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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 debut author's novels or those author's who have not had many reviews thus providing them much needed encouragement 

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Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Christmas Quest by G. L. Stone

The Christmas Quest

Mason Krucheck knows loss. His beloved Anne passed on eighteen months ago and he is facing his second Christmas on his own. Now he must also face his grandson, Jacob’s, illness as this Christmas approaches; and things are not going well. The last few months have been hard for Jacob, as his life has collapsed around him to the size of a hospital bed. Mason has always been his special friend; wielding the magic of storytelling as few can to free Jacob of the fear he faces through a fantastic story. But Mason finds his own life has taken unexpected twists, bringing him closer to his grandson; in truth, too close; and they both discover that some stories truly have a life of their own. Entwined in a magical tale of kings and queens, demons and wizards, elves and fair maidens, and all the familiar icons of Christmas, in one short week Mason and Jacob travel a pathway through life, fear, sorrow, freedom, joy, and happiness as the majesty and hope of Christ intervenes in their lives on the most magical Christmas Eve of all.

The Guru's Review: 

This is one very impressive debut novel by this author. I picked it up free during a promotional period from Amazon. 

I loved this story! I have not come across such a unique concept for quite a while. This author shows quite an imagination and creativity in the construction of this novel. Sometimes when an author attempts to blend the reality of the main character's lives with that of fantasy, the process runs the risk of being disjointed instead of a cohesion and both complimenting each other. For a debut author to pull this off is quite a feat and maybe it would not be expected to attempt in their first published story. Stone achieves the former very well. The blending of the reality that both Mason and Jacob are experiencing with the fantasy world involving Bentley, James, Nicholas, Teresa, the Queen, and Richard is flawless. While reading the reality of the former characters, you want to stay there but you also want to see how this forms the basis of the next part of the fantasy story involving the latter characters. And the reverse can be said for the latter. Such is how endearing the characters become and how engaging both storylines are. There is no feeling or detection of this blending being disjointed or fractured. Both storylines are dependent on each other and compliment each other. This is one of the successes of this novel.

Being a Nurse as my profession enabled me to empathise with both Jacob and Mason. I related well to Misty, the nurse, as I could see these two from her perspective and this reminded me of so much of my nursing experience. Stone has developed these characters well and also the medical side of their storylines. Makes it more credible at least for me! 

I did find the storyline involving Mason and Jacob's illnesses hard to read as no-one likes to read about life-threatening illnesses. Maybe it is because it forces us to confront our own mortality and all the emotions that go with it. Or maybe it brings back painful memories of a friend or loved one who has gone through similar. However, Stone has not created a doom and gloom plot line here involving AML (acute myelogenous leukemia). I loved the tenderness and childlike attitude that Jacob has towards his cancer and the honesty he expresses towards Mason about this disease. There is a strength here that Jacob shows that seems to be more advanced for one so young to be going through such a debilitating disease. Even though Mason is going through this same disease, Mason finds strength in Jacob's attitude and it is this that keeps him being strong for him. Jacob sees Mason as not just as his grandfather, but as his rock, 
In desperation, he pictured his grandpa in his mind: the rock, the immovable mountain to which he felt anchored, his elite warrior to fight off all fear and his last resort when things got really desperate. 
Even though Mason accepted this from Jacob, it also prevented him from being honest with Jacob about his own diagnosis and fight against this disease. To do so would destroy Jacob's faith in him about being his rock and the foundation of why he was Jacob's rock, 
Grandpa could chase away fear and pain with his mightiest weapon: stories! He always had the best stories. He could and would tell one that would somehow make this all better! 
And it is this fact, that Grandpa has the best stories, that provides the richness, the credible world-building, the engaging tale that makes this novel such a joy to read and be so engrossed in. It also shows as I have stated previously that Stone has a great imagination and creativity and is why this debut novel is so impressive. 

