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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 debut author's novels or those author's who have not had many reviews thus providing them much needed encouragement 
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Saturday, 28 December 2013

Only Evil Continually, Part 1 by Clifton Voshen (The Order of Melchizedek, Book 2)



After the events in End of All Flesh, the fallen angels grapple with their prior defeat. What can they do to control mankind? Standing against their efforts to rule the Earth is Enoch. But he has his own problems.
















Review: 


Even though this is only Part 1 of Book 2, it has proved itself as a worthy sequel to End of All Flesh. I loved all of this, especially the second half. Voshen describes well the fallout from the fallen angel's defeat from the events in the End of All Flesh and how they plot their revenge.


Meanwhile, Enoch has his problems coping with more of his dysfunctional family who have walked away and rejected the One True God. He becomes estranged from his wife of Semiramis who has been seduced by the gods/demons of the world and is outraged at her allowing two of their triplets to be sacrificed to the god Saturn. He manages to save his third son with God's help and calls him Methuseleh.

We also get further updates on some of the characters from the End of All Flesh and these fit in nicely with Enoch's continual stand against the further seduction of the population by the Domin, demon gods and Nephilim and the population's further rejection of The One True God. Some of these descriptions are very well written. A few events stand out more than others notably the events where the population are seduced into one will to storm the gates of the Garden of Eden together with the Domin, demon gods to eat of the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is so very well described that it is a real time stopper, and you are totally absorbed in this scene to the exclusion of where you are. Voshen's description of Enoch's stand against the high priest Khanibal is very authoritarian, and you can tell he is speaking with the authority of God and from God.

One thing I loved about this novel and the previous one is how Voshen has developed and described the conversations between Enoch and God. These are very beautiful, and he has set the stage in each of these conversations that have a very calmly effect on me as if I was in the place of Enoch and God was talking to me. It must be hard for any author to depict God as God when we have not met Him as He is, and our only experience is through His Spirit, His Word, and the witness and interaction of others being used by Him to minister to us and make Himself known to mankind. Voshen does this very well and to me shows a glimpse of his personal relationship with God.  This is one thing that I love about Christian authors, through their writing, you do get a glimpse of their relationship with God. I name such authors as Steve Goodwin, Ian Acheson, Bryan M Litfin, Mike Dellosso, Jess Hanna, Michael J Webb to name a few. This can only encourage the reader's faith and relationship with God. Another way God minister's to us through the written word and through his people.

As in the previous novel, Voshen has researched well the antediluvian world. This shows in the rich descriptions that depict this world and transport you there. Speaking to this author, he has no qualms about including his own impressions he believes may have been in existence at the time, such as electricity, coffee, pistols, flying machines. This is not just his imagination. Many Christian experts who have studied this antediluvian world also believe there was an advanced technology even such that we have not discovered or reproduced since the Flood. It seems a lot of knowledge and technology was lost in the Flood.

Voshen has also depicted the nature of the demons and fallen angels well in this novel and the previous one. Again, you are transported to this era and can feel the evilness of their character and the hatred for mankind and especially God and his angels. Again, I would say he has researched this subject well, and this only enhances this novel and his depiction of this antediluvian world.

My only complaint is that Voshen has released this in Parts. Part 1, this novel, ends in a cliff hanger of sorts, where I can see this would be a great place to end this story if it has to be in parts, but it also whets your appetite for the rest of the novel. Not sure why he has done this. No doubt he will answer my query here in an email once he reads this review!!

A great read.

Strongly recommended.

My Rating:   


Friday, 27 December 2013

Frantic by Mike Dellosso

Can a deranged serial killer be stopped before it’s too late?
For gas station attendant Marny Toogood it’s just another day on the job when an urgent message from a young girl in the backseat of a car draws him into a daring rescue attempt. Now on the run with the girl and her brother, Marny begins to realize he must conquer his own past and surrender all to Christ.
As they face kidnapping, underground cults, and other evils, can Marny trust the simple faith of a child and stand his ground against a power so twisted?

Review: 


If an author titles a book with an adjective, or verb, you automatically expect it to be full of action, fast pace and a book you cannot put down. I looked up the adjective frantic and dictionary.com defines it as:
"desperate or wild with excitement, passion, fear, pain, etc.; frenzied."
Well, I reckon Dellosso delivers this definition with this novel. It reads at a frantic pace, the action just the same, the characters well developed; believable and relational. I found myself identifying with the emotions and desperation of the main characters of Marny, Ester and envied the confidence born from the gift of faith of William, the younger brother of Esther.

Marny finds himself in this frantic pace after seeing the troubled desperate face of Esther as she sits in the back seat of a car as Marny is filling the car up with petrol. He is intrigued by this woman and her look and finds a note on the ground after the car leaves, which says, "He is going to kill me".

Now if Marny had not acted on this message, he would have gone back to his mundane life, just waiting for the next curse to affect him, just as his grandfather has predicted at his birth, "...Marny's life would be stormy, full of rain clouds and lightning strikes."

The story then continues with Marny acting on his decision to investigate the note left by Esther. This is when the pace of this novel really revs up. Marny tracks Esther and the car to a house in the woods where he meets up with Esther's captor, Gary. He manages to rescue Esther and in the process her younger brother, William, who is the subject of Gary's purpose in life, to protect and develop the gift of faith that William possesses.

What follows is a cat and mouse game where Marny, Esther and William attempt to outsmart Gary who in turn attempts the same to recapture them and deal with Esther and Marny so he can continue his quest with William.

Interspersed through this is flashbacks into the past complicated life of Marny and the various "rain clouds and lightning strikes" or curses that dotted his growing up years and through these flashbacks you discover what makes Marny tick and the way he is now. This adds to the credibility of Marny as the hero that Esther claims him to be.

We also find out, again through flashbacks, the motivation behind Gary's role as protector and mentor (but seen as oppressor) to William and his gift of faith. This also serves to describe Gary's past and contribute to who he is and why he is driven to succeed at all costs.

Dellosso adds a further twist in this plot and further supernatural elements when Marny, Esther and William seek the help refuge of Esther's father. Here, at first look, we feel they may find refuge, safety and support from the pursuit of Gary. But to no avail. It turns out that Esther's father, Harold, is involved in a bizarre cult and seeks to use the desperate situation of Esther, Marny and William to further the needs of this cult.

So more twists and turns, more frantic pace. You cannot put this book down.

I gave this book four stars as I found a few things that I stumbled over. I would have liked Dellosso to have explained, even briefly, the gift of faith that William has and how this enabled him to heal Marny from his bullet wounds and resurrect him from the dead. I say this as we just do not see this in Christian circles in real life and I firmly believe it is possible through prayer, faith and the Holy Spirit. So this stood out to me in the story due to this fact.

The other aspect of the story, while adding suspense, action and to the frantic pace of the plot, is the supernatural freezing of the interior of the house as Marny investigates the whereabouts of Gary. This was lost on me as to the importance of this to the plot and to Marny.

But despite these two issues, it is a great story of faith, redemption over evil, spiritual abuse and the evil potential of the fallen nature of man.

Highly Recommended.


My Rating: 


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Beowulf, Explosive Detective Dog, (A Breed Apart, Book 3) by RonieKendig

Description:

Beowulf—a hulky, brindle-coated bullmastiff—is the only “boy” for Timbrel Hogan. And she has a history to remind her why. But when Timbrel, a handler at A Breed Apart, embarks on a mission to detect WMDs in Afghanistan, she reunites with Tony “Candyman” VanAllen and her no-other-man philosophy is challenged. While tension mounts between Timbrel and Tony, the team comes under fire after Beowulf gets a “hit.” When tragedy threatens Tony’s career and Timbrel’s courage, they must maneuver through an intricate plot and a mission like no other.


Review: 

Third book in the A Breed Apart trilogy. And the best one out of all three! I thoroughly loved this one and kept saying to myself that this should not be last one. Now I find that the team of all these characters, those of the ODA452 will be back in a new series called The Quiet Professionals, the first volume called Raptor Six. I am not sure if the MWDs will be back in this series but nevertheless, I am looking forward to this immensely.


 There is more of everything we became used to in this instalment, faster pace, well researched military ops and well developed plot and characters.

In this novel, it seems Kendig has developed the main characters of Hogan and Van Allen more so in this novel than she had the main characters in the previous two. That is not a complaint just an observation and it is a good one for that matter. She has portrayed the chemistry between Van Allen and Hogan very well and makes it very enjoyable. You find yourself being an observer and not a reader watching these two develop their relationship through the various dominant characteristics of each other's personalities and their fears and hurts from the past. Kendig is quite the character developer and these two characters really show her expertise here. As an observer so described here, this relationship was fun to watch and so engaged by Kendig that you rejoiced when things went well and grieved when their relationship went sour and became frustrated but understood when their fears threatened to overtake them and put them on a path of self destruction. 

One could say that there was maybe a touch too much of the romance compared to military action and therefore this made it more of a romance novel with a military background but I guess that would be a fair enough comment if one had not read the previous two novels. I felt this for a while but as the novel progressed and the situation developed with Van Allen, it made sense that this was so and it really did balance out in the second half of this novel.

I loved the touches of humour Kendig inserted especially when it came to the relationship between Beowulf and Van Allen, Beowulf growling and never let Van Allen gain any respect and Van Allen calling him the "hound from hell" whenever there was any major interaction between them. Despite this, it was Beowulf who saves Van Allen from more serious injury during the bomb blast and the two of them forget their differences when it came to joining forces and saving Hogan from harm when she was kidnapped and assaulted. 

After the mission in the first part of the novel, there was quite a time gap or was it that so much transpired since this mission that it seemed the plot relating to this was a bit disjointed? I was a bit concerned but knew Kendig would deal with this as the novel progressed and she did this very well in the last quarter. This added to a great ending, one I was on the edge of my seat with and almost near tears with the thought that Beowulf could have died! One of my thoughts during this time was, "Kendig, you can't kill off Beowulf! No, just no!" I had the same feeling and did cry when the story line implied that Van Allen had died from the bomb blast!! All this does is show how masterful this author is at plot development and flow and also with characterisation. 

Again, Kendig included the spiritual aspects without being preachy and applied them to the fears, hurts and challenges of not only Van Allen and Hogan but also to her mother and her fiancé. In some Christian novels this spiritual side of things can come across as either too much and not applied appropriately to the characters or their situations but in this case, Kendig does show that Christianity is indeed a relationship with God and not a crutch for those who are so called weak and cowardly. She mixes this in very well with the mind set of the strict military and regimented culture of the military who can be very independent in thought and action and masters of their own fate. 

I loved the subplot of Aazim/Dehqan and how the witness of Nafisa, a Christian converted from Islam, softened his heart and this led him to consider Christ as the one True God and not Allah. Af first I felt that with Dehqan narrating his side of things in the first person a bit hard to deal with compared to the rest of the novel in the third person but after a while I found this was very unique and did fit into the plot very well.

All in all I found this a very enjoyable and compelling novel and the best out of this trilogy. 

The other two were Strongly Recommended by myself but this one is Highly Recommended. 

Ronie Kendig, Well done!!

My Rating:  




Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Penny by Benjamin Reynolds

Description: 

 Randal Cole is the troubled pastor of a small, inner city church. After a prayer meeting, leaves church deciding to resign, but is approached by mysterious man outside who makes an unusual request – to place a single penny in the church offering the coming Sunday. Randal agrees and soon finds himself at the center of a growing global movement transforming lives throughout the world.

But all does not go well. In the midst of his newfound success, a sudden sickness and dark secret threaten to destroy Randal’s family and blossoming ministry. With the aid of a godly messenger and the power of faith, can Randal overcome disappointment, personal tragedy and wavering faith to become an unlikely here able to change the world?

 
Review: 

An Entertaining and Faith Strengthening Novella

 I really loved this novella. This is the first novel of Benjamin Reynolds and I look forward to reading any others he has.

This novella is simple in its story line and it needed to be in order for the author to deliver the message he wanted us to receive: being obedient to God in whatever form He uses to bring back the lost and meet people's needs either individually or corporately.

I enjoyed the description of the wavering faith Randal Cole, the pastor in this story, who founded and pastor a small church with dwindling members, declining income, and lack of commitment amoungst these same members. This seems to be a world wide phenomenon in churches today. I can relate to that very well.

Just when Randal is finally about to give up and leave his calling and the church, God sends a miracle in the form of a stranger who asks him to put a solitary penny in the offering the following Sunday. He decides to honour this stranger's request and receives a monetary blessing very soon after that pays for the church outright and solves the church's financial debt. Then he hears other testimonies from others within his own church, the surrounding areas, the rest of the country then around the world of the same phenomenon: a stranger asks church members to put the penny he gives them in the offering the following Sunday. Once they do, they and their church are financially blessed.

Randal then seeks God's face and is encouraged to set up a fund to finance many ministries of churches around the world in their ministries that advance the Word of God and the Great Commission and meeting people's needs. But whenever there is a blessing from God and people's faith increase, satan sets out to derail their faith and block God's hand. Randal is tested via his health but shines through with his faith and is healed which only strengthens this new ministry God has started.

I would have liked to have seen more spiritual warfare in this story but it is a novella and this inclusion may have taken it past that into a full novel. However, Amazon have this listed as Volume 1 so there may be more scope in successive volumes. I really look forward to the next instalment.

I came away from this novella with my faith strengthened and a determination to trust and obey God more, being willing to surrender the things I struggle with to Him. I know Reynolds has not portrayed God's faithfulness and blessings as poetic licence but has based this on God's character, His Word and this author's own life experience being obedient to God. This gives me encouragement and direction.

I highly recommend this novella. Entertaining but encouragement and food for your faith and relationship with God." 


My Rating:  

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Talon, Combat Tracking Team by Ronie Kendig (A Breed Apart, Book 2)

Description: 

Aspen Courtland is out to find her missing brother. Only his combat tracking dog, Talon, knows where to look. Problem is, after a brutal attack that separated dog and handler, Talon’s afraid of his own shadow. The search is on, but when one mistake means disaster, can Talon muster the courage for one last mission?


Review:

This is a very good second book in the series that follows on from Tinity. Some of the characters from this first novel have bit parts in this second book while others play more involved roles.

We first met Aspen in Trinity, and it was there that we learn she desperately wants to find her brother who she does not believe in dead but MIA. A clue is in an interview with a man, known as Cardinal, who worked with her brother, Austin, before he went missing and it is this event that sparks a mission to Dijoubti, Africa, where he was most recently seen that initiates the mission to find him.

As with the previous novel, there is action, adventure, suspense and that good old, "cannot put down" quality that needs to be part of any military novel.

In Trinity, we are introduced to Aspen and in Talon it is about her story. She had become the handler of Talon, who was abandoned by Austin when he went MIA, presumed dead by the military. She does not believe he is dead. Since Austin's disappearance, she has to deal with and try to rehabilitate the PTSD that Talon suffers from and to rebuild his trust and confidence in people and to act as a military dog once again.

Kendig deals with this very well. She has a knack of
encouraging you to connect with Talon and Aspen and treat them as a unit of which they are. She also developed the other characters, Candyman, Burnett, Hogan and others who make up the team to Djibouti to find Austin. This is good as it means they will most likely be in the third novel, Beowulf as well.


Kendig developed some very good plot structures. She had me guessing for a while about the true identity of Neil Crane and Lina, his girlfriend and her connection to one of the main characters I did not suspect until this was revealed at the end. That was clever. I also did not see the connection to Neil and Cardinal's father.

One other plot structure that I found intriguing was the background to Nikol and who he could be connected to or his real identity. I started to get my suspicions just over half way through the book as the relationship between Cardinal and Aspen was developing.

All these were connected well and explained at the end which made for a well rounded and complete ending.


I also liked how Kendig further developed the character of Timbrel Hogan. Such a man hater and toxic character but one who has been hurt badly by men and relationships and developing her in this novel sets the scene for her story in the next book in this series, Beowulf, Explosive Detective Dog. It will be good to see what happens to Candyman and her from the obvious attraction Candyman has for her and her trying valiantly to deny this and keep her toxic and "I hate all men" attitude that us readers came to love to hate in her in this novel.


What fitted in well in all this was the references to God and the reliance of Him when Aspen and Cardinal were at their lowest and most despairing. This was done well and for me portrayed the nature of God's mercy, love and forgiveness and letting go and letting Him take control of their situation.

I still had trouble with Kendig's writing style. Again with some of the dialogue flow and having to back track to get back on track. Not sure what it is. No other reviewer whom I have read has had this issue. Maybe it is just me.

One the whole, another Strongly Recommended book.

My rating: 


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Fearless by Mike Dellosso

Description: 

When a nine-year-old girl named Louisa mysteriously appears in the middle of a house fire with no memory of how she got there or where she came from, Jim and Amy Spencer agree to take her in. Wrestling with the recent loss of their own child, Amy is hurt and angry while Jim is just trying to make it through each day and hold their marriage together.

For Jim, Louisa is the daughter he always wanted, but Amy isn’t as comfortable with her. The girl has a special gift, and soon that gift will unknowingly push them all into contact with a serial killer who has been terrorizing the small town of Virginia Mills. Only by uniting can Jim and Amy save themselves and Louisa before it’s too late.



Review: 

I have said this before, you cannot go wrong with a Dellosso novel. This one reinforces that all over again. This to me is his best work.

While not as fast paced as others, the pace was enough to keep you coming back for more. His characterisation is as always very good. Dellosso has an uncanny knack of letting you into the character's minds, especially in this case the antagonist, Mitch Albright. Despite hating what he is doing, you feel his pain, understand what is causing this pain and his motive for murder and you sympathise with him. Does this put you on the side of this character? No, I find it encourages me to develop an attitude like Christ in that He hates the sin but loves the sinner! Dellosso has also portrayed this very nicely in the character of Clare Appleton who is fearless in not being intimidated by Mitch's violent, aggressive, and maleficent behaviour towards her and her husband Bob. Many times, Clare shows sympathy, understanding and even acceptance of Mitch as a person and looks past his behaviour and tries to appeal to his better side and get him to think about what he is doing and that it does not have to be like this. Does not Christ do the same to us? Gets us to think about our behaviour and give us an out: Himself! I loved this character. She is one of a kind.

I related to Amy and Jim Spencer. Amy in what she was experiencing in the aftermath of losing a child in utero and Jim in being the grieving father and to still support his also grieving wife. Having personally gone through this twice with my wife, I can say that Dellosso has captured enough of what this is like for a couple without it being too much to detract from the pace, plot, characterisation and overall thriller effect of the novel. I will always have a soft spot for Jim and Amy Spencer! Reading about Jim and Amy was in some respects myself and my wife in this novel!! Both Amy and Jim had to be fearless to confront their situation and learn to deal with this loss. Amy and Jim showed fearlessness also when Amy and Louisa were captured by Mitch and Jim in his attempts in protecting his family from Mitch and rescuing them from the burning house.

Dellosso shines in this novel with his portrayal of Louisa. Innocent, gentle, compassionate, mature beyond her age, great insight into the human spirit, a deep but simplistic faith in God (just like the Bible says our faith should be like: that of a child) but strong, fearless, and persistent throughout all she experienced. The sense of mystery surrounding Louisa's background, who she is, where she came from, her gift of healing and obedience, keeps you reading to find out all these answers. You cannot do anything else but sympathise and love her!

I cried at the end, not just because Dellosso tied up all the loose ends very nicely and appropriately, but because Jim and Amy found healing of their loss through Louisa, a renewed faith in God and finding out they were expecting another child. Again, I related well to this, as my wife and I had a similar ending: our ordeal twice in losing infants brought us closer together and to God and we were able to have 2 more children. For me this was beautiful ending.

This novel for all those reasons will have a special place in my heart. Out of all Dellosso's novels, this one is special to me.

Highly Recommended.

My Rating: 


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Trinity, Military War Dog, by Ronie Kendig (A Breed Apart, Book 1)



A Former Green Beret. His War dog.
On the greatest mission of their lives.
And probably their last.

A year ago in Afghanistan, Green Beret Heath Daniel’s career was  destroyed. Along with his faith. Now he and his military war dog, Trinity train other dogs and their handlers through the A Breed Apart organisation. The job works. But his passion is to be back in the field. The medical discharge says it can’t happen due to the traumatic brain injury that forced Heath to the sidelines.
Until. . .
Military intelligence officer Darci Kintz is captured and the geological survey team she’s covertly embedded with is slaughtered while secretly tracking the Taliban. It’s clear only one dog can handle the extreme conditions to save her. Trinity. Only one man can handle Trinity. And time is running out on the greatest—and most dangerous—mission of their lives.



Review

This is the first in the A Breed Apart trilogy by Ronie Kendig and the second book of hers I have read, the first being the novella, Whole Pieces, that was part of the 7 Hours Series. 

I have read other novels from Christian authors about military special ops but this one is unique having the addition of the military war dogs (MWDs) and the story being centred around the role and function of MWDs.


Kendig does this very well. I loved how she described the relationship between Heath, her Handler, as he is called in the military, and Trinity. I have three dogs of my own and I can relate to this very well, but in the relationship described in this novel, it is taken to another level. There is discipline far more complex than in a domestic relationship. There is strict boundaries. The training the Handler and the MWD undergo is strict and intense. The Handler has to know his MWD extremely well and the MWD has to understand her Handler just as well. No margin for error or misunderstanding.

Kendig definitely uses her experience growing up in the military and being married to a veteran to full advantage, as evidenced is the construction of the plot, use of military terms, relationship between the military hierarchy and even the political/military relationship between Afghanistan, China and the US.

As in other military novels, and also in real life, there is plenty of action, suspense, deceit, betrayal of people and countries, abuse of power and one side of the military who need to, and seek to, right all the wrongs. Here, a military undercover agent, Darci, is captured by the Chinese while in Afghanistan   and the US Green Berets are sent to rescue her. Darci just happens to have met Heath at the US Afghanistan military base who is there as part of the A Breed Apart program to offer encouragement and support to the military personnel at the Base.

Kendig has incorporated into the characters, namely Darci and Heath, seeds of doubt about their faith, Heath in sustaining a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) from a failed mission that has ended his military career and Darci, living on the faith of her deceased mother. In the hostage/recovery situation her faith is tested and she is confronted with having to submit to God and His Sovereignty while Heath has to learn to rely on God and not on his own strength and to accept God's will for him and not his own since his TBI. Intermingled in all this is the growing love between the two of them. Kendig is very good at showing the flaws in their faith and this leading to a greater dependence on God and putting the other above themselves.

Heath is called upon to join the rescue team using his MWD, Trinity, to seek where Darci is being held hostage. He encounters mixed feelings of inadequacy in being part of this team with his TBI and that he feels the others don't accept him because of it. However, the expertise that is delivered by him and Trinity as a team plays a pivotal role in the success of this mission. It is this that adds another level of suspense and tension that keeps the reader coming back for more. The reader wants Heath to be successful; to prove to himself that he still has worth and a role in the military and to prove his comrades wrong about his abilities and role.

The only struggle I had with this book and the Whole Pieces novella is the writing style. Some of the dialogue to me does not flow well. Not sure if that is just me or the author. I will get used to this I am sure in subsequent novels. I just felt that sometimes I had to go back a few lines or paragraphs to get acquainted again with what the dialogue and situation is about.

I found it easy with the Kindle Paperwhite 2nd generation to bookmark the Glossary pages and when you access these pages they would appear in a smaller box on the page you are reading, so you would not have to lose your page to access this like you did with the previous generation reader. That really helped when you were getting used to the military terminology.

I do look forward to the next book, Talon. This is a very good series.

Strongly Recommended.

My Rating: 
 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Diaries of Pontius Pilate by Joseph Max Lewis


Description: 

The Diaries of Pontius Pilate opens when a member of an archeological team is murdered along the shores of the Dead Sea. We learn that the murderer and victim are both spies, observing the expedition and grappling with the fact that the team has just discovered some controversial artifacts. 

In fact, Archeologist Kevin Elliot and his Deputy, Jill Gates have unearthed twenty copper scrolls etched with the results of Pontius Pilate’s year long criminal investigation into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They manage to open one scroll far enough to take a series of digital photographs of the writings and email them to a Professor of Ancient Latin for translation. Unaware of the scrolls content, Kevin and Jill are unprepared when they’re caught between an ancient conspiracy of global power that’s determined to destroy the scrolls along with everyone connected to them, and a small, fledgling volunteer group, the only force on earth that stands between Kevin, Jill and certain death.

video 

 Review:

A Secret Society, a touch of Indiana Jones, a Sacred Artifact, Special Ops team. The search for the Truth

Briliant debut novel by Joseph Max Lewis.

A mixture of a secret society, special Christian ops team, Christian artefacts proving the divinity of Jesus, two humble archeologists, a cat and mouse game to save/destroy the artifacts and the Gospel message interspersed throughout.Lewis has obviously done his research into the background of how a special ops works and this is well done here. The idea of having a special ops team who are Christian is a new concept for Christian fiction. A few other authors have done this, but mainly that the main character is a Christian in a conventional ops team. In Lewis's novel, the ops team are all Christian and their motive for existing is to take a stand for Christ and defending who He is and what Christianity stands for, hence they are in their element in rescuing the two main characters, who despite not being Christian, have the artifacts that prove the Divinity of Christ.

Lewis has included a conversion account of one of the main characters. This is great as a witness to those reading this novel who don't have a relationship with Jesus, but I found it happened just a little too fast and easy after the events immediately preceding the character accepting Jesus. I would have preferred the author to have outlined the need for accepting Jesus in a bit more detail showing how the events this character has been through has highlighted their need for Christ. However this was not a distraction or weakness in the plot or pace of the novel.
 

I loved the account of Pontius Pilate's journey to find the truth behind Jesus' death and resurrection. This was a brilliant piece of writing and very touching. It definitely added credibility to the whole plot and the reason why the enemy special ops are so determined to find and destroy at all costs the copper scrolls containing the diaries of Pontius Pilate and his journey to the Truth.There definitely has to be a sequel and I understand from the author this is in the works!! Cannot wait for this.
 

You cannot put this down. There is action, adventure, suspense, and the plot flows at a pace that keeps it hard to put down and when you do, you come back for more.Lewis has the qualities of a talented writer and a love for God to continue with Christian fiction and being a vessel for God to use this media to show who He is and that He truly does desire to draw all men unto Himself through what He has achieved on the Cross for all mankind.This is a very worthy read and highly recommended. An author to follow and support.
 

Highly Recommend

My Rating:


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Military Orders by Martin Roth (A BROTHER HALF ANGEL THRILLER, Book 3)

Description: 
 
Matt was the solid one of his family – successful student, a good husband and father, devoted missionary. The rock on which many churches would have been built. By contrast, elder brother Rafa is the troublemaker – sharp-tongued and only too well aware of his gifts, a broken marriage, estranged from his parents. But when Matt is murdered in northern India by an unknown assailant, it is Rafa who must investigate. And it is in India where he learns that the local police are claiming Matt was leader of a gang engaged in the theft and sale of precious temple artworks.

Rafa knows these allegations to be false. Yet it quickly becomes apparent that Matt was involved in something much bigger than simple mission work. But what? The answer, when it comes, is chilling. For Matt was part of a clandestine project with the potential to change the future course of world religion. And now Rafa must complete the assignment.

Review:
 

This book in the Brother Half Angel series is different from the previous two. Those were about the persecuted church in Korea and Japan while Military Orders takes place in India and involves finding the next Dalai Lama. The previous two involved Brother Half Angel as the main New Mercedarian while this one has Sister Sunhee as the main New Mercedarian.

While reading this, I wondered why the author took this deviation from the topic he established in the first two. Coincidentally, I received an email from him in response to one of mine, and he just happened to outline the background to this novel. He wrote,

"If you’re going to read Military Orders – formally the third in the series, though it’s actually set in the future – there’s a bit of a story with it. I actually wrote it before I wrote any of the others. I had found that my Johnny Ravine books weren’t taking off, in large part because the Australian Christian market is so small. So I decided to aim for the US market, and came up with the idea of a book that combined a hero somewhat like the hero of The Da Vinci Code (I made him a professor of spiritual art), with a beautiful heroine like the heroine from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

But during the writing I also came up with the character Brother Half Angel. I self-published the book on Amazon, but soon after I thought that I could create a series of books around Brother Half Angel. So I renamed the series (it was the Military Orders series, but became the Brother Half Angel series) and I also rewrote the book, to give him more prominence, and then re-uploaded it to Amazon. Then, after I had written Brother Half Angel and Maria Kannon, I made Military Orders the third in the series, even though I had written it first. And because it is set in the future it should probably be read as the last of the series."


This was more than enough to explain the query I had about this third book. Even though the author states this should be read as the last book, I found it a nice break from the previous two,. This change adds variety and versatility to the series and to the characters and operation of The New Mercedarians.

It was good to find out about the background to Sister Sunhee who had been mentioned in the previous two. I had a feeling that she was to play more of a part. It was also good to have Rafa back in this novel as I liked him from the previous one where he played an important albeit secondary role while in this one he played the main role. This was a good tie in between this and the Maria Kannon novel.

Roth is very good at incorporating the history of Buddhism and that of the Dalai Lama into this plot. Obviously this had to be the case for the plot to work and work well it does. In this plot, the pace is faster than the previous two, and there is more action as well. I had to chuckle at some of the locations being mentioned as most of the plot involves various locations in Australia which is my home country. Having Melbourne part of the plot was a treat for me as this is my home town. 


I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.
 

Highly Recommended.

My rating:


Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Maria Kannon by Martin Roth (A Brother Half Angel Thriller, Book 2)




Description: 

Luiz Kim, angry and unsettled since being kicked out of the Marines, decides to seek out the sister he has not seen in more than twenty-five years.

He makes contact. But, after flying halfway around the world to Japan for an emotional reunion, he is stunned to learn that she has just been murdered in church, while at prayer.

A killer is on the loose, and it is clear that he is targeting members of the small church community. But why?

Luiz is determined to use his military background to hunt down the killer. And quickly it becomes apparent that the key is a mysterious card left at each murder scene – a card depicting the Maria Kannon, a statue of a Buddhist deity that was once revered by persecuted Japanese Christians.

As the stakes go higher and higher in this adrenaline-fueled thriller - another in Martin Roth's acclaimed Military Orders series of international thrillers - Luiz is forced to confront his notions of what it means to be alive. And whether he is ready to die.

Review:  

In this second instalment of the Military Orders series, Brother Half Angel is back with much more involvement than in Brother Half Angel where we were introduced to him and the issues facing the persecuted church. This is good as I was looking forward to seeing what Brother Half Angel is all about. In this instalment, Roth does not disappoint. He has developed the plot in more depth than the first and also some of the returning characters that were introduced in the previous instalment. Character development is improved in this novel and are more relational.

I really enjoyed this story.
Roth has introduced another aspect of the persecuted church. Radical members of the Taoist religion feel threatened with the increasing popularity of the New Joy Gospel Church and decide to do something about it. This forms the main plot of the story but does spark off other issues such as Luiz being recruited into the Military Orders team and him confronting the past that led to him being discharged from the Marines and him questioning what it means to be alive and would he be willing to die for his beliefs. In seeking to find the murderer of his sister, Luiz proves himself worthy of being in a military team and overcomes his shame and fear from his previous discharge.
Roth introduces an informative history into the Taoist beliefs and religion and specifically that of the Maria Kannon deity and how the Christians of the past used this as a front to continue practising Christianity without compromising biblical doctrine or faith due to Christianity being forced underground from the oppressive nature of the ruling government. This background history provides depth and structure to the plot and supports the motivation behind the persecution of the Christian church.
Based on the history of the Maria Kannon the reader begins to wonder how this is connected to murders of the Christians from the New Joy Gospel Church. Roth does a good job of stringing the reader along and keeping the guessing game going until the connection is revealed at an important part of the plot. From here, the plot intensifies and so does the pace.

My only negative is that I felt the ending was a bit rushed and you felt cut off too quickly.

Roth has a good series here and I would recommend any reader who has started this series to keep going to the end.

I am enjoying this Military Orders series.

My rating:


Sunday, 17 November 2013

Brother Half Angel by Martin Roth (A Brother Half Angel Thriller, Book 1)

Description: 

A military operation gone tragically wrong. An elite commando loses his forearm. The angel tattooed onto his arm is sliced in half. And the man acquires a new nickname. Brother Half Angel is the leader of a secret new church military order, dedicated to helping Christians under attack around the world. In this book, the first in the Military Orders series, he is dispatched urgently to China, where an underground seminary is under siege from fanatical sword-wielding members of a local cult who still pay homage to the bloodthirsty extremists who tried to expel all foreigners from China in the nineteenth century. But at the same time the seminary has its own internal divisions. The director, Uncle Ling, a hero of the underground Chinese church, holds secrets that he cannot reveal. And now the tensions are threatening the marriage of idealistic young American missionary Daniel Westloke and his wife Jenny. Relentless suspense is the hallmark of this gripping thriller. But it is also a book that raises serious questions – how far can Christians go to defend themselves? When should they turn the other cheek? What happens when a Christian kills in self-defense? And should those who live by the sword really expect to die by the sword?

 

Review:

The plot of this book intrigued me, as it involves Christian special ops. It is far easier to accept special ops in the secular world but in Christian circles and specifically the Mission field? I have come across this type of ops in other Christian novels, namely the Coil Series by D. I. Telbat (yet to read), The Diaries of Pontius Pilate by Joseph Max Lewis and a trilogy (no trilogy name) by Alton Gansky and Jeff Struecker. One other similar genre is the Riley Covington series by Jason Elam and Steve Yohn where the main character is a Christian in a conventional secular special ops team.

I must confess that I had some trepidation in reading this novel and still have in regards to the 4 remaining in this series that I have yet to read. The reason is that overseas missions is not something I can relate to or want to be involved in. One the surface that seems to be against the Great Commission outlined in Matthew 28:16-20, but I just find this very scary and foreign. I am more at ease in and find challenging enough, the "mission field" of my family and friends and work colleagues!

However, I must say that I did enjoy this novel. It gave me a good introduction into what the mission field is like, and did evoke further the trepidation I mentioned in the beginning. However, this trepidation turned into a healthy respect and admiration for these characters of Chinese, Korean and American nationality to risk their lives for the sake of the Gospel under such oppression and hatred of the same. I shared in Jenny's fear, indignation of the effects of this hatred and persecution on their lives and her questioning whether they should remain, I agreed with Daniels reasoning about being obedient and understanding the culture of the population and what is behind the hatred of Christianity, I sympathised with Uncle Ling in his anger towards the experience of suffering and persecution of Western Christians versus Eastern Christians and the condescending attitude Western Christians, namely Americans, have towards those Christians in the Mission field.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Reign of Silence by Tony Martin

A Different Perspective on the Traditional Ghost Story

Description: 

A Supernatural Tale of Ancient Sin

Reign of Silence is the story of Joshua Nix, a young pastor who comes to serve a church in the small county seat town of St. Helena, Alabama. Events there – which seem to be precipitated by his fascination with the supernatural – cause his life and his rational worldview to be changed forever.

After the mysterious disappearance of her parents, Meredith Dubose, last surviving member of an aristocratic Southern family, experiences … psychological trauma from unresolved grief? A true “haunting” in her ancestral home? A demonic siege? As Joshua seeks to minister to Meredith, he finds himself obsessing over her and her plight – causing strain on his marriage and his relationship to his church. Joshua ultimately learns the horrific truth of the supernatural events and a shattering truth about himself.

Events begin innocuously enough, with Meredith, still grieving over her parents, noticing subtle changes in the atmosphere of her house. Distant whispered voices, shadowy figures half-glimpsed … she doubts her reason, her reality. Introduced to Joshua by her best friend, she sees in him a counselor, a comforter, perhaps something else. And Joshua, caught unawares by her innocent charms, finds himself more involved than he - or his wife Bethany – would like.

Manifestations intensify, with the turning point being an apparent transient possession of Meredith by some evil entity. Joshua finds himself consulting with a paranormal expert, “Precious” McRae, who flaunts the conventions of the stereotypical “ghost hunter” as popularized by television reality shows by approaching the situation from a Christian context – with unexpected and terrifying results. Joshua learns of perverse events in Meredith’s familial past and his providential connection to her and her ancestors. From the first contact with the paranormal to the final paroxysm, Joshua, Meredith, and the others in the story grapple with forces beyond their experience or beliefs.

Review:

A very good debut novel by Tony Martin. This is a different perspective on the bible verse of Exodus 20:5,
"You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me".

Usually this decree is manifested in the lives of those of the third and fourth generations but in this novel, it ends in the third or fourth generations. The beginning of this particular sin is beginning to manifest in the main character, but he is kept in check by his wife and an elder of the church. At first I wondered why the author included this subplot concerning the main character but as you progress towards the end, it all became clear and what a twist that was!! Very nicely done!!

This novel is different from another angle as well. In Something Stirs by Thomas Smith and Adverse Possession by Jess Hanna, the house is haunted by demons, and both these Christian authors portray demonic activity and its devastating effects on the occupants of the house very well and yes, very scary. In Reign of Silence, Martin has the haunting not by demons but by the spirits of the ancestors of Merediths family who are the subject of the Exodus 20:5 verse. It is through Meredith becoming a Christian and Joshua already a Christian and using the Word of God (and even the words of the hymn A Mighty Fortress by Martin Luther) that this curse from Exodus is broken and one of the ancestors is freed, the other not as he rejects the forgiveness of God while Meredith and Joshua are also freed as well.

I loved Martin's use of the biblical aspect of spiritual warfare here. It was used well and not preachy. It blended in well with the plot. It was good to see how this also encouraged the other main members to take their walk with God more seriously.

I have only one criticism. I found it a bit difficult having the Pastor and other Christian characters portrayed by the author as being very ignorant about what these manifestations in the house and what Meredith and Christine experienced then Joshua and the others encountered could be. The demonic or supernatural seemed to be the last conclusion they arrived at. I was expecting the author to portray them with a bit more savviness about this activity being supernatural and demonic until proved otherwise (in this case earth bound human spirits). However, I did enjoy the progression of these characters in how they came to the conclusion that this was supernatural and had to be dealt with God's way and using the Bible.

Another thing, Martin did well was portray the culture and attitudes of the southern life of America. There were instances where you knew you were in the American South by the language, the food, the description of the culture, even when this author described the history of Meredith family in the 1800s and 1900s. That added credibility to the story and characters.

I did chuckle at the usage of Y'all which is typical of the American South! I just cannot see us here in Australia saying that but then we say some equally unique words and terms!

The author also described the frustration of being a pastor well, the church politics and congregational expectations well. All this fitted in nicely to the plot. I wonder if Martin's real life experience shows here?

Martin tied up all the loose ends very well in the ending. It enabled me to leave this story with fond memories of the plot and characters. That is one sign of a talented writer.

This has become one of my favourite Christian horror novels.

I look forward to more of this author's work.

Highly Recommended.   My Rating:


Sunday, 10 November 2013

Adverse Possession by Jess Hanna

 

Description:

The Forresters have found their dream home… So has something else.
After years of moving from place to place, Andy and Tess are ready to settle down. But from the day they moved into the sprawling Victorian house, something just wasn't right.
The power cuts out twice a day on a fixed schedule. Windows unlock and open on their own. Strange scratching sounds come from behind the walls. As the bizarre occurrences continue to increase in frequency and strength, the true source of the extraordinary activity is revealed.
What started as an enchanting curiosity has become a danger to them all, and the Forresters are in a race against time to save their family from an enemy unlike anything they have ever known.

Review: 

I first read this before it was published as an advanced readers copy from Jess. I had not written a review after reading it, just emailed the author my thoughts and impressions. It was only after starting this blog and checking my reviews on Amazon, that I realised I had not honoured Jess with an official review. To do so would mean reading this again. This was also another excuse to revisit this novel.

I was taken in then and am just as taken in now. This is even better the second time round!

This novel was the second horror story I had ever read and was read soon after the first which was Something Stirs by Thomas Smith. Both books are written by Christian authors and both deal with haunted houses by demons and deal with demon possession. Both also deal with these topics using spiritual warfare as outlined in the bible. But enough of the comparison between these two books, however, I must say they compliment each other very well, and both are a credit to each author. It was both these two authors and their horror stories that have convinced me that Christian authors have just as much or even more ability to write convincing horror especially when it is based on the source of horror as documented in the Bible, through the fall of satan and the other angels and their transformation into evil entities and their maleficent, deceptive and manipulative intentions in our lives.

Hanna has set a nice, even pace in the first half of this novel, introducing the characters, establishing the family dynamics, moving into and settling into the house, while interspersing certain incidents that, while not at first deemed to be demonic activity or out of the ordinary, but soon increase in frequency and become more bizarre, leading to Andy and Tess believing that something supernatural is occurring and is definitely of a malevolent nature as evidenced by the disruption to their lives and the effects its oppression on their personalities and relationships. 

The second half of the novel definitely has a faster pace with the activity of the supernatural increasing, now being identified as a demon spirit that has its sights set on Alexis to possess and control. Hanna definitely adds more clues and explanation to what this demon is, why it is here, what its motivation is and as it possesses Alexis more and more, its power and activity is more extensive and destructive to Alexis, Tess, Andy and Jonathan. The parents try everything they know or think of to rid themselves and their house of this demon, including a paranormal investigator and his family. All this does is make things worse, ridding the house of the demon but then inviting more of them to inhabit the house and possess Alexis even more. This is very biblical as the bible states that if a demon is exorcised and the person not then inhabited by God's presence/Spirit, more demons come and inhabit the person.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

No Eye Has Seen by Graham Carter

No eye has seen




Description:

Mother of three, Sarah Glen, loses her life under unusual circumstances when her car is forced from the road in what appears to be a random act of road rage.

What follows is a breathtaking story of adventure and excitement as Sarah explores the limitless wonder of her new home, Paradise.

The Throne Room, New Jerusalem, departed loved ones, all these and more are unveiled in this thought provoking tale.

While Sarah's remaining family and friends struggle to come to terms with the passing of the popular mom, angels, good and evil, fight for supremacy in the age-old battle between the kingdoms of darkness and light.


Review:

This is just a wonderful book!!

