Review of The Warble by Victoria Simcox   2 comments

In this first adventure of the Bernovem Chronicles, young Kristina is whisked away to the magical land of Bernovem after she opens a mysterious box from her teacher. There, she finds out she must deliver the magical Warble to its resting place and break the hold of the evil queen holding everyone in bondage. Though danger lurks at every turn, Kristina and the friends she makes along the way fight to bring back peace to the realm.

The story has a Narnia vibe, what with Kristina being sucked away into a magical land with gnomes, fairies, dwarves, and talking animals, but carries a distinct flavor of its own. Each page is a delightful enchantment, and when you reach the end, you feel the need to go back to the beginning and start reading all over again. The character development is solid, and the writing clear. And even more, I loved the parallels to the return of Christ that were weaved throughout the story.

Victoria Simcox is a highly skilled and creative author who has managed to carve a unique world that I look forward to visiting once again!

Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/z3nuv5l
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Posted September 16, 2017 by J.M. Christian in book reviews

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Looking Back and Going Forward….   1 comment

Greetings, all! Been awhile since I posted something that wasn’t a review of a book or movie, so time to change that. And I want to start with giving an update on the final book to The Heart of Light Trilogy, and an apology on the lengthy delay in releasing it. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 2 years since Crown of Ravens was published. In that time, I’ve furthered my career in graphic designing, and just this year started taking courses so I can move into web development and design. I never forgot about the series and writing in general, but it’s one of those things that starts to get put in the back seat when you’re dealing with life and trying to support yourself. It gets harder and harder to make time when so much is needed for the more pressing issues, and every day you’re racing to catch up and cram as much as you can into that short space so you don’t fall behind. And with the audience for my books not being large, it was easier to put off the third book for “later”.

I’ll be honest, I never did much with marketing my books. I take full blame on that one. 😛 When I first published the series, I had to make the art myself, and while I was confident in the story itself (my mom and I did double-time on the editing) I wasn’t as confident in the cover art. If there’s one thing I pride myself in, it’s knowing a good cover. And while I will never knock my old work (it was pretty advanced for what I knew back then) I am brutally honest. It had some serious flaws, and trying to market a book with a cover you know is not put together very well is scary.

Last year was when my skills with making graphic art got to a point that I knew I could finally, FINALLY, give these stories the spectacular artwork I had always coveted in other books, and that they deserved.

I was already in a competition where the contestants needed to choose one of their older works and redo them. I looked through some of my older artworks, and the one for Crown of Ravens caught my eye. Right there, I decided to go for it. And behold, what I got was the art I had always dreamed of seeing on one of my books. I was even able to make the crown itself, a feat all on its own that I was unable to do before. (And yes, I was kicking myself for writing it as black. Gold sure would have easier. 😛 )

So Crown of Ravens was taken care of. It had a gorgeous cover, but now we come to The Dark Wolf. That book will always be my baby because it was my first, and from the start, I was never happy with the cover it got. Don’t get me wrong, I take pride in what I was able to make back then. I had ZERO experience making that stuff, and at the time, I had only a couple tutorials on Youtube to get me going. So it was big thing for me to even make a cover on my own. But again, I knew it had flaws, and it wasn’t the best work to represent the story. The first cover for Crown of Ravens had its own problems, but even that looked visually more appealing. As the years went by and I continued learning graphic art and design, The Dark Wolf went through 4 different cover variations as my skills gradually increased (I feel so sorry for putting it through that 😦 ). Last year was when the cover switching finally ended with the creation of the fifth and final work with a brand new piece of art.

Before

After

 

Before

After

I got both covers prepped and put together, then uploaded them to Amazon. Honestly, I did get a little thrill when the covers appeared on Amazon. 🙂 It was the art I had always dreamed of having for a story of mine. And at last, I finally had it. I did try to market it, but again I got sidetracked, and that was put on the back shelf. My workload was growing, and when I decided to take the leap into web development, that just added to my already full plate.

It was actually one of my friends who recently read my books that gave me the shot of encouragement and motivation I needed. And I realized I had to go back. I needed to finish what I started, not just for the dear readers out there, but also for myself and for the story that got me started on this journey through life. It was that first book, The Dark Wolf, that led me here. Now, I need to give it and the readers out there the ending they deserve.

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Now you’re probably asking, “The update, man! Where are things with that third book (you dang slow author you)!”
Okay, enough suspense here. 😛 Currently, I’m still on the first draft but have managed to reach the halfway point on it. And I have already plotted out the remaining chapters, so no time will be wasted with wondering where the story should go. While a 2017 release is not likely at this point, 2018 is. I can’t give an exact date, but I’m looking at publishing the third book in either summer or fall of next year, depending on my schedule. Regardless, I want to let all of you know that the third book will be published, and the series resolved. And once again, I apologize for the LONG delay. The last chapter of The Heart of Light Trilogy is coming, folks. May have taken awhile, but it is coming, so hang in there.

Next post, I’ll be sharing some exciting news about what to expect for the third book. And I promise, I won’t do my usual and post a month later. 😉

(Disclaimer: Image and art used is my work and copyrighted)

Review of The Assault (Harbingers)   Leave a comment

Cycle 2 of the Harbingers series continues the story of four gifted strangers brought together to fight a growing darkness.

In Bill Myers’s “The Revealing,” the team finds themselves in Rome trying to retrieve the mystical spear Hitler once owned–the very spear that pierced Christ’s side. This task will take them from hidden chambers inside the Vatican to a mysterious seaside cave with powers they could never expect.

Frank Peretti’s “Infestation” unleashes a microscopic evil on the world that deceives, blinds, kills, then spreads. The Harbingers team must confront a monster bent on seducing and destroying mankind.

In “Infiltration” by Angela Hunt, the team is wounded and barely holding together. Forced to split up, they realize their investigations have led them into dangerous waters.

Alton Gansky’s “The Fog” unleashes a supernatural mist unlike any other. There are vicious things in the fog that kill whatever they find. One team member realizes that the ultimate sacrifice may have to be made.

***

So this story was a little different than what I usually read. I’m not a fan of suspense (which is why there is probably only four other books like that in my collection) as I have found that with suspense, the author is so busy trying to create it that important things like character development and romance are neglected. But when I saw that this had a supernatural angle to it, I thought I would go ahead and give it a try, despite it being the second book in the series.

Bill Myer’s episode is what we begin with first, and starts us from the perspective of the tattoo artist, one of the four unique people this series revolves around (and no, they’re not even close to X-Men) who find themselves trying to find the spear that pierced Jesus’s side and end up in a house crazier than Wonderland. I could say it was because of just plunging right into the story without having read the first book that led to my initial dislike, but I would be lying. I just really don’t like Bill Myer’s writing. I have only read one other book by him, and what turned me off then turns me off now. A muddled plot that is really boring, poor character development, and, yes, it may be minor but still bugs me, one dirty word: p***.

After suffering through Myer’s part, I was praying really hard Peretti would not disappoint. And thank God, he didn’t. One thing he does, which a lot of people don’t do: write some solid character development. And he starts us with the crusty, ex-priest, atheist professor. Good writing and a plot that actually deserves the name “suspense” keep you turning those pages. And might I add, the element of faith was better presented too.

The third part is written my Angela Hunt (who I do like after reading her novel, Egypt’s Sister). It’s a bit of a lag after Frank Peretti’s engaging tale and an annoying professor you were silently rooting for. Andi, the professor’s assistant, is who we now focus on. Not bad, but still a drop from the previous part.

Fourth is by Alton Gansky who switches us to Tank, the Christian ex-football player, and a supernatural fog that invades the city. The story starts off slow, but builds up the further you go, and gives us a nice climatic scene at the end and a hero’s sacrifice.

After all was said and done, I actually did enjoy the story, minus Myer’s part. So I’ll continue to follow it. While it has its ups and downs, the premise and characters are engaging enough for me to want to continue. And the element of faith, though subtle, is a driving point for each character’s journey.

Verdict: Definitely not a must-have, but it’s a decent story for suspense lovers and those needing something to read.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Egypt’s Sister by Angela Hunt review   Leave a comment

Five decades before the birth of Christ, Chava, daughter of the royal tutor, grows up with Urbi, a princess in Alexandria’s royal palace. When Urbi becomes Queen Cleopatra, Chava vows to be a faithful friend no matter what–but after she and Cleopatra have an argument, she finds herself imprisoned and sold into slavery. 

Torn from her family, her community, and her elevated place in Alexandrian society, Chava finds herself cast off and alone in Rome. Forced to learn difficult lessons, she struggles to trust a promise HaShem has given her. After experiencing the best and worst of Roman society, Chava must choose between love and honor, between her own desires and God’s will for her life. 

As soon as I saw this book up for review, I immediately sent in my request. I have a love for biblical fiction, and reading the synopsis alone captured my attention. And yes, the great looking cover just enhanced the appeal.

We begin the story with Chava, daughter of the royal Jewish tutor, who becomes friends with Urbi, the girl one day destined to become the famed Queen Cleopatra. The story chronicles their friendship as children, up to Urbi’s rise to power.

