Wednesday, July 8, 2015

MIRRORS & MIST---A Worthy Sequel

I know we've all had that moment when we hold our breath as the sequel to a much enjoyed book begins to play out.  And the further we get into it the more we relax, letting out our breath in a sigh of relief as we realize it isn't going to disappoint. Mirrors & Mist was just such an experience for me. At first, I had some slight reservations about it, however, C.M. Skiera, once again, exceeded my expectations!  The further I read into the book, the more I became absorbed in Jetsam's story as I stepped right back into his world.

Mirrors & Mist is a well-written sequel to Crimson & Cream.  It is a perfectly-paced page turner that sucked me in practically from the get go.  The action is engaging and the plot line intriguing with its twists, turns, and added characters (it was great seeing some old, too).  I loved that I cared even more deeply about the characters with a genuine concern for their plights and triumphs.  Again, I was impressed with Skiera's skill of writing and his level of professionalism.

I believe any lover of epic fantasies will find Mirrors & Mist to be a very worthy sequel, one that was so well done, they'll want the third installment to be ready to pick up immediately.  I'm excited to have found this new author who can make the pages come alive and keep my attention so fully.

Highly recommended!  (5/5 stars)

Here's where you can find C.M. Skiera:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Shadows of Valor

I've been wanting to post this review for the medieval romance Shadows of Valor by Elsie Park for months now.  However, one family emergency after another prevented me.  I'm glad for the opportunity now.

When I first read the summary for Shadows of Valor, I knew it was a story that I would more than likely enjoy.  Park's narrative deals with Elsbeth Rawley, orphan and ward to her kind uncle, Lord Shaufton.  Elsbeth lost her parents to a tragic fire, leaving her with scars, both literally and figuratively.  She has done her best to deal with both for ten years since their deaths. During this time, her life has been one of relative contentment with her cousin, Genna, five years younger than herself, as her constant companion at Graywall.

Sir Calan Beaumont has always been in Elsbeth's heart.  Even when she was a young child, she idolized him.  He was called away by the King of England to rise as one of the Sovereign's most trusted knights.  Elsbeth hasn't seen him for the past ten years, not since he saved her from the tragic fire that claimed her parents.  But now he is back for the tournament games at Graywall and to supposedly pursue Genna.

Then there's The Shadow, a vigilante who takes matters into his own hands for king and country. Dark, mysterious, and ever present when needed, he soon enlists Elsbeth's help to find out who is smuggling goods and wool in the surrounding area of Graywall, evading taxes to the king.

I'm not a lover of spoilers so I will try and keep my remaining comments informative, but not too revealing. I enjoyed Shadows of Valor.  It is a cute, sweet romance, with some mystery and intrigue entwined.

Elsbeth is an engaging character that I was able to like easily.  The evil characters were just dastardly enough that I truly wanted them to receive their just desserts. And the hero, Calan, was the epitome of a "knight in shining armor."

Shadows of Valor is a pleasant, faith-promoting story that can be enjoyed by tweens, young adults, and adults alike.  It kept my interest and, although it was somewhat predictable as to whom the villains were, it was enjoyable just taking the journey.  There is a bit of sword-fighting and demise, and a few mild expletives, but is most definitely kept to a "PG" rating.

I found Shadows of Valor to be a very entertaining read, one that I recommend without reservation!

Follow Elsie Park on her blog here, and find Shadows of Valor on Amazon here!


Friday, September 19, 2014

This Summer's Surprise. . .

I'm racing to write this post as summer is quickly coming to an end.  Fall is in less than a week, so here comes the cliched "Where did the time go?"

 Perhaps I should be a little more reserved in saying I totally look forward each summer to the blockbuster movies that vie for our attention, but I'm not. I can never wait to take that break and lose myself, spending time away from reality in a different world, as the magic of movies unfolds on the big screen.