I wonder how much of Stone is depicted in the character of Mason? I wonder how much of Mason being developed as a caring, strong sensitive male character and grandfather is also that of Stone? I have just become a grandfather myself and I can relate to Mason very well and I am encouraged by the character of Mason to be like him in relating to his grandson the way he has. My children, now adults, see me (and my wife) as their rock, so I pray that I can be the same to my granddaughter and even be able to show this in becoming a storyteller like Mason! I loved the relationship between Mason and Jacob; tender but strong, honest with understanding and trust. Both humble towards each other and a sincere relationship with God. All through his illness, Mason was there for him but towards the end, it is Jacob who is there for Mason. Such is what human relationship consists of. And does not every parent say that they learn more about life from their children/grandchildren? This is evident in this novel. 

Stone excels in creating a fantasy world. Both science fiction and fantasy need more reliance on world building to provide a solid foundation for a believable and credible plot. It needs this to keep the reader engaged and connected with the plot and characters. Stone provides enough here in this novel for this to be successful. He includes the backstory of the conflict and war between the elves and humans, the hierarchy of Creation regarding the Creator, who the Visitor is, his level in this hierarchy and the same for the elves and humans. He also provides some depth to the spiritual side and power of each of the entities that exist in this hierarchy. This forms a good anchoring point for the plots to take off and enable a satisfying ending. 

Three elements of this world building add to the strength and enjoyment of this novel. One is the author's take on a Christmas personality that has very humble roots but sadly has evolved into a figure that represents in today's world, a warped and distorted view of what Christmas is and should continue to be. Maybe it is for this reason that authors like Stone write about characters like this to give a better perspective and encourage readers to think about this character's real origins. However, Stone's depiction of this character is a very unique one and one that I feel is very creative and effective for the purpose of this novel. 

The second is Stone's take on where various icons and traditions of Christmas come from. The inclusion of these enhance the story and plot arcs and again are very creative and effective. Dare I say for a third time that this just showcases Stone's creativity and imagination? I chuckled when these icons were introduced. 

The third is the correlation of the characters in the lives of Mason and Jacob and of the fantasy world. This becomes evident about halfway through the story and it is here that it becomes very interesting, leading the reader to understand how the fantasy plot impacts on the lives of Jacob and Mason

I have not had time to do so, but when I read of elements like this, I am tempted to research these myself to see how much truth from their origins have been included in this novel and therefore how much poetic licence the author has also added. 

Stone has used the antagonist and what he stands for to develop the theme of this novel. Known as the Visitor, his reputation and presence are felt amongst the town. James describes  this entity to Bentley as, 
.......an embodiment of the dark force or influence......that manifests as fear and hopelessness
Its shadow had spread across Nicholas' homeland and though its name was not mentioned there, on Earth it is known as Death with the mere mention of its name giving it more power. The Visitor embodied fear of Death as its greatest weapon, becoming Death in the minds of its "victims". But this was not its only aim, the Visitor had a deeper and more nefarious quest and that was to eventually overcome The One or the Almighty by controlling most or all of human souls.

Nicholas recognised the Visitor for who it is and realised what he was up against. The Visitor was not human and not without gender, and could not relate to humanity. It was not of this world.

Mason describes it as, 

......an entity that belonged in another place, untraceable and unreachable by mortals. Its rebellion and evil nature had compelled it to assume the only role befitting it -- that of darkness and fear of Death, the final pathway for mortal men and women, and, over a greater lifespan, for elves and wizards, as well. From it distant prison, it had exploited this role in the past as much as it could to awaken fear, hopelessness, and despair. 
To enslave humanity in fear, it twisted humanity's view of Death from a source of hope in the hearts of the faithful as a passage to a better life, an 
....immortal existence of body and spirit due to the work of The One, but at this time and in this place, the Visitor made death fearful and imbued it with hopelesness. 
Just like in the Bible, we are encouraged to believe that God has not given us a spirit of fear, the characters of Bentley, James, Teresa, and the Queen realise that they need to confront their fear and its effects thereof. Herein lies the power over fear; it can be debilitating if we allow it to control us and feel we are powerless against it. Just as the Bible states (in 2 Timothy 1:7) that instead of a spirit of fear we have one of love, peace and a sound mind, the Queen realises that a positive attitude is their defence. The Visitor even reacts negatively against this, realising the effect on itself, 
....you tire me, woman, with your optimism and hope.  
Nicholas also confronts the Visitor with this same positive attitude, 
You are strong but so am I. And I have the strength of all the love and goodness in a whole world to draw upon. Don't think yourself, my master.
I was very endeared to Bentley. A very honourable character. I like his sense of commitment resulting from his warrior training and accepting of the mission to rescue Nicholas but also out of the friendship he developed with him. Such a loyal and sincere elf. Nicholas sees him as a 
...brash proudly self-reliant, fiery and passionate elf. 
The rest of the rescue team consisting of James and Teresa share the same passion as Bentley in rescuing Nicholas and ridding the world of this evil personified in the Visitor. The bonds that form between them as they do so is a joy to read and they come into their own and work as cohesive, unified team when they confront the Visitor.

This novel comes to a fast paced and action packed head leading to a satisfying ending. The clash between good and evil brings all the plot arcs of both Mason and Jacob's reality and the fantasy elements to a head. The demise of the Visitor in a spiritual sense is very well done and supports the Biblical doctrine of the battle belonging to God. 

My only criticism is that I would have loved to have seen Bentley, Teresa and the Queen better equipped spiritually to combat the evil manifested by the Visitor. These characters are depicted as not having any obvious relationship with God, (except for one of them, who Bentley is suspicious of), which relies on them not using any spiritual warfare methods as outlined in the Bible. However, this is achieved by this very character that Bentley is suspicious of. I must point out that his suspicions are not implying this character is less than honourable, just that he is unsure of some of the actions and attitude expressed based on the past history of this race of being. Again, this is anchored in the world building by Stone.  

As a result of this clash, the fantasy elements begin to spill over into the reality of Mason and Jacob's lives but that is not surprising as Mason felt that his story was taking on a life of its own. However, a hint by an earlier character who ministered to Mason leads me to consider that this was not just a story from Mason's imagination but one that was supernaturally inspired and orchestrated by God to minister to both Mason and Jacob so God's will for them would be manifested for His Glory and His Purpose. The ending bears this out. 

I ended this novel with a happy and uplifted spirit but not after shedding many tears of joy over the last few pages. 

I highly recommend this novel. 

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 3/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 5/5 

Overall Rating 4.6/5 Stars 

If you would like to read an excerpt or buy this novel, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icons on the image below: 



Friday, 22 December 2017

Blog Tour: Interview with Nathan Lumbatis about his novel, Daniel and the Triune Quest Including a Giveaway

Today, I am interviewing Nathan Lumbatis for his Daniel and the Triune Quest Blog Tour and Giveaway. 


So sit and back and let Nathan give you the background about his book, Daniel and the Triune Quest. I reviewed it in September and thoroughly enjoyed it.  

Want to win prizes? Look for the secret word in this post and follow the Rafflecopter Giveaway instructions at the end.

Now let's get into this interview.

Hi Nathan!

Tell us about the Sons and Daughters series, and Daniel and the Triune Quest.

I’ll try to avoid spoilers. The Sons and Daughters series follows an orphan named Daniel on four quests to find the Weapons of Power. These will allow him and his friends to seal away the Spirit of the Age—a portion of the Enemy’s spirit, and the source of all evil in the world. That was a mouthful.

Daniel and the Sun Sword is the first book in the series, which focuses on Daniel’s quest to find the first Weapon of Power (which, hopefully, obvious by the title, is the Sun Sword). 

Daniel and the Triune Quest is book two and focuses on the quest for the second Weapon of Power—the Triune Shield. In that story, Daniel, and his adoptive brother, Ben, are transported to India where they have to fight Shakti, a malevolent goddess in service to the Enemy, for the shield. 
Ooooo! What’s going to happen? Will they survive? Will they get the next Weapon? I guess you’ll have to read it to find out.

What inspired you to write the Sons and Daughters series?

I work a lot with children and teenagers who come out of broken homes, many of whom have been adopted or were in foster care at some point. One thing they all have in common was a hunger for identity—a place to belong to, a family heritage to call their own, a history they can be plugged into. Really, that’s a desire we all have, it just seemed emphasized in these children. And, ultimately, that need is fulfilled in salvation, in our adoption into God’s family. That need and fulfilment were the inspiration for Sons and Daughters.

How would you describe the Daniel and the Triune Quest in a text message?

That’s hard! Probably:  


What was your favorite part of the whole book?

I’d have to say it’s when Daniel meets the Son face-to-face. I was able to really worship God through writing the description of Jesus and detailing his interaction with Daniel. Christian art can be very tame, and frankly boring when it comes to portraying God. But when we read about him in apocalyptic books in the Bible, he’s terrifying and awesome and exciting and powerful, and there are all sorts of displays of power around him: flashing light, dark clouds, lightning, thunder, fire, glowing eyes and body, etc. It’s more like what we would see in a superhero movie. I wanted to portray him as embodying that. And most of the time, people in the Bible fall flat on their face when they meet a divine being, so I wanted Daniel to experience that power. It was fun.

Do you identify with any one character in the book?

Yes: Ben. He comes from a good family and is struggling to make sense of a “not good” world. When I was a child, I was very sheltered (which I think is a good thing, by the way). So, when I was finally exposed to “bad” things in the world as a teenager, I remember the struggle to wrap my head around it pretty vividly. But I was equipped because I knew right from wrong, so I made it through alive.

So far, your books have focused on Peruvian and Indian Mythology. Why those?

Why? Because I’m fascinated by them. And I’m the writer, so I get to make the decisions. So there.

What other mythologies will your future books include?

The third book will take place in several places in Ireland, Wales, and England, so it’ll feature Celtic and Welsh mythology. The final book will be in the Middle-East and so will likely have Babylonian and Sumerian mythology as the backdrop.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Yes, little Biblical references here and there. Since I love mythology, I also pepper a few obscure mythological elements from various cultures throughout the books.

~ The secret word for this post is: “and” ~

What books do you have planned next?

The third and fourth books in the Sons and Daughters series, of course. And then after that, I’ll be revisiting a book I began about 10 years ago but never got published. I may turn that one into a series of middle-grade chapter books, or a YA series. Not sure yet.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Usually, three months to outline it, and 7 months to a year to finish the book.

Where is your favorite place to write?

In front of my fireplace early in the morning. See? 

How do you balance life and time for writing?

I’m a morning person, so I usually devote several early morning hours to writing each week. My work can be flexible too, so there are times I can squeeze an hour of writing in here and there during the day as well.

Why did you decide to become a writer?

I love stories, and I love telling stories. That’s about it! It’s just part of who I am, I guess. I started writing stories when I was around 14 or 15 and never stopped. It helped that I grew up in the middle of boondocks Alabama where we didn’t have internet or cable. Most of my time was spent running around in the woods, which is pretty good fuel for a kid’s imagination.

What is your favorite book?

Ooh! That’s hard. I have several: LOTR, The Prydain Chronicles, The Great Divorce, Perelandra, and The Merlin Trilogy (Mary Stewart). 

Favorite fictional character?

Probably Gandalf or Merlin (from the aforementioned Merlin Trilogy). I just really like wizards, I guess. 

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Everyone always says, “Don’t give up! Keep writing!” when asked this question. And it’s true; that’s something all authors need to hear. But to this I would add the following: the publishing and marketing side of being a writer is hard and doesn’t come naturally to most authors. Don’t let the thought of that intimidate you or distract you from the most important part—focusing on telling a really good story. Just keep writing stories that you’re passionate about and all the other stuff will come in time.

Do you still believe in monsters?

Absolutely. There’s probably one behind you right now!

Do you Google yourself? 

That’s a personal question. But yes. Usually to make sure there’s nothing weird about me written anywhere. I’m not sure what I would do if there was…maybe write a strongly worded letter.

Do you have any hobbies other than writing?

Yep. Running, archery, hiking, trailblazing through the woods, hanging out with my family.

If you are interested in purchasing a signed copy of Nathan’s books, or interested in finding out more about the Sons and Daughters series, please head over to his website at www.nathanlumbatis.com

Here are book trailers for Daniel and the Sun Sword and Daniel and the Triune Quest: 



Amazon link for Daniel and the Sun Sword: Daniel and the Sun Sword





















Amazon link for Daniel and the Triune Quest: Daniel and the Triune Quest



Barnes and Noble link to purchase both books: 

You can follow Nathan on these social media platforms: 


Twitter: Nathan Lumbatis

Instagram: nathan.lumbatis

Combine the secret words found in each participating blog, combine them into a complete sentence, then follow the Rafflecopter link below to enter the sentence as your answer. 

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway:


First prize: Signed copies of Daniel and the Sun Sword and Daniel and the Triune Quest Sons and Daughters Bookmarks

Second Prize: Signed copy of Daniel and the Sun Sword + Bookmark

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway:


Blog Tour Schedule:

Monday, December 18, 2017: Nathan Lumbatis

Tuesday, December 19, 2017: Light and Shadows 
   
Wednesday, December 20, 2017: Dreams and Dragons

Thursday, December 21, 2017: Reviews by Peter

Friday, December 22, 2017: Speculativefaith:Lorehaven

Saturday, December 23, 2017: The Write Stuff Radio Show

About Nathan Lumbatis: 

Nathan grew up in the woods of Alabama, where he spent his time exploring, hiking, and dreaming up stories. Now, as a child/adolescent therapist and author, he’s teaching kids and teens how to redeem their stories using Biblical principles. He still lives in Alabama, where you will find him with his wife and three kids every chance he gets.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Christmas Star by Robert Tate Miller


Paul Bennett had the perfect wife, the perfect family, the perfect life—until one fateful Christmas brought an unthinkable tragedy. In deep despair, he turns to drinking to drive away the pain, but he only succeeds in driving away his wife. His marriage shattered, his family gone, Paul now despises Christmas.
But can the holiday he so detests hold a miraculous surprise? After an accident in which he loses consciousness, he wakes up in the company of the shepherds who will soon travel to Bethlehem to see the newborn Christ in the manger. Can Paul find salvation on the night that forever changed the world? Can he discover the true spirit of Christmas?

The Guru's Review: 

I "bought" this novel as a free download earlier this week from Amazon. I love reading Christmas novels during December to encourage myself of the importance and meaning of this season. Despite this being subtitled as a love story and I am not attracted to romance novels with this being the main story arc, I was drawn to this novel by the travel back in time to period of Jesus' birth and the encounter the main character had with the shepherds who visited Him. I love time travel as a story arc and especially ones that have the time travel destination as that of Jesus time.

I could not put this novel down. I really enjoyed the romance of the first half. It was not sugary sweet or mushy. I appreciated it being told from Paul's point of view. This definitely helped me relate to the romance side of it. I enjoy romance when it is not a major theme of the novel and when written by a male author. In this novel, it made no difference being a major story arc. I actually loved it.

Miller writes very well and it is this that contributes to the flow of the story, the character development and the expectation of what is to happen next. For me, this is a great drawcard.

When an author writes the main character in the first person narrative, it is essential that it comes across to the reader as if this character is narrating the story. Not only that, but the character has to be credible and relatable. If not, this character is not convincing and the reader feels disconnected and cannot relate to them. Miller avoids this pitfall and writes in this narrative exceptionally well. I felt like I was in Paul's head. I experienced the emotions he did. I could relate to all these. Especially his grief when he lost Megan, his daughter. I know what that is like despite the fact that my loss was a baby and the circumstances did not lead me to consider that I had contributed to this loss. But I definitely felt for Paul. I wanted to come alongside him and help him through his grief. I wanted to convince him, show him that it was not his fault, and his guilt is misplaced, despite this being a normal reaction. I wanted to show him that his spiralling into alcohol abuse was not the way to handle it, and he was giving up. But I can see why Miller developed it like this, to show the reality of man's reaction to adversity, in this case, the death of a loved one and how this can either confirm their existing unbelief in God or show how an existing relationship could falter and almost lead to unbelief.

I remember when we lost our baby daughter how hard it was to get back to God. I never blamed God but it nevertheless made it hard for me to re-establish my relationship with Him. I can fully understand Paul's reaction to blaming God for not preventing Megan's death and how this easily disconnected Paul from Him. I feel that men's handling of grief is very different to women's and that men may feel it just as deeply as women but their reaction is directly connected to how God has "wired" them. Like Paul, his tears fell when he encountered Jesus at the manger, mine was with my wife, Pastor, specific family and friends, but on a very personal level, the majority of them were on my own while praying to God during the many weeks and months following her death. And it was here that God healed and restored me. It was why I cried when Paul did the same when he came face to face with Jesus. I leapt for joy when he accepted Jesus' love, salvation and when he declared he was redeemed. This nativity scene is very powerful and it would not surprise me if God uses this to minister to both men and women in their despair from life's adversity.

Miller developed this scene so realistically that I do not have any doubt that the Spirit was behind this nativity scene. I applaud authors like Miller when they allow the Spirit to guide them in their writing to minister to the reader's needs on whatever level they are. I have stated in the Why Christian Fiction? tab on this blog that God can use authors and their craft in Christian fiction to not just entertain, but educate, edify the reader's spirit, show them more of God and His ways and lead them into a deeper relationship with Him. This is not the first novel, where I have been ministered to through the author's obedience to the Spirit and in what the Spirit has directed the author to develop in their story arc.

I know that romance is predominantly targeted at the female audience, Christian and non-Chrisitan alike but can romance have a place in men's reading lives as well? I believe so and this novel is one example where it can show men what Christian marriage should be and how God can heal/restore a fractured married relationship and give their love a second chance. Interesting how this second chance is not really a second chance. If He restores their relationship, then they will stronger, better and bigger in their relationship/romance towards each other and in Him. This has been my experience from losing a loved one. It brought my wife and I closer together and, like Paul, I will see our daughter again. I cried, even more, when Paul met Megan at the nativity scene as it gave me a glimpse of what our reunion is going to be like in Heaven. 

I loved the story arc that involved Paul being transported into the lives of the shepherds that had the encounter with the angel announcing the birth of Jesus. The feelings between Elisabeth and Paul was instrumental in preparing him for the healing of his relationship between his wife and God. Again, Miller does this very well and is very clever in its orchestration.

For many of the world's population, Christmas can be a time devoid of joy, family, love, and what Christmas means. Miller shows in this novel, what Christmas is all about, the birth of Jesus, what this means, who He is and the power of His very presence from who Him being God. I pray that God uses this novel to heal and minister to any reader who needs to experience the message of this novel and of the Gospel of Christ.

There are times when I come across a novel that I know God wants me to read. This is another one of those novels. I rejoice in this novel where it has given me another opportunity to be ministered to by an engaging and therapeutic story that is fully guided by the Spirit of God.

I will definitely be reading Miller's other novels. He has been added to my list of male romance authors.

I highly recommend this novel. 

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 5/5

Enemy Spiritual Level N/A 

Overall Rating 5/5 Stars 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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



A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that The Christmas Star contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Redemptive Fiction outlined in this booklet, I award Robert Tate Miller with


The Reality Calling Redemptive Fiction Award



Congratulations Robert!

If you would like to read an excerpt or buy this novel, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icons on the image below: 

Saturday, 16 December 2017

My Year in Books 2017 via Goodreads

This post is to say a huge THANK YOU to the Christian authors whose books I have read this year.

You have enriched my spiritual life, my knowledge of the Bible and how to live in a closer relationship with God and living out His Word. I have not only been entertained but have been spiritually uplifted, challenged and even confronted with issues that God needed to bring to my attention.

Never let it be said that God cannot use Christian fiction in all its genres and its authors to minister to reader's needs outside of the entertainment value while reinforcing in the author that they are writing for Him and not just because they have the talent to do so.

It has been my honour and pleasure to read, review, interview, spotlight, promote, blog tour and have you as a guest on my blog.

So Christian authors, find your book(s) below and give yourself a moment to be proud of your achievement and give God the glory for all He has achieved with the talent, creativity, inspiration that He has given you. I appreciate all of you and look forward to supporting you all again as you release new books and where my review schedule and life enable me to do so.