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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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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Methuselah's Table by Gary Rodenius

Methuselah's Table


The world is coming to a disastrous end, but for Methuselah’s family there is hope for survival. They have undertaken every preparation and they are ready—or are they? With only seven days remaining, Methuselah must address his family’s fears and instil within them their heritage of faith. Having lived long enough to know their forefathers, he alone is able to tell their stories of courage and hope—for no one is as old as Methuselah.

Can a people born of mortal birth stand against Naphal and his kind? Finding that the daughters of man are beautiful, Naphal has come down among men to take for himself wives from among them. Using his powers that grant favors to man, deals are brokered on Naphal’s behalf by greedy men who care nothing for the hapless young victims of Naphal’s desire. But when Enosh, a mortal man on a quest to find a land free of bloodshed, witnesses three young women being snatched from their loving parents by Naphal’s cohorts, he is called to take action and thus begins a generational battle against Naphal. It also marks the beginning of romance for Nediva, who finds in her rescuer the man she has prayed for. Can love and faithfulness endure when two jealous sisters vie for their hero’s attentions? Can good prevail in an era where every man does as his heart desires? Can Methuselah’s stories make a difference in time?

The Guru's Review:  

I downloaded this book in August 2013 as a free offer from Amazon. It had sat on my electronic shelf since. Recently, I was looking for a suitable book to read from the many (and I mean many!) books on my Planning To Read list when I cam across Gary's book. It was in a genre I had not read for a while. I discovered he was a new author and this his first book and only one review on Amazon. Not a hard decision of what to read after this discovery. I have stated before that I enjoy supporting new authors and/or those with only a few reviews. I contacted Gary and told him I was going to read and review his book and the reason why. I now have one very appreciative author! 

My first impression of this book is that it is well written. The author has a well developed command of the English language. The dialogue is written in eloquent prose and maybe of an old fashioned style that makes my heart soar and wish that this eloquence and sophistication were in the present as it would encourage far better communication between people. The overall consequence is that the narrative, plot construction and characterisation is enhanced and strengthened. Adds a richness that is refreshing. I am not sure whether this is the author's style being his first book and nothing to compare it to, or if he is depicting this as being what he believes would have been like in the early centuries of human society since populations began from Adam and Eve.

I would not say this is a fast paced novel but Rodenius has included more than enough detail and interaction with the characters and events to keep the reader turning the page. One of the reasons for this is that he has obviously researched this topic extensively and this adds to the richness of the novel on all levels, plot, characters, pace and true to the biblical account as well as including some poetic licence which needs to happen in fiction based on history or fact. Some of this research is evident in the numerous footnotes (40 of them) that he has included for characters names, places or events. I would recommend and encourage any reader to look up these footnotes and they encounter them. It will add to the solid background to this novel and the reader will see the veracity of the events, people and culture of this time period. It also shows the origin of some of the author's research and commitment to his mission to honour God and stay true to the biblical account. In the Kindle format of this book, these footnotes can be touched on the screen and the reference appears, increasing their benefit and accessibility. He also has a passion for this topic, as he stated to me,

‘Methuselah’s Table’ is my first attempt at writing, and came about when I made an amazing discovery in Gen. Chapter 5. Prior to that day, like so many, I tended to skim over genealogies, but here there was something to be revealed by the ages given for each of the patriarchs. With a little math we find that Methuselah lives to the year of the flood; additionally, of all the patriarchs Methuselah was the only one who was alive during the lives of everyone from Adam to his great grandsons Shem, Ham and Japheth. I began to ponder on what Methuselah must have known and the stories he must have been able to tell having heard of them first hand.
Let me expound on my hope for the reader. If I have succeeded in the least, I trust that you will see my attempt at conveying a depth of conviction on the part of our pre-flood patriarchs. As we learn from Saint Peter, Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5). Having a heart for God while at the same time pleading his message to a people with no regard for God must have demanded an emotional toll known only to the chosen faithful. This, coupled with the fact that his grandfather Methuselah’s name was not mentioned as one to board the Ark, must have been a hard thing for Noah to bear.
Likewise with Methuselah and his forefathers, my goal was to show a real contrast between them and the godless people among whom they lived, and the conflict that would necessarily arise to those trying to live godly lives. And though we are not told of Adam’s later years, with much prayer and listening on the Spirit I tell of a very contrite father saddened for his progeny straying as the result of his fall.
What he had messaged me definitely shows in his novel. He portrays well this contrast between Methuselah and his forefathers and those godless people who have no regard for God. This adds a great strength to this novel and a great backdrop to the plot. I do feel for Methuselah not being mentioned as one who would enter the Ark and share in his family's grief that this is so, especially for Noah! But my empathy for Methuselah and Noah was short lived when I remembered the meaning of Methuselah's name. Taken from an article called Meanings Of The Names In Genesis 5 (Koinonia House):
                                            Methuselah
The Flood of Noah did not come as a surprise. It had been preached on for four generations. But something strange happened when Enoch was 65, from which time "he walked with God." Enoch was given a prophecy that as long as his son was alive, the judgment of the flood would be withheld, but as soon as he died, the flood would be sent forth.

Enoch named his son to reflect this prophecy. The name Methuselah comes from two roots: muth, a root that means "death" 5 ; and from shalach, which means "to bring," or "to send forth." Thus, the name Methuselah signifies, "his death shall bring." 6
And, indeed, in the year that Methuselah died, the flood came. Methuselah was 187 when he had Lamech, and lived 782 years more. Lamech had Noah when he was 182.7 The Flood came in Noah's 600th year.8 187 + 182 + 600 = 969, Methuselah's age when he died.9
It is interesting that Methuselah's life was, in effect, a symbol of God's mercy in forestalling the coming judgment of the flood. It is therefore fitting that his lifetime is the oldest in the Bible, symbolizing the extreme extensiveness of God's mercy.
If Enoch knew this, it appears that maybe he did not pass this onto Methuselah, and Lamech and Noah! The author shows in this novel that Methuselah, Noah and the rest of the family were ignorant of this fact, however the truth of the matter became more evident to Methuselah and Noah in the last chapter. And yes, the author has portrayed Noah very well as a man and preacher of righteousness and one of sound and steadfast faith. I have always admired Noah from growing up as a child in the Catholic faith and later as a Christian in my youth. Rodenius has added to my admiration of Noah. 

I have read a few other novels in this genre that contain Methuselah as one of its characters but in this novel, Rodenius portrays him very much a man with a passion for his God and God's people and one you can relate to. I never knew both my grandfathers, and the depiction of Methuselah and his love for his family and his stories made me long again to have had the experience of grandfathers in my life. Methuselah would have more than fitted the bill!! I would have loved to have sat at his table and listened to the stories he had to tell and glean the message behind each one. Rodenius does this well and I can see where he gets the title of this novel from and from him reading Genesis 5 where he realised his aforementioned revelation concerning Methuselah being alive from Adam to Noah's sons.

There is a well developed sense of family and community within the family of Methuselah. Through this, Rodenius has brought to life the pre-flood world especially that of this family. In this environment we have Adam (yes, that Adam!) living on the property and coming in for evening meals, those who are willing to listen gathering around the table listening to Methuselah and/or Adam narrating another of their stories of the days of Adam and beyond his fall to sin. It is within this environment that this novel is told: around the table with all or most of the family present. Here we learn about Seth determined to be at least one of the family to live according to the Creator's will and standard and visiting the city of Enoch when his brother Cain established and took a stand for God against the evil and sinful ways of the city and against Cain; the story of Enosh, who like his father, was committed to following in the ways of his father (and therefore of God), and who takes a stand against Naphal (a fallen angel) who threatened to kidnap and sexually abuse two daughters of Elazar and who marries his eldest daughter Nediva from whose union Kenan is born. Kenan follows in his father's Godly ways and those of his fathers before him. Then from here we have Kenan's sons Mahalalel and his brother, Chaphets. Their history culminates in Mahalalel marrying Eliana, Chaphets going his own way and not towards the Lord, Mahalalel's son, Jared, marrying Yemima and having the final confrontation with Naphal. Together with Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel and Jared, we see these characters are not just having faith but living by faith and this is before anyone had the Word of God. Surely a lesson and encouragement for Christians in today's age who do have this Word! 

I have thoroughly enjoyed this story, and was sad to see it finish. Not only is Methuselah a great story teller, but Redenius is as well! This is one very good debut novel and this author shows a great talent and promise. I look forward to reading more from this author. 

Highly Recommended.


Disclosure: I have reviewed a copy that I downloaded free from Amazon and was not approached by the author for this review. I have not been compensated in any form for this review and the opinions contained herein are solely my own. 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Strange Man (The Coming Evil, Book 1) by Greg Mitchell.

A Review from May 2013.

 
The Strange Man: The Coming Evil, Book One  

Dras Weldon lives in a world of horror movies and comic books. Twenty-two and unemployed, he is content to hide in the shadow of adolescence with a faith that he professes but rarely puts into action. But when a demonic stranger arrives and begins threatening his friends,
Dras is drawn into a battle that forces him to choose which side he is on. In a race against the clock, he must not only fight these evil forces but also somehow convince his best friend, Rosalyn, to join him--before she is lost forever.

Engaging and darkly humorous, The Strange Man is the first act of a trilogy that depicts a world where monsters are real and simple men and women must overcome their doubts and fears in order to stand against the unspeakable creatures of the night.

Review: 

I must confess that when I first read the book description, I did think this was a young adult novel and I nearly did not buy it. How wrong I would have been if I had not. Now I am so very glad I did. This first book sat on my electronic bookshelf for a year or so. The reason being that I hate reading a book in a series as they are released as I forget parts of the previous novel by the time the next instalment is released and hate having to reread the previous one again to catch up. So I wait until they are all released, then I have the benefit of reading them one after the other with no break in between. This greatly enhances the enjoyment of reading the story. It also gives me a greater appreciation of the author. This is so evident with this trilogy.

This novel is dark, oppressive but when is ever evil not so? 

Mitchell creates this world of evil taking over the town and people of Greensboro very well. His world of demons, gremlins, that of The Strange Man is developed well. You feel the evil, the deceptiveness, the hatred of mankind and of God. This is the essence of this Strange Man. I found myself hating him and loathing the next account of him. When a character creates in you these feelings, the author has set out to achieve what he wanted. He has transported you in the world of the novel and this is very evident in The Strange Man Trilogy.

Mitchell's characters, both the antagonists and protagonists are developed well. You find yourself relating to them, disagreeing with them, agreeing with them, warning them to leave the Strange Man alone, as I did with the case when Rosalyn was finding her attracted to the handsome image of the Strange Man in human form, despite sensing that he is not what he seems and there is something evil and sinister about him.

The pace Mitchell creates enhances the dark elements of this story. It never lets up and consequently you cannot put it down. I nearly missed my train station and went over my lunch break reading this trilogy. That is one side effect of a successful writer, that you forget where you are, and any sense of time.

The spiritual warfare elements are good here. I rejoiced when Dras discovers the power of the Word to defeat the demonic attack and that they revile and are in pain when this happens. A great spiritual lesson to be learnt here for the Christian reader, that power and authority are at our use once we have been born again, and goes with being renewed in Jesus. His victory over sin and death and the demonic becomes our victory too.

It was good to see Jeff was portrayed as very human with his faith faltering when his brother Dras is beaten and framed for the murders of the policeman and his teenage friend. So much of this happens to us when we are placed in a major life threatening situation, our faith takes a tumble before we pick ourselves up and reconnect to God and surrender ourselves and our situation to Him. Portraying Jeff's wife Isabella as the one strong in faith to encourage Jeff balances out this situation and again portrays how it is in real life, one of us takes a faith tumble and there is someone close to help us back up spiritually.

This is a highly recommended novel. I am very impressed with Mitchell's writing and creativity. Another author I have to follow. He is up there with my other favourites.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Raptor 6 (The Quiet Professionals, Book 1) by Ronie Kendig

Raptor 6 (The Quiet Professionals, Book 1)


Captain Dean Watters keeps his mission and his team in the forefront of his laser-like focus. So when these two things are threatened by hackers, Dean’s Special Forces training kicks into high gear. Failing to stop the hackers from stealing national security secrets from the military’s secure computers and networks isn’t an option. Zahrah Zarrick is a missionary teacher to Afghan children in Mazar-e Sharif. And a target. When Zahrah is captured because of her expertise in quantum cryptology, endangering the US national security, Dean is forced to crack the lockbox around his heart—a move that might come at the highest cost.



Review: 

Once I started reading this novel, I found myself in one relaxed state like you do when you return to familiar ground. It was so good to be back in the world of the military that Kendig so masterfully creates. 

This is a new series that has characters from the A Breed Apart trilogy. In this novel, Captain Dean Watters is the main character whereas in the aforementioned trilogy, he plays a small supportive role to the main characters of the A Breed Apart team. I liked him in that trilogy and I like him even more in this new series. Seeing that the next books in this series will be centred on some of the other team members mentioned briefly in the previous trilogy, Watters will be back to playing a minor role in each. 

Kendig has depicted Watters as a man of integrity and strong character. I am sure he is based on either one particular soldier in her military knowledge or on many. So I reckon with the other members of Raptor 6's team as well. Reading more of him in this novel, I am very much in admiration of his character, dedication to the military, his passion for it and what he can contribute. He definitely shows this in being the Captain of his team and in his dealings with Zahrah Zarrick, the latter more so, even if he has personal feelings for her. 

As in the previous trilogy, Kendig depicts the rapport and relationship between the team members as it would be in the military from what I know of the military and have read in other military novels, despite having not be in the military myself. This team is unified and operate as a well-oiled machine. They respect each other and they know how each other operate, each other's strengths and weaknesses. They have each other's backs. This is one of the strengths of novels like this, the depiction of realism especially when it is based on what the author knows from the reality experienced from real military personnel. 

I liked the inclusion of the anonymous character who sneaks in every few chapters or so and gives a running commentary in the first person narrative of his efforts to undermine everyone in the Raptor team and the American Military hierarchy, being the mole that he is, reporting back to his superiors who are desperate to have the stolen computer hacked into leaving the security of the American military undefended and extremely vulnerable. Every cynical and bragging narrative of this character increased the level of suspense and kept you guessing who he is and how much more he has thwarted and kept at bay the efforts of Watters and his team to retrieve the computer and bring the perpetrators to justice. Very clever of Kendig to include this and it is very effective. Seems this character is going to also be in the next instalment! 

Some readers criticise those authors of military fiction who include romance in their plots as they see it as a distraction from the action and suspense of the nature of the military and warfare aspects of this genre and see this inclusion as making  the flow of the plot disjointed. Some also criticise as having too much romance and others too little. However, I find that in the previous A Breed Apart trilogy and now in this series, Kendig seems to have struck a healthy balance between the two, military and romance. I reckon they have a happy marriage in her novels and this is from a reader and reviewer who does not read any romance and avoids this genre as much as he can! But in Kendig's novels, this, for me, is quite an attraction. I loved the attraction of Watters and Zahrah and the friction this generates between them for all their personal and spiritual reasons. Kending blends this very well and it adds to the construction of the plot, characterisation and suspense of the novel, including how the torturers manipulate and abuse this relationship to their torture techniques.  

This story shines, or should I say, Kendig shines, in the second half of this novel. What consists in the first half comes to a head in the second. Watters' attempt to protect Zahrah and the advice he gives her become a self fulfilling prophecy and threatens to destroy both of them. This second half showcases Kendig's best writing, plot construction and suspense. I had tachycardia for this entire second half! Her description and depiction of Watters and Zarrick captivity, torture, their coping mechanisms, the evilness from their captors, the questions about God, Zahrah's faith, Watters failings and not being able to let go of his past are all captured by Kending in many chapters of beautiful writing and structure. Very captivating and entralling. The spiritual message that she delivers through the faith of Zahrah and all the events in this second half really touched my heart and challenged my faith. It is writing like this and the message carefully interspersed throughout, that again reinforces in me that Christian fiction does not just entertain but can minister to one's spirituality and not only educate in spiritual/biblical principles but edify the Christian and the Body of Christ. And it shows a great heart towards God in an author who can do this so masterfully as Kendig does. 

I consider this to be the best of Kendig's novels I have read, which is those of the A Breed Apart trilogy. I just wish I had read her Discarded Heroes series previously. I do have Dead Reckoning I picked up as a free kindle offer a few years ago so have to get into this one! 

I highly recommend this new novel of Ronie Kendig. She has crafted a great, memorable story. Don't pass on this one!  

Disclosure: I was given a copy of this eBook by the publisher, Barbour Publishing, Inc., through NetGalley blogger program for review. I was not required to write a favorable review nor was I compensated for my review. The opinions in this review are my own.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Daniel's Mighty Men by David Bergsland




Daniel's Mighty Men (Black Sail)

Christian Warriors?

Give me a break! Surely I cannot be saying that there are Christians who could be black ops covert warriors. But yes, that's what I'm saying. In fact, I'm sure there must be some of them as the Lord has His sheep spread like salt throughout the earth. Now there are certainly no Christian porn workers or porn movie producers. But warriors, intelligence people, politicians, and first response men & women? Of course there are.

David's mighty men are given good coverage in the Bible. In 2 Samuel 22 and 1 Chronicles 11, David's mighty men did amazing feats. They snuck David water from the center of the enemy camp after David vaguely wished for it.
  • Abishai, the brother of Joab, was the leader of the Thirty. He once used his spear to kill 300 enemy warriors in a single battle. It was by such feats that he became as famous as the Three. [1 Chron 11:20 NLT]
  • Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter. [2 Sam 23:8 NIV]
These were supernaturally anointed warriors. But that begs the question:

How would Christian warriors act?

They would do their work with love, care, prayer, and guidance from the Holy Spirit, of course. This book is written by a spirit-filled pastor with decades of experience in hearing from the Lord in very trying circumstances. You will be immersed in Christian living at a level most people never experience. Do you feel the need to hear from the Lord on a regular basis for practical guidance in daily living? This novel will show you how to do that.

The scenario may seem extreme, but only if you have not lived in New Mexico for the past three decades. Radical Mexicans get the money, supplies, training, and leadership they need--to do what they have been talking about since the mid-20th century, at least. The invasion comes suddenly on Cinco de Mayo. The burden of repelling the invaders and saving the union falls on Senator Daniel Aragon, the presidential candidate with the character to do what Washington shockingly refuses to allow. The Lord gives the authority and provides the warriors. How will it all work out? What's His plan?

It's a fun read, with real spiritual training and discipleship at its core. There's a lot of action, but these aren't trigger-happy cowboys shootin' up the range. They are warriors led by a former CIA assassin who's now a spirit-filled pastor. In Washington, experience a situation room meeting of horror contrasted with one led by the Spirit of God. A Godly political leader? Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Review:

When I read the blurb of this book, I was instantly reminded of another similar take on the idea of Christians Warriors. This is a series called Brother Half Angel by Martin Roth. In Roth's books, a Pastor in Korea answers the call of the Lord to provide a special ops team of Christian men and women from military and associated backgrounds to provide military support of the persecuted church around the world. This group was called The New Mercedarians based on the Knights Templar and the Mercedarians that existed in centuries past. I thoroughly enjoyed this series and it was this that encouraged me to read and review Daniel's Mighty Men when David Bergsland requested a review.

I must confess though that this book is the first 600 page plus novel I have read! I was a little daunted by this. I wondered what the author could include in such a large volume! I have not been disappointed. Bergsland writes well and he is very descriptive in all aspects of the plot, characters, weaponry, politics, action and adventure, warfare strategy and even the supernatural. It is quite easy to see from this how this novel passes the general 300-400 page novel limit that most of us are used to. I feel it would loose its impact and effect on the reader if it was shortened.

Admittedly, it means a longer time to read this novel, but what a ride you are taken on! Bergsland has obviously researched this topic and all its "What ifs?" effectively including all those aforementioned aspects. He combines all this into a well written and constructed story that is very plausible and does make you wonder how great is the possibility this could happen to the USA in real life or for that matter any country that has similar or same conditions described herein.

He has described and is very convincing showing the belief system of the radical Mexicans who invade the US and in portraying their hatred of the oppression from the US whom they accuse of taking their land from them since the founding days of America. This adds strength to the plot and credibility to these radicals in their quest to reclaim their land.

Bergsland combines well the complexities of a plot such as this with a corrupt government bent on inaction towards these invaders, a faction forming within this government who decide to do something about this inaction, the counter offensive military action that follows as a result, the ignoring of the American citizens by this corrupt government and keeping them in the dark, various groups that align with the radical Mexicans for their own gain, betrayal, manipulation and deceit that goes with all this. This adds to the plausibility of the whole plot.

Amoungst all this is the characters on both sides of this conflict. This is one of the strengths of this novel. To pull this plot off, apart from the author's research and plot development, the well developed, three dimensional characters add strength and foundation to this plot. All the characters in the special ops groups that make up the Black Sail team, are very relational and believable and you come to be fond of or love them. Some make you laugh and some you admire for their unique characteristics. For me, I related well to Major. Now there is a character who is disciplined, tough when he needs to be and  soft, tender and passionate when the situation arises and also willing to face the hard facts of life head on. Another character, Deborah, has a hard exterior to deflect the typical male attitude towards her triggered by her beauty and to survive being a CIA operative, but allows herself to be vulnerable as Major develops their relationship. This is a very nice romantic subplot Bergsland has added and balances the fast paced action and adventure and political tenseness of the plot. I looked forward to the chapters that were devoted to the continuing relationship between Deborah and Major (Warren Jensen).

Sometimes an author struggles or outright fails to blend the faith of the character with their person, but Bergsland blends this very well and this becomes another of the successes of this novel and what he set out to achieve, that of how marrying faith in God affects a warrior's behaviour. The account from Rachael to Deborah as the latter struggles with her new role which may include killing civilians if she has to, is where Bergsland shines in marrying Christian/biblical faith with being a Christian warrior. It is a great piece of writing and really stands out in this novel as his main message. It is well placed and does not come across as preachy or self righteous but one of education and bringing the truth of this marriage of faith and military action into the right perspective from God's point of view. While reading this section it felt as though Rachael was educating myself rather than Deborah!

This is the first Christian military/special ops novel that I have read where an author has added the supernatural. The account where Deborah reaches out to Jesus while in a drug induced stupor inflicted upon her by her captors, is captivating and to me is how I would expect to experience this in real life. Another touching one is where Major cries out to God when Deborah is captured, he in his unbelief of God and realises that he has come to the end of himself and has no resources left to search for her and God shows Himself to him and Major finally accepts Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Yet others where God reveals Himself audibly to direct various characters in warfare or when they are in dire straits and realise they cannot continue without His involvement.

The other spiritual aspect Bergsland has included is that of demonology. On two occasions, God enabled Deborah to see in the spiritual plane, demons exert their oppression/influence on certain main terrorists or on their cohorts. On one of those occasions she also saw a protective layer around those whom she identified as Christians in right relationship with God. Adding this aspect of the spiritual, reinforces the reality of the spiritual warfare that exists in the real world and also adds suspense and realism to this novel. For me, this was another of the strengths of this novel. This is where an author reinforces in me that Christian fiction can educate the reader while strengthening their faith and relationship with God. 

I did become alarmed at one aspect of this novel where astral projection was included. I could see why the author had included this as it served to give one of the warrior team, Miner, a means to visit the enemy headquarters and obtain intel without being discovered, but it troubled me as the way it was written could be interpreted that astral travel is being aligned with Christian doctrine when this is not the case. I contacted the author via email and he cleared this up for me:

"No, I definitely do not condone astral projection. The character, and the warrior team she leads, are all heathens...  This type of occult practice is found among people seeking personal power. I see it as being on the same level as King Saul when he went to the medium. To the shock of the medium, instead of the normal demonic communication, Samuel apparently actually showed up. Supernatural power is used by both sides in the war. For we humans, people have many experiences no one wants to deal with before the Lord clears things up."

I had a feeling something like this would be his reply as everything up to this point and after it was very consistent with biblical principles and a reflection of his faith. David also mentioned that astral projection was something he had dabbled in before the Lord brought him to His salvation. 

I am glad David was encouraged to contact me to review this novel. I have thoroughly enjoyed this and have found another author to follow and not only be entertained, but have my faith strengthened and educated in biblical principles, in this case, spiritual warfare, as well.

I received this novel free in return for an honest review. 

Highly Recommended.