Friday, November 26, 2010

Book Review - Starlighter by Bryan Davis

     Starlighter tells a vivid tale of two groups of people on different planets destined to find each other. One group, The Lost Ones, are slaves on a planet taken over by dragons. The dragons have enslaved them for so many generations that they are unaware that they come from a different planet where humans rule and dragons are considered mythical.

   The story starts out with the character, Jason, defeating Randall, son of the governor, in a sword fighting challenge. Soon after they find themselves running for their lives, fighting talking bears and laser fire. There's upheaval in their country's leadership and Jason has been framed for murder. They rescue Elyssa from prison, gain a new friend, Tibault and continue on the run until they find the entrance to the dragon world. The four of them work to open the portal to the other world to rescue the Lost Ones they've heard tales about.
    Meanwhile, Koren, is a slave in the lost world who possesses the ability to hypnotize dragons with her storytelling. She is working to rescue her friend, Natalla, from her "promotion" by the dragons.  They never know if the dragons are killing their promoted ones or truly setting them free. Koren has a close relationship with the dragon she serves, Arxad, who helps her deceive the other dragons without them thinking he's on her side. Koren has been tested and declared a Starlighter, someone who can see the future and speak with the unhatched dragon prince. When Koren and Natalla escape with the help of Arxad, they run to the mines where Jason's group meets up with them .  The story reaches it's peak intensity here....Do they make it to the safe world? Do they stay in the dragon world and have Jason and Randall protect them?  Will the slaves even believe another world exists or turn them over to the dragons to spare their own lives?
    "Koren, you must gather your wits.  it is imperative that we fly immediately.  If you are found out, I can no longer protect you."
     In the midst of the swirling lights, a dragon's face orbited with them.  She murmured, "Found out?"
     "You are a Starlighter, and you are far more powerful than the one Magnar expected."
     "How..." She licked her dry lips.  Her throat felt parched.  "How do you know?"
     "You made Darksphere brighten and come to life.  The previous Starlighter did the same, but she revealed the humans' origins with only a little detail."
     "You mean, you knew we came from Darksphere?"
     "Of course I knew, but the tale you told differs greatly from Magnar's version."
 "If you are able, you must climb on my back.  I will take you to the Northlands.  There lives someone who might be able to help."
     "The Northlands?" A shot of excitement worked to focus Koren's brain.  "So there really is such a place?  Promoted humans really go there?"
     "There is such a place." Arxad lowered his head. "Now mount quickly."
My first impression was COVER-LOVE! The yellow dragon eyes peering over the redhaired girl, who is peering over a large black egg implore you to start wondering. Her eyes challenge you to ask what is she going to do with this egg? The intensity of the cover is delivered in the story. It winds several story lines together, action, some violence, colorful characters, original ideas and adventure all in one.  I loved reading Koren's moments when the powerful dragons would be mesmerized by her storytelling. Also towards the end of the book the characters suddenly start referring to their Creator, comparing how loving and merciful he was in opposition to being forced to love the dragon prince in it's egg shell. 
  Magnar's growl deepened.  "we will follow you to the ends of Starlight.  You would never have a moment's peace. And when the prince hatches, what will you do?  Will you murder him: or will you, like most humans, consider his life more valuable once you can see him?
    This story had so much going on in the beginning, that I was a little confused when I got to the middle. There were so many characters to follow. However,  I loved the original imagery Bryan Davis put into the story. After reading the scenes where the characters fly on Arxad, I actually dreamt that I was flying on him! Wow!  The third portion of the book is intense and even a little edgy, but riddled with compassion, survival, and personal sacrifice. The last portion of the book mentions the character's belief in her creator and how he loves with mercy as opposed to the dragon prince forcing her to love him.  I would have liked the characters to have mentioned their beliefs earlier on in the story, more as a continuous thread since it has a lot of bearing on the way the story plays out at the end.

     This is a great story for an older middle grade reader, a young adult, as well as an adult young at heart. For the Christian reader that enjoys stories of dragons without all the sorcery, this one keeps it to a minimum. It's a clean book, although some strong imagery makes it more appropriate for older kids.

Starlighter is the first in the Dragons of Starlight Series and is available at Amazon here. Be watching for book two Warrior in January 2011!

I give this book **** (four stars!)
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Takin' One For The Team.....

     So today was one of those parenting conundrum days. Talk about between a rock and a hard place! How in the world could I have worked this out any better? I had a semi-final exam today and a five page paper to turn in. Let's just say I worked pretty hard to prepare. A winter storm blew in with -9 temps and windchills ranging from -20 to  -30. When Wyatt went to bed the night before at 3pm I had a feeling he was not going to school this morning. Okay, so I can't exactly call a sitter for a sick child. Missing both classes today would likely drop my A's to B's because of the high scores riding on them.    I thought about it all night - maybe I could take Wyatt along just to drop off the paper? Could he sit in on my test like Dakota does? Nah, he wasn't well enough. I even had a dream that I lost him in one of the school buildings. It was way too cold and it's a 15 minute walk from my car to the building each way.

*Cue Serious Problem Solvers*
       Well, my husband suggested I keep one of the older boys home to help. So, I pull the mom-card today and had Dustin stay home  as my back-up. (He's old enough to watch a 7 year old). I gave him the opportunity to say no (he hates having make-up work). He said yes, then no, then yes and reasoned that today they were working on a Thanksgiving packet (not critical). So off I went to deliver my paper at 9am in the storm. I got the paper delivered and headed back to check the boys (40 minutes each way) and by then it was a BLIZZARD. I couldn't see when a car or semi would pass me and blow snow up in my windshield and the roads were icy. I made it home but had to talk myself into going back for the exam. I headed back, took the exam, and crept home at a snail's pace to stay on the road. So, yep, today I was a naughty-mommy! I put my education before my son's. Thanks, Dustin for takin' one for the team!  What would you do?
Monday, November 22, 2010

A Fiction Loving Mom's Dream

This is the first year my teenage son, Josh, has woodshop. I assumed he'd be bringing home a wooden tool catch-all or picture frame or something like that. To my amazement, this is what he brought home....

It's a functional bookshelf. The sides pivot and fold in flat. Of course right away he wanted to give it to his Grandma but I called "dibs!" on his first project - especially a bookshelf!  He decided he would keep it first but eventually let me have it. (Grandma gets the  next project)  I have STACKS of books around my bedroom - nary a shelf to be found because I'm waiting for the "just right" one. I wasn't expecting that his first project would be something I really needed, wanted, and loved!  Now if that shop teacher would just teach them to make a full sized three tiered bookshelf with a "old west" motiff....

His Books.....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Grown-Up Luncheables

Lately I've been eating a lot of sausage and crackers with Wasabi and sharing with my littlest sons at lunch. It occurred to me that they should make a Luncheable for grown-ups. I mean we can't always afford to eat at restaurants at lunch but sometimes baloney and crackers just doesn't cut it. It reminded me of a day I was working in the meat deli when a man in motorcycle gear walked up with a bottle of wine and ordered several thick slices of salami and our best cheese cut thick. He was out for a ride with his sweety. I was standing there with my plastic meat-juice covered gloves and hairnet jealously imagining them riding off up a mountain road picking out the perfect spot by the creek.......(sigh) back to meat slicing.....

So why can't we be spontaneous and mature in our tastes? Why can't we plunk down $2.99 and walk away with a plastic-wrapped container of Lavash Crackers, proscuitto, brie cheese and sliced apples?  Or better yet - the double serving Date Pack?  Two sets of crackers, fine meats and cheeses and grapes?  Just sayin'........
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Librarians Hold the Powa'

They need to make a superhero cape with a big "L" on it for librarians!  Last year I was trying to help my nephew get into reading by suggesting the Hunger Games series and his mom even ordered a set. I showed her all the great website elements thinking that plus the edgy writing might get his attention.  No-go, he's just not that into any book at this time.

So, I convinced her to send them to me because I really wanted to read them and hoped that my older son would too.  I showed him the website and trailer and he's borrowed them a time or two.

Fast forward 6 months and my 13 year old, Josh, announces, "Mom, I really need to read the Hunger Games." I'm wondering if it was assigned at school so I ask, "Why?"  He replies with enthusiasm, "Because my librarian says they are so good!"

See, they got the POWA' !  I can talk about it, show him interractive websites, keep the books on the TOP of my coveted book stack but if SHE says they are good then they must be! Go superhero librarian! I can't wait for the day I get the power.......
Monday, November 15, 2010

Coupon Savvy - the New Spiritual Gifting?

     Recently, a visiting pastor was teaching about spiritual gifting. Many of us think we just don't have it. Some are certain of their gift and use it wisely and some are still figuring out what it might be.  He was using a bit of humor comparing "BIG" gifts like healing to "little" gifts like ADMINISTRATION and of course we all had a good laugh about that. No gift is small!  However, some gifts can be very UNIQUE. Tonight I recognized the most unusual gift  - the gift of "coupon savvy".

     What? You think I just made that up?  How in the world could shopping with coupons further the kingdom of Christ?  Well, it took me awhile to figure it out, but this lady spent over 6 hours in our store tonight shopping with coupons and coupon doublers. She'd go get 12 cans of pepper and go through the self-check out machines and buy three at a time. This is no easy task. Just last week they disabled the coupon function in the machines and it now requires the assistant to hand type it in. This young mom is deaf so it would be difficult to explain to her that the machines were the WORST place to use massive coupons. Finally she started coming to my line...again...and again....and again. The self-check assistant left at 9:30 so I started helping her then and she didn't finish until 11:45pm.  I think she may have been through 10 times and heard that she started before I did at 6pm.
      I was nice to her every time, but I'll admit I was tired and even more tired from processing the coupons. I was thinking all kinds of thoughts like, "Well, these are hard times and she's doing her part to help her family - maybe she doesn't have a great income with her hearing difficulties." and, "Okay, now we're just taking advantage of the store and I'm going to get written up for abusing the coupon policy because a few items rang up as free" so I started having my manager oversee a little. I'd give myself the ol' self-talk about how I should be supportive of her and question why negativity was creeping up. Then halfway through the evening, she whispers, "It's for the food bank, but the drinks are for me!"

     Can you imagine if more people were as efficient, patient, persistent and determined to help those in need what the food banks would be like?  I consider myself blessed to have her stocking the shelves of our valley's food bank. If I ever end up there I'll think about her and how she gave an entire night away from her little kids to scour the aisles and face the possible scorn of the checkers! 

What unique spiritual gift might you have?
Thursday, November 11, 2010

Book Review: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This apocalyptic young-adult novel is the first in the series called Last Survivors. It's a story about Miranda Day, her two brothers Matt and Jonny and her mother experiencing a modern day astronomical catastrophe. An asteroid is projected to strike the moon. While everyone is excited to witness the impact, crater and dust cloud, what they really witness when the asteroid strikes is the moon shifting closer to earth - so close it looms over the planet. The gravitational shift changes tides and weather patterns, causing multiple volcano eruptions, loss of communication and the breakdown of civilization around the world.

Susan Beth Pfeffer takes you on a daily journey through the eyes of Miranda as she struggles to maintain her sanity and fight for her survival.  She transforms the characters from average self-gratifying Americans to compassionate, loving, people focused on the survival of their family.

One main theme kept me coming back for more and that was building inner strength in the time of physical weakness.  Each character was pushed beyond their physical limitations, yet persevered under the worst-imaginable circumstances. The characters even comment each others' maturity, evident when she stars referring to her younger brother as Jon.  I really loved the journal-style presentation of the story because Miranda could share her true feelings without repercussions. Excerpts:
Sept 6:Seeing all those cans and boxes and bags of food made me mad, like why are we starving ourselves when we still have food?  When the food runs out, we'll probably die, so what difference does it make if that's November or January or March? Why not eat while we can?
That's when I saw the bag of chocolate chips.  I'd forgotten all about them, how I'd thrown them into my shopping cart on Crazy Shopping Day. I went  a little crazy.  There was food in the pantry that Mom wasn't letting us eat and there was chocolate, real chocolate, in the house and Mom was hoarding it because it has no nutritional value and if we're only eating a little bit every day, we're better off with spinach.  And they were MY d*** chocolate chips.  I ripped open the bag and poured them down my throat.
Nov30:I told Mom I wanted to go for a walk and she said, "Well, why don't you? You've been spending entirely too much time indoors." I love her but I could throttle her.
Feb 7:Mom's birthday.  Christmas, when Mom had shared her candy with us, I ate 2 of the 4 pieces I took, and saved the other 2.  So Mom's birthday present was 2 pieces of candy.  Jon let her beat him in chess.  And Matt walked to and from the staircase 3 times.  She said it was the best birthday she'd ever had.
Once again, I was unaware this was a series so the ending came as a surprise and a delight. Especially for being a series, Pfeffer writes a beautiful ending, keeping the reader wondering how it will end until the very last sentence.  This book is an inexpensive, quick read that will satisfy your need for more, knowing it's book one in the Last Survivor series. Find it here along with books two and three. I cannot wait to see what else she has written.

I rate this book **** (4 stars)!
Monday, November 8, 2010

That's Entertainment?

Boys are weird! Why is it that they find great pleasure in pelting each other with things?  Okay, once my friend and I did raid all the grapes in her garden and throw them at each other, but there wasn't an element of pain involved. Just spontaneous chucking, laughing and stickiness.

Maybe that's why I just rolled my eyes when I looked out back to see my sons and their friend splatting each other with the leftover, frost-ruined tomatoes from our now-rotting garden. I think what amazed me the most is that it wasn't just my kids that thought it was fun, but a neighbor was right there with them. Later Dustin told me that  the tomato fight was the most fun ever!

It didn't stop there. I wish I had a picture of the big welt on Dustin's nose when I saw him Sunday morning. We're talking Rudolph here!  The boys orchestrated a sleep-over that somehow ended up at our house - something I usually avoid when I'm working that night. However, I love this boy and he's fun to have around. I got home at midnight to the sounds of "girl-squeels" and floor thumping. I let it go while I was winding down, but at 1am went in to tell them they needed some sleep. I walk in and they are hunkered down with Nerf guns and goggles. I figured, it was just nerf pellets, no biggie. At breakfast I hear tales of, "well, crayons hurt when you shoot them out a Nerf gun," and even better - the Rudolph nose story. Oh they escalated to pellet guns! I told them the usual, "You could put your eye out!", but the did me one better, "No, Mom, we wore goggles!"
Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Firelight by Sophie Jordan book review

This is the book I could NOT put down!  Sophie Jordan tells the tale of Jacinda, a beautiful dragon in human form, and her conflicted life. Jacinda wants to be free to fly in her Draki form, but brings trouble to her pride when she does. Her risk allows hunters to discover her, bringing them too close to the pride's home. Because of the punishment that awaits her, her mother whisks her and her sister away to live in the desert, a location that will wither and kill her inner Draki self. Jacinda is immediately thrown into a constant struggle with her powerful inner instincts being smothered, her desire to make her mother and sister happy, and her newfound love.  Soon after, Cassian, the mate chosen for her by her pride, finds her and forces her to choose between human life and Draki life, and untimately between her new love, Will, and him.

Sophie Jordan is now on my list for favorite authors. I learned of her new release, Firelight, from Book Crazy's book review blog and am forever grateful!  The number one thing Sophie Jordan did to make this book irresistable was write it so that the reader IS the character. You have to sample it to see what I mean. Here's an excerpt:
"Is it in there?"  I'm it. I bristle, skin contracting, quivering like the plucked bow of a violin.  My wings start to vibrate with hot emotion, shooting lancing pain through the injured membrane and deep into my back.  I wince, forcing myself to relax.   He swims closer.  Smoke puffls from my nose.  I don't want it to happen.  It just...does.  I usually have more power over it, but fear robs me of my control. Draki instincts take over.  My heart pounds in my chest as he draws closer.  I know the precise moment he sees me.  He freezes, stills in the water, sinking low, his lips brushing the waterline.  We stare at each other.   It will happen now.  He will call the others.  They will swarm on me like hungry predators.  Remembering Dad, I try not to shake.  I'm sure he didn't tremble, didn't cower at the end.  And I have something, a defense Dad didn't have.  Fire.
This story wraps family loyaly, self-preservation, and smoldering romance all between pages 1 and 326. The characters draw you right into what they are thinking and feeling. Immediately you will love them, each with their own faults and good hearts. The only drawback (and plus) is that it's a trilogy. The end is a cliffhanger! Ack! She got me!  You have got to see the trailer for this. Also if you like her book, she writes paranormal romances under the name Sharie Kohler.

For Book Trailer and Sophie Jordan's website: click here