This is a murder mystery dealing with the death of a Christian woman through road rage for no apparent reason. However, as the story unfolds it is revealed that the motive for her murder is the hatred of demons for believers in Christ. What follows is the account of what heaven is like for Sarah, the murdered Christian, (and this is described in wonderful detail and is very awe inspiring and filled with wonderful imagery), the demon possession of her murderer, Sam, his torment by the demon and how the angels of the Lord fight for his salvation as directed by God. It is also the story of a struggling pastor against the financial plotting of the council over church land and how these three factors all come together for a final culmination for all things to work together for good for those who love God and are called to His purpose and God's plan.

A wonderful and realistic portrayal of spiritual warfare. If you have read Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and Piercing The Darkness; Randy Alcorn's Dominion, Deadline and Deception and Lord Foulgrin's Letters and The Ishbane Conspiracy, you will see the similarities between all these authors and their sobering portrayal of spiritual warfare, angels fighting demons, the hierarchy within the angel and demon ranks, God's Sovereignity, power of prayer and living out His Word in our lives. 

Highly recommended.  My Rating:

Website:

http://www.grahamsbooks.com/

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Road To Hell by Jess Hanna


 

Description:

Lucas Stone suffers a horrific accident, experiences the terrors of Hell, and returns from the dead paralyzed and alone until an unexpected new friend finds him.

Arrogant, self-absorbed speaker and author Drake Crawford has written a new book that challenges the traditional Christian theology of Hell.

Luke and Drake are drawn together by supernatural forces beyond their realm of understanding to face the spiritual battle that lies ahead on... The Road to Hell.


 

Review:

The Road To Hell is Jess Hanna's début novel and what a suspenseful, can't put down ride it is!

Hanna has a successfully created a true to the Biblical record of spiritual warfare, the lengths satan and his demons will go to in order to deceive and destroy a Christian's faith and relationship with God as well as to continue their rebellion against God. 


Hanna has developed some very believable and relational characters, mainly Luke and Mike, being the main ones. He has not made them to be super spiritual, they certainly show their faith wavering in the face of the adverse situations they find themselves in.

The antogonist, Drake, is portrayed as a pompous, ego maniac who evolves into a demon possessed pawn in satan's quest to destroy as many believer's and non believer's lives as possible. I can see how this transformation would be possible and from the little I do know about demon possession, the way Hanna has portrayed this transformation and possession is very plausible and most likely the way it happens.

The author has described Luke and Mike's experience of Hell as very graphic and I must confess, I was very tense with heart beating fast and a bit of a sweat as I was reading this even the repeated accounts of the same.

I appreciated his inclusion of how some pastor's water down the issue of Hell or even discredit its existence, as expressed by Drake and Pastor Tom. This doctrine/attitude is delivered in some churches and that is a very tragic situation. It was also reassuring to see how Tom has a change of attitude if and only due to him being open to the revelation of the Spirit through Ryan and Samantha and the Spirit revealing Scriptures to him about the reality of Hell.

The spiritual warfare elements in this novel are very realistic and pretty much how I imagine them and again, from what little I know about this. Reading this novel, (and others in my collection) encourages me to seek more on this and to increase my knowledge of how our enemy works and his strategies and the biblical and spiritual weaponry at our disposal.

This is one book I just cannot praise enough. For me, it ranks up there with Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and its sequel, Piercing The Darkness and a few others in my collection.

Any reader will find this as a cannot put down experience. I stayed up late to finish this and had no regrets, except maybe falling asleep during the church message that morning!!

Hanna has successfully delivered a novel full of entertainment yet sober truth of spiritual warfare, the Word of God, God's sovereignty, the victorious living Jesus achieved on the Cross for mankind and the battle between satan against Christians and God.

I highly recommend this novel and suggest that Jess Hanna is an author to follow, 

 being entertained and educated in biblical doctrine in the process. 

 My Rating:

 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Chiveis Trilogy by Bryan M Litfin (Book 1 The Sword, Book 2 The Gift, Book 3 The Kingdom)







  


Description:

Four hundred years from now a deadly virus and nuclear war have destroyed the modern world. Those who survived have returned to a medieval-like age of swords, horses, and feudal kingdoms. Yet the breathtaking mountain realm of Chiveis lives in peace, protected from the outside empires and obedient to its own gods.

But when Teo, an army scout, and Ana, the beautiful daughter of a farmer, discover an ancient book, everything begins to change in Chiveis—old beliefs give way to new faith, persecution rises, and the kingdom’s darkest secrets begin to surface.


Journey with Teo and Ana as they discover a faith that was all-but forgotten—and see for yourself how the truth can set you free.
   
Review: 

The Chiveis Trilogy, I believe, should be considered a Christian classic. This is one very beautiful story. I had the joy of reading it one book after the other, having waited until all three were published. Litfin is a master storyteller. I look forward to more of his work now that he has shown us what he is capable of in this trilogy.

His characters are very believable, relational, not two dimensional. You will find yourself totally absorbed in the two main characters, Teo and Ana, but also the lesser dominant characters. There is so much more to love about this trilogy. Litfin describes the post modern world very well, throughout all three books you are transported to a medieval world and it is a world that is exciting, rich in its daily life, its people and its religion.


It is against this backdrop that Litfin has developed a wonderful story of God's grace, salvation, spiritual warfare, mercy and redemption. Teo and Ana discover an ancient book that belonged in the "Ancient" world as they call it. Their world is growing increasing disillusioned in the current religion of worshipping the three gods of their world. Teo and Ana begin to see these gods as tyrants, and once they find this ancient book, which is the Bible, they are set on a quest to know the God of this book more and this pits them against the wrath of the gods, mainly Astrebril, who is satan as we know him. The high Priestess of Chiveis, learns about the discovery of the Bible and sets out to stop it from being distributed amoung Chiveis. She has her own copy of the Bible and knows the message and the One True God.

The trilogy thus follows the quest of Teo and Ana to reintroduce Christianism (we know it as Christianity) to Chiveis. When the Bible is found, the New Testament had been destroyed by time and water damage. They set out to find this second book. This takes them out of Chiveis into the Beyond, as they call it, where they discover other lands, cultures and other minority groups who are followers of Christianism. Discovering the New Testament they also discover the missing dimension of their new found faith, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This further pits them against many more enemies of the One True God and places them in more danger from the evil manipulations of Astrebril and his followers.