‘Exiles’ BLOG TOUR: Book Review + Character Interview!


If I was to tell you about the author I most admire, it would be Jaye L. Knight. Her books are some of my favorites, and I can’t say enough good things about her writing. Imagine my excitement when I was one of the bloggers chosen for her Exiles weekend release blitz! It’s a weekend-long blog tour that celebrates the release of the newest Ilyon Chronicles book, Exiles. Dozens of bloggers are gathering to review the book, interview the characters, release excerpts, and more!

If you want to be a part of the festivities, check out the official blog tour schedule and visit the other bloggers!

As part of the blog tour, I was granted a special interview with one of the main characters of Exiles: Jace Ilvaran! Jace is a wonderful young man, and I loved getting to discuss some deep topics with him. I now have the pleasure of sharing that conversation with you:

Character Interview with: Jace Ilvaran

Kiara (Me): Thank you so much for talking with me, Jace. Time is short, so let’s dive right in: if you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? 

Jace: That I wasn’t a monster. Everyone told me I was, so I believed it. Even just a couple of years ago I believed it. It’s a very damaging belief to have about yourself.

K: I can’t imagine how hard that was. Your ryrik blood gives you several quite useful abilities, though, such as enhanced senses. Which ryrik ability do you find the most useful, and why? 

J: Being able to see in the dark is very useful. I’d probably say it was the most useful, but then, if not for the increased strength, stamina, and endurance of my ryrik blood, I probably would have been dead a long time ago, and so would many of the people I care about.

K: Let’s say you were tasked with writing a letter of apology. Who would it be addressed to and what would it say?

J: There are many people I could apologize to, but if I could, I would write a letter to Kalli and Aldor. They gave me so much. They gave me the first home I’d ever known, and while I was grateful, I still let so much of my past and my doubts overshadow it. I would apologize for that and tell them just how much they meant to me and how I’ve been able to overcome many of my doubts and my past.

K: Speaking of your past, let’s imagine that you have the chance to go back and rewrite your life story. You can avoid all the pain you have gone through, but you also won’t have met your friends and you will be different as a result of a different upbringing. Would you take the opportunity or not?

J: No, I wouldn’t. I do long for the life I couldn’t have lived with my mother and Elian as my father, but I could never give up knowing Kyrin or the others I’ve come to love. The pain was worth it.

K: What do you personally believe is your greatest strength and greatest weakness?

I’d say my great weakness is self-doubt. Even now, after all the amazing things Elôm has done in my life, it is still a trap I can fall into. Greatest strength . . . I suppose loyalty. I would die for those I care about.

K: Thank you for your time, Jace. You are a delight, and I can’t wait to see how your story plays out. I have no doubt that you will go on to do amazing things.

I also had the exciting chance to read Exiles in advance and provide my own review of the book. I want to stress that this is a completely honest and unbiased review; Jaye L. Knight was not involved in the making of this review and had no influence over any beliefs or opinions expressed within it. 

Exiles Bookends Book Review

Exiles is, simply put, a great book. I use “great” for lack of a better word (though “amazing”, “stunning”, and “nothing short of perfect” would all work too). There are a few things I would like to touch on:

First of all, I want to talk about character arcs. Characters are one of the most important parts of a story, and Jaye has never shied away from creating realistic and complex characters. Seeing as this is the fourth book in the Ilyon Chronicles, character arcs have already had time to develop throughout the series, but they continue to do so in this latest novel. The most drastic (and my personal favorite) character arc in Exiles is that of Prince Daniel of Arcacia. I won’t give details, since I’m trying to make this a spoiler-free review, but I will say that his arc is beautifully realized and something I have been waiting for since the first book. Leetra’s arc also arrives at a new milestone, which came about more naturally than I could have ever anticipated. Although I specifically singled out these two characters, the rest of the Exiles cast shines just as brightly.

The plot is engaging, clear, and wonderfully structured. It is fast-paced but easy to follow, and the book’s twists and turns left me pleasantly shocked. I love when I can’t guess the plot of a book, and Jaye L. Knight’s writing has never been predictable. The end of the book left me hungry for more, and I can’t wait for the next installment.

While I could go on and on about how much I love the book and the rest of the series, I should probably stop while I’m ahead. The character development, plot, and overall fantasy world is nigh on perfect.

Jaye L. Knight’s newest novel, Exiles, has been released! Exiles is the fourth book in the Christian fantasy series, Ilyon Chronicles. Read about it below and be sure to check out the other blog stops on the tour by visiting the official tour page. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

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About the Book

Exiled after their defeat in Samara, the Resistance struggles to find allies in their quest to restore King Balen to his throne and put an end to the emperor’s tyranny. When the crete people refuse to lend their aid, Balen leads a group to Dorland to reason with them and win their support. However, enemies prove to be everywhere, and they find themselves in a fight to keep Dorland from becoming Daican’s latest conquest.

Back in Landale, the arrival of a new enemy forces Trask and Anne to tread more carefully than ever. Tensions are rising, and the enemy is determined to test Anne’s loyalty and root out the location of Trask and the Resistance once and for all.

Feeling trapped within the walls of Valcré, Prince Daniel must contend with an ever-eroding relationship with his father. As their clashes escalate, the situation becomes potentially life threatening when his loyalty is called into question. His sister seems bent on branding him a traitor and actively seeking to condemn him to the fate of those put to death in their father’s new arena. Daniel is certain his father would never execute his only son and heir, but with other forces at work, it might not be that simple.

One small misstep could prove fatal for all.

Available now on Amazon!

Haven’t discovered the world of Ilyon yet? The first three Kindle books are on sale August 11th – 14th!
You can find them on Amazon.

About the Author

JayeAuthor2015Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Etsy.
Share in the excitement of the release and enter to win a themed giveaway pack! Prizes include an autographed copy of Exiles, a pewter dragon necklace by treasurecast, and a sword letter opener! (Giveaway is open to US residents only. Cannot be shipped internationally.)



Pros And Cons: First Person vs. Third Person

Kiara decided that today would be a great day to talk about writing point of view. She knew it was a topic that beleaguered many writers, and she felt like it would be beneficial to discuss when it’s useful to use third person and when it’s better to use first.

Okay, enough of that. That was an example to show that using third person isn’t always the best choice. In blog posts, it can be unwieldy and awkward. Both first person and third person can be useful when writing, but it’s important to know when to use each of them. Let’s break down what the point of views are and the pros and cons of using them.

Pros vs cons first person third person


Uses: I, me, my

Example: I gazed up at the clear blue sky. A couple albatrosses soared above me, their wide wingspan creating shadows that darted and whirled across the ship’s deck. I had always loved seabirds; I wanted to be as carefree and daring. 


  • It gives a personal feel to the story.
  • It reveals more of the narrator’s thoughts and feelings.
  • It feels like the character is talking to the reader.
  • It creates an avenue for the character’s distinctive voice and style of storytelling.


  • It can create a narrow viewpoint.
  • It’s not a good point-of-view for characters who will not willingly tell the readers their feelings.
  • As you are seeing the story through the mind of one character, they can only guess what other characters are thinking or feeling, which can create misunderstandings as the narrator may misinterpret body language and facial expressions. (NOTE: This can be turned into a pro if it is used to advance a part of the plot).
  • Similarly to the last point, since the story is confined to the mind of one individual, you cannot give the reader information that the narrator does not already know.(NOTE: Again, this can be a positive thing if you specifically do not want the reader to know about events and facts outside of the narrator’s frame of reference).

Use It When:

  • You are writing any sort of personal narrative that is from your point-of-view (such as blogs and personal anecdotes).
  • Your character is telling the story.
  • You want the reader to see the world through one character’s eyes.
  • You want a more personal and inside look at the thoughts and feelings of your narrator.

Good Uses of First-Person: Percy Jackson and the Olympians (Rick Riordan), The Ascendance Trilogy (Jennifer A. Nielsen), Dragon Slippers (Jessica Day George), The Reckoners (Brandon Sanderson), The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)



Uses: (Character’s name), he/him/his, she/her

Example:  Cooper gazed up at the clear blue sky. A couple albatrosses soared above him, their wide wingspan creating shadows that darted and whirled across the ship’s deck. He had always loved seabirds; he wanted to be as carefree and daring. 


  • It can lend itself to more detailed descriptions (sometimes the first-person narrator will not be as interested in describing things to the reader).
  • It provides opportunities for several different character point-of-views within the story. (Example: Every other chapter focusing on a different character but remaining in third-person).
  • You can tell the readers things that the main character does not know or can show them events that the main character is not experiencing.
  • You can explain the character’s feelings to the reader when the character would never tell anyone.


  • Sometimes third-person can feel emotionally removed.
  • It can feel long-winded.
  • Since it has an unseen narrator with no specific voice (other than your own unique writing style), it can sound monotonous if not written correctly.
  • Since you, as the unseen narrator, know the feelings and motives of other characters and can reveal them to the reader, you run the risk of “head-hopping” (in other words, writing from one character’s point of view and suddenly switching to another).

Use It When: 

  • You are not writing a personal anecdote or narrative (such as when you are writing research and analytical essays).
  • You want to reveal feelings and emotions that your main character is prone to suppressing.
  • You want to include events and information that the main character is not aware of.
  • You want a broader view of your world and characters.
  • Your character is not personally telling their story.

Good Uses of Third-Person: Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling), The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis), Epic Order of the Seven (Jenny L. Cote), Heroes of Olympus (Rick Riordan), The Ilyon Chronicles (Jaye L. Knight), Ranger’s Apprentice (John Flanagan)


But how do we know which point of view is the right one to use?

Although I included “When to Use” sections for both point of views, often times your writing won’t fall neatly into a preconceived category. The best way to discover whether to use first or third person is to try writing in both and see what sounds best. Sometimes stories can be written in either and it’s just the author’s preference. Trust your natural writerly instincts to tell you which one works.

And, y’know, if that doesn’t do anything for you, just play eeny-miney-mo to pick one.

Your turn! Which point of view is your favorite? Which one do you use the most, or do you use both equally? Do tell! 

The Truth About Emotional Support Dogs

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of internet hate directed towards Emotional Support dogs (or ESAs) and their handlers. Some arguments come from the uneducated masses, while others come straight from the mouths of service dog users, who seem to hold a certain disdain for ESA users. A lot of the “facts” being thrown around frustrate me because of how untrue and biased they are. So for today’s post, I’d love to separate fact from fiction when it comes to ESAs and their users.

The Truth About Emotional Support Dogs

What authority do I have on this? Well, I was clinically diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in June of 2016. This mental disorder causes me to struggle with severe anxiety and panic attacks. After realizing that my dog, Luna, grounds me in reality when I’m having anxiety and helps to calm me down, I decided to register her as an emotional support dog. (One argument that I constantly see is how there is no “official” ESA registration site, but I would like to point out that this site was also recommended for my cousin’s ESA dog by the U.S. Army). Luna’s presence is meant to be calming for me, and so I often take her places with me to minimize public panic attacks. Now that we have this all established, let’s take a look at what’s true and false about ESAs.

Luna shopping


TRUE: ESAs are not trained to complete specific tasks

While service dogs, such as hearing and guide dogs, must go through extensive training, emotional support animals do not have to meet the same requirements. Luna does not perform functions that service dogs do, such as opening doors, guiding, or alerting me to sounds. I am fully aware that she does not have that training, and I respect the hard work and stamina that goes into making a great service dog. While virtually any dog that comforts their mentally ill owner can be an ESA, service dogs are a selectively chosen group. I will never try to pass Luna off as a working dog when she isn’t actively completing tasks for me.

FALSE: ESAs are completely untrained

I fully believe that if you are going to be taking your ESA into public places, they need to behave themselves. This means that they shouldn’t be barking, going to the bathroom, or doing anything that disturbs others around them. Luna in particular is pretty chill in most public situations; I just need to work on her barking when she sees other dogs (she isn’t aggressive; she just wants to go play). As the owner and handler, you have a responsibility to have your dog trained, even if it isn’t for tasks.

TRUE: The ADA only protects ESAs when it comes to fair housing and airport issues

According to the law, emotional support dogs are allowed to accompany owners onto planes and must be accepted into no-pets housing.

FALSE: ESA handlers that take their dogs into other pet-friendly establishments are purposefully abusing the law

While the law does not give full access to emotional support dogs, many stores will still allow well-behaved ESAs access. Our local WalMart allows me to shop with Luna. I am not trying to take advantage of or to abuse the law by doing so. My mental disorder is something that does deeply affect my life, and having Luna with me genuinely helps.

TRUE: There are many people that lie about their pets being ESAs in order to take them everywhere

Sadly, since it is fairly easy to lie and say that your pet is an ESA, many people do so. This is wrong. While there isn’t any specific criteria that an ESA must fit, the one criteria that the user must fit is this: the user must have a psychological disorder that affects their life and warrants having an ESA. I have a letter from my counselor that states that my OCD affects my life and that Luna helps with my anxiety. Therefore, even if your pet brings you comfort, they are not an emotional support animal unless you have a psychological disorder that requires their presence to mitigate the effects of anxiety and/or depression.

FALSE: Everyone with an ESA is just an overly emotional pansy who is abusing the system

Mental challenges can be just as debilitating as physical ones. If you try to argue otherwise, you have never been the recipient of a panic attack that leaves you unable to function or of a similar psychological problem. Believe me, my ESA is not some millennial security blanket; she genuinely helps to reduce the life-altering anxiety that I face. While there are people who fake having ESAs, not everyone who uses one is faking it. This is a belief I have seen pervading in service dog users. I am sure that the people I have heard from are great people, but they tend to over-generalize ESAs and their users. They lean towards the belief that all ESAs are scams and that most are not well-behaved. Here’s the thing: when people cart around fake and disobedient “ESAs”, they’re not just making legitimate service dogs look bad – they also reflect poorly on genuine emotional support animals and their users. If we want unprejudiced access rights for both service dogs and real emotional support dogs, we users need to stick together instead of drawing a line in the sand.

FALSE: Since ESAs don’t complete any tasks, there is nothing special about them

Emotional support animals may not complete work-related tasks, but they develop a strong bond with their owner, and it takes a certain type of temperament to calm their user during an anxiety attack. I firmly believe that at this point, Luna is the only dog who could calm me as much as she does.

FALSE: ESAs distract service dogs

Service dogs are trained to ignore all distractions, including other dogs. Therefore, this isn’t a legitimate argument. If my ESA is distracting a service dog, then that service dog has not been properly trained. While a fake or misbehaving ESA could be distracting to be both people and other dogs, my well-behaved little Luna is not causing any service dog to neglect their duties.


In conclusion, emotional support animals are not trained for specific tasks, but their presence genuinely does help their mentally ill user. The law only states that they can go onto airplanes and stay in no-pets housing, but some stores do give them access anyway. Additionally, fake emotional support animals damage the reputations of genuine ESAs and service dogs alike.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion about emotional support dogs. I shall leave you with a picture of me and my Luna.


Now it shifts to you! What else would you like to know about ESAs? 

The “Hamilton” Tag

I love singing and I love history, so it’s really no surprise that I adore the Broadway musical “Hamilton”. Everything about the show is amazing, from the writing to the music to the acting, and I quickly became a huge fan. I came across “The ‘Hamilton’ Tag” from the YouTuber JonasAlmostFamous, and it sounded like a fun idea. So, without further ado, let’s do this!

The Hamilton Tag

1. How did you find out about “Hamilton”?

The internet. I didn’t pay too much attention to the craze at first, although I was aware of it. I saw the libretto/behind the scenes book at the library a few weeks ago and decided to get it. While reading and listening to the soundtrack, I immediately fell in love. Now I’m obsessed. It happens.

2. Favorite character? 

How can I possibly answer this? John Laurens.

The 58th GRAMMY Awards - "Hamilton" GRAMMY Performance


3. Character you would want to play?

It would be amazing to get the chance to play any character in the musical, but I think it would be especially fun to play Lafayette and then Jefferson. It would be interesting to go from playing Lafayette, a cocky but talented soldier who jumps off desks; to the “villain”, Jefferson, who has a more jazzy musical style and a certain manipulative swagger. I also have this fascination with Samuel Seabury, so I would love to play him just so I can do Farmer Refuted with Lin-Manuel.


4. Favorite song to listen to?

Meet Me Inside.

5. Favorite song to sing along with?

I would be lying if I said that I don’t immediately start singing along to any Hamilton song I hear, but I love singing along to You’ll Be Back. DA DA DA DAT DA, DA DA DA YA DA DA…

6. Part you always mess up when you’re singing along? 

For some reason, I always forget the lines “We will fight up close / seize the moment and stay in it / it’s either that or meet the business end of a bayonet” from Yorktown. It’s so frustrating because I know like, all of the other lyrics but I mess that up every time.

7. Can you rap Guns and Ships?

I don’t have the full song memorized yet, but I’m definitely fast enough and can already do the first few lines.

8. Which cast member would you most want to meet?

Lin-Manuel Miranda is a given, but also Anthony Ramos and Daveed Diggs.


9. Have you seen the show?

Sadly, no.

10. Have you read the book?

I’m currently reading it! 731 pages of awesome.

11. Favorite line in the show?

Hamilton’s line from Meet Me Inside: “You’re absolutely right. John should have shot him in the mouth; that would’ve shut him up”. It’s just so sassy.


12. Five words to describe the show?

Ambitious. Innovative. Emotional. Inspiring. Genius.


I enjoyed this tag, and I want to keep it going! I tag my fellow Hamiltrash friend, Maggie from Maggie’s Musings, to do her own version of the tag when she is able.

How about you? If you do this tag, share a link in the comments below!

A Thank You To My Teachers

A Thank You To My Teachers.jpg

As I approach graduation (it’s like, five days away, guys), I can’t help but reflect on my past four years of high school. For those of you who don’t know, I was homeschooled until 9th grade, at which point in time I started attending Commonwealth Charter Academy (it used to be called Commonwealth Connections Academy, but whatever). It’s a tuition-free cyber charter school, and although there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding cyber school, I have thoroughly enjoyed these past four years. I have had so many amazing teachers who have invested in my life and cared about me.

This week, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite teachers and the impact they have made on my education.

Mr. Kalahanis – 9th grade English – You were so much fun to have as a teacher! From your silly review questions to having us hold a mock trial against your puppy for “murdering” his stuffed animal, your lessons were always so lively. Seeing as you are from Greece, I also got to learn a lot about Grecian customs and culture. I always fondly look back on the time that you were my teacher, and you were a great one!

Mrs. Rivera – 9th grade Pre-Algebra and 10th grade Algebra – I can’t even tell you how much you impacted my education. I was never particularly good at math, but you made it as fun and easy as possible. Your genuine excitement and passion for math made me want to learn, and so many concepts that you taught me created a firm foundation for later math classes to rest upon. Not only were you an amazing teacher while I was in your class, but you continued to go above and beyond to be kind to me when I was no longer in any of your classes. You came to congratulate me when I was inducted into the National Honor Society; in my senior year, I attended another NHS induction and you made it a point to come visit me even though I wasn’t the one being inducted. It meant a lot to me that you still cared even though you hadn’t been my teacher for two years. You are truly remarkable.

Mrs. Offut – 9th grade World History – I love history, and I enjoyed how you would accentuate our lessons by showing us the trailers for historical films. When I took my Keystones in 10th grade and you administered them, you encouraged me when I became stressed and cried over the Algebra portion. You told me a story about a test you took in college where you thought you had done horribly and ended up getting the highest grade in the class. Well, you were right about me; I ended up getting “Advanced” on all of my Keystones!

Mrs. Begis – 10th grade Biology – Biology was fascinating, and you were the teacher who got to introduce me to my favorite branch of science, genetics. I learned a lot from your class, and I will always remember how you drew a blank and called a mouse’s foreleg a “mouse arm”. That was our class’s joke for a little while, haha.

Mr. Kimble – 10th grade U.S. History – I had so much fun in your class. One of my favorite things was how you would have “Today in History” facts every day. You were chill and let me be super competitive in our review games, even though I got a little intense at times. I loved getting to meet you, and I’ve heard from another classmate that you and your wife had a baby, so congratulations!! I think that you will be a great father.

Monsieur Bihoreau – 10th grade French I – Monsieur, j’adore Français, and it’s all because of you. During your class, I not only learned French, but I developed a love of the culture and people in France and French-speaking countries. I loved how you immersed us in the language by having us listen to French songs, and I still listen to “Je te Donne” a lot. You were always willing to help when I needed it, as well. I loved your accent and your class. Merci, Monsieur. I am privileged to be have been your étudiant.

Mrs. Carroll – 11th grade Honors English – I always said you were “the Mrs. Rivera of English”, and for good reason. Like her, you were so bubbly and excited about the subject that you taught, and although I already loved English, you made me even more excited to learn. Something I liked the most was that you always prodded us to look as deep as possible into the themes and symbolism of stories. I remember a time when another classmate commented on a poem about comfort food and said, “Maybe the author was just hungry”. It was amusing, and you laughed, but you never let us sit still and enjoy a story on the surface; we always got to the root of the meaning behind seemingly simplistic words and plots. You would always hold your book up to the microphone and flip through the pages so we could hear that you had your book with you and that we should go get ours. Sometimes you would hit the desk in your excitement and we would all ask if the desk was okay. However, one thing I will always remember is how you taught us to analyze the first sentence/paragraph of a story or poem, because those first sentences tell the most about the story and its message. No teacher had ever stressed that and none have since, but I wish more would, because you were right.

