Merlin’s Blade


A few months ago, Zondervan Publishing contacted me to read and review some YA books for them.  One of those books was Merlin’s Blade by Robert Treskillard.  I was really excited about reading this book because…well, it’s Merlin and King Arthur and Excaliber and all that great Arthurian legend stuff.  It was the first book of six I picked up to read.

I have mixed emotions about this book.  First, let me say I thought it was very well written, especially for a first-time author.  Treskillard knows how to weave a tale and there was a great deal of research and old stories that went into the telling of this one.  Merlin, Merlin’s father, King Uther and all the other players in this book were well crafted.  They were ‘real’ people, people we can relate to.  People we want to see triumph and others we want to see vanquished.  There are all the elements of an epic fantasy tale created in the true Arthurian fashion.  What threw me in this novel, however, was how Merlin was so different from the other tales I’ve read, especially how the sword in the stone ended up in the stone.

This book is told for the most part from Merlin’s perspective.  Arthur is still a baby when Merlin pledges his allegiance to the once and future king.  What I found difficult to grasp was that Merlin is mostly blind in this story, a wound left over from being attacked by wolves at a young age.  I soon found, though, that the story took on dimension.  I ended up like Merlin, experiencing his world through my other senses of touch, smell, and hearing.  I think this gave me a better grasp on the settings as the trees and the towns took on new, vivid  appearances usually left unseen when we rely primarily on our sight.

There were multiple viewpoints in this story but they were well done and engaging, each person’s perspective adding to the one before.  Each one equally important.  So many authors shy away from writing in multiple perspectives but this book is a great testament to how it can be done successfully.

The world-building is very well done.  Unlike many fantasy stories, this one takes place in one town, the one Merlin grew up in.  Instead of Merlin going on an adventure, the adventure comes to him, including Uther and Arthur.  I thought this was a unique way to write this story and the ending is filled with the promise of greater adventures to come.

While this story of Merlin broke the mold of a young Merlin I’d read about before, this Merlin is courageous, likable,  kind and noble.  I also loved how he clung to his faith even in the darkest of moments when he could have so easily turned on so many occasions.

Zondervan is a Christian publisher so it is no wonder that religion plays a big role in Merlin’s Blade.  I would like to say, however, that religion played a big role in Merlin’s and King Arthur’s time, so if the story is to be told in its truest form, there has to be a religious element. This was not overdone for those who may stray from ‘religious’ books.  It doesn’t preach; it simply tells a wonderful story of a one of fantasy’s most beloved characters.

One of my only complaints is that the story starts off rather slow.  It takes some time to get into it, but hey, it’s fantasy.  The reader needs the time to know the characters and fall in love with them as their stories unfold.  There were some scenes where the pace kicked up, and I have to say, I wish more of the book moved a bit faster than it did.  That’s why I’m giving this book 4 stars and not 5.

If you’re looking for a great Merlin story for you or a young adult, I highly recommend this story.  I can’t wait to see where Treskillard takes this story next.  I know I’ll be right there, waiting to read the next installment in this Merlin series.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

***

From the cover:

A strange meteorite.
A deadly enchantment.
And only Merlin can destroy it.

A meteorite brings a mysterious black stone whose sinister power ensnares everyone except Merlin, the blind son of a swordsmith. Soon, all of Britain will be under its power, and he must destroy the stone—or die trying.

***

Where to find Robert Treskillard:

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Gaining a publisher’s trust as a reviewer


A couple of years ago I picked up Heather Burch’s, Halflings, read it and reviewed it on my blog.  A few weeks afterwards, I received an e-mail from the publisher, Zondervan.  They liked my review and wanted to know if I would like to review more books for them.  Of course, my answer was a big YES!!!  They proceeded to send me two more books.  Sadly, I wasn’t particularly fond of either one of them, so I didn’t review them online.  I felt I wouldn’t do justice to the authors or to Zondervan.  I mean, let’s face it.  I’m still a newbie author myself.  Who am I to slam someone else’s dreams on a public forum.  If I was a professional reviewer and people waited with bated breath to know what I thought, then that would be a different story.  Right now, I’m not that person.  I’m a start-up author with a blog who likes to talk up the books I like or that I think others will enjoy.

To make a long story short, after a long hiatus, Zondervan contacted me a few days ago with a request to pick books from a list I might be interested in reading and reviewing.  There was a picture and a blurb for each one in the e-mail and they were all MG or YA reads.  I sent a message back saying I couldn’t pick just one but if I had to, I’d go for the paranormal/fantasy first.  Their response?  “We’ll be happy to send them all.”  Really????   How crazy is that?  There are around 8 books all together AND all but one happened to be on  my TBR list.  The first four arrived Wednesday and Thursday.  Want a peak?

zondervan books May 2013

 

I’m so stoked!

I think my luck in landing my review gig with Zondervan has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time as well as being honest in my review without being disrespectful.  The books they send and that I read are Young Adult, and Zondervan knows my blog caters to their target audience.  It’s a win-win situation all the way around.

Since my review of Halflings, I have met Heather Burch, and in February of this year, I received a signed copy of her second book in the series, Guardian.  The third and final book in the series, Avenger, is propped in that pretty little picture above.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review this series.

And all it took was one honest review of one book.

I am thrilled Zondervan chose me to periodically review their YA books.  Maybe this will lead to another job all together:  book reviewer extraordinaire.  🙂  How much fun would that be?  I mean, where else can you get copies of books for free that you want to read in exchange for a review?  To me, that sounds like pure bliss.

So for those of you who don’t think reviews drive people to your blogs?  Think again.  All it takes is the right person to get you noticed.  Zondervan Publishing has my utmost respect, and I am honored to have theirs.

 

Meet YA author, Rachel Coker, wordsmith of Interrupted: Life Beyond Words and Chasing Jupiter


Wow, what a week it’s been.  We’ve met some amazing YA authors and been introduced to some really spectacular reads.  I hope you all have enjoyed meeting these fantastic authors and talking to them, and adding their books to your Must Read lists.  Please give a round of applause to everyone who participated.  It’s been loads of fun.

Today is the last day of the YA Author Blog Takeover and I have a wonderful surprise for you.  Rachel Coker is the author of the historical YA novel that is taking the world by storm:  Interrupted:  Life Beyond Words.  See what some reviewers are saying:

“A feel-good story for both heart and soul.” ~ Kirkus Review

” An unpredictable and engrossing tale of how grief, faith and romance collide within the heart of a girl, Interrupted: Life Beyond Words is quite an achievement – and teen novelist Rachel Coker is an author to watch.” ~ USA Today

“Coker writes an emotionally compelling and psychologically nuanced tale. The plot has some weak spots: Allie manages to overhear not one but two crucial incidents that give her unexpected information, and some of her character development late in the story is abrupt. But the historical context is an engaging narrative frame. Coker is one to watch.’ ~ Publishers Weekly Review

And what is even more amazing is the author is only sixteen years old.   *Gasp*  I know, right?

So, without any further introductions, I hand over my blog to the über-talented, awe-inspiring, Rachel Coker.  Be prepared to have your heart and soul touched by an angel.

I’ve always loved YA Fiction. Maybe that came from being an overly mature child, or maybe it was the result of the enormous pile of high-school reading list books I always plowed through during summer breaks. When I look back on the books that inspired me to write, it was always the YA literature that had the biggest impact. And, as a teenager, I still find myself relating to the stories of young people in my favorite books.

Yep, you read that right. I’m a teenager. Sixteen. And, believe it or not, I’m also a YA author. My first novel, Interrupted: Life Beyond Words, was published with Zondervan in March. It’s not easy to be a YA author, but it is honestly the funnest, most rewarding job I could ever imagine.

I never set out to be an author of any sort, though. Two years ago, my life pretty much matched that of any other fourteen-year-old girl. My world revolved around schoolwork and babysitting and, oh yeah ,I wrote. Being a writer was never a huge emphasis, actually. It was more of a secret hobby. A way to let out my feelings and thoughts in private. In my stories, I created characters that were just like me and that related to my life circumstances. They were teens, too, who struggled with the same emotions of excitement, fear, joy, and confusion.

I wish I had an amazing, motivational, inspiring publication story to share with you all, but the truth is I just don’t. I always joke that I sort of stumbled into the lap of Zondervan. I did my fair share of praying, obviously, and clumsily made my way through the querying process. I literally Googled “Christian literary agents” and sent emails to about fifteen well-respected individuals. It should come as no surprise to you that every single one of them flat-out rejected me—except for one. I have no idea what Bill Jensen saw in little fourteen-year-old me, but for some reason he decided to sign my book, and within a few weeks I had a publishing deal with Zondervan.

Sometimes I still feel overwhelmed when I think about the responsibility of being a signed author with an established publishing company. And there are definitely days when I want to pull my hair out and scream, “How am I supposed to survive getting my driver’s license and passing Spanish and writing another stupid novel before the end of the year???”

But then I sit back and think of what an amazing opportunity I have been given. To write to teens. These in-between years are so crazy and emotional and overwhelming, and we need good examples to ground us. I know that my own perspective has been very much shaped by the books I have read and characters I have loved.

As a teen myself, I see YA fiction as a God-given chance to make a difference in another teen’s life. I may never get to meet that reader personally, but I can still encourage them. Through the characters I create and the values I share through my writing, I may have an impact on someone’s life that I’ll never even know about.

My second novel, Chasing Jupiter, is coming out this December. The storyline revolves around a teenage girl growing up in 1969 who feels her family is misunderstood and thought of as freaks, just because they’re a little eclectic. How many teens feel the same way in real life and, just like Scarlett in Chasing Jupiter, are struggling to keep their family and life together in the midst of unbelievable turmoil and confusion? Or how many are suffering like Allie in my first novel, Interrupted, with the blow of losing a parent or loved one, or being thrust into an uncomfortable situation that they have no desire for?

The teen years are so confusing and sticky. Take it from someone who knows. 😉 But what we have to remember as YA authors is to write books that will give teens answers. That will give them hope. That will remind them that they’re not alone and that they have a voice.

To be an author is a huge responsibility. But it’s also something that should make you excited and eager. Every time I receive a letter or an email from a teen that was touched by my book or story, it brings a huge smile to my face. Because that is what we are here to do. To inspire, encourage, and give answers to teens. And I hope that the older I grow, I’ll just keep loving it even more!

Isn’t she lovely?  I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I was when Rachel agreed to take part on my YA Blog Takeover.  She has inspired me in so many ways and I’m looking forward to reading even more books by this very talented young author.  She is going places.  Please take a moment to introduce yourself and leave a message for Rachel.  She’s such a sweet young lady and so easy to talk to.

You can find Rachel at the following links and don’t forget to add INTERRUPTED: life beyond words and her new novel, CHASING JUPITER, to your TBR lists.

blog: http://rachelcoker.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rachel-Coker/259036884190460

Rachel’s bio:  Sixteen-year-old author Rachel Coker has a passion for great books, and has been surrounded by them all her life. Her first YA novel, Interrupted: Life Beyond Words, was published with Zondervan in March 2012, and her second book, Chasing Jupiter, is due to be released in December 2012. When she is not writing, playing the piano, or hiding behind a camera, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and friends and serving her Lord and Savior. You can visit her at her blog.

Interrupted: A Life Beyond WordsDescription:  Can love really heal all things? If Sam Carroll hadn’t shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time. Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother. She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept. Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie’s heart from hardening completely. But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her. As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.

Description (from Rachel’s blog):

Chasing Jupiter takes place in the summer of 1969, and it revolves around the story of sixteen-year-old Scarlett Blaine, who is growing up in small-town Georgia with her quirky and dysfunctional family. Scarlett has a younger brother named Cliff, who is definitely the oddball of the group. Strange, sometimes moody, and always entertaining, Cliff definitely keeps Scarlett on her toes. Adding even more color to the picture is her eccentric grandfather, Grandpop Barley, whose world revolves around red ties and peanut butter. And then there’s Juli, Scarlett’s beautiful and rebellious older sister, who is doing everything she can to cause strains in the family. Together, they make up quite the loony bunch, and stick out like sore thumbs in the community.

But what starts off as a bright, fun-loving summer quickly down spirals into one of Scarlett’s biggest challenges yet. As the pressures of life and the demands of the outside world start to have their toll on her family, she must learn that protecting and cherishing those she loves is the most important job she has. Scarlett finds herself tottering on the brink of childhood and adulthood, afraid and uncertain about family, love, and the future. But the events that unfold that summer are big enough to change her life forever.

Expected Release Date for Chasing Jupiter:  December, 2012

I want to give a special thank you and big hugs to all of you, my readers, for stopping by and taking the time to meet my guests.  It means a lot to me and to them.  I hope to see you around and stay tuned.  There might just be another blog takeover in December.  *wink*

Also, stay tuned for more author interviews/tours coming in August.  Until next time, keep your feet on the ground and never stop reaching for the stars.

Book Review and Giveaway!


In celebration of 25,000 views of my blog, I’ve decided to give away one hardback copy of Rachel Coker’s debut novel, Interrupted – life beyond words!  You can find my review of the novel below, along with links to the author if you want to read more about her.

Summary (Inside Cover):

Can love really heal all things? If Sam Carroll hadn’t shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time. Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother. She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept.

Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie’s heart from hardening completely. But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her. As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.

My Review

After my review of Heather Burch’s Halflings (which was fantastic), Zondervan Publishing (a Christian press) sent me three more books to review for them.  (Sorry, Zondervan, that it’s taken so long).  I looked through the three and after finding out Rachel Coker, the author of Interrupted, life beyond words, was only 15 years old when she wrote the book, I jumped on reading this one first.

I had no idea what to expect.  I very rarely read historical fiction and the Christian genre was far from my normal urban fantasy/paranormal/fantasy reading material, but it did have a nice ring to it and the blurb caught my interest.

The book opens in 1939 and Alcyone (“Allie”) has turned fourteen.  Not long afterwards, her mother dies from a long battle with brain cancer and Allie is ripped away from her home to live in Maine with Beatrice Lovell, a religious woman she doesn’t even know.  She has to leave all her worldly possessions behind, as well as her obnoxious ‘friend’, Sam Carroll.  Allie is bitter and angry and she has every right to be, but she holds on to this anger and bitterness far too long for my liking.  While other characters didn’t seem to care about Allie or the fact she’d just lost her mom, I didn’t think it was justifiable for Allie to carry the anger and hurt for as long as she did or lash out at those who were trying to help her the most.  There was one scene I wanted to jump inside the book and grab Allie and yell at her.  I wanted to know why she had to be so hurtful to Beatrice after everything this woman had done for her.  I don’t know if I should praise Coker for forcing my emotions with Allie or be irritated with the author for dragging on Allie’s anger for far too long.  I think a bit of both is required.

I thought the characterizations in the novel were the author’s strong point.  All of them leapt off the page.  Irene was one of my favorites with her spunky attitude and her bright pink car.  I didn’t even know they had pink cars in the 1940s.  Allie’s friend, Charlie, is vivacious and cute and I love the way they meet, and there are not enough words to say what I feel about Sam.  He’s adorable and he’s always had a thing for Allie, following along behind her like a little puppy dog from the time they were kids.  He made me smile and wish all boys and men could be so charming and wonderful.  He was so patient and loveable and sweet and always had a positive attitude.  The scene where he returns to Allie’s life after her mother’s funeral was handled beautifully and he is the perfect antidote for this withdrawn teen. His patience and forgiveness was admirable and exactly what Allie needed to find her way.

As for Coker’s writing style, I could tell this was a first novel.  Even though the story was enjoyable to read, at times I found it a bit spotty, jumping from scene to scene and place to place.  This may have been due to editorial cuts rather than a lack of writing by the author, but I thought it worth mentioning.  Overall, I felt the story flowed well and the reader gets a real sense of the struggles and internal turmoil Allie faces.  When Allie is taken away and she has to say good-bye to the house and her beloved kitty, I have to admit, Coker pulled at my heartstrings.

The story revolves around World War II and it reminded me of stories my own mom told me of the women who waited patiently to find out if they’d ever see their fiancées or husbands again.  It was a poignant look at what women go through when the men they love are away at war.  There was one tiny mention of a young woman and her engagement ring and I have to admit, it choked me up a bit.

The story does get religious toward the end.  I was expecting it as Allie was not religious in the beginning of the book, and seeing the way the story progressed, I knew religion would play into her self-realization and coming about.  I did feel at times it bordered on ‘preachy’, but only slightly.  After all, this is Allie’s story and her changing.  I thought, however, there was an extreme shift in Allie’s character – going from someone who didn’t believe in God to someone who prays like God’s been in her life from the day she was born.  There wasn’t a transition. There wasn’t’ a moment where it felt like she was uncomfortable praying or questioning whether it would even work of if she was doing it right. I think there needed to be that for her character to be sincere.  Again, this could have been an editorial change.  It seemed slightly abrupt to me.

In spite of the few minor niggles I had, I really enjoyed Interrupted and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a heart-warming, quick read that will lift your spirits.  I will definitely keep my eyes open for more stories from this remarkable young lady.  I give Interrupted 4 stars out of 5.

Links to Rachel Coker

Rachel’s website/blog
Rachel on Facebook
Rachel on Goodreads
Rachel’s author page at Zondervan

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a hardback copy of Interrupted – life beyond words.  Unfortunately, due to tight money belt, the giveaway is only open to residents in the continental United States.

Giveaway rules:

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All entries will be chosen randomly and the winner will be announced on my blog  on June 16.  The winner will have one week to contact me at kford2007@gmail.com with his/her mailing information.  If I do not hear from the winner within seven days, another name will be drawn.

Good luck everyone!  Let the fun begin!!!

Oh, and thank you, all of you, for dropping by my blog!  It makes me really happy.  I’m trying to pass on the goodness.  🙂