Tag Archives: christian fiction

One Realm Beyond by Donita K. Paul, a Review

OneRealmBeyondOne Realm Beyond, Book 1 of the Realm Walkers series
Published 2014 by Zondervan, 414 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, suitable for ages 12 and up

Cantor D’Ahma has grown into a young man. He leaves his elderly mentors and sets off to learn how to become a Realm Walker, using the gifts he was born with. His mentors don’t tell him much about what to expect, though. Just that the first thing he needs to do is find his dragon companion, and then he needs to locate the Realm Walkers Guild for training.

Cantor stumbles immediately across a dragon, but this dragon is clumsy. Surely there’s another dragon out there better suited for realm walking, and he keeps looking. But trouble arrives fast, and it becomes apparent that he needs the help of this dragon, Bridger, as well as some other new friends to even get to the place where he’s able to learn realm walking.

But the Realm Walkers Guild, he learns, is nearly all corrupted. They give him a teacher whom he trusts, but will his training mean anything? And will he and his friends be able to confront and change the guild?

I really enjoyed reading this book, which is rich in unusual characters. They have unusual names, too, such as the female dragon Totobee-Rodolow. The book is delightful in many ways, letting us enjoy the quirks of its characters–Totobee-Rodolow’s love for shopping, and a princess who wears her whole wardrobe at the same time, re-arranging which dress is on top to suit the occasion.  The story line is not high-action and occasionally lacks tension, but the richness of the characters more than make up for these.

 

 

 

The Sinners’ Garden by William Sirls, a review

thesinnersgardenThe Sinners’ Garden by William Sirls
Published 2013 by Thomas Nelson, 401 pages
Genre: Christian fiction with a touch of the weird

A small-town police officer, Heather, wonders whether she’d really rather be a teacher. Her good friend, former jailbird Rip, just wants to be a blessing to his family, especially his troubled teenage nephew. That nephew, Andy, hides behind his facial scar from a burn inflicted when he was three years old. And his mother continues to blame herself for that incident.

Into this stew come some strange things. Someone starts breaking and entering around town, leaving paper bags full of just the right amount of money to meet the inhabitant’s needs, confounding Officer Heather and others who would solve the “crimes.” Teenager Andy hears and speaks prophetic words from his broken ipod, and a mysterious flower garden appears overnight in an inaccessible urban wasteland for all of them to see and wonder at.

If you love complex characters, unexpected plot twists, and messages of hope, you’ll love this book. I did.

Jupiter Winds by C.J. Darlington, a review

jupiter-windsJupiter Winds by C.J. Darlington
Published 2014 by Mountainview Books, 288 pages
Genre: Christian dystopia/sci fi, YA and older

Grey, 17, and her 14-year-old sister are orphans under the loose care of a neighbor. They live in a post-nuclear-war desolate America that is ruled by a tyrannical middle eastern regime.

Grey and Rin live on the fringe, smuggling books and cigarettes across a border to eke out a bare living. It’s been five years since their parents failed to come home from a trip. Grey has had to comfort and encourage her small sister, while needing comfort and encouragement herself.

The government sends drones to capture her. Does she run for home and hideout and endanger her sister? Or does she allow herself to be captured?

You guessed it. She allows herself to be captured, setting off a race in space to the planet Jupiter where the tyrants use her as bait to trap her father, who is still alive.  Can she escape?

I found this book to be quite a page-turner. It features strong, unique, and heroic characters and a well-developed faith element. Check it out!

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for my honest review.

 

Martyr’s Fire by Sigmund Brouwer, a review

martyrsfireMartyr’s Fire by Sigmund Brouwer, Book Three of Merlin’s Immortals
Published 2013 by Waterbrook Press, 216 pages
Genre: Young adult medieval saga with Arthurian and steampunk overtones

The year is AD 1313. In the previous books, Thomas managed to single-handedly conquer the English city of Magnus using his wits and some knowledge gleaned from the special secret technology library left him by his mother. Now he’s been lord of Magnus for several seasons, but he only has two friends—an old gardener and a pickpocket boy. He can trust no one else. Is he being paranoid? Who are his friends? Who are his enemies? He doesn’t know. And he wonders what happened to the mysterious individuals who helped him in an earlier pickle and then vanished.

Soon some strange monks enter the city. Using a weeping statue, they gain the trust and hearts of the people of Magnus, and soon they turn on Thomas and try to kill him. Thomas has waited too late to escape the walled city, surrounded by a lake. Or has he?  Can a pickpocket and a gardener give him the information he needs? And can he dare to take the leap of faith to get away?

