Friday, May 30, 2014

Photos & Progress

It was a long hike last weekend, and it's been a long week. Productive, yes--but long.

 I haven't touched my current novel in a couple of months, so I set a challenge to write at least 500 words this week. It helped to have a small goal--one I could break out into 100-word chunks if necessary. Even better, I actually made it with a couple hundred words to spare, thanks to some extra time this evening.

Next goal: write the same again next week until it gets to be a habit. Also, I really need to figure out why the crazy, great ideas only show up at 2 a.m.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Resistance: Review & Giveaway

What happens when a Robin Hood story collides with a sadistic Roman emperor?

The Ilyon Chronicles, apparently.

At the top of Arcacian society, Kyrin has been chosen and trained for special service to the emperor. Obedience means safety, but obedience means worshipping Arcacia’s moon gods, instead of the true God whom Kyrin serves.

At the far edge of society, Jace is more than an outcast. He’s a half-blood Ryrik, an unheard of combination. Everyone knows to fear the brutal, furious Ryriks. No one trusts even a half-Ryrik, and Jace figures they’re right, given his past. He would avoid the rest of the world, except that his one real friend has been called into a dangerous political situation.

Their worlds collide when the emperor orders everyone to worship the moon gods—under pain of death.

Resistance is the first of the Ilyon Chronicles, a six book series by Jaye L. Knight. With lots of action and close escapes, the book is a thick one, a little slow in places, but a very good read. Plus, I thoroughly enjoyed the way Resistance blends the Roman Empire with medieval fantasy. There’s a bit more of a history than fantasy so far, but I didn’t find that to be a problem.

For me, the biggest challenge was the book’s pacing—Resistance is a self-contained story with a massive cast list. Most of the main characters’ problems cleared up by the end, but the story itself seems more like an introduction for the rest of the series. It's a way to get the main characters in the same place so the real story can begin. That, with some clunky writing in the first half of the book, makes the story feel slow in places, even with an action-packed plot. At the same time, it also means I’ll need to read the next book to find out how the real story goes. Since I like the premise so far, I'm hoping things will pick up a bit more in the next book.

Interested? You can follow the blog tour on the Seasons of Humility blog here, or check out the series’s website here. Or, of course, you can leave a comment to enter the giveaway...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

[My thanks to the author for sending me a Kindle ARC of Resistance, in exchange for taking part in this blog tour.]

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lettuce Seeds

Thanks to my sister, I now have a garden on my back porch.

The ‘garden’ is six pots full of dirt sitting on my backyard—two trays made from a plastic donut box and four large yogurt containers. They've been sitting out there for about a week, getting a bit of rain to water them and a bit of sunshine on the nicer days.

The garden started last year. After a couple months in our apartment, all the greenery started growing on me, and I needed some flowers to add a bit of color. Over the summer, we hosted a couple marigolds, a pot of chives, and a few other flowers on our porch rail. Unfortunately, we don’t get much sunlight through the day. By about three o’clock, the sun does move into a gap in the trees, but that only last a couple of hours.

The chives lasted the longest, even moving inside once the weather got cold, but they finally dried up around December.

This year, I’m trying again—and I’m trying to stick with plants that only need partial sun. So far, that means lettuce, spinach, and peas. Tomatoes are out, and I’m only trying peas because I know they are a cool weather crop. We’ll see if that also means ‘cool-weather-growing-in-warm-weather-without-much-sun crop.’

Then we'll see if I can remember to water the plants, without over-watering them.

At least I have lettuce sprouts for now. That’s a good sign, right?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Blades of Valor: Review

It’s over! Done for, finished…

And a rather good ending it was too, for Sigmund Brouwer’s Merlin’s Immortals series. I finally read Blades of Valor, and I actually liked it fairly well.

Blades of ValorSo far in this series, Thomas has been batted back and forth between the Druids and the Immortals like a shuttlecock. First, in The Orphan King, he must take back his heritage from the dark powers who stole it and destroyed his family. His position is precarious, though, as he finds others who know more about his past and his castle’s secrets than he does in Fortress of Mist, before he is forced to undergo a test of divine judgment and finally flee Magnus to escape a powerful band of monks claiming to offer men the Holy Grail.

For me, the previous book, Martyr’s Fire, felt frustratingly convoluted. Everyone knows everyone else is up to something, but can’t prove who is working for what. Therefore, no one can trust anyone and Thomas has to run all over the place looking for a mysterious secret. I really didn’t like the book as a stand-alone story and almost decided not to finish the series. But, I can hardly ever leave a story half-read, so after a reasonable amount of procrastination, I started into Blades of Valor.

It was a good change from the previous books, while still continuing Thomas's story.

There are still lots of secrets to this story, and some of them still don’t make sense at the end, but Blades of Valor seemed to pick up energy as it went on. The story reads just as fast as the previous books with just over 200 pages, but it travels from Acre on the Mediterranean coast down to the Dead Sea and back to Jerusalem. On the way, Thomas dodges bandits, learns who he can really trust, and tracks down the final secret he needs to reclaim Magnus from the Druids. And yes, it has the happily-ever-after Thomas wants—after he finally devises a test to cut past all the lies and trickery he faces.

I'm still not sure how high I would rank this series in my favorites list, after book three especially, but it is a good bit of medieval fantasy most YA readers could enjoy. There's no real magic for those who try to avoid that, but Brouwer does throw in a fun combination of science and sleight-of-hand, as well as a few fun characters. Ultimately, I'd say it's a read-once, rather than a keep-on-the-shelf series. Just remember to read it as a series, because the books don't stand on their own.

[My thanks to Blogging for Books for sending me a free ebook version of Blades of Valor, in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.]