in which Jaye L. Knight destroys my emotions AGAIN {book review}

The first three books in this series (Resistance, Half Blood, The King's Scrolls) were so good that I didn't think Samara's Peril could possibly be up to par, but it is! It's every bit the beautiful emotional roller-coaster that I have come to expect from Jaye. L. Knight (we bookwyrms are odd creatures, praising authors for destroying our emotions).

While books one and two divided fairly evenly between Jace and Kyrin's points-of-view (among a few others), this one focused a lot more on Jace. He's such a tragic character, and yet I love his story and his perspective.

I did miss Kyrin, though--she felt like a weaker character in this book, lacking some of the wonderful strength she showed previously. However, besides Jace, her brothers also received more attention, and I loved Kaden and Liam's growth throughout the story. Kaden really endeared himself to me in The King's Scrolls with his giddy excitement over the dragons, so I especially enjoyed seeing him develop more.

I also wish there would have been a bit more focus on Elon, a newly-introduced character who, though playing a significant role, received very little attention as far as word-count goes. Apologies for the vagueness, but I despise spoilers. If you've read Samara's Peril, feel free to contact me and I will happily chat with you about all of the fabulous (and not so fabulous) spoilery details...

Jaye L. Knight has a talent for writing relationships very well, including those between family, friends, and even characters who don't get along. It's so refreshing! Except for the brief instances of sexism that pop up now and again--it's cultural, but fantasy authors can take liberties! If you're creating your own world, you can certainly throw out this one's bad habits and replace them with better ones.

Finally, though I loved the first half of the book, the rest seemed disjointed. The whole thing is split into parts, which didn't always flow together well, and it's more plot-driven than the rest of the series (so far), making it feel a bit rushed in places. It almost could have been written as two separate novels.

I'd give Samara's Peril a 4.5/5, but I didn't create a graphic for that, so I'll just have to round up...

5/5 leaves!

Samara's Peril (Ilyon Chronicles #3)
by Jaye L. Knight

When news arrives that Emperor Daican has been in contact with his chief war strategist, it signals potential doom for the country of Samara. Determined to intervene, the resistance in Landale, headed by Lady Anne, embark on a covert mission in hopes of unearthing further information. However, a shocking discovery leads to complications no one could have foreseen. (from the back cover)

Have you read Samara's Peril? What do you think--is it worthy of a 5-leaf rating?
And, tell me: how do you feel about sexism in fantasy novels?


judging books by their covers

Raise your hand if you've ever judged a book by it's cover. (Now put it down; you look silly, and I can't see you anyway. Maybe comment instead?) I imagine you all have judged books by their covers -- we're bookworms, we can't help it! A pretty cover is like a magnet, and a less attractive cover, well, we're probably going to look right over it, unfortunately. Which is why there are reviews and blogs to steer us in the direction of ugly ducklings. But I digress.

In a recent post, I turned book spines into poems, so this week I'll put the front of the books on display.

My ideal cover is simple yet eye-catching, with few, well-matched colors and an easy-to-read font. Speaking of fonts, I'm usually a little turned off when the author's name is larger than the title -- if I'm looking for a particular author, I can usually find it easily because shelves tend to be sorted alphabetically. If I'm perusing with no specific goal in mind, I want to read the titles, not random names that mean little to me (sorry, that's just the truth of the matter). Oh, and it should definitely tell me something about the book.

So, what exactly does this ideal cover look like? I'm glad you asked, because I have a few examples to share!
(links go to my reviews)

1. In the Shadow of the Dragon King by J. Keller Ford

This is the perfect example of my ideal cover. It's simple, has an easy-to-read font, and the title is much more prominent than the author's name. I love the silver accents against the textured blue background and the single image of a dragon taking center stage. I've never actually read this book, but as soon as I saw it on a blog tour, I added it to my Goodreads TBR. It's about teens, a prophecy, a paladin, and a dragon (obviously). Basically, I want to add it to my hoard... er, shelves, asap (what? I'm a bookwyrm after all! and a firm believer in hoarding good books like shiny dragon treasure).

2. Unbowed by Wangari Maathai

The plain, neutral background on this one really lets the simple illustrations and colorful text pop. It's a beautiful cover on an incredible book. In fact, I highly recommend it to everyone, even if you don't like memoirs (I'm not usually a huge fan of them myself). This is a book about an incredible woman who, when she saw a problem, immediately began looking for a solution. And yes, there are trees involved.

3. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

My eye is immediately drawn to the beautiful, intriguing, swirling tree on this cover. In addition, I get a good idea of the setting from the unobtrusive background. This is book two in a trilogy, so if you haven't delved into it yet, definitely start with Divergent. I love, love, love this series.

4. Auralia's Colors by Jeffery Overstreet

I don't typically like people on covers (especially large faces that look nothing like any of the characters...), but I think this one is very tastefully done. The title pops without clashing, and the illustration captures the slightly mysterious feel of the book, while hinting at the main character's playful personality. The plot is hard to describe, other than to say it is a Christian fantasy without being overtly Christian. Although this first book can be a bit challenging due to the author's unique writing style, it's worth the read, and the rest of the series is amazing (at least, what I've read of it!).

5. Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

I snatched up this paperback at the bookstore because a) it's about dragons, b) it has a beautiful, simplistic cover, and c) it's the perfect size for holding (yeah, I'm a little weird like that). Yes, it does break my rule that the title should be larger than the author's name, but I'll forgive it that one flaw. Looking closely, you may notice that the dragon perhaps looks sickly and deformed, and that's exactly what the book is about: a herd of deformed dragons. It's an interesting read, and the second book, which I'm partway through, is at least as good as the first!

6. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

This one is just plain pretty. There is lots of color, but it all fits together pretty well, and it doesn't feel crowded. And yes, if you haven't read it, the eye (reflected in the dagger) is actually significant -- gifted people, called Gracelings, have two different colored eyes. It's a fun YA fantasy, though due to some mature content, I recommend discretion for younger readers. Check out my review for (spoiler-free) details.

7. Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Another dragon book! (gasp.) I love how the simple illustration is framed, with the title and attribution set off at the bottom. It makes for a very neat and organized look while still staying whimsical with the beautiful scratchy font for the title. If you haven't read this one, it's a YA fantasy with a rather cliche plot, but the amazing writing style and characters make up for that. And the sequels flow into a very unique story. I highly recommend it!

8. The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

What in the world is a cookbook doing in this list?! Well, I might be less picky about my cookbook covers, but I still appreciate pretty ones (and cringe at the... less pretty ones). I get really tired of seeing someone's plastic smile pasted on the front with their perfect apron and impeccable kitchen. That tells me nothing about the recipes inside. This delightful vegetarian cookbook has a simple cover reflecting simple recipes. What you can't tell from the image is that this edition is hard-bound but with a fabric texture, and the images and text are inset a little, making it especially unique.

9. Because We Are by Ted Oswald

I don't really know what to say about this novel, except that it's gorgeous -- inside and out. The colors pop and blend simultaneously, and the silhouette within a silhouette makes for a unique yet simple image. As intimated by the cover, this is a story about a young Haitian girl, written for an adult audience. It's a rough read, but totally worth it. I very highly recommend this one.

10. Resistance by Jaye L. Knight

The title is the first thing I see when I look at this cover, followed by the sword, which points to the author's name. Very simple, linear, and tasteful, and it can tell us a lot about the book. The woods in the background shows the setting, the sword gives us a general idea of the time period and that some fighting is involved, and the banner across the top tells us that this is a series. Which, actually, is very important, because few things are worse than enjoying a good book only to realize you unwittingly read the second book in a series, because it was not noted anywhere on the cover. In any case, Resistance is an absolutely amazing New Adult Christian fantasy novel, and everyone should read it. That includes you.

What does your ideal cover look like? Did any of the books above catch your eye? 


a modern parable with an . . . interesting moral {book review}

Lalibela's Wise Man
by Matshona Dhliwayo

After his father passes away, Christian is denied his inheritance, disowned by his brothers, and thrown out of the family mansion. Life takes a terrible turn until he embarks on a life changing trip to Ethiopia to meet Lalibela’s wisest man. (from Goodreads)

Although I knew this to be a very short novella, I was surprised to finish it in about an hour! And yet it didn't feel rushed at all. Lalibela's Wise Man is a fun, gripping story with a very relatable protagonist. However (yes, there's always a "however!"), I found the moral a bit questionable.

The wise man, who is himself a bit cliche, does provide good advice and wisdom. But the overall moral of the story still seemed to point towards material wealth. Success was measured by human standards, and all of the wisdom was used for personal gain. I found this disappointing, since it read like a modern Christian parable, and I expected it to elevate wisdom over money or generosity over personal gain.

I also have to mention that I think the cover is gorgeous. For me, less is more when it comes to book covers!

Overall, I'd say this is an entertaining story with disappointing morals. Read it with a grain of salt.

*I received a free copy of Lalibela's Wise Man in exchange for an honest review.

3/5 leaves

Have you ever read a modern parable? How important is it to you that the books you read have good morals?


why I adore The King's Scrolls {book review}

I've read The King's Scrolls twice now (and Resistance three times), but apparently I didn't review it the first time around. So please allow me to rectify this terrible little oversight! (And then, I shall promptly devour Samara's Peril. And then pout because book four has yet to be released.)

I seem to have this habit of loving the first book in a series and then giving all of its sequels a less-than-perfect rating. BUT I adored The King's Scrolls, and I think it is at least as good as Resistance! I mean, Jaye L. Knight introduced dragons into the series. Instant 5/5 there, folks.

The characters continue to grow and develop in this book, and I especially enjoyed the depth added to some who were less significant in Resistance--for the sake of remaining 100% spoiler-free, I'll refrain from listing names! However, I can say that Kaden's reaction to the dragons definitely endeared him to me, though he wasn't among my favorites before (and perhaps still isn't? But I certainly appreciate him more).

I also love how Jaye L. Knight balances the relationships in The Kings Scrolls, including those among friends, siblings, and estranged family. Family! Yes, family is present in this book, which is, unfortunately, an unusual thing in the fantasy genre. And it's beautiful.

Speaking of character growth and relationships, Emperor Daican (and all those who do his bidding) can be outwitted, but he also learns from his enemies--our protagonists--and adjusts his plans accordingly. It's frustrating, of course, to have an intelligent villain, but it's also wonderfully realistic. Things don't always go according to plan--for either side! And the sides, it would seem, are not all that black-and-white. Again, frustrating, but realistic. I love it. There is so much tension and action and emotion in this book!

One of my favorite things about the Ilyon Chronicles is that they're built on a foundation of faith, and because of that, the Christian aspects don't feel forced or woefully out of place. In fact, it's all rather seamless--the religious elements cannot be easily separated from the rest of the book. It feels very natural. There is no point at which I felt I was being thumped over the head with a Bible, nor is there a single scene that encompasses the whole "moral of the story." Elom is present, and everyone reacts and relates to Him differently, depending on their personality and context. Instead of smothered, I felt refreshed. This whole series is such a beautiful story.

5/5 leaves!