He Who Finds Mercy series

Monday, December 4, 2017

The 10 best books I read in 2017

2017 was not a good year for me. In January my husband lost his job after 24 years with the same company, and we had to move from our idyllic small town to the big city where he found a new job. Murphy's Law was in full force for many months, but during this time I managed to finish two fantasy novels and publish them as well as read 52 books (oh, wow, that's one a week--yay me!) which is an accomplishment all by itself.

The books I read this year were quite varied in genre and style, and it was difficult to select just ten that were memorable reads. Some that were flawlessly written did not make the cut, mainly because my criteria included how the story made me feel, how it resonated long after I turned the final page.

So here are my top 10 (and Book Dragon's) for 2017, beginning with #10:

10: The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz
My 5 star review: "I had no idea what to expect with this book, but the author's compelling voice sucked me into the story from the first page and didn't let go until the end. I admire those who can write humor, and though this story is often dark and deadly, the humor, from tongue-in-cheek to slapstick, takes the reader on a wild and crazy theme park ride! The main characters feel like real people, the cynical storybook/late Victorian setting is fascinating, and the situation unfolds like a complex origami steampunk piece. I was actually sad when I saw I was almost to the end. Though this first book wraps up at a nice stopping place, there is definitely MORE to this story, and I look forward to reading it!"

9: Angelhood by A. J. Cattapan
My 5 star review: "When I first began this book, I didn't think I'd be able to finish it, but I kept reading, and I'm glad I did. It's difficult for this Mom to read about teen suicide, but I know it happens, and hopefully this story will reach troubled souls who might wonder whether or not ending their life would be best for themselves and others. This is a powerful story and a vivid reminder of the spiritual battle going on all around us, and I felt so uplifted by the ending. Highly recommended."

8: Joss the Seven by J. Philip Horne
My 5 star review: "I've been wanting to read this for a while because of the striking cover. I normally don't like superhero stories, but this one was un-put-downable! The characters were all well-rounded, the situation interesting, and the plot had more twists than the tangled strings of my dragon kite! I put aside my own writing for two days to finish this well-written, suspenseful story. The scene that inspired the cover feels so real, my stomach actually twisted in empathy! Though the main characters are young teens, anyone who enjoys action and adventure with a superhero twist will find this story a delight!"

7: A Promise to Keep by Loretta Livingstone
My review: "4.5 for this wonderful sequel to Out of Time. Twelfth century England comes alive with vivid details, and Ms. Livingstone's characters are living, breathing people, those in the 12th century as well as those from the 21st century. Abbess Hildegarde is an even greater delight in this story, and the growing love between Sir Giles and Lady Isabella is a sigh-worthy secondary plot. But it's modern Shannon who's the heart of this tale, as she travels to the past to find a distraction from a broken heart and discovers much more, good and bad. I thought the ending dragged on just a bit, but the scenes with Father Dominic are too fun to miss, and then the final scene ties everything together in a brilliant way. Recommended for fans of historical fiction and time travel with more than a splash of romance."

My 5 star review: "Having read the first in this series, I had connected with the main characters and wanted to continue their story. This installment is even better than the first one! The characters are more loveable than ever, Jaspyr the mechanical fox has a much bigger role, and there are some great villains that make things nail-bitingly anxious for the good guys. Quirky and fun new characters have been introduced, and the world feels amazingly real! Things are not fully resolved, so there is definitely more coming. I can't wait! This is a must-read series for fantasy and steampunk fans!"

Note: I actually read the first book, Magician's Rival, earlier this year, but liked book 2 even better! I'm saving #3 for 2018, but I recommend you begin with #1!

5: Finding Joy by Melanie D. Snitker
My 5 star review: "What a beautiful story of second chances and finding oneself after life-altering events! I loved the two main characters, and my heart ached for them while each worked through a painful past. I love the depth of Ms. Snitker's characters and how she makes their faith a part of who they are. It was great to spend more time with some of my other favorite characters from the other books in this series. Happy the beagle was a sweet addition, too. I highly recommend this book and this entire series to every fan of sweet Christian romance."

Note: Even though this is #5 in the Love's Compass series, it works as a stand-alone, although I recommend reading the entire series in order.

4: The Student and the Slave by Annie Douglass Lima
My review: "4.5 stars for the conclusion of this series. At first I wasn't sure I was going to like this book as much as the first two. But as the action unfolded, the suspense grew more and more, and the characters' attempts to make things better were thwarted at every turn. I didn't see how this story could end well! But it was worth it to read to the end and the unexpected resolution. (I did NOT see that coming! Bravo!) A scene where a character is sold into slavery is one of the most masterful examples of tension I've ever read, and a couple of scenes brought tears to my eyes. This story powerfully shows the humiliation of being a slave and how people lose their humanity by treating others as "merchandise." The best part of this entire book, however, was watching the believable transformation of one of the title characters. I recommend reading all three books of this urban fantasy trilogy in order."

