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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading new author's novels or author's who have not had many reviews or exposure and giving them much needed encouragement where appropriate.   
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Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Author/Novel Spotlight: R.J Amezcua

I love discovering new novels, especially from debut authors. It is such a joy when you see that it is not just a story they have written but have included a detailed world building on different levels, back history, language, symbols, spirituality, cultural elements and more. Such is the case with debut author R. J. Amezcua. I could not resist but to spotlight him when I read some of the above elements on his website. 

This is one very interesting and complex novel from these elements. One thing that impressed me was the spiritual aspects and how biblically sound these are from what you see in his world building. I am looking forward to reading it and every other book in the series that is to follow. 

So sit back and grab a glimpse of the imagination that is expressed in the world building of R.J Amezcua. Firstly, let us discover a little about himself: 

R. J. Amezcua was born and raised in Silicon Valley and is happily married to Sheryl. R.J Amezcua has always enjoyed science fiction. As a young boy, one of his favorite TV shows was Lost in Space. As an entrepreneur and visionary by nature, he has begun his journey as an author. Using his love for science fiction, he created the epic saga “Mantis Force,” which encompasses a vast universe. He strongly believes that others have unique gifts and talents, and hopes that his vision and work will inspire and influence many to reach for their own dreams.

Now let's have a look at Fiero One, which was released on November 17, 2016, in e-book and printed editions:

Book Description:

In the year of our Lord 2068.

It’s the twilight of the second age in a group of five galaxies called the Quintástraya. The era of Guardian victories over the military forces of the Tisrad master races has come to an end. Now a dreadful prophecy unfolds, one that affects every living soul in the Quintástraya. And it begins in a region of lawless deep space called the dead zone. 

Embittered that he had to postpone his engagement to his beloved fiancée and with a strong sense of foreboding, Captain Asafa of the Guardianship Osparatta is sent on an unusual mission beyond Guardian borders to rescue a civilian exploration team of a transitional government. But instead of finding helpless scientists, he finds himself the vanguard against resurrected legions of conscripted soldiers once serving the Tisrad master races, killed millennia ago. With less than a full complement of crew, and the Osparatta’s losses mounting by the minute, Asafa is hard-pressed to carry out orders from Guardian High Command to hold his position until reinforcements arrive. But failure to hold back the rising tide of evil will determine not only the fate of himself and his crew but every single human and peaceful alien race in the Quintástraya.

I asked R.J why he wrote this novel:

First, a little about me. I am a Christian born and raised in the Silicon Valley, California. After what seemed like a millennium floundering in search of true love, I have achieved a blissful marriage with my lovely wife Sheryl. Oh, I can’t go without mentioning that I have great kids (all grown up now).

My love of science fiction began long ago, in a living room with a magical box atop wooden legs. I was enraptured by flying saucers, Robby the robot, ray guns and all things outer space. Out of the many programs that I watched, Lost in Space was one of my all-time favourites. As time passed, I added science fiction literature. Now that I think about it, I must have read over five hundred books. That’s a lot of Starbucks coffee mind you. Although there are various categories within the science fiction book genre, Christian-themed stories seemed greatly underrepresented in respect to the number of those who have faith in JESUS CHRIST, worldwide. I believe that number is over ONE BILLION! The problem at first glance is that no one wants to read a sermon in a fictional universe, and that includes me.

On April 4th, 2004, a solution was birthed. It was then that the inspiration was planted in my heart to meld my love for science fiction with my faith. Now, after carefully laying the foundations of my Christian allegorical universe, I have been able to craft an epic story that speaks of the hope of HIS return and the restoration of true peace to the world.

About Mantis Force: 

The Word “Mantis” is taken from the Greek language which means prophets or seer. This gives the epic saga its meaning; the force of the prophets or Mantis Force. Some of the names of worlds, galaxies, numbers, and core groups were created with combinations of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew words. I chose these languages because they were inscribed on the LORD's cross which translates to "King of the Jews." Spiritual beings whether good or bad are given fictional ranks, names and functions.

One ironic note about my journey is that I vividly recall when I was in high school, my English teacher told me that if I applied myself in her class I would excel. My response at the time was, “Why should I do that? It’s not as if I am going to be a writer!” Looking back at that moment, I know GOD must have a sense of humor.

Now that your appetite may be whetted, it might be beneficial to read an excerpt, just to get a hint of what to expect. RJ explains why he chose this except:

In the following pages, I highlighted a group of sixteen-year-old girls (Omicron rank) aboard a Guardianship the Osparatta on a military training mission in a region of lawless deep space in the dead zone called the Rakia Expanse. During the mission, the Guardians discover a hidden enemy base which forces them to defend a government outside of the influence of the Mantis Alliance. A fierce battle erupts between them and legions of darkness known as Necrogogs. But catastrophic inexplicable power drains threaten the ship’s survival and that of the entire crew. The loss of power coupled with the battle on the Fiero One moon drain the resources of the ship and the personnel in light of the fact that the ship is severely undermanned. This mandates the Captain to enlist his young charges into active service.

The pages that you will read are the result of one of the Omicrons, Aona who asserts that the widespread unexplainable power failures throughout the ship are caused by undetectable creatures. This farfetched theory is the source of much levity amongst them, yet is the beginning of a strong bond between the four teenagers.

I just love this particular part of the story. I believe that the young ladies in this excerpt exemplify that bravery is not exclusive to old age or those of larger physical stature. Far from the comfortable confines of their home base, these coming of age girls begin to understand that they can overcome any obstacle with the support of one another as well as their deeply rooted faith. Bonded as one, they rise to the occasion; become an integral part of the crew and step into new responsibilities. This proves to be a wise decision as they will need each other’s support and strength to save their lives and those of the crew.


---------------Start of Except:---------------

“Aona, you actually think some unknown creature is absorbing the ship’s power, causing all this random damage?” Nacia asked her eyebrows rising provocatively. Somae darted a disbelieving glance at Nacia, dismayed at her attempt to mock Aona. Before Aona could reply, Kimka broke in sarcastically

“Let’s see…” she drawled. “How could a creature,” she continued with a sing-song lilt to her voice, “absorb so much power from different points of the ship simultaneously? If, and I really mean if it is a creature, wouldn’t someone have seen it by now? I, along with everyone else, definitely believe it would have been detected by the ship’s internal sensors…right?” Aona glowered at her, rejecting her peer’s denigrating attitude.

“Is this the theory you came up with during your free time?” Kimka continued, chidingly pulling Nacia gently to her side by the forearm, disputing the validity of Aona’s theory openly. It was clear to Aona that the two had previously discussed it behind her back. She deliberately ignored the provocation, her voice slightly perturbed. “I am getting back to work.

Are you going to join me?” She silently shoved the hurt away and vowed to guard her heart. Somae’s lips pursed with disapproval at Kimka and Nacia’s lack of support. They paired up into their assigned teams and moved down the hallway to the next section of the ship’s hull. The panels were already removed to allow easy access to the damaged components. Bantu, still unseen, followed closely behind and stopped at the curve of the bulkhead as she heard Kimka’s raised voice.

“What’s this?” She asked loudly, her forearm braced on the corridor wall above the open panel. She darted a glance at the others on her left to make sure she had their attention. Leaning closer, she poked her head halfway into the opening as she silently inspected the interior for a few moments.

Abruptly, she reared back, wearing a look of disbelief and hint of panic on her face. “What?” She said, adding to the drama, all the while knowing that she had their attention. Kimka turned to face them and put her arm straight out toward them with a flat hand signal stopping them from coming closer.

Frowning, she stuck her head back into the opening to get a better look. Nacia moved closer with obvious concern and some curiosity and leaned over Kimka’s right shoulder. “What is what?” Nacia whispered softly but still loud enough for Aona and Somae to hear.

“Did you see that?” Kimka said, whispering incredulously with a dramatic overtone to her voice.

“What is that?” asked Nacia, unknowingly imitating her tones, trying without success to peer around Kimka’s body.

“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out…right now!” She stated firmly, lightly pushing Nacia back with her shoulder. She pressed her cheek against the bulkhead, facing Somae and Aona and leaned in as far as she could, her arm disappearing up to the shoulder. A shocked look of horror came over her face as she was jerked violently inward, her upper body lightly bouncing off the wall and then, though it seemed impossible, even harder with her face mashed into the metal. Bantu, holding her breath, fought the instinct to run to her assistance and the spirit within her would not let her. Bantu peered around the corner.

Nacia let out a small shriek. “Kimka, pull your arm out of there. Now!”

She yelled, involuntarily. A panicked grimace came over Kimka’s face and she gritted her teeth as she tried to free herself from whatever had her in its grip. She groaned deeply, as if in intense pain, and began to pant shallowly in fear. Aona and Somae dropped their tools and raced to her aid but then stood helplessly as Nacia tried to grab her arm and pull her out. Bantu moved toward the girls to intervene but became aware something odd was going on. She noticed that Kimka’s legs were braced in a position to push inward instead of outward, not trying to get away at all. The others had appeared not to notice. She closed her eyes and shook her head indulgently with a small smile on her face. Nacia grabbed Kimka about the waist and shoulder and tried to forcibly pull her out. Losing her hold, she staggered back slightly. Quickly righting herself, she renewed her efforts to help free Kimka. The lights overhead flickered once more reminding them of the danger to the ship.

“Help. It’s got me!” Kimka screamed.

“It’s got me! It’s got me!” Frantically she said in low tones, her chest heaving with panic as she stared with a glazed look directly into Aona’s eyes.

“What’s got you?” Aona shrieked, beginning to hop up and down in distress.

Kimka looked down and away from the would-be heroines and dramatically removed her arm from the access port in the wall.

“This!” She exclaimed loudly, waggling her head, her face lightly mocking.

The others had instinctively backed away but, noticing the smile, they looked at the small welder that had apparently been abandoned in the earlier repairs.

Somae laughed out loud and the others nervously joined in.

“Hah…got you good, didn’t I?” Kimka asked, laughing uproariously,

provokingly waving the welder in front of Aona’s face. “ You thought it was your energy creature, didn’t you?” She involuntarily hiccupped in her excitement over the gag. Soon, they were all laughing uncontrollably. They stopped, looked at each other then gave themselves over to another helpless round. The unbearable tension of the day seeped away with the relief of the unbridled laughter that echoed through the passageway.

Taking a pose with her hands on her hips and a little swagger in her attitude, Aona shook her finger in humorous reprove. “Alright, I have to admit, you got me good. But you just wait and see…I’ll get you back.” The girls let out another whoop of laughter.

“Well, Omicrons,” interrupted Officer Bantu in a stern voice. “I can see that you’re hard at work.” The four immediately snapped to attention.

“At ease.” She continued in a somewhat softer tone, looking at the girls with some amusement.

---------------End of Except:---------------

As I mentioned above, R.J has even developed an alphabet and language:
The languages and their corresponding alphabets were created to bring the core civilizations within the Mantis Force universe their unique identities. They have specific purposes such as activating gateways allowing travel throughout the five galaxies which make up the Quintástraya. The alphabets are also used for identifying specific Orders, Guilds, Military and other prominent entities.
This perspective is the back of Guardian Gragus; a field commander from House Skallakron. He arrives with his troops in support of the Guardians engaged in a fierce battle on the Fiero One moon.

The yellow energy signature on Gragus’ body armor is the corresponding light spectrum used for gate travel throughout the five galaxies of the Quintástraya for the House of Skallakron. Each of the twelve races that make up the Mantis has their own unique Guardian body armor and light spectrum color.

Each galaxy has its own color for gate travel. For instance, the Guardians of House Rhizonor and Skallakron are located in the Zhanifra galaxy whose corresponding color is purple. The other ten Houses are divided among the other four galaxies which have their own colors. The House of Skallakron battle crest is a scorpion as shown on his breastplate. Each house their own specific battle crest.

 
All those who serve in the Mantis military must take the Guardian Oath:
As a Mantis Guardian, I will faithfully serve and uphold the laws, the tenets, and the way of the Mantis. In combat, I shall conduct myself in accordance with the highest standards as a Guardian of Light. I shall guard my brother's life as my own. My faith and hope are in Abba El and HIS messiah alone. 

Below is the badge of the MARIUM KAHNET







The Marium Kahnet is an organization of holy women established during the Kelkemek wars of the first age. They hold positions in the Synod; the supreme authoritative government of the Mantis Alliance. These women often referred to as Mothers or Sisters have far-reaching influence that goes well beyond governments. 


The Marium Kahnet strictly adhere to teachings contained within the Kodashah (the holy book of the prophets). As service to Abba El (GOD the FATHER) and HIS Messiah, they exemplify the way of the Mantis with manifold ministries toward all societies. Each Marium Kahnet sister, with varying degrees of mastery can control their body’s living tissue to the cellular level. Additionally, they also possess various supernatural gifts some of which are healing, discerning of spirits, visions, dreams, prophetic knowledge, wisdom and on rare occasions the miracle of raising the dead to life.


MARIUM KAHNET OATH

Every member of the Marium Kahnet sisterhood must take the sacred oath and those who wish to live their lives accordingly are also encouraged to take the oath.

THE SHABAUH


I pledge my life as a vessel of light as I step through the veil of divine purpose. I am cleansed in purity. My head is adorned with humility. The ways of the Marium Kahnet are my life, my heart and my soul belongs to Abba El and in HIS messiah is my salvation.

More world building is found below: 


This is a map of Fiero Prime’s major continent. Marked on the map are the regions and specific locations which are used as settings within the Mantis Force Fiero One novel and upcoming book releases, Mantis Force “Fiero Two” and Mantis Force “Fiero Prime”.




This is a map detailing the locations where major battles take place and is used throughout the Mantis Force Fiero book trilogy. Initially, in the Mantis Force “Fiero One” novel, the military forces of the Fierian government engage the awakening Necrogog forces in these areas. Near the end of the novel, Captain Asafa of the Guardian ship the Osparatta initiates a daring mission into the heart of the enemy’s super fortress in Mortus Maw.



If the above has further whetted your appetite for more of R.J's Mantis Force world, you can go to the following social media platforms: 

Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader of Christian science-fiction/fantasy, supernatural, spiritual warfare, to consider reading Fiero One and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).

If you want to read another excerpt of Mantis Force: Fiero One or even to buy it, this can be achieved through the image and link below: 


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

My Year In Books 2016

My Year In Books 2016


(courtesy of Goodreads)


This post is to say a huge THANK YOU to the authors whose books I have read this year.

You have enriched my spiritual life, my knowledge of the Bible and how to live in a closer relationship with God and living out His Word. I have not only been entertained but have been spiritually uplifted, challenged and even confronted with issues that God needed to bring to my attention.

Never let it be said that God cannot use Christian fiction in all its genres and its authors to minister to reader's needs outside of the entertainment value while reinforcing in the author that they are writing for Him and not just because they have the talent to do so.

It has been my honour and pleasure to read, review, interview, spotlight, promote, blog tour and have you as a guest on my blog.

So authors, find your book(s) in the display below and give yourself a moment to be proud of your achievement and give God the glory for all He has achieved with the talent, creativity, inspiration that He has given you. I appreciate all of you and look forward to supporting you all again as you release new books and where my review schedule and life enable me to do so.










Sunday, 18 December 2016

December's Child by Deborah Williams


Every secret has a key.

As a child worker of the December Mining Corporation, 18-year-old Jett’s plan has always been to earn a life outside the mines by selling her body—a plan she’s nearly fulfilled until she reluctantly takes on a new trainee from the outside world.

The daughter of a government historian, and bartered into the slave trade by her own mother, Fiona is an outsider with a strange wealth of knowledge, and a secret worth dying—and killing—for. While Fiona’s secret may unknowingly bring death and destruction to the December Mines, Jett finds herself letting go of her jaded persona to embrace a friendship that will change her life forever.

When she unintentionally becomes the new keeper of Fiona’s secret, Jett is thrust into a fight for survival and a quest for the freedom she’s longed for. Keeping the secret could cost her her life. Searching for answers all but ensures her death.


The Guru's Review:


This novel was not what I was expecting. Sometimes it pays not to listen to the reviews or even the description. I was under the impression that this novel was going to be dark and gritty all the way through. And yes, at first it was, with the vivid description of the conditions that Jett finds herself living and working in the December mine and being used and abused both in the mine and as a prostitute as one of the conditions of this enslaved environment. 

Williams described this well in all its grittiness and oppression and was effective in making me feel tense, frustrated and angry almost to the point where I could not continue. Just when I was about to abandon this novel, the whole atmosphere changed and this encouraged me to persist. Glad I did. From that point on, I grew to really enjoy this novel. 

One thing that really struck me was that you would never know this is a debut novel from this author. She writes very well, and the topic/themes are very controversial, but Williams does not allow this to weigh the plot down with too much detail or information. She has a healthy balance of this being both plot and character driven if that is possible in the one novel. I am not sure if Williams loves Alice in Wonderland as a fairy tale (I hated it!) or whether elements of that story provided a unique platform for her to strengthen the plot and assist in delivering the novel's message, but either way, it becomes an integral part of Jett's understanding of the world outside of the December mine that she knows nothing about until she experiences it. 

For a novel such as this with its controversial themes, Wiliams must have realised that to show it clearly, she would need to have depicted Jett as a well developed and relational character. She has definitely done so and this is another strength of this novel. Jett is not a two-dimensional character, she is someone who has guts, determination, conviction, a firm sense of justice and right and wrong, although she can be a bit impetuous sometimes. I am sure we can all relate to that at some points in our lives! 

This is going to remain one controversial Christian novel. That will only change when the attitudes of the current "don't rock the boat, don't include topics that we don't want to confront/deal with" mentality that exists among some of the Christian church, Christians themselves and the mainstream Christian publishing world. For a debut author to include such controversial topics as child prostitution/exploitation, cannibalism, and violence is one very brave venture. Even experienced, seasoned authors would not be daring or willing to venture down such a path as this for the most part. It is actions and topics such as what Williams has done that make it all the more edgy and speculative and challenges in a positive way the above-mentioned attitudes that are harming Christian fiction, Christian authors and its readers, whether Christian or not and whether they know it or not. 

I must say having read this novel now with its main theme of child prostitution/exploitation, Williams needs to be applauded for the way she has handled this. There is no glorification of prostitution. There is no graphic detail. What she has achieved (through Jett) is to show the degradation to the human spirit, the demeaning and destructive effects on women and also of men who perpetrate this act. That is what made me feel tense and frustrated, angry and almost to the point of not continuing. But this only succeeded in showing what exists in our real world. Even the other theme of cannibalism is not glorified but shown as part of a warped and distorted mentality and solution to the ills of the dystopian world that has lost its way and is not an answer at all to the failing and diminishing food supply. 

I have stated that the novel becomes very enjoyable after this dark first section ends. Not only has Williams shown she has talent in creating one dark and gritty world, but she is just as talented in showing the opposite. Once the dark first part of this novel ends, the plot takes on a different pace and flavour. There is still tension and suspense but Jett comes into her own. It from this point on that Williams delivers her message concerning the ills that are consequential when a society surrenders its freedom for safety/happiness but is unaware of the enslavement and governmental control that ensues. It is from this platform that motivates Jett to lead her people to fight and restore the freedom that she most desperately longs for and to reveal the secret that Fiona entrusted to her.

I loved the spiritual themes that Jett was introduced to in order to achieve this. Although the relationship between Jett and the Maker was not developed or expounded upon as much as I would have liked, it stood out that Jett was to only continue in her quest by having faith in Him and letting Him be the source of her actions. On a few occasions, Jett identifies that the soft voice that instructs her with the words "Rise" and "Safe" are instructions from the Maker when she is perplexed about how to continue in her quest. On a very basic level, this shows that we need to be obedient to Him who knows the way we should go in any circumstance and that He is always there to guide and protect us. 


I would have loved to have had her relationship with the Maker described more formally and the effects of oppression and sexual abuse and exploitation dealt with through the power of God as this could have shown readers who have suffered similarly in the real world that God can and does heal and restore on every level.

I also loved the romance between Jett and Xylon (Xy). To me, Williamson seemed to focus this from Xy's point of view, with the distinctive male flavour. That I loved and it reminded me of the way that male Christian authors who write romance develop it. This romance theme was another strength of this novel.

For those readers who are undecided about whether to read this novel or not, I have provided a resource to help them understand the controversial themes contained herein, 
an interview from The Crossover Alliance Publishing company that published the novel, 



It is worth reading.  

All in all, a very enjoyable debut novel from Williams. If she continues to produce such challenging and thought provoking novels, the Christian publishing world would benefit from reviewing their guidelines from only publishing the clean and watered down fiction that they believe we want to read and Christians need to expand their horizons and see that Christian fiction can address controversial topics that can glorify God and point the reader towards Him

Strongly Recommended. 4/5 Stars.

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 3/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 2/5

Overall Rating 4/5

To read a preview of December's Child, click on the Preview button below:

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Heaven's Oasis by Jeff W. Horton


Claire is dead.

She's been the love of Kevin Foster's life for as long as he can remember; his soulmate, and his best friend.

Before she dies, Claire, an archaeologist, goes on an expedition to the Middle East and comes across evidence supporting the existence of a biblical, antediluvian site the ancients called Heaven's Oasis, and that certain ancient artifacts can lead her to it. Claire believes that finding this site will help prove the Bible's veracity, and provide indisputable evidence of God's existence.

Following her unexpected death Claire's expeditions become public knowledge, and the subsequent assaults against her reputation from the scientific community and the media are both brutal and relentless.

Furious at the public ridicule and to prove she was right, Kevin decides to pick up where Claire left off in her search and to finish what she started. He's willing to sacrifice everything, even his life, to restore her reputation and to honor her memory.

A billionaire arms dealer named Kain Masterson has also been searching for the Oasis, however, intending to keep what he finds for himself. The deadly competition soon becomes a struggle just to stay alive in the race to find the artifacts, follow the clues, and ultimately to find Heaven's Oasis.

The Guru's Review:


When I saw this novel advertised pre-release, I knew I had to review this novel. The last Horton novel I read was many years ago and I have been drawn to his novels since.  Even though I have not read the many novels in between the one I read and this new novel, I can say that he has definitely fine tuned his talent and writing. This is one very entertaining novel. Horton blends biblical archaeology, romance, mystery and suspense into one engaging read. 

One thing that is highlighted in this novel is that Horton is one very romantic man. This novel is resplendent with romance and all its nuances and characteristics. I have said in many past reviews that I don't like the romance genre where romance is the main plot theme and prefer the romance to be a subplot. Despite romance being the main theme in this novel, I did not mind it all. That is really saying something from me! Throughout this romantic plot, I was impressed with how Kevin's integrity as a Christian and as a man enhanced his love for Claire and vice versa and also later in the novel towards Zari. I have seen this in other Christian novels where the romance has been developed by a male author. I seem to prefer romance written by this gender. I have many male authors who are successful at this and I can now add Horton to this group. While reading this novel, I wondered where Horton got this ability to write romance so successfully. Then I recalled him saying that it was his wife who helped develop this ability by 
"forcing me to watch so many Nicholas Sparks movies that I've gotten to where I actually enjoy them!" 
It would appear then that Horton's wife should have no complaints about not being romanced by her husband! I have no doubt that some of the aspects of romance that he has included in this novel is based on his own experience. I say this as authors are encouraged to write about what they know, when and where they can.

As far as suspense goes, Horton has created this in one very unique manner, interspersed with the developing relationship between Kevin and Claire and through flash backs as Horton provides the background to their lives and romance. As their romance and relationship develop, so does the suspense and mystery surrounding Claire's quest for Heaven's Oasis and the ever increasing hunt for her and her research from billionaire arms dealer, Kain Masterson. This is more than a hook to reel the reader in, more like a snare, and a good one! It is actually through all this and Claire's death that ignites more of Kevin's integrity and love for his deceased wife that he devotes all his time and resources to carry on Claire's quest to find Heaven's Oasis. His  aim now is to restore her honour as an archaeologist that was destroyed by her murderer and the professional slander from her colleagues. I loved this aspect of the novel. It is great to see male characters showing such integrity of character and protecting the honour of another human being, no matter their gender. In this case, it is also part of the married agape relationship and more importantly part of being of sound Christian character when one allows God to change them into His likeness as the Bible encourages.

I detect from Kevin's character that Horton may have based some of this on himself. It is very true that authors base some characters on themselves, intentionally or not, or one character solely. My guess is the latter. Again, it is the author writing about what they know, or in this case, who they know. In this novel, this is one very strong asset.

There was one scene that really touched me and is I feel has a very important spiritual message for any Christian and it involved Kevin's dealing with his grief and relationship with God. Having gone through something similar like Kevin did, I can fully relate to Kevin's reaction to grief and how this affected his relationship with God and what he needed to do to be restored to God. Very well executed and it did minister to me after all these years. Just goes to show that Christian fiction can minister to the reader's heart and situation where they are at. On my blog, I state that I expect Christian fiction to,
  • entertained me immensely, 
  • encourage my walk with God. 

Well, I can say that this novel did entertain me immensely and overall did encourage my walk with God, especially this scene I mentioned above. I applaud Christian authors when they do this and I applaud Horton for including this.

I loved the events that led up to the climatic ending of this novel, both in a physical and spiritual/supernatural sense. Very suspenseful and satisfying. Horton has developed this well and a fitting ending to every thing that he has included up to that point and does justice to Kevin's quest to honour Claire's legacy and quest.

This novel has definitely entertained and reinforced in me to always remember that with God all things are possible and our integrity and character as men should not be comprised by our circumstances but to stand up for the honour of fellow man including our loved ones as an expression of God's love for us. I pray that the romance that is shown from Kevin can inspire male readers of this novel that this is a natural expression of our character and one form of expression of our love for our girlfriend and/or spouse.

Strongly Recommended. 4/5 Stars.

World Building 4/5

Characterisation 4/5

Story 4/5

Spiritual Level 4/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 2/5

Overall Rating 4.4/5

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

Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,
A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that Heaven's Oasis contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Spirit-Filled Romance outlined in this booklet, I award Jeff W Horton with


The Reality Calling Spirit-Filled Romance Award

 


Congratulations Jeff W Horton!


To read a preview of Heaven's Oasis, click on the Preview button below:

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Ravens Cove by Mary Ann Poll



Welcome to Ravens Cove, Alaska, a tiny town nestled in a small hollow on the majestic Cook Inlet. A town familiar with storytelling—after all, Alaska abounds in rich legends. Unlike other tales, however, the account of Ravens Cove is not just based in fact. It is fact. Meet Josiah Williams, the peculiar stranger whose warning to lifetime residents Kat Tovslosky and her cousin, Sheriff Bart Andersen, raises more questions than answers; a man whose dark past and knowledge of the murders make him a suspect more than an ally. Join Kat and Bart as an unlikely troop forms (including a very unwelcome FBI agent) to discover the identity of a killer. The unearthing of which will throw the reluctant warriors into a battle for their very lives and the lives of all who call Ravens Cove home.

The Guru's Review:


This is the first novel I have read from Mary Ann Poll. I am so glad to have done so. Very pleased to have found this author.

I love novels about spiritual warfare where this is dealt with using Biblical principles. I can say that Poll knows how to create this in a novel. From looking at her Bio, it is evident her past dabbling in New Age philosophies has given her an hands on perspective in relation to the demonic. Her later conversion to Christianity seems to have shown her the importance of portraying this solely from the Biblical perspective, apart from the fact that it is biblical to do so. From this angle, I appreciate greatly novels of this calibre. This is how Christian fiction should be presented. Not only is it highly entertaining but it honours the Bible and most importantly, God. It also educates in spiritual principles, in this case, spiritual warfare, and strengthens the Christian reader's faith. For an unbeliever, it shows the truth about demonology, demon possession, demonic deception and gives the reader something to think about. Poll highlights one aspect that I feel is important to the Christian as displayed by Grandma Bricken,

I'm not scared of seeing the dead, Bartholomew, I've seen much in my time. But I cry for the soul lost to God. That's the real horror!

This truly shows what the heart of the Christian should be, as it directly shows what the heart of God is, that He does not want any to perish but to be saved from a Christless eternity. And this directly ties in with the Gospel and why Jesus came to us, to be the propitiation of our sin and be restored back to Him.

Poll has successfully incorporated these elements into a plot that has you thoroughly engaged. It is an enthralling read and has that quality that every reader loves, where they cannot put the book down. I read this novel over the course of a day despite many interruptions.

I cannot fault this novel's construction. There are no peaks or troughs, plot slowness or acceleration. Everything is at a steady pace and the plot lines keep it this way, hence the experience of not being able to put this novel down. I cannot fault Poll's characterisation. For a short novel that this is, the characters are well developed. You find yourself endeared to many, despising others, and cheering on some and even sad for those who met such horrific deaths. Just as any small town is flavoured by its characters, this novel is well flavoured by the same.

Poll has three types of characters in this novel. There are the "fundamentalist" Christian characters of Josiah, Grandma Bricken and Pastor Paul Lucas. These three believe in the God of the Bible and are submitted to His will. Then there is the New Agers of Anita Conner, Reverend Plotno and his wife Ransom, Miggie, who are submitted to their Master (Iconoclast, demon). Thirdly, we have those who do not have any belief in the Biblical God or any other god. These include Marshall Bart Anderson, his cousin Kat, Kenneth Melbourne (FBI agent), Josephina Latrell, Cassandra Martin, Caroline, Doc Billings, Jonathan & Joseph Tillwater, Mikie Colmbs.

The demonic forces then try to pit all these groups against one another with their planned outcome to devour physically and spiritually the whole town. It is here that Poll shines in her execution of spiritual warfare that leads to a spiritual confrontation between this force of evil and God's sovereignty. It is well done, but with one plot line left unfinished. I can only guess that this is continued in the next novel in this series, Ingress.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and all that it contained. I am definitely an avid fan of this series now and of this author.

Highly Recommended. 5/5 Stars.

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 5/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 5/5

Overall Rating 5/5

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Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,
A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that Ravens Cove contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Spirit-Filled Fiction outlined in this booklet, I award  Mary Ann Poll with


The Reality Calling Spirit-Filled Speculative Fiction Award



Displaying SF-Fiction-RavensCove.png

 

Congratulations Mary Ann Poll!


To read a preview of Ravens Cove, click on the Preview button below:

Friday, 25 November 2016

Author/Novel Spotlight: Drew Boudreaux.

I first came across Drew Boudreaux when he requested  a review of his debut novel, Supraphysica. What impressed me about this novel was the author's combination of faith and science, I guess in Christian circles this is called apologetics. The Bible in 1 Peter 3:15 states,
But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect. (Amplified version)
And this verse also applies to those Christians who work in the areas of science, medicine and all associated fields. I appreciate these Christians who are prepared to use their expertise to defend the veracity of the Bible, or to further prove its veracity. Drew is one of these in his occupation as a Petroleum Geologist and I am looking forward to reviewing his novel. He has now joined an increasing number of Christian authors who create fiction in this apologetic fiction genre. I have some of these novels and I welcome Supraphysica into my collection of such novels in this genre.
  
So let me introduce you to Christian author, Drew Boudreaux. First let's have a look at his Bio:

My name is Drew Boudreaux. I’m 27 years young, and I live in Covington, Louisiana with my wife, Shana; my son, Remy; and my cat, Piclout. The following probably won’t come as a surprise since I’ve written a Christian Fiction novel: I’m a Christian!

Also, I’m not a writer. Well, I guess technically I am now. My actual career is as a Petroleum Geologist. I currently work for Chevron as a Development Geologist supporting one of their deep water Gulf of Mexico oilfields. I really love my job. Basically, what I do is make models of the subsurface and figure out the best way to develop their oil and gas reservoirs.

I want to be totally frank about my lack of literary clout. In school, I’ve always done better with math and science than I did with English and literature. I have never been to a writing conference. I learned just this past year what a literary agent was. Occasionally, I go through phases in my life where I enjoy reading fiction—but I have never considered myself a book worm. 

Now let's have a look at Supraphysica, which was released in August, 2016, in e-book and printed editions:

Book Description:

For Philip, a sociology student at N.Y.U., January 25th was supposed to be a normal start to the spring semester. That definitely didn't happen. As the day unfolded, he came to faith, unknowingly befriended an angel, and was recruited into a covert project to literally build a new world. The next two weeks were equally paranormal—yet a lot more trying as Philip's newfound faith is stretched nearly to the point of nonexistence. Join Philip, Encar, and their respective families in this modern story of faith, hope, and love—and a healthy dose of geoscience.

When I read the title, I wondered what it meant, and why it was two words put together. Without asking, he provided the answer, most likely due to the fact that he has had to answer this query in the past:

The title “Supraphysica” is a latinized way of saying “over nature” or “beyond the physical reality.” It is my belief that there is something beyond the physical world: an all-powerful Trinitarian God who adores His creation and desires to be in community with us.

Obviously, not everyone believes the same, and while I’m always sorry to hear that, I’m also an understanding person and have no less respect for nonbelievers. The last thing I want to do is push someone further away from faith, so if you are a nonbeliever, please be aware that this novel is marked as Christian fiction for a reason. It contains strong Christian content you will disagree with.

By and large, Supraphysica is a story about faith—specifically, faith in God, the only One who is truly over nature. That said, it is also a story about man and Earth, particularly with respect to climate change and other global issues.

According to the Bible, mankind was uniquely created as a bridge between the physical and spiritual constructs. We were given dominion over Earth, which itself is also a very special part of God’s Creation. In light of both of those truths, we are “supraphysical” beings as well. My opinion is that our unique creation and granted dominion came with an inherent responsibility to be good stewards of His Creation.

I asked Drew why he wrote this novel and he replied:

So, why did I write a novel? I don’t just ask that question as a transition to the next paragraph…I genuinely still ask myself that sometimes. Below is how I usually answer my inquisitive mind.

Initially, my motivation for writing Supraphysica was trifold: One, I wanted to undertake a big project and develop a part of myself that I never felt very strong in: creative writing. Two, I love exploring the mash-up of faith and science and saw this effort as a way to glorify God. Three, I think this book could potentially help people, whether that be conservative/republicans/Christians who discredit scientific reasoning (particularly with respect to climate change), or liberal/democratic/secularists who don’t believe science and God can fit in the same universe.

After writing the novel, I decided to self-publish and use the book sales as a fundraiser. Supraphysica leaves the characters and reader with a call to action, and as the author, I think it’s only appropriate for me to model the very call to action I propose. As such, I’m donating 100% of all after-tax royalties to charitable causes.

I hope you will consider giving the novel a chance. Whether you decide to buy or not, thank you for expressing interest in Supraphysica

Now that your appetite may be whetted, it might be beneficial to read an excerpt, just to get a hint of what to expect:

---------------Start of Except:---------------

Aware that Michael and Encar were waiting, he [Philip] turned his attention to the planet looming in front of him. There was so much that needed to be done to progress it to the next step. He was glad he’d decided to build the macro. He mentally recalled it, but instead of thinking about the details of everything, he thought about it as a whole.

God of all Creation, he began to pray. I love You. And I am so thankful for Your love. Even when mankind rejected You, You crafted a way to save us from depravity and eternity without You. Your love truly knows no bounds. Nor does your power. You are the only one that is above nature. You are the only one who can do all things.

I have made known my requests in my previous prayers. I believe they are in accordance with Your will. Under normal circumstances, these natural processes would take billions of years—we have but a few hours. Play them in fast forward. If there are any gaps or if something is incorrect, edit as You see fit. Whereas I do not understand everything, I know that You do.


Philip pictured in his mind scenes of what he expected to see on the planet. The surface cracking. Small bits of land starting to appear. The landmasses bumping into one another and getting bigger. The forming of supercontinents and their subsequent dividing as new ocean basins are created between them. The continental remnants bumping into one another and coalescing into new shapes.

Like he did with the mountain-moving a few days ago, he placed his mental movie inside a container. He filled the container with faith, and he compressed it down to the size of a mustard seed. Then, he shrank it more. And more. His faith seethed and boiled inside the container, increasingly excited with the decreasing size. He shrank it even further, imagining it was compressed all the way down into a single, mathematical point. A singularity, he thought, but he was unsure of where he had heard the term before. He didn’t think he knew that word until now.

Philip held everything compressed for a few seconds. He thought about nothing else but keeping it contained and the limitless power of God. So be it, he prayed, and then he let it explode.

“Wow,” said Encar.

Philip opened his eyes. He saw that the waters on the planet were disturbed. The surface was cracking, just as he had pictured.

The three of them watched in amazement as the surface of the planet transformed before their eyes. The cracks widened and started to glow with lava. Where the plates collided, volcanoes sprouted up, and after about five minutes or so, larger landmasses started to appear. They wandered across the surface of the planet. At three distinct times, all of the landmasses came together into a single continent, only to be broken apart again. After what Philip estimated was about ten minutes, everything came to a stop.

All of it had occurred just as Philip had envisioned. The way the surface looked now was the last scene he’d imagined in the movie.

“How great is your faith, Philip!” Michael exclaimed when it was all complete.

Philip was surprised—he had never heard Michael exclaim anything before. “How great is my God,” Philip replied.

---------------End of Except:---------------

Supraphysica was reviewed by David Bergsland (author and reviewer at Reality Calling) this week and was awarded an award for Redemptive Fiction:

 

This Award is based on David's review on Amazon: 


By David Bergsland on November 20, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase 

This is one of the most unique books I've read in a while. As redemptive fiction Supraphysica is a surprisingly soft sell. It will take a little effort to wrap your brain around the story. But, once you do, you'll find it worth the effort.

For Philip, a sociology student at N.Y.U., January 25th was supposed to be a normal start to the spring semester. That definitely didn't happen. As the day unfolded, he came to faith, unknowingly befriended an angel, and was recruited into a covert project to literally build a new world. The next two weeks were equally paranormal—yet a lot more trying as Philip's newfound faith is stretched nearly to the point of nonexistence.

The characters are shared in depth. In addition, world-building is expertly done. The story has wonderful twists. And, it's simply an entertaining tale. The resolution is a bit weak, but the ends are tied up well.

Reality Calling: Redemptive Speculative Fiction Award: Supraphysica deserves it

Truly Christian books have become so rare, again, that I have no problem in giving Drew an Award of Excellence for Redemptive speculative fiction. It's not preachy at all. Faith shines as a normal part of the character's life. Philip has some trouble, being dumped into the battle so suddenly.

The spiritual warfare is handled gently. Though, there is a reality to it. The angels are uniquely shown. On the other hand, they seem surprisingly realistic.

You'll be glad you read this book.
 


If you are curious as to the background to this Award, you can investigate it here: Award: Christian Redemptive Speculative Fiction by Reality Calling. This is one of five Awards and they are all based on the criteria found in this booklet by David Bergsland: A Spiritual System for Rating Books (click on the title).

If you want to explore more of Drew and his novel, he can be found on social media on these social media platforms:


Website: www.supraphysica.com  

Facebook: www.facebook.com/drew.dreaux 

Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader of Christian science-fiction/fantasy, apologetic fiction,  supernatural, spiritual warfare, to consider reading Supraphysica and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).

I am currently reading Supraphysica and looking forward to reading his future works.