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 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 🙂

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)! 🙂

Ending Fear by Deanna Fugett

Welcome to Stop #12!

I’m super excited to be a part of the Blog Tour for Deanna Fugett’s debut YA Dystopian novel, Ending Fear, released just yesterday! Check out the beautiful cover and more about the book:

Teenage girl portrait

From L2L2 Publishing:

Fourteen-year-old Fear learns she was a parachute baby, dumped over the edge of the Gliding Lands as an infant. Fascinated by the floating cities in the sky before, now she’s desperate for answers.

But a slave isn’t likely to get those answers.

When her abusive Downer family throws her from their hovel, Fear takes refuge with a family who shows her love for the first time. Surely they can’t be trusted. Years of abuse and molestation has taught her that.

Then her brother discovers where she’s hiding and tries to kidnap her. Fear will never let him touch her again. Her new family conceals her at The Fallen, a ranch that hides parachute babies from the Uppers who discarded them.

Just as she’s beginning to embrace yet another home, Fear’s new little sister, Happy, is kidnapped and taken to the Uppers’ temple harem. Fear must go against her namesake, find a working hoverpod, and journey to the dreaded Gliding Lands before the little girl’s innocence is ripped from her forever.

Can she save Happy in time?

And will she find answers to the burning question of why anyone would throw her away?


My Review:

There is so much to like about Deanna Fugett’s debut novel! First, I love how she used her characters’ predominant trait as their name (Fear, Hate, Courage…) — so creative and unique. And yet, her characters are so much more than just their dominant trait; she’s crafted a collection of characters with depth and fullness that can both frustrate you and tug at your heart.

And she uses the dystopian genre so fantastically. Her futuristic societies of Uppers (who live in floating cities and are slaves to popularity and pleasure) and Downers (who live on terra firma and are enslaved by poverty and propaganda) are an insightful commentary on our own society and what could happen if attitudes don’t soon change. Yikes!

Ending Fear was a fun read: one that kept me up at night, turning the pages, and wondering how Fear would overcome her namesake and glorify Abba. I highly recommend you snag your own copy of Ending Fear and settle in for a great ride.

Many thanks to Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing for the advance copy of the novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂


The Rest of the Good Stuff:

Be sure to sign up for the Facebook Launch Party tomorrow from 7-9 pm MST for fun and prizes!

And don’t forget to add Ending Fear to your Goodreads to-read shelf!

If you’ve missed any of stops on the Ending Fear blog tour, be sure to go back and check them all out. They are all filled with tons of great info on the book, on the coloring book, and on Deanna Fugett.  And if you visit all fourteen blog tour stops and collect all of the words of the sentence (from the images like the one at the bottom of this post), you can enter to win a signed paperback copy of Ending Fear and an Ending Fear Coloring Book (U.S. only; outside the U.S., you can win an Ending Fear e-book). Here are links to all of the stops:

 

To purchase your own copy, visit Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing.

And now what you’ve all been so patiently waiting for: the next clue in Ending Fear’s Blog Tour Scavenger Hunt! And if you’re like me (you tend to not do things in order…), and this is the last word you needed, simply click on the picture to bring up the entry form for the Scavenger Hunt. 🙂

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And be sure to connect with Deanna Fugett on social media:

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Google+ // Pinterest // Instagram // Goodreads

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 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! 🙂