Book Release: Crannig Castle Review

tc-blog-tour

Happy Thursday, friends. Today, we have a book review for my sweet friend Morgan Elizabeth Huneke’s newest book, Crannig Castle.

Some of you may recognize her name from my partciation in the virtual book tours of hers, from cover reveals to reviews to interviews, and also as a somewhat frequent commenter here on this blog. Morgan’s awesome.

Without further adeiu, here’s the description, then stay tuned for my review following.

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Purposeful Pages Link-Up Launch!

Purposeful Pages Link-Up Launch

Friends, I am beyond excited for what Hannah Rodriguez and I have for you all today.

 

Welcome to the launch of Purposeful Pages!

 

We’ve been preparing for this for almost two months now, and dreaming about it for longer.

 

I am absolutely thrilled to see this take off and watch where it goes.

 

Hannah and I announced the start of our Purposeful Pages link-up last month, and you can see my post about that here.

 

So without further adieu, we give you: PURPOSEFUL PAGES!

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Blog Tour: Brothers-in-Arms

Brothers-in-Arms

The blog tour is finally here for Brothers-in-Arms!  Today, I have a review for it – yay! – and an interview with Jack herself.

 

Release Date: May 31st

 

Synopsis:

Can a Jew and a Nazi survive Hitler’s Germany?



 

Franz Kappel and Japhet Buchanan never expected their friendship to be tested by the Third Reich. Friends from early childhood, the boys form an inseparable, brotherly bond. Growing up in a little German village, they escape most of the struggles of war until the day Japhet is banished from school for being a Jew, and later has a rib broken when other village boys beat him up. Franz learns he is putting himself in danger for spending so much time with Japhet but continues to stand up for his Jewish friend even at the risk to himself. Then one day their lives are shattered when they see first-hand that the price of being a Jew is dangerously high. 

 

With the war now on their doorsteps, Franz and Japhet come up with a desperate plan to save their families and get them out of Germany alive. Leaving behind the lives they’ve always known, they move into Berlin with nothing to protect them but forged papers and each other. Convinced their friendship can keep them going, the boys try and make a new life for themselves while trying to keep their true identities and Japhet’s heritage a secret. Taking his best friend’s safety upon himself, Franz joins the Nazis in an attempt to get valuable information. At the same time, Japhet joins the Jewish Resistance, neither friend telling the other of their new occupations.

 

With everyone in their world telling them a Nazi and a Jew can’t be friends, it is only a matter of time before they believe all the lies themselves, until neither is certain if they are fighting against a race of people or fighting for their homeland. Somehow they have to survive the horrors of World War II, even when all of Germany seems to be against them.

My Review:

 

5/5 STARS.

I read Brothers-in-Arms a few months ago.

 

All I can say is…WOW.

 

Some books are good books. Four-star books that make you say, “Oh, that’s nice,” as you read them once and decide they were pleasant.

 

There are also some books that are great books, ones that make you want to read them sometime again probably, or at least put them on your bookshelf and pet them as you walk by, remembering the fond memories that went along with reading them.

 

Other books are ones that make your stomach hurt from laughing so hard, shake with sobs until your eyes are dripping and puffy, and demand that all the attention in your mind be given to that book. The ones that are so clever and excruciating and real that you physically feel pain and are distraught over the lives of the characters.

 

Yeah, that was one of those stories.

 

It was heartbreaking – so much death and torture and heartache and agony – and it was beautiful. Oh, so beautiful.

I read all four-hundred-ish pages in about three or four days, which is fast for me, seeing as I like to soak in every word and I don’t have much spare time anyway.

 

It’s hard to say that this was a “wonderful” book – it was, and it wasn’t.

The dialogue was witty and hilarious and clever and fantastic. The writing was spectacular, and portrayed the story ridiculously well.

The characters were four-dimensional, and even though there were many of them, they were executed quite well. (Get it? Executed? Ha ha…never mind.)

The worldbuilding was done well too, though not completely what I expected from reading other WWII books, but still, I enjoyed it immensely.