Mrs. Voitek – 11th grade Physical Science and 12th grade Chemistry – I got to be part of your very first CCA class, and I like to think that dealing with our craziness prepared you for any future classes you have. I had a blast with you as my Physical Science teacher, and that’s precisely why I insisted that I wanted no one but you as my Chemistry teacher this year. You’re really good at explaining difficult subjects, and making you laugh is so much fun. You also endure my incessant questions and help me every time, so thank you. I may not be Jude’s official godmother, but I love him and I love you. You are one of my favorite teachers. 🙂

Mrs. Morgan – 11th grade Honors American Government – Government and politics interested me, but before your class, I didn’t always understand them. I learned a lot about how government works, and your class is the reason I ended up being a part of the Youth and Government Club this year. Your lessons were interesting, and I discovered a passion for politics that I hadn’t known as strongly beforehand. Thank you for setting me on the path to becoming a more involved and informed citizen.

Mr. Martindell – 11th grade Psychology – One word describes all our classes – tangents. Okay, okay, you did teach us a lot about Psychology, but I also enjoyed whenever you talked with us about comics and books. You were super funny, and I made a list of all your random quotes.

Mrs. Hall – 12th grade Honors English – I really appreciate you fighting for me to speak at graduation, even if I ultimately didn’t get the role. You also went above and beyond to help when certain topics triggered my anxiety. Thank you.

Mr. Leonard – 12th grade Driver’s Ed – You taught me a lot about driving and I love that the ferrets were our class joke. #NeverForget #KeepTheFerretsAlive

Mrs. Goforth – 12th grade Youth and Government Club Advisor – Thank you so much for keeping us alive for four days in Harrisburg. I know that we all were a bit hyper and perhaps difficult at times, but it was obvious that you truly cared for us. One of my favorite memories is the fact that you didn’t like how little they fed us for breakfast, so you bought basically a whole buffet and fed us in your hotel room. You corralled us and helped us, and you are the perfect choice for YAG advisor.

Ms. Shaffer – 12th grade Harrisburg Prom Committee Coordinator – Thank you for making the first ever Harrisburg prom possible!! I loved meeting you this year, and you did a great job making everything come together. It was an amazing night, and I still can’t believe I won as the first ever Harrisburg Prom Queen! You were so nice and collaborative with us students, and I think I speak for the whole prom committee when I say that we absolutely loved you.

Mrs. Comegna – 12th grade Algebra 2 – You have been a great math teacher. You continued Mrs. Rivera’s good work and have taught me a lot about Algebra. You’re easy to understand and you’re always ready to help. I love that you teach your kids mathematical concepts and make videos with them, and it makes me happy that you told me you would have me babysit your kids if I lived closer. You have been so kind right from the beginning! Thank you for your patience and ability to have fun with math.

To all my teachers who have influenced me, educated me, and cared about me.

I wouldn’t be graduating in five days without you.

Thank you. I hope I can make you proud.

Your turn! Who are some of your favorite teachers and how have they influenced you?

Bookends Interviews: Jenny L. Cote


You may remember me writing about being an advance reader for Jenny L. Cote’s latest book, The Voice, The Revolution, and The Key. I have officially finished it and submitted my review, and although I can’t give anything away, I can tell you that it is an amazing piece of literature!

Through my journey as an advance reader, I have had the privilege of being able to share my blog with Mrs. Cote, as well as been given the opportunity to interview her. So, without further ado, it is my pleasure to welcome Jenny L. Cote to my blog for the first ever Bookends interview!

Me: I’m so glad to have you on my blog! I’ve just finished being an advance reader for your newest book, The Voice, the Revolution, and the Key. I loved all the new characters, which makes me curious: which new character is your favorite?

Jenny L. Cote: Cato the bald eagle, of course! I wasn’t expecting him. He just showed up in my book one day and I fell in love with his character. He ended up being the glue for the major plot line of the entire book.

I loved Cato as well! He was such a lovable character. Do you find your personality is similar to any of the members of the Order of the Seven?

They say that an author IS all of his or her characters, so yes, there’s a bit of me in each one of my characters. Even my villains, I expect. 🙂

As a young writer, I always wonder what it’ll be like to get my “big break”, so to say. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Write about what you love and are passionate about, and don’t write a word until you have exhausted your research. I don’t care if it’s even fantasy that you’re writing about – even fantasy is based in reality at some level! You can’t write about what you don’t know about, so you have to do your research. I happen to love it – research to me is the most fun part of being a writer. But many young writers I meet think it’s boring or a pain. I tell them about my travels and crazy adventures to hunt down information and their perspective changes. Research is a treasure hunt!

Speaking of your research, you have to do a lot of it. How do you keep it all organized?

Well, I organize books by category (I’m reading close to 200 for the Revolution), and actually had to buy a new book case to house them all. For printed sources I use file folders and accordion files. For internet searches, I have a running “Idea Page” where I cut and paste sources by category so I can find them again. As I build a detailed outline, I cut and paste my resources or make notes so I can find them when I’m ready to write a given scene.

Wow, that’s a lot of work! It’s worth it, I’m sure. Now, although I have always enjoyed writing and telling stories, it took me years to realize that I wanted to be able to write for the rest of my life. Before that, younger me wanted to be a dog groomer! Did you want to be anything else before you became a writer, and were there any people/events that were influential in your love of reading and writing?

Of course! I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I was grown up! I wanted to be a marine biologist and swim with dolphins, an actress, a designer of greeting cards, a corporate CEO – I was all over the map! But I wrote stories about talking fruit as a kid. So when I met Phil Vischer, I told him that I wrote “Fruity Tales” before he wrote “Veggie Tales.” 🙂 I ended up getting two marketing degrees and working in the healthcare field for a children’s hospital, but I was always writing and creating. My first entrance into writing happened when a book bubbled up out of me called “Now I Sea” about spiritual life lessons from the sea. It was a devotional book, and not my best work but I knew I wanted to be a writer once I created that book. At that time the real Max and Liz came to live with me and the idea for The Ark, the Reed, and the Fire Cloud came about. I met a literary agent who said she wanted to represent me and everything happened from there. But I’d have to say that my 7th grade English teacher, Morissa Weiss, taught me how to research, do outlines and write. I’m actually friends with her today so it’s pretty cool. C.S. Lewis is my literary hero and I’ll actually be writing him into my books as the main character when I cover WWII.

I’m excited for you to write about C.S. Lewis, but in The Voice, The Revolution, and The Key, the main historical character is Patrick Henry. If you could go back in time and ask him one question, what would it be?

Did you really know my sixth great grandmother Elizabeth Strong who grew up where you did in Hanover? (Why else would you go to bat and help her as a war widow when you became governor?) I’ve written it fictionally that he did, and hope so.

Thank you so much for your time, Mrs. Cote! You are truly a joy to talk to.


Award-winning author Jenny L. Cote, who developed an early passion for God, history, and young people, beautifully blends these three passions in her two fantasy fiction series: The Amazing Tales of Max and Liz and Epic Order of the Seven. Likened to C.C. Lewis by readers and book reviewers alike, she speaks on creative writing to school and universities around the world.  A Virginia native, Jenny now lives in Roswell, Georgia.

 Voice revolution key
The Voice, The Revolution, and the Key will be available in stores on August 15th, 2017. For more information, visit the website.

My Top 5 YouTubers


Ah, YouTube. It’s the venerable home of funny animal videos, bizarre challenges, and lengthy how-to tutorials. But amidst all its random twists and turns, YouTube has plenty of determined content creators that deserve recognition for their hard work and unique ideas.

I love watching YouTube videos, and there are some YouTubers that stand out more than others. Here’s a list of my top 5 favorite YouTubers (in no particular order):

1. Shonduras


Shaun McBride (or Shonduras, as he’s known on social media) is a daily vlogger who encourages people to get out and make every day “the best day ever”. Whether he’s traveling, hanging out with Jenny (his wife) and Adley (their daughter), or doing something completely spontaneous and fun with his friends, he’s always upbeat and ready to take on whatever comes his way. His humor and laidback attitude is what really drew me to the channel, and now I watch his vlogs every day. Shonduras’ sister channel, Spacestation Stuff, adds some fun games and challenges with his family and friends into the mix.

2. Studio C


It’s hard to find clean, yet hilarious, comedy these days. Studio C is a clean sketch comedy show that regularly uploads their sketches to YouTube. The actors are super talented and their ideas are always creative and unique. From exploring what it might look like to defend your home with nothing but a paintball gun to settling the age old “my dad could beat up your dad” debate, Studio C combines laugh-out-loud humor with sketches that the whole family can watch without having to cover the little ones’ ears.

3. SuperCarlinBrothers


I love analyzing plots and characters, so it’s really no surprise that I’m a sucker for a well thought out book, movie, or TV show fan theory. Brothers Ben and J Carlin produce theory-based content on Tuesdays and Thursdays, such as discussing their Top 7 Unanswered Questions From Fantastic Beasts and talking about just why the ocean chose Moana. If you love Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Pixar, and Disney, as well as naturally sarcastic humor, you’ll love this channel.

4. What’s Inside


Have you ever looked at something and wondered, “What’s inside that?” If you have, you’ll love this channel. Dan and Lincoln Markham, a father-son duo, make it their mission to cut open interesting items and find out what they’re made of. It all started with a school project, and it’s evolved into a science channel with over 4 million subscribers. They cut open an item, analyze its contents, and try to figure out how it works. They’ve discovered what’s inside of all sorts of unique thing, such as a vintage Pac-Man arcade game, a metal detector wand, and even an authentic 2017 Olympic torch. Be safe and don’t try to replicate anything they do at home, because, just like their motto says, “We cut things open so you don’t have to”.

5. Brian Hull


You may remember Brian Hull from his viral video where Disney and Pixar characters sing Let It Go, but his vocal impressions haven’t stopped there. His channel is chock-full of humor, accents, and impressions, and I’m always blown away by his talent. If you want to hear him flawlessly impersonate the characters from Zootopia and The Lion King or combine Winnie the Pooh’s voice with Batman’s, definitely check out his channel. He’s even made several more videos of different characters singing popular songs!


Well, those are my top 5 favorite YouTubers and their channels! Check them out and let me know what you think!

Here’s a quick reminder that although I try to follow the cleanest and most family-friendly channels, I haven’t watched every single one of these creators’ videos. If you come across something that you find distasteful or wrong, I apologize, and please know that I neither approve of it nor advocate it. 

Your turn! What are some of your favorite YouTubers? What are their channels like? And do you already follow any of the ones I listed here? 

CLASSIFIED: My Top Secret Advance Copy



If you read my Bookshelf Tour Tag post last week, you might have noticed me mention being an advance reader for Jenny L. Cote’s newest book, The Voice, The Revolution, and the Key. If you don’t know what in the world I’m talking about, here’s the gist: often, authors will choose certain people to read their new, unreleased books. These “advance” readers read the entire book in a certain time frame of the author’s choosing (in my case, it’s a month). We catch any lingering typos or mistakes, advertise the book, and provide feedback that will be published in the novel once it is officially released.

Today, I was treated with a nice surprise…


The advance copy came!!

I’m so excited to begin reading, and I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the rest of the advance reader process. Although you can’t get the book yet, here’s the official summary to get you pumped for it:

The Order of the Seven must help birth one nation under God by entering the lives of a unique generation of children chosen to become the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. Liz is given the assignment of helping Patrick Henry become the Voice of the Revolution, setting the entire war in motion. If Max can’t protect George Washington in the French and Indian War, the patriots will lose the Sword of the Revolution to lead them. Nigel must ensure that Benjamin Franklin’s kite-flying efforts succeed to turn the key to unlock American independence, and Al must gather intelligence right under the nose of King George III. Victory will be impossible without powerful ally France joining the fight, led by its patriotic son, the Marquis de Lafayette. But will Kate be able to protect the young Marquis? The fight for liberty will be costly with an Enemy determined to the give the patriots the other outcome – death. 

Jenny L. Cote is an amazing author, and I can’t wait to delve deep into this new adventure that she has created. Hopefully you’ll check back in and see where this advance reader journey goes next!


The Voice, The Revolution, and The Key by Jenny L. Cote will be available in stores on August 15th, 2017.

Your turn! Have you ever been chosen as an advance reader? What would you like to learn about being one? 

The Bookshelf Tour Tag


The day I got a bookshelf for my room was a great day. It was a spiffy piece of shelved wood that would house all of the many books I called my own. Nowadays, it’s a much more cluttered bookshelf, with some books having to reside on top of others because they no longer fit side-to-side, but it’s no less beautiful. I love my bookshelf.

Back when I was still struggling with whether to continue my blog or not, my friend Maggie from Maggie’s Musings tagged me in the Bookshelf Tour Tag, and I knew it would be something that I would enjoy participating in, since it highlights my well-used bookshelf and its papered contents. It’s pretty simple: I provide books from my personal bookshelf that fit each description. You’ll see what I mean once we get into it.

1. A Short But Powerful Book

The Giver by Lois Lowry isn’t very long (it stands at only 225 pages!), but it is one of the most insightful, thought-provoking books that I have ever read. It centers on a world that no longer experiences war, famine, hatred, and crime – but its people also do not feel joy, compassion…or love. I first read this book right before its movie counterpart came out on DVD, because the movie looked interesting, but I usually like reading the book before the movie. I was astonished by how Lowry so effectively tackles hard questions about love, loss, and what it means to be human in such a small novel. The movie does a great job of posing the same questions, so I’d encourage you to check out both.

2. A Good, Long Book

At around 436 pages, The Wind, The Road, and The Way by Jenny L. Cote isn’t the longest book I own, but it’s hefty in its own right. It’s part of two great book series, The Amazing Tales of Max and Liz and its sequel series, Epic Order of the Seven. Cote’s books are always informative and captivating, and The Wind wasn’t an exception. What’s even more exciting is that I’ve recently been chosen as an advance reader for Cote’s newest book, The Voice, The Revolution, and The Key! I’ll definitely be chronicling the journey on this blog, so stay tuned!

3. Favorite Classic (on your bookshelf)

5160gdxt47l-_sx304_bo1204203200_The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is, hands down, my most favorite play of all time. I fell in love with the witty script when I read it for Honors English in 11th grade, and after I had to return my manuscript to my school at the end of the year, I searched everywhere for a copy to add to my bookshelf. No matter what online store or physical bookstore I looked at, not a single one had it. However, my mom searched as well and bought me a copy for Easter last year! I’m so thankful to finally own it, and it remains an amazing classic.

4. A Relatively Obscure Book

I don’t know if “obscure” is the best word for it, but The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen definitely doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. The sarcastic, sharp-tongued narration of Sage, the protagonist, is unique and amusing, and the novel’s fast-paced intrigue never stops. Pair that with a huge plot twist, and you get a great book worthy of being talked about.

5. An Underrated Book

Although The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is pretty famous, I don’t hear it talked about as much as it should be. It’s the incredible and heart-breaking story81bzuga-bhl of the members of a small “greaser” gang, most specifically the protagonist, Ponyboy, and his friend Johnny. The character development and story arc is absolute perfection, and might I add, the 50th Anniversary Edition that I own has a gorgeous cover.

6. An Overrated Book

I tend not to purchase books that I think are overrated (or that might turn out to be), but The Isle of the Lost and its sequel Return to The Isle of Lost by Melissa De La Cruz sort of fit the bill. Both books are written in the Disney Channel “Descendants” universe, which has been all kinds of popular lately. While the books were pleasurable to read in their own right, and they both invested in more character development than the movie ever did, it’s obvious that they were written for the younger Disney Channel crowd and not the more, ahem, discerning readers. The over-abundant use of past tense and stiff dialogue got a bit annoying after a while.

7. Most Reread Book

I just finished rereading the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling last year, and they never get old. I definitely gravitate to them when I just want to reread something that I love.

8. A Book You Haven’t Read

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer. This one is kind of weird, considering that I read the entire Artemis Fowl series…but somehow I accidentally skipped over this book and didn’t find out until later. I got it free from a book fair/thing that my school did in 9th grade, but I still haven’t gotten around to reading it.

9. A Short Story Collection

I’ve always loved stories about animals that save people’s lives, and so I have four small short story collections that make up what I call my “Animal Heroes Collection”. These are They Too Were Heroes: True Tales of Courageous Dogs by Joanne Mattern, True Tales of Animal Heroes and The Dog Who Saved Christmas and other True Animal Tales, both by Alan Zullo, and Ten True Animal Rescues by Jeanne Betancourt.

I also love Greek mythology and I own three books that contain different Greek myths: Treasury of Greek Mythology by Donna Jo Napoli and Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods and Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes, both by Rick Riordan.

10. A Non-Fiction Book

Although I adore fiction, I love non-fiction just as much. I really enjoy learning how movies are made, so I’m especially fond of my collection of non-fiction Harry Potter books, which consists of Harry Potter: 51fwjmej6pl-_sx258_bo1204203200_The Character Vault and Harry Potter: Magical Places of the Films by Jody Revenson, Inside the Magic: The Making of Fantastic Beasts by Ian Nathan, and The Case of Beasts: Explore the Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them by Mark Salisbury.

Another good non-fiction shoutout is Terry BrooksSometimes The Magic Works: Lessons From A Writing Life.

11. A Book (physical copy, not the story itself) that has an interesting story behind it 

Now, this isn’t an inspirational or touching story, but I still find it pretty funny. I had ordered Calamity (the final book in the Reckoners trilogy) by Brandon Sanderson from Barnes and Noble, and it arrived in great condition. I got to about the middle of the book before I was puzzled by how one chapter ended after only one page. I figured it was just a super short chapter, but the next one didn’t make sense with the context of the former. It wasn’t until I checked the page numbers that I realized the book was missing an entire chapter!! My parents and I had to drive to the nearest Barnes and Noble, which was 45 minutes away, just to exchange it. I didn’t blame B&N at all, though, and I was able to get the entire book.


I don’t have anyone to tag, so feel free to continue the tag if you wish!

Your  turn! Have you read any of the books on my list? What’s one book on your bookshelf that you think I should read? 


My Mental Health Journey: Living With OCD

OCD ribbon

I’ve been trying to figure out the right time to talk about this for a while. I kept deciding that it wasn’t the right time, and left it be.

This past Sunday, one of our lead teaching pastors was talking about the choices we face when it comes to the wounds in our lives – we can either “run and numb”, or “own and offer”. In other words, we should own up to our pain, and offer our story in the hopes that it will help others. Near the end of the message, I felt God saying to me: “You’re doing better with your OCD. It’s time to talk about it”. Ever since that message, I have had no doubt that this is the right time to open up about my mental health journey.

Even if you don’t share my faith, you don’t have to believe that God told me it was time to share my story to listen.

In June of 2016, I was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder after a year or so of dealing with severe anxiety.

Before I go any further, I want to clarify something: OCD is not a quirky personality trait that centers around wanting things to be neat. OCD is a debilitating mental illness. It is composed of two parts – obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are repetitive, intrusive thoughts and images that cause fear, guilt, and anxiety in the individual struggling with OCD. Compulsions are the actions that the individual completes in an attempt to reduce their anxiety. For example, someone might have obsessions over a loved one dying, and they feel like they have to repetitively turn a light switch on and off in order to save that person.

People with OCD do not choose their obsessive thoughts and physically can’t control their compulsions. It is not quite known exactly what causes OCD, but correlations have been found between individuals with OCD and a lack of serotonin in their brains.

Think of it in the terms of car transmissions. A car with an automatic transmission seamlessly switches gears. That’s what it’s like in the mind of person who doesn’t have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. A non-afflicted person can usually ignore any intrusive thoughts or urges they might receive. Their mind automatically pushes them away. But then there are cars with manual transmissions. The driver must physically shift each gear, or the car will get stuck. That is what it is like to have OCD. The brain of a person with OCD cannot automatically disregard unwanted thoughts or images. The person must learn how to manually deal with them, or the brain will get “stuck”, and the individual will feel compelled to continuously dwell on their anxiety and repetitively complete actions. This stagnant physical and mental state hinders those who suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder from freely living their lives.

So please, don’t make any “OCD” jokes. I won’t find them funny.

I see my counselor (Justin Erb, Greenleaf Christian Counseling, he’s awesome, look him up) and I take medication to treat my disorder. I’m not ashamed of doing either. I am getting the help I need, and I’ve already seen how far I’ve progressed since just last year.

I still deal with anxiety every day, but it’s gotten so much better. And now I’ve discovered a newfound passion for helping others who struggle with mental illnesses.

This my struggle, but it doesn’t define me. And your struggles and pain don’t define you either.

Thank you for taking time to read my (shortened) story.

Now that I have started discussing my OCD, I will definitely be writing more posts on it in the future. But if you want to learn more about it in the meantime, here are some useful resources:

The International OCD Foundation

Debunking the Myths of OCD (Video)

Crash Course Psychology: OCD and Other Anxiety Disorders (Video) – Watch this video from 2:34-4:16 for information about OCD.