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 🙂

Realmscapes from Brimstone Fiction

I have wanted to share this book with you for a year now! I picked up a copy at last year’s Realm Makers Conference, but I’m sure you know how life goes — my review kept getting pushed back for one reason or another. So, in honor of my return from my second Realm Makers Conference last weekend in Reno, NV, here’s my review of Realmscapes and a little recap of the fun I had with fellow Christian Speculative Fiction authors and fans.RealmscapeA

Isn’t that cover beautiful??

Back Copy:

“From robot apocalypses to seemingly haunted nursing homes, these seventeen otherworldly stories will drive you to escape from your everyday existence. Featuring well-known authors such as Ben Wolf and Jeff Gerke, as well as new, up-and-coming writers, these stories may transfix you with visions of alien planets…or leave you with an itch that nags at the edges of your memory.”


My Review:

This is a wonderful collection that spans a wide swath of speculative genres and includes at least one story for everyone’s tastes. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this anthology and getting to know some authors that I may never have read on my own.

Some of my favorite stories include “Tick Tock” by Pam Halter (which was also the “Realm Makers Reader’s Choice Winner”); “The Dragon Hotel” by Lisa Godfrees: such a cool story — a Faust for today; “Undermined” by Gretchen E. K. Engel, where slavery is not always what it seems; “Darkness” by Kat Heckenbach; and “Time for a Change” by Ben Wolf.

And those are only a few! Did I love every story? Honestly, no. But that’s the beauty of an anthology: there’s something for everyone. And if you find that you don’t like a story so much, they’re all short, so…. But, truly, this is a terrific collection that I highly recommend, for die-hard spec fic fans and those who have been curious about Christian spec fic, but aren’t sure where to start. This is definitely the book for you!


And now for a little about Realm Makers 2017:

20170726_084515I started out driving down to Arizona to meet up with some awesome friends (from the right: Sherry Rossman, Willow Dressel, and Louise Burcham) and commence our roadtrip to Reno (after getting coffee, of course!).

We enjoyed some of the sights along the way, including hanging out with a mob of Big Horn Sheep in Boulder City, NV:20170726_140225

20170726_163116 (2)Looking for aliens in the Nevada desert (and after a long day of driving across that desert, I’m pretty sure I did start to see some…):

 

And checking out Virginia City, NV, home of Mark Twain, ghosts, and, obviously (because, why not?), the TARDIS!

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And that was all before we even got to Reno, where the real fun began! Realm Makers opened with a keynote by. . .wait for it. . .Ted Dekker! 20170729_165541 (2)

That was followed by the Thunderdome Fight Workshop, by the always informative and hilarious Carla Hoch (you should check out her blog at fightingwrite.blogspot.com – awesome stuff!). I laughed so much while learning some really handy techniques for both fiction scenes and my everyday life.

 

My Friday was filled with classes like “Embrace the Strange” by the amazingly talented Robert Liparulo and a panel discussion on “Blood, Guts, and the Physiology of Fiction.” I was fascinated! And that was all before the Realm Awards Banquet, where I got to dress in cosplay and hang with people just as weird as I am. 🙂

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Never trust a double-agent (especially a literary one!)

 

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Sherry as Miss Peregrine with me as Bronwyn Bruntley 🙂

Seriously, where else could you eat dinner with a S.H.I.E.L.D./ Hydra double-agent (Steve Rzasa), a Founding Father (Kerry Nietz), Carol from the Walking Dead (Louise Burcham), Miss Peregrine (Sherry Rossman), a wizard, a warrioress, and Indiana Jones, just at your table.

 

Not to mention having Gandalf behind me and Star Lord and Gomorrah at the table next to ours, as well as a whole host of Steampunkers, super heroes, and just about every character you can imagine. And they are all fabulously talented authors of Christian Speculative Fiction and genuinely nice people!

 

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RealmMakers’ Founding Father

My Saturday was packed with classes on everything from our continuing session with Robert Liparulo to learning about character motivations with Lisa Mangum and building a magic system with David Farland. We capped off the weekend with a huge multi-author book signing — which I took full advantage of!! Many thanks to all the authors I cornered for so graciously signing your books for me!

 

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The Williamsons are here to Guard our Galaxy!

It was such an awesome weekend of learning and fangirling with a group of funny, brilliant, kind, creative people. It is going to take me a while to settle back into reality (and I’m going to fight it every step of the way – maybe even using some of the techniques from the Thunderdome!).

 

If you have ever had even an inkling to write and are looking for tips and inspiration, RealmMakers is the place for you. Can’t wait to find out what city we’ll be invading next summer!

Till then, happy reading (and writing)! 🙂

Unblemished & Unraveling by Sara Ella

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From Goodreads: Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.

Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?

I read this lovely book, Sara Ella’s debut novel, back in February and was absolutely fascinated. She created such an imaginatively unique world in the Reflections, yet managed to firmly anchor the story in the real world at the same time, easily drawing in the reader and keeping them invested.

The story is rife with beautiful emotion, cool imagery, and just the right amount of tension to make you want to keep turning the pages. It’s a fabulous start to a fantastic series.

And Unblemished won the INSPY Award for Literature for Young Adults 2017, and it’s up for awards at the RealmMakers Conference next week!

And, just a note here, the review of the second book in the series, Unraveling, is below, but there are **some spoilers for Unblemished** in the description of the book. Know that, if you choose not to read the rest to keep from ruining the first story, I highly recommend both books, and like the second even more than the first! 🙂

 

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From Goodreads: What happens when happily ever after starts to unravel?

Eliyana Ember doesn’t believe in true love. Not anymore. After defeating her grandfather and saving the Second Reflection, El only trusts what’s right in front of her. The tangible. The real. Not some unexplained Kiss of Infinity she once shared with the ghost of a boy she’s trying to forget. She has more important things to worry about–like becoming queen of the Second Reflection, a role she is so not prepared to fill.

Now that the Verity is intertwined with her soul and Joshua’s finally by her side, El is ready to learn more about her mysterious birth land, the land she now rules. So why does she feel like something–or someone–is missing?

When the thresholds begin to drain and the Callings, those powerful magical gifts, begin to fail, El wonders if her link to Ky Rhyen may have something to do with it. For light and darkness cannot coexist. She needs answers before the Callings disappear altogether. Can El find a way to sever her connection to Ky and save the Reflections–and keep herself from falling for him in the process?

I enjoyed the first book, but I loved the second! Unraveling made some parts of Unblemished make more sense, because as Eliyana learns more about the Reflections, so do her readers. And learn she does! Eliyana grows so much throughout this part of her story, and I seriously look forward to what adventures we will join her on in the next part of the series. We also get to know what drives and shapes some of the other characters and get to see their various facets shining or dimming as the Reflections change around them.

Seriously, I looked back at the notes I made while reading Unraveling, and they were all along the lines of “Wow!” and “Oooh, that’s a cool description.” Sara Ella’s world-building and character development get better with each installation of this series, which definitely bodes well for the next one!

I do highly recommend you read these imaginatively inspiring novels from Sara Ella. They will add a lovely tune to the soundtrack of your reading life.

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the digital copy of Unraveling for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. My opinions are my very own! 🙂

And join me on Wednesday as I get to participate in a blog tour to help launch Deanna Fugett’s debut novel, Ending Fear! I’m so excited to be part of the tour and to share the book with you!

The Toch Island Chronicles by Kat Heckenbach

Angel cover
Angel doesn’t remember her magical heritage…

…but it remembers her.

Angel lives with a loving foster family, but dreams of a land that exists only in the pages of a fantasy novel. Until she meets Gregor, whose magic Talent saves her life and revives lost memories.

She follows Gregor to her homeland…a world unlike any she has imagined, where she travels a path of self-discovery that leads directly to her role in an ancient Prophecy…and to the madman who set her fate in motion.

 

 Seeking Unseen

It may be Angel’s wish…..

IT’S BEEN two years since Angel learned the magic chip of wood inside her locket would grant any wish. What is taking her so long to choose?
An alarming discovery about her beloved foster brother Zack makes the decision easy…but everything else gets complicated after she runs into her old friend Melinda, who demands to go along for the return to Toch Island.
…but it’s Melinda’s journey.
MELINDA doesn’t fit in with the magical freaks any more than she did with the losers back in Florida, but she never wanted to belong before. A secret world surrounds her where even the bugs have magic…
She’s more of an outsider than ever.
So when ex-con Doran Ashe slinks out of the shadows and offers her an easy road to powers of her own, Melinda follows him despite—or maybe because of—everyone’s warnings.
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Magic and mystery entwine – hidden in the web of time.

Melinda knew Kalek’s music created powerful visions, but it wasn’t supposed to actually send her into the past!

It definitely wasn’t supposed to bring someone back to the present with her. Especially not someone tied so tightly to Melinda’s own past, someone to prove, once again, that her family ancestry was made up of psychopaths who should never have existed.

Now it’s her chance to change her lineage–and history–forever.


When I began my journey to Toch Island in Protection’s Prison back in February, I knew this series would be good, but I had no idea just how wonderful the stories would be. Kat Heckenbach has created a realm that I long to actually visit. Her descriptions are vivid, her characters are full and complex, her plots are engrossing. I giggled, I cried (which I hate doing…thanks, Kat!), I didn’t want the stories to end.

I, very honestly, read all three of these novels in one day…I could not stop! I was sucked in instantly and did not want to leave. And to keep from dropping some spoilers, I’ll leave it at that. Great for everyone from tweens in age to teens at heart, the Toch Island Chronicles are books that I would highly recommend to all fantasy lovers. 🙂

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Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland

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From the book: “What if it were possible to live two very different lives in two separate worlds? What if the dreams we awaken from are the fading memories of that second life? What if one day we woke up in the wrong world?

“Every night, a woman on a black warhorse gallops through the mist in Chris Redston’s dreams. Every night, she begs him not to come to her. Every night, she aims her rifle at his head and fires. The last thing Chris expects—or wants—is for this nightmare to be real. But when he wakes up in the world of his dreams, he has to choose between the likelihood that he’s gone spectacularly bonkers or the possibility that he’s just been let in on the secret of the ages.

“Only one person in a generation may cross the worlds. These chosen few are the Gifted, called from Earth into Lael to shape the epochs of history—and Chris is one of them. But before he figures that out, he accidentally endangers both worlds by resurrecting a vengeful prince intent on claiming the powers of the Gifted for himself. Together with a suspicious princess and a guilt-ridden Cherazii warrior, Chris must hurl himself into a battle to save a country from war, two worlds from annihilation, and himself from a dream come way too true.”

I stumbled across K.M. Weiland while on a blog hop, where I was so hoping to win some new books. Alas, I did not win (bummer), but I still managed to snag a book for free. I’ll admit that I’ve gathered quite a collection of free e-books, and many of them have been free for a reason, shall we say — unfortunately, not all of them are well-written, well-edited, or well-done. Dreamlander, on the other hand, was a very pleasant surprise.

With overtones of classics like Lord of the Rings and recent fantastic reads like Carr’s Darkwater Saga, not only is this book very beautifully crafted, with striking imagery, intense emotion, and complex characters, but it drags you into this land of dream vs reality and does not easily let you get back to your own normal, boring life. The story presents such a great premise (“What if your dreams were actually your other life lived in another place?”) with such rich detail and tangibility that you almost find yourself questioning what is real in your own life. It is a story that makes you think and feel and question and evaluate and really want to know what happens after the novel ends.

There is nothing better than a story that grabs you and won’t let you go, even after you’ve gotten to the last page, and Dreamlander is one of those novels for me. I would definitely recommend you snag your own copy. And, to make it even sweeter, it is currently free on Amazon or from K.M. Weiland’s website. Happy reading!

Tainted by Morgan L. Busse

Tainted-Hi_Res-Cover

What Happens When Your Soul Dies?

From the publisher: “Kat Bloodmayne is one of the first women chosen to attend the Tower Academy of Sciences. But she carries a secret: she can twist the natural laws of life. She has no idea where this ability came from, only that every time she loses control and unleashes this power, it kills a part of her soul. If she doesn’t find a cure soon, her soul will die and she will become something else entirely.

“After a devastating personal loss, Stephen Grey leaves the World City Police Force to become a bounty hunter. He believes in justice and will stop at nothing to ensure criminals are caught and locked up. However, when Kat Bloodmayne shows up in his office seeking his help, his world is turned upside down.

“Together they search World City and beyond for a doctor who can cure Kat. But what they discover on the way goes beyond science and into the dark sphere of magic.”

So, this was my first foray into the steampunk sub-genre, and I’m sure glad I started with this one! What made the book great was that the steampunk elements did not overwhelm the story, did not hijack the tale as I assumed they would. Instead of steampunk practically being a character in its own right, the elements enhanced the plot in (most often) subtle ways. And the story was awesome – it began with a fascinating premise (“What happens when your soul dies?”) and grew into a powerful tale of love, loss, trust, and truth.

Morgan Busse is a marvelous writer. She must be if she’s made me want to be a steampunk fan 😉 If you’ve never tried steampunk, start here. If you are a huge fan of the genre, Tainted is also for you. I highly recommend it. Book two, Awakened, is supposed to be released sometime this Spring, and I’m very excited to grab a copy and see what happens in the next part of the adventure. 🙂

**Special Note: I received a copy of this book (along with many others) as a winner of the Christian Book Box, sponsored by authors Charles Franklin and Mandy Fender. If you head over to their websites (just click  on their names), you can enter to win your own book box and be blessed with a plethora of books by Christian authors and other goodies. I got the box last November and am still being blessed by it 🙂 **