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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

Epic Cover Reveal!   4 comments

And what do you know, another post without having to wait three or four months for it. Wonder if I’ll be able to do it again. 😉
But in the meantime, I wanted to share with all of you the remade covers for The Dark Wolf and Crown of Ravens. 😀
It’s amazing how far I’ve come as an artist, and I really do thank God for granting me the skill to do this stuff without having to hire someone for the job. Now The Heart of Light Trilogy is finally getting the covers it deserves. 🙂

Art below is mine and copyrighted. Full list of stock credits can be found here at my DeviantArt page: rreddvar.deviantart.com

Any who wish to buy the books, feel free to check them out on Amazon. 😉 http://myBook.to/TDW

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My Return   2 comments

Well, after another long hiatus, I thought I would finally get this blog back in running order. I won’t bore you all with lengthy descriptions of how busy I’ve been, but suffice it to say, I’ve organized my slate so I can start being active across all the social media platforms I’m on. For the past few months I’ve mainly been hanging out on DeviantArt and honing my skills as an artist. But I haven’t forgotten my writing, and I have been making progress on the third and final book in the Heart of Light trilogy. I’ve been working on updating the covers for the first two books, one of which is almost complete and the other which is in development stage. I figure since I got the skill, it’s time these books got the covers they deserve. And just because I’m still tickled about it, I thought I’d post a bit of news. I made a book cover and entered it in a cover redesign contest a little while back which, to my delight, not only won second place but was so well liked by the author of the original cover that she swapped hers for mine. *takes moment to do happy dance*

 

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Posted September 5, 2016 by J.M. Christian in Random Thoughts

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Batman v Superman   Leave a comment

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Finally decided to drop by and post after what seems forever. And what better thing to start off with than a movie review? Be aware that there will be some spoilers, so read at your own risk.

Now though I am a Marvel fan, I enjoy DC as well, and was eager to see their own cinematic universe take off. Regardless of what anyone says, Man of Steel was a decent film and one of the best for Superman, so I was excited to see the followup.

Having now watched the next entry in the DC cinematic universe, I will be honest and say I can understand where the naysayers are coming from. While it’s my personal belief that critics enjoy only the crap of movies, their criticism does have some merit.

Batman v Superman runs almost two and half hours, and the first half is a bit of struggle. The very beginning starts out well enough with recapping (yet again) the death of Bruce’s parents and his encounter with bats. Then we switch to that scene in Man of Steel where Superman engages General Zod, only this time it’s with Bruce from the ground. The frantic rush to save the employees of Wayne Tower flows well, conveying the terror and frenzy of the moment, and shows us why Batman distrusts Superman so much.

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After than, though, things seem to take a dive. The story does not flow well, with scenes being thrown in the wrong place and getting chopped prematurely. The political turmoil over Superman and references to his “savior qualities” sprinkled throughout the film, rather than enhance the film, actually feel more distracting than anything else, and seem to have little impact on the rest of the world. What little you do see is regulated to nothing more than the brief clips you saw in the trailers, instead of being fully fleshed out. Lex Luthor only serves to muddy the waters, with his little story to go against Superman thrown in chopped up little pieces. When it comes to villains, I like them smart, ruthless, and to possess a modicum of dignity. A villain who comes across as geeky and acts like a dork is not very compelling. Not to mention there was no reason given as to why he hated Superman and Batman so much.

The nightmares Bruce has that are scattered in the first hour are another problem. The smart thing to do would have been to show the reason why Bruce was having these dreams, whether it was a magical object or some mysterious force manipulating things. Instead, it’s like he just dozed off and had some of the most interesting visions of the century. I will say, though, that I did enjoy the part where he tackles the Superman soldiers, as well as the part with the Flash.

Contrary to what the critics and a lot of viewer say, I did not find the film very dark at all. Not that it isn’t, but when you compare it to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, it does not even contain half of the darkness in those. The action, sadly, is lacking as well. I don’t have to have violence from the beginning to the end of a show like the Avengers, but it probably would have helped tremendously to have had at least one decent action scene in the midst of the confusion.
The second hour is where, I think, things improve mightily. The character development gets better, and the action finally kicks into gear. Even Lex improves.

The actual fight between Batman and Superman was shorter than I expected, but I really couldn’t find fault with that. After all, you can only prolong a fight between the two for so long. And while I could understand why some people would question why Martha’s name would suddenly stop Batman from killing Superman, I actually did not mind it. The way I saw it was this: Batman is still grieving for his mother. He could do nothing to stop her death. All he could do was stand there and watch (something he also had to do when Superman and Zod laid waste to the city, hence the rage factor) and in a strange way, saving Superman’s Martha is like a chance to save his own. And that’s one thing I have to give Snyder kudos for, and that is finally acknowledging the moms behind the heroes.

The rest of the film centers on the fight with Doomsday, which I personally would have saved for a solo Superman film instead, but again, it was enjoyable and