The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller

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From the publisher:

A thrilling debut from ER doctor turned novelist Tom Miller, The Philosopher’s Flight is an epic historical fantasy set in a World-War-I-era America where magic and science have blended into a single extraordinary art. “Like his characters, Tom Miller casts a spell.” (Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club and The Last Bookaneer)

Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is a practitioner of empirical philosophy—an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, shape clouds of smoke, heal the injured, and even fly. Though he dreams of fighting in the Great War as the first male in the elite US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service—a team of flying medics—Robert is resigned to mixing batches of philosophical chemicals and keeping the books for the family business in rural Montana, where his mother, a former soldier and vigilante, aids the locals.

When a deadly accident puts his philosophical abilities to the test, Robert rises to the occasion and wins a scholarship to study at Radcliffe College, an all-women’s school. At Radcliffe, Robert hones his skills and strives to win the respect of his classmates, a host of formidable, unruly women.

Robert falls hard for Danielle Hardin, a disillusioned young war hero turned political radical. However, Danielle’s activism and Robert’s recklessness attract the attention of the same fanatical anti-philosophical group that Robert’s mother fought years before. With their lives in mounting danger, Robert and Danielle band together with a team of unlikely heroes to fight for Robert’s place among the next generation of empirical philosophers—and for philosophy’s very survival against the men who would destroy it.

In the tradition of Lev Grossman and Deborah Harkness, Tom Miller writes with unrivaled imagination, ambition, and humor. The Philosopher’s Flight is both a fantastical reimagining of American history and a beautifully composed coming-of-age tale for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.


My review:

This book ended up being way more than I expected for a debut novel! The story was fascinating and very well-written. And Tom Miller did such a fantastic job of entwining his story with true history that I found myself getting caught up in the narrative and asking, “Wait, did that really happen?”

Miller managed to spin a tale that both entertains and calls out those who would be prejudiced against their fellow man (or woman) for whatever reason, rather than taking them on their own merits. He turns both sexism and religious intolerance on their heads to expose their useless underbellies, all while creating an alternate history that is seamlessly written.

I laughed, I cheered, I teared up, I wanted to scream at the characters…all signs of a well-crafted story. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller when it is released by Simon & Schuster on February 13, 2018.

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for the advanced copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

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Amish Vampires in Space by Kerry Nietz

AViSFrom the book:

Jebediah has a secret that will change his world forever and send his people into space.

The Amish world of Alabaster calls upon an ancient promise to escape destruction. They end up on a cargo ship bound for the stars.

But they are not the only cargo on board. Some of it is alive…or used to be.

Now, with vampires taking over and closing in on the Amish refugees, these simple believers must decide whether their faith depends upon their honored traditions or something even older.


My review:

I bet I know what you’re thinking (because it’s the same thing I was thinking when I first saw this book)…this has to be a joke, right? A spoof or parody or something? I imagined I would be laughing my way through this book, while the author poked fun at Amish fiction.

Then I started reading it. Wow! Not only is it not a spoof, it is a terrifically well-written piece of science fiction. Kerry Nietz managed to take three forms of fiction that I’m not a huge fan of (space opera, paranormal/vampire fiction, and Amish fiction) and mesh them into a remarkable story that I couldn’t put down. The core of this story is not about Amish vampires in space–they are simply a rather interesting medium for a discussion about what is truly important to you. What do you truly rely on when the proverbial chips are down: tradition, pop culture, or something bigger than all that?

I never thought I’d find myself recommending a book called Amish Vampires in Space, but I can’t seem to recommend it highly enough. You definitely need to read this 🙂

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! 🙂

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! 🙂