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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading new author's novels or author's who have not had many reviews or exposure and giving them much needed encouragement where appropriate.   
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Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Maria Kannon by Martin Roth (A Brother Half Angel Thriller, Book 2)




Description: 

Luiz Kim, angry and unsettled since being kicked out of the Marines, decides to seek out the sister he has not seen in more than twenty-five years.

He makes contact. But, after flying halfway around the world to Japan for an emotional reunion, he is stunned to learn that she has just been murdered in church, while at prayer.

A killer is on the loose, and it is clear that he is targeting members of the small church community. But why?

Luiz is determined to use his military background to hunt down the killer. And quickly it becomes apparent that the key is a mysterious card left at each murder scene – a card depicting the Maria Kannon, a statue of a Buddhist deity that was once revered by persecuted Japanese Christians.

As the stakes go higher and higher in this adrenaline-fueled thriller - another in Martin Roth's acclaimed Military Orders series of international thrillers - Luiz is forced to confront his notions of what it means to be alive. And whether he is ready to die.

Review:  

In this second instalment of the Military Orders series, Brother Half Angel is back with much more involvement than in Brother Half Angel where we were introduced to him and the issues facing the persecuted church. This is good as I was looking forward to seeing what Brother Half Angel is all about. In this instalment, Roth does not disappoint. He has developed the plot in more depth than the first and also some of the returning characters that were introduced in the previous instalment. Character development is improved in this novel and are more relational.

I really enjoyed this story.
Roth has introduced another aspect of the persecuted church. Radical members of the Taoist religion feel threatened with the increasing popularity of the New Joy Gospel Church and decide to do something about it. This forms the main plot of the story but does spark off other issues such as Luiz being recruited into the Military Orders team and him confronting the past that led to him being discharged from the Marines and him questioning what it means to be alive and would he be willing to die for his beliefs. In seeking to find the murderer of his sister, Luiz proves himself worthy of being in a military team and overcomes his shame and fear from his previous discharge.
Roth introduces an informative history into the Taoist beliefs and religion and specifically that of the Maria Kannon deity and how the Christians of the past used this as a front to continue practising Christianity without compromising biblical doctrine or faith due to Christianity being forced underground from the oppressive nature of the ruling government. This background history provides depth and structure to the plot and supports the motivation behind the persecution of the Christian church.
Based on the history of the Maria Kannon the reader begins to wonder how this is connected to murders of the Christians from the New Joy Gospel Church. Roth does a good job of stringing the reader along and keeping the guessing game going until the connection is revealed at an important part of the plot. From here, the plot intensifies and so does the pace.

My only negative is that I felt the ending was a bit rushed and you felt cut off too quickly.

Roth has a good series here and I would recommend any reader who has started this series to keep going to the end.

I am enjoying this Military Orders series.

My rating:


Sunday, 17 November 2013

Brother Half Angel by Martin Roth (A Brother Half Angel Thriller, Book 1)

Description: 

A military operation gone tragically wrong. An elite commando loses his forearm. The angel tattooed onto his arm is sliced in half. And the man acquires a new nickname. Brother Half Angel is the leader of a secret new church military order, dedicated to helping Christians under attack around the world. In this book, the first in the Military Orders series, he is dispatched urgently to China, where an underground seminary is under siege from fanatical sword-wielding members of a local cult who still pay homage to the bloodthirsty extremists who tried to expel all foreigners from China in the nineteenth century. But at the same time the seminary has its own internal divisions. The director, Uncle Ling, a hero of the underground Chinese church, holds secrets that he cannot reveal. And now the tensions are threatening the marriage of idealistic young American missionary Daniel Westloke and his wife Jenny. Relentless suspense is the hallmark of this gripping thriller. But it is also a book that raises serious questions – how far can Christians go to defend themselves? When should they turn the other cheek? What happens when a Christian kills in self-defense? And should those who live by the sword really expect to die by the sword?

 

Review:

The plot of this book intrigued me, as it involves Christian special ops. It is far easier to accept special ops in the secular world but in Christian circles and specifically the Mission field? I have come across this type of ops in other Christian novels, namely the Coil Series by D. I. Telbat (yet to read), The Diaries of Pontius Pilate by Joseph Max Lewis and a trilogy (no trilogy name) by Alton Gansky and Jeff Struecker. One other similar genre is the Riley Covington series by Jason Elam and Steve Yohn where the main character is a Christian in a conventional secular special ops team.

