A visual journey into Return of the Valris   Leave a comment

Yup, I know. I said you wouldn’t have to wait a month for this, and here we are. Although in my defense, having to write up two book reviews to post on here did throw me off a bit. 😛 But enough of that and onto the good stuff.

In between juggling work and my studies on web dev, I’ve been making progress on Return of the Valris and fleshing out certain elements of the plot more. And expanding it.

To quote Nick Fury, “You’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.”

And bigger is precisely where we’re headed, folks.

Crown of Ravens really was a defining moment in the series. It expanded upon the world started in The Dark Wolf and was deeper, darker, and more emotional than anything I’d written before. For me, it was probably the best I had ever written at the time. And there was the intimidation. I’d reached the final book in the trilogy, against all odds, and was now faced with outdoing the previous book. A scary prospect.

So I did what I always do, and decided to say a prayer to the Author of all authors. And wouldn’t you know, that’s when the inspiration struck. 😉 Below, I’ve compiled a list of images that, without giving away any spoilers, will give you some ideas of where Return of the Valris is going and hopefully get you as excited for it as I am. 😀

Eldurin, home of the Valris.

 

 

As you can see, big difference in the scenery between the two. The second image really defines the path this story is taking, and that’s going more cosmic. Arandil is going to be doing a bit of traveling.

 

 

 

Villains, anyone? 😉 Zar’ul isn’t the only force to deal with, as evidenced here. Evil wears many forms.

 

 

A New character who will have a special part in the story. I invite all of you to try and guess her part. 😉

 

 

Wings aren’t edged with gold, I know, but it was too awesome an illustration to pass up on to represent the Great Ravens. And speaking of ravens…

 

 

We’re going to be seeing Elaine a little differently here. You’ve watched her grow in The Dark Wolf and Crown of Ravens. Her journey from an exiled lonely princess to a strong warrior queen culminates in the third book. Suffice it to say, we’re finally going to see Elaine unleashed like never before.

 

 

Of course, the Valris do headline the title, so it wouldn’t be the same without wolves, would it? 😉

And there you are. No spoilers, but hopefully enough visual candy to get your imagination running. I’ll post some updates later, and you can always follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more recent posts.

 

 

(Disclaimer: Images used are from Pixabay and belong to the respective uploaders on there. None of the images used express support for my work, and 
are used for illustration purposes solely.)
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Review of Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig   Leave a comment

Six months after stopping a deadly plague, Cole “Tox” Russell and his team are enjoying a little rest. That peace is short-lived when a sniper shot hits Tox. The enemy is discovered to be one of their own, a rogue Special Forces team operator.

Alec King is perhaps the only person as skilled as Tox, and he’s out for justice. Furious with orders that got his men killed, he intends to make those responsible pay. And he insists Tox join him, believing they are the same breed of soldier.

Afraid his old friend is right, Tox battles a growing darkness within himself as he and his team engage in another deadly encounter with antiquity. It appears Alec is cheating–he’s using a mysterious artifact, a crown that history has linked to some of the worst slaughters in humanity. Racing to stop Alec before his vengeance is unleashed, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one.

***

This is another read that’s most unusual for me. I have never read or been interested in military suspense. But when I read that there was a touch of sci-fi and supernatural elements in there (plus the fact this was the only appealing read in the fiction request section) I decided to take a chance on it.

Despite being the second book in the series, I had no problems picking up on the story, which starts out with a shot on the very first page with our hero Cole “Tox” Russel. While there were a couple clunky parts in places, I have to be very honest. This is one of the best written suspense stories I have ever read! Especially being military focused, because I usually don’t like either suspense or military fiction. Crown of Souls proved to be the exception. I actually got hooked, which amazed even me. The plot was pretty face-paced (again, couple clunky spots that sagged, but nothing major) and the character development was just beautiful. I didn’t like some spots where the author made some rapid switches from one character’s point of view to another, but the story is too good to really care.

Tox makes for one incredible character. He’s a warrior haunted by death and worse, the things he’s had to do in the name of serving his country that not even his own team know. Is he worthy of redemption? Would his team leave him if they found out about his secret? And what is always foremost in his mind, would the one girl he loves ever be able to forgive him?

Through it all, Haven shines like a beacon. Her love for Tox is an anchor, and her quiet faith both draws him and dares him to believe.

If you’re looking for an action-packed story with faith, romance, and intrigue that will keep you up turning those pages, I highly recommend buying this book. I’m already looking to get the first book, and I’m certainly going to be waiting eagerly for the third!

Small warning here to those a little squeamish: there are some graphic scenes in here. This is a military novel, so this kind of stuff will be present, but it’s not a book jammed to the hilt with it. But zero in the bad language and sexual content.

