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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Charity’s Cross by MaryLu Tyndall

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Charity is on the run. She has just shot her husband and must escape Portsmouth before the authorities, and her brother-in-law, capture her, try her, and hang her for his murder. She finds herself on a ship bound for the Caribbean, from where she plans to book passage to take her north to her family in Charles Towne in the Colonies. But her plans are thwarted before she can even disembark the ship in Nassau Harbor. With the aid of pirate-turned-preacher, Elias Dutton, Charity will face storms, pirates, surprises, and her very determined brother-in-law, in her attempt to escape fate, all the while trying to ignore that still small Voice calling to her.

Charity’s Cross is the fourth book in MaryLu Tyndall’s Charles Towne Belles series. I haven’t read any of the other books, but that certainly didn’t hinder my reading of this particular story – Charity’s story is her own, and it’s a pretty good one.

Charity has shades of all of us in her – she makes mistakes, tries to fix them in her own power, blames God when things don’t go the way she wants them to go…something we’ve all, unfortunately, been guilty of. Yet, she also grows and matures throughout the story…what we all aspire to do.

And I very much appreciated Tyndall’s detail work. Nautical terminology was so seamlessly integrated into the story that I, a total land-lubber with no clue what a jib is, was not distracted from enjoying the story by overwhelming details. There is just enough to bring the setting to life without interference and confusion.

Overall, Charity’s Cross was a very enjoyable read. The story is occasionally pulse-pounding, sometimes a bit heart-wrenching, definitely smile-inducing, and always God-glorifying. Grab a copy before you head out on vacation this summer – it will be a wonderful addition to your rest and relaxation time. 🙂

The Inheritance by Michael Phillips

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When Macgregor Tulloch, laird of the Shetland island of Whale’s Reef, dies unexpectedly, his great-nephew David, the clan chief, is the presumptive heir. Most everyone on the island adores David and looks forward to having him for their landlord, rather than his cranky old uncle. But Macgregor died before writing his will, leaving the door open for David’s cousin, Hardy Tulloch, to make a grasp for the lairdship. When the probate court hires an heir hunter to determine who Macgregor’s rightful successor should be, an unexpected member of the family (an American! a woman! – gasp!) is discovered, throwing the little Shetland island off its kilter and bringing long-buried secrets to light.

The Inheritance is the first book of Michael Phillips’ newest series, Secrets of the Shetlands. I wanted to read this book because 1) it’s set in Scotland (well, the Shetland Islands) and I love Scotland! and 2) I remembered reading Phillips’ The Heather Hills of Stonewycke (a gothic-style novel set in, of course, Scotland) when I was in my early teens, and I loved it! Unfortunately, The Inheritance didn’t live up to my remembrances of Stonewycke. I did, eventually, kind of enjoy the story, but it took me so long to become in any way involved with the myriad of storylines and flashbacks, that I considered giving up (which is a huge deal for me – I very rarely give up on a book).

I understand that this is just the first book in what I’m guessing is going to be a Follett-esque epic story, but chunks of the story felt very contrived rather than organic – like Phillips was trying to force leather strips into a tapestry of silk threads. It seemed overly complicated at times, and I found myself tuning out portions, going through sometimes whole pages without paying attention, but still not seeming to miss anything important.

And, unfortunately, I didn’t find the characters very unique or compelling – Phillips tried to build interesting backstory, but it’s hard to make silk purses out of prosaic sow’s ear characters. Maybe the next book in the series will bring more depth and dimension to the orphans and blowhards that populate this tale, but I don’t think I’ll be reading on to find out.

While the story wasn’t horrible, I can’t imagine myself recommending it to a friend. There are other stories set in Scotland and other generational epics that I’d suggest long before this one. Bummer.

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

The Brontë Plot by Katherine Reay

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 Lucy seems to have her life together – a job in an interior design shop that allows her to manage sales of first and special edition books, loving friends, a home in the bustling city of Chicago. And then James walks into the shop, and she knows she’s got it all, including love. However, secrets from her past and her present send her perfect life into a tailspin. With the help of her new and unlikely friend – James’s grandmother, Helen – Lucy will have to face her past and own up to her present before she can ever hope to get her life back on track. Venturing around England with Helen, and ending up in the hometown of the Brontë sisters, will open hearts, heal wounds, and bring Lucy to a new understanding of who she truly is.

The Brontë Plot is a light, easy, quick (I tried to take my time, but couldn’t make myself put it down…) read, but there are some gems of deep meaning lurking in there as well. Lucy’s not just a sweet, happy girl or just a damsel in distress or just a thoughtless, self-involved deceiver – she’s got some complexity to her, which I found nice. She has to discover for herself what is really important in life and what brings her true joy. And none of the other characters are simply one-dimensional. They all surprised me at times and managed to sprinkle their own little droplets of wisdom throughout the tale.

There’s no doubt that Reay is a lover of the Brontë sisters and their works – she couldn’t write her characters with as much passion for the sisters, if she didn’t share in those feelings herself. I appreciated how she reflects their stories in her work without simply retelling the Brontë’s stories.

Overall, I’d recommend Katherine Reay’s The Brontë Plot. It was certainly an enjoyable diversion. 🙂 Note, however, that the book won’t be released until November 3. You can pre-order on Amazon, though!

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley 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!

And if you’re interested in reading Katherine Reay, check this out…thanks to BookLook Deals from HarperCollins Christian Publishers, you can grab yourself a free download of Reay’s novel, Dear Mr. Knightley (simply click on the title – when the page comes up, click on the box in the upper left-hand corner and choose to download. Follow the prompt and you get a free copy!). This offer is only available until December 31, 2015. Enjoy! 🙂

In Good Company by Jen Turano

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Millie Longfellow isn’t every mothers’ dream nanny. In fact, she’s been fired from every position she’s taken, and the employment agency is running out of families to place her with. Her one last chance lies with Everett Mulberry, whose three wards have chased off every other nanny in the district. Before Everett can enjoy his society summer in Newport, he must take a chance on hiring Millie, despite her reputation. Will Everett stomp on the hearts of Millie and his charges as he climbs the social ladder of Newport society? Or will he allow them to teach him what really matters in life?

In Good Company is the second in the “A Class of Their Own” series. As with all Turano’s books, In Good Company is set in the Gilded Age, that time when the rich (such as the Astors) were getting richer and the poor (most everyone else!) were living in places like the horribly overcrowded and disease-ridden tenements of the Five Points District. Turano takes both those segments of society and throws them together to see what happens.

While parts of the story are relatively predictable, Turano threw in enough of a mystery to keep you wanting to know what really happened to the parents of Elizabeth, Rose, and Thaddeus. The cheeky humor also helped to keep the story interesting. I’d like to have seen faith in God be more of a story point, but at least the characters did seem to have some growth in that area through the book. Overall, I’d say it was an enjoyable read, but I just can’t say that I really liked it.

I received a free copy of this book through the Bethany House blogger review program. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer

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When a schoolteacher kidnaps his granddaughter, a wealthy businessman hires Stone Hammond to bring her back. Yet, when Hammond finds Charlotte Atherton and the little girl, his perfect record of retrieving may be history. Charlotte claims that Lily’s dying mother asked her to care for Lily and has the paperwork to prove it. Hammond, who “could fit what he knew about women into a bullet casing and still have room for gunpowder,” has to decide if he will follow his orders or his heart, while Charlotte must determine if she can truly trust Hammond with all she holds most precious.

A Worthy Pursuit is a sweet tale of love and redemption. Both Hammond and Charlotte have been hurt in the past and are leery of placing their trust in anyone but themselves. Their initial attraction to each other puts a new level of confusion into their situation, since they both question whether they are basing their decisions on truth or romantic feelings. They both have to learn to trust that God brought them together for a reason.

One of the scenes I really enjoyed was when Charlotte finally chose joy, when she finally realized that she was the one who was keeping herself from enjoying the blessings of God by focusing on the worries of the world. It is a trap we all fall into, but God’s hand is always reaching down to pull us out – we just need to look up to Him.

While A Worthy Pursuit was relatively predictable (not exactly a spoiler alert, since it’s a fairly foregone conclusion: Charlotte and Hammond fall in love…), it was still a rather enjoyable read. If you like romance, definitely pick up this book. Good choice for a summer afternoon when it’s too hot to work in the garden (like it has been the past few days)!

I received a free copy of this book from the Bethany House blogger review program. I was not required to write a favorable review. All opinions are my very own!