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 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! 🙂

 

Recruits by Thomas Locke

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From the Book: “It’s a world they’ve only seen in their dreams–until now.

“Twins Sean and Dillon Kirrel have dreamed about a world beyond their own since they were children, but it has always been a fantasy. Not long before their eighteenth birthday, however, the arrival of a mysterious new neighbor and the revelations he shares bring that far-off world within reach.

“When Sean and Dillon learn they share a unique gift–the ability to transfer instantly between worlds–they are offered an opportunity to prove themselves as recruits to the planetary Assembly. But unlocking their abilities awakens an enemy beyond anything they ever imagined, thrusting them into an interplanetary conflict that could consume the entire human race.”

I love to read Thomas Locke books. His “Legends of the Realm” series is one of my favorites. It’s cool to see an author like Thomas Locke not pigeonhole himself into one specific genre, and Recruits is definitely different from the “Legends of the Realm.” I’d say it’s more similar to his “Fault Lines” series, but for young adults, and with aliens.

But I have to be honest, I wasn’t able to get as into this book as I wanted to. I am more than certain, however, that it was not the writing or character development or anything Thomas Locke did that caused me to be a bit apathetic–I’ve just been too distracted lately. The book was well-written, fast-paced, and kept me wanting to know how it would all turn out. And Locke posited some really interesting ideas about space travel and other planetary populations, that made me go hmmm.

If you like your sci-fi, check this book out. I’d definitely recommend it 🙂

I won this book from Revell in a Goodreads giveaway! So, if you’re on Goodreads, make sure you enter any contest that you actually want to win–they really do work! 🙂

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

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From the publisher: THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS THE LIFE YOU’RE “SUPPOSED” TO HAVE

“You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed . . . because it wasn’t necessary.

“Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

“But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.”

Elan Mastai’s debut novel, All Our Wrong Todays, started out with a terrifically imaginative Jetson’s-style world. Some serious inventiveness, deep thought, and creative world-building went into this story. Despite all that, I must admit to you that at times this story was tough for me to get through. I wanted to give up on the typical, modern, self-absorbed anti-hero that Mastai had created in Tom Barren.

But I didn’t give up and, thankfully, there was a lot more to the story. All Our Wrong Todays is more than just a story of time-travel gone wrong…it’s a reminder to all of us that there is no such thing as the life we are supposed to have, so we must find the joy in where and when we are.

Despite my early misgivings, I would definitely recommend this novel. Fluidly written and heartfelt, this is one you’ll want to curl up with to let your imagination loose and your heart soar.

All Our Wrong Todays will be released on February 7, 2017.

Many thanks to Penguin Group/Dutton for asking for my opinion on this novel. 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. 🙂

Ordinary Souls by J.S. Bailey

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From the author’s website: “Sixteen ordinary souls. Sixteen not-so-ordinary tales.

“Ordinary Souls is an anthology about ordinary people. This new collection from J. S. Bailey features an archaeologist in the future who meets a resurrected woman from long ago, a spaceship crew stranded on a distant world, a wealthy divorcee whose love of antiques turns her life into a living nightmare, and much more.

“Featuring nine new stories and seven previously-published stories including ‘Vapors’ and ‘Weary Traveler,’ which appear in print for the first time.”

Thought-provoking, intriguing, at times creepy, but always fascinating, J.S. Bailey’s collection of short stories is quite the read. Through these sixteen stories, we are taken to relatively normal places with more than normal (okay, we’ll call them what they are – paranormal) matters. She’s done a magnificent job of taking those simple things we overlook every day – from mirrors to abandoned houses to drivers’ licenses to pizza – and built beautifully weird stories around them. These are the type of stories I so enjoy: unusual, interesting takes on the mundane that make you stop and think, “What if?”

If you’re a short story fan, I’d recommend you pick up a copy of Ordinary Souls. It is available for pre-order now through Amazon (click here!) and will release October 15th in softcover and ebook formats.

Many thanks to Blue Harvest Creative for the free copy of this ebook for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

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I was lucky to get a chance to meet J.S. Bailey at the RealmMakers Conference at Villanova University in July. I snapped this picture of J.S. and her husband (or as I know them, the TARDIS and the Ninth Doctor…) at the awards night banquet. She’s a wonderful lady, who very graciously signed my copy of Rage’s Echo for me!! Thanks, J.S.!

Firebird by Kathy Tyers

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Lady Firebird, third daughter of Queen Siwann of Netaia, knows that she is slated to die. Netaian law states that she is an unnecessary threat to the line of succession of the crown, so she must sacrifice herself in an honorable manner for the good of the world. In her desire to do what is best for her homeland, Firebird has trained to be a fighter pilot. Yet, on her first mission, Firebird’s grand plans are thwarted by Federate General Brennen Caldwell, and she must rethink what is best for both her and Netaia.

Firebird is a story of choices – those we make and those forced upon us. Firebird knows that she is supposed to die honorably, but only because other people’s actions forced a law upon her and all other noble children in her homeland. The religion of her ancestors has never given her the freedom to choose any other path. Yet, when she learns that other religions hold ideas different from hers, her eyes are opened to the possibility that she doesn’t have to believe what her family has believed for generations. And the story is wonderfully conceived and written.

I will admit that I am not a sci-fi fan – I’ve never been able to get into Star Trek or things like that, because I’m just not excited about space-y stuff. However, I found myself continually fascinated by Tyers’ ability to both imagine all of the sci-fi space-y stuff and then to keep it all straight. Her writing was so interesting and her theme so strong and beautiful that the spaceships and laser guns and things faded into the background for me. She made a non-sci-fi girl really enjoy a thoroughly sci-fi story – it was both intelligently and creatively crafted. And I was impressed!

I would highly recommend you read Kathy Tyers’ Firebird, even if, like me, you’re not a fan of sci-fi. Definitely a great read!