Monday, May 27, 2013

Book Spotlight: Merlin's Blade

Happy Memorial Day!  I always feel strange saying that, because Memorial Day isn't really a happy day.  It's a day set aside to honor the troupes who have fallen to preserve America.  What do you think?
Today, I'm doing a special spotlight as part of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour.  The book I'm talking about today is Merlin's Blade by Robert Treskillard.
Before the round table
Before Author was crowned
There was . . . Merlin

Click HERE to buy on Amazon.





About the Author:
Robert Treskillard is a Celtic enthusiast who holds a B.A. in Biblical & Theological Studies from Bethel University, Minnesota. He has been crafting stories from his early youth, is a software developer, graphic artist, and sometime bladesmith. He and his wife have three children and are still homeschooling their youngest. They live in the country outside St. Louis, Missouri.

It all began when Robert’s son wanted to learn blacksmithing and sword-making. The two set out to learn the crafts and in the process were told by a relative that they were descended from a Cornish blacksmith.

This lit the fire of Robert’s imagination, and so welding his Celtic research to his love of the legends of King Arthur, a book was forged—Merlin’s Blade, book one of The Merlin Spiral, now published by Zondervan / BLINK Young Adult Books and available worldwide wherever books are sold.


And about the book:

Merlin's Greatest Weakness Could Become His Greatest Strength 

When a meteorite crashes near a small village in fifth-century Britain, it brings with it a mysterious black stone that bewitches anyone who comes in contact with its glow---a power the druids hope to use to destroy King Uthur's kingdom, as well as the new Christian faith. The only person who seems immune is a young, shy, half-blind swordsmith's son named Merlin. 

As his family, village, and even the young Arthur, are placed in danger, Merlin must face his fears and his blindness to take hold of the role God ordained for him. But when he is surrounded by adversaries, armed only by a sword he helped forge, how will he save the girl he cherishes and rid Britain of this deadly evil ... without losing his life? 



And a few of my thoughts:

In reading this book, I discovered something.  I am much harder on a novel if I know I'm going to write a review about it.  I received an Advanced Reader Copy of Merlin's Blade about a month ago for review purposes.  I knew I was going to be writing a review about it.  I'm pretty sure this is part of the reason I couldn't get into the book.  I'm pretty picky when it comes to my medieval Briton fiction.  There are a few books I absolutely love, a few I enjoy, and the rest I have a really hard time getting through.  I was really hoping Merlin's Blade would fall into the first category  but it didn't.  For some reason, I had a very hard time getting into this book.  I took it with me on vacation, even started reading it a few times, but it just didn't hold my interest.  I think part of this is that it begins rather slow.  This is a problem I see in a lot of medieval Briton fantasy novels.  Finally, over the weekend, I did push myself through the first few chapters and the book got much better.  I haven't finished it yet, though.  If I do, I'll let you know with another post.  I think that if this had been a book I'd checked out of my local library without the pressure of writing a review, I would have liked it better and been able to get into it more.  I also think that this book is written for boys, specifically 11-14 year olds.  In case you couldn't tell by the purple and green of my blog and my first name, Sarah, I'm not a boy.  And I'm also older than 14.  I'm pretty sure if I gave this book to my 12 year old brother to read, he would really enjoy it!  And the story did pick up quite a bit by Chapter 5.

Please remember, my thoughts are not the only ones out there.  Check out some of the other posts on this tour before you make any judgment calls on Merlin's Blade.




Thursday, May 23, 2013

Captives Book Review


Captives by Jill Williamson
Book Review by Sarah Faulkner

If I were going to compare this novel to another one, I guess I would choose Wither by Lauran DeStefano.   And I haven’t read Bumped, but from what I’ve heard it has similar premises too.  Aside from those two books, the idea behind this novel was basically unexplored.

Then Safe Lands are not so safe anymore.  The Thin Plague has thrived on the wild lifestyles of the Safe Land’s inhabitants.  Pregnancy for their disease ridden citizen’s is no longer possible.   The bodies of the infected just aren’t capable of bearing children.  They need fresh meat.  They need Outlanders.

Enter three brothers, Levi, Omar, and Mason.  Levi has everything; the girl, the sharp-shooting abilities, the popularity, and, most importantly, the love of their father. And although Mason could be better on the hunt, at least he has a fiancé and position as the tribe doctor.  Omar, on the other hand, has nothing, and as far as their father is concerned, is worth nothing.  Perhaps that is why the comfortable, pleasure filled life of the Safe Landers is so appealing to him; appealing enough for him to sell his tribe as healthy surrogates in exchange for a high position among the Safe Landers.

I loved how much thought was put into this book.  It felt like the author had spent a lot of time dwelling on the story world and it really showed through.  Every single setting was bright and alive.  There was never a time when I thought an aspect of society wasn’t well thought out, explored, and presented.  This is an important aspect with any book, but especially a dystopian because its chief purpose is to illustrate a society that is different than ours but also has the potential to be very similar if we’re not careful.  This is where I seen many midlist dystopian falling short.  Their worlds and societies are not fully developed.  I’m really glad that wasn’t the case here.
 
However, with a well developed backdrop comes a trap that I see much historical, fantasy, and science fiction writers fall into.  The trap is to go a little too far into society; show a little too much of what you, as the author, know to the reader.  Yes, the details should be there, but it should be the stage and backdrop the story is played out on, not an important part of the story itself.

And that brings us to the story.  As a whole, I liked the story Jill Williamson had to tell.  I really did.  But the way she told it left—in my opinion—something to be desired.  Captives switches between four point of view characters, the three brothers plus one of the tribe’s young girls selected to be a surrogate mother for the Safe Lands.  Maybe this would have been alright if the characters had taken turns narrating in some kind of order, Levi, Mason, Omar, Shaylinn, then back to Levi, but that wasn’t the case.  With each new chapter, you were never sure who would take center stage.  And with that many people vying for your attention, it was hard to get deeply attached to any one of them.

Another thing that demanded a lot of attention was all the issues dealt with in Captives.  I think the main one was “don’t find your fulfillment with the temporary pleasures you might be offered,” but coming in as a close second was ideas of betrayal and forgiveness.  Also, the ideas of being content with yourself as you are, life after death, and the ideas of fate and karma were bandied about a little bit, though not very deeply.

On the whole, I felt there were both pros and cons in this book.  It had an over-all good story.  The characters were fresh and well developed, the world was well realized, the message was good and clean.  However, there was, for me, just a little too much going on in this novel.  If Jill Williamson could have narrowed the scope of the novel a little bit, elevated one of her characters to more of a center stage position, and focused more completely on one underlying issue this book could have gone from and over-all good story to a great one.  I’ll be reading her next book in the Safe Lands series, Outcasts, which comes out in November.  I hope to see a few of the problems I’ve mentioned here rectified so this series can make the jump from good to great, as I know the author is capable of.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Housekeeping

I'll try to keep this as just a short and sweet note.

My birthday is in a few short weeks.  I'll be 16.  I can't believe how quickly these first two years of high-school have passed.  It seemed just a few months ago I was squealing to my sister about how I was almost a middle school-er.

Now, I don't talk about numbers, stats, and the like too much.  (At least I hope I don't.  If you feel I do, please let me know in the comments.)

But as my Sweet 16 approaches, I have two thoughts for you.

1. It's always been a kind of secret goal of mine to reach 75 followers before I turned 16.  75 may not seem like much, but to me, it would be a huge deal.  So if you have some friends you think might be interested in my little corner of the blog-o-sphere, please, send them my way.  And we're only 3 people away.  That's, like, a person a week.  Totally doable, right?

2. I started this blog when I was 14.  Needless to say, I've changed and grown a lot since then.  My writing has improved.  I've written another novel.  My posts aren't in the strict format I used to hold them too.  And as I've grown, it's only far that my blog grow with me.  So what do you see lacking here?  Do you want more publishing talk?  More YA book talk?  The scoop on every little detail of my WiP?  (Trust me, you don't.)  What is this blog lacking, missing, or in need of?  I'd love to read your comment on what you think.

Thanks.  I seriously love blogging and getting to know so many of you!



Monday, May 20, 2013

Fan Photos for Ellie Sweet

It's not exactly like I don't have stuff I should be doing, it's just that this is more fun.  Here are a collection of fan photos I made for The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet.  Feel free to share and enjoy!


This one's first for a reason!







Check out this novel within a novel at Amazon.  Or the amazing writing blog maintained by the author, Go Teen Writers.


The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet Book Review


The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill
Book Review by Sarah Faulkner

I read Stephanie Morrill’s first book, Me, Just Different earlier in the semester and absolutely loved it!  Needless to say, I was very excited when I heard about her second series coming out, The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet.

The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet follows, you guessed it, Ellie Sweet.  Ellie is a teen writer which made me love her from the get go.  Our heroine is thrust into all the fear and excitement of the publishing world while also facing friend drama and boy drama as her set group of friends begins to crumble around her.  And as much as Ellie thought she just wanted to get lost in the fictional world of Lady Gabrielle in medieval Italy, the boys in her life keep demanding her attention.

Ellis as a character connected with me in a way not a lot of characters do.  Stephanie Morrill spends a lot of time with teen writers and it really shows through in this book.  Ellie seemed to me to be a very real person with a great personality and inner conflict.  In my opinion, her voice is spot on! 

If there’s one thing I think Stephanie Morrill is really great at, it’s any kind of changing relationships.  I noticed this in Me, Just Different and was really happy to see it happening again!  Stephanie shows how characters go from friends to enemies, sort-of friends to a couple, and no relationship what-so-ever to BFFs.  In my opinion, the crafting and time she put into these relationships showed!

One other note.  The boys.  Oh my goodness, the boys!  It’s totally understandable how Ellie can’t decide between the two boys in her life.   At first I was rooting for Chase, then I wanted Palmer, then I was back to Chase again.  This was done very well.  My emotions swung like Ellie’s between these two boys.

I also really appreciated how clean this book was.  As a high-school teen, I know several middle scholars who enjoy teen romance novels, but there are so few I feel I can recommend to them because they have trashy language or trashy morals.  I loved how this book has neither.  This is a book I wouldn’t have a problem recommending to any of the younger girls in my bible study or at church.

But with that, there is something I feel needs to be mentioned.  The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is under the Christian section of Amazon.  Ellie prays sometimes.  She goes to church.  But that’s just about where the Christian aspect of this book ends.  From what I remember, even the Christian role model in her life doesn’t talk to Ellie too much about relying on God, seeking God’s will, or encouraging Ellie to look for her fulfillment in Christ.  This was a little bit of a letdown for me, especially after seeing the same author do such a great job with the Christian aspect of her book in Me, Just Different.  I understand that the author is trying to appeal to a wider audience, but I feel she might also be unintentionally sending the message that it’s alright for Christian to date a non-Christian, which I feel is untrue, especially for high schoolers.

On the whole, I really liked Ellie’s story.  I read it in one sitting on the way home from vacation and the ending satisfied me.  I liked the story within a story; the way Ellie uses her writing as an escape and the novel this 16 year old had to tell.  I would recommend this book to any girl in seventh grade or older, Christian or otherwise.