Verdict: Buy immediately!

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Review of The Warble by Victoria Simcox   2 comments

In this first adventure of the Bernovem Chronicles, young Kristina is whisked away to the magical land of Bernovem after she opens a mysterious box from her teacher. There, she finds out she must deliver the magical Warble to its resting place and break the hold of the evil queen holding everyone in bondage. Though danger lurks at every turn, Kristina and the friends she makes along the way fight to bring back peace to the realm.

The story has a Narnia vibe, what with Kristina being sucked away into a magical land with gnomes, fairies, dwarves, and talking animals, but carries a distinct flavor of its own. Each page is a delightful enchantment, and when you reach the end, you feel the need to go back to the beginning and start reading all over again. The character development is solid, and the writing clear. And even more, I loved the parallels to the return of Christ that were weaved throughout the story.

Victoria Simcox is a highly skilled and creative author who has managed to carve a unique world that I look forward to visiting once again!

Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/z3nuv5l

Posted September 16, 2017 by J.M. Christian in book reviews

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Looking Back and Going Forward….   2 comments

Greetings, all! Been awhile since I posted something that wasn’t a review of a book or movie, so time to change that. And I want to start with giving an update on the final book to The Heart of Light Trilogy, and an apology on the lengthy delay in releasing it. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 2 years since Crown of Ravens was published. In that time, I’ve furthered my career in graphic designing, and just this year started taking courses so I can move into web development and design. I never forgot about the series and writing in general, but it’s one of those things that starts to get put in the back seat when you’re dealing with life and trying to support yourself. It gets harder and harder to make time when so much is needed for the more pressing issues, and every day you’re racing to catch up and cram as much as you can into that short space so you don’t fall behind. And with the audience for my books not being large, it was easier to put off the third book for “later”.

I’ll be honest, I never did much with marketing my books. I take full blame on that one. 😛 When I first published the series, I had to make the art myself, and while I was confident in the story itself (my mom and I did double-time on the editing) I wasn’t as confident in the cover art. If there’s one thing I pride myself in, it’s knowing a good cover. And while I will never knock my old work (it was pretty advanced for what I knew back then) I am brutally honest. It had some serious flaws, and trying to market a book with a cover you know is not put together very well is scary.

Last year was when my skills with making graphic art got to a point that I knew I could finally, FINALLY, give these stories the spectacular artwork I had always coveted in other books, and that they deserved.

I was already in a competition where the contestants needed to choose one of their older works and redo them. I looked through some of my older artworks, and the one for Crown of Ravens caught my eye. Right there, I decided to go for it. And behold, what I got was the art I had always dreamed of seeing on one of my books. I was even able to make the crown itself, a feat all on its own that I was unable to do before. (And yes, I was kicking myself for writing it as black. Gold sure would have easier. 😛 )

So Crown of Ravens was taken care of. It had a gorgeous cover, but now we come to The Dark Wolf. That book will always be my baby because it was my first, and from the start, I was never happy with the cover it got. Don’t get me wrong, I take pride in what I was able to make back then. I had ZERO experience making that stuff, and at the time, I had only a couple tutorials on Youtube to get me going. So it was big thing for me to even make a cover on my own. But again, I knew it had flaws, and it wasn’t the best work to represent the story. The first cover for Crown of Ravens had its own problems, but even that looked visually more appealing. As the years went by and I continued learning graphic art and design, The Dark Wolf went through 4 different cover variations as my skills gradually increased (I feel so sorry for putting it through that 😦 ). Last year was when the cover switching finally ended with the creation of the fifth and final work with a brand new piece of art.

Before

After

 

Before

After

I got both covers prepped and put together, then uploaded them to Amazon. Honestly, I did get a little thrill when the covers appeared on Amazon. 🙂 It was the art I had always dreamed of having for a story of mine. And at last, I finally had it. I did try to market it, but again I got sidetracked, and that was put on the back shelf. My workload was growing, and when I decided to take the leap into web development, that just added to my already full plate.

It was actually one of my friends who recently read my books that gave me the shot of encouragement and motivation I needed. And I realized I had to go back. I needed to finish what I started, not just for the dear readers out there, but also for myself and for the story that got me started on this journey through life. It was that first book, The Dark Wolf, that led me here. Now, I need to give it and the readers out there the ending they deserve.

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Now you’re probably asking, “The update, man! Where are things with that third book (you dang slow author you)!”
Okay, enough suspense here. 😛 Currently, I’m still on the first draft but have managed to reach the halfway point on it. And I have already plotted out the remaining chapters, so no time will be wasted with wondering where the story should go. While a 2017 release is not likely at this point, 2018 is. I can’t give an exact date, but I’m looking at publishing the third book in either summer or fall of next year, depending on my schedule. Regardless, I want to let all of you know that the third book will be published, and the series resolved. And once again, I apologize for the LONG delay. The last chapter of The Heart of Light Trilogy is coming, folks. May have taken awhile, but it is coming, so hang in there.

