Of the Persecuted by Angie Brashear

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From the back cover: “Laila Pennedy awaits death by hanging. For the Rendow Clan rules the Woodlands Region, aiming to slaughter the Faithful. And she deserves to die.

“But Lars Landre, the man destined to lead the Faithful out of persecution, has other plans hidden behind his rare and mysterious blue eyes. Rescue.

“Following the daring escape, Laila seeks the path of a warrior and vows revenge against the Rendow Clan. She embarks on a dangerous journey with Lars, one in which they endeavor to reach the promised safety of a magical village, to train for battle, and to ultimately assure freedom for those with faith in the Maker.

“Clashes of weapons and souls. Brutal loss of lives. Unrequited love. How in all the Woodlands will Laila survive?”

The action of this book starts on page one and doesn’t stop. And that’s not even what I enjoyed most about reading it 🙂 I appreciated how the author showed Laila’s emotional and spiritual growth throughout her ordeals. She started out as a character that I was not especially fond of – easily distracted by a pretty face and full of constant self-doubt. Yet, as she let go of her self and leaned on the Maker, she transformed into a heroine worthy of this epic tale.

And epic it is – from fire-breathing dragons to chameleon-like bears to gemstone-horned unicorns to visible spiritual battles…it’s got a bit of everything. It even has the promise of more to come. So, I’d definitely recommend you fantasy fans pick up a copy of Angie Brashear’s Of the Persecuted and join the adventure. 🙂

Protection’s Prison by Kat Heckenbach

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From the author: “Siophra’s magic enables her to Protect living things from harm. But there is no way to Protect herself from the heartache she feels over her father’s refusal to allow his precious Elven daughter to love a human.

“Her father’s anger pushes her to make an extreme decision, until her love for him, despite his cruelty, puts her in a place where her magic becomes necessary to keep him safe–a place where her Protection becomes her prison.”
My first thought before reading: seriously intriguing description. My first thought after reading: I’ve got to read the rest of this series! This was just a taste (a novelette – only around twenty pages) of the Toch Island Chronicles, and now I want the full meal. In this short story, Kat Heckenbach managed to develop a tremendously interesting world peopled (can I use the term peopled when we’re talking about both humans and elves??) with a set of multi-layered characters that I want to know more about. And I understand from others who’ve read the books already that this isn’t even the best of the lot – so, I’m really looking forward to reading Finding Angel, Seeking Unseen, and Legacy Rewound.
Even better? You can pick up the entire set of ebooks from Amazon for less than $5 right now! But don’t wait – this offer can’t last forever. I definitely encourage you to grab them up. Happy reading! 🙂

Mythic Orbits 2016: edited by Travis Perry

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From the editor: “This anthology is a showcase for the best stories submitted in the general field of speculative fiction by Christian authors for this project. It represents a wide variety of genres, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal. There is no common theme to these tales, though the subject of empathy or lack thereof does come up in them repeatedly. This is most definitely not an anthology about orbits which are somehow mythical.

“The main goal of this anthology was to demonstrate that Christian authors can write speculative fiction well. Stories with a wide range of appeal are included here, mostly serious, some with humor, some with ‘happy endings’ and others clearly not so happy. All of them worth reading.

“Some of these stories feature Christian characters in speculative fiction worlds, some make use of Christian themes either subtly or overtly, while some have no discernible connection to Christianity at all. Christian authors are featured in this collection rather than specifically Christian-themed stories.”

What a fascinating collection of stories! There is a little bit of everything in here, from ghosts to twisted fairy tales to robots to aliens. If you can’t find a story in this anthology that you like, there must be something wrong with you. 🙂 Just kidding. But seriously, I was impressed with the breadth of speculative fiction that is represented in this collection.

Equally important to me was the variety of lengths of the pieces. I know that may sound weird, but if you only have a few minutes, there are some rather quick stories you can dip into and enjoy. On the other hand, some of the pieces are quite a bit longer, giving you something to really sink into and soak for a while.

While all the stories were good, I did have a few favorites: “Nether Ore” by Kirk Outerbridge, “Cameo” by Linda Burklin, “Clay’s Fire” by Kat Heckenbach, and “The Water Man” by Sherry Rossman, all stood out for me. I definitely recommend that you pick up a copy for yourself and see which stories you like best. 🙂

King’s Blood by Jill Williamson

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As the Kinsman Chronicles continue, we find the remnants of the Five Realms afloat, sailing and searching for a new land to call home, following the utter destruction of Armania, Sarikar, Rurekau, Tenma, and Magonia during the Woes. Wilek Sar Hadar, the prince and heir of Armania is doing everything he can to keep the fleet going and keep them sane as they travel with no land in sight and his father ailing more every day. But forces are always working against Wilek, especially now that he has forsaken traditional Armanian pantheistic religion and turned to the worship of the One God, Arman. Will the new land they search for bring them the safety and security they all long to find? Miss Onika’s prophecy of the Woes came to pass, so what about the prophecy of the Deliverer? Will this Deliverer save the followers of Arman from the evil that is set against them?

This is epic Christian fantasy at its finest. Jill Williamson is a master at world building (and she should be, since she literally wrote a book on it!), and the Kinsman Chronicles showcases her skill beautifully. Once you get involved in this saga, you don’t want to leave the world of the Five Realms. Adventure, romance, terror, joy, magic, truth…these stories are bursting with dramatic detail and intense emotion that keep you turning pages long after you should really be asleep if you want to function the next day.

You should note that this is the second novel in the series. Could you read this without reading the first novel? Sure, but you probably won’t understand all that the characters are undergoing and talking about without the background of the first novel. Also, both novels can be purchased as three separate e-novellas each (for Book One, King’s Folly, the novellas are “Darkness Reigns,” “The Heir War,” and “The End of All Things;” for Book Two, King’s Blood, the novellas are “Kingdom at Sea,” “Maelstrom,” and “Voices of Blood”), but I’d recommend you grab a copy of the whole shebang and dive in. It’s so worth the read! I’m very much looking forward to the third installment.

And, on a side note, I absolutely loved the inclusion of characters named after other Christian  speculative fiction authors! Every time I read one of their names, I just had to smile 🙂

Many thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this novel. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Defier: The Girl Who Stood by Mandy Fender

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From the cover: “Seventeen-year-old Lennox Winters is no stranger to loss. She’s lost her parents, her home, and is in constant danger or losing herself. As she struggles with what to believe she encounters Christ in a way that she cannot ignore. The raised scar on her chest reminds her she has a purpose. Kept alive by her newfound faith and accompanied by her loyal best friend, Lennox bravely emerges into a world at war on a quest for the truth. Only after Lennox has journeyed through perilous territory, eluded biologically altered predators, and overcomes the most intense of challenges does the real work begin.

“Will Lennox continue to fight for faith no matter how personal the cost?

“The fate of humanity rests in the answer.”

Sounds like a great book, right? That is exactly what I thought when I read the description. I went into this book with very high hopes, so excited to read it. Unfortunately, I am very sad to say that it didn’t meet my expectations.

Let me clarify that statement: the general idea of the book is great for a Christian young adult dystopian story. However, this novel finds itself in serious need of some honest and informed beta readers and a really good editor. The grammar problems, even for a grammar lover like me, can be forgiven if the overall story flows nicely, the plot devices are well-structured, and the characters are nicely drawn. I didn’t find that to be the case in Defier. There are many situations in the book that severely stretched the fabric of plausibility, almost to the point of absurdity, which could easily be rectified if the plot were well-developed. It felt as if the author really wasn’t sure where the story was going, so she just shoved in devices and situations to move the story along, but which seemed rather inexplicable to me. And if a character did something unexpected, an annoying explanatory aside was randomly thrown in to explain the history behind that choice. Lots more telling than showing, as English teachers are wont to say.

But, believe it or not, I don’t think this book is horrible. There are some poignant moments that hold a lot of beauty and truth in them. Again, the basic idea of the book is great. The theme of standing up and being brave in Christ is awesome. This could be a wonderful book, but it needs some work to get it there. I sincerely hope that she finds someone to help her polish it, and that she puts out a second edition soon. Until then, however, I don’t feel right recommending it to you, my fellow readers. Bummer!

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green

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From the publisher: “After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.
“When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?
“With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.”

A whole lot happens to Julianne and those she loves throughout this novel. Sometimes a plot like this can get too ambitious – to the point of being ridiculous. Yet, I didn’t find that to be the case here. I felt that Green did a marvelous job of maintaining the adventure and tension of Julianne’s story, while keeping it plausible enough that I didn’t have to roll my eyes with each new twist.

I did, however, find my eyes doing other things…like tearing up. The depth and range of emotion Green manages to fill the pages with was absolutely lovely. And her characters were wonderfully variegated, speckled with intricacies that brought them to life. Fear, love, redemption, terror, joy, desperation…so much in one novel.

I really did enjoy this sweeping historical drama. It was a welcome diversion while it snowed, then rained, then blew like mad, then snowed…ugh! I would recommend you snatch up a copy.

Many thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for the chance to read this novel. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own. 🙂

You Carried Me by Melissa Ohden

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From the cover: “Melissa Ohden is fourteen when she learns that she is the survivor of a botched abortion. In this intimate memoir, she details her search for her biological parents and her own journey from anger and shame to faith and forgiveness.

“This intensely personal story of love and redemption illumines the powerful bond between mother and child that can overcome all odds.”

Melissa Ohden’s story is more than remarkable; it is both heart-wrenching and heart-lifting. Not only knowing that she will be persecuted for both her story and her stand, but also already having experienced that persecution for speaking the truth of her life in the past, she lays her heart boldly on the page. The writing may not be Austen-esque, but that does not in any way detract from the power of her story.

But this is more than just a memoir of Melissa’s survival. It is a model of triumph and forgiveness from which all Christians, all people, can learn. If anyone could have a reason to be bitter and unmerciful, it is a woman who discovered that she was the product of an unsuccessful abortion, believing that she was unwanted before she was even born. Yet, though she does run the gamut of emotions over the years, Melissa finds that there is so much more freedom and joy and strength in forgiveness.

She is an inspiration to all. And this is a book that is not to be missed. I most highly recommend it.

Many thanks to Plough Publishing House and Julie from Handlebar for the chance to read this amazing memoir. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