Book Review: The Ale Boy’s Feast

Title: The Ale Boy’s Feast
Series: The Auralia Thread
Author: Jeffrey Overstreet
Publisher’s Synopsis: The king is missing.  His people are trapped as the woods turn deadly.  Underground, the boy called Rescue has found an escape.
Hopes are failing across The Expanse. The forests, once beautiful, are now haunted and bloodthirsty. House Abascar’s persecuted people risk their lives to journey through those predatory trees. They seek a mythic city – Abascar’s last, best hope for refuge – where they might find the source of Auralia’s colors.
They journey without their king. During a calamitous attempt to rescue some of his subjects from slavery, Cal-raven vanished.
But his helper, the ale boy, falling through a crack in the earth, has discovered a slender thread of hope in the dark. He will dare to lead a desperate company up the secret river.
Meanwhile, with a dragon’s help, the wandering mage Scharr ben Fray is uncovering history’s biggest lie – a deception that only a miracle can repair.
Time is running out for all those entangled in The Auralia Thread. But hope and miracles flicker wherever Auralia’s colors are found.

I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity of reviewing the previous book in the Auralia Thread, Raven’s Ladder.  That book introduced me to Mr. Overstreet’s work, and I loved it.  As with much of great fantasy, the book is a journey– both a physical and a personal one for many of the characters.  In my review of Raven’s Ladder, I said that if you enjoyed books such as the Ranger’s Apprentice, Lord of the Rings, or even Andrew Peterson’s books, you’d enjoy these.  I stand by that.  In here, more so than that last one it seems, the symbolism found in good fantasy is there.  Good vs. evil, friends vs. foes and in this, sometimes those are not as clear cut as you might have thought.

Again, I loved Mr. Overstreet’s rich characterization.  What I seemed to notice in this book that either wasn’t in or was harder to appreciate in the last (since I read the third in a series first) was his uniquely lyrical writing.  He isn’t flowery or verbose in his writing, and yet there is a definite poetic-ness to it.  I need to read the entire series together to see if he has just expanded himself in this book or if I missed it in my previous reading.

Mr. Overstreet tells a fabulous tale in vivid detail almost as if you are viewing it on the page– much as books written long ago did- and yet unlike some of those older stories, his are not tedious to read.  You feel the despair and then the hope as things go all wrong and somehow are righted even when it seemed impossible.

I know these books were written as “children’s stories,” but it is my opinion that they are excellent books for any age.  If you have not read the first books, don’t read this one.  Wait until you’ve read the first books.  Even though I’d read the third (I have the others but haven’t had time to read them), there were still parts that were hard to wade through, and I’m certain that it is due to needing a refresher course in all that has happened.  Don’t let that discourage you.  Buy the books– they’re worth it.  And if you can’t afford them, get them from the library.  You won’t regret it.

I want to thank Water Brook for providing this copy of The Ale Boy’s Feast for review.  My opinions, for what they are worth, do not do the book justice.  Sorry, I’m not giving this one away.  That should tell you something about how much I enjoy this man’s writing AND his stories.  Oh, and Jenna would kill me.

Even though I’m not giving a copy of this one away, I would really appreciate if you’d take a moment and hop on over to Water Brook and rank my review.  I’m finding the selection getting slim again.  I really want a chance at Josh Harris’ new book!  Oh, and stay tuned for next week.  I think I’ll be able to review The Runner from Ravenshead movie!  I will also be giving away a copy of that movie… on my own dime!  Stay tuned… no pun intended of course.

CONTEST!!!

Let’s start with le prize.  After all, it’s the fun part, right?  Of course right!  (Name that movie!)

A POSTER! 12 x 18″ of postery goodness!  (I’ll be doing one for Cloaked soon too!)

Ok, how do you win?  It’s simple.  Go to Chautona.com and comment on any one of the interviews.  You can comment here too, but your comment here won’t be counted, and previous interview comments won’t be counted, unless there is a comment there for April 9, 2010.  It’s simple, read that interview, comment, and any comments there or here will be included in the tally.

Today is the last installment of the interview with Craig Worrell.  Don’t miss it!

Now, GO!

The Fun Continues…

Don’t forget to see the continuation of our interview with Craig Worrell!

And, on Friday, I’m going to post a contest for this Shadows & Secrets poster!  12×18″ of excitement!

Keep your eyes out and don’t forget to check out that interview.

Illustrating the Point…

Over at my website, I have an interview with illustrator(ionist) , Craig Worrell.  Craig is the supremely talented artist of the map in the front of my book, Shadows & Secrets.

As it is, Craig is going to be the only artist for any of my stuff.  Yeah, it might be because he’s the only one who will put up with me, but I like to think it’s because I can’t imagine anyone being any better.  Just sayin’.

This is a FIVE DAY series of interview questions and examples of Craig’s work.  Stop by and see for yourself.  As a teaser…

Book Review: Lady Carliss

Title: Lady Carliss and the Waters of Moorue (Book 4)

Series: The Knights of Arrethtrae

Author: Chuck Black

Publisher’s Synopsis: Lady Carliss faces the challenge of her life. Can she save the kingdom before it’s too late?

Determined, smart and a master of both the sword and the bow, Lady Carliss has proven herself as a veteran Knight of the Prince. Returning from a mission of aid, Carliss is plunged into adventure once again as she searches for the marauders responsible for kidnapping a friends’ family. Along the way she is reunited with Sir Dalton and discovers that the struggle in her heart is far from over. When Dalton falls to the vicious attack of a mysterious, poisonous creature, Carliss finds herself in a race against time. As Dalton clings perilously to life, she must find the antidote in the distant and strange city of Moorue.

While there, Carliss uncovers the master plot of a powerful Shadow Warrior that will soon overtake the entire Kingdom. Her faith in the Prince and her courage as a knight are tested as she faces evil Shadow Warriors and a swamp full of dreadful creatures. The lives of many, including Dalton’s, depend on Carliss. But she cannot save them all, for time is running out.  She faces an impossible choice: save Dalton, or let him die so that others may live.

Lady Carliss didn’t disappoint.  From poisonous lizards, to allegorical ‘drugs’, to the adventure of a lifetime, the book spins a tale that leaves you breathless with its meaning and action.  I first became acquainted with this series when I was asked to review Sir Kendrick and since then, I’ve enjoyed Mr. Black’s fantasy world.  The book is an allegorical fantasy, but the allegory isn’t excessively preachy.  This isn’t Pilgrim’s Progress– it’s closer to Narnia.

I have little to quibble over.  The book is exciting, action-packed, a little drippy at times, but all in all, I loved it.  Jenna keeps eying me to see if I’ve finished yet.  Well, I have.

I want to thank Multnomah for providing this copy for review, and I do apologize… this baby’s mine.  Not giving it away.  If you want to read it, you’ll have to snag one for yourself.  Go for it.  I doubt you’ll regret it.

Book Review: Raven’s Ladder

Title: Raven’s Ladder (book 3)

Series: The Auralia Thread

Author: Jeffrey Overstreet

Publisher’s Synopsis: A DEADLY MENACE IS BREAKING THROUGH THE GROUND. THE PEOPLE OF ABASCAR MUST ABANDON THEIR STONE REFUGE AND FLEE INTO VULNERABILITY IN THE FOREST. BUT THEIR KING HAS HAD A VISION…

Following the beacon of Auralia’s colors and the footsteps of a mysterious dream-creature, King Cal-raven has discovered a destination for his weary crowd of refugees. It’s a city only imagined in legendary tales. And it gives him hope to establish New Abascar.

But when Cal-raven is waylaid by fortune hunters, his people become vulnerable to a danger more powerful than the prowling beastmen––House Bel Amica. In this oceanside kingdom of wealth, enchantment, and beauty, deceitful Seers are all too eager to ensnare House Abascar’s wandering throng.

Even worse, the Bel Amicans have discovered Auralia’s colors, and are twisting a language of faith into a lie of corruption and control.

If there is any hope for the people of Abascar, it lies in the courage of Cyndere, daughter of Bel Amica’s queen; the strength of Jordam the beastman; and the fiery gifts of the ale boy, who is devising a rescue for prisoners of the savage Cent Regus beastmen.

As his faith suffers one devastating blow after another, Cal-raven’s journey is a perilous climb from despair to a faint gleam of hope––the vision he sees in Auralia’s colors.

Ok, so I didn’t read the back of the book.  I picked it up, read the introductory part before flipping to the prologue and, start reading.  It took me about 13.4 seconds to realize that this was a sequel.  As I glanced at the back of the book, I then realized it was book THREE in a series that I now realize will have at least one more book.

So, to say that the book was hard to follow was a bit of an understatement.  Characters appear out of nowhere and you are supposed to know who they are and care about them.  I’m sure I would have, if I’d read the previous books, but it was really hard to invest myself in them without that gentle introduction you get in a new story.  That being said, I liked the characters.  They have depth that you don’t always find in Christian “children’s” books.  That alone made me keep going.  At the end of the book, I found a list of people and where they belong… it would have been nice to know it was there… maybe they could put it at the front of the next printing so people would know that it was there for their use before they wade through the book without it?  Just a suggestion…

Now, I’m sure it sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book.  Hogwash.  The book is well-written, engaging, has a fabulous map (but not nearly as fabulous as the one my illustrator did for Shadows & Secrets) and a story I’m dying to read for myself.  Yep.  I’m going to buy the first two books.  Jenna is waiting eagerly to jump into them too.

Speaking of my illustrator, maps, and Shadows & Secrets.  I was a little thunderstruck to see a Christian Fantasy book with the series name “The Auralia Thread”.  Kind of threw me.  I mean, Auralia isn’t Aurelia… but man it’s close.  Furthermore, there’s a young man in this book… Wynn.  I kid. you. not.  I nearly whimpered at him.  Seriously,I did.  And, for the record, Firefox wants me to correct the spelling of Auralia to Aurelia.  I think it’s funny.  Fortunately, the similarities end there.  This is a very long, complicated plot.  And I love it.

I can’t say a lot about how things went and what I liked and didn’t like.  So much of it will change/depend upon how I see things after I read the first books.  And I will.  I’m putting in my order for them as soon as I’m done writing this review.  It’s my guess, that if you enjoy books like The Ranger’s Apprentice, Narnia, or Andrew Peterson’s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, you’ll love these.

I want to thank Water Brook for providing this copy for review.  Sorry, I’m keeping it.  Considering how few books I keep that they send (even ones I love) it might be an indicator of whether you want to grab one for yourself or not.  Just sayin’.

WINNER!!! Shadows and Secrets~

So I woke up this morning to some absolutely HYSTERICAL comments.  I’d almost decided to offer a second for the funniest.  However, the winner happens to be one of my best friends today because not only did she make me laugh, she saved me money by winning in the first place!

Congratulations Sharon.  Hope your In-laws enjoy their read aloud.  SNORT.

The Annals of Wynnewood: Shadows and Secrets

Series: The Annals of Wynnewood

Title: Shadows and Secrets

Book: One

Author: Chautona Havig (that’d be me)

Publisher’s Synopsis: No one knows what the cloaked creature is or why it is so terrifying.  The villagers of Wynnewood only know they must stay away from ‘the Creature’ for fear of their physical and spiritual safety.

An unfortunate encounter with a dragon introduces Philip Ward to the Creature, and to his surprise, he finds a friend, confidante, and companion in more adventure than he’d ever dreamed possible.

Follow Philip and the creature as they rescue a lame child, discover ‘pirate treasure’, and test the mettle of true friendship.

Shadows and Secrets is the first book in the Annals of Wynnewood.

Well, this book was one of the most unexpected of any of the books I’ve ever begun.  I was sitting, writing another book (that is yet to be finished), when I wondered what medieval superstitions would do with differences that we often see as unique.  I wondered about portwine stains, ‘hare lips’ (as they were called back then),  and similar anomalies.  Within hours, I had several chapters written and the rest is history.

No fantasy book is complete without a map of the area, so I begged everyone I knew to suggest an illustrator.  My friend Michele immediately demanded suggested that I contact her friend Craig.  Being the obedient person I am, I did.  Craig was so enthusiastic about my little underpaid project, I knew the map would be brilliant.  And don’t you agree that it is?

Isn’t it just the most amazing thing?  I am so thrilled with it and I can’t wait to see what he does with the map for the sequel, The Unicorns of Sceadu.

Shadows and Secrets is written for fantasy lovers of all ages (and has been enjoyed by young children through adults), but my target audience was 11-15 year olds.

If you’d like a copy, feel free to email me at chautona @ chautona . com or hit the paypal button.  I’d be happy to sign it for you, wrap it for you, and get it to wherever you need it to go by Christmas.

In keeping with my tradition of giving away a copy of a book, I’ve decided to give away a copy of this book, gift wrapped if you request it, and shipped wherever you want!  Feel free to enter as often as you like, but make sure someone has entered between your entries (no back to backs).

Book will arrive in time for Christmas.  This contest ends November 30, 2009.

Map Contest Winners!

I have to say, it was fun to look at the maps, lay them all out, and then try to decide who actually won!  I mean, I had to choose three winners…

The irony came when I realized that all three winners were from the same family.

Katie Ann-  Won a copy of the Annals of Wynnewood: Shadows & Secrets!  The moment they arrive it’ll be signed and shipped to her.  Here is her winning map for the younger division.

Nathan (Katie Ann’s brother) won for the middle division!

And Jeremy (Katie Ann and Nathan’s brother) won the overall prize of $50.00 in Amazon Gift Certificates!

I’d like to thank everyone who participated and I look forward to hearing what you think of your books when you get them.  Now, let’s all pray the box arrives tomorrow, ok?

Book Review: North! Or Be Eaten

Title: North!  Or Be Eaten (Second book in the Wingfeather Saga)

Author: Andrew Peterson

Publisher’s Synopsis: Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby thought they were normal children with normal lives and a normal past. But now they know they’re really the Lost Jewels of Anniera, heirs to a legendary kingdom across the sea, and suddenly everyone wants to kill them.
In order to survive, the Igibys must flee to the safety of the Ice Prairies, where the lizardlike Fangs of Dang cannot follow. First, however, they have to escape the monsters of Glipwood Forest,1 the thieving Stranders of the East Bend,2 and the dreaded Fork Factory.3
But even more dangerous are the jealousies and bitterness that threaten to tear them apart, and Janner and his siblings must learn the hard way that the love of a family is more important than anything else.

1. All possessing very sharp teeth.
2. Murderous scoundrels, the lot.
3. Woe!

Oh this was another one of those books where they sent the second book before I’d ever heard of the first.  However, I went out to buy the first and prayed I’d enjoy it.  The first introduction (yes, there are two introductions labeled long and short) of the first book started off well, but I was quickly bogged down in the excessive use of phrases like, “Everything was wonderful in Aerwiar, well except for the toothy cows, the cave blats, and horned hounds that attacked at every turn.”  (not an actual quote from the book)  The first couple of times I read those caveats, I was amused.  However, until the story rolled along on its own accord, that got old very quickly.

The great news is that the story really does roll along beautifully.  Once I got past my initial distaste of what should be (and would be if there were fewer of them) a unique use of literary license in writing exceptions, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.  The author’s footnotes, in particular, are hysterical.  They remind me much of the annotations that Roy Maynard used in his Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves (annotated version of Edmund Spencer’s Faerie Queene).  The author truly has an amazing ability to write absolutely impossible to believe adventures while making you quite certain you’re living them.  So, having grown excited about the next book, I picked it up eagerly and began.

Oh my how the second book whirls you immediately into the story.  I mean, there’s nothing more terrifying in Aerwiar than toothy cows and you’re thrown at one in the first sentence!  The problem is, I really can’t tell you about the story.  I mean, I want to go on and on about the adventure, the romance (of the Anne Shirley variety… not mushy drippy bodice rippy stuff… just that feeling-that-you’re-lost-in-an-amazing-experience kind of romance), and the brilliance of  Mr. Peterson’s amazing “world” where Dang isn’t a euphemism for other words, but I can’t.  I’d ruin the experience.

I can say that this book has everything you could want in a fantasy story and nothing that you would dread in one labeled “Christian”.  Forgive me, but as much as I love Christian fiction (come on, I write the stuff!), it does tend to get a bit pietistic or worse, preachy (and yes, I am guilty of the latter for sure… but it’s part of my own personality.  Sue me).  I loved that this was fiction that reflected an author’s worldview rather than an author’s worldview was outlined step-by-step in the story.  That is good writing, and I truly loved it.

I want to tell you all about the adventures of the Igilby children.  I want to immerse you into a piece of the story so you’ll want to read it without simply taking my word for its worth, but I can’t.  I’d ruin it.  You really do need to start at the beginning of book 1.  Do keep reading, past the constant contrasty sentences that annoy to no end, because I promise, they stop.  Well, I don’ t know if they actually stop or not, but they become infrequent enough that they didn’t annoy enough for me to notice anymore.

So, if you haven’t read On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, go get it… and then get the sequel.  I simply can’t wait for the next book in what I understand is a TRILOGY!  YIPPEEEEEEEEEE

Blog Prize Winner~ The Vanishing Sculptor!

Congratulations person nine…. um…. who is….

BETHANY!  YAY.

I was sure it’d be Ms. Paul and I’d have to draw again.  (I’m assuming she already has a copy of her own book….)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the book!  I’ll ship it out this week!

Book Review: The Vanishing Sculptor **Win Free Copy**

Title: The Vanishing Sculptor

Author: Donita K. Paul

Publisher’s Synopsis: Donita K. Paul’s 250,000-plus-selling DragonKeeper Chronicles series has attracted a wide spectrum of dedicated fans–and they’re sure to fall in love with the new characters and adventures in her latest superbly-crafted novel for all ages. It’s a mind-boggling fantasy that inhabits the same world as the DragonKeeper Chronicles, but in a different country and an earlier time, where the people know little of Wulder and nothing of Paladin.

In The Vanishing Sculptor, readers will meet Tipper, 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.

Author Bio: Donita K. Paul is a retired teacher and author of numerous novellas, short stories, and eight novels, including the best-selling DragonKeeper Chronicles, a series which has sold more than a quarter million books to date. The winner of multiple awards, she lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she spends time mentoring and encouraging young writers. Visit her online at donitakpaul.com.

This book is unlike any book I’ve ever read.  Most of my fantasy reading has been in either the Arthurian realm or along the lines of C.S. Lewis or Harry Potter.  I’ve never read Tolkein, but from what I do know about him and his classic fantasy tales, I think this book fits closer in that sub-genre or perhaps something like Eragon.  I am always fascinated when someone can so thoroughly create another world– it’s definitely a gift.

It is very hard to review this book in any kind of depth.  Much of what I’d write wouldn’t make sense without being in context.  I mean, if you aren’t familiar with Ms. Paul’s emerlindians from her Dragon Keeper Chronicles, I don’t know that it’d make sense outside of the book.  I had a little trouble following parts at first until my vocabulary expanded to understand the tale that Ms. Paul wrote.  The first chapter (primarily the first few pages) were very, very difficult to wade through, and I’m not sure how many children would keep plodding along hoping for something interesting.  I know that I had to put it down and pick it up a few times myself.  However, once the story was fully in motion it was much more interesting and I wonder if that is because it is a companion story to a series.

For the most part, the book was well written, not sanctimonious in its ‘lessons’ (thank you, Lord), and somehow I did manage to lose myself in another world for a while.  That is what I consider good fantasy writing.  I just wish I could have lost myself a little sooner.

Personally, I think readers who are unfamiliar with this author should start with her best-selling DragonKeeper Chronicles.  Why miss out on background information and other exciting tales?  Besides, one book with dragons is never enough, right?

I found myself laughing at her humor.  There were several places where a very well-placed line just dropped a dry bomb of hilarity.  That is something I always appreciate.  However, one in particular left me gasping for air and I’ll leave you with this quote.  (Remember, I’m the one with the daughter to whom this so aptly applies).  “Only her mother could have said that.  Not even in her dreams could Tipper fabricate that line of reasoning.”   Substitute Andra for mother and you’ve got the story of our lives.

I can’t give the book five stars… I really wouldn’t even give it four but I would give one-half to two-thirds of it four stars.  And, it was good enough that I do plan to go purchase the DragonKeeper Chronicles.  I think my Jenna would like them.

Monday I’ll draw names from the commentors and send this copy out there!  Let’s see what others think!

Book Review: Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart

TitleSir Dalton and the Shadow Heart  (Book 3 in the Knights of Arrenthtrae)

Author: Chuck Black

Publisher’s Synopsis: Sir Dalton, a knight in training, seems to have everything going for him. Young, well-liked, and a natural leader, he has earned the respect and admiration of his fellow knights, and especially the beautiful Lady Brynn.

But something is amiss at the training camp. Their new trainer is popular but lacks the passion to inspire them to true service to the King and the Prince. Besides this, the knights are too busy enjoying a season of good times to be concerned with a disturbing report that many of their fellow Knights have mysteriously vanished.

When Sir Dalton is sent on a mission, he encounters strange attacks, especially when he is alone. As his commitment wanes, the attacks grow in intensity until he is captured by Lord Drox, a massive Shadow Warrior. Bruised and beaten, Dalton refuses to submit to evil and initiates a daring escape with only one of two outcomes–life or death. But what will become of the hundreds of knights he’ll leave behind? In a kingdom of peril, Dalton thinks he is on his own, but two faithful friends have not abandoned him, and neither has a strange old hermit who seems to know much about the Prince. But can Dalton face the evil Shadow Warrior again and survive?

This was the hardest review I’ve had to do yet.  I kept dreading reading the book and couldn’t figure out why until I finally set myself down to read it.  Then I remembered.  It’s book three!  I’ve not read books one and two.  That’s why I was dragging my feet.  Who wants to read book three first?  Then I realized that I’ve done that before and survived so I picked it up and started reading.

Fortunately, there is an introduction to the series and that kind of got my mind in the spirit of the book.  This series is a lovely cross between fantasy and allegory with a lovely medieval flair to it.    The dedication alone was inspiring!  “I dedicate this book to all the young men and women who seek the truth of the Lord.  Be courageous, bold, and prepared, and may your faith stand firm on the solid rock.” My only objection is that solid rock infers Jesus and therefore, in my opinion, should be capitalized.  Thought you oughtta know.

From the very first pages, you’re thrust into a world of suspense, intrigue, and plenty of action.  Though I assume this is considered “juvenile fiction”, the story was gripping, compelling.  I found myself holding my breath until tense moments abated and finally cheering as Dalton realizes his eyes have been focused in the wrong place.  As he rushes to secure happiness for himself and another, the book concludes and leaves you impatient for the next.  That, my friends, in my opinion, is what makes a book great.  If you finish one with hands outstretched for the next, this is a good book.

I want to tell you more.  I want to open doors and windows that make you ache to grab a copy but I can’t.  It’ll totally ruin the story!

So, if you like The Ranger’s Apprentice, if you love the Squire’s Tale, if you’ve always loved the symbolism of Narnia… pick up this series by Chuck Black.  You won’t regret it.  It has all the beauty and imagery of Pilgrim’s Progress but written in a much less pedantic and archaic manner.

I originally had every intention of sending this book to a lucky commenter as a “Thank you” for reading my blog but alas, I’ll want to read it again after books one and two arrive and Jenna is impatiently drumming her fingers for them.  So, sorry… we’re keeping it.