There were many movies that came out that I enjoyed. Although released in April, Captain America: The Winter Soldier kind of started it all. But then, they just rolled out, one after the other. Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Guardians of the Galaxy, Maleficient, How To Train Your Dragon 2, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Spider-Man 2, Into The Storm, The Giver, Rise of the Planet of the Apes...  I'm sure there are more, but you get the picture.  None of these, however, were as enjoyable to me as was Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.

To be honest, I didn't know what to expect when my husband and I first went to see Edge of Tomorrow. I love Emily Blunt, so she was a strong draw for me. But I'm not a huge Tom Cruise fan, so my initial thought was, Here we go. . .another cookie-cutter, predictable action film. {sigh}

I so love that I was wrong!

This movie was the summer's surprise for me. I left the theater thinking about it for days. I even dreamed about it all night that first night. And I went back and saw it again. . .and, well. . .maybe once more. Yes, it was an action film. Yes, it had a military theme. Yes, there was a lot of weaponry and explosions and aliens to exterminate. But, despite all that, the story was unique. . .to me anyway.

My husband compared it to a video game that you learn how to play by dying and restarting over and over. And, I suppose it was. But, it was also different in that it carried an engaging story. I loved that Tom Cruise didn't start out a big-time hero, didn't even want to get on the field, for that matter, but was forced to. Watching his transformation was so entertaining. The on-screen chemistry between him and Emily Blunt was in a word, fantastic! She can practically carry any movie, though, in my humble opinion.

Edge of Tomorrow, of course, had the "How to save the world" dilemma. But it also had humor, and wit, and heart, and great dialogue. I can't say too much for fear of giving something away to one of you who may not have seen it, but I hope you can trust me when I say, "See it! It's worth your time."

Monday, July 7, 2014

CRIMSON & CREAM---A New Epic Fantasy Must Read!

Every once in a while I come across a book that completely takes me by surprise--in the best of ways--and I absolutely fall in love with it. CRIMSON & CREAM was one of these for me! I've admitted before that I'm a lover, not a fighter, therefore, my first loyalty lies with great romances. However, C.M. Skiera has woven a tale of such epic proportions that I was flipping pages, absorbed in the world of the story's main character, Jetsam, as he braved the harsh world in which he lives. I found myself gasping, crying, cheering, reeling, seething, and just about every other emotion conceivable, as I journeyed with him on his adventures and misadventures.

CRIMSON & CREAM is extremely well-written, I can honestly say I was genuinely surprised to learn that Skiera's story is self-published. I have read many, many self-published works, and his level of skill is impressive. Every self-published author could learn a thing or two. . .or three. . .from his level of devotion in submitting a polished product to the reading world. His work was a pleasure to read.

Skiera's aptitude for writing, however, was only enhanced by the clever, engaging story that is CRIMSON & CREAM. For those devotees of Fantasy/Epic Fantasy this is a definite "must read." I applaud C.M. Skiera for engaging this lover of romance so thoroughly. I wholeheartedly, and without reservation, recommend CRIMSON & CREAM!

I look forward to reading this new author's next installment, completely, and am excited to endorse his work!

5/5 stars!

Here is more information about this up and coming author and how to connect with him.

C. M. Skiera
Author Bio:
C.M. Skiera is a Michigander who now lives in San Diego with his wife and two rescue Chihuahuas. He works as a professional environmental engineer to pay the bills and has been writing as a hobby since the mid 1990s.  Crimson & Cream is his debut epic fantasy novel.  He started writing Crimson & Cream in 1999, and after lots of twists and turns, 13 drafts, plenty of rejections, the arrival of the 21st Century and  the advent of online self-publishing, the ebook was self-published on Smashwords and in August of 2012.  C.M. Skiera is currently finishing book two of The Oxbow Kingdom Trilogy.

Book:  Crimson & Cream
Hounded by watchmen, trolls, goblins, and a relentless bounty hunter, 13-year-old Jetsam dreams of the day he’ll no longer have to run for his life.

