Category: Gaming

+Blog Book Tour+ The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Posted Wednesday, 6 August, 2014 by jorielov , , , , 8 Comments

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The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Published By: William Morrow (@WmMorrowBks),
5 August, 2014 (reprint – paperback edition)
an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (@HarperCollins)
Official Author Websites: Site | @yangszechoo  | Facebook
Available Formats: Hardback, Paperback, Ebook Page Count: 384

Converse via: #TheGhostBride

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Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a tour stop on the “The Ghost Bride” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the publisher William Morrow, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

The reason I wanted to be on the tour:

I am always amazed at the journey we take as readers towards reading a particular book or becoming entranced by the words an author leaves behind for us to find. We (here refers to the collectively diverse readership of the world) all strive towards reading books when that leap of ignited joy and mirth of the discovery catalysts inside our mind and jumps out through our excited speech whilst we’re sharing the bits and bobbles of what we’ve just been blessed to discover with another bookish soul. Those wickedly delightful moments where you stumble across quite an extraordinary story during a more than ordinary hour of your life, and within that moment, you’re on the precipice of taking a journey to a place quite different from where you live and occupy your own murmurings on life; a place that will feel as though it bewitched you as it spoke to you to be read, to be devoured, and consumed.

When I first started reading a heap of recollections and ruminations on behalf of The Ghost Bride during the Autumn on 2013, I was a very new book blogger growing my wings and entering into the book blogosphere myself. I was sorting things out as I went along, and getting my feet wet with blog tours, reviewing books in a style that felt right for me, and gaining a bit of ground within the network of book bloggers in general who are as diverse as the four winds. I appreciate the fact that each of us who blogs about our reading lives takes on a different angle of insight as we read and review the books we want to share with the dear hearts who find us. It was during this particular exploration I came across a review where the blogger had not found the story was able to resonate with her but she had hoped others who appreciated everything that she felt did not work for her might work for someone else instead. Coincidently, I attempted to re-find the book blogger and my own comments therein, but it is lost out in the blogosphere at this point in time. She encouraged me in a way that other reviewers and bloggers hadn’t at that time to seek out the novel. I knew after reading her thoughts I could soak into The Ghost Bride.

I had not thought much about this at the time, but over the course of months since I have found that to read a negative or neutral review is quite an extraordinary thing; especially if you were like me, and took out such a positive take-away! I mused about that for a moment, and thought, but isn’t that why we blog?! Isn’t that why we read book blogs? To garnish a wider net of opinion, commentary, and muse filled thoughts of the readers behind the blogs themselves? To help us better articulate an idea of which novel might whet our palette of interest and encourage our own spirit to read the works of an author we’ve not yet become acquainted with?

In September of 2013, I also had the joy of contacting the author whilst she was hosting a bookaway through Shelf Awareness; I did not win the book, as my reply was received after the book was given away, however, these were my original thoughts on why the book captivated me in such a keen way:

Whilst I was participating in a bookish community event [Bout of Books], I was led to a variety of lovely blogs, whereupon I stumbled across a review of this book! Ironically, the reader wasn’t as enlightened by it as I would be, as they were not a keen fan of literary fiction, but its that review that earmarked this book in my mind to read! :) Isn’t that interesting!? It simply proves that there are as many diverse readers as there are books!!

Ever since then, I’ve had it in the back of my mind to make sure to see if my local library is going to be getting a copy of this lovely book, as I am a proud supporter of libraries!! I do love to buy books as much as the next person, but only when budget affords! What I wanted to say about your lovely book, is how heart-wretching and heart-aching the story sounds from afar! Talk about a character who has to undertake a journey that is not quite easy to understand, much less explain! I have watched documentaries on tv that showcase different traditions, not only for marriage but for a person’s life, as one draws to mind where in one country they select young girls who have the essence of the reincarnated deity and that that girl must live in confinement without the ability to communicate or speak, until she’s around 16!! She ‘ages out’ of the life, and is allowed to resume living, only to find that the available men are afraid that if they are with her in life and marriage that she would be a curse not a blessing! I wish I could draw to mind the exact details of the country & of this ritual, you’ll have to forgive me on this short-coming! However, the reason I drew it to mind, is because your character Li Lan is being placed into a situation that she didn’t choose and yet its a situation which custom and tradition demands!

Ms. Choo kindly replied back to me, and helped me remember that the documentary I had watched was about the “living goddesses” of Nepal! I am not certain why I had not had the proper chance to borrow this book from my local library, but as I have oft mentioned before, there are moments where we are meant to read certain books, and perhaps the time in which I was meant to read The Ghost Bride simply had not yet arrived! I am always very mindful of how coincidental certain moments are in life have turnt out to be quite serendipitous instead. It all depends on your perception of how life unfolds along your path.

Today is my blog’s official 1st birthday and it is an honour that I am celebrating it with a novel that quite bewitched me whilst it originally toured the book blogosphere! Today let’s celebrate the diversity of readers and the joy of selecting books that challenge us and dare us to always be willing to step outside our comfort zones and engage inside a narrative that is wholly different from our own cultural background yet grounded in a connective thread we can all relate too.

*a blog birthday is the day in which a blog goes live to the public whereas a blogoversary is the celebration of the day you created your blog 

Note: The curious bit for me is that I travelled through the original blog book tour for “The Ghost Bride” last year (also hosted by TLC Book Tours), within the first months I was a book blogger with a newly launched blog! To look back on my reflections of wanting to read the novel whilst visiting other book bloggers who were reviewing it and now, a full year forward to where I have the opportunity to read the novel myself and post my own ruminations on my own book blog is quite wicked karma! I have felt as though I have travelled with the book before it reached my own heart and hands to read!

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Book Synopsis:

Yangsze Choo

A wondrous coming-of-age story infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, adventure, and fascinating, dreamlike twists

Malaya, 1893 Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt Chinese family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives a proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, ghost marriages are often meant to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a comfortable home for the rest of her days, but at what cost?

As she reluctantly considers the offer, Li Lan is unwillingly drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities and vengeful spirits. There Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

Author Biography:

Yangsze Choo is a fourth-generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. She lives in California with her husband and their two children, and loves to eat and read (often at the same time).

The author had the honour of being selected to read her novel aloud for the audiobook version of The Ghost Bride, and after listening to Chapter 1, I can see why they selected her as she has a captivating speaking voice which brings the words off the page to life in such a lovely manner! Click to read the full story on her blog!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Yangsze Choo’s Introduction to “The Ghost Bride” via Yangsze Choo

Inspired to Share: I am always fascinated by the back-story revelations of an author’s work, as to me, to hear about the process of their inspiration towards writing a novel quite literally heightens the joy for me as a reader. I realise there are other readers who would disagree with me on that score, but I have always found something quite remarkable in how stories are written and the methodology of each writer who chooses to pen a story to give back to the world in the form of a book. I was struck by the joy of how a bit of knowledge and research into one particular vein of thought led Ms. Choo to not only expand on a seedling of an idea but gave it such a measure of a breath to illuminate it fully by the scope she took the story!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

An Eastern Ghost Story and how it differs from the West:

The first main difference I found is an Eastern Ghost story is rooted within the relationship and interpersonal connection to the dead rather than focusing on the psychological thrill of having a ghost crossing into your lifepath. Western stories tend to focus on the shock and intensity of finding an ethereal presence in your life, an interruption of your hours, and a mindful sea of curious unknown questions and ramifications that are difficult to process and work through. There tends to be a lot of factors pulling the ties together for a Western ghost story, which parellel the leftover work of the deceased and a willingly earnest desire to see the work completed by a second or third party who was not particularly connected to the events or the deceased in life. From what I am gathering in The Ghost Bride the main concern is not unfinished business but rather a continuance of a life cut short of being lived. A way of progressing the life of the deceased to a fulfilling present; merely without their flesh and bone presence.

Elements of the story had me thinking back to my love of the South American and Latin American cultural celebration known as Day of the Dead in which family surround their loved ones’ graves and celebrate the life they lived whilst they were alive. It is a ritual influenced celebration and joyous one at that! Traditionally this has been a holiday centered around Halloween (All Hallow’s Eve) and All Saint’s Day (All Soul’s Day) in Mexico, and there lies the connection for me, as I was able to explore my love of the cultural heritage of Mexico whilst I travelled there as a teen. My furlough was in Summer, not Autumn, which was the only disappointment in regards to not seeing the festivities live in person.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

The Ghost Bride: Western vs Chinese Ghost Stories via James Cham

To extend into this a bit more I felt it best to allow the author

to speak on behalf of her own body of work.

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Read More

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Posted Wednesday, 6 August, 2014 by jorielov in 19th Century, A Father's Heart, All Hallow's Eve, All Saint's Day, All Soul's Day, Astral Projection, Audiobook, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book | Novel Excerpt, Bookish Discussions, Bookish Films, Bout of Books, Buddhism, Cemeteries & Graveyards, Chinese Literature, Christianity, Clever Turns of Phrase, Clockmakers & Watchmakers, Clockwork & Mechanisations, Clogs & Gears, Confucianism, Cultural & Religious Traditions, Day of the Dead, Death & Burial Rites, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Dreams & Dreamscapes, Earthen Magic, Equality In Literature, Family Life, Father-Daughter Relationships, Folklore and Mythology, Gaming, Ghost Marriage Ritual, Ghost Story, Ghosts & the Supernatural, Gothic Literature, Grief & Anguish of Guilt, Haunting & Ethereal, Historical Fiction, Interviews Related to Content of Novel, Life Shift, Light vs Dark, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism, Mahjong, Malacca, Malaya, Marriage Rituals, Parapsychological Suspense, Passionate Researcher, Psychological Suspense, Qing Ming Festival, Reincarnation, Rituals for the Afterlife, Scribd, Soundcloud, Supernatural Creatures & Beings, Supernatural Fiction, Superstitions & Old World Beliefs, Taboo Relationships & Romance, TLC Book Tours, Wordsmiths & Palettes of Sage

+Book Review+ The Dragon’s Pawn (sequel to “The Pact”) by Mitchell S. Karnes

Posted Tuesday, 17 June, 2014 by jorielov , , , 9 Comments

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The Dragon’s Pawn by Mitchell S. Karnes

The Dragon's Pawn by Mitchell S. Karnes

Published By:  Black Rose Writing, 3 April 2014

Official Author Website: Site

Converse on Twitter: #CanaanshadeJourneys & #MitchellSKarnes

Available Formats: Softcover Page Count: 254

Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, YA Fantasy

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Acquired Book By:

I was originally selected to be a tour stop on the “The Dragon’s Pawn” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. However, when the tour was cancelled, I personally contacted the author through his website to let him know I would still be interested in reading his book if it were available off-tour. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the author, Mitchell S. Karnes, without obligation to post a review. I opted to review this book on my own accord as a way to tie together my observations between the two novels in the series. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

On my connection to the author, Mitchell S. Karnes:

I felt a bit let down when I learnt the blog tour for “The Dragon’s Pawn” was cancelled through TLC Book Tours. I decided to take it upon myself to contact the author Michell S. Karnes to request the book for review off-tour. I was not sure if it would be available for review as when a tour is cancelled odds are in favour of the book not being available at that time. I was thankful to receive a response from the author, in which I had disclosed the following in my note:

I had signed up for this tour specifically due to our exchange of conversation after my review of “The Pact” posted. I never knew if you had seen my reply, but I had included mentioning that perhaps after I had read the sequel I would understand the first book a bit better. Thus, when the tour was offered I opted to participate and give the series a second chance based on your reply.

I wanted to honour the request he had given me after I posted my review of “The Pact” as much as I will admit, I was curious where the sequel would lead the reader as the story evolved forward. We exchanged a conversation through email, to where I learnt a bit more about the back-story of how the Canaashade Journey series was originally conceived and written. When he agreed to send me the novel, “The Dragon’s Pawn” it was sent without obligation to post a review as he was simply thankful I wanted to read his story. He included an extra surprise for me, giving me the official bookmark for the book of which I used as I read the story itself!

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Karnes via our conversations ahead of my review. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comBook Synopsis:

Back in high school Scott, Paul, Chris, and Luke made two pacts: to stay friends forever and to play Warriors and Thieves as often as possible. Twenty-four years later neither pact remains. Each man has gone his own way. Only Chris still plays the game, and he is dying of cancer. Will his friends reunite for one last game? The way they always dreamed of playing?

As they come together they realise Chris stumbled upon a way for them to enter their fantasy world of Canaanshade and play the game for real… as their characters of old. There’s a catch: they must return to 1989 and the bodies of their middle and high school selves first. Otherwise, any damage they receive in the the game will be upon them as well. What could it hurt? Little do they know, a dark secret from their past is haunting them, threatening not only their game but their very lives.

As the four boys enter Canaanshade and the bodies of their favourite role-playing characters, a strange thing happens. Each begins to slowly slip into oblivion and fade into his player’s consciousness. Will they realise in time? Mitchell S. KarnesAnd if so, can they do anything to stop the process?

One of them has sold his friends out to the red and black dragon. Will the others discover the identity of the dragon’s pawn before it is too late? Getting into the game was the dream of a lifetime; getting out was the nightmare no one expected.

Author Biography:

Mitchell S. Karnes was born in Kansas and spent his childhood in Illinois. He lives in Franklin, TN with his wife, Natalie, and five of their seven children, where he serves as the Pastor of Walker Baptist Church. He holds a Bachelor’s degree and three Master’s degrees. Mitchell’s first novel, Crossing the Line, made the Southern Writer’s Guild’s “Must Read” list. His short stories include: “When Nothing Else Matters,” “A Family Portrait,” and “Grampa Charlie’s Ring.” He hopes to entertain, challenge, move and teach through each and every story. The Pact is just the beginning…the first book in a four-part series.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comSequel gives adequate precursor:

Prior to getting into the heart of the story, of where this installment lies inside the series of Canaanshade, we were graced with a review of the epic climax of events which had put me a bit past my edge of acceptance on behalf of the first novel, “The Pact”. I had a hard time struggling to come to terms with the inclusions of the heightened violence and the intense display of domestic disturbances within the adolescent years of the main characters. However, encouraged by the author himself to read the sequel in order to understand the series as a whole, I entered this story with a renewed optimism of spirit.

