The Wolves of Midwinter

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Max Lucado's Fearless

Each sunrise seems to bring fresh reasons for fear.
They're talking layoffs at work, slowdowns in the economy, flare-ups in the Middle East, turnovers at headquarters, downturns in the housing market, upswings in global warming. The plague of our day, terrorism, begins with the word terror. Fear, it seems, has taken up a hundred-year lease on the building next door and set up shop. Oversized and rude, fear herds us into a prison of unlocked doors. Wouldn't it be great to walk out? Imagine your life, wholly untouched by angst. What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats? If you could hover a fear magnet over your heart and extract every last shaving of dread, insecurity, or doubt, what would remain? Envision a day, just one day, where you could trust more and fear less. Can you imagine your life without fear?


By nature, this review's will differ from some of my past reviews. Mostly cause this books of the nonfiction variety, specificially because it's related to one's Christian walk. Before this, I've never touched any of Max Lucado's books. Though I've heard many good things about the authenticity of his writing and the humility that eeks within the passages he writes. Course, I wouldn't expect anyone to herald a Christian writer whose pompous and writes from an elevated stance. Anyone reading that sort of book would feel condemned by that sort of writing and it would definitely not come across as something spiritually empowering. Instead it would be spiritually debilitating.

"Fearless" overall was a very inspirational and empowering read. Being someone whose mind's pervaded with fear of all kinds, I find many of the individual chapter topics to be very relevant to the host of fears within my own mind. And each chapter contained phrases which were well worded and very easy to relate with. Max Lucado writes on the same plane of experience as all of us. He admits his spiritual flaws whilst offering scriptural text and his own insights to help remedy that flaw of ours.

A tendency for many Christian writers is to write "feel good," Christian messages, similar to Joel Osteen. Who seems to believe within the philosophy that God pampers our soul and offers us bliss within our lives. If we promise to ascribe to all his commandments and laws. Max Lucado impressed me by writing that we are to accept the challenges that are about us and to have trust in God that we'd realize the good which can be reaped through these experiences. Our fear should not be seen as a hamper, but as something which can greatly fortify our faith by magnifying our fears. And seeing the lies which are contained within our fear.

From this book, I felt that fear shall always exist in our lives just as with doubt. They mutually coexist within our lives to hinder our progress. Max Lucado's words provide us with spiritual aid to penetrate the barrier that fear and doubt creates. He tells everything openly and never bowdlerizes any element of the Bible in order to pacify the reader. Because genuine truth provides the essential aid in our lives. Instead of doctoring up the Bible's words to produce it into a trite Self Help Guide. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all my fellow anxiety sufferers and deep thinking Christians. This writer truly knows how to empower us within the right technique.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Vanishing Sculptor:
Tipper is a young emerlindian who’s responsible for the upkeep of her family’s estate during her sculptor father’s absence. Tipper soon discovers that her actions have unbalanced the whole foundation of her world, and she must act quickly to undo the calamitous threat. But how can she save her father and her world on her own?

The task is too huge for one person, so she gathers the help of some unlikely companions--including the nearly five-foot tall parrot Beccaroon--and eventually witnesses the loving care and miraculous resources of Wulder. Through Tipper’s breathtaking story, readers will discover the beauty of knowing and serving God.

For anyone whose interested within the mundane detailing of my life; college has been mediocre thus far. There's a slight possibility that I haven't completely adapted to the new campus. But so far nothing has stimulated me in the slightest. I'm still waiting for something to empower me in an academic manner.

Other than that, life's been pretty much within the norm. Nothing has occurred that's out of norm except Maria V. Snyder's signing this past Saturday evening. And that was truly a great opportunity since she was both humble and very fun to converse with. The signing atmosphere was extremely casual in a good way and all ten attendees joined with me around her signing table. We had one long talk session about her novels and other notable Young Adult releases. Thanks Maria V. Snyder for being such a wonderful person and a very skilled writer. I'm reading "Fire Study," and so far am not disappointed

I apologize in advance for this truncated review. The last I've read of this book was during the last week and August. Ever since finishing a number of other releases, it's hard to recall all the details that pertain to the latest Donita K. Paul novel. Also, because of the sudden onslaught of college work, it's been very difficult to keep with my book review schedule.

Donita K. Paul

Donita K. Paul retired early from teaching school, but soon got bored! The result: a determination to start a new career. Now she is an award-winning novelist writing Christian Romance and Fantasy. She says, “I feel blessed to be doing what I like best.”

She mentors all ages, teaching teenagers and weekly adult writing workshops.

“God must have imprinted 'teacher' on me clear down to the bone. I taught in public school, then home schooled my children, and worked in private schools. Now my writing week isn’t very productive unless I include some time with kids.”

Her two grown children make her proud, and her two grandsons make her laugh.

Again, as opposed with former reviews. This one's going to be slightly concise and lacking any exact details of either the characters or plot. Overall, I thought this book was a captivating story. Even if some of the start of the story lacked the usual magic of Donita K. Paul's past releases. Her strengths shone throughout the novel with her sumptuous details of the universe she's intricately created. Everything felt three dimensional and the enviorment surrounding the characters seemed lush and appealing to the senses. At some moments within the novel, I felt myself entirely immersed within these details alone. Her details effectively conjure a picteresque landscape within the minds of readers. And permits them to experience the world in a manner that very few books allow them. Nothing about her descriptions seemed stilted or excessive, as with other authors. Instead it lends to the actions of the characters within the book and necessitates them to be as interactive as the readers are with the setting of the stories.

With the drudgery of my college courses, the last thing I wanted to read was a book which did not immediatley hook you. Luckily this book was a well deserved reprieve for me after finishing college work as the story itself on the surface was a simplistic fantasy tale. Though within the story it contained numerous spiritual truths and great characters. When reading this I did not expect it to be an insightful fantasy tale filled with an innumerable number of layers. I greatly expected to be just like the others; a linear fantasy story that effectively pulls you away from your world and inserts you into anohter. Here's living proof that no story needs to contain profane material to entertain all ages as nothing within this novel exlusively caters to a young age set. Instead it invites people of all ages to partake within the tale and temporarily leave their taxing lives behind.

There are a few instances where I felt slightly detatched from the story as this story was not thouroughly riveting. At these points, it seems the character development stalls and we're forced to read through various instances of fluff. None of it aids in furthering the plot or revealing any additional details of the characters. It seems they're there to increase the page count. Other than these few flaws, the book was a greatly entertaining book and I hope Donita K. Paul continues to weave more tales from this world that she's ingenuicly designed.

Other Participants upon the CSFF Blog Tour:

Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Rachel Briard
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Linda Gilmore
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen (posting later in the week)
John W. Otte
Lyn Perry
Crista Richey
Cheryl Russell
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
KM Wilsher

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bran Hambric Review

About the Author: Kaleb Nation

On the third night of the third month in 2003, KALEB NATION, age 14, suddenly imagined a boy and a banker on a roof, waiting for a burglar to come. From that original idea was born the story of Bran Hambric. The first novel (BRAN HAMBRIC: THE FARFIELD CURSE) would take most of Kaleb's teenage years to write.

Aside from writing, Kaleb hosted his first radio show in Texas at age 13, later launching his own program in 2006 called The Top 5. Kaleb’s show grew to be broadcast on AM, FM, Internet and satellite radio stations across the globe, before he left radio to focus on writing.

In 2008, Kaleb launched a blog at, giving chapter-by-chapter insight, from a guy and writer’s perspective, on reading the Twilight Saga, a series of popular novels. The website went on to receive over 5 million hits, and was featured in BusinessWeek and Entertainment Weekly magazines, as well as on MTV, ReelzChannel and other TV outlets. Kaleb also began posting regular videos on his Youtube channel, with a combined total of over 8 million plays.
In his free time, Kaleb enjoys creating music and blogging. A homeschool graduate and a former black belt in taekwondo, he currently lives in California and turned 20 in 2008.

The Book

Bran Hambric was found locked in a bank vault at six years old, with no memory of his past. For years, he has lived with one of the bankers, wondering why he was left behind -- until one night, when he is fourteen, he is suddenly confronted by a maddened creature, speaking of Bran’s true past and trying to kidnap him.

Bran finds that he is at the center of a plot which started years before he was even born: the plot of a deadly curse his mother created…and one that her former masters are hunting for him to complete.

Haunted by the spirit of his mother’s master and living in a city where magic is illegal, Bran must undo the crimes of his past...before it is too late.

The Review:

I've had a long history with Kaleb Nation's blog where he's accounted his experience with reading "Twilight," as a male. From that, I've always seen that he has the skills for writing and has the ability to greatly entertain his readers with his unique sense of humor. With that, I really wanted to love this book and very much tried to find some pro's. But being a scrupulous reader definitely causes one to sight the flaws more so than the pro's within any piece of writing. And with this one, there were some very noticeable flaws that greatly detracted from my enjoyment of the story. I appreciate the effort that Kaleb Nation put within this story and understand the ardor of writing. Hopefully I'll be able to point out some of the positive elements of the story to not overwhelm the readers of this with a listing of all the negatives.

First off, the story begins with Embry Hambric futilely trying to run from a pair of men who seem to be chasing her for some unknown reason. This beginning initially brought to my attention the dryness of the writing. Everything seemed more like an instructional guide to inform readers of essential information for understanding the story. Rather than providing a beginning that immediately immerses the reader into the action of the story, it's a very cliche ridden beginning that seemed to lack excitement and emotion. The dialogue especially seemed stale and noticeably uninspired.As a reader, it was hard for me to grasp the intensity of Embry emotions as she desperately decides how to save her son. Instead, I felt that I had to formulate those feelings myself. Since Kaleb's writing seemed not able to evoke those feelings. Writing beginning chapters is definitely a difficult task because there's so many options for a writer to choose from on how to begin the story. It was definitely a great way to starting the story but due to the poor execution of it; I did feel compelled to continue reading.

After the introduction, we are introduced to Bran, the protagonist of this story. Bran encompasses every aspect of "the" common protagonist. Nothing about his personality seems fresh to the target audience. He's basically a normal fourteen year old boy, whose unaware at this point of the great abilities he possesses. Sounds a bit like another boy wizard, who also had no knowledge of their magical abilities. Along with Bran, we're also introduced to the family that has decided to house him. If anyone whose reading this has read Harry Potter, you already have foreknowledge of the mannerisms of the family members, who have a striking resemblance to the Dursleys. There were a few slight variations as there are two additional members. One example of a similarity though is Sewey's temper and extreme animosity of gnomes which is reminiscent of Vernon's hatred of magic and anger. Now, I must admit that the interaction between the family members was very funny. Especially Sewey's paranoid wife whose fears seemed identical to mine. Since I happen to be somewhat of a germaphobic.

As the plot of the novel begins to progress, things do get a tad bit more interesting as we're introduced to characters such as Adi and her gnome. I would like to note that Bran's interaction with the gnome was one of the more refreshing aspects of this story. And it's where Kaleb Nation really shines. He seems to be well skilled in creating some truly great comedic moments. Yet his writing greatly falters when it comes to conveying emotions.

If there's one element that seemed lacking it was the emotion of the characters. Right from the beginning, none of the characters are entirely three dimensional. Instead they are two dimensional and their development is greatly contrived. We're never really able to comprehend the weight of Bran's feelings of betrayal or sadness because Kaleb tells these feelings instead of showing them. When Kaleb does try showing these feels rather than telling them, he recycles the same words, similes, or descriptions. Now many veteran authors make these mistakes occasionally because we all have words or similes that we love. But Kaleb does it too often to dismiss. Sometimes the same description's used every chapter or even within the same page. Referring back to my mention of being a very scrupulous reader, these mistakes are far too many to not note.

Towards the end, my earlier mixed feelings about this story soon developed into a feeling of great disappointment. Eventually, we're introduced to the story's main antagonistic force whose very similar to Voldemort within Harry Potter. Initially, I'd had the sense that Kaleb was throwing in some elements of Harry Potter that he was quite fond of. Yet, once we're introduced to this villain and the atrocity he'd committed, Harry Potter fan will be able to easily recognize them from Harry Potter. Even a certain quote from Harry Potter, "As my power strengthens, your's weakens," seemed to be taken directly from the Harry Potter novels. Instead of being greatly bemused by this, I was quite dismayed that Kaleb would emulate various elements of Harry Potter. I'm a writer myself and can admit to incorporating elements of some my favorite novels within my own stories. But, going to extent where you're emulating elements of another story's plot is inexcusable.

At this point within the book, I forced myself to finish the story all in pursuit of providing an honest and well thought out review. Writing this review was a great challenge for me because I really wished not to convince Kaleb Nation that he should not write any more novels. Since I'm an aspiring writer myself, I would never convince someone to stall their writing. Instead, I've intended to inform him of some of the flaws of this story and aid in helping him grow as a writer. I'm striving to provide a balanced review without being too negative.

There were elements I loved including some of the jabs that Sewey makes and some of the comical elements of the city of Dunce. It's these moments that prove he's able to write and be incredibly creative. Also, the fact he was able to complete this story's something to commend him on. Because completing any work is a very arduous process that takes a great amount of patience and energy. Kaleb's a very humble, kind person whose determination has greatly helped in getting this published and gaining a great number of loyal followers (who'll probably attack me with torches and unleash a band of feral gnomes upon me). I greatly respect him for that; but I also hope that he recognizes his story's faults and continues to improve on his writing.

