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 🙂

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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)! 🙂

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! 🙂

 

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! 🙂