November 5, 2015

Luka Williams

Brace yourselves for a wild ride, ladies. It's another YA hero and this one will knock your socks off!

Back cover copy:
If science is right, then I am crazy. And crazy is dangerous. 

In a world where nothing supernatural exists, Tess Eckhart is positive she's going crazy. After her complete freakout at a high school party, her family is too. So much that they pack their bags and move across the country, next to a nationally-renowned facility for the mentally ill.

Tess is determined to fit in at her new school, despite the whispers and stares. But when it comes to Luka Williams, a reluctantly popular boy in her class, she's unused to a stare that intense. Then the headaches start, and the seemingly prophetic dreams that haunt her at night. As Tess tries harder to hide them, she becomes increasingly convinced that Luka knows something--that he might somehow be responsible.

But what if she's wrong? What if Luka Williams is the only thing separating her from a madness too terrifying to fathom?

Here is the disclaimer on this one, gals. There are themes in this book which might make some readers uncomfortable. In the messy work of portraying the spiritual warfare that goes on around us every day, light has to be shed on the dark side. It's dangerous business, walking the line between good and evil- and knowing as an author how much is too much. I was impressed with Katie's skillful handling of the evil we all know exists- giving it "face time" but not glory. She made it her mission to place consequences of wrong choices front and center, and she succeeded. While the elements of darkness are present, they are combated fiercely with the redemptive truth of the light. Trust me when I say this book is well worth the journey, if you're willing to wade into it. 
So, are you ready? Good. Allow me the genuine pleasure of introducing Luka Williams.

Excerpt from The Gifting:
I swear the boy next to me is staring, but when I gather enough courage to peek through my hair, his attention is on Mr. Lotsam. The pouty-lipped girl beside him catches me checking him out and gives me the stink eye.
I quickly turn away and as I do, my elbow knocks into my pencil. The boy beside me goes from sitting like a statue to lightning quick, as if he had measured the proximity between my arm and the writing utensil and was waiting for the collision. Before I can react, he snags it up and hands it over.
His eyes.
They are the color of spring grass, fringed with the kind of eyelashes most girls would kill for. He stares at me as if I'm somehow familiar, and for the span of a millisecond, something like disbelief flickers in the grass green of his irises. He cocks his head slightly, a small furrow divoting his brow.
"Th-thanks," I stammer.
He gives me a slow nod before the girl on his other side jots something on his notebook. He shifts away, his mouth turning up at the corner, and writes something back. It doesn't seem possible, but even the way he moves his pencil is enticing. I find myself wishing his notes were to me, or that I could at least read them. The girl keeps the string of back-and-forth writing exchanges going until the bell rings. Then she strikes up a conversation and they walk out into the hallway together. I stare after him. I really can't seem to help myself.
Leela gives me a nudge with her elbow.
"You've been Luka-ed."
"It's a term some of the senior girls made up. His name's Luka Williams." Leela fans her cheeks. "A gorgeous specimen, isn't he?"
Understatement of the year.

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

Gallant Score:
Luka is not shy about standing up for what he believes is right. How does this apply to being gallant? Well, his principles cause him to stand up for people who would normally fall between the cracks. People like Tess. He's not afraid of a fight, and believe me he can handle himself just fine when push comes to shove. He continually places Tess' safety above his own.

Wounded Score:
It's hard to elaborate on this one without revealing crucial plot points. This book has a distinct dystopian feel to it, so place yourself in that mindset and you can imagine the difficulties faced by our hero (and heroine) throughout the story. No one escapes unscathed.

Softie Score:
Luka is a sensitive guy. As I mentioned above, he won't shy away from a fight, and he is quite good at presenting his world with a calm, cool, and collected facade. But the real Luka, the side of him that only Tess gets to see, is the one that earned him a place at FHF. Luka is tough, but he is also tender. Tenderness is in short supply in Tess' world, which makes Luka's efforts stir up all kinds of warm fuzzies inside this hero girl. 

 Stupid Strike:

Swoon Score:
Some might accuse this blog of being rather biased towards those heroes of the green-eyed persuasion. Skimming back through the roster I'd say you have a valid point. Apparently having green eyes gives the hero a leg-up in the orange department. Also, the name Luka helps. Just sayin'. :D Eye color (and other physical virtues) aside, Luka is here because he is over-the-top awesome. We all want a guy who is willing to take out the bully, stand and fight with and for the one he loves, and risk all to keep her safe. Tie in a hunger for the Truth, and you have Luka, the whole package tied with a delicious green-eyed bow.

K.E. Ganshert was born and raised in the exciting state of Iowa, where she currently resides with her family. She likes to write things and consume large quantities of coffee and chocolate while she writes all the things. She's won some awards. For the writing, not the consuming. Although the latter would be fun. You can learn more about K.E. Ganshert and these things she writes at her website.

The Wrap:
I did mention that The Gifting is part of a 3 book series, didn't I? I didn't? Oops. Well- good news everyone! You have the chance to fall in love with Luka 3 times instead of just once! 

Better news: The Gifting is currently FREE for Kindle readers. 

Also, Katie is offering a super-sweet Christmas gift package - The Gifting complete autographed set for $25. Head HERE for more details! Deadline is November 15th, so don't wait too long to check it out. 

The Thanksgiving season is upon us, and I have been thinking lately about what a blessing it is to find a book that impacts you in a way you never forget.This blog is about heroes, yes, but it's also about powerful stories that have made a difference in how we view the world. I love the gift these books are to readers, and appreciate the authors who work so hard to share their hearts with us. I also appreciate you, my fellow readers and hero addicts.
SO. In the spirit of the season, I've decided to give away a $10 Amazon giftcard to one random commenter. 
To enter, I want you to answer this question: What book  have you read in the last year that has changed your life? (and no, it does not have to be a work of fiction). You must also leave your email in a spam fighting format like: givethanks (at) booksrock dot com.

Thanks, Katie, for sharing Luka with us!

October 1, 2015

Julien de Gladiel

*taps mic*
Hello? Is this thing on?
Greetings friends! Tis I, Joy, returned from a year-long (and then some) absence. While I have missed the blog, I would not have taken a break and the risk of losing all of you if it were not necessary. Nancy has been busily working on Book 2 in the Sword of Redemption series (which I can promise you will be well worth the wait), while I have been taking time to settle back into normal after a serious family issue.
However, the time has come to shake the dust off the keyboard, so to speak, and begin again. :) I want to thank each and every one of you who have reached out in the interim to Nancy and I about the blog. It's an encouragement to know our hero girls are still out there- still looking (or patiently waiting...and waiting...) for the next orange-worthy read. And though the blog may have been silent, my hero heart has been with you any time I read. Therefore, take heart, ladies, for I have emerged from the void of time and space victorious!

I have been reading a lot of YA fiction lately, mostly because I am looking for something different, searching for that "spark" that wakes me up as a reader. Serena Chase is the author of one of the first YA books I picked up, and I am SO thankful that I did. Her world building skills, grasp of spiritual truth, and ability to weave beautiful, tear-inducing allegory into her books is beyond compare. I love this series so much I can hardly convey it to you.

My first Hero Feature on the flip side was a no brainer. It just had to be Serena Chase and her glorious hero, Julien de Gladiel.


Obviously, this particular book is a fantasy (if you couldn't guess by the cover). As such I tried to choose an excerpt that would give you not only a taste of the characters, but also of the style and structure of the story.

Excerpt from The Ryn:

"Princess Rynnaia," he said, "I am pleased to report that I've just completed my first act of valor in your honor."
I almost flinched at the way he addressed me, but his tone was formal to the point of being ridiculous, and the humor of it, accentuated by the light that danced in his eyes, would not allow me to dwell on the strangeness of my new name.
"Speak then, knight," I exaggerated my aunt's careful elocution. "I will hear your report."
"As you can see by peering into this cask of dishonor," Julien said, gesturing to a bucket that was filled with the dark blonde fluff and whiskery remains of that which had covered his face, "I have vanquished the beast that dared to impose on your hospitality."
"A beast, you say?" Our repartee released the deep tension I hadn't even felt building since leaving Mirthan Hall. Although Lily was quick to laugh when I teased, neither she nor Aunt Alaine ever instigated a jest. Now engaged in sport with Julien, I realized just how sorely I'd missed the affectionate words of play that had been a daily, if not hourly occurence in Veetri.
"Indeed," he nodded gravely. "A most foul beast."
I wasn't sure how to answer. Julien had been handsome even with the full beard. But without it he was utterly...
"He doesn't look like a bear so much now, does he Princess?" Lily's voice came from behind me, where she had moved to fluff the pillows. "And you're quite right. He is, indeed, even more handsome without the beard."
"Li-ly!" I gasped.
She'd never admitted to being able to see into my thoughts before. Had she been able to all along? And why had she never told me?
"I can't believe you never told me you could see my thoughts! So you sneak into my head without permission?  Is that not bad enough? Must you comment on my thoughts as well?" With every sentence the volume of my voice increased. "If I'd wanted Julien to know I thought him handsome, I would have told him myself."

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

Gallant Score
The words "knight" and "gallant" could almost be synonomous, and in Julien's case, they pretty much are. Julien embodies every noble concept that comes to mind when you think of what a knight should be. He is honorable, courageous, intelligent, handsome (yes, indeed), and good. He treats every lady he encounters with the courtesy and respect due them, and willingly risks his life repeatedly to keep the Princess safe. And speaking of, his connection to Rynnaia and subsequent treatment of her gives him a huge one-up here.

Wounded Score
Julien's wounds may not be as deep or devastating as some of our other heroes, but he still has a place here. As a knight, Julien's heart is tied tightly to the king, and consequently, the kingdom. And both are hurting deeply. Mourning the loss of their queen, and suffering continuing loss at the hands of the Cobelds, the land is not a happy place.

Softie Score
Duty and honor are top priorities for Julien. While the excerpt I chose may lead you to believe he is softer than this score shows, I must say that there are moments when Julien is able to relax and be lighthearted. But when push comes to shove (and it does), Julien is a man of action, trained to take charge and make things happen. As is always the case, however, when it comes to the woman he loves, there is no shortage of tenderness to be found in our knight, presenting plenty of opportunities for the reader (namely, me) to become a puddle of mush. 

Stupid Strike
Nothing to report here. 

Swoon Score
I really don't need to tell you Julien is a 5. I want to wax eloquent here for pages about why I love Julien so much, listing page numbers and moments of *SQUEE* that aren't even translatable. I will spare you the fangirling (this time) and limit myself to this: one of my favorite qualities in a hero is the embodiment of the love of Christ. Julien is a reflection of the Higher Love we all crave. He loves with sacrifice, patience, forgivness, grace, and oh-so-much tenderness. I'm melting all over again just thinking about it. :)
His journey, and that of Rynnaia, is one of transfomation. But through it all, there is love. In failure, in seperation, in pain. We are so loved! And that is a truth worth holding on to. 

SERENA CHASE lives in Iowa with her husband, two teen daughters, and a big white dog named Albus. A frequent cntreibutor to USA Today's Happy ever After blog, Serena is an avid reader of young adult fiction and inspirational romance and has become a respected influencer within those communities. When not engaged in her varied roles within the publishing industry, Serena can be found watching action movies and dreaming about someday living in a cottage by the sea.

I want to invite you all to check out Serena's Pinterest boards- because they are EPIC and awesome. 

The Giveaway:
Some of you may be wondering what happened to the giveaway portion of the feature. I'll be honest with you all- Nancy and I would love to give away a book/giftcard to every one of you, every time. Regrettably, our bank accounts aren't that flush, and in an effort to budget responsibly, we have decided to stop having regular giveaways.

"But Joy, you just featured this amazing hero and I simply MUST have his book!"

Well, my reader friend, how fortunate for you that in celebration of the release of The Sunken Realm (Book 4 in the Eyes of E'veria series), the first 3 titles (The Ryn, The Remedy, and The Seahorse Legacy) are on sale now for Kindle. Click HERE to secure yourself a copy today. Trust me, just buy the whole series. You won't be sorry.