Tag Archives: book review

Broken Wings by Shannon Dittemore, a review

Broken Wings by Shannon Dittemore, Book Two of the Angel Eyes trilogy
Published 2013 by Thomas Nelson, 304 pages
Genre: Young adult supernatural, Christian

Brielle has a gift to sometimes see angels and demons, though no mortal normally can. And Jake, her boyfriend, has the gift of healing in his hands. The news has reached the dark throne:  the Prince of Darkness himself wants both of them kidnapped and brought to him. And he’s sending his unseen army to Stratus, Oregon, to get them. Archangel Michael’s forces are coming to the rescue, but slowly.

Meanwhile, Brielle and Jake are oblivious to the forces converging over them. All Brielle sees is that her beloved father hates Jake. Her father has also started dating Olivia, who seems … not to be on Brielle’s side.

Brielle and her father still mourn the death of Brielle’s mother fifteen years before. Just how mysterious this death was is only starting to become clear to Brielle. Dreams show Brielle shards of truth: a young girl living in fear, a dying woman.  When Brielle’s mother’s grave is desecrated, Brielle discovers that what her father told her about her mother’s death was a lie. And where is the truth? Whom can she trust?

This book is a worthy sequel to its wonderful predecessor, Angel Eyes. The prose sings. The characters speak to the heart. And it’s a tale of brokenness and ultimate redemption. What more could we want? If you haven’t read this book, what are you waiting for?

Read my review of the previous book, Angel Eyes: http://www.phylliswheeler.com/angel-eyes-by-shannon-dittemore-a-review/

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

Gillian Adams
Julie Bihn
Jennifer Bogart
Beckie Burnham
Pauline Creeden
Janey DeMeo
Theresa Dunlap
Emma or Audrey Engel
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Karielle @ Books à la Mode
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nathan Reimer
James Somers
Kathleen Smith
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Shane Werlinger

Author Website http://shannondittemore.com/

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

Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore, a review

Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore
Published 2012 by Thomas Nelson, 311 pages
Genre: Young adult supernatural with romance elements, Christian

I rarely re-read books. But the blog tour I partake in, Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF), is currently looking at a book I reviewed last year. Should I just recycle the old review?

I picked up the book, couldn’t remember exactly what the plot was,  and read the first page. Then the second. And … I couldn’t help myself, though my time for reading is limited. I dove right in.

I loved this book the first time around. I wondered: would I love it the second time around too?

The answer is: yes!  Fans of Christian supernatural fiction will surely agree with me that this book is strongly plotted, has a memorable premise, has unforgettable characters, and strengthens the reader’s faith walk. Not only that, but Dittemore crafts some beautiful prose.

Here’s my review from last time, in case you want more details: http://www.phylliswheeler.com/angel-eyes-by-shannon-dittemore-a-review/

Be sure to see what the others on the CSFF Blog Tour are saying in the next three days, too:
Gillian Adams
Julie Bihn
Beckie Burnham
Theresa Dunlap
Nikole Hahn
Jeremy Harder
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Faye Oygard
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Author Website http://www.shannondittemore.com/
Author Facebook pagehttp://www.facebook.com/ShannonDittemore

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#ts&fref=ts

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 Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead, a review

The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead, Book 3 of Bright Empires series
Published 2012 by Thomas Nelson, 377 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy for teens and up

Lawhead’s latest book is number three in a sprawling five-book series. To date, there have been two protagonists and one main villain. This book adds another protagonist, Cass, and detail on another villain, Douglas. All of them are seeking the mystery pointed to in the coded Skin Map: the Spirit Well, something like a Fountain of Youth.

You see, the earth is covered with lines of energy along its surface. When one walks at a certain speed at a certain time of day along a particular ley line, it may transport you to an alternate version of our universe, possibly in a very different era, where many things are the same, but some things may be different. It’s possible to consistently hop from say present day to a version of 1890s London and back again, for example, or on from there to many places and times. So a map would be very useful, wouldn’t it?

The main protagonist Kit, fleeing from the villain Burleigh, takes a hop along a ley line near Prague. He unexpectedly finds himself marooned in the Stone Age with hairy men who hardly speak. But their telepathic skills are far above his, and he learns to love living with them. Eventually Kit mysteriously stumbles on the way from there to the Spirit Well. But how can he leave the Stone Age to find his friends and report the discovery? His ley line is no longer active. And does he even want to leave? Here he has a clan who somehow don’t experience dissension, aggression, backbiting, or any of the other petty sins of humans. And they’ve adopted him.

Meanwhile, Cass, a 25-year-old archaeologist, is chasing a native American employee down an Arizona canyon when she finds herself whisked away to a desert landscape someplace else. The native American has gone there too; he shows her how to quickly walk the ley line to return to Arizona. Now she’s hooked: what are the possibilities here? From the canyon she tries to make another leap and finds herself somehow transported not to the desert she expected, but to Damascus where she finds other ley travelers. They are all growing old, and they desperately need a young person like her to continue their quest. Does she want to risk her life to help them find Kit and the Skin Map? Or does she want to return to her safe archeologist life?

Douglas Flinders-Petrie is the great-grandson of the man who had the Skin Map tatooed on himself, Arthur Flinders-Petrie. Nevertheless he is somehow reduced to thieving and conniving to find the pieces of the map. And he spends years perfecting a plan to return in time and deceive medieval intellectual Roger Bacon into helping him decode the map. Will Douglas succeed?

What do I think?

Lawhead, of course, is a master of characterization and detail. He travels to the locales he describes, providing a wonderful authetic feel. His bad guys are very very bad, and his young clueless protagonist, Kit, is very very clueless. I am really enjoying reading this tale.

This particular book, The Spirit Well, is basically the middle of an epic tale. Each of the three story arcs described above are included in this book, so there’s a bit of closure. But mostly this book points you on to the next books by picking up and weaving a number of story threads, including several more than the three I described above.

The faith element? Lawhead is a Christian, but he doesn’t make it obvious. Only in this third book is there a discussion among characters in one scene about the dark and light spiritual forces at work in the struggle over finding the map. Meanwhile, in this and previous books in the series there are odd apparent coincidences that rescue the characters and lead them toward the Spirit Well unawares. In short, this book should be very readable by non-Christians who might be given a bit of food for thought, and also by Christians.

Since Lawhead writes at the rate of one book per year, we’ll have to wait two years to find out how it all ends. But it will be worth the wait.

Read my reviews of all five books in the series: one, two, three, four, five.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog tour. Please check out what others are saying too:

Jim Armstrong
Julie Bihn
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Christine
Karri Compton
Theresa Dunlap
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Jeremy Harder
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Joan Nienhuis
Lyn Perry
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Author Website – http://www.stephenlawhead.com/
Author Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/StephenRLawhead

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