I’m enjoying this tale, with its marvelous twisty plot and strong characters stuck in delightfully tight situations. There’s a steampunk flavor, with techno explanations for apparent miracles that fool the gullible populace, alongside herbal potions and poisons that give the enemy druids their power. There’s a faith element and a touch of romance.  In short, it’s a wonderful book for teens and adults too. And it’s not the final book in the series, so there’s more to anticipate!

This post is part of the Christian Science-Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. Please take a moment to check out what others are saying about this book:

Red Bissell
Beckie Burnham
Theresa Dunlap
Emma or Audrey Engel
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Rebekah Loper
Jennette Mbewe
Amber McCallister
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Deborah Wilson
Rachel Wyant

Author Websitehttp://www.coolreading.com/

Hive by Rachel Starr Thomson, a review

hiveHive by Rachel Starr Thomson, Book Two of the Oneness Cycle
Published 2013 by Little Dozen Press, 299 pages
Genre: Christian supernatural suspense, suitable for teens and adults

I reviewed the first book in the series, Exile.

Tyler and Chris, buddies from childhood, decide to take on the Hive, a group of demon-possessed people. The Hive works to destroy the Oneness warrior group that Tyler belongs to. Tyler’s not afraid to attack the Hive because he is part of the Oneness, though a very new member. But Tyler’s afraid for Chris, a nonmember. Chris, an impetuous fellow, wants to get the Hive because it threatens the woman he loves. But he doesn’t have the spiritual warfare skills. And he doesn’t care.

Soon Tyler and Chris languish in captivity in a strange commune where the words spoken seem right, more or less, but actions are not. Why are they being drugged? What does the commune leader want with them? How can this leader claim to be Oneness? Will they escape with their lives?

Engaging characters and a gripping,  unpredictable plot make this a wonderful evening’s reading. I’m enjoying this trilogy, which I think should be accessible to nonChristians as well as Christians. And of course, the plot leads into the third book, which I hope to read soon!

 

The Restorer by Sharon Hinck, a review

RestorerThe Restorer by Sharon Hinck, Book One of the Sword of Lyric series
Published 2011 by Marcher Lord Press, 454 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy

Susan Mitchell spends her time caring for her children and wishing she could have a few moments to herself.

Somehow she finds herself pulled into someplace else where everything is different: the weather, the architecture, the issues. She stumbles around trying to make sense of it, and is puzzled to discover that some of the people in this place think she has a special destiny as a “restorer,” battling against enemies within and outside the tiny nation struggling for its existence.

She’s managed to bring two things through the portal with her: a plastic toy sword, now a real sword, and memorized Bible verses.

Just how deep is her commitment to the Lord? Will she use these weapons to step into the path that the One has laid out for her in this new world, though it is likely to cost her life?

This book is well written, with a gripping plot, well-drawn characters, great descriptions, and a dilemma that is the dilemma of every Christian: will I, can I be a hero? I really enjoyed reading it, and plan to pick up the sequel right away!

 

 

 

 

Exile by Rachel Starr Thomson, a review

Exile_Exile by Rachel Starr Thomson, Book 1 of the Oneness Cycle
Published 2013 by Little Dozen Press, 223 pages
Genre: Christian supernatural fiction, YA flavor

Tyler and Chris are young men who’re making a living fishing. One day they find a live human being in their net.

It’s Reese, a spiritual warrior who’s been cast out from her clan, the Oneness. She’s an exile, and her life has lost all its meaning, so she jumped off a cliff–into the net.

The fact that she’s an exile doesn’t stop the demons from attacking her.  Tyler and Chris watch amazed, and they want to help this damsel in distress. But they know nothing about the Oneness.

How will Tyler and Chris respond to Reese’s predicament and the call of the Oneness?

I sped through this short, fast-paced novel, pleased by the well drawn characters and the surprising plot. Thomson has done a great job of portraying difficult emotional journeys. It’s a world that a Christian will recognize, and that a nonChristian might feel comfortable with. Read it!

Victoria and the Ghost by Janet K. Brown, a review

victoriaVictoria and the Ghost by Janet K. Brown
Published 2012 by 4RV Publishing, 208 pages
Genre: Young adult general fiction/paranormal

Victoria is 15, and she’s dealing with a lot. Her mom has snagged a rich new husband and has abandoned Victoria, her sister, and their dad. The girls and their dad have moved from Dallas to a farm in rural Texas, where learning to ride a horse is far more important than finding the latest fashion in the mall. But in the summertime, it’s hard to make friends. Only one girl her age lives within 15 miles, and she’s prickly. Victoria takes refuge in a beautiful, peaceful spot in a cemetery, all alone. Or is she?

I enjoyed this book, which seems to effectively get inside the head of a 15-year-old, with all her strong emotions. There’s enough happening to keep the plot rolling. With my interest in speculative fiction, I particularly like the ghost, who seems like a basically warm-hearted old chap. There’s a faith element that works, too, along with a touch of romance. Brown has done a good job.

Storm by Evan Angler, a review

stormStorm by Evan Angler, Book 3 in the Swipe series
Published 2013 by Thomas Nelson, 265 pages
Genre:Middle grade dystopian/sci fi

In this version of the future, a totalitarian society provides school, food, and medical care to those who are “marked” with a scannable chip at the age of thirteen or so.  Those conscientious objectors who refuse the mark must scavenge.

A number of story threads continue from the previous two books in the series, following multiple groups of rebel markless or their helpers.

Logan Langly, leader of the markless, organized a prison break to rescue his sister Lily from the government’s clutches, but she refused to leave and in fact arranged for her brother’s capture (but he got away).

Now she works against the markless. Or does she? Is her new offer of help to Logan genuine, or has she been brainwashed?

What do I think?

Disclaimer: I did not read the previous books in the series. This book contains a summary at the beginning bringing us up to speed on the story so far.

I found this story hard to follow, told from the points of view of too many characters, at least six or seven. (Point of view characters tell the story through their eyes, saying what they are feeling and perceiving.)  This is against conventional editing wisdom, especially jumping from one point of view to another in the same paragraph. This happens several times in the story, and the publisher is highly respected, so I know it is deliberate. But I was repeatedly jarred out of the narrative and kept puzzling over who everyone was.

Another odd thing is that the author’s first book in the series appears in the narrative. Some of the characters in the story find it in a library and marvel at it, wondering how this “Evan Angler” fellow could have known what they were doing and thinking. This is probably supposed to be funny, but it also pulled me out of the narrative.

If I had read the first two books, I believe I would have been happier. At least it wouldn’t have seemed like a flood of unfamiliar characters.

I suspect that fans of dystopian fiction will like this book, because it is otherwise very well written and tells a fast-paced story. I recommend starting with the first book.

This post is part of the Christian Science-Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. Please take a moment to check out what others are saying.

Julie Bihn
Beckie Burnham
Keanan Brand
Pauline Creeden
Emma or Audrey Engel
Sarah Faulkner
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
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Joan Nienhuis
Writer Rani
Chawna Schroeder
Jacque Stengl
Jojo Sutis
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Rachel Wyant

Author’s website: http://www.evanangler.com/

 

Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, a review

Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Tales of Goldstone Wood #4
Published 2012 by Bethany House, 348 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, suitable for middle grade and up

Starflower is a mortal woman who flees a life of abuse and loses her way in a faerie wood, tortured by dreams of what she left behind. She had sought to save her sister’s life. Now that Starflower has escaped, is her sister dead?

An immortal faerie man who is also a cat (in a world where the immortals shape-change readily)  sets out on a quest to rescue his lady fair from the clutches of a dragon witch, bumbling into dangers he little can understand.  But since he’s a poet, he expects to make beautiful songs about the quest. And does he love his lady fair? Well, he certainly thinks he does.

Soon their paths cross. The cat-man doesn’t want to help Starflower, who is after all a mere mortal, but for some reason he it anyway.  Both the cat-man and Starflower soon find themselves called to the path drawn for them by a golden hound. This is a mysterious being who speaks to their hearts and calls them out of themselves as they each must deal with terrible evil.

How will each respond?

What do I think?

This book has a lot of great things going for it. The characters are unique and well drawn, and the story line is unforgettable, with characters faced with heartstopping dilemmas. One of the best things is the Hound of Heaven, whose guidance and presence ring true. The heroine is dark-skinned, a welcome change from most heroines in Christian fiction. Setting, dialogue, and description work well together to create a wonderful story. This story has two memorable faerie villains, a double helping.

However, I had some trouble getting into the book, and I think it’s for these reasons:

  1. The lengthy prologue was from the point of view of a villain, whom I couldn’t identify with. The prologue was full of many details about this story world that I didn’t latch onto.
  2. The two protagonists are in an emotionally broken state to begin with, making it hard for the reader  to identify with them. This is a common story problem, as any author must move the protagonist through a character arc. But it’s usual to create some kind of an early bonding moment for the reader, often known as the “pet the dog moment.” There such a moment for the minor protagonist (cat-man), but not for the main protagonist, Starflower.
  3. As we get to know Starflower, we readers are kept from knowing anything about her past for a very long time. In fact, she is asleep for a lot of the first part of the story.

So, my counsel for you readers is to pick up this book and stick with it a while until it grows on you. It will bless you mightily.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. Check out what others are saying about this book during the next three days:

Gillian Adams
Beckie Burnham
Nikole Hahn
Bruce Hennigan
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Author Website – http://anneelisabethstengl.blogspot.com/
Author Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Anne-Elisabeth-Stengl/120543861335559?ref=ts&fref=ts