I will admit, the first part of the story felt slow. While Chava is intended to be the main lead, we’re more often just narrated the events that occurred in Cleopatra’s life. And Cleopatra ending being the more interesting person you wanted to know more about when you watched her go from princess to Queen and married to her ten year old brother. Her war in a game of wits to stay ahead of her enemies ended up pulling your interest more than the spoiled Chava.

Chava holds onto the promise she received from HaShem one night “Your friendship with the queen lies in my hands. You will be with her on her happiest day and her last. And you, daughter of Israel, will know yourself, and you will bless her.”

To this end, she follows Cleopatra faithfully, to the point of refusing to marry out of the devotion to her friend. And yes, Chava was a touch clingy and possessive because of it.

But then Chava’s life takes an unexpected turn, and she goes from friend to one of the most powerful woman in the world to a slave struggling to stay alive. From there, we watch as Chava is stripped of everything: home, wealth, possessions, family. And left with nothing but the bitter taste of betrayal and a broken faith.

This where Angela Hunt begins the crafting of Chava’s story and her growth from a pampered and spoiled child with no care for the rest of the world, into a strong woman. Through all the hardships, and the brutality of first century BC, you see God’s hand upon her, guiding her to that one pivotal point in history she was destined for.

I will caution readers that there are some scenes that might be a little hard for those who are more sensitive to those things. The story does not dwell overmuch on them, but it’s enough for you to feel the impact of it.

The writing was excellent, and once we got over the first part, the character development picked up drastically. If you are looking for solid, well-researched Biblical fiction with strong emphasis on faith, then I highly recommend this book.

Verdict: Buy immediately.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Review of High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin   Leave a comment

Hello, everyone! Here’s another book review from yours truly. 😀

So this time, it’s a World War I novel which, for those of you following me, know is a drastic departure from the fantasy and Biblical fiction I prefer. But I’ve always had a soft spot for those drama-filled stories of fights against the German army, so I decided to go ahead and give this one a try. 😛

High as the Heavens follows the story of Eve Marche, a widowed British nurse, in a German-occupied Brussels. Having survived the loss of her family and the horrors of Louvain from the Germans invasion, she now tends to injured German soldiers and helps her aunt as a waitress at the cafe serving the German troops. Secretly, though, she works for the Belgian resistance group known as “La Dame Blanche”.

When a British plane crashes in Brussels, Eve is the first to reach the spot and recognizes the injured pilot. And what starts is a life and death struggle as Eve risks all to save the pilot from being put to death or worse.

The story, on a whole, was fairly good. Eve Marche was very well-developed character and I admired the author for giving the character brains and a quick wit, while not making her a braggart or a showoff. Eve works for the resistance out of a desire to alleviate her own guilt over an event that happened years ago, and to help those struggling to survive under the cruel hand pressing down on them. And watching her deal with the guilt of her past, post-traumatic stress, and the despair of never being forgiven by God adds a lot of rich depth to the story.

There were a couple areas that I felt hindered it, though. The flashbacks to several years earlier, I thought were too many and too much. You would be with Eve in a game of wits with the Germans, and then we switch to scenes of her romance with Simon Forrester, followed by the events that led her to Brussels. This went on for a few chapters, thankfully not the whole book, but I felt it gave too much away. Flashbacks, I think, should be in moderation, and focus more on smaller, poignant scenes, that add mystery to the event instead of revealing the entire motivation behind the character’s pain.

Simon was another problem. Eve is a very fleshed-out character, but with Simon, we get the exact opposite. We learn that he spent time in a POW camp for several years, enduring trauma of his own, but it is lightly touched on. Not to mention, his screen time is rather small, especially for being the love interest in the story. As a result, I never really connected with the character. He was just…there.

Which brings up the romance. We bounce around too much in the story, and while we have a nice spot here and there, the romance angle is never fully developed in the story, or really focused on. So we end up in the middling there with it.

I was also was a bit disappointed with the amount of drama or “tense moments”. For a story set in a place crawling with Germans looking for any excuse to haul a person off for interrogation, it was surprisingly mild. The only action scene I can even think of was at the end, with a chase after a German spy, but that was over rather quick. Then the one flashback scene with the German takeover of Louvain. I guess in that kind of an era and setting, I was expecting some higher stakes and a more serious threat, but it never arrives there. While we have a moment here and there, most of it is glossed over.

So my recommendation? High as the Heavens is a decent read, and enough to keep you going, despite feeling a little bogged down in places. If you’re looking for a clean read, and something to pass the time, I’d say give it a try. It’s not a bad story, and the author did an admirable job crafting it.

Verdict: Buy if you’re looking for a clean read to pass the time.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Posted July 11, 2017 by J.M. Christian in book reviews

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Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette   Leave a comment

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Hello, everyone! Been awhile since I’ve posted on here, but I’m finally back again. And with another book review, since I’ve finally followed one of secret desires and joined Bethany House’s Blogger Review Program. *does happy dance* So without any further delay, here we go!

I’ve always loved Biblical stories. Maybe it was because I grew up with them as a kid, and even though I am a devoted fantasy buff, the nostalgia for Bible stories has never left. When I first found out about this series, I was excited. And it just exploded when I finally got this book. This is the third and final book in the series. I was initially a little concerned about starting a series right at the third book, but after a little research, found each story is self-contained so you don’t need to worry about missing anything. Without further ado, I plunged right on in.

The story covers the Israelites long awaited entrance into the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. But in their path stands the Canaanites.

Alanah is bitter over the loss of her brothers and home. Feeling she has nothing left to her in life, she dresses like a man and joins one of the battles against the Hebrews, hoping to avenge herself on as many as she can before dying in the onslaught.

But Yahweh has a different plan. Instead of dying, she is rescued from the bodies of the slain and brought back to live with the very ones she planned on destroying, and her growing attraction to a certain Hebrew warrior called Tobiah.

Alanah’s feelings of hate and revenge, and her sense of low worth are all portrayed and written vividly by the author. And Tobiah, the quiet warrior, who tries to take care of everyone and lamenting over loss he feels he could have done something to prevent. Both carry deep wounds inside, and both have to learn to surrender them to the Creator guiding their steps.

It’s rare to find good Biblical fiction, let alone a good romance. This is one of those that manages to do both justice and sticks with you long after you finish reading it. The writing was smooth, the character development solid. You’ll love the sense of companionship and family when walking with the Hebrews, and cringe when you walk through the mire of Canaanite culture.

Love and loss, grace and redemption, all weave together in beautiful harmony within the pages of this tale.

If you are looking for a solid Biblical story with a core of faith and hope, I highly recommend you purchase this series. As for me, I intend to get my hands on the first two books and add them to my collection.

Verdict: buy immediately

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Halflings by Heather Burch Review   1 comment

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After being inexplicably targeted by an evil intent on harming her at any cost, seventeen-year-old Nikki finds herself under the watchful guardianship of three mysterious young men who call themselves Halflings. Sworn to defend her, misfits Mace, Raven, and Vine battle to keep Nikki safe while hiding their deepest secret—and the wings that come with.

A growing attraction between Nikki and two of her protectors presents a whole other danger. While she risks a broken heart, Mace and Raven could lose everything, including their souls. As the mysteries behind the boys’ powers, as well as her role in their earthly mission, unfold, Nikki is faced with choices that will affect the future of an entire race of heavenly beings, as well as the precarious equilibrium of the earthly world.

(Description from Amazon)

It sounds rather exciting, and after months of poring over reviews from Amazon and debating, I made the plunge and bought the book. Normally, I’d end up with a prize read and a “phooey you” to the naysayers. Sadly, they proved to be right this time.

I wanted to like the story. I really did. The story starts out strong, placing us with Nikki, the protagonist of the story, right in the middle of a terrifying chase with hellhounds. Then things go downhill. Nikki is presented as the epitome of the modern self-assured woman. She is a karate master who wins trophies in the contests she enters, drives a motorcycle, and is a talented artist. But behold Mace, the Halfling. At his appearance, her brains turn to mush, and her speech fades, for he is…hot.

Not to be outdone, here comes Raven, the bad boy Halfling with his pathetic attempts at snark that will never come close to matching Iron Man. And he too is…hot.

And there is Vine, he with the long womanly hair who also is…hot.

By now, you should get the gist of the story. Instead of it going somewhere with a solid plot and real character development, it plods along agonizingly with Nikki’s attempts to understand the Halflings and her inexplicable attraction (simple lust, really) to Mace and Raven. Vine, apparently, who is just as attractive, is too young and of course would never fit into the proverbial love triangle.

Some reviewers claimed they didn’t like the religious overtones in the story. I was like, “where are they?!” Yes, God and angels are mentioned, especially since the Halflings are part angel due to being the offspring of fallen ones.

But that’s it. What we are treated to is a trip down Nikki’s hormonal lane where she feels a hot thick stream through her system, and how hard it is to breathe in the presence of the god-like Halflings.

It’s not a big book. Maybe a little over three hundred pages. But it felt long. I had to stop several times while I waited for my disgust to subside long enough to continue. And continue I did. I plugged away through the drivel and then reached the end, a hastily rushed climax that sets things up for the next installment in the series.

Halflings seeks to be the Christian alternative to Twilight, but all it can do is show that Nikki is hot; Mace is hot; and Raven is hot. And the story itself doesn’t even reach the halfway mark into being a story, let alone a Christian one.

Verdict: pass

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