The Last Will and Testament of Captain Nemo by Mary Schlegel

captain nemo

About the Book:

From the tragedy of The Little Mermaid, and the mystery of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, comes the truth that ties them both together: the story of the love that saved a life and started a war, of the quest that became an obsession…of the seaman who, for love of a mermaid, became a legend.


My Review:

This short novella was recommended by another author, so I decided to check it out. I quickly found that it has so much to offer! It is a fantastically imagined mash-up of two stories we all think we know: The Little Mermaid and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Schlegel managed to blend the beautifully melodic cadence of the classics from which this story springs with a steampunk-like twist to bring fresh, new life to the old tales.

And though it is a quick read (Around a half an hour, unless you keep getting interrupted like I was. Grrrrrr!!!!),  you get sucked into the story world so quickly that it feels more than complete. It’s a terrific after work wind-down read or bedtime story.

I’m glad I grabbed a copy, and I’d highly recommend you get your own! Great read from an author I look forward to reading again. 🙂

 

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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)! 🙂

Zachary by Raymond Springer

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From the publisher:

“Two enemy factions race toward a childbirth: The Circle of Benediction, a secret society whose mission is to destroy anyone with supernatural abilities, and the Watchers, an underground group sworn to protect those with powers.

“The Watchers, led by Jacob Pennington- an elderly man of unnatural strength, secure the child just before the Circle destroys him. But, can they keep him alive despite the Circle’s resources?

“Held up at Pennington’s Rampart Industries, the Watchers will make their stand. Will they withstand the assault without the assistance of the child, or the child’s blood?

“The birth of this child changes everything…and so would his death.”

I’m really sorry to say, but it took everything I had in me to finish this book. The blurb was intriguing, but that was probably some of the best writing in the entire novel. The idea for the book was okay, but the execution was barely mediocre — and that description does not even include the horrible state of the grammar and spelling throughout most of the book.

And the “Christian” fiction classification is loose at best. There are a few references to the story of the Nephilim before the flood in Genesis, but otherwise everything else is extra-biblical, not to mention the superfluous and rather explicit sex scene near the end of the book. Seriously?

I rarely say this, but don’t bother to pick this book up. Even if an editor cleaned it up (which would be a huge task), the overall story is not good enough for me to recommend it to you. Sorry. 😦

Thanks to NetGalley and Black Rose Writing for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I (obviously) was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own.

The Book of Whispers by Kimberley Starr

bookofwhispersFrom the publisher:

Tuscany, 1096 AD. Young aristocrat Luca can see demons invisible to others, but must hide the fact. A powerful book seems to hold the key to their mystery, but he can’t decipher it. In Cappadocia, during a Crusade, Luca encounters Suzan, a girl who can read the book’s cryptic language. Together, Luca and Suzan realize their true quest.

That brief description of the book grabbed me immediately. And the cover is actually pretty cool too, so I thought this might be a good book to try out a new author. Then I read the book…

…and was in no way disappointed 🙂 Starr does a magnificent job of weaving historical fact with demons and magic to create a lush and fascinating tale of the Crusades. I mean, seriously, take a moment in history, add demons, and boom! Way cooler story!

Honestly though, this story, what Starr calls “augmented history,” definitely can make a reader see the Crusades in a new light. There were motivations behind the atrocities of the Crusades, and this story shows that while many of those motivations were impure, there were those who went on the Crusades for true and good reasons as well. If only more of those motivations would have been the driving force, our world may be completely different today. But, as Starr mentions in her author’s note, there are changes we can all make to help create a better world today, and knowing why we do something — knowing that driving motivation behind our own actions and those of the people around us — is one of the most important things we need to have to begin to change the world.

This was a fascinating story and I’d definitely recommend you grab a copy when it is released in September.

Many thanks to Text Publishing and NetGalley for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

 

Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland

dreamlander

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!

The Shattered Vigil by Patrick W. Carr

shattered-vigil

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! 🙂