If you happen to read this Kaleb, I hope you understand that I wrote this as a means of providing aid in your continuing journey as a writer. And I offer my apologies for anything within this review that may disperage you from continuing that journey. Please strive to always work your hardest and recognize criticism not as a detractor but as something which can greatly help your development as a writer and even as a person. You're someone who has a great personality and also someone who posesses strength that helps in forwarding yourself in life. As a writer, I wish you the best of luck and I hope you'll see this review as an honest assessment and not something written by some cold hearted person who seeks to see you fail. Hopefully, your next book will be better than this one.

Here's links to online vendors who are selling copies of this book:Barnes and Knobles, Amazon, Borders.

And the Bran Hambric's Blog Promotion Tours continues with a host of different opinions about the book. Someone's review may be much more positive than my own. Remember that's because we all happen to have differing opinions and are entitled to them.

Sunday, August 30th

Karla Duff’s 6th Grade English Class

Jenn’s Bookshelf

Homespun Light

Monday, August 31st

Dolce Bellezza

Bobbi’s Book Nook

Tuesday, September 1st

The Looking Glass Review

Beth Fish Reads

SMS Book Reviews

James Holder’s YouTube Channel (video)

Wednesday, September 2nd

Reading Rumpus

Katie’s Literature Lounge

Ultimate Bookhound

Thursday, September 3rd

Brimful Curiosities

Charlotte’s Library

Friday, September 4th

Bran Hambric by Kaleb Nation

Saturday, September 5th

Library Lounge Lizard

Sarah’s Random Musings

Saulchichas (video)

Sunday, September 6th

Cindy’s Love of Books (video)

Monday, September 7th

Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf

Grasping for the Wind

Life After Twilight vlog channel (video)

Tuesday, September 8th

Shooting Stars Magazine

Mrs. Magoo Reads

Lori Calabrese Writes

Wednesday, September 9th

Teens Writing for Teens

Twilight Novel Novice

Portland Examiner

The Brain Lair

Luna Louise

The Children’s Book Review

TV Watch Online

Thursday, September 10th

The Friendly Book Nook

Book Journey

Stephanie’s Written Word

Home School Buzz

Friday, September 11th

The Inside Scoop With Chandelle

Booking Mama

Saturday, September 12th

Zoe’s Book Reviews

Lit for Kids

Sunday, September 13th

Never Jam Today

A Bibliophile’s Reverie

Monday, September 14th

Café of Dreams

Marta’s Meanderings

A Book Blogger’s Diary

The Reader’s Quill

Tuesday, September 15th

a book in hand

Not Just for Kids

Wednesday, September 16th

Write for a Reader

Thursday, September 17th

Howling Good Books

The Written World

Friday, September 18th

Always Riddikulus

YA Books Central

Saturday, September 19th

Ms. Bookish

Into the Wardrobe

The Lateiner Gang Book Review Spot

As a way of defusing some of my reader's anger and resentment at my negative review, here's a song that reminded me of the plight of the gnomes and mages in Kaleb's universe. All you should recognize the band! Enjoy the song and for your knowledge, I am a huge fan of this band and am very eager to hear the entirety of this album.

Monday, September 07, 2009

It's Monday And What are you reading this week?is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week. Feel free to pile on a little extra. I've decided to partake within this event as it illustrates the number of books I'm either reading at this current moment or will be reading as the week passes.

Here's three books that I had begun last week and still have not finished:

Blood Promise by: Richelle Mead: I've only started the book around Friday and am already 200 pages within the book.
Catching Fire by: Suzanne Collins: I started this last Tuesday and am 200 pages within the novel. Just as with it's predecessor "The Hunger Games," this one's very addictive.
Bran Hambric by: Kaleb Nation: I received this book as part of his publisher's Blog tour. Many of you know him from the infamous "Twilight Guy," blog. I'm very honored to be reading it though honestly it's not the greatest read. But the book's very entertaining and funny at times. I'm 300 pages within the novel and shall be finished with it very soon.

Recently Finished:
Magic Study by:Maria V. Snyder: Read the below review and you'll see just how much I loved this book.
Jane Eyre by: Charlotte Bronte: I tried to no avail to keep myself from rereading this. But my love of the book got the best of me near the end of June. And I've finally finished rereading it for the third time.

Here's one(s) I plan on beginning this week:
City of Bones by: Cassandra Clare:I've heard mixed press surrounding this book, but hopefully it will be a compelling read.
The Name of the Wind by: Patrick Rothfuss: Sometimes when I'm reading other books at a hurried pace; I decide to have one book that I'll slowly digest. This one shall be that book since I've read it originally a year and a half ago. I will not be finished till around the end of October or November as this will be my close reread.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

"Magic Study" Review

I apologize to all my subscribers and other committed readers for not fulfilling my aforementioned promise of having this review posted either two weeks ago or this past Wednesday. But I've finally come around to finishing the entire book and reviewing it.


Yelena is on her way to be reunited with the family she'd been stolen from long ago. Although she has gained her freedom, she can't help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways, and her newfound friends and relatives don't think it's for the better. Despite the turmoil, she's eager to start her magical training. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia's throne for a lost prince, and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians. If that wasn't bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with her new enemies.

Before plunging into this book, I had my fears especially considering it's a sequel to a book I loved. Usually a sequel involves a trek through familiar territory and characters with small variations to keep the reader's interest. But never do any of the elements of a sequel live up to the reader's heightened expectations. Instead we still favor certain elements of the first installment which the sequel fails to live up to. Is "Magic Study" inferior to "Poison Study?"
Neither are superior or inferior to one another entirely. Certain aspects of the first book are never going to be superseded. Because what novelist can perfectly emulate the experience of being introduced to new world?
After reading "Magic Study," I was very impressed by the author's ability to diversify the elements of the second book enough to make the story seem less like a sequel. And a tad more like another story within the same universe, where the characters are explored more in depth and more mature subjects are touched upon. Mature subjects that were only lightly touched upon within "Poison Study."
Many Amazon reviews have expressed disappointment within "Magic Study," and I for one cannot see that. "Magic Study," is a different book than "Poison Study." In this we learn more about Yelena's character and her past. Moreover, more characters are brought within the fold who help build Yelena's character further through their interaction with her. Some of these interactions seem more intricate than even in Poison Study. Maria V. Snyder deftly balances the growth and exploration of these characters whilst introducing a very interesting plot development at the same time. None of it seems out of place or uninspired.
"Poison Study," seemed more like an enjoyable adventure story throughout. And with a first book that worked excellently. But "Magic Study's" far more mature at times and her character's actions are not morally clear. Instead, their actions and motives are morally ambiguous. At all times, we understand each character's intentions even when we do not agree with them ourselves. Even Yelena herself is even tried throughout the novel morally. Her actions are never definitively "black" or "white." Instead she must weigh the possible outcomes of each action and decide upon the action which shall reap the greatest amount of good.
The one element of both books that have impressed me have been the overall development of Yelena's character. I really loved the strong female characters of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and for some odd reason it's hard to find strong, likable female title character such as Buffy. Yelena though boasts some true strength and unlike some of her male counterparts, she's not a stoic. Instead she's a highly emotional individual that's able to use her passionate feelings to aid her through challenges. At various parts of the novel, I found to hard not to cheer silently when she proved to the male characters around her that she can kick butt. Yelena never fails to impress me throughout all the trials she's put through within the novel. Through it all, she proves to be the strongest and though some males undermine her. She proves that she can overcome anything that comes between her and the ones she loves.

To not make this review entirely positive, I'd like to express one negative element of the novel that bugged me. This element happened to be the cheesy lines shared between Yelena and Valek at certain moments in the novel. Within the first novel, their relationship had a natural progression. But within this novel, their interaction seemed rather predictable and very cheesy. At points their conversations were so cheesy, that I wondered when there would be the smart jabs we saw in "Poison Study." I applauded Maria V. Snyder for not taking the route of making the fluff not seemed forced within her first novel;this time though it seems so out of place with a novel that's has more depth than the first novel. And at parts puts it's competitors to shame for it's ability to balance so many subplots simultaneously.
These far more complicated plot developments though helped me to forgive the novel for this one shortcoming. For, any author whose able to keep their readers riveted with a sequel succeeds in not being a one hit wonder. I'd certainly recommend this book as highly as the first. With the lack of compelling novels as of recent, this series really stands out.

This song seemed to really fit a certain scene where Yelena stands strongly against another wizard's strong magic.

All my songs seem to be all by Within Temptation. But that's because the meaning that's evoked in much of their music matches the events of both these stories. This one specially fits with what occurred between Yelena and Leif.

For all those who frequent Deviantart; I found this excellent piece of artwork of both "Yelena" and Valek" within a tight embrace. The user's "Caserline," and I would love to express how awesome this particular of fan art is. Especially considering the sparse amount of "Study" related artwork on other sites. Many of her other pieces of art are worth a glance. Here's the link to her page; for all those who are interested.