I must confess that I had some trepidation in reading this novel and still have in regards to the 4 remaining in this series that I have yet to read. The reason is that overseas missions is not something I can relate to or want to be involved in. One the surface that seems to be against the Great Commission outlined in Matthew 28:16-20, but I just find this very scary and foreign. I am more at ease in and find challenging enough, the "mission field" of my family and friends and work colleagues!

However, I must say that I did enjoy this novel. It gave me a good introduction into what the mission field is like, and did evoke further the trepidation I mentioned in the beginning. However, this trepidation turned into a healthy respect and admiration for these characters of Chinese, Korean and American nationality to risk their lives for the sake of the Gospel under such oppression and hatred of the same. I shared in Jenny's fear, indignation of the effects of this hatred and persecution on their lives and her questioning whether they should remain, I agreed with Daniels reasoning about being obedient and understanding the culture of the population and what is behind the hatred of Christianity, I sympathised with Uncle Ling in his anger towards the experience of suffering and persecution of Western Christians versus Eastern Christians and the condescending attitude Western Christians, namely Americans, have towards those Christians in the Mission field.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Reign of Silence by Tony Martin

A Different Perspective on the Traditional Ghost Story

Description: 

A Supernatural Tale of Ancient Sin

Reign of Silence is the story of Joshua Nix, a young pastor who comes to serve a church in the small county seat town of St. Helena, Alabama. Events there – which seem to be precipitated by his fascination with the supernatural – cause his life and his rational worldview to be changed forever.

After the mysterious disappearance of her parents, Meredith Dubose, last surviving member of an aristocratic Southern family, experiences … psychological trauma from unresolved grief? A true “haunting” in her ancestral home? A demonic siege? As Joshua seeks to minister to Meredith, he finds himself obsessing over her and her plight – causing strain on his marriage and his relationship to his church. Joshua ultimately learns the horrific truth of the supernatural events and a shattering truth about himself.

Events begin innocuously enough, with Meredith, still grieving over her parents, noticing subtle changes in the atmosphere of her house. Distant whispered voices, shadowy figures half-glimpsed … she doubts her reason, her reality. Introduced to Joshua by her best friend, she sees in him a counselor, a comforter, perhaps something else. And Joshua, caught unawares by her innocent charms, finds himself more involved than he - or his wife Bethany – would like.

Manifestations intensify, with the turning point being an apparent transient possession of Meredith by some evil entity. Joshua finds himself consulting with a paranormal expert, “Precious” McRae, who flaunts the conventions of the stereotypical “ghost hunter” as popularized by television reality shows by approaching the situation from a Christian context – with unexpected and terrifying results. Joshua learns of perverse events in Meredith’s familial past and his providential connection to her and her ancestors. From the first contact with the paranormal to the final paroxysm, Joshua, Meredith, and the others in the story grapple with forces beyond their experience or beliefs.

Review:

A very good debut novel by Tony Martin. This is a different perspective on the bible verse of Exodus 20:5,
"You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me".

Usually this decree is manifested in the lives of those of the third and fourth generations but in this novel, it ends in the third or fourth generations. The beginning of this particular sin is beginning to manifest in the main character, but he is kept in check by his wife and an elder of the church. At first I wondered why the author included this subplot concerning the main character but as you progress towards the end, it all became clear and what a twist that was!! Very nicely done!!

This novel is different from another angle as well. In Something Stirs by Thomas Smith and Adverse Possession by Jess Hanna, the house is haunted by demons, and both these Christian authors portray demonic activity and its devastating effects on the occupants of the house very well and yes, very scary. In Reign of Silence, Martin has the haunting not by demons but by the spirits of the ancestors of Merediths family who are the subject of the Exodus 20:5 verse. It is through Meredith becoming a Christian and Joshua already a Christian and using the Word of God (and even the words of the hymn A Mighty Fortress by Martin Luther) that this curse from Exodus is broken and one of the ancestors is freed, the other not as he rejects the forgiveness of God while Meredith and Joshua are also freed as well.

I loved Martin's use of the biblical aspect of spiritual warfare here. It was used well and not preachy. It blended in well with the plot. It was good to see how this also encouraged the other main members to take their walk with God more seriously.