Although I knew the intensity of the subject at hand, the sequent deaths in the story came at quite a shock as did the level of rage. This is a cautionary tale of how sometimes the lines between fiction and reality can become blurred and the true lesson is knowing the signs of when someone can no longer separate the difference of the two. – quoted from my review of “The Pact”

The Prologue is a re-telling of the fated events where two teens lost their lives on the railroad tracks, as one boy survived being tossed into a river in the middle of a carpet roll. The boy who was paralyzed and unable to run down the tracks to help until he was needed to swim to save his drowning friend is the lead protagonist again in this installment: Scott Addison. The story originally was a tale of caution and of utmost urgency to realise how devastingly real role-playing games can become when those who are playing the games in earnest are not always aware of how serious the other players can take their roles. For me, the original beginning was both heart-wretching and difficult to read due to the depth of where the story led.

Luke might be a war-monger in Warriors & Thieves, but I was curious to seek out what was motivating him to push Chris and Paul out of their comfort zones of reality into the common bloodshed of warfare. There are many ways to accomplish self-confidence and self-advocacy without pushing the envelopes of violence, especially unrelented violence in a game which is usually grounded in skill, maneuvers, and obstacles. Chris on the other hand has a brilliant way of keeping the rules of the game intact by pushing the action of the game forward within the confines of the realm, but lacks the clarity of knowing how to enliven the story of which the world-building is meant to carve out of its niche. Paul is the innocent of the group, learning as he builds confidence through his friendships. Scott comes from playing the game through his father’s advice. Endeavouring to give a bit more of a back-story to each of the characters which gives you a lifeblood to the game eliminating the one dimensional interface. One of my favourite revelations is when Scott shows Paul his hand-drawn map of Canaanshade which he created with his father. The intricacy of the world arc is exactly what all of us hope for in our fantasy realms of reading adventures! Lit alive with creatures and characters you want to know more about. – quoted from my review of “The Pact”

The sequel on the other hand, gives a great precursor to where we find Addison now, as an established teacher and coach at a school. It allows us to re-enter his life at a point in time where he is struggling to resolve not only his past (where the “The Pact” is set) but to see if he can knit the pieces together from the present where he struggles to find logic, sense, and strength of faith where only fate felt guiding his path previously.

My Review of The Dragon’s Pawn:

Karnes begins the second book in the Canaashade Journeys series with the ability of taking a reader directly into the mindset of Scott Addison as though the person did not previously read “The Pact”. In doing so, he allows the series to stand not only on its own merits of validity, but he allows the reader to skip the first book altogether in order to read the sequel which in my opinion might be a better place to begin the saga. I appreciated the juxtaposition of Addison as a child verse Addison as an adult longing for semblance of normalcy and buoyancy in his life. I appreciated that nothing from the prior book was glossed over and righted by the time you enter the sequel, as there was such a heavy hearted ending to the original story, I was hoping for this to be found in its sequel. To find the characters are still on a journey towards finding themselves as much as they are shifting towards reconciliation of the past.

In this sequence, Addison is dealing with the devastating loss of his wife and childhood sweetheart Susan, compounded by the fact that although he has four beautiful children, his heart is shattered to accept the reality of what he is facing alone. His trial now is to find an anchor in the present to help guide him forward and continue towards the light he always had known with his wife. Meanwhile, Chris has grown up with an affinity of love for Warriors and Thieves, their childhood role-playing game where they all lived unique lives outside of the realm of reality. Chris is facing his most difficult obstacle yet, as he has terminal cancer. Luke on the other hand grew up to be a psychologist who has his own battle of will and mind to sort out before he can hope to help another in his practice. The three are uniquely tethered to their current paths to where they are living separate lives outside of the comfort of friendship.

The more interesting bit to The Dragon’s Pawn, is how reality is folding in on fantasy, and how the characters who live in the fantasy realm are breaching into the daylight of reality. Characters from the Canaanshade game are becoming flesh and bone realistic to their counterparts and there are aspects of illusion and delusion that are affecting the minds of Addison and Richards. Rooted in the prequel’s belief that there are times where the gameplay can supersede the realm in which one lives as much as the game itself can become dangerous to the mind of those who play it; if they are not able to separate the game from the life they are living.

Luke, Chris, Scott, and Paul are transformed into their younger halves whilst entering the game from a place they have never started before; a transparency of reality shared amongst their subconscious minds, where what they feel, taste, and experience on a sensory level affects them on an intellectual and emotional one. Canaanshade is vibrantly alive and real, a fully tangible experience for all to see and notice, because the world in which was once imagined now has its own unique lifeblood which allows it to evolve into an existence between the worlds. Karnes painted the realities inside Canaanshade with a deft hand for detail any fantasy reader would absorb into on sight.

In the middle of the action, I found myself wondering when the intensity was going to ease and the realm would be restored to peace. The level of intensity never let up, and each step and turn the characters took inside Canaanshade led to a greater challenge than the previous one they had fought. I think for me, the story is simply a bit too intense, but the continuity aspect of the series remains intact for a reader who likes well conceived worlds stitched together and held firm from one book to another. I would recommend this series to anyone who can handle the harder hitting passages, the visual nature of the action sequences, and the level of depth that the author has written into the chapters. The message from The Pact carries straight through The Dragon’s Pawn, and for that Karnes should be commended.

My favourite part of the The Dragon’s Pawn was the hyposensory experience of the conjoined dreamstate awareness of when the men returned as boys back to their childhood game. For me, the most creative aspect of the novel was how they physically did not leave their ordinary lives but they took a spiritual plane of existence and acted out the game on a new plane of perception completely. It was quite clever and awe inspiring to walk through the chapters where Karnes explored how they were able to transform their reality to one they could only previously imagine and hope to see.

Inspirational Messages underneath the drama:

One of the things that I find such a blessing to the way in which Karnes writes his novels, is that he always includes a measure of inspiration for his readers to find inside the books. His inspirational guidance is not strong or overhanded but rather graceful and practical to shine a light on what is right, wrong, and perhaps the middle of the two. He allows his readers to fully accept the situations he is presenting in the stories, and then, allowing them the freedom of choice to make up their own minds about the paths each character took and how their lives reflect on the choices that can be determined in real life.

I even found it inspiring that he showed an honest reaction to an incident at school, where Addison over reacted to save a teacher’s life by having his mind break from that chosen reality to the reality of how his wife died. Karnes brought the full horror of that incident out of Addison’s life to the forefront, where he transposed it against the intensity of the moment where a student was attacking a fellow teacher. In that slight moment of illogical reaction, we saw the full depth of Addison’s grief and the tipping stone of how far he needs to come back to the life he is nearly about to lose. The realism in that choice to bring one circumstance to a new height out of the depths of one man’s sorrow shows the level of strength Karnes has for his writing and for taking his characters to further depths than perhaps they were even willing to share themselves.

Fly in the Ointment:

There were piercing instances of fight sequences and scenes whilst they were inside the realm and world of Canaanshade, and I must confess, that I am a reader who prefers less excessive violence moreso than any other kind. Chilling scenes of intense drama or even moderate violent instances which are warranted for the sequence or scene in which they arise, as sometimes certain stories have a measure of intensity more than the others I typically read, but in this story, I must be honest as I was pushed a bit past my envelopes of tolerance. I am just not a reader who needs to read about what happens when you take a sword and for better or worse due extreme harm to your opponent without having anything left to the imagination. I believe the visuals on page 126 would have fared better for me if it had merely said Garrett mortally wounded the hill giant! For me, the scene was heightened to a level of ick because honestly, do I need to read in graphic detail what happens after the sword goes through a giant?! No!

My one consolation is the fact that the character inside of Garrett is Addison, and he like me, decided that bloodshed and violence was not the way in which he wanted to travel either. Although, like I said, the reader in me could do with less visuals and still have the effect of the moment which arrived in his section of Canaanshade experience.

Likewise, the blood bath in chapter twenty-four was skipped over, as I already knew what to expect when Bentheos would grow in power and master the sword of which he always sought to wield power over. I honestly had a feeling this might have been included because his master was Luke, the boy with the heart of war in his chest and the sight of bloodshed in his eyes. The boy never knew limits, and likewise, that rubbed off in effect on his character inside the game, except for one slight difference, the boy had remorse, his character was without the feeling for it.

On the writings of Mitchell S. Karnes:

Karnes fuses memory with fiction, as he takes elements of his own life’s experiences and places them into the context of a story which can serve to help teens and children who may not be as aware of the dangers that can lurk within the shadows of a game. He provides a blueprint of a reality in which the root cause of bullying is examined and the after effects of how that bullying can take a toll on those who have to deal with the onslaught of attack from their peers. The blessing is how he chooses to teach the lesson by giving his characters near complete freedom to tell the story in the manner in which applies to each of their personalities. For me, the prequel I felt was a bit too strong in how it was delving into the darker sides of the story’s heart, but perhaps, for this particular story it had to be painted dark because of how dark the mind was of the bully who was responsible for everything that occurred in the climax.

Having read The Dragon’s Pawn, I can now say that the scope of the series is far more apparent and the heart of what the story is attempting to share with its readership is simply one of warning. To be mindful of your actions and to be cautious of the friends you keep as much as the games you play in the realm of fantasy and fun. There are plenty of games that can turn deadly or harmful if they are played the wrong way or for the wrong reasons, but all games at their center can be celebrated for their common goal of companionship, friendship, and the joy of playing the game for what it is rather than turning it into something that it is not.

Previously I had the honour of hosting Mr. Karnes:

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This book review is courtesy:

The Dragon's Pawn
by Mitchell S. Karnes
Source: Direct from Author

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

Also by this author: The Pact

Genres: Young Adult Fiction, YA Fantasy, YA Urban Fantasy


Published by Black Rose Writing

Format: Paperback Edition

Of the author Mitchell S. Karnes, who gave me the opportunity to read “The Dragon’s Pawn” even after the blog tour was cancelled. I cannot thank him enough for allowing me to see the fuller scope of the story in which he has conceived through the Canaanshade Journeys series. I appreciated the chance to continue the story as much as for giving me a new sense of the reality the characters faced not only in the prequel but the larger scope of depth through this second installment of a quartet series. The two work well together and are bookends of each other.

NOTE: Mr. Karnes is hosting a giveaway on his blog for both “The Pact” and “The Dragon’s Pawn” independent of my review of “The Dragon’s Pawn”. Please direct your attention to his website for the details. This giveaway is not connected to Jorie Loves A Story.

Be sure to scope out my Bookish Upcoming Events to mark your calendars!!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Reader Interactive Question:

After reading this review and clicking over to read my review of “The Pact”, what is your takeaway of the benefit of having young adults and middle school children read the series? What do you think their reaction would be realising how far bullying can lead you down the wrong path and how dangerous lives can hang in the balance when you choose to do harm?

{SOURCES:  Mitchell S. Karnes photograph and biography, The Dragon’s Pawn book cover and book synopsis were provided by Mitchell S. Karnes and used with permission. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Tuesday, 17 June, 2014 by jorielov in Balance of Faith whilst Living, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Review (non-blog tour), Bookish Discussions, Bullies and the Bullied, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Excessive Violence in Literature, Gaming, Good vs. Evil, Heroic Bloodshed, Heroic Fantasy, Indie Author, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Light vs Dark, Literature for Boys, Middle Grade Novel, Questioning Faith as a Teen, Realistic Fiction, Role Playing Games, Sports and Jocks, Teenage Relationships & Friendships, Wrestling, YA Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

+Blog Book Tour+ The Pact by Mitchell S. Karnes

Posted Thursday, 30 January, 2014 by jorielov , , , 3 Comments

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The Pact by Mitchell S. Karnes

The Pact by Mitchell S. Karnes

Published By:  Black Rose Writing, 22 August 2013

Official Author Website: Site

Converse on Twitter: #iwasbullied, #bullying, #bullied

Available Formats: Softcover Page Count: 232

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a stop on “The Pact” Virtual Book Tour, hosted by TLC Book Tours, in which I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the author Mitchell S. Karnes in exchange for an honest review . I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired To Read:

As foreshadowed on the companion Author Q&A piece on bullying which coincides with this book review, The Pact is a story which appealed to me very much as I was bullied in school since a very young age. In the 80s/90s bullying wasn’t as widely spoken about nor understood. Generally back then, if you were picked on you were told to ‘buck up and take it’ and not be such a silly emotional girl. I am thankful I had my parents to support me and help me avoid the worst of what could have happened by switching me out of schools. I have always been wanting to advocate for social change and social conscience in regards to being bullied, and by featuring this novel on my blog, I am taking the first step towards this goal!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comMitchell S. KarnesAuthor Biography:

Mitchell S. Karnes was born in Kansas and spent his childhood in Illinois. He lives in Franklin, TN with his wife, Natalie, and five of their seven children, where he serves as the Pastor of Walker Baptist Church. He holds a Bachelor’s degree and three Master’s degrees. Mitchell’s first novel, Crossing the Line, made the Southern Writer’s Guild’s “Must Read” list. His short stories include: “When Nothing Else Matters,” “A Family Portrait,” and “Grampa Charlie’s Ring.” He hopes to entertain, challenge, move and teach through each and every story. The Pact is just the beginning…the first book in a four-part series.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Re-visiting School & the Life therein for teens:

The Pact opens innocently enough as the central character who is being bullied is seen going through the motions of his everyday life at school. Paul is targeted from observation in this early stage of the story for being different from his peers; including his exploits in literature which delve into history as he is an avid researcher for a role-playing game he’s keen on. Karnes deftly brings back the joy and the trauma of life within school walls for those who have had to deal with bullies at some point in their lives. The scene is bittersweet and real, by giving both sides of the action supplemented with short back-stories on each of the characters. I appreciate this discovery of who the bullies are as they are bullying Paul, as it opens the door to understand what makes a bully tick.

At the very same time, I appreciated that the main lead character of Scott enters the scene by deftly using defense skills to deflect and defuse the situation before it could grow worse in proportion. I oft wondered myself if self-defense classes might have helped me handle similar situations where the physicality of being bullied was being tested against the skills I clearly lacked in knowledge. I never wanted to study martial arts to instigate a fight, but rather to defend myself when the bullies turnt uglier in their abuse towards physical threats which could escalate without warning.

The insertion of the role-playing game of Warriors & Thieves is quite bang-on and accurate as eighth grade or ninth grade is generally the years in which role-playing enters into the life of teens eager to break out of the droll of school related angst. I even liked how each of the players would choose different approaches within the gameplay itself to assert their own voice into the realm of the game! I also knew that the author might dig a bit deeper into the presumed reality of the game and the actual reality of each individual group who plays the game. Given the fact that each set of gameplay is based on each individual Game Master’s vision for the game, the game itself can take on different queues for each round of simulated action. The balance between good vs. evil and light vs. dark can vary as much as what the general focus of each game is elected to be featuring. As the story moves forward, the interplay of the characters lays a foundation rooted in inspirational fiction as an essay on how to find balance between faith and life as its lived.

My Review of The Pact:

I had a knowing smile on my lips as I began the first chapter of The Pact, as Karnes had a way of travelling me back through time and re-entering my own life on school grounds. Despite the difference in gender from the lead character, there was enough semblance of recognition of an average day at school for me to re-adjust my mind’s eye to endeavour to go back into that hidden world just out of view. I say ‘hidden world’ because life at school isn’t something that you can prepare for nor is it something that you hope it will be. You have to adjust to what comes across your path as you live through the experience. Heavy leaden backpacks, heavy books, your shoulders off-setting the balance and trying to keep in step with your schedule of the day’s classes is all par for course! Such a great lead-in for the story!

Luke might be a war-monger in Warriors & Thieves, but I was curious to seek out what was motivating him to push Chris and Paul out of their comfort zones of reality into the common bloodshed of warfare. There are many ways to accomplish self-confidence and self-advocacy without pushing the envelopes of violence, especially unrelented violence in a game which is usually grounded in skill, maneuvers, and obstacles. Chris on the other hand has a brilliant way of keeping the rules of the game intact by pushing the action of the game forward within the confines of the realm, but lacks the clarity of knowing how to enliven the story of which the world-building is meant to carve out of its niche. Paul is the innocent of the group, learning as he builds confidence through his friendships. Scott comes from playing the game through his father’s advice. Endeavouring to give a bit more of a back-story to each of the characters which gives you a lifeblood to the game eliminating the one dimensional interface. One of my favourite revelations is when Scott shows Paul his hand-drawn map of Canaanshade which he created with his father. The intricacy of the world arc is exactly what all of us hope for in our fantasy realms of reading adventures! Lit alive with creatures and characters you want to know more about.

As the story eases back into the schoolyard drama of sorting out how to find your way on a wrestling team, we start to see a switch in the path the story is leading the reader. At the conclusion of Chapter Five there is a haunting foreshadow which queues in a larger message of the evolving narrative. Whilst we see Scott become a member of the Junior High Wrestling team, we see the underpinnings of his confliction over finding the balance between strength and humility. To know when to assert one’s knowledge of the fight on the mat and when to be humble and yield to your opponent. The chapters in which we see the interaction of the boys on the team lend a good viewing of the complexities all youth have during their growing years especially as they sort out how to be fueled by self-confidence but not clouded by pride.

Intuitively, Karnes keeps a few antidotes of Scott’s life away from the reader’s eyes, so at first the only way to foresee what could happen next is noticing the slight changes in his behaviour and reactions of speech. Then, in Chapter Twenty-Two the character flaw of Scott is pushed into full view and shocked all who discovered his darkest secret of which even he doesn’t fully understand the severity of.

Although I knew the intensity of the subject at hand, the sequent deaths in the story came at quite a shock as did the level of rage. This is a cautionary tale of how sometimes the lines between fiction and reality can become blurred and the true lesson is knowing the signs of when someone can no longer separate the difference of the two.

Inspirational Murmurings of Advice for teens:

What I was keen to see develop is if Scott’s family would embrace how he played the game with his late father’s advice on how to bring out the light in both the fictional realm of Warriors & Thieves as much as in the living realm of teenage life. There is always going to be ignorance for something people fear outright without merit, but if everyone took the time to actually see from the point of view of the teen who is involved, I think it would break down the barriers of communication. To see where they are approaching what they do in their everyday life and worlds, and understanding what motivates their interest, we are a step closer to understanding what is truly right and what is a caution for being wrong. I am never one to advise going against a child’s interest out of fear of what it might involve, but rather advocate for an open line of conversation to engage in the child’s interest and to root out what they are actually into. You always have to believe in your child (son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson, granddaughter, etc) first and foremost, and then, a measure of goodwill and willing to accept their interests if they have their heart and mind in the right place.

I also think it’s a good example of how one person’s influence can sway your thoughts away from what you internally already know are true. To be given feedback from a youth minister that contradicts how your own father raised you, I would imagine would weigh most heavily on your heart and mind. I had a measure of hope that this is one thread of the story Karnes would lead Scott to realising the difference between a positive influence and one that is not entirely negative but not entirely positive. I had hoped for him to redefine his belief in his father’s guidance and learn whom to trust now that his father has passed and can no longer offer him advice. This is one thread of the story that faded from view as the chapters took a turn in direction I discuss below in Fly in the Ointment.

I believe that no one should eclipse the methodology of parenting of a child when the parent is taking an active role in their child’s life. Parents who understand and know their child inside and out, know where their heart lies, and where their interests truly are leading them. Even grandparents need to become familiar with their grand-children’s interests and activities, because what might be viewed by outsiders as negative influences might actually be a way for their own grandson/daughter to directly impact positivity into the lives of their friends. At least these were my thoughts until the chapters in the book started to reveal how Luke was having trouble separating fiction from reality. In this instance, the greatest threat to the young lives in the story was Luke’s inability to proper distance himself from his role-playing character as he brought the game into real life where it did not belong to be explored.

Fly in the Ointment: (with a few spoilers)

Despite my champion belief that the story would triumph the bullying behaviour in the story, I was quite mystified as to the level of violence which erupted out of the heart of the central character’s wayward actions. I would have much preferred the central focus of the one event that stemmed directly out of the gameplay of Warriors & Thieves which took place at Luke’s grandparent’s house rather than the climax at the railroad bridge. One whole section felt a bit forced to me which is when Scott’s grandmother fervently urges her husband to ‘jump the rails’ ahead of the oncoming train. I didn’t foresee this anywhere in the story as behaviour befit his grandparents and the sequencing of their deaths had heavy emotional impact but could have been avoided completely.

I believe this is an after-school special which went too far to prove the point on behalf of bullying and what leads ordinary events to escalate to violence. If there had been a disclaimer in the beginning stating that this was a story based on living events where the characters names were changed, I might have gone so far as to say this was one isolated incident went horridly wrong. Yet, there are little nudges of discourse in the chapters themselves, where Scott takes on the role of being a bully rather than a bully’s guardian. In real life this can happen, as those who are tormented can oft times think the best course to deal with their attackers is to turn the tables. However, unlike in real life, a reader is privy to the character’s thoughts and thus, their motivations of a change in outward behaviour. This line of personality change in Scott is never actually addressed in a forthright manner but rather eluded too instead.

Also, what surprised me more than anything is the complete lack of common sense on behalf of all the boys involved, to where they would not confide in anyone: not a parent, a teacher, or a peer adviser. In my own life, if I ever saw any measure of extreme bullying coming towards me, I always deferred first to a faculty member but post haste confided in my parents as soon as I was off school grounds. I knew better than to attempt to deflect the worst threats of which are not always idly spewed by those who choose to cause harm to others. If the story is to serve as a lesson and guide to those who are being bullied, wouldn’t it have been better to write the story with a resolving ending of a better way of addressing the core issue!? And, why end the entire book on a loosely conceived cliffhanger, eluding to a larger story than what was presented?!

I am conflicted to say the least after reading this story in full. I only hope that my review of the book and of the posting of the Q&A session with the author will spark a measure of a response in both comment sections to where the dialogue can become open to all who want to weigh in on this topic which affects all of us. (whether indirectly or directly)

Bullying, Harassment, and Hazing:

The Pact remains true to form what teens regularly face in the fear of their next encounters with those who bully them. The incidents revealed inside do not shock me as they might some who read the story for the first time on just how far young boys will go to torment someone they feel they have the right to enforce power over. I am thankful that my own history of bullying was limited more to verbal insults (which carried with it a hearty dose of emotional anguish) and minor physical altercations which are too minor to mention in light of what occurs in the novel. I am not sure what originally instigated the behaviour of adolescents and college-aged co-eds to haze their fellow students and athletes.

As the story reveals, each of the key bullies of the story: Joe, Sammy, and Mark each have troubles in their own life and homes which starts to unravel what motivates them to torment Scott and Paul. Yet none of their actions would circumvent the actions of Luke, who like Scott is the greatest threat in the story. After concluding your reading of my book review of The Pact please take the time to read:

the first half of this showcase,

my Author Q&A on bullying with Mitchell S. Karnes!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

The “The Pact” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:

  1. 28 January: Review @ Tiffany’s Bookshelf
  2. 30 January: Author Q&A & Review @ Jorie Loves a Story
  3.  3 February: Review @ Patricia’s Wisdom
  4. 5 February:  Review @ You Can Read Me Anything
  5. 10 February: Review @ Suko’s Notebook
  6. 10 February: Author Q&A @ YA Reads
  7. 12 February: Review @ Maureen’s Musings
  8. 17 February: Review @ Seaside Book Nook
  9. 18 February: Review @ The Things You Can Read
  10. 19 February: Review @ Shelf Full of Books
  11. 20 February: ReviewSavings in Seconds

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

This blog tour is courtesy of:

TLC Book Tours | Tour HostThe Pact
by Mitchell S. Karnes
Source: Author via TLC Book Tours

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

Also by this author: The Dragon's Pawn

Genres: Young Adult Fiction, YA Fantasy, YA Urban Fantasy


Published by Black Rose Writing

on 22 August, 2013

Format: Paperback Edition

Pages: 232

Be sure to scope out my Bookish Upcoming Events to mark your calendars!!

{SOURCES:  Mitchell S. Karnes photograph and biography, The Pact book cover and the logo badge for TLC Book Tours were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Blog tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Thursday, 30 January, 2014 by jorielov in Balance of Faith whilst Living, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Bookish Discussions, Bullies and the Bullied, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Novel, Excessive Violence in Literature, Fly in the Ointment, Gaming, Good vs. Evil, Indie Author, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Light vs Dark, Literature for Boys, Middle Grade Novel, Questioning Faith as a Teen, Role Playing Games, School Life & Situations, Sports and Jocks, Teenage Relationships & Friendships, TLC Book Tours, Transfer Student at School, Wrestling, Young Adult Fiction