Next post, I’ll be sharing some exciting news about what to expect for the third book. And I promise, I won’t do my usual and post a month later. 😉

(Disclaimer: Image and art used is my work and copyrighted)

Review of The Assault (Harbingers)   Leave a comment

Cycle 2 of the Harbingers series continues the story of four gifted strangers brought together to fight a growing darkness.

In Bill Myers’s “The Revealing,” the team finds themselves in Rome trying to retrieve the mystical spear Hitler once owned–the very spear that pierced Christ’s side. This task will take them from hidden chambers inside the Vatican to a mysterious seaside cave with powers they could never expect.

Frank Peretti’s “Infestation” unleashes a microscopic evil on the world that deceives, blinds, kills, then spreads. The Harbingers team must confront a monster bent on seducing and destroying mankind.

In “Infiltration” by Angela Hunt, the team is wounded and barely holding together. Forced to split up, they realize their investigations have led them into dangerous waters.

Alton Gansky’s “The Fog” unleashes a supernatural mist unlike any other. There are vicious things in the fog that kill whatever they find. One team member realizes that the ultimate sacrifice may have to be made.

***

So this story was a little different than what I usually read. I’m not a fan of suspense (which is why there is probably only four other books like that in my collection) as I have found that with suspense, the author is so busy trying to create it that important things like character development and romance are neglected. But when I saw that this had a supernatural angle to it, I thought I would go ahead and give it a try, despite it being the second book in the series.

Bill Myer’s episode is what we begin with first, and starts us from the perspective of the tattoo artist, one of the four unique people this series revolves around (and no, they’re not even close to X-Men) who find themselves trying to find the spear that pierced Jesus’s side and end up in a house crazier than Wonderland. I could say it was because of just plunging right into the story without having read the first book that led to my initial dislike, but I would be lying. I just really don’t like Bill Myer’s writing. I have only read one other book by him, and what turned me off then turns me off now. A muddled plot that is really boring, poor character development, and, yes, it may be minor but still bugs me, one dirty word: p***.

After suffering through Myer’s part, I was praying really hard Peretti would not disappoint. And thank God, he didn’t. One thing he does, which a lot of people don’t do: write some solid character development. And he starts us with the crusty, ex-priest, atheist professor. Good writing and a plot that actually deserves the name “suspense” keep you turning those pages. And might I add, the element of faith was better presented too.

The third part is written my Angela Hunt (who I do like after reading her novel, Egypt’s Sister). It’s a bit of a lag after Frank Peretti’s engaging tale and an annoying professor you were silently rooting for. Andi, the professor’s assistant, is who we now focus on. Not bad, but still a drop from the previous part.

Fourth is by Alton Gansky who switches us to Tank, the Christian ex-football player, and a supernatural fog that invades the city. The story starts off slow, but builds up the further you go, and gives us a nice climatic scene at the end and a hero’s sacrifice.

After all was said and done, I actually did enjoy the story, minus Myer’s part. So I’ll continue to follow it. While it has its ups and downs, the premise and characters are engaging enough for me to want to continue. And the element of faith, though subtle, is a driving point for each character’s journey.

Verdict: Definitely not a must-have, but it’s a decent story for suspense lovers and those needing something to read.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Egypt’s Sister by Angela Hunt review   Leave a comment

Five decades before the birth of Christ, Chava, daughter of the royal tutor, grows up with Urbi, a princess in Alexandria’s royal palace. When Urbi becomes Queen Cleopatra, Chava vows to be a faithful friend no matter what–but after she and Cleopatra have an argument, she finds herself imprisoned and sold into slavery. 

Torn from her family, her community, and her elevated place in Alexandrian society, Chava finds herself cast off and alone in Rome. Forced to learn difficult lessons, she struggles to trust a promise HaShem has given her. After experiencing the best and worst of Roman society, Chava must choose between love and honor, between her own desires and God’s will for her life. 

As soon as I saw this book up for review, I immediately sent in my request. I have a love for biblical fiction, and reading the synopsis alone captured my attention. And yes, the great looking cover just enhanced the appeal.

We begin the story with Chava, daughter of the royal Jewish tutor, who becomes friends with Urbi, the girl one day destined to become the famed Queen Cleopatra. The story chronicles their friendship as children, up to Urbi’s rise to power.

I will admit, the first part of the story felt slow. While Chava is intended to be the main lead, we’re more often just narrated the events that occurred in Cleopatra’s life. And Cleopatra ending being the more interesting person you wanted to know more about when you watched her go from princess to Queen and married to her ten year old brother. Her war in a game of wits to stay ahead of her enemies ended up pulling your interest more than the spoiled Chava.

Chava holds onto the promise she received from HaShem one night “Your friendship with the queen lies in my hands. You will be with her on her happiest day and her last. And you, daughter of Israel, will know yourself, and you will bless her.”

To this end, she follows Cleopatra faithfully, to the point of refusing to marry out of the devotion to her friend. And yes, Chava was a touch clingy and possessive because of it.

But then Chava’s life takes an unexpected turn, and she goes from friend to one of the most powerful woman in the world to a slave struggling to stay alive. From there, we watch as Chava is stripped of everything: home, wealth, possessions, family. And left with nothing but the bitter taste of betrayal and a broken faith.

This where Angela Hunt begins the crafting of Chava’s story and her growth from a pampered and spoiled child with no care for the rest of the world, into a strong woman. Through all the hardships, and the brutality of first century BC, you see God’s hand upon her, guiding her to that one pivotal point in history she was destined for.

I will caution readers that there are some scenes that might be a little hard for those who are more sensitive to those things. The story does not dwell overmuch on them, but it’s enough for you to feel the impact of it.

The writing was excellent, and once we got over the first part, the character development picked up drastically. If you are looking for solid, well-researched Biblical fiction with strong emphasis on faith, then I highly recommend this book.

Verdict: Buy immediately.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Review of High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin   Leave a comment

Hello, everyone! Here’s another book review from yours truly. 😀

So this time, it’s a World War I novel which, for those of you following me, know is a drastic departure from the fantasy and Biblical fiction I prefer. But I’ve always had a soft spot for those drama-filled stories of fights against the German army, so I decided to go ahead and give this one a try. 😛

High as the Heavens follows the story of Eve Marche, a widowed British nurse, in a German-occupied Brussels. Having survived the loss of her family and the horrors of Louvain from the Germans invasion, she now tends to injured German soldiers and helps her aunt as a waitress at the cafe serving the German troops. Secretly, though, she works for the Belgian resistance group known as “La Dame Blanche”.

When a British plane crashes in Brussels, Eve is the first to reach the spot and recognizes the injured pilot. And what starts is a life and death struggle as Eve risks all to save the pilot from being put to death or worse.

The story, on a whole, was fairly good. Eve Marche was very well-developed character and I admired the author for giving the character brains and a quick wit, while not making her a braggart or a showoff. Eve works for the resistance out of a desire to alleviate her own guilt over an event that happened years ago, and to help those struggling to survive under the cruel hand pressing down on them. And watching her deal with the guilt of her past, post-traumatic stress, and the despair of never being forgiven by God adds a lot of rich depth to the story.

There were a couple areas that I felt hindered it, though. The flashbacks to several years earlier, I thought were too many and too much. You would be with Eve in a game of wits with the Germans, and then we switch to scenes of her romance with Simon Forrester, followed by the events that led her to Brussels. This went on for a few chapters, thankfully not the whole book, but I felt it gave too much away. Flashbacks, I think, should be in moderation, and focus more on smaller, poignant scenes, that add mystery to the event instead of revealing the entire motivation behind the character’s pain.

Simon was another problem. Eve is a very fleshed-out character, but with Simon, we get the exact opposite. We learn that he spent time in a POW camp for several years, enduring trauma of his own, but it is lightly touched on. Not to mention, his screen time is rather small, especially for being the love interest in the story. As a result, I never really connected with the character. He was just…there.

Which brings up the romance. We bounce around too much in the story, and while we have a nice spot here and there, the romance angle is never fully developed in the story, or really focused on. So we end up in the middling there with it.

I was also was a bit disappointed with the amount of drama or “tense moments”. For a story set in a place crawling with Germans looking for any excuse to haul a person off for interrogation, it was surprisingly mild. The only action scene I can even think of was at the end, with a chase after a German spy, but that was over rather quick. Then the one flashback scene with the German takeover of Louvain. I guess in that kind of an era and setting, I was expecting some higher stakes and a more serious threat, but it never arrives there. While we have a moment here and there, most of it is glossed over.

So my recommendation? High as the Heavens is a decent read, and enough to keep you going, despite feeling a little bogged down in places. If you’re looking for a clean read, and something to pass the time, I’d say give it a try. It’s not a bad story, and the author did an admirable job crafting it.

Verdict: Buy if you’re looking for a clean read to pass the time.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Posted July 11, 2017 by J.M. Christian in book reviews

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