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 🙂

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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! 🙂

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)! 🙂