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

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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

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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! 🙂

The Healer’s Rune by Lauricia Matuska

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From the book: “Three hundred years after a great war shattered the Council of Races, the warriors of Rüddan have all but eradicated their cousins, the faerie Aethel. In so doing, they decimated the Dryht sages and enslaved mortal Humanity. Now a young voice with a dangerous secret calls her people to rebel. Young Sabine, one of the Human slaves, must overcome centuries of lies and prejudice to forge an alliance among four enemy races. But what chance does Sabine have when her very existence threatens the planet?”

This is a superbly told tale – full of magic and mystery. Sabine is wonderfully realistic: she doesn’t always make the right choices or see the big picture, or think before she acts, but that’s what makes her so relatable and interesting.

And the story itself is well-imagined and gracefully plotted. I so enjoyed The Healer’s Rune that I found myself waking in the middle of the night (on vacation, mind you), grabbing my Kindle, and reading some more, just so I could see what would happen to Sabine next! And now I have to wait for the next book in the Ceryn Roh saga…

The Ruby Moon by Trisha White Priebe

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The adventures of Avery and the other thirteen-year-olds continue: Excitement reigns as the King announces that an Olympiad will be held at the castle. But when thirteen-year-olds begin to disappear and the Queen begins to get suspicious, Avery and her friends decide they must move to the tunnels under the castle – no matter how much danger they hold. And when Avery begins to receive cryptic messages attached to her father’s carrier pigeons, discovering the secret of her missing friends becomes secondary to finding out the truth about her family.

The Ruby Moon, book two in the Thirteen Series, is a fast-paced story that is perfect for your favorite middle-grade reader. I will admit that I liked the first book much better, but that’s not to say that The Ruby Moon isn’t a good read. The action is consistent and the plot has just enough twists to keep a young reader turning the pages.

Plus, there are many lessons, lots of teachable moments, that can be learned while reading. This could be a great book for a homeschool reading unit. *One special note: I would definitely suggest you read the books in order, since the action continues to build from book to book. And you can look forward to book three, The Paper Boat, which will be released next Spring.

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

Chasing Embers by James Bennet

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From the publisher: “Behind every myth, there’s a spark of truth…

“There’s nothing special about Ben Garston. He’s just a guy with an attitude in a beat-up leather jacket, drowning his sorrows in a downtown bar. Or so he’d have you believe.

“What Ben Garston can’t let you know is that he was once known as Red Ben. That the world of myth and legend isn’t just a fantasy, as we’ve been led to believe. And he certainly can’t let you know the secret of what’s hiding just beneath his skin…

“But not even Ben knows what kind of hell is about to break loose. A centuries-old rivalry has just resurfaced, and the delicate balance between his world and ours is about to be shattered.”

This was a great idea for a story – legendary creatures are real, but they’ve been in hiding (many in plain sight) for centuries. The author did quite a good job of making the idea plausible, too (we are definitely so bombarded by make-believe in TV and movies that we are often blinded to the truth, etc.). And it was a decent read. The writing could be quite beautiful at times, really evoking that sense of the fantastic, of magic.

Unfortunately, I felt that Chasing Embers dragged like a sled in tar in far too many spots. It was one of those books that got to the “Is it over yet?” stage for me. There were still nuggets of greatness dispersed throughout the story, but they weren’t enough to fully keep my attention. I found myself putting it down and not really wanting to pick it back up. Bummer, because I love the idea and parts of the story, but I still can’t give it a high recommendation.

Honestly, it was the cover that sold me on this book. I was completely intrigued when I saw the dragon tail and the tag line, “Not all stories are made up…” Kudos to the cover designer!

Thanks to Orbit Books and NetGalley for the free ebook copy of this novel. 🙂