I have only one criticism. I found it a bit difficult having the Pastor and other Christian characters portrayed by the author as being very ignorant about what these manifestations in the house and what Meredith and Christine experienced then Joshua and the others encountered could be. The demonic or supernatural seemed to be the last conclusion they arrived at. I was expecting the author to portray them with a bit more savviness about this activity being supernatural and demonic until proved otherwise (in this case earth bound human spirits). However, I did enjoy the progression of these characters in how they came to the conclusion that this was supernatural and had to be dealt with God's way and using the Bible.

Another thing, Martin did well was portray the culture and attitudes of the southern life of America. There were instances where you knew you were in the American South by the language, the food, the description of the culture, even when this author described the history of Meredith family in the 1800s and 1900s. That added credibility to the story and characters.

I did chuckle at the usage of Y'all which is typical of the American South! I just cannot see us here in Australia saying that but then we say some equally unique words and terms!

The author also described the frustration of being a pastor well, the church politics and congregational expectations well. All this fitted in nicely to the plot. I wonder if Martin's real life experience shows here?

Martin tied up all the loose ends very well in the ending. It enabled me to leave this story with fond memories of the plot and characters. That is one sign of a talented writer.

This has become one of my favourite Christian horror novels.

I look forward to more of this author's work.

Highly Recommended.   My Rating:


Sunday, 10 November 2013

Adverse Possession by Jess Hanna

 

Description:

The Forresters have found their dream home… So has something else.
After years of moving from place to place, Andy and Tess are ready to settle down. But from the day they moved into the sprawling Victorian house, something just wasn't right.
The power cuts out twice a day on a fixed schedule. Windows unlock and open on their own. Strange scratching sounds come from behind the walls. As the bizarre occurrences continue to increase in frequency and strength, the true source of the extraordinary activity is revealed.
What started as an enchanting curiosity has become a danger to them all, and the Forresters are in a race against time to save their family from an enemy unlike anything they have ever known.

Review: 

I first read this before it was published as an advanced readers copy from Jess. I had not written a review after reading it, just emailed the author my thoughts and impressions. It was only after starting this blog and checking my reviews on Amazon, that I realised I had not honoured Jess with an official review. To do so would mean reading this again. This was also another excuse to revisit this novel.

I was taken in then and am just as taken in now. This is even better the second time round!

This novel was the second horror story I had ever read and was read soon after the first which was Something Stirs by Thomas Smith. Both books are written by Christian authors and both deal with haunted houses by demons and deal with demon possession. Both also deal with these topics using spiritual warfare as outlined in the bible. But enough of the comparison between these two books, however, I must say they compliment each other very well, and both are a credit to each author. It was both these two authors and their horror stories that have convinced me that Christian authors have just as much or even more ability to write convincing horror especially when it is based on the source of horror as documented in the Bible, through the fall of satan and the other angels and their transformation into evil entities and their maleficent, deceptive and manipulative intentions in our lives.

Hanna has set a nice, even pace in the first half of this novel, introducing the characters, establishing the family dynamics, moving into and settling into the house, while interspersing certain incidents that, while not at first deemed to be demonic activity or out of the ordinary, but soon increase in frequency and become more bizarre, leading to Andy and Tess believing that something supernatural is occurring and is definitely of a malevolent nature as evidenced by the disruption to their lives and the effects its oppression on their personalities and relationships. 

The second half of the novel definitely has a faster pace with the activity of the supernatural increasing, now being identified as a demon spirit that has its sights set on Alexis to possess and control. Hanna definitely adds more clues and explanation to what this demon is, why it is here, what its motivation is and as it possesses Alexis more and more, its power and activity is more extensive and destructive to Alexis, Tess, Andy and Jonathan. The parents try everything they know or think of to rid themselves and their house of this demon, including a paranormal investigator and his family. All this does is make things worse, ridding the house of the demon but then inviting more of them to inhabit the house and possess Alexis even more. This is very biblical as the bible states that if a demon is exorcised and the person not then inhabited by God's presence/Spirit, more demons come and inhabit the person.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

No Eye Has Seen by Graham Carter

No eye has seen




Description:

Mother of three, Sarah Glen, loses her life under unusual circumstances when her car is forced from the road in what appears to be a random act of road rage.

What follows is a breathtaking story of adventure and excitement as Sarah explores the limitless wonder of her new home, Paradise.

The Throne Room, New Jerusalem, departed loved ones, all these and more are unveiled in this thought provoking tale.

While Sarah's remaining family and friends struggle to come to terms with the passing of the popular mom, angels, good and evil, fight for supremacy in the age-old battle between the kingdoms of darkness and light.


Review:

This is just a wonderful book!!

This is a murder mystery dealing with the death of a Christian woman through road rage for no apparent reason. However, as the story unfolds it is revealed that the motive for her murder is the hatred of demons for believers in Christ. What follows is the account of what heaven is like for Sarah, the murdered Christian, (and this is described in wonderful detail and is very awe inspiring and filled with wonderful imagery), the demon possession of her murderer, Sam, his torment by the demon and how the angels of the Lord fight for his salvation as directed by God. It is also the story of a struggling pastor against the financial plotting of the council over church land and how these three factors all come together for a final culmination for all things to work together for good for those who love God and are called to His purpose and God's plan.

A wonderful and realistic portrayal of spiritual warfare. If you have read Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and Piercing The Darkness; Randy Alcorn's Dominion, Deadline and Deception and Lord Foulgrin's Letters and The Ishbane Conspiracy, you will see the similarities between all these authors and their sobering portrayal of spiritual warfare, angels fighting demons, the hierarchy within the angel and demon ranks, God's Sovereignity, power of prayer and living out His Word in our lives. 

Highly recommended.  My Rating:

Website:

http://www.grahamsbooks.com/

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Road To Hell by Jess Hanna


 

Description:

Lucas Stone suffers a horrific accident, experiences the terrors of Hell, and returns from the dead paralyzed and alone until an unexpected new friend finds him.

Arrogant, self-absorbed speaker and author Drake Crawford has written a new book that challenges the traditional Christian theology of Hell.

Luke and Drake are drawn together by supernatural forces beyond their realm of understanding to face the spiritual battle that lies ahead on... The Road to Hell.


 

Review:

The Road To Hell is Jess Hanna's d├ębut novel and what a suspenseful, can't put down ride it is!

Hanna has a successfully created a true to the Biblical record of spiritual warfare, the lengths satan and his demons will go to in order to deceive and destroy a Christian's faith and relationship with God as well as to continue their rebellion against God. 


Hanna has developed some very believable and relational characters, mainly Luke and Mike, being the main ones. He has not made them to be super spiritual, they certainly show their faith wavering in the face of the adverse situations they find themselves in.

The antogonist, Drake, is portrayed as a pompous, ego maniac who evolves into a demon possessed pawn in satan's quest to destroy as many believer's and non believer's lives as possible. I can see how this transformation would be possible and from the little I do know about demon possession, the way Hanna has portrayed this transformation and possession is very plausible and most likely the way it happens.

The author has described Luke and Mike's experience of Hell as very graphic and I must confess, I was very tense with heart beating fast and a bit of a sweat as I was reading this even the repeated accounts of the same.

I appreciated his inclusion of how some pastor's water down the issue of Hell or even discredit its existence, as expressed by Drake and Pastor Tom. This doctrine/attitude is delivered in some churches and that is a very tragic situation. It was also reassuring to see how Tom has a change of attitude if and only due to him being open to the revelation of the Spirit through Ryan and Samantha and the Spirit revealing Scriptures to him about the reality of Hell.

The spiritual warfare elements in this novel are very realistic and pretty much how I imagine them and again, from what little I know about this. Reading this novel, (and others in my collection) encourages me to seek more on this and to increase my knowledge of how our enemy works and his strategies and the biblical and spiritual weaponry at our disposal.

This is one book I just cannot praise enough. For me, it ranks up there with Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and its sequel, Piercing The Darkness and a few others in my collection.

Any reader will find this as a cannot put down experience. I stayed up late to finish this and had no regrets, except maybe falling asleep during the church message that morning!!

Hanna has successfully delivered a novel full of entertainment yet sober truth of spiritual warfare, the Word of God, God's sovereignty, the victorious living Jesus achieved on the Cross for mankind and the battle between satan against Christians and God.

I highly recommend this novel and suggest that Jess Hanna is an author to follow, 

 being entertained and educated in biblical doctrine in the process. 

 My Rating: