Tuesday 31 May 2016

Gateway to Thera: Book Three of THE ADVENTURE CHRONICLES (Volume 3) by Jeffrey A. Davis

Gateway to Thera: Book Three of THE ADVENTURE CHRONICLES (Volume 3)

Half of our heroes are missing. After a warehouse explosion, Jamie, Buster, Yoshi, Shawna, George, Deck, Max and Alex are presumed dead, leaving a more ruthless and brutal ADVENTURE to hunt down the street gang who was responsible for luring them there. But Steve Adams was in the warehouse, too. And he knows the truth. His brother and friends are not dead. They stepped through a gateway to another world, where they have their own battle to fight. Can the genius figure a way to convince Dave and the others that their friends are alive and that they need to retrieve the two coins that open the portal to bring them home?

The Guru's Review: 

This is the third instalment in this series and I have enjoyed every one of them. However, I enjoyed this one the most for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, it shows that Davis has matured in his writing, plot development, and characterisation and also in the Christian/biblical themes. He has become bolder in all these aspects and I especially found it noticeable in the latter aspect. There is more instances of prayer, and more of the characters, especially Jamie, seeking God's help and guidance when he realises that his circumstances are out of his control and the only one that can help is God.

Secondly, Davis has introduced a fantasy element to this novel and while I thought it would not fit into the existing plot after the previous two novels, it really does fit well and it is this that takes this series to the next level. The world building for this fantasy world that the Adventure team enter is simple but has been constructed to give the illusion that there is a lot of depth in its creation. What I absolutely loved is the mythology on which Davis bases this world  and it is very successfully founded on the Bible and some of its events, characters and doctrine. This is very clever and I feel an ingenious move on his part.

These bible elements really do make this novel and enhance everything that Davis has created in the previous two. For me, this instalment takes this series down a well deserved path where both the author and this series comes of age and into their own.

Davis has successfully created two adventures previously but the adventure in this instalment is much more involved and more of a challenge for Jamie and his Adventure team. It is in this story that Jamie becomes a better leader and his team becomes more cohesive, both those in the world of Thera and those left on Earth. The developing romantic involvements of Jamie and Shawna, George and Yoshi, and a new romance is done very well and this latter romance I was really pleased with as I was rooting for these two as the story unfolded.

Davis also balanced well the dual stories of that on Thera and that on Earth with each half of the Adventure team maintaining the objectives of the Team. The pacing of both kept you guessing what was going to happen next, which environment was the next chapter and of course, what every reader craves for and loves an author for, that "cannot put this book down" experience.

Davis has developed the violence that we have come to expect from this series (or any ninja novel for that matter), but on one instance he has taken it to the next level where it affects one of the Adventure team extremely negatively and it reduced me to tears. It was well positioned in the novel and leaves the reader wanting more from the next novel to show how the Adventure team copes with this tragedy and does this strengthen or weaken the Team?

I am really impressed with this novel and the path that Davis now takes us on as associate members of the Adventure Team (by the very fact that we are readers of this series!).  

I now look forward to the next instalment, Quest for Yoshi much more than I have with the previous two.

Highly Recommended. 

World building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual level 4/5

Enemy spiritual level  3/5

Average rating 4.6/5

Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,

A Spiritual System for Rating Books written by David Bergsland,

and that this novel has elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Redemptive Fiction outlined in the previously mentioned booklet, 

I award Jeffrey A. Davis with the 

The Reality Calling Christian Redemptive Fiction Award 

Congratulations, Jeffrey A. Davis!

To read a preview of Gateway to Thera, click on the Preview button below: 

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Blog Tour: The Gladiator and the Guard Release by Annie Douglass Lima

Today I have author, Annie Douglass Lima, as a Guest blogger, as part of her blog tour to promote the release of her new novel, The Gladiator and the Guard. So without further ado, let me hand it over to Annie! 

Thanks Peter!

I'm excited to announce that my young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach

First Things First: a Little Information about Book 1: 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

What is the Collar for, 
and What is a Cavvarach?

The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).  

Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with "have a rack"), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon 

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!

And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

Bensin, a teenage slave, and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon 

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard from Smashwords (for Nook or in other digital formats) 

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

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

Connect with the Author Online:

Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach!

Or find the giveaway at this link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ad2fd99a3/?

Sunday 8 May 2016

Martyr: The Other Earth Chronicles: Book 1 by N P. Beckwith

Martyr: The Other Earth Chronicles: Book 1
What if one day, you took a different path, a bridge over instead of under? Could that change everything? Could you ever go back? For college student Justin Mayer, an ordinary day turns extraordinary when he finds himself in a world like, yet fundamentally unlike his own. Narrowly escaping the clutches of a malevolent figure, he learns that this is a world ravaged by plague, and divided by holy war. At the center of the conflict: an ancient deity named Chaer-Ul, whose motives are anything but clear. What's more, it seems that Chaer-Ul’s followers see Justin as the incarnation of a legendary warrior they call “Martyr”. As the resistance makes a final stand against a dark enemy of unspeakable power, Justin must decide what he believes, and who he can trust. In the process, he will learn who he really is, and what price he must pay for love.

The Guru's Review:

I first read this novel in August 2015 but did not write a review because the author mentioned that he was updating it and it would be worth reading once this was completed. I am glad I reread the revised edition, not only for the improved cover but for the refinements that the author has included.

I enjoyed this better the second time round. I have a better appreciation of the plot, the fantasy, its dystopian world, the Christian themes and the characters. Now I am more of a fan of this series and appreciate Beckwith's writing and imagination than previous.

Two elements that stand out for me are the author's writing and his world building. Beckwith has a very competent command of the English language and its use, so he writes very well, and this adds to the cohesion of the plot, its flow, its pace, characterisation but especially the view of the main character using the first person narrative. On this point, this novel shines as Justin is transported to this alternative world where it is similar but then again not so and a novel of this type is best told through the person experiencing this experience. This places the reader as if they were there with Justin, experiencing it as he does and being another first person witness.

I have read other novels where the world building is superb and I must add Beckwith to this level. Not only does what I have described so far add to the reader being transported to another world but Beckwith's world building forms a solid foundation for this. Authors of fantasy (and science fiction) need to create effective worlds to convince the reader that the world they have been transported to is convincing, credible, real and worth them getting involved. It needs depth and layers of diversity. Beckwith is very successful here. All those elements mentioned are present and it makes this novel a joy to read. So many times, I nearly overstayed my lunch break or missed my train destination as I was not aware of where I was or time seemed to stand still. It was very hard to come back to reality at these times. 

In this novel, spirituality plays an important and prominent part of its fabric. This is not just a battle of good versus evil. This is a tale of faith, trust, redemption, sacrifice (hence the name) and a huge part of this is the exploration of how prepared are you to lay down your life for the one you love or the community you serve and for what reasons would you do so? Here, Beckwith weaves this theme around the good versus evil thread. Justin, "Martyr", as he is known in this tale, develops from a disbelieving, mistaken identity person to reluctant hero to willing martyr and follower of Chaer-Ul (God, creator) by the end of the story, especially at the final conflict. Not only does Justin live up to and become this role, but he becomes a respected leader of the resistance. Underpinned by all this is an ancient prophecy and manuscript that foresees a man from another world who would be called Martyr and it is here that the community hail him as such when he arrives in this alternative world. 

However, there are some good aspects and not so good aspects of how Beckwith has portrayed God in this novel. Known as Chaer-Ul, He has no qualms about meeting with those who follow Him and has provided two specific places where believers can meet Him (although not in a physical sense). While Justin does not know what to expect in this first meeting, Chaer-Ul seems to be a little impersonal or aloof, just directing Justin as to what He wants, albeit talking in riddles over who Justin is, why he has been transported to this alternative Earth and gives him some cryptic prophecy type messages that take the rest of the novel for him and his community to work out. I was disappointed in this aspect of the novel. However, Chaer-Ul seems to be more personal and more of the God of the Bible when Justin meets Him later in the story at yet another crucial plot development. At least Beckwith has shown that when they needed guidance and direction, they encouraged Justin to not act until he had met with Chaer-Ul for this counsel and what His will is for them in planning to fight Magus. We do see Chaer-Ul equip Justin and 6 other warriors in a supernatural way in this preparation to fight Magus and this was very well done. 

The third and last time Justin meets with Chaer-Ul shows both Him and Justin being more open with each other especially from Chaer-Ul's point of view and you can see how much Justin has grown in faith, respect for Him. It seems that Beckwith showed a progression of personality/character traits in this novel of who Chaer-Ul really is. Not sure why Beckwith did this, as I would have enjoyed and been blessed with Chaer-Ul as the God of the Bible if he has portrayed Him as He is as a more personal God rather than one aloof, mysterious Entity despite the fact that the characters in this story respected Him and knew He was Omnipotent. 

I must make mention of Beckwith's development of the various main characters. He has made them very three dimensional, very relational, and they all have depth and flaws. I felt for all of them as Beckwith showed their strengths, weaknesses, even disabilities as one of them had, and all this just endears you to them. It makes them into a very varied but cohesive group on every level. Even Korvus with all his aggression and arrogance, past abuse, physical injuries and mechanical parts, one feels for him and gains his respect. By the end of the novel, I really liked him and felt that he had more than one redeeming feature. 

Then there is the developing relationship between Maya and Justin. This was well done and fitted in nicely in the story line without disconnecting these two from the main plot. It very well balanced this out and added a layer of intensity to the events leading up to the final conflict and became part of the sacrificial theme I mentioned previously. 

I became confused from some of the events in the last chapter or so and this lead me to contact the author and discuss this. His answers cleared up most of my confusion but I don't feel authors should leave readers confused. I love the final conflict but it was the events after this that left me frustrated but pleased at the end. I don't like such dichotomy of emotions at the end of a novel. However, it seems to be from listening to Beckwith's explanation that all be will be sorted out with the next novel. He has meant for the final events to be ambiguous and for us readers to tease it out where the answers are there if we know where to look. Not sure how I feel about this, my initial feeling is that all this is risky and will either pique the reader's interest to find out all these answers in the next novel or frustrate them so much that they will not bother. 

I will continue to the next novel having discussed this my confusion with the author.

Despite these shortcomings, this is one very well constructed novel and has a lot going for it, as described herein. I look forward to the next installments as I really do need to see where Beckwith is going with this and it looks more than promising. This author has quite the imagination and he needs to get what is in this imagination out there to bless Christian readers and not alike.

Strongly Recommended.

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 3/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 3/5

Average rating 4/5


Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference book,

A Spiritual System for Rating Books written by David Bergsland,

I award N. P. Beckwith with 

Congratulations, N. P. Beckwith!

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

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Christian Horror -- Is there such a thing? by Thomas Smith

The novel, Something Stirs by Christian author, Thomas Smith, was the first novel I read in the horror genre and I did not know what to expect. Horror to me was always reminiscent of Stephen King's novels which I had never read and I wondered how the topic of horror would fit in the Christian worldview and if Smith would be able to create a suitable story that would be compatible and supported by the bible.

After reading the first few chapters of this book, I was hooked! The answers to the above questions were answered very well by its conclusion and I could see how horror fits in very well with Christian fiction and that it was a perfect marriage. My review can be found here

It was soon after this novel, that I discovered another Christian horror novel, Adverse Possession by Jess Hanna. Both are different takes on the haunted house theme but both deal with the same biblical principles of spiritual warfare and power of the Cross and Jesus' victory over sin and death. My review can be found here

It was also around this time that I started to read about the controversy that horror could have a place in Christian fiction. I was already converted to the reality that horror is an essential genre in the world of Christian fiction. As this controversy progressed, I was pleased to see that Christian author, Mike Duran, had published a fictional novel called Christian Horror: On the Compatibility of a Biblical Worldview and the Horror Genre.

I can think of no better author to write such a book as I have read a few of Duran's since the above-mentioned novels as he also writes in this genre. (see the list at the bottom of this post).

When I read Thomas Smith's post, Christian Horror - Is there such a thing? (from The Horror Zine), I knew I needed him to be a guest blogger on this blog. So without further ado, I will hand you over to Thomas Smith and let him explain his view of Christian Horror: 

Peter, thank you for asking to share this article with your readers. And Peter's readers, thank you for giving my written meanderings a look. Now with that said (and meant), and in the spirit of not boring the reader to death before they even get to the article, here we go....

Christian Horror -- Is there such a thing? 

Thomas Smith tells us "Yes indeed!"

It’s not as Strange as it Sounds

By Thomas Smith

"The role of the artist is to not look away." --- Akira Kurosawa

Christian horror.

At first glance the words seem to go together like jumbo shrimp or controlled chaos; the concept seems to be something of an oxymoron. But on closer examination, the two are more closely entwined than you might think. For example, as observed on the besthorrornovels.com Christian Horror page: “Christian beliefs are rife with the supernatural, from angels and demons to the devil himself. The book of Revelation, for example, reads almost like a Clive Barker novel. So, it's easy to see how the two could, in fact, work together.”

And while the concept works on one level, the term is also limiting. It is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it does provide a foot in the door that allows publishers to bring horror stories to a Christian audience. But the same label that opens one door a crack can slam another one tight.

In Christian horror, the story is always populated by “the God Who is There.” Mike Duran, pastor, and author, makes this distinction in his post “On ‘Christian Horror’ and Atheist Dread” and such stories are the opposite of what can be called atheist horror, which is based on “The God who Isn’t.”

In Christian horror, there is always the promise of a God who, even if he does not directly intervene in the horrific situation, stands ready to strengthen the characters and give them the internal fortitude and spiritual stamina they will need to prevail. Or at least to survive. In the process characters often have the opportunity to shed at least some of the physical and/or emotional baggage that has held them back and draw on their fledgling reserves to face the evil in a way they would never have been able to in the past.

And in Christian horror, there is always the promise of “the God Who is There.” In the case of the atheist horror, once the battle is over and the evil is vanquished, there only what Duran calls “the Great Void.”

It is important to note here, none of this is intended as a value judgment and is in no way an attempt to denigrate any horror that can’t be categorized as strictly Christian/Religious. I cut my eyeteeth reading everything from Stephen King and Richard Matheson to Bentley Little and Richard Laymon. I still do. And I began my career writing horror fiction. I still do that too (my story, The Heart is a Determined Hunter, appeared in The Horror Zine about a year ago, and I have a new horror novella coming out from another publisher in a few months). The distinction is, instead, a look at the genre, and the publishing industry, particularly the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and the ABA (American Booksellers Association) and how the CBA, in particular, approaches the “Christian horror” genre.

Before we move on, let’s pause a moment and ruffle a few feathers. I will use the term Christian horror, but I don’t like it. Then again, I don’t particularly like calling horror a genre. Horror is an emotion. Like wonder, amazement, love, terror, gratitude, thankfulness, rage, sorrow, and elation. And prior to the advent of Stephen King, tales of terror, horror, etc., were simply fiction. It was only when King and a few others began to run up massive numbers did advertising types realize they could corral similar tales and give them their own “genre” and a new marketing tool was born.

The problem is, in the case of Christian horror, it has backfired. As Mike Duran has observed, “I don’t like the term “Christian Horror.” Yes, I use that term. But it’s only as a common descriptor of a genre label that religious writers would understand. The truth is, marketing anything as “Christian” will immediately turn off most non-Christian audiences. Sure, it may attract religious readers. But the general reading or movie-going public is not beholden to such labels. For example, The Conjuring was directed by two avowed Christians. Nevertheless, the film is rightly marketed as horror. There is a tremendous amount of religious iconography and jargon in the movie. However, the moment you label the film “Christian,” you heighten the narrow expectations of a certain demographic while chasing others away. Which is why I go easy on the “Christian Horror” label.”

In the CBA the idea of Christian horror as an actual genre is relatively new although there have been many books over the past two-hundred-plus years that could fall under that heading, including The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis (1942); Seeker to the Dead, by A. M. Burrage (1942); The Room in the Tower and Other Stories, by E. F. Benson (1912); The Monk, by Matthew Gregory Lewis (1796). All of the books sold well to Christian and non-Christian readers alike. It is only recently that the publishing industry has narrowed their collective foci and kept the horror story on the fringe. And in the ABA world works like The Stand (Stephen King) and The Darkest Evening of the Year (Dean Koontz), while not strictly Christian fiction, deal with intense theological questions of good, evil, and divine influence.

“Christian publishing houses largely miss ANY opportunity to exploit the power of the horror genre,” Duran says. “Whereas Christian artists have historically employed horrific imagery in their art to shock and stir the imagination (like Dante, Bosch, Machen, and Charles Williams), contemporary Christian publishing is in a death grip to more conservative evangelical audiences. This is why the typical fare of mainstream Christian publishers is Amish fiction and romantic suspense.”

If we look at horror for the Christian market in its simplest form, it is a vehicle for conveying ideas. It is the canvas on which the story is told. Nothing more, nothing less. Just as writers use science fiction, romance, adventure history, and humor to tell their stories, the horror writer does the same thing.
For example, when my novel Something Stirs (one of the first haunted house stories for the Christian market) came out, the publisher made every effort to have me added to a caravan of Christian authors traveling around the country doing readings and book signings. The publisher was told by the organizer that I wouldn’t be included because, “…I don’t want that kind of thing sticking in my head.” I later said in an interview (knowing the organizer would see it), “If they didn’t want a story that emphasizes the power of Christ, the nobility of sacrifice, and the fact that no one is so broken that they are beyond redemption, then it’s a good thing I wasn’t included.”

It’s just a canvas (albeit a scary one).

“When Christian publishers do manage to print something horror-related,” Duran says, “they cannot even label it as such. Which is why Thriller and Supernatural Suspense are the go-to labels for “Christian Horror.” The very word “horror” evokes an allergic reaction from the typical hyper-conservative Christian reader.”

It’s a case of missing the forest because of the trees.

In his essay for decentfilms.com, The Cross and the Vampire: Religious Themes in Terrence Fisher’s Hammer Horrors, Steven D. Greydanus shows the direct influence director Terrence Fisher’s faith had on the Hammer horror films he directed. “Fisher has called his films ‘basically morality plays’ that reflect his personal belief in ‘the ultimate victory of good over evil,’ and the star of Fisher’s Dracula films, Christopher Lee, has cited the ultimate destruction of evil in Fisher’s films as the reason ‘the Church doesn’t object to these films, and why they are so popular in Ireland, Spain, and Italy.’”

Scott Derrickson, director of Sinister, Hellraiser, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and the upcoming Doctor Strange, has commented often on the relationship between horror and religion. In the November 13, 2015, edition of Relevant Magazine, he said, “I think it is the genre that is most friendly to the subject matter of faith and belief in religion. The more frightening and sort of dark and oppressive a movie is, the freer you are to explore the supernatural and explore faith.”

Even a decade earlier he told Peter Chattaway in a Christianity Today article (August 30, 2005), “It's about admitting that there is evil in the world, and recognizing that there is evil within us, and that we're not in control, and that the things that we are afraid of must be confronted in order for us to relinquish that fear.”

The horror tale is a perfect vehicle for that message. And the writers and handful of publishers who are struggling to capture the power of the horror story for a new readership want to make that happen. But they are in for an uphill trip.

If you’d like to sample some of the offerings in this genre, try these:

The Resurrection, The Telling, The Ghost Box, or Christian Horror by Mike Duran
Thr3e by Ted Dekker
The Dead Whisper On by T. L. Hines
Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee
When the Day of Evil Comes by Melanie Wells
Field of Blood by Eric Wilson
The Visitation by Frank Peretti
Reckoning, or Nightbringer by James Byron Huggins
Scream by Mike Dellosso
Adverse Possession by Jess Hanna
Something Stirs by Thomas Smith

About Thomas Smith: 

Thomas Smith’s work has appeared in many publications, including Cemetery Dance, Horror 101: The Way Forward, Quietly Now: An Anthology in Tribute to Charles L. Grant, and Tales to Terrify. His novel, Something Stirs, was the first haunted house novel for the Christian market. His greatest achievement was the day Charles L. Grant read this story and said, “Damn, I wish I’d written that.”

He was selected as part of the writing team (including Rick Warren, Chuck Colson, Lee Strobel and Ravi Zacharias) to Create Zondervan’s New Men’s Devotional Bible.

Thomas has been a joke writer for Joan Rivers and a comedy writer for The Steve & Kathy Show (Emmy-winning Christian TV variety show).

Interesting Fact: Thomas may be the only writer to ever work on projects with Stephen King and the Rev. Rick Warren at the same time.