My 5 star review: "After having read all the previous Nyssa Glass stories, I couldn't imagine how the author could end the series with a bang, but this installment has more nail-biting suspense, twists and turns in the plot, simmering romance, as well as coming full-circle back to Dalhart Mansion. Wow! I recommend reading the entire series in order. The characters, setting, and situation are unforgettable and will stay in your mind and heart forever."

Note: I recommend reading this entire wonderful series in order! One of my all-time favorites!

2: Playing by Heart by Carmela A. Martino
My 5 star review: "This is a beautiful piece of historical fiction, set in 18th century Milan. The MC is a musician, and it was fascinating to watch her talents and opportunities unfold, especially during a time when the education of young women was considered unnecessary. Like her lovely compositions, I was moved by the story and the superb writing. The details were so well-researched, I never once felt anything but totally immersed in the time and place. If you like historical fiction about strong young women, I highly recommend this book! Finishing this book gave me the same satisfied feeling as listening to a brilliant concert!"

My 5 star review: "Out of the thousands of books I've read in my lifetime, there have been a handful that affected me profoundly and forever changed my heart. This is one of those books. It is not only a beautiful, powerful story, but it spoke to the deepest part of my soul with its gentle wisdom, the wisdom that comes from above, demonstrating God's love and the power of forgiveness in an amazing way. It made me cry, but good tears, cleansing tears. Ms. Lash has created characters who will live in my heart until the end of my days. I highly recommend this book, especially those who are hurting!"

Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Amazing collection of mind-bending stories!

The Book Dragon has finished reading The Heronmaster, Alex McGilvery's unique and wonderful collection of short stories (with fantastic cover art by Wil Oberdier) and gives it 5 claws!
My review on Goodreads: "4.5 stars for a mind-bending, thoughtfully written collection of short stories. I enjoyed the three written from the animal's point of view even more than I thought I would. In fact, the first two (about wolves) were so interesting, I skipped to the last one, the title story, to read while I was in the mood to hear more from the animals, and that one was one of the best stories I've ever read, and will stay in my mind always. Then I read the two human stories out of order, too, and they were both satisfying reads with characters I came to care about. The only reason I couldn't give this book an unreserved 5 stars was the amount of typos, many of which I suspect are just the result of formatting, because converting files often "eats" periods and quotation marks. Don't let them stop you from experiencing these five thought-provoking stories!"

Here's a better image of the fantastic cover art:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Exciting conclusion to an urban fantasy trilogy

The Book Dragon has finished Annie Douglass Lima's epic Krillonian Chronicles with the third and final book, The Student and the Slave, and gives it 5 claws!
My review: "4.5 stars for the conclusion of this series. At first I wasn't sure I was going to like this book as much as the first two. But as the action unfolded, the suspense grew more and more, and the characters' attempts to make things better were thwarted at every turn. I didn't see how this story could end well! But it was worth it to read to the end and the unexpected resolution. (I did NOT see that coming! Bravo!) A scene where a character is sold into slavery is one of the most masterful examples of tension I've ever read, and a couple of scenes brought tears to my eyes. This story powerfully shows the humiliation of being a slave and how people lose their humanity by treating others as "merchandise." The best part of this entire book, however, was watching the believable transformation of one of the title characters. I recommend reading all three books of this urban fantasy trilogy in order."

Monday, November 13, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Clever shape-shifter cozy mystery!

The Book Dragon has finished K. M. Carroll's Fire and Ice Cream, a fun cozy mystery with shape-shifting dragons and drakes and gives it 5 claws!
My 5 star review: "I don't read many mysteries, and I've never read a book with so many shapeshifters, but this was a fun read with a sympathetic MC, and a cast of other interesting humans, dragons, drakes, and a slayer. The setting felt very real, as if I'd just visited the Phoenix area! If I ever do, I'll be looking for signs of dragon activity in the desert. This clever story is perfect for light reading for dragon lovers (and ice cream lovers)!"

Because my photo doesn't do the cute cover justice, here's a better image:

Monday, November 6, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: A lovely, lyrical tale of historical fiction

The Book Dragon has read Playing by Heart by Carmela A. Martino, a musical tale of 18th century Milan, and gives it 5 "Bravos!" er, claws!
My 5 star review: "This is a beautiful piece of historical fiction, set in 18th century Milan. The MC is a musician, and it was fascinating to watch her talents and opportunities unfold, especially during a time when the education of young women was considered unnecessary. Like her lovely compositions, I was moved by the story and the superb writing. The details were so well-researched, I never once felt anything but totally immersed in the time and place. If you like historical fiction about strong young women, I highly recommend this book! Finishing this book gave me the same satisfied feeling as listening to a brilliant concert!"

Since the cover is so beautiful, and my Kindle picture above doesn't do it justice, here's a closer look:
This book is featured in the historical section with Treachery and Truth at Catholic Teen Books.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Drama and suspense in this YA contemporary

The Book Dragon has read An Unexpected Role by Leslea Wahl and gives it 5 claws!
My review: "4.5 stars for this interesting YA about a 16 year old drama student who wants to escape the drama at her school and the ridicule she endures by spending the summer with her aunt where she encounters drama of another kind along with wise mentors who help her grow and see that there is more to life than dwelling on herself and how others perceive her. The tricky balance in a book like this is not to make the MC so irritating that the reader tires of her self-centeredness, but Wahl has realistically shown her growth and created a wonderful cast of supporting characters. The only reason I couldn't give it a whole-hearted 5 stars was that the "crime solving" seemed a little unrealistic, especially the final confrontation, after the antagonist had shown himself capable of attempted murder. But the rest of the story is so good, it's a minor blip, and I recommend this book to lovers of YA. The references to musicals are so much fun!"

This book is featured at Catholic Teen Books, where you'll find more great YA reads!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Unusual and exciting MG superhero fantasy!

The Book Dragon has breathlessly read J. Philip Horne's middle grade superhero fantasy Joss the Seven (Guild of Sevens Book 1) and gives it five claws!
My five star review: "I've been wanting to read this for a while because of the striking cover. I normally don't like superhero stories, but this one was un-put-downable! The characters were all well-rounded, the situation interesting, and the plot had more twists than the tangled strings of my dragon kite! I put aside my own writing for two days to finish this well-written, suspenseful story. The scene that inspired the cover feels so real, my stomach actually twisted in empathy! Though the main characters are young teens, anyone who enjoys action and adventure with a superhero twist will find this story a delight!"

Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Laugh out loud fairytale fantasy!

The Book Dragon has finished The Beast of Talesend (Beaumont and Beasley #1) by Kyle Robert Shultz and gives it five claws!
My 5 star review: "I had no idea what to expect with this book, but the author's compelling voice sucked me into the story from the first page and didn't let go until the end. I admire those who can write humor, and though this story is often dark and deadly, the humor, from tongue-in-cheek to slapstick, takes the reader on a wild and crazy theme park ride! The main characters feel like real people, the cynical storybook/late Victorian setting is fascinating, and the situation unfolds like a complex origami steampunk piece. I was actually sad when I saw I was almost to the end. Though this first book wraps up at a nice stopping place, there is definitely MORE to this story, and I look forward to reading it!"

Monday, October 9, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Exciting second installment in this gaslamp fantasy!

The Book Dragon devoured H. L. Burke's Spellsmith & Carver: Magicians' Trial and gives it five claws!
My 5 star review: "Having read the first in this series, I had connected with the main characters and wanted to continue their story. This installment is even better than the first one! The characters are more loveable than ever, Jaspyr the mechanical fox has a much bigger role, and there are some great villains that make things nail-bitingly anxious for the good guys. Quirky and fun new characters have been introduced, and the world feels amazingly real! Things are not fully resolved, so there is definitely more coming. I can't wait! This is a must-read series for fantasy and steampunk fans!"

I recommend reading book one first, Spellsmith & Carver: Magicians' Rivalry. AND, book three, Spellsmith & Carver: Magicians' Reckoning is only 99 cents as a preorder!!!!


Friday, October 6, 2017

Blooming where I've been planted

I've survived cancer twice in the last thirteen years, but I think the last year has been even more stressful, soul-rending, and life-changing. It began on September 12, 2016 when my mother unexpectedly died one day before my husband, sister, and I were going to take her back to Hawaii, the place of her happiest memories when my Dad was stationed there in the sixties. From then until January I was immersed in the strange new world of probate law and estate matters as her executor. I had just closed on the family home when my husband unexpectedly lost his job after almost 24 years and we had to get past the shock to find another job.

Finding a job is not the same as it was 24 years ago. His profession did not require a bachelor's degree 35 years ago, and so 99% of online applications wouldn't even glance at his depth of knowledge and experience because he couldn't check that BA box! He was offered a job with the City of Fort Worth, and he accepted even though it would pay half what he was making before. So he moved here while I readied the house to sell, and unexpectedly it sold the FIRST DAY with a bidding war! Now we had to scramble to find a house that his Dad could live in (he'd been with us for almost 3 years and had his own "in-law apartment" attached to the house).

We found what we thought was a suitable house and paid a lot of $$ to make it safe and move-in-able for Dad only to discover the inspector missed the rat-infested attic and other nasty stuff. We also had to find a nearby nursing home for my husband's 95 year old aunt, for whom we have medical power of attorney too. TOO MUCH IN A VERY SHORT TIME!

We managed to get it done, but I was a wreck, physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. The stress of leaving our home and long-time friends in a small town which we dearly loved and in which we had planned to retire, die, and be buried coupled with the stress of moving to a totally unfamiliar place in a large city caused several weird health issues which I am still dealing with.

My precious sisters had a solution, the most touching gift I have ever received. Our yard was a disaster, the result of years of neglect, and I didn't have the energy to even think about a garden in the barren little corner that is my new "back yard" (leaving our beautifully landscaped one in our old town). Look what they did in one day:
 This is the "before" picture, which is actually after they raked up all the small branches and leaves and pulled up a rotted railroad tie.
 My youngest sister dug a trench to make a "dry creek bed" for drainage, since heavy rain causes a lake to form in that corner. They planted easy-to-care-for shrubs and flowering plants, added stepping stones to the gate, and moved our little table and chairs so we could actually use them!
 They took our Mom's little wagon she used for yard work, drilled holes for drainage, and planted a fairy garden in it!
Now Mom's old bird bath is a little planter, too. And there are little treasures to be found in all the corners and crannies, like a fairy door to the tree, fossils, crystals, and other pretty rocks my youngest sister found on her journeys to other states, a gourd bird house my middle sister made, and a planter her husband built.

To me, this whimsical, peaceful garden represents the journey this poor old shriveled plant has made, being uprooted after 24 years and transplanted, nearly succumbing to the stress of relocation but instead coming back to life.

Thanks, Christine and Allison! I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Goodreads giveaway of Mercy's Prince

I wish Goodreads would let me give away a set of the entire series, but at least Mercy's Prince can stand alone!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Mercy's Prince by Katy Huth Jones

Mercy's Prince

by Katy Huth Jones

Giveaway ends October 01, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Monday, September 11, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Lovely historical fiction about an Italian family

The Book Dragon has read Rosa, Sola by Carmela A. Martino and gives it five claws!
My 5 star review: "This is a lovely story of a young girl from an Italian immigrant family in the 1960's. I love how Rosa grows during the story, and my heart aches for her and her family. I really liked how the author included so many Italian words to immerse the reader in the culture. The best thing about the story is how true it is to family and how that glue holds everyone together through tragedy. Highly recommended!"
This book is featured at Catholic Teen Books.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: A beautiful and powerful Native American fairytale come to life!

The Book Dragon devoured White Wolf and the Ash Princess by Tammy Lash and gives it five claws!
Here's my 5 star review: "Out of the thousands of books I've read in my lifetime, there have been a handful that affected me profoundly and forever changed my heart. This is one of those books. It is not only a beautiful, powerful story, but it spoke to the deepest part of my soul with its gentle wisdom, the wisdom that comes from above, demonstrating God's love and the power of forgiveness in an amazing way. It made me cry, but good tears, cleansing tears. Ms. Lash has created characters who will live in my heart until the end of my days. I highly recommend this book, especially those who are hurting!"

Monday, August 28, 2017

Cover reveal! The end of an epic fantasy series!

This gorgeous cover by Perry Elisabeth represents the culmination of six and a half years, five books, and 650,000 words to tell an epic fantasy story. The journey of this tale is almost as fantastic as the tale itself!

The original version of He Who Finds Mercy was not publishable, as detailed in this article. Being a pack rat, I did keep the manuscript for several years, since there were elements of the story I really liked.

When my father was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2011, I pulled the manuscript out of a drawer, tossed everything but the opening scene, and asked Prince Valerian and Mercy to tell me their story. I only meant it as a writing exercise to distract me in the grief of watching my hero, my larger-than-life father slowly and painfully die over the next eleven months.

Once I reached chapter 80, I realized this was more than one book and might take at least three to tell the whole story!

I honestly wasn't thinking "for publication" but after taking several chapters to my critique group, they encouraged me to query publishers and agents. I was still writing on the story and had the first book, Mercy's Prince edited when my non-Hodgkin's lymphoma suddenly and painfully came back late in May 2015. The pain was so excruciating my husband and I thought the doctor would say it was stage 4 and nothing to be done but pain control, so I found a pre-made cover, asked the designer to tweak it a bit, and self-published Mercy's Prince, dedicated to my father, as a good-bye to family and friends in early July 2015.

Thankfully the cancer was "only" stage 3 and chemo put it back in remission. So book 2 Mercy's Gift was published in September 2015. I dedicated that one to my cancer doctor, since Mercy is a Healer. When I gave her an autographed copy, she got tears in her eyes, saying it was the nicest thing anyone had done for her.

Chemo brain messed with the writing of the third book, Mercy's Battle. I originally planned to call it Mercy's Children, but the antagonist became such a horrible person and the Vandals were so bloodthirsty I didn't think that would reflect what was happening. My editor Alex McGilvery came up with that great title. I know there is some gruesome stuff in that book. I think it was partly the chemo and the pain mixed with research I'd done years ago for a magazine article on Apaches. I have worried ever since that it was too gruesome to bill as a "clean read."

Once Mercy's Battle was published in May 2016, I breathed a sigh of relief. Even though it wasn't the whole story, it was a reasonable stopping place, in case I couldn't finish the story. But God was merciful and I've been able to survive not only the cancer recurrence but two painful, unexpected moves, becoming a caregiver, having to give up several things that I loved, and the sudden, unexpected death of my mother the day before we were taking her to Hawaii. Mom gave me the opportunity to dedicate book 4 Mercy's King to her. I'd worried about that, since it's by far the saddest of all the books. It was VERY difficult to write, and somehow I managed to release it in May 2017 in the middle of packing for this last, most difficult move.

Now Mercy's Joy is about to be released, and I'm feeling sad because I've lived with and suffered with these beloved characters for so long, I'm going to miss them! I have a feeling I'm not finished writing about them, though. I'll just have to see what the future holds. I know no matter what, I am in good hands: God's.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: A clever, magical children's story!

The Book Dragon has read Lia London's clever Marked by Magic and gives it 5 claws!
My review: "4.5 stars for a clever, magical story that children ages 6 and up will enjoy. This is the kind of story that will fire a child's imagination, and if an adult is reading it aloud to them, will bring back fond memories of their own imaginings, for 12-year-old Lon and his sister, Livi find a real fairy mushroom ring in their backyard! Who would have thought being shrunk to six inches tall could be so dangerous? Follow Lon and Livi on the quest the fairy king and queen have given them so they can be restored to normal size. My only quibble is that Livi's speech makes her sound much older than seven. Next time I see a white moth, I'm going to check her feet, just in case it's really a fairy...."

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Beautiful Tolkien bio picture book

The Book Dragon has excitedly read John Ronald's Dragons: The Story of J. R. R. Tolkien written by Caroline McAlister and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler and gives it 5 claws!
 

My 5 star review: "Beautiful storytelling about one of my favorite authors, and the illustrations are perfect! I recommend this to all Tolkien fans. Don't let the "picture book" format discourage you from missing out on this great book! Great way to share Tolkien's life with younger readers, too."

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Time Travel Historical Fiction

The Book Dragon has read Loretta Livingstone's A Promise to Keep and gives it 5 claws!
My review: "4.5 for this wonderful sequel to Out of Time. Twelfth century England comes alive with vivid details, and Ms. Livingstone's characters are living, breathing people, those in the 12th century as well as those from the 21st century. Abbess Hildegarde is an even greater delight in this story, and the growing love between Sir Giles and Lady Isabella is a sigh-worthy secondary plot. But it's modern Shannon who's the heart of this tale, as she travels to the past to find a distraction from a broken heart and discovers much more, good and bad. I thought the ending dragged on just a bit, but the scenes with Father Dominic are too fun to miss, and then the final scene ties everything together in a brilliant way. Recommended for fans of historical fiction and time travel with more than a splash of romance."

A Promise to Keep is the sequel to Livingstone's excellent Out of Time, which I reviewed before Book Dragon started giving out claws. Here's my review of Out of Time, for I highly recommend you read both of these books:

"4.5 stars for this compelling time-travel story. Marion from 2006 is sent by a magical tree to the year 1191 to save an important historical figure's life. The peril this causes, both to Marion and Sir Giles, makes this book difficult to put down. Both major and minor characters of both times are well-drawn, and the ending is thought-provoking and resonates with this reader's heartstrings. The occasional head-hopping was a bit distracting, but the pace moved steadily, neither too slow nor too fast. Recommended for anyone who is intrigued by time travel and/or 12th century England."