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! 🙂

 

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)! 🙂

Requiem 4 by Mike Duran

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Blurb from the author:

Graviton Cemetery—the biggest, oldest, most haunted graveyard in the world.

And Requiem 4 is here to clean things up.

In a dystopian, war-torn future where a godless global network reprograms the masses for compliance, the Requiem units are a dying breed. Manned by sciocists—scientific exorcists—and armed with state-of-the-art technology, the units sweep cemeteries of ‘latent soul energy.’

However, there’s a lot more than just ghosts in Graviton.

Father Aguste Lax, military chaplain to Requiem 4, has his own doubts. The cross around his neck is a feeble reminder of his waning faith. Yet when they encounter a Type Six entity, no amount of quantum firepower can save them. Lax becomes their only hope for escaping Graviton alive. But can his faith prevail against an evil this ancient? Or will Graviton Cemetery become the final resting place for Requiem 4?


My review:

I’ve heard people say, “Christian Horror Fiction? Isn’t that an oxymoron?” And to be honest, I kind of used to think that myself. Then I read Mike Duran (check out his Reagan Moon series — so cool!), and I found that, just like Christian Death Metal, it can and does exist — and it’s pretty awesome.

Requiem 4 is Duran’s latest work. It’s a novelette, so it’s only around 100 pages long. But trust me, those pages are packed with nail-biting tension and lots of “Whhaaattt?” (think of the sound Scooby-Doo makes — yep, that’s exactly what was going through my mind) and “Oh my tripes and trollibags!” (don’t ask, just go with it). It’s like Ghostbusters on a whole new level. He does a superior job of meshing mythology, religion, adventure, social commentary, and just enough fright to keep me wanting more. Duran is skilled at creating an atmosphere of tension, at leaving the reader on the precipice, so you feel compelled to continue reading just to keep you from teetering over while you’re trying to be good and clean the house or something.

And so you know, this would probably be considered a PG-13 story, so take that into consideration before you let your kiddos steal your copy. But do snag a copy (it’s available on Amazon) — I highly recommend it!

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

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber

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From the book: “Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet.

“Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.

“For Miguel, Earth’s charming young playboy, the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.”

If you’re like me and you loved Mary Weber’s debut Storm Siren trilogy, don’t expect this series to be the same. It is a completely different world, a completely different genre–but it is just as gripping to read.

It took me a bit to get into the book, because it is so different from her Storm Siren world, but Weber had to build this world, write history for this dystopian Earth society, and give us reason to cheer for or want to strangle her characters (which I absolutely did on both counts). Once I felt at home with the Corps and gamers and ambassadors (and never felt comfortable with the Delonese…), I could not stop reading.

There are so many layers to this story, each one more intense than the one before, and many lessons that can be taught through this book. It could be a great classroom (or dinner table) conversation launcher for issues that we face (or, sadly more often, ignore) in our own society.

But the ending…

 

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*Thanks to BookBub for this pic.

I just have to say, there’d better be another book coming soon! Until then, read it!

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson Fiction and NetGalley for the ARC of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

 

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. 🙂

The Shattered Vigil by Patrick W. Carr

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After the defeat of Laewan at Bas-Solas, Lord Willet Dura and the other members of the Vigil believe the danger has passed. But then Willet is attacked by an invisible foe, and the illusion of peace is shattered. The group must defy the Church to save themselves and the rest of the northern continent from certain destruction. Splitting up, the Vigil will risk their lives to track down the Clast and try to discover what the Darkwater really is.

I waited a year for this book. And it was well worth the wait! Patrick Carr never fails to suck me into his story with multi-layered characters and complex plots. This world that Carr has created is so full and so fascinating, he could write novels set here for decades and never run out of material. And his characters are complex enough that they could continue to evolve over that time, and we’d still not know their whole stories. I love this type of tale: one that makes me feel like I’m right there, riding alongside Willet and Bolt, uncovering new clues and helping to battle the evils of the Darkwater. Wonderful!

The only downside? I’m guessing I have to wait another year for the next installment… At least I know it will be worth it!

*Note: you definitely want to read this series in order; otherwise, you will find yourself very confused. While it’s not absolutely necessary, I’d suggest starting with the introductory novella, By Divine Right. But you really should read the first book, The Shock of Night, before diving into The Shattered Vigil.

Someone asked me recently why I like to prefer to read fiction – Carr’s Darkwater Saga is a perfect example of why. There is so much Truth woven into this fantastical tale that, even though the story is not real, I find myself growing in the knowledge of God while thoroughly enjoying being swept away to a land of magic and mystery. For me, Truth is plain in non-fiction, but Truth is alive in fiction! Especially in such a well-written story as The Shattered Vigil.

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

A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes

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If you knew what day you would die, how would you live? Parvin Blackwater’s clock says that she has just one year left on her life. She feels that she’s  wasted the first seventeen  years of her life, so Parvin is determined to make this last one count. She wants to rescue Radicals from being sent to their deaths by the corrupt government system. But when her plans get her sent through the Wall, Parvin must first survive before she can begin to help others back home.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I began this book. It sounded so interesting when I saw it in the bookstore at the RealmMakers Conference in July, and it turned out to be so much more than merely interesting. From the very first line (“There once was a time when only God knew the day you’d die.”) to the cliffhanger-ish ending, A Time to Die doesn’t slow down, nor does it let you down. Absolutely stuffed with intensity, from the thoroughly fleshed characters to the intricately drawn story world to the plot that keeps you wanting more, Brandes’ dĂ©but novel is extraordinary.

It is so much more than just a great story, too. It’s a fictional, yet at the same time personal, journey of self-discovery. Parvin ask questions of herself and God that we all find ourselves asking at some point in our lives… what’s my purpose? Am I wasting my life? What do You want me to do? Are You even here, God? And within this tapestry of fiction, Brandes deftly braids silky strands of Truth for us all to weave into our own stories.

My heart soared and plummeted; I smiled and I cried; I did not want the book to end! So, it’s a very good thing to know that this is only the first book in the series!

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The second book, A Time to Speak, is available through major retailers. And the final book, A Time to  Rise, will be released in just a few weeks (October  14th)! atimetorise_6_29

 

For more info, check out Nadine Brandes’ website (click here 😊). And, in all seriousness, pick up a copy. It is so worth a read (or two or three!).

 

My  most  hearty thanks to Nadine Brandes for the copy of this book for review purposes. She didn’t ask for a positive review, but I so thoroughly enjoyed it, I can’t praise it enough! 😁