteries and accusing the "bad guys". She left my ego shattered on the floor and forced me to clip up and hang on for dear life like all of the other mortal readers out there.

And the ending? Gah! The closest thing I have to compare it to would be the endings of the Cooper Kids books written by Frank Peretti. In that series, after having a series of events that leaves you breathless and nauseous, it always comes down to a single moment that must be perfectly timed or else all is lost. The ending of Radialloy is very similar in that it all comes down to a single moment of timing.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good, heart-pounding story and the science fiction genre. Five stars all the way!


You can check Radialloy out here on Amazon. Also, be sure to check out the awesome Facebook party I am hosting on August 19th, 10:30-11:00 in celebration of Pennington's latest book, Implant.

And one, final thing. Guess who's writing a guest post that will be featured here on alivemasterpiece August 16th? That's right! Pennington herself! Please come check and it out and support this talented author.