 

But the story killed me. I have no words to describe the way it made me feel. It wasn’t a “God is good, everything’s gonna be alright,” kind of story, by any stretch.

 

It was more of a “I have no idea if we’ll even survive this,” kind of story. It’s about real pain and even getting to the point of seriously doubting God when it gets too hard to breathe. It’s about friendship, brotherly love, coming to a place of learning to trust God, even when life’s a nightmare, and about not giving up hope.

 

The story hurt my heart. It drew me in and I couldn’t put it down. Many parts were hard to read; not that they were really gory, but that they touched my emotions quite deeply, both happy ones and depressed ones.

 

This book has made it onto my favorites list. It’s beautiful, poignant historical fiction, and a book that really opened my eyes to what happened during WWII, from both the Jewish side and the Nazi side.

 

Thank you, Jack, for writing this story.

 

Author Bio:

 

JLB Author Picture Jack is one of those strange people who calls herself an Author. She spends a lot of her time writing and even less time editing. She likes to write about friendships which is partly how Brothers-in-Arms came to be. More than ten years in the making, this is the book she dreaded the most writing, but which also has the most meaning for her.

When Jack isn’t writing, which doesn’t happen too often, she keeps busy with various other hobbies – such as reading, playing the bagpipes to the dread of her neighbors, and drinking tea – which might not be considered a hobby by most but which should be.

She lives in a cabin in the woods with her dog and a library which isn’t quite equal to Prince Adam’s but will be given enough time and a secret doorway.

 

 

I had the wonderful chance to interview her, so here are my questions (in bold) and her responses. She’s a very sweet person, and one I’ve been absolutely blessed to converse with.

 

Hello, Jack! Welcome to Scattered Journal Pages. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself and about your name?

Thanks for letting me invade! I mean…visit. Not invade. I don’t invade places…. *Puts away the siege engines* Ahem…
A little bit about me. Hm. 
I’m sometimes called Jack by people who know me online or know the reason behind the name and think it is cute. (And since you asked, the short version of my name is a result of an online writing club I started where everyone who joined picked the name of their favorite Author. I picked C.S. Lewis, who was called Jack by his friends. Hence, Jack Lewis. Baillot was shamelessly stolen from one of my all time favorite history heroes.)
I’m what can be called an Author. Which means I sit locked up in my room and drink lots of tea while hanging out with people no one else can see – at least until said someone’s read my books.

 

How long ago did you get the inspiration for Brothers-in-Arms, and how old were you?

About ten years ago…or longer. I was about sixteen I think. I was wittle…but not really. I stopped growing when I was about fifteen. ANYWAYS….let’s say sixteen, which is more than ten years. Twelve to be exact. You may do the math to get my now age.

 

What has been the best experience for you so far as you work with a publisher (as opposed to self-publishing)?

I got an editor. And I didn’t have to do the cover on my own, which meant no wielding weapons in the middle of the street while my family stood watch to shout when to get out of the road before a car hit us. (I have an obliging family.)

But mostly the editor. With my dyslexia I have a long running battle with editing. It was nice to let someone else fight it for me.

 

How has your faith affected your books, namely, this new one?

This needs a serious answer.

My faith affects all my books, but not nearly as much as this one. I don’t write “Christian” books per se. I write a story and let God do the rest. But this story has a very clear message. All of my books have messages, but none as clear as this one.

I’ve been struggling with a lot lately, especially the past two years. In a way, a lot of my struggles went into this book, and my belief which kept me going. It is kind of hard to explain and I might have to do a post on it someday.

This story isn’t mine. It is far from being my story, but in a way it is my story. It’s complicated, but this book means a lot to me. More than any of my other books do or ever will.

 

What is your target audience for Brothers-in-Arms, and what message do you hope to share through it?

Everyone. Well, an older age group, but I didn’t want to write a book just for Christians. I also didn’t want to write a book which tried to slyly witness to non-believers without them knowing it. I wanted to write a story about the struggle of the German people in WWII. The message in it is there because I felt it fit with the story and it just worked. As I wrote the message just came out, but I didn’t set out to write a message about trust for God in the darkest times in our lives.

So, while it isn’t written for just a certain group, I do hope that message might encourage those who read it.

 

What is your biggest dream right now? (It doesn’t have to be realistic!)

World domination.

I actually have a lot. I’m a dreamer of impossible dreams, to steal another Doctor Who line. I get these rash ideas in my head, almost impossible ideas, and chase them down. Like writing with dyslexia. Once I get an idea I don’t like to let things stop me, probably a result of stubbornness.

But my top dreams…

Go on an adventure. I’m plotting one for this summer. I haven’t decided what it will be yet, but it will be glorious and hopefully won’t involve awkward nude beaches like my last adventure. (For this interested in that adventure which also involved Owl City, the post is on my blog if you wish to hunt it down.)

 

Who has inspired you, whether in writing or otherwise?

C.S. Lewis. I think he had an understanding of children most don’t have and don’t understand.

Louis Zamperini, who is a man I consider my hero. A WWII POW who survived the near impossible, came home and struggled with PTSD, and then gave his life to God. He also had a remarkable sense of humor and did crazy things like skateboard in his eighties. He inspires me in life, Lewis in my writing.

 

What advice would you give to people wanting to achieve their dreams?

This is going to sound silly, but don’t let things get in your way. I don’t mean go rushing off in rebellion to those in authority over you, but I mean don’t give up. It will be hard to accomplish your dreams, but I believe people can do things which could be considered impossible.

After all, I’m a dyslexic Author.

Don’t give up because things are hard. You can do quite a number of impossible things if you work hard enough.

 

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! My readers and I are privileged to know a little more about you.

 

Contact Info

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Blog

Goodreads link

Brothers-in-Arms Pinterest Page

 

When Fiction Seems Cooler Than Jesus

When Fiction Seems Cooler Than Jesus

Let’s face it: sometimes, fictional worlds just seem better than reality. Books, movies, TV shows – they’re usually crafted from stories created by writers.

 

I love all kinds of fiction, whether I’m absorbing an action-drama TV show or a riveting fantasy novel. In all honesty, they’re pretty great. We all love the well-developed characters – those people we can’t imagine not being real – the witty dialogue – the relationships between our “screen friends” – the realness of it all – the fact that we relate to it – the mood and setting – the music and filmography – the expressions – it’s the magic of everything working together that captivates us.

 

Maybe we like fiction because it’s an escape from reality. But at the same time, we want it to be realistic.

 

How on earth could this make any sense?

 

I believe we want reality in a neat little box. We want decisions to be simple, pain to be controlled, good to always win, and to be involved in something incredible. We want heroism. We want victory. We want to experience something powerful and bigger than ourselves.

 

But in our lives, neatness is not usually the case. Decisions are rarely black and white, with one choice as good and another evil. Morality isn’t always clear.

 

Pain happens. Hearts break. Happy endings don’t always come together. And for crying out loud, folks, our lives often seem so boring. We’re not chasing bad guys or riding dragons or being heroes or going on adventures through space and time.

 

So we read about it, and we entertain ourselves with fantasies of what’s not quite possible for us in this world.

 

And honestly, fiction is FANTASTIC. We can be intimately involved in the lives of our favorite characters and live vicariously through them. I love that aspect of it so much.

 

What I don’t like is that when I’m so involved in a world of writing, acting, and fangirly feels, my longing for the Bible tends to decrease. But why is this? As a girl who desperately wants to wholeheartedly desire the Word of God, I find myself frustrated when I feel like the Bible has become a chore.

 

I want to make sure it’s clear that I’m not trying to preach at anyone here, or demean fiction, or make it sound like I’m super-spiritual or something. I deal with the same things you do. I sometimes struggle to find motivation to read the Bible, as opposed to the novel beside my bed. I’m not perfect whatsoever, and I’m pulled between reading a devotion and watching my favorite show.

 

I don’t judge those who struggle to desire to read the Bible, because I think we’ll all encounter that sometime in our lives.

 

But what about when fictional realities seem more attractive than real life?

 

What do we enjoy about fantasy that makes us want to stay there, and what is it about the Bible that we treat it like work or obligation?

 

When did we forget that the Bible, salvation, and our very faith affects the whole universe, and those things are significantly larger than ourselves? When did we let our views of God’s amazing love and grace become dulled?

 

I’m addressing questions just like this in the book I’m writing right now. I don’t have every answer, but I’m really enjoying sharing my heart on such issues and further solidifying what I believe. I finished up Camp NaNoWriMo with 17,131 words, and while I’m still technically on the third (very very long) chapter, I’m getting so far.

 

Instead of trying to answer all the questions a lot of us have, I’m just going to ask us to think:

 

What’s so cool about fiction that it often seems cooler than Jesus?

Why does faith sometimes take the back burner when it comes to entertainment?

What can we do to grow in our hearts the desire of knowing Jesus better?

 

I’ll leave you with that for the night, because it’s extremely late and I’m losing coherence. For more posts on Bible reading, see these:

 

// The Bible Is Not A Burden: 3 Truths About God’s Word

 

// How to Read the Bible {effectively spending time with our Heavenly Father}

 

// Why Should I Read the Bible?

 

*aj

Water Princess, Fire Prince Blog Tour – BOOK REVIEW!

WATER PRINCESS, FIRE PRINCE IS FINALLY HERE!!!!

Water and Fire

Book Description:

When the Lady Dragon does come,
Hold fast, do not fear, do not run.
Your Water Princess will fight,
Fire Prince will set all to right.
Each shall come from a Fall,
Their union will save you all.

Despite the fact that she’s on track for competing in the Olympics, and he’s practically raised his younger brothers since they lost their mom in a car accident, Clara Mandras and Andrew Stevenson are pretty much normal teens. They have normal hopes, normal dreams, and they live in a normal world.
All this is torn away from them when they are thrust into another world and declared Water Princess and Fire Prince. With no experience ruling a country, meeting each other for the first time, and being expected to fight the Lady Dragon – an evil sorceress plaguing the world of Rizkaland – Clara and Andrew are underprepared and inexperienced. Unless they learn to work together despite their standing opposition, Rizkaland’s hope will be lost.

What is to come will change their lives forever.

If you know anything about me in real life, you’ll know how much I don’t like picking up a new book.

“What if I hate it and decide never to read another book again? What if I’ve lost faith in all books because this one is horrendous?”

It’s pathetic, and I should really try to kick that preconceived notion. But I haven’t yet.

I almost always start a book extremely skeptical. I didn’t like fantasy before March of this year, mind you.

I hadn’t read much Young Adult fiction until I started at fourteen last November. I expected all Christian fiction to be preachy and shallow.

I’ve always loved books…but indie books made me skeptical. If everyone thinks themselves an author, of course those books won’t be good. Right?

(No. Just…No. Sorry, Clara, but indies can be great too.)

Anyway, in March, Kendra invited me to participate in the cover reveal for her book. I was like, “Sure, why not? Kendra is sweet and she probably writes well by all the good reviews I’ve read on Goodreads.”

On her website, I signed up for the reveal, but I also signed up to beta read.

I read the then-description, and decided it intrigued me a little. (This was when the placeholder description was the only description, so I didn’t know what exactly to expect.)

I’d never done anything ever remotely close to beta-ing before.

So this was new for me, and I’m not sure how helpful I actually was. But I did it.

I picked up the book with low expectations…and I was blown away.

My jaw is sore from it smacking the floor so many times.

I fell in love.

My Review: FIVE HUMONGOUS STARS

A lot of times, I mistakenly write a review on a book and end up using it as an outlet for fangirling. The problem with this is, that 95% of my blog readers have either never read the book, never heard of the book, or aren’t interested in it.

So let me try to explain before I freak out and make it known that I’ve been waiting for this release for months and gushing every chance I get, parading around my sapphire ring, spiced pomella cider, shortness, and gymnastics skillz.

Water Princess, Fire Prince centers around two teenagers, Clara Mandras and Andrew Stevenson. In a whirlwind of events, those two end up in another world called Rizkaland, in the country of Klarand. A prophecy is thrown upon them stating firstly that Clara and Andrew will fight the Lady Dragon, for she has been tormenting the people of Klarand, turning them to ice, and melting them. An unescapable fate. And the second part of the prophecy? Their union will be the key to the country’s salvation. Did I mention that Andrew is declared the Fire Prince and Clara the Water Princess?

Problem is, Andrew and Clara are meeting for the first time, and they don’t want to be united. Not at sixteen. And Andrew can’t exactly fight. He could probably whack someone in the head with a frying pan, but that’s about it. Clara’s attitude is highly uncooperative, and that’s putting it kindly.

How in Rizkaland is it all going to work out?

Water Princess, Fire Prince tugged ever so strongly at the strings of my heart. The message is clear, strong, and inspiring, and I related to it so much. I identified with Clara. (I’ve heard that most people did not. However, she’s a lot like me when it comes to interests, looks, and personality.) I became her, and I fell in love with Andrew. (Is that a problem?) I laughed, I cried, I squealed, and I glared right back at Clara in her glaring moments.

The dialogue is witty, hilarious, deep, and I felt at some points as though I would say the exact same things. I felt everything along with Clara and Andrew, and even Amber at some points. Because you’re inside Clara and Andrew’s heads (at different times) throughout the book, you see the rationalization of actions and motives behind choices. It’s so wonderful because it’s so real. IT IS JUST SO REAL.

The worldbuilding was magical. Literally magical. It was like a whole new Narnia, and absolutely amazing. DID I MENTION THE PART ABOUT IT BEING SO REAL?

Every part melted my heart. The faith aspect is so deep, and theologically accurate, but never preachy.

It’s so amazing, and I can’t say enough good things about it.

The romance aspect was done ever so well, and very tastefully. No insta-love here. (That’s one of my top pet peeves in today’s mainstream novels.) Water Princess, Fire Prince demonstrated that love is something to fight for, and not something that is anything even remotely close to easy. It’s one of the sweetest love stories I’ve ever read. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s heartbreaking and tear-jerking, and also something you’re cheering for and fangirling over the entire time.

The dynamics of the entire story are absolutely perfect. I can’t talk enough about it.

I’ve been squealing to my family and friends about it since April when I read it. I wasn’t a prior Kendra E. Ardnek fan, but I did know her a little bit from Goodreads and other online author-y book-y read-y things. So I went into it somewhat unbiased and definitely skeptical. I didn’t expect to dislike it per se, I just had no idea how much I’d fall in love with it.

But I did.

And I’m speechless.

If you like Young Adult fiction, read it.

If you like fantasy, read it.

If you like plain ol’ fiction, read it.

If you like to read any kind of literature at all, read it.

If you don’t even like to read, read it anyway.

Go ahead and buy it.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll want it in the paperback format to read, and hug, and sniff, and cry tears onto, and caress the pages of.

Yes, it’s that good, and every person I have talked to has gushed over it.

Trust me, you’ll want to read it.

I received an e-ARC and beta copy from the author for review, and all opinions are mine. Like, seriously, I loved this book so much. Thanks, Kendra. I’m going to go PURCHASE the paperback now. 

Author Bio:

Kendra E. ArdnekKendra E. Ardnek loves fairy tales and twisting them in new and exciting ways.  She’s been practicing her skills on her dozen plus cousins and siblings for years, “Finish your story, Kendra”, is frequently heard at family gatherings.  Her sole life goal has always been to grow up and be an author of fantasy and children’s tales that also glorify God and His Word. You can read more about her on her blog, knittedbygodsplan.blogspot.com.

Want to see the list of other blogs participating in the tour this week? Check it out here.

Also, come back on Thursday for an awesome interview I got to do with Clara.

*aj