Thursday, February 15, 2018

Minstrel's Call Cover Reveal

My friend and fellow blogger Jenelle Schmidt is releasing the final book in her Minstrel's Song series and I get to help reveal the cover today! Just take a look at the first three covers for this great series:

Gorgeous, eh? I'll just let those three covers sit with you for a little while until we get to the big reveal at the end of the post. ;)

Author Bio 
Jenelle Schmidt grew up in the northern-Midwest. She now resides with her husband and their four adorable children in the wilds of Wisconsin. Jenelle fell in love with reading at a young age during family story-times when her father would read out loud to her and her siblings each night before bed. Her imagination was captured by authors such as Madeleine L’Engle, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Lloyd Alexander. It wasn’t long before she began making up her own stories and sharing them with her family. To this day she enjoys creating exciting adventure tales filled with poignant themes and compelling characters in the fantasy and sci-fi genres.

Social Media Links:

Book blurb:

War threatens. The game board is set. But the Minstrel is missing...

Advancing his growing power, the Dread Prince breaks free of his prison and brings a faction of dragons under his control, stirring unrest and hatred in the newly united kingdoms of Tellurae Aquaous.

When the dragon wards of Kallayohm are targeted in a ruthless attack, the High King travels there to administer justice. But the trial results in a crippling blow that leaves him reeling.

On the heels of defeat, an unexpected message from the erstwhile Minstrel arrives, pleading with his friends for rescue. Together, the High King and his companions must follow the fragile trail, braving peril and darkness that will test the measure of them all...

And now... the cover! 

Isn't it GORGEOUS?! This series is so aesthetically pleasing. I think the cover for Minstrel's Call is my favorite one. Water and boats are two of my favorite things. 

Pre-Order Link:

The book comes out on February 28, so pre-order it now so that you can read it right away when it comes out! 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Digital Release of The Last Motley by DJ Edwardson

My friend DJ Edwardson is having a release party for his latest book! It's a great book, so pick yourself up a digital copy for only 99 cents! Keep reading this post to learn more about one of the places in The Last Motley and to be entered to win several fabulous prizes.

last motley fantasy book tour
Welcome to the virtual book tour for The Last Motley by Grace Award nominated author DJ Edwardson. To celebrate the book's release the digital version is being offered at the special discounted price of 99 cents, now through February 17th. In addition, you're invited to come along on a virtual treasure hunt visiting some of the places featured in the novel. And to help you along your journey, we're giving away a few prizes, too. So how 'bout them apples? Today's stop is:

Isle of Rinn

The farthest known western point of Arinn, the Isle of Rinn has been uninhabited for centuries. It is dominated by a single mountain, dark gray in color, with a rounded top. Treelines grip its flanks like green skeletal fingers rising out the sea itself. Beyond the mountain, another large hill, completely blanketed with green, melds into the surrounding forest. The rocky coast relents only in a few scattered patches along the northern and southern shores. There white sand beaches brush against the endless sea. Nearly the whole of the island is covered in rainforest. Plant and wildlife can be found in abundance here and the climate is unusually temperate due to favorable ocean currents. Somewhere within the island lie the Ruins of Edinshaw if they have not been covered over by the forest. Tronas the Mad is said to have built a tower here for unknown reasons. Why so far away from civilization? And how did he even build it at all? These are questions only perhaps the greatest scholars now know the answers to.
  last motley map world of arinn isle of ring

We hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the world of Arinn. If this taste has you curious, be sure to check out the full length novel set in this world. This unique tale is not your typical fantasy novel, Yes, you'll find monsters, dungeons, harrowing escapes, magic portals, a humor, an ancient artifact, and much more but above all This is the story about the importance of family, faith, and the courage to do the right thing. Here's the official teaser:

The Last Motley

The Last Motley Fantasy Book Cover

Motleys. Candy-colored creatures with dark powers to drain the souls of men. That’s what Roderick always thought. Until he met one. Now he’s not so sure. But with seemingly everyone in the province hunting the motley down, he must quickly decide which side he’s on. Is the motley the living nightmare the legends say? Or just a child cursed by magic? Should Roderick save him from an awful fate, or turn him in? Either way, it seems like everyone wants to make sure that this will indeed be the last motley.
Be one of the first to read this unique and original fantasy novel, available now for the first time in digital format at the following online locations:

Treasures along the way

As you follow along on this virtual tour of Arinn, be sure to enter the giveaway to make your journey a little easier. Maybe you'll be one of the ones to find treasure at journey's end. Here's what we're giving away: last motley giveaway treasure hunt

A lovely leather journal, an autographed copy of The Last Motley, and a coloring book from the Chronicles of Narnia. You can use the journal to record your travels, the novel as your guide, and the coloring book to, well...for those rainy days when you're stuck in the inn! PLEASE NOTE: By entering the giveaway you agree to receive occasional email updates about DJ Edwardson's releases, sales and book reviews. He will not share your email for any reason and you can unsubscribe at any time. Entries accepted until February 23rd.

Enter the Giveaway

Now if you're feeling especially adventurous, there is a separate giveaway for the truly dedicated treasure hunters among you. All you have to do is collect ALL TWELVE location names on the tour (e.g. if this were for Middle-earth the answers might be Rivendell, The Shire, Mordor, Gondor, etc - basically we're looking for the names of the places featured on each of the maps at every stop). Once you've got them all, send them to: THIS EMAIL ADDRESS You will be entered in a drawing to win this one-of-a-kind poster of the World of Arinn. Measuring 36"X24" it is nearly movie poster size, printed on thick, glossy paper, and suitable for framing. In addition, the map will be signed by the author. This is a prize you won't find anywhere else!
motley fantasy map poster world of arinn

It's even more impressive in person. It's huge! You will not be added to the email list for this drawing. Entries accepted until February 23rd as well. Winners for both contests will be contacted within three days of the closing of the contests.

The journey continues

There are many stops along this virtual tour. Be sure to check them all out.
Feb 6 E.E. Rawls
Feb 7 Angel Leya
Feb 8 Elise Edmonds
Feb 9 Jennette L. Mbewe
Feb 10 Jess Elliot
Feb 11 Rachael Ritchey
Feb 12 Deborah O’Carroll
Feb 13 Karlie Lucas
Feb 14 Abbey Stellingwerff
Feb 15 Jenelle Leanne Schmidt
Feb 16 Jessica Groom
Feb 17 Steven Moore
  Thanks for joining us on this journey!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Here it is: the review of the final book in The Raven Cycle, The Raven King. It has been my attempt to make these reviews as spoiler-free as possible, but, as usual, there may be a few spoilers here or there. If you don't want to be spoiled for anything regarding this series or its final book, click X now! 

Plot & The End
As this is the last book in the series, everything is wrapped up. Things happen. Lots of things. There's heartbreak and happiness, moments of pain and joy. I really can't say anymore without spoiling a lot, so let's move on to my analysis, shall we? :p

I don't know how to feel about the climax of this series. In the three previous books, the characters have had to deal with murderous teachers, a cave-in, and LITERAL DRAGONS. The villain of this book is a demon, but how the Gangsey deals with this demon is anti-climactic compared to the climaxes of the previous three books. Also, the quest to find Glendower does not end as one would suspect, which also seems anti-climactic. This book has several things happen not as the characters would wish them to, but in a disappointing way. This is a good lesson to learn in real life... things won't always go the way you plan, and The Raven King exemplifies this. I greatly appreciate Maggie's ability to portray real life in her novels, but, at the same time, these are novels. There are enough disappointments in the real world. Over the course of the books, I came to love the characters so much, and I was so invested in their quest, that I wanted more for them in the end. Things do end happily, but I wanted to see them deal with what happened to them rather than skipping ahead several months to see how they are doing. I wanted to know what happened to the women of 300 Fox Way and some of the other minor characters. I wanted a more satisfying conclusion to the plotlines that Maggie has carefully guided us through in the previous three books.

I'm still amazed at how unique and developed and full Maggie makes her cast of characters in The Raven Cycle. In this book, she introduces several new characters, including triplets named Laumonier (yes, they're all named Laumonier!). How in the world does she come up with characters like this?? They're fascinating to read about.

Henry Cheng
is another new character. He is an Aglionby student who proves his worth to Gansey and becomes his friend. Gansey is, at first, distrustful of Henry, which makes the reader distrustful of him, too. Who is this new person who wants to have the same precedence as Ronan? and Adam? and Blue? Whom we've known since book one? But Henry soon proves his worth to the reader, too. At least, he did for me. He's hard not to love, what with his strange way of speaking and his inability to call Gansey Gansey.

He's also a lot like Gansey and Blue. All three of them are like-minded individuals, whereas Ronan, Adam, and Noah are cut from a different mold. I think it's wonderful that Gansey makes new friends (while keeping the old—that's an old Girl Scouts song) because it shows that he's maturing. He's willing to grow new relationships rather than closing himself off to the world because he already has all the friends he needs. I don't know where Henry came from, or if he was a planned character or an accidental discovery along the way, but I'm so glad that Maggie included him in the book because he's a great addition to the Gangsey.

Favorite Lines
His feelings...were an oil spill; he'd let them overflow and now there wasn't in the ocean that wouldn't catch fire if he dropped a match.

"How old were you, Whoop Whoop Gansey Boy, when you were stung by those bees?"

"No." It was satisfying and terrible to say it out loud, a trigger pulled, the explosion over within a second. Ronan looked around for bodies.
Declan swayed; the bullet had clearly at least grazed him near a vital organ. With effort, he got the arterial spray under control.

But it wasn't that Henry was less of himself in English. He was less of himself out loud. His native language was thought. 

The Camaro broke down.

Content Advisory
In addition to the stuff I've already talked about (mostly swearing), there's a literal demon in this book. It influences characters to evil things, it "unmakes" a forest (the first step in unmaking the world), and it possesses people. It's scary to read about, super intense, and clearly evil.

There's also a homosexual relationship that begins in this book. It has been hinted at in the past two books that Ronan is gay and fancies one of the other male characters; that comes to fruition in this book and they begin a relationship and kiss a few times. While the Bible makes it clear that homosexuality is wrong, I do not believe that it is worse than any other type of sexual sin (such as lust, watching pornography, sleeping with someone outside of marriage, etc.). The world is so saturated by sexual sin that it is nearly impossible to get away from it; therefore, though I know that Ronan's relationship is wrong according to Biblical principles, I chose to continue reading The Raven Cycle because I felt that what I could learn from Maggie's characterization and writing style outweighed my concerns about the content.
I want to make it clear that I do not condone any of the unbiblical behavior in these books. It has made me seriously think about not only homosexuality, but also swearing and psychic activity, and how each of those things relates to me as a Christian.
To a certain extent, I think it's important for Christians to read or watch things that we disagree with because they broaden our understanding of the world around us and they encourage us to grapple with the sin of the world. Sometimes, I think Christians look at sin as a contagious disease: any minor exposure and salvation will be lost. But the truth is that we are all sinners. We are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ's death on the cross, but we are not perfect, and I think it's important to realize that.
How does that relate to The Raven Cycle? Well, the series has extracted me from my Christian "bubble," so to speak. It made me grapple with areas of sin that I normally would not think about. After reading these books and examining issues that I normally wouldn't examine, I have become even more strongly convinced of the truth of God's word.
I think that, when reading books that contain content that is contrary to the Word of God, it is important to examine not only your heart as you go along, but also the Bible to see what it says about what you're reading. That way, you can stay grounded in the truth as you go along. It's a lot harder to deny truth if it's constantly before your eyes. 

In Conclusion
There are many, many good things about The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. Her characters, prose, plotting, and pacing should be studied and emulated. But, for all of the good things in The Raven Cycle, there is an equal number of significant content issues for Christian readers. If you are thinking about reading this series, examine these issues, your own heart, your own susceptibility to certain sins, and pray pray pray before making your decision. 

Have you made it to the end of this series review? If you have, good job! We will return to normal (whatever that is) programming on Saturday. What do you think of The Raven Cycle? Have you read it? Will you read it? Why or why not? Let's have a conversation in the comments! 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Welcome to my review of the third book in The Raven Cycle, Blue Lily, Lily Blue. As with the previous two books, I am trying to write a non-spoilery review, but there will probably be a spoiler or two that slips passed my radar (like the Rebellion onto a First Order ship...), so beware! 

Maura is missing. The Gangsey goes spelunking and deals with school. Lots of little plot points are moved forward, and the characters grow. Even the search for Glendower moves forward as Gansey, Blue, Ronan, Adam, and Noah find a big, person-sized clue about the king.

As far as plots go, this one is definitely about the build-up to The End, but it is not slow paced. There is a lot of character development, relationship development, and plot development without spoiling the climax of the final book. Maggie is excellent at pacing. She intersperses action with heartwarming (or heartbreaking) interpersonal scenes. Speaking of interpersonal scenes... a few of my favorite scenes are in this book (like when Ronan and Adam go to the store together and crash their shopping cart). Also, this book has Malory, who may not have a huge purpose, but he adds an element of quirkiness and humor that makes an ever-darkening series a little bit brighter.

Maggie Doesn't Care
I think she was losing her mind in this book... Her writing has always featured a unique voice, but she throws out all conventions and does whatever she wants in this book. It's hilarious, and I wish I could have been there to see her editor's face when he first read it. For example: "She slouched back and sighed big enough to make her lips go blbbphhbbbt." This is also the book that gave us "SQUASH ONE SQUASH TWO."

New Faces
We have Greenmantle, the narcissistic, cowardly, supernatural artifacts collector who is rather amusing to read about. We have Jesse Dittley, the extremely tall country man who berates Blue for NOT EATIN' HER GREENS (his dialogue is entirely in caps because his voice is so sonorous... also evidence that Maggie went crazy during the writing of this book). Finally, we have Malory, Gansey's mentor in all things ley line-related. Malory is from England and comes with a Dog (capital D). He likes tea (but not when it's brewed by teenage boys in their bathroom), and he's a big fan of pigeons. He makes cameos in the first two books as a disembodied voice on the phone, but he actually comes to visit Gansey in this book. All three of these characters are as wonderfully written and developed as anyone else in Maggie Stiefvater's universe. She does very well developing large casts and, as I've said before, making all of her characters into real people.

Favorite Lines:
Henrietta and her environs were a paint box of colors.

"It's a terrible word, anxious. It makes one think of wringing hands and hysteria and bodices."

Even now, after the sun had gone down, [the attic] was several degrees warmer than the house, which made it feel small and close, like a jacket.

Really, with these genetics, I should be taller. 
[Abbey Insert: Same girl, same]

Content Advisory 
There's not much to say in this department that I haven't said already. There are still language concerns and rituals. The only differences from previous books is that is contains several acts of possession and a boy-boy crush. I want to talk more about both of those things in my review of the final book, which shall be live on Wednesday!