In the mountain city of Dwim-Halloe, Eidryn and Elvar were born twins to teachers at the city’s revered School of Magic.  When the new king outlawed magic, the boys’ parents were murdered.  Their deaths forfeited the twins' magical birthright and made them homeless fugitives.

Rescued by an orphan gang, the fleeing twins were nicknamed Flotsam and Jetsam.  To survive as outcasts, the orphans scavenge and pilfer nightly.  Their last risky foray sent them fleeing into an unfamiliar cavern. Now the boys are lost deep underground where they encounter a strange beast that will change their lives forever and begin a harrowing journey for their ultimate survival.

Crimson & Cream recounts Jetsam’s adventurous tale of flight and discovery as the fugitive orphan unravels his tortured past while securing his tenuous future. 

Book Genre - Epic Fantasy
Published: Aug. 07, 2012
Words: 78511 (approximate)
ISBN: 9781476120133

"What a great adventure! I really enjoyed reading this book. Poor Jetsam had to do a lot of running from great enemies and creatures. You did a great job on the dialogue both making it sound natural as well as appropriate for each social class. This is a challenge for many authors, so kudos to you. You also had beautiful descriptions and story twists.  We look forward to reading more of your work in the future." – Compulsion Reads

“. . .  this book is an amazing example of the quality that should be expected from any self-published novel: the cover was professional, there were no discernable errors, and the writing was on par with many published authors. So, for anybody looking to self-publish, this book should serve as a model of how to do it right.”Fantasy Book Reviews

Excerpt from Crimson & Cream:
Exhaustion assailed Jetsam, and with a glance at his sweaty twin, he confirmed Flotsam was as tired, if not more so.  Jetsam also understood there were plenty of soldiers to join the hunt.  Running in circles’ll prove fruitless.  His legs burned and his soles ached from the pounding.  His worn leather boots offered no comfort.  Jetsam saw his brother gasping and grimacing.
     Upon spotting a shed tucked among a stand of oaks, Jetsam grabbed his brother once more.  A glance behind revealed the guards momentarily out of view.  Still grasping Flotsam’s arm, he pointed with his head and veered toward the shanty.  Flotsam’s face showed doubt and concern, but he followed Jetsam.  With his twin on his heels, Jetsam slipped through the shed door, closed it after his brother, and slid the latch into place.
     If the guard finds us, we’re trapped like rats, Jetsam comprehended.  Then to the mines we’ll go.  But running in circles was no longer an option.  Some birthday.
Jetsam panted in the darkness, and between his and Flotsam’s heavy breaths, he listened for the guards’ footsteps and clinking chain mail.
     So far, so good.
     When Jetsam’s keen eyes adjusted, he discerned they hid inside an old well house.  He groped around the brick-encased shaft.  The well appeared abandoned and without a windlass, as his hand waved in the void.
     Jetsam sat on the bricks and listened to Flotsam bite his apple, carried through their hurried flight.  The crunching fruit sounded louder than a rusty hinge.
     “Quiet,” Jetsam hissed.
     Mouth full of apple, Flotsam murmured in concurrence.  Jetsam shook his head, his spirits sinking.  As Flotsam devoured the fruit, Jetsam wondered how long they should wait until venturing out.  His heart stopped when the shed’s door rattled.
     For a few moments, the guards tugged, ultimately relenting to the door’s deceptive strength.  Jetsam gazed into the darkness, and through the cracks in the door spotted a thin blade poking in, trying to unseat the latch.  In a matter of seconds, they would be caught.
     As the short sword probed inward, a hand grabbed Jetsam’s shoulder. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Moms' Night Out (movie review)

When I first saw the trailer for Moms' Night Out, I knew it was the type of movie I would probably enjoy. I even planned a "Moms' Day Out" with my mother and sisters, and this movie was to be the center of attraction. I was certain it was going to show here in our hometown, as the trailer had been shown multiple times at our local theater. However, living in the small town that we do, it was another no-show. Ugh!

So, we did the only thing that avid movie-lovers could do. . .  We headed to the nearest big city a little over an hour away to shop and watch said movie. I had my fingers crossed that we wouldn't be disappointed. I mean, I was the one to beg and plead that we take a trip with this film as the main reason. I'll admit, as we each paid our $10 admission fee, I was sweatin' a little. I so didn't want Moms' Night Out to turn out to be one of those B-movies that showed all the best parts in the trailer. I bought the tub of popcorn as way of peace offering, just in case.

Tub of popcorn--unnecessary.

Moms' Night Out did not disappoint! We had a fantastic time watching our lives play out in a bit of a spoof that brought out the worst and best parts of motherhood. There were many, many genuine laughs during this movie. There is a touch of Christian base to it, but not so much that you feel like you've been to Sunday School. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy those movies (see previous post), but this movie talked about the importance of motherhood in a funny, clean, "night-gone-wrong" way that was not only entertaining, but uplifting, as well.

I think this film does what it set out to do. We left ready to greet our families again, grateful to be mothers. Could there be a greater compliment to a movie?

So don't hesitate to grab your moms, sisters, and girlfriends (or even your whole family), and enjoy the laughs that Moms' Night Out shares, along with its powerful message.

Most definitely recommend! :-D

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I am a Christian. . .

I am a Christian.

Some may have stopped reading after that first sentence, but I hope not. My intent with this post is not to preach, but to share.

It should come as no surprise to anyone after visiting my blog that I am as much a movie lover as I am a book lover. This season of movies has given us several Christian-based films: The Saratov Approach, God's Not Dead, Noah, Heaven Is for Real, and Son of God. I have seen them all.

You may not agree with me on some of my opinions as to the quality or content of the films, but this post is not about critiquing these movies. It is about the message I took away from each as I left the movie theater. After each, I walked away with a feeling of love and hope. And, each time I felt a strong desire to write this post, but never so much as after Son of God.

I was raised in a strong family, firm in our faith. And, whereas my parents laid that foundation for me, they always encouraged me to know, to find what is true for myself. So I did.

I served an eighteen-month mission for my church in Ukraine and Belarus when I was 21. It was during that time that I knew that what I believed was either all true, or all a lie. Through prayer and the sincerest desire to know, I gained my answer.

So, what is it I know? I know God lives. I know His Son, Jesus Christ, lives and is our Redeemer and Savior. He came to this world to atone for our sins so that we might live with God again someday. I don't believe this. I know this.

But more than that, I know God loves us, as we are, each of us, His children. I know Christ loves us! And there are days where these thoughts humble and amaze me, to the point of tears and reflection. We are not alone--never. I have felt Their love and support in my darkest hours.

I know that different religions could debate the contents and doctrine of Son of God. Was it spot-on with my religion in every minute detail? No. But it doesn't matter. I cannot deny the feelings it evoked in me, along with a genuine need to let others know how loved they are, and how much we matter to God.

Despite the wrongs of this world, which are too many to try and find an answer for in this post, I would have you leave this site knowing that you are something special. And, despite your flaws and imperfections, God and His Son consider the worth of your soul to be great.

So, whether you are a believer or not, I wish you an Easter season of peace. And I hope that someday you may all have that personal knowledge of just how priceless you are to the Creator of the Universe, and the Redeemer of this world.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Writing--So Easy a Caveman Can Do It

For those of you who are struggling writers like me, you may enjoy as I did what Kristen Lamb of Kristen Lamb's Blog  has to say. All of what she shared, I have struggled with. I felt her words somehow helped validate me as a writer and gave me renewed optimism.

Visit her blog post Writing--So Easy a Caveman Can Do It, and determine for yourselves the importance of her words.

"Failure isn't bad, it's the tuition we pay for success."

Happy Writing!