The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

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About the book:

SELLING STORIES IS A DEADLY BUSINESS

Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories—she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down…and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers…and they’re after her too.


My review:

The first time I heard about this book last year, I knew I had to read it. What a captivating idea: a storyteller who weaves tales into crystallized sculptures! And once I got my little hands on this book, it outpaced my expectations so greatly. 🙂

I was drawn into Tanwen’s world immediately and didn’t want to ever come out! Tir is well-built and easy to imagine and filled with a charming cast of characters you can’t help but fall in love with.

But the story itself is the best part of all. It is a tale of finding strength in weakness, of love conquering even death, and of the power of art to bring beauty and truth and hope. The Story Peddler is a delightful tale with a compelling message and you don’t want to miss it!

How do I put into words how wonderful this book is?? It’s pretty impossible, but I will say that Lindsay A. Franklin has brought a fascinating premise to extraordinary life, weaving her own story strands into a lovely piece of art for all to enjoy. And I can’t recommend it highly enough 🙂 Buy it! Buy it now! Preorder it and then wait by the mailbox for it to arrive, make a cup of tea to relax after all the anxiety of waiting, then snuggle in for a fabulous read!!

Many, many thanks to Lindsay and Gilead Publishing/Enclave for the advanced copy of this wonderful book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

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Reclaiming Shilo Snow by Mary Weber

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About the book:

She was far more capable than Earth’s leaders had accounted for—and they had no idea what she’d do next.
Known as a brilliant mind that could hack humanity’s darkest secrets, seventeen-year-old Sofi Snow is the most wanted teenager alive. She found her way to the icy, technologically brilliant planet of Delon to find Shilo, the brother everyone but Sofi believes is dead.
But as she and Ambassador Miguel partner to find her brother and warn those on Earth of Delon’s dark designs on humanity, Sofi’s memories threaten to overtake her, distorting everything she holds true. She knows the Delonese kept her in a dark, deceptive place . . . and destroyed a portion of her life. Now, the more they discover of Sofi’s past, the more Sofi feels herself unraveling—as each new revelation has her questioning the very existence of reality.
In this harrowing sequel to The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, Sofi and Miguel must trust each other and discover the secrets locked inside Sofi’s mind as the line between what’s real and what they imagine begins to slip away . . . threatening to take humanity with it.


My review:

For those of you who took my advice and read book one in this series, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow (you can read the review here, if you haven’t yet), you know it ended in one of those awful cliffhangers that made me want to scream, “WWWHHHHHYYYYYY????” Well, thankfully the wait is finally over, since Reclaiming Shilo Snow is set to be released in just a few days. And trust me, it was worth the wait.

While it took me a while to change gears from Weber’s Storm Siren world to her Sofi Snow world in the first book, I did not have that issue at all in Shilo Snow. The action picks up right where she left us hanging, and it does not quit until the end.

And she continues to peel back even more layers on Sofi and Miguel to reveal deeply scarred, yet dramatically beautiful characters that you can’t help but cheer for.

Weber did leave the ending a bit open, so I’m not sure if this is the last of the series or if she plans to continue the Snows’ adventures in this dystopian world or not. Either way, thank you Mary Weber for giving your readers some resolution and helping to ease the heartache you left us with last year. (Although, **minor spoiler alert** she did leave me with different heartache at the climax of the story!)

Thrilling, poignant, creative, fascinating…I definitely recommend you read Mary Weber’s Reclaiming Shilo Snow (and The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, if you haven’t experienced it yet.)

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson 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! 🙂

A Reluctant Assassin by J C Morrows

A Reluctant Assassin

About the book:

HER MISSION WAS SIMPLE

GET CLOSE TO THE PRINCE AND KILL HIM…

Kayden entered the palace under a lie — one designed to get her close to the prince. She may look like a princess but beneath the mask, a killer lays in wait for the perfect moment.

Dvarius was not ready to take the crown, nor was he ready for a wife…but due to his father’s unexpected death and an archaic law, he must find a bride before he is allowed to take his rightful place on the throne.

And the one woman he wants — just might be the one…who’s there to kill him.


My review:

This was an interesting story with a slightly different take on the fairy tale ideal of the prince falling in love with the pauper. I want to say that I loved it, but, honestly, there were a few things that just won’t allow me to give it a really good recommendation.

First, I felt like the story skimmed over some of the more important details and focused on some things that were maybe not as vital to the plot. For example, we really don’t have much of Kayden’s history with the Order, why she reacts in certain ways, or what the Order of the Moonstone is actually all about (besides sending young, beautiful women to kill people), but we do know that she has a closet full of clothes. Because the characters were not quite as fleshed out as they could have been, it did seem as if I knew more about what they were wearing than about what motivated them to speak or act.

Next, the flow of the story was often interrupted by random dashes and ellipses. Sometimes characters’ thoughts or speech would pause in strange places and I’d find myself having to read the same sentence a few times to make sure I understood just what was happening.

It was, however, an enjoyable read, and I would really like to know what happens to Kayden and Dvarius in the next book of the series.

But I would recommend you buy this in ebook format, in the hopes that you can adjust the font (which in the paperback version was an all-caps copperplate that was strange for me to read) to your liking.

**I did start by reading the VERY short Order of the Moonstone short story, “A Perilous Assignment.” It is a brief glimpse into how Kayden was chosen for the assignment. You certainly don’t have to read it, since the content of the prequel doesn’t really add any important information to the overall story. But it is interesting…

A Perilous Assignment

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 🙂

The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson

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From the back matter:

All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—

          but, what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear normal, she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see.

Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man is not a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.


My Review:

Don’t tell me that people don’t judge a book by its cover–I did, and that is exactly why I had to grab this book in the Realm Makers bookstore this year. I mean, wouldn’t you be intrigued enough by that cover to pick up this book? And the cover isn’t even the best part!

The story is unputdownable—I know that’s not a word, but it is the best way to describe The Girl Who Could See. Once you dive into Fern’s story, you can’t help but want to know more about this “crazy” girl and her crazier world. This may be a novella, but by the time you’re done reading, you feel like you’ve been through a terrifically epic adventure with some extraordinary characters.

Kara Swanson is a writer to keep your eyes on. Do yourself a favor and grab your own beautiful copy of The Girl Who Could See and “see” for yourself. 🙂

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)! 🙂