Alara’s Call by Kristen Stieffel

Welcome to the Alara’s Call Blog Tour! I’m so excited to be a part of the launch of Kristen Stieffel’s debut inspirational fantasy novel.

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From the back cover:

Tales are often told of heroes who fulfill ancient prophecies. Alara’s Call is the tale of a woman who gives new ones.
Alara sees visions of other’s futures, but never her own.
A young clergywoman with a fiery passion for her Telshan faith, she has been assigned to a mission abroad but longs to lead a congregation in her homeland. Her father, the prime minister, jeopardizes her dream and her safety when he coerces her into what he calls a diplomatic mission.
But it’s a ruse.
The trip is meant to end with her marriage to the crown prince of a foreign nation, where members of Alara’s faith are persecuted and women oppressed. All for a trade agreement her father is desperate to enact.
But her mentor intervenes and takes Alara to Dorrel, the suitor she left behind. They believe they are safe, but foreign soldiers are under orders to bring Alara to the king’s palace…by any means necessary.


My Review:

Alara’s Call was a comfortable read. I don’t know if that makes sense, so let me explain what I mean: I felt, not like I’d read it before, but like the author combined some of the best parts of some of my favorites into one lovely story. This is a read that will appeal to fans (like me) of multiple genres: low-fantasy (no magic or orcs in this one, but a fascinating story world, nonetheless), historical fiction (while not actually written about a time in our world history, it feels like it could be), romance, swashbuckling adventure, and more. Just about any reader can find something to enjoy in Kristen Stieffel’s debut.

Alara Kordelyon is a Telshan curate — not a princess! 🙂 — who strives and, very realistically, often fails to follow the will of Telshi, following her human thoughts and heart all too easily. She is my kind of herorine. She’s trained to fight (as are all Glynrellan women) as well as any Glynrellan man, and better than many others. She doesn’t take guff from anyone and stands up for what she believes in, no matter who she has to deck in the process!

The main characters follow the Telshan religion, which is a play on Christianity. They have prophets (like Alara) and Scriptures and spiritual gifts, and these become plot points upon which some of the big moments hinge. The only part that made me slightly uncomfortable was the fantasy element wherein the Trinity of the Telshan religion is female. It felt awkward to me at first and I had to keep reminding myself that it was part of the story world. But Stieffel does such a lovely job of building her world, that it begins to feel natural and honest for Alara and her faith.

I really enjoyed reading Alara’s Call and look forward to the next installment in Alara’s adventure. You should grab a copy, too, and settle in for a lovely read.

Many thanks to L2L2 Publishing for the advanced copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂


A Bit About the Author:

Kristen Stieffel is a freelance editor and writer who specializes in speculative fiction. Although she edits projects in varied genres for both the general market and the Christian submarket, she is a novelist at heart. Member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection, mentor with Word Weavers International, and on the planning committee for Realm Makers, Kristen stays busy doing what she loves most. She is also the associate editor of Havok, a flash-fiction magazine focused on science fiction and fantasy. Visit www.KristenStieffel.com to learn more about this many-faceted author.

To grab your own copy of Alara’s Call, check out the L2L2 website: http://www.love2readlove2writepublishing.com/books/alaras-call/

And don’t forget to join in on the fun and prizes at the Facebook Launch Party on Thursday, September 21, 2017
https://www.facebook.com/events/1045774898890338/

Release Date: September 19, 2017

Paperback: $16.99, eBook: $4.99 (Pre-order Price of $2.99) Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, LLC

Genre: Inspirational Fantasy, 430 pages, ISBN: 978-1-943788-19-4

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Sun and Moon by Desiree Williams

30047544From the publisher:

There is nothing in life that eighteen year old Zara craves more than her freedom. Stolen from her home in Cadrebia at the age of eight, Zara has spent more years than she cared to admit as a slave to the Tankadesh courts. Her days are filled with protecting the princess, while she spends nights entertaining the king and his officials with her mastery of weapons. Any spare moment in between, she plots escape.

Yet her hopes for freedom come to a crashing halt when a stranger arrives bearing the mark of her assigned lifemate, and he threatens war if she isn’t turned over into his care. But a lifemate is not part of the plan. Her dreams, of choosing her own path and being the master of her own will, weaken as her Moon seeks to claim his Sun.

Is it possible that this stranger, with gentle blue eyes and a ready smile, didn’t come to be her new master? That there could be more to his tale?

Zara soon finds that neither her captivity nor her parents’ deaths were mere random attacks. And by returning to Cadrebia, she may have put the future of the royal line—and her Moon—in jeopardy. While Zara breathes in her first taste of freedom, her enemies move in, seeking to rob Cadrebia of its blessed prophecy.

To keep what she holds dear, Zara must rise above the pain and uncertainty to claim the lifemate assigned to her, or more than her freedom will be stolen this time.


My (brief) Review:

I really enjoyed Sun and Moon. I must have, since I devoured it in just a day 🙂 I found it to be a unique and wonderful concept, and thought Desiree’s smooth writing definitely did the idea justice. She created an interesting world, peopled with multi-faceted, relatable characters, and tied it all together with heartstrings.

It made my heart flutter, made me laugh, made me tear up, all of it! Can’t wait to read another book by Desiree Williams 🙂

The Space Between Words by Michèle Phoenix

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From the publisher:

“There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.”

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.

“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?


My Review:

The description of this book snagged my attention, and I couldn’t resist reading it. Now, I’m grateful to have read it, for it has given me a new perspective: a deeper understanding of the effects of terrorism, both in our world today and in our history.

How do I put the beauty of this novel into words? Phoenix has crafted a novel with genuine characters, flawed and loveable and completely real; with drama that is timely and relevant, yet still hauntingly beautiful; with history and heartache and healing and hope.

This is a book that uses the power of fiction to present truths that will affect you profoundly. Read it with an open heart and a box of tissues.

Many, many thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for the advanced copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own. 🙂

The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson

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From the back matter:

All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—

          but, what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear normal, she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see.

Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man is not a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.


My Review:

Don’t tell me that people don’t judge a book by its cover–I did, and that is exactly why I had to grab this book in the Realm Makers bookstore this year. I mean, wouldn’t you be intrigued enough by that cover to pick up this book? And the cover isn’t even the best part!

The story is unputdownable—I know that’s not a word, but it is the best way to describe The Girl Who Could See. Once you dive into Fern’s story, you can’t help but want to know more about this “crazy” girl and her crazier world. This may be a novella, but by the time you’re done reading, you feel like you’ve been through a terrifically epic adventure with some extraordinary characters.

Kara Swanson is a writer to keep your eyes on. Do yourself a favor and grab your own beautiful copy of The Girl Who Could See and “see” for yourself. 🙂

The Assault by Myers, Peretti, Hunt, & Gansky

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From the publisher: “The Next Wave of Stories in the Harbingers Series Arrives

Cycle 2 of the Harbingers series continues the story of four gifted strangers brought together to fight a growing darkness.

In Bill Myers’s “The Revealing,” the team finds themselves in Rome trying to retrieve the mystical spear Hitler once owned–the very spear that pierced Christ’s side. This task will take them from hidden chambers inside the Vatican to a mysterious seaside cave with powers they could never expect.

Frank Peretti’s “Infestation” unleashes a microscopic evil on the world that deceives, blinds, kills, then spreads. The Harbingers team must confront a monster bent on seducing and destroying mankind.

In “Infiltration” by Angela Hunt, the team is wounded and barely holding together. Forced to split up, they realize their investigations have led them into dangerous waters.

Alton Gansky’s “The Fog” unleashes a supernatural mist unlike any other. There are vicious things in the fog that kill whatever they find. One team member realizes that the ultimate sacrifice may have to be made.”


My Review:

Apparently 4+4=1. Because just as in the first book of the Harbingers Cycle, Myers, Peretti, Hunt, and Gansky have managed to take four major characters, throw them into four separate scenarios, and weave them all together to make for one interesting book. Their premise from the beginning still holds true: to write stories that can work together as a whole novel, yet that individually feel like you’re sitting down to watch an action-packed TV show on the Syfy Channel or something.

Although I enjoyed all of the stories, my favorite of the group this time was Alton Gansky’s “The Fog.” Creepy, tension-filled, making me wonder the whole time what was really going on…he managed to pack a lot into a novella. It could be because “Tank” is the character that I enjoy most, but I think it had a lot more to do with Gansky’s writing: tightly-woven and chock-full of excitement.

If you enjoyed the first of the Harbingers Cycle, you’ll really enjoy this installment. If you haven’t yet read book 1, grab it, read it, then dive into this one (although, you don’t absolutely have to read the first book to enjoy this one)!

Many thanks to Bethany House for the free copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

 

Blood for Blood by Ben Wolf

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“Raven Worth has been a vampire for nearly 100 years. One night while on the hunt, he visits a tent revival looking for stragglers on the edge of the crowd. He soon finds himself drawn into the message by the evangelist’s bold proclamations and his daughter Calandra’s beautiful singing voice. Not long after, Raven gives his life to Jesus Christ for the first time.

“After Raven saves the evangelist’s family from what could have been a terrible accident, they invite him to join their family as a permanent member. Raven is grateful for their support as he struggles to comprehend the changes God is doing in his life.

“As time passes, Raven overcomes several vampire taboos—he is baptized and crosses a flowing body of water, his aversion to garlic and holy items begins to subside, and he can even see his reflection in the mirror, something he hasn’t experienced in decades.2015 Cascades sticker

“But when Calandra is attacked by a group of bandits, a chain reaction of terrible happenings tests Raven’s new faith and shakes his resolve.

“Will Raven risk his life to save Calandra’s, and thus truly learn what it means to sacrifice himself as Christ did for him? Or will he revert back to his old ways and rely on his vampiric strength to overcome a new, horrifying force of evil?”


My (brief) Review:

I know, a Christian vampire story? Right? But truthfully, even though I am not a fan of vampire stories, I really liked this one! It had all the normal vampire myths — shapeshifting, blood drinking, super strength, etc. — but it also had so much more than that. 

This was ultimately a story of how anyone, no matter their past, no matter their present, can find redemption in Christ. Beautiful!

It took me a long time to give in and read this vampire tale, but I was so moved by the story, I now wish I could go back and read it for the first time all over again. 🙂

Many thanks to the author for the free copy of this book. You can score one, too, if you check out his website and sign up for his (rather infrequent) newsletter! Happy reading 🙂

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White

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From the back cover: “Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins who helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpockets–instead they focus on high value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemary is beginning to question whether she can continue in this life when she’s offered the challenge of a lifetime–determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. After all how does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

“As Europe moves ever closer to World War I, rumors swirl around Peter Holstein. Awkward and solitary, but with access to the king, many fear his influence. But Peter can’t help his German last name and wants to prove his loyalty to the Crown–so he can go back to anonymously writing a series of popular adventure novels. When Rosemary arrives on his doorstep pretending to be a well-credentialed historian, Peter believes she’s the right person to help him dig through his family’s past.

“When danger and suspicion continue to mount, both realize they’re in a race against time to discover the truth–about Peter’s past and about the undeniable attraction kindling between them.”


My Review (contains minor spoilers!):

This was my first Roseanna M. White novel, and I very much enjoyed it. She did a masterful job of transporting me to Cornwall on the brink of World War I, where, though yet untouched by the horrors of war, still tensions were high. White used that atmosphere wonderfully, painting a charming and fairly realistic portrait.

Fans of Downtown Abbey will find much to enjoy in A Name Unknown. Her blend of characters, ranging from street urchins to royalty, allows the reader to see Edwardian England from differing perspectives and gives a nobility to them all.

My favorite part (here comes the spoiler, but not too much…) was definitely the scene with Prince Edward. I snorted, very indelicately, while reading this scene surrounded by a group of Ultra4 Racers in Sturgis, SD, waiting for my brother to finish (he’s a race photographer). At least I only got a few raised eyebrows and a snicker or two, not the bump on my head that Rosemary received!

And I know this is a weird thing to like about a book, but I really liked her dedication page:

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Isn’t it lovely? And so fitting with the story.

I sincerely recommend that you pick up a copy of A Name Unknown. Then pour a cuppa and snuggle in for a charming read.

Many thanks to Bethany House for the copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