Tag Archives: christian book

Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach, a review

Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach, Book 1 of the Toch Island Chronicles
Published 2011 by Splashdown Books, 294 pages
Genre: Fantasy with Christian worldview

Angel has no idea who her parents are or what her true name is.  She lives in Florida with a foster family who found her wandering in the woods without her memory at the age of six. Now she’s fourteen, and strange things are starting to happen.

She takes a shine to a young man, Gregor, a stranger to her. She realizes he has answers about who she is, and she decides to go with him back to his home. She finds this is her birthplace, Toch Island, a magical place near Ireland. She learns she has magical powers, like others from the island, and Gregor teaches her to use them.

Her parents are off searching for her in Germany, and they’re also searching for the man who tried to kill her when she was six in order to steal her magic powers.

This man is still trying to kill her, the reader learns amid bizarre happenings on and near Gregor’s farm. No one knows who the villain is, and he likes it that way.

Can Angel solve the riddle of a prophecy? Will she live to see her parents again? And will Angel learn who the would-be killer is?

This student-wizard tale is slow-moving in some spots, but provides a pleasing whodunit with some great plot twists and novel characters. I like the story world of the island, full of simple townsfolk, tame dog-like dragons, and dotty professors.

The faith element in this story lies in the deep background. Heckenbach, a Christian, writes for the secular market. In this tale, prophecy works. Things don’t happen randomly, though the bad guy would have us believe so.

Avenger by Heather Burch, a review

Avenger, a Halflings Novel, by Heather Burch
Published 2013 by Zondervan, 300 pages
Genre: Young adult supernatural with Christian worldview

In this third book of the Halflings series, Nikki Youngblood now knows she’s a Halfling — a descendant of the dark-angel sons of God and daughters of men as mentioned in Genesis 6. She knows that her godfather Damon Vessler wants her to turn to the dark side, so to speak, something that’s so easy for a Halfling to do. But there’s something more she doesn’t know. And her godly friends are afraid to tell her about it. Not only that, but there’s a shredder monster out to kill her.

These books have great characters and a catchy premise: orphan angels. Halflings are given up at birth by their Halfling parents and raised by true angels, to keep their dark-angel heritage at bay.  The Halflings have wings and unusual powers.

The book also has some overly familiar story elements: the love triangle with two “brother” Halflings vying for her attention, and a thoroughly  modern heroine, able to physically fight and win. (But at least she’s not a wimp like Bella!)

I read the first book in the Halflings series, skipped the second, and read this one, the third. There was enough background information in this book for me to do this, and I suspect that even someone picking up this third book cold would have been able to figure out what was going on.

I think that fans of Twilight, especially Christians, will like this book. I’m glad to see Christians writing in this genre.

Captives by Jill Williamson, a review

Captives by Jill Williamson, Book One of The Safe Lands series, a review
Published 2013 by Zondervan, 381 pages
Genre: Dystopian suspense, young adult and up

Three brothers live in a tenuous settlement that shares a Colorado valley with a huge walled city called the Safe Lands. The year is 2088, and the Thin Plague has wiped out the population of the United States except for isolated pockets close to clean water sources. It’s a hard life for the brothers and their kin, surviving off the land and off what they can glean from the empty Denver City not far away.

Omar, a sensitive boy mocked and bullied by their father, decides to make friends with the people who live in the Safe Lands, although others warn him that those who go in never come out. Maybe there he will feel like he belongs. It turns out the Safe Lands desperately needs people like Omar and his clan, people uninfected by the Thin Plague who can help the Safe Lands repopulate. Omar decides his family will like the apparently easy life in the Safe Lands, and he arranges to have them taken there.

Levi, the oldest brother, is away on a trip when the Safe Landers arrive, and he returns to a village empty of life. As son of the village elder, he is elder now. He must go in to rescue the survivors, including his fiancee Jemma. But will he be able to control his temper?

Mason, the middle brother, is a gentle vegetarian who finds himself in a position of responsibility in the Safe Lands. He’s a medic, with access to the others from his village from time to time. Will he be able to make a difference for them? And can he begin to figure out what how to defeat the Thin Plague that is stunting the lives and eliminating the fertility of the Safe Landers?

Jill Williamson has delivered another impressive tale with believable, detailed characters and a strong plot line. Dystopia is a new genre for her, and she does very well in it. Her vision of 2088 Colorado has some similarities to the authoritarian world of the Hunger Games, of course, and a lot of differences too.  The faith element is present but not center stage, and so I expect non-Christians will be comfortable reading this book (and hopefully thinking a bit about the faith part). There’s a clue at the very beginning: a verse from the book of Daniel. Is Mason a recasting of the Biblical Daniel, a vegetarian living in a hostile kingdom and working for the good of his people?

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series!

Fortress of Mist by Sigmund Brouwer, a review

Fortress of Mist by Sigmund Brouwer, Book Two of Merlin’s Immortals
Published 2013 by Waterbrook Press, 217 pages
Genre: Middle grade/young adult historical fiction with Arthurian tint and steampunk flavor

In the first book in the series, we watched the orphan Thomas regain his father’s throne from a usurper using his wits and using science from ancient manuals he inherited. Now in the second book, we continue to see Thomas’ pain at not understanding the intrigue swirling around him. Forces for good and forces for evil vie for Thomas’s allegiance. He had enough of an education from his mother, who died when he was ten, to be able to turn from darkness when it presents itself. But he can’t get anyone to explain to him what is actually going on. The good guys fear Thomas is a druid spy.

Thomas longs to trust the Earl of York, whose domain contains Thomas’s kingdom. But the kind earl wears a ring with a druid symbol. Clearly he can’t be trusted. Or can he?  And how about the two mysterious beautiful women, Isabelle and Katherine, both of whom are clearly lying?

What do I think? This book contains delicious hints of Merlin, who allegedly built the fortress that Thomas now rules. The scientific explanations of what the common people believe to be magic lend a steampunk flavor, though of course this setting is A.D. 1312, pre-steampunk. What fun!

Our hero Thomas should be a hit with teen boys. The book has a bit of romance, too, enhancing its appeal to girls. Characterization is strong, the plot is highly twisty, and all in all I wish the book was a bit longer with more description. However, I suspect that the intended target audience, reluctant readers, wish otherwise. Good job, Mr. Brouwer!

Here’s my review of the previous book.
This post is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Check out what the others are saying.

Author Website – http://www.sigmundbrouwer.com/
*Participants’ links
Gillian Adams
Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Janey DeMeo
Theresa Dunlap
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Jeremy Harder
Ryan Heart
Janeen Ippolito
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Eve Nielsen
Nathan Reimer
James Somers
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler

The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer, a review

The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer, Book One of Merlin’s Immortals
Published 2012 by Waterbrook, 220 pages
Genre: Middle grade Christian historical fiction with Arthurian hints

It’s England, AD 1312. Thomas is a slave, an 18-year-old orphan raised by cruel, selfish monks. Thomas knows he has a destiny, some of it revealed to him at age 10 as his mother lay dying. He knows he’s destined to rule a kingdom that a usurper took from his family. And he’s determined to bring justice. But how can he do it by himself? He’s just an orphan with no family, no tribe, no helpers, and no faith.

He puzzles over the mysterious words his mother spoke: “My prayer was to watch you grow into a man and become one of us, one of the Immortals.” And then she died. What did she mean?

Thomas in his quest picks up some unreliable companions: a thief, a deaf-mute woman, and a former Knight Templar. Secrets abound. There are bad guys about, and good guys too. Whom can he trust? Anyone?

What do I think?

It’s a middle grade story, meaning it’s briefly told. I’d love more description and so on, but for the intended reader, it’s a good book, not too long. The characters are well sketched and consistent, and the settings are detailed enough to be visualized. There’s a good story arc , and there is a faith element in the book which I expect to get stronger in the sequels as Thomas learns more about God.  In short, it’s a very good book for middle grade readers. It even mentions Merlin and King Arthur, topics which I hope come to the fore in the next books.

As it happens, this book has a lot of loose ends and unanswered questions in it. One of them really nags at me though. Why does Thomas decide to rescue the knight who is about to be hanged near the beginning of the book? Did his mother predict the hanging and tell him to be there? And it’s odd that she’s an Immortal who died. Immortal seems like a funny name for a mortal, if you ask me.  I suppose these questions will eventually be answered later in the series, and so I’ll be happy to read more.

This post is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour.  Check out what the others are saying, and come back tomorrow for a review of the sequel!

Author Website – http://www.sigmundbrouwer.com/
*Participants’ links
Gillian Adams
Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Janey DeMeo
Theresa Dunlap
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Jeremy Harder
Ryan Heart
Janeen Ippolito
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Eve Nielsen
Nathan Reimer
James Somers
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler

Gateway to Gannah: Words in the Wind by Yvonne Anderson

Words in the Wind, Book 2 in the Gateway to Gannah series, by Yvonne Anderson
Published 2012 by Risen Books
Genre: Christian science fiction, suitable for teens and up, featuring a strong faith element

This book is the sequel to The Story in the Stars, Gateway to Gannah Book 1, which I reviewed earlier. About 12 years after the end of the first book, the second book opens to show us Dassa and Pik married and parents of two children, heading a settlement of a thousand “earthers” who are attempting to begin to repopulate Gannah. (Dassa is the only native of Gannah who is alive, the sole survivor of a plague, and therefore is the toqueph or ruler of Gannah.)

Dassa is returning from a mission elsewhere, and she’s in an aircraft in a storm. As things go horribly wrong, she realizes the folly of the way she has been living lately, relying on herself rather than the Yasha, the benevolent creator of the universe who longs for her prayers.

Dassa survives the crash but finds herself stripped of the telepathic communication that links her to her children and to the animals of Gannah. She’s also unable to hear. Her arm is broken, she’s caught without a coat in the beginning of an arctic winter. Can she trust the Yasha to take care of her?

Meanwhile Pik, the doctor who was once her worst enemy and who came to love her, is struggling with a host of problems in her absence. Some of the settlers are rebellious. So is his little daughter, whom he just wants to spoil. The sentient animals of Gannah seek to resume their deadly war against humans, but only Dassa can deal with them.

He wants to go and look for Dassa, but his responsibilities and technical problems prevent that. Can he too trust the Yasha to take care of Dassa and provide what he needs?

What do I think?

I enjoyed Yvonne Anderson’s richly drawn characters, her gripping story style, and especially the faith message, which I found very satisfying. The book contains story arcs that begin and end with this book, but it also contains story arcs that aren’t tied up neatly. So, I’ll be looking forward to reading the next book to find out what happened!

Read my reviews of this series:

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

The New Recruit by Jill Williamson, a review

The New Recruit by Jill Williamson, Book 1 of the Mission League series
Published 2012 by Marcher Lord Press
Genre: young adult Christian suspense, with a touch of the supernatural

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Garmond just wants to play basketball. He’s got a reckless streak, which gets him into trouble with the local bullies pretty often, but basically he’s not out looking for it. Turns out trouble is looking for him, though.

Suddenly he finds himself under pressure to join a secret missionary spy organization. His grandmother’s behind it–if he doesn’t cooperate, she’ll send him to military school: no more basketball. So he joins. The spies in training meet before and after school, getting ready for a summer field trip abroad. This summer, they’re going to Moscow. And they’re a bunch of goody-goodys, in Spencer’s opinion.

Spencer starts having visions. They seem so real. Could they be real? The missionary spies tell him he has the gift of discernment. What does that mean? Will the terrifying events he’s foreseeing happen to him? to others? Who is this chilling woman named Anya? What’s with the gang of homeless teenage boys? And how’s a nonbeliever to handle all of this?

What do I think?

Spencer’s an endearing and memorable character; I am guessing that Jill Williamson has pretty well nailed the way teenage boys think and feel. The other characters are memorable as well–she does a great job. I found the plot unpredictable, the conflict something I could relate to. I really enjoyed reading this book, and am looking forward to the next four books in the series. If you have teens wanting something to read, I’d certainly recommend it. Plus, they’ll enjoy her goofy scavenger hunt, see below.

Author’s website: www.jillwilliamson.com

Website for The Mission League Series: http://themissionleague.com/

Enter the “go undercover scavenger hunt,” a zany challenge from the author for those interested in winning a $100 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble.

Jill Williamson is an author of all things weird. She grew up in Alaska with no electricity, an outhouse, and a lot of mosquitoes. Her Blood of Kings trilogy won two Christy Awards, and she recently released Replication, a science fiction teen novel from Zonderkidz. Jill lives in Oregon with her husband and two children and a whole lot of deer.

The Telling by Mike Duran, a review

The Telling by Mike Duran
Published 2012 by Realms, 303 pages
Genre: Christian supernatural suspense

“A prophet never loses his calling–only his way.”

Two detectives escort Zeph Walker on a mysterious ride that takes them to the county morgue. There’s a body there they want him to identify. Zeph is sort of a hermit, hanging out in his musty book-swap shop on the edge of town and on the edge of community life, disfigured by a facial scar, though he’s only 26 years old. Oh, and he has a gift, a sixth sense intuition, which he really wants to hide from.

But there’s no more hiding when he recognizes the body on the gurney. It’s his own. Or at least it looks like him, same build, facial features, hair color, and Star of David tattoo on the right arm. And the facial scar. But this fellow has a bullet hole in his chest. That’s when we step into the really bizarre: the detective thinks the real question is why someone would want to kill Zeph.  The no-nonsense detectives from the Twilight Zone are treating it as a homicide.

This desert town on the edge of Death Valley has another mystery: is there a gateway to Hell up in the hills? And yet another: why do some of the residents suddenly seem to have turned into humorless, characterless automatons? And who’s to blame for all this?

What do I think?

If you love Christian suspense, I suspect you’ll love this book. Mike Duran is a skilled writer. Here’s his Facebook page link: http://www.facebook.com/cerebralgrump

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. Be sure you check out what others are saying too:

Jim Armstrong
Noah Arsenault
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Christine
Theresa Dunlap
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Bruce Hennigan
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

The Song of Unmaking by D. Barkley Briggs, a review

The Song of Unmaking by D. Barkley Briggs, Book 3 in the Legends of Karac Tor
Published 2011 by Living Ink Books
Genre: Christian fantasy, young adult and up

This, the third of five books in this Arthurian fantasy epic, focuses on one of the four brothers who have been transported from our world to another, Ewan.

Ewan’s song of power, gifted to him in the new world of Karac Tor, is gone. He traded it to the self-centered fey (fairy) queen to save the lives of his friends. How he’s depressed and defensive amid his gifted brothers.

But wait. Another gift, his ability to see the fey, hasn’t left. As the world of Karac Tor shudders under the evil destruction plan of the witch, will Ewan’s smaller gift make a difference? Or will he give up?

What do I think?  I am amazed at how this epic continues to expand with more and more subplots, all braided together in a wonderful way. One involves the hapless dad of the family, who has managed to get himself into the fantasy world too and keeps trying to drag his four kids back home.  Another subplot involves King Arthur, revived from a thousand years of sleep in this new place, forced to deal with the descendant of Lancelot living in Karac Tor under Arthur’s curse.

This is a terrific book with a strong faith element. You and your kids will love it.

Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley, a review

Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley, Book Two of the Angaleon Circle
Published 2012 by Waterbrook Multnomah, 233 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy/supernatural, suitable for teens and up

Trevin’s a commoner who’s in love with a girl who turned out to be a princess. Now that she’s claimed her rightful place, the prince of the neighboring kingdom has arrived to seek her hand and an alliance. The king, wanting peace, is all ears. But instead of protecting his ladylove, Trevin must head out on a quest to find missing knights and missing magical harps. How can he stand to leave his beloved vulnerable to the advances of this jerk?

But leave her he must, or he’s no knight. The world has been cut off from heaven. Angels are stranded here, and souls of the dead are stuck here too–in the same kingdom of Dregmoor that the prince comes from. The earth sickens. If Trevin can find the harps and give them to Princess Melaia before the upcoming alignment of stars, she is supposed to be able to fix the stairway to heaven, according to prophecy.

The missing knights–do the Dregmoorians have something to do with that too? How will Trevin find them and release them?

What do I think?

Trevin is a hero with feet of clay, a past that comes back to haunt him again and again. It’s refreshing to see him working to overcome his own worst enemy, himself.  He figures out he’s half angel near the beginning of the book, but the people who raised him died when he was young, and he never got a chance to ask them any questions. Many surprising facts about his identity keep coming out as the book rolls forward. It’s refreshing to see a hero who struggles with guilt and temptation just as we struggle.

Any Christian element of the story is in the deep background. This book is clearly intended to appeal to nonChristians as well as to Christians. The author has a ringing statement of faith on her website, so it’s clear she is a Christian. And who better to sate the curiosity of nonChristians about angels than a Christian?

Starting with Book 2 in a series may seem foolish, but I did it, and it worked out okay. There was a compelling story at the beginning of the book, told without referring to the previous story. And the previous story was summarized in snippets throughout the book, providing the needed background without long boring passages.

So, read this book!

In conjunction with the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book.

Author’s Web sitehttp://www.karynhenleyfiction.com/Karyn_Henley_Fiction/welcome.html
Author Bloghttp://www.maybeso.wordpress.com/
Author Facebook pagehttp://www.facebook.com/pages/Karyn-Henley/140411189331787?v=wall

Please check out what others on the tour are saying about this book.

Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jackie Castle
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Christine
Theresa Dunlap
Cynthia Dyer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Janeen Ippolito
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Karen McSpadden
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Mirriam Neal
Nissa
Faye Oygard
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler