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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading new author's novels or author's who have not had many reviews or exposure and giving them much needed encouragement where appropriate.   
This blog is the intellectual property of Peter Younghusband, and any quotation of part or all of it without his approval is illegal

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Thursday, 22 September 2016

Blog Tour: Hide it In Your Heart by Annie Doulass Lima


When Annie approached me about being part of her blog tour to promote her new release, a coloring book for adults based on the Word of God, I was enthusiastic. These colouring books hold special interest and importance for me. My wife suffered a spontaneous, massive brain injury (haemorrhage) in 2004 and she nearly did not make it. The surgery was a life saver. By the grace of God, she sustained very little damage, just some hearing and memory loss. Since then, she has to engage in active and stimulating exercises to keep the brain active. Computer games, puzzles and these colouring books have had a huge impact on her ongoing rehab. I have seen her creativity in the completion of her colouring books and some of them are a joy to behold.

Seeing what these colouring books can do from a therapeutic point of view, I can see how these would be a lot of fun for the child that is still in us as adults. I applaud authors like Annie Douglass Lima, who have been created these coloring books for us. In this new creation, she has taken these books to the next level. Not only can they be fun, promote our creativity, assist in brain injury rehab, but can also help stimulate a love affair with the Word of God. Just like children, we learn better when the delivery is fun and entertaining. So check out Annie's post below. You never know, it might just open another door for you!
Over to you, Annie: 


More than just a coloring book, this inspirational activity book will help you relax, unwind, and enjoy some creative fun while hiding God’s Word in your heart.

The 35 separate verses and passages are printed in colorable word art with decorative borders, blank on the back to make them easier to remove and frame or display, if desired. Each one is accompanied by two different activities or puzzles featuring the verse or key words from it.

Hide it in Your Heart is an ideal Scripture memorization aid for Christian schools, homeschool programs, Sunday schools, or your own personal use. Children and adults will enjoy learning, practicing, and meditating on these artistically presented verses from the New International Version Bible.

Proceeds from the sale of Hide it In Your Heart will be donated to www.Christar.org to help provide a translation of God’s Word for a particular people group in East Asia who do not yet have the Bible in their own language.

Here are a few sample coloring and activity pages from Hide it In Your Heart. If you'd like to color them or complete the word puzzles, click here to access a PDF that you can download and print.

   
Hide it In Your Heart is available in paperback on Amazon. Click here to order your copy for $8.99. 
HOWEVER, you can get it for 15% off if you order it here on CreateSpace with coupon code JZBVVBH8The code can be used an unlimited number of times and will not expire, so feel free to order as many copies as you like for family and friends. Hide it In Your Heart makes a great gift for anyone who enjoys word puzzles, coloring, or God's word! 
You're welcome to share the code with others, too.

Happy coloring!



About Annie:

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published thirteen books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, five anthologies of her students’ poetry, and a Scripture coloring and activity book). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

Connect with Annie Douglass Lima online:










Sign up for author updates and receive a free ebook of "interviews" with characters from her fantasy series: http://bit.ly/LimaUpdates

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Distant Boundary: Prequel to The COIL Legacy by D. I. Telbat


Distant Boundary: Prequel to The COIL Legacy

In this novella, Distant Boundary, Prequel for The COIL Legacy Series, D.I. Telbat takes us to a distant land where danger knows no boundaries.

Now working for COIL, Agent Titus Caspertein has left the criminal underworld to carry the cross of Christ, but survival has never seemed more unlikely for this new Christian.

Assumed dead after a bungled humanitarian airdrop, Titus fights for his life against hyenas, wild dogs, and isolation in the African savanna.

With two broken limbs, and predators prowling for his blood, Titus relies on a young boy to keep him alive. Unless his wife, Annette, finds him before a heavily armed rhino poacher does, Titus will become a casualty of the Zimbabwe wilderness!

With a Bonus Chapter from Distant Contact, Book One in The COIL Legacy, map downloads, and cover design by Streetlight Graphics, we pray you enjoy this exciting Prequel to The COIL Legacy. And discover there is truly no redemption without sacrifice.

The Guru's Review:  


Having now read this, I can say that this prequel provides a worthy introduction to this new series, COIL Legacy.

It follows on well from Dark Zeal, the last volume of the COIL series. It also follows on from the conversion of Titus in this same last volume. Strategic from Telbat as not showing what happened to him from Dark Zeal would make us wait for a future volume to find out. This break in continuity would take the reader longer to build a rapport with this new character. Telbat has mentioned in the past that we would hearing more from Titus so it seems that he is important to this new series. If this is so, it pays to establish his placement and importance from the start.

For a short story of this length, 82 pages, Telbat succeeds in setting the scene, pace, atmosphere and tension. As a result, I was transported to this hot, dusty, drought stricken Zimbabwean environment.

The plot for this short lends well to the first mission of Titus and his new wife, Annette. I loved the way Telbat showed how the dire circumstances that Titus found himself in tested his faith. The same with Annette. I dislike an author's portrayal of a character's newly found faith in Christ as unchangeable and rock solid. Not so with Telbat. He has depiected faith in his novels as they are in real life. I related to the fact that both Annette and Titus had to learn to trust God to deliver them both from this situation. Their faith waned but both realised they only had God to rely on and it was not in their hands anymore, but His. Showing a character's faith as realistic is what readers will relate to. Reader's who are Christian will relate to this from their own experience. Those who don't will see the Christian living out their faith under these circumstances as non-conventional and even strange. This may encourage them to question why this is (and lead to them closer to God's truth). It may even provoke them to question the validity of their own reaction to the same circumstances.

This is one thing that I have loved about Telbat's COIL novels. His Christian characters are three dimensional and relational, so is their faith. Telbat's depicts Corben, head of the COIL organisation, as one who has a strong faith. This faith is grounded well in Christ, but it is his past that gives his faith a relatable edge and humbles him. It would be tempting to have depicted him as a super spiritual, bible quoting CEO but then he would just be a character in a novel and not a relatable one. I would find it hard to relate to him like this.

I say the same for Titus and Annette. It is their pasts that are making them relatable and their relationship with Christ a humble one. Not only is it due to who Christ is and what He has done for them via the Cross, but it is this past that has made them appreciate this. They know what they are willing to sacrifice for Him. They both make mention of this in the novel.

In novels like these that depict the suffering and persecution of Christians, I suggest that Telbat would have had to make these faith based. Herein lies why his Christian characters show that their faith is worth living out and dying for. It reminds me of the catch phrase and theme of all his novels, "..there is no redemption without sacrifice".

I really enjoyed this short prequel to the COIL Legacy series. My interest is piqued for the rest of the series. I am glad that the next instament Distant Contact is ready for me to enjoy.

Highly Recommended.

To read a sample or buy this novel, click on  Buy or Preview below.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Dark Zeal (COIL, Book 5) by D. I. Telbat


In Dark Zeal, Book Five in the COIL Series, D.I. Telbat takes us into the heart and heat of Gaza, Israel. Agent Corban Dowler infiltrates Gaza City for a routine medical op, but soon discovers an international plot by Hamas terrorists to destroy Israel, forcing him to respond as a soldier of Christ.

Wounded and captured, Corban gathers his wits to attempt winning over greedy arms dealer Titus Caspertein in order to save Israel from destruction. Corban's mission is further complicated when UN humanitarian American Annette Sheffield is kidnapped and within reach, and he defies government orders to stage a rescue.

Meanwhile, Luigi Putelli, ex-assassin and family guardian, searches for his friend in war-torn Gaza City to offer his services once again. With Hamas militants closing in, and the Israeli Air Force targeting extremists, Corban calls in other operatives to help complete his mission, and prays they aren't all mistaken for terrorists.

Bullets and missiles are flying in this fifth book of the COIL Series, with cover art by Streetlight Graphics. Experience tunnels, drones, and the horrors of the Gaza war zone. But where darkness seems to thrive, God has placed His eternal light in the heart of faithful servant and bold spokesman, Corban Dowler. Join us for this continued Christian Suspense saga, and be reminded: there is no redemption without sacrifice. 

The Guru's Review: 


This is the last book in this COIL series. While it is rather sad that this current series must come to an end, all is not lost. Telbat has just published a follow on series, COIL Legacy. Everything continues from this series.

Every author strives to develop further their craft with each novel. Based on this, I would expect this last one to be the best. This is definitely the case with this volume. If Telbat was to stop writing with this novel, at least he would go out with a bang. He would leave his readers with one memorable and unforgettable series. They would have been entertained, their faith strengthened, God honoured, and a seed of faith planted or watered for others. Dare I say that this standard of writing and effects is now what I am expecting in this next series? I do not have any doubt about this. What seems to feed Telbat's development of his craft is his passion for the Gospel of Christ, the Great Commission and its associated mission field.

I must confess, that I did not have much of a passion for overseas missions before reading novles of this genre. Yet, it is the writings of this author and one other, Martin Roth, who has sparked in me an increasing awareness and passion for the mission field. It is these authors and their stories that keeps me coming back for more. I am finding that I thirst to see what God does in such dire circumstances that God places these characters in. It is here, that Roth and Telbat shine in showing this through their character's expressing their faith and submission to God. Is there a spiritual lesson here for all whether we are in a persecuted Christian environment or not? Definitely, and to this point, this is where Telbat and Roth are successful in Christian fiction. They both not only entertain but show the light of Christ, the power of prayer and how to be His obedient vessels to break the oppressive nature of those governments and military regimes that are hell bent on destroying the Gospel of Christ. What better place for this spiritual war to start than with those who have placed their faith in this God?

I found this volume to be one enthralling and compelling read. In one sense it felt like Telbat had brought many character plots and relationships from previous novels into a head in this one. It was great seeing the continuing relationship beteen Dowler and Luigi Putelli continue. The latter's quest for God has had me almost praying for his salvation, despite knowing he is just a fictional character! I cried at his demise, feeling both the sadness and grief of Dowler over this and that Putelli had to suffer as he did. Yet, Telbat tempers this with the knowledge that his suffering and quest to know God was not in vain. That was a comfort for Dowler and this reader!

I am glad also to see further development in the relationship between Nathan and Chen Li and that Nathan's secret is not a secret any more.This lends itself for future plot developments that I hope I will see in this next series. I cannot help but wonder if the demise of Dowler is also deliberate to expand/develop further plot lines in this new series and help take it to the next level.

With the introduction of a new major character, any review cannot leave out a mention of who this character is. Reading about Titus Caspertein,arms dealer, gives me the impression that Telbat is very fond of this character. There is an implication that Titus will feature maybe prominently in the next series. I loved reading about his spiritual struggle with the morality of his past and present and the effects of the Spirit working through Dowler's witness, convicting him of this. It egged me on and I found myself again, yearning and praying for his salvation. I even wondered if the angels rejoice when a fictional character accepts Christ as the Word says they do with the human race! Such is the power of story and its delivery on a reader's active imagination! I am sure God has a sense of humour!

Speaking of introducing a new character into a series, this is not the first time Telbat has done this. I can count three now. Two in this volume (Casperstein and UN humanitarian Annette Sheffield) and one in a previous one. All three have varying and diverse backgrounds, but Telbat shows they all have the same similarities. Their backgrounds have all reinforced the rebellious sinful nature that is at enmity towards God. We are all guilty of one or all what the apostle John says in his Gospel:
For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 1 John 2:16 (HCSB)
Yet, Telbat shows God doing what He does best. He shows these three characters the destructive nature of these three pitfalls and what they need to do about it. They realise their sin and act on the encouragement and conviction of the Spirit that they need Jesus in their lives to be free of their sin. It is very encouraging to see Telbat show what these three then do, become fellow missionaries and soldiers in this spiritual warfare. They go from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Light.

In this volume, Telbat has upped the hatred of God and Christians through the Hamas tactician, Carac Hassad. I found myself becoming tense and disturbed at the level of deception, hatred, bitterness that exuded from this character. Telbat has also upped the degree of political intrigue, military tactics and warfare in the Hamas' attempt to destroy Israel. These are descriptive enough to transport you there where you can almost feel the heat, the grime, the fear, the oppression, the loss of hope, and the pervasive evil from the Hamas regime. It does give the reader a definite sense of how real it must be and even more so than what real life depicts as reflected by watching the news on a daily basis on these issues.

Telbat has tied up this last volume in such a manner that has your interest remains piqued and you want more so this leads in nicely to the COIL Legacy series. Looking forward to this immensely.

Strongly Recommended

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 4/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 4/5

Average Rating 4.6/5

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Reader Award Bestowment: 

Spiritually, based on this review, the previous novels in the COIL series, the following reference booklet,


and that this series contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Redemptive Fiction outlined in this booklet, I award D. I Telbat with

The Reality Calling Redemptive Speculative Fiction Award



Congratulations, D. I. Telbat!


To read an excerpt or buy Lazarus, click on the icon below:



Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Lazarus by V. K. Dorner

Lazarus by V. K. Dorner


Resigned to an eternity of helping those less fortunate, Lazarus finds himself in modern day New York City. But his simple life is thrown into turmoil when he meets a woman who is a mirror image of his long lost love and learns from a mysterious ally that an ancient enemy is amassing an army of soulless soldiers. With his past and present intermingling, Lazarus struggles to prepare for a battle that will test the limits of his strength and faith.

The Guru's Review:  

 

I picked this up as a free download. I made the mistake of reading the first few pages and I was hooked. Read this over the weekend and I am so glad I did. After the first few chapters, my reaction was WOW! What a plot and what a concept! This novel is constructed well, the author also writes well, the plot flows consistently, no peaks or troughs, keeps you coming back for more and you just cannot put it down. I found my curiosity building with each chapter and each event; Dorner really knows how to reel you in. I found my interest in some of the unique aspects of this novel increasing such as why immortality is granted after being resurrected by Jesus and the bestowing of the gift of ra'oh (no spoiler here, you will have to read it to find out, although the green eyes of Lazarus on the cover might give you a clue! and yes, that Lazarus, the one from the biblie!). You keep reading wondering where the author is going with this and it just adds to the building tension and deepening of the plot and of your reading pleasure. 

This novel is very faithful to the biblical account of the characters and events that it contains. Part of the clever construction is the poetic license that Dorner has employed surrounding the biblical events of these characters that the bible is silent on and this is successful in blending this plot and its intriguing concept seamlessly into each other and makes for one unified and well-rounded experience. I chucked in awe and excitement as I read how the effects of this contributed to this experience and how well this worked.

Dorner is very good at making her characters very relational, especially of the main character and protagonist, Lazarus. You find yourself becoming endeared to him, not because Lazarus is a biblical character and one that you may not know much about (the biblical account does not go into much detail), but from what he experiences in the present and his use of the gift of ra'oh and ministering God's love and mercy to those he comes across. What makes him come alive apart from this, is the flashbacks of his life from the biblical account and the gaps, or poetic license, that Dorner has created that is a joy to read. I usually find flashbacks tedious in novels as they always seem to hold too much information and unintentionally break up the plot and pace making it disjointed. Not so in this novel. Dorner's use of this unifies the novel, tying the past to the present, especially those events of Lazarus, Tali and Mordecai. If only other authors could be this successful in their flashback technique as Dorner! In this novel, these flashbacks add credibility to the characters and the plot, and its spiritual themes.

One of the things I loved while reading Lazarus is the honesty and sincerity that permeates from Dorner in honouring God in all parts of this novel. I have said before in other reviews that you should be able to discern the relationship between the author and God by the way they have treated the subject matter, the spiritual issues/themes, or doctrines of the bible including how they have portrayed God or Jesus and any Christian characters. I can honestly say that I can see that Dorner loves God and is very honouring of Him as this is evident in the flashback scenes, the spiritual warfare scenes being true to the biblical account and doctrine, how Lazarus is obedient and submitted to God since being granted immortality and seeking God many times when he discerned that God's guidance is needed or His involvement is directly requested and He responds, how she has portrayed Jesus, even how she has not sensationalised the demonic as shown through Mordecai. 

Dorner even extends this honesty and sincerity in a very brief but tasteful account of marital relations between Lazarus and Ruth to show the love between these two as husband and wife as God intended. There are two very brief and vague descriptions that are not titillating and do not detract from the plot or taint the flavour of this novel or dishonour God by its inclusion. Another example is the feelings that Lazarus develops for Claire, although she is married, but this shows how human Lazarus is and where these feeling comes from (no spoilers but his reasons are understandable) and true to Lazarus' commitment to God and his submission to same, he acts on his obedience and honours God in his final decision which is used by God to restore Claire's marriage.
 
This novel ticks all the boxes that I like to see in Christian fiction

  • it has entertained me immensely
  • it has encouraged my walk with God, 
  • it has not deviated from known biblical doctrine, and it will not, I believe, lead a non-believer astray or promote false doctrine, 
  • it honours God, 
  • it does not encourage worship of the created (eg angels) instead of the Creator (God). 
This is one very memorable and engaging novel. I am very much looking forward to reading more from this author. 

Highly Recommended

World Building: 5/5

Characterisation: 5/5

Story: 5/5

Spiritual Level (including spiritual warfare): 5/5

Enemy Spiritual Level: 5/5

Average Rating: 5/5

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Award Bestowment:

Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,
 
A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that Lazarus contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Spirit-Filled Speculative Fiction outlined in this booklet, I award V. K. Dorner with

The Reality Calling Christian Redemptive Speculative Fiction Award




Congratulations, V. K. Dorner!
 

To read an excerpt or buy Lazarus, click on the icon below:


Saturday, 27 August 2016

Spencer Murdoch and the Portals of Erzandor by James M M. Baldwin



A construction worker risks his family’s safety to fulfill a prophecy and stop a global storm ushering in the reign of an evil ruler. Spencer Murdoch unearths a supernatural portal and discovers an ancient being guarding a gateway between heaven and hell. Spencer must find the person chosen to enter the portal before a power hungry doctor can use it to release evil into the world.

The Guru's Review: 
 
This novel kept showing up on a few Facebook feeds from some of the groups I belong to and on my Amazon Recommendations. It was only when it was made free that I finally relented and downloaded it as the premise is what kept my interest in this novel. This is the first novel of Baldwin's I have read and I doubt it will be the last. He writes well and shows very creative imagination. 

Looking at the title of this novel, gives me the impression its construction needs to be a combination of it being character and plot driven. The reader needs to know what makes Spencer Murdoch tick seeing he is he centre of the adventure and there needs to be enough background to the plot or world building to make this adventure worthwhile for Spencer to be involved in. Baldwin seems to be successful here as he has depicted Spencer as an ordinary guy, family man, Christian, construction worker, definitely not a hero or adventurer extraordinaire. I liked this character construction as it makes it relatable for the reader, and you find yourself thinking what would I do if I was involved in something like this? Right from the start when Spencer discovers something suspicious in his street, Baldwin has you drawn to him and uses this to introduce you to the mysterious Dr Ubel, his henchmen (who provide some comedy relief in their bumbling and banter) and the supernatural mystery that thru sts Spencer, his family and his friend Jack, into an adventure that puts the future of the world into Spencer, Jack and CJ's hands.  

It is this that showcases Baldwin's imagination and is very well reflected in the world building that bases the science fiction and fantasy elements of the plot. I loved the riddle that Spencer had to solve in order to fulfill the prophecy. The underground world and the journey to this world that Spencer and Jack make is very enjoyable and suspenseful reading and very much adds to the plot development. It is this that gives the impression that there is enough going on in this plot to keep you coming back for more. And you do! 

I have only one gripe and that is the missing spiritual aspects. This is very much an edgy, speculative fiction novel with Christian themes, a guardian entity to a portal to Heaven, a Christian thrust into the middle of this quest for world dominion by the antagonist trying to thwart the prophecy from God coming to fruition. During this, Baldwin has Spencer showing very little prayer or reliance on God. It is exactly these events that in a novel of this genre that an author has a great opportunity to show a Christian character being submitted and obedient, relying on God to provide guidance and direction as not only is this extraordinary circumstances that he finds himself in, but this should be normal practice in any Christian life. The way Baldwin has portrayed it could be interpreted that prayer and asking for God's involvement is only when extraordinary circumstances occur or when you are at the end of yourself. This is just not so from a biblical point of view. I don't mean this to sound harsh just what struck me as I read.

I also feel that a plot line involving Ubel's son is left unresolved and if this is to be addressed in the next book, there is no indication of this in this volume. This plot line is not a minor issue, Baldwin's portays this as a major motive that keeps him trying to thwart Spencer from fulfilling the prophecy. That is disappointing and adds an element of plot derailment. 


Despite these two negatives, this is a good novel and sets the stage for an engaging series.

I look forward to the next instalment being released on September 2, 2016

Recommended (3.6/5 Stars).

World Building 4/5

Characterisation 4/5

Story 4/5

Spiritual Level 3/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 3/5

Average Rating 3.6/5

To read a sample from this novel or to buy it, click on the cover image below: