Monday, September 24, 2018

Ranger's Apprentice Series Review Part 1

Yes, part 1. I'm not crazy enough to think I can manage to review the entirety of this AMAZINGLY AWESOME SERIES THAT YOU HAVE TO READ RIGHT NOW in just one blog post. 

Before I get started, a few housekeeping notes. I'm not going to be able to write these posts without giving any spoilers. It's just not possible. But I'm going to try to make it easy for you to skip them if you so choose. Rather than just writing "spoiler" in red (because there are bound to be an inordinate amount of spoilers), I'm going to make anything I (or my mom or sisters) consider spoilery the color of the background. If you want to read it, highlight the text and it will appear.

Now then.

This is the book that started it all. Will, an orphan in the ward at Redmont fief, wants to be a knight. He wants to go to Battleschool more than anything. His fellow wardmate Horace is even chosen to go to Battleschool. But Will is too small. He is chosen to train as a Ranger. "Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people."—from John Flanagan's website. They're amazingly good at archery, riding, unseen movement, silent movement, strategy, and they're quite addicted to coffee, though that doesn't come in for several books. They each protect a fief in the kingdom of Araluen, but the Ranger Corp is an organization unto itself that answers only to the king, not to the fief's baron. However, Ranger Halt and Baron Arald of Redmont fief are good friends, and also good friends of King Duncan. And Halt is an especially good friend of Redmont's Courier, Pauline, just as Will is good friends with Pauline's new apprentice and his former wardmate Alyss.

Now, it may come as a shock that I didn't absolutely love the first book. It was interesting and I liked it, sure, but I wasn't nearly as invested as I am now. Other people have gotten hooked on the series with the first book, like a little girl at the library who went to a Ranger's Apprentice themed horse camp where they introduced her to the series, and now she's devouring them. It's a good setup for the series. It establishes quite well most of the major players in the series (a few don't come in until book 2, though), and creates long lasting friendships. And Will performs his first significant act of the series, in a fight against evil former baron of Gorlan, Morgarath. But now, Will getting his first Ranger horse. It happens to them all and it never gets old.

Morgarath has been trapped behind impassable mountains for years, but now it appears he may be devising a plan to attack Araluen at last. Will, Horace, and Halt's former apprentice Gilan set out on a mission and discover Morgarath's evil deeds.

I liked this one better than the first. Will, Horace, and Gilan are pretty awesome together, like when Gilan's teaching them the two knife defense against a sword and they create a scenario where a Ranger is facing an opponent with a battleax, is backed up against a cliff, and his bowstring is broken. "Jump. It'll be less messy that way." Another key character is introduced in this book: Evanlyn, also known as Princess Cassandra. Also introduced is Erak, the Skandian, who is basically a viking. You wouldn't think from the circumstances Erak would be a good character, but he actually turns out to be quite awesome. Halt throws people into moats, even though Pauline doesn't exactly approve—hey, Alyss suggested it the second time!—a bridge gets burned, Horace kills Morgarath, and Will and Evanlyn are kidnapped as slaves. And there it ends!

This is where I got totally, irrevocably, forevermore hooked on this series. Will and Evanlyn are sold into slavery in Skandia. King Duncan can't send Halt after them for internal danger issues, so Halt publicly insults the king, and his treasonous behavior gets him banished from Araluen. Halt takes Horace with him to rescue Will and Evanlyn.

And WILL GETS ADDICTED TO WARMWEED AND HE'S NOT HIMSELF AND IT'S JUST TERRIBLE AND AAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!! That's how I got hooked on the series. It tore out my heart and I just can't. But Halt and Horace together are totally awesome. The humor. And there's this really terrible, unbelievably awful guy they run into that does some really horrendous, unforgivable things just to get a reaction and AAAHHHH!!!! But this is where Horace starts to be called the Oakleaf Knight, and honestly, it's the most appropriate thing ever because he spends just as much time hanging out with Rangers as he does in Battleschool. (The Rangers all wear oakleaves: bronze for apprentices, silver for active Rangers, gold for retired ones.) Though at first Halt thought maybe he'd said "Oak Pancake." XD And I believe it's this book where it's said Will started the honey-in-coffee thing, though in later books, Halt's the one who started it and passed it on to his apprentices and Horace.

This battle gave me such bad writer envy. Seriously. Next time I need to write a battle I need to reread it and The Siege of Macindaw. People are captured and Will, Halt, and Horace are finally reunited, and the Temujai are attacking Skandia, and goodness gracious, that battle! Only Will's siege tops it.

There's Halt and Horace's "what" exchange, the Vallasvow against the royal family of Araluen, Halt's stash of forged seals, Erak being Erak—sounding like a bear crashing in the forest and causing problems with it, awesome battle strategy, Will being amazing, Horace being amazing, Halt being amazing, Evanlyn being amazing. And then Erak is elected Oberjarl and so now there can be a treaty between Skandia and Araluen, which is great, and later the reason for Will's last name. It's great. Though I have a hard time remembering what was in #3 and what was in #4. They kinda run together.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Carrie Mouse Scavenger Hunt Winner

Y'all want to see the whole cover, don't you? If you've put it together, lucky duck, you know what it looks like. If you didn't, here you go. :)

Isn't it awesome? I love Rebekah's sculptures, and I love the way it all came together.

But you're wanting to know who won the giveaway, aren't you? The winner is:


Congratulations! I'll be emailing you for your mailing address, and the book and doll will be in the mail as soon as I have a copy to send. The book will be here before we know it!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Carrie Mouse Cover Reveal Scavenger Hunt

It's cover reveal time! I'm so excited about this. It's going to be awesome and you're going to love it. I'm telling you, my sister is one talented person.

We're going to do a scavenger hunt. The cover has been cut into nine different pieces and scattered across the blogosphere. Collect them all, piece them together (you can use something like if you don't have a collage creator handy), and email it to me at hunekeauthor(at)gmail(dot)com to be entered in an extra special giveaway: A book signed by both the author and the illustrator and a handmade Carrie Mouse doll to be shipped upon publication of the book. All entries must be submitted by midnight EDT on Thursday, September 20. The winner will be announced Friday, September 21 right here on my blog. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only.

Here's piece number one to get you started. Links to the other pieces will be down below.

About the Book

Martha Squirrel made her journey down the big hill seem like a grand adventure. But what happens when Carrie Mouse disobeys her mama and explores the giant garage?

Inspired by a true story, Carrie Mouse and the Giant Garage tells the story of a young mouse who gets trapped in the garage of the human house at the bottom of the hill. Beautifully illustrated with clay sculptures, this is a book you won’t want to miss!

About the Illustrator

Rebekah Huneke is a homeschool graduate who lives in Georgia with her parents, sisters, and yellow Labrador named Sophie. She has been working with Sculpey since age nine, and sells her creations in the Klay Kottage Etsy shop. She also creates and sells stuffed animals and knitted goods. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing cello and piano. Carrie Mouse and the Giant Garage is her first book.

To learn more about Rebekah and her work, visit:
follow @klaykottage on Instagram

Monday, September 10, 2018

Acktorek (and Carrie Mouse and life) Update

Writing is so slow these days. :(

I hate that it's taking me so long to get Acktorek written. I really love this book, but it's taking forever. I just keep telling myself that it'll get done when God wants it to get done.

I haven't really said much about the story line of Acktorek, since I wasn't sure what would be spoilery and what wouldn't, but I think I'm far enough along now to have a good idea. I don't have an official description yet or even a logline, but I'll do my best.

Emma Edsel is a science nerd and the least popular girl in school, so when the new boy takes notice of her, she's immediately suspicious. Especially since he's snooping around the creek at the end of her street and she gets the odd sense he might be able to read her mind. His name is Mitchell. The popular crowd likes him. Emma's blind sister Carla likes him. Emma's dad even likes him. But Emma's sure there's something up.

Strange things begin to happen: her sister's mysterious seizure, a physics-defying energy field at school, secrets at which Mitchell keeps hinting but not explaining...and Emma just doesn't know what to make of any of it. Her world is crumbling and her family may be in serious danger. Is Mitchell the cause of everything, or is he the solution?

I'm writing from Mitchell's POV at the moment, which has been really interesting and I'm finding out all sorts of things about what's going on. This story isn't exactly turning out how I initially thought it would, but I love it anyway. Problem is...

Carrie Mouse is the priority. Which isn't exactly a problem because I'm really excited about that project too, but it does significantly cut down on Acktorek time when I have to spend the day cleaning up illustrations in Photoshop instead of writing. Or knitting little sweaters. I'm just so glad these sweaters are small because if they were any bigger I'd be even further behind. It takes my sister so much less time to create the Carrie dolls. But then, she just has to cut the fabric. I have to make my fabric. 

But it's coming along. And Rebekah and I came up with some picture book ideas while we were playing tennis at the city park the other day. Some for Carrie Mouse, some for another series which will appeal to little boys. Think fairy tales/sneezing wolf. It's going to be fun. And then I came home to watch The Clone Wars with my other sister while knitting more sweaters. Not enough sweaters. :P But the cover reveal is coming next week, so yay!

And of course there are other things that keep me from spending as much time on Acktorek as I'd like. Like new violin students who are so super cute. And RANGER'S APPRENTICE!!!!!!!!

Seriously, this series is AMAZING! I just finished reading all of them, including Early Years and Royal Ranger. But there will be more Royal Ranger books, and I can't wait. If you haven't read Ranger's Apprentice yet, get thee to the library and get started now. Or Amazon because they're totally good enough to buy, but considering there are 15 in all right now, that's a lot of books. And you'll want to read them all. Will Treaty is the best. And so are Horace and Halt and Evanlyn and Alyss and Gilan and Crowley and Pauline and Maddie and Erak and Malcolm and Tug and Abelard (yes, Tug and Abelard are horses). And the new-apprentice-gets-his/her-first-horse thing never gets old. And I so want to be a Ranger. These books are so funny and intense and there are sad parts and it's amazing and I can't rave enough. I'm going to have to do a review or a video or both or something now that I'm done. I love these characters to pieces and the stories are so good too. And they're obsessed with coffee. It's so funny. 

So yeah, John Flanagan is a reason Acktorek is going slow. But it's totally worth it.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Creighton Hill Audiobook is Here!

IT'S HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don't even want to think about how long this audiobook has been in progress. It's been a LOOOOONG time. But it's done! And on Amazon!

Audiobooks are great and I love them, but I had no idea how much work they are to make. I have a new respect for audiobook narrators. They're superheroes.

Response from my test listeners has been positive: one of my piano students listened to it multiple times. So I'm excited. And now y'all can give it a listen.

So get on over to Amazon and check it out!

P.S. The Carrie Mouse cover reveal sign up is still open, if you're interested.