What will Takvi do when the End begins?
In the blink of an eye, Takvi’s guardians disappear into thin air, along with thousands more. When the government swiftly moves to cover up the Disappearing, she and her siblings grapple with the truth behind what happened. They’ve been government loyalists their whole lives, but a split in opinions threatens to upend their lives permanently.
And Takvi is trapped in a vacuum where no solution leaves her or her family unscathed, which is the one thing she can’t bear.
The illegal book their guardians left them has answers that agree with her siblings, but Takvi struggles to accept it. When the newly-formed government tightens its grip in eerie prophetic fashion, will she stand up or will she fold? Will any of it matter in the end of the world?
A compelling apocalyptic story on redemption, sibling bonds, and seeking truth in a corrupt world, Those With Ears is the first novel in the Midnight Hour series.
Wow! This was one intense read. I knew it was going to be exciting, but I could not put this book down. This is one of those read-in-a single day books (even for an average reader like me) – it was that thrilling!
Characters: So many good things to say here! There were two main POVs: Takvi and her brother, Noam. I felt like Takvi definitely was the main character, but Noam was a super strong side character. I loved Takvi’s character arc throughout the book and watching her realize what was true about this crazy world she lived in. (More on that crazy world later.) Her care for her family was so sweet, and her motives were extremely understandable for wanting to just do anything for the good of her family. Noam was a great brother – I’m excited to see what the next book holds for him. And of course the other side characters – Asher, Emet, Isabeau – added a lot of dimension to the story. My favorite side character had to be Emet, mostly because he was enough of a side character that his future was extremely uncertain. You know how it can go with some side characters …
Setting/Plot: I’ve read several dystopian books, but this had to be one of the most “real-life” dystopian books I’ve heard read. (“Real-life” as in this is not so far-off from every person in our world today.) It was dually sobering and terrifying, to be honest, but it really made me start thinking about the direction our world is heading and how these things I read in books are actually closer than I think. So this setting was extremely engaging, and the plot on top of that – basically figuring out how to survive during the end of the world – was intense! The first part of the book was more set-up for the characters, but it didn’t drag. I loved watching people come to know the truth! And the last part … oh my word, hold on tight for that climax! And of course, the cliffhanger … I need the next book!
Moral/Theme: As is probably obvious from the summary of this book, the author adheres to a pre-Tribulation rapture of believers. I’m no expert on end times, so while I might not fully agree with this end-times view, it didn’t bother me for this book. There were really pertinent themes displayed throughout, especially standing up for what is right and doing what is right in the face of almost certain death. The character arcs were also really nice to see, though I would have appreciated a little more detail on (view spoiler)[ Takvi’s conversion. It seemed a little vague – maybe just a little more artsy in the writing of it? (hide spoiler)] However, I really enjoyed the message of this book that is so pertinent to our life today.
Overall, this a gripping, compelling read. I was a little worried about reading it – just because it is a hard topic, and the news we see every day is gloomy enough – but I’m so glad I read this book. Good fiction makes us think, and that’s exactly what this book did. I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series upon its release!
Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher/author. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
Interview with Makenzie
VH: Hi, Makenzie, and welcome to the blog! I’m so excited to have you join me today. A big congratulations on the release of Those with Ears! Tell me a little bit about your writing journey. When did you first start writing?
MG: First of all, thank you so much for having me! I started writing at the age of six and haven’t really stopped since! It’s practically the air I breathe, so I’m always running around with a notebook or the note app on my phone. I self-published my first book in 2016, and have had a variety of novels, short stories, and poems published since then – plus some time spent in college as an opinion columnist for two different publications, which was SO much fun! (But writing fiction is definitely still my favorite.) However, I only recently began my journey under a pen name – which has been a new experience for sure!
VH: What’s the hardest part about writing for you?
MG: Getting started and keeping motivated through the middle of the book for sure. Especially if there are lulls in action that need to be added into the story for the sake of timing (or giving the poor reader a second to catch their breath), I can’t stand it because I want to get back to the exciting parts. A lot of the time, I’ll actually start writing from the end and go backwards, which is a bit unconventional, but it keeps me engaged!
VH: What authors have deeply influenced your writing?
MG: Suzanne Collins for sure. The Hunger Games is a series that I can read and re-read and never get tired of! J.R.R. Tolkien is another favorite as well as C.S. Lewis. I also have to give a shout-out to another indie author, Angela R. Watts, because her tenacity and ability to write hard-hitting, gritty, and deeply hopeful novels is just awe-inspiring.
VH: What’s one of your best pieces of advice for an aspiring author?
MG: Get started, and keep going! Write down why you want to write this story, why it weighs so heavily on you to be written, and keep that close by so if you get discouraged, you’re reminded of your purpose. Don’t give up, and for the first draft, don’t even think about what others might think about your story. There will be plenty of time to think about that later.
VH: What’s your favorite type of character to write?
MG: Oh boy. I have a lot of tropes and types and personalities that I adore, haha! Most of all, I think I love taking grumpy characters, ones who have been hardened by the world, and softening them up. It really speaks to me, and I hope it speaks to others as well. On the other hand, in Those With Ears as well as the sequel, I’m kind of mixing it up a bit – introducing a soft character that has to toughen up a bit to survive – and I ended up so obsessed with his perspective that I gave him a much larger role in the novel. His name is Noam, so keep your eyes peeled if you read the book!
VH: At what point did you realize you wanted to publish? How did you decide to go with indie publishing?
MG: I wanted to go indie as soon as I realized that I could! I started pursuing that in my teens. I wanted to be published somehow from a very early age, but indie publishing really opened up the opportunity for me. I chose indie because I write “against the grain” of what a lot of publishing houses currently accept or request, and I like that freedom. Talking about God’s infallible Truth isn’t always easy or acceptable in our society, but indie publishing allows me to do just that. It’s a LOT of work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
VH: Tell me a little bit about Those with Ears!
MG: Those With Ears is about a group of teens who watch the world and government they trusted turn against them, and the sacrifices they realize they must make in order to survive, both in the present and for eternity. It’s equal parts sobering and encouraging (I hope), and finding out who your real friends, your “ride-or-die” folks are, and exploring sibling bonds. It’s something so completely different from what I’d normally write (which is why I stemmed off into a pen name for this series)! It’s also a bit of a battle cry for people to deepen their faith in the here and now because this world is just so temporary – and things you never expected can happen in the blink of an eye.
VH: What made you choose to write a dystopian novel? What are your favorite elements of writing in that genre?
MG: It’s a funny story, actually. I love reading dystopian, but never could really come up with a solid plot for my own. A couple years back, I got it in my head that I needed to work on something based on the book of Revelation, but that really creeped me out. I didn’t understand Revelation, hadn’t really studied it, didn’t really WANT to study it because there’s a lot of weird stuff in there, haha! But no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I sat down and told God that if He was nudging me to do this, then I had to politely decline, because I didn’t know what I was doing with Revelation materials. I kid you not, a few months later, my church’s new pastor and I were talking and he asked what I thought about his plan to do a sermon series on the entirety of Revelation. (I laughed at him because I couldn’t believe it. Oops.) So…I guess I didn’t choose to write this book and genre so much as God told me to xD While I worked on Those With Ears and now, the sequel, I’m finding that it’s so enjoyable to add hope juxtaposed against absolute horrors. In one scene in Those With Ears, there’s a massive pile-up car wreck that the main characters are traipsing through, and a believer points out that the sun glinting off oil and gasoline creates a rainbow – relating to God’s use of a rainbow after the Flood. And being able to take a character as world-hardened and hurting as my main character, Takvi, is, and seeing how she reacts to the new horrors around her – it’s so interesting and, in a weird way, encouraging. I hope it’s the same for other readers.
VH: What do you hope readers will take away from your writing?
MG: That there’s always hope – and we never know what impact we’ll have on someone if we just take the time to share the Gospel with them. You were made for such a time as this, even if your circumstances feel impossible.
VH: What do your upcoming projects look like?
MG: The sequel to Those With Ears, titled Let Them Hear, is currently in the works for a release later this year! I’m also working on a timeline for several smaller collections, novellas, and short stories, so stay tuned! Thanks so very much for having me today.
VH: You’re so welcome! Thanks for chatting with me today, and congrats again!
About the Author
Makenzie Gray is a Christian writer and editor hailing from the state of Pennsylvania. She is fascinated by forensic and behavioral psychology, and feeds her obsessions through the creation of novels that ask the hard-hitting topics that dig into the core of why we do what we do – and reminds us of Who reigns above all our human motivation. She spends her free time trying to keep plants alive (unsuccessfully) and taking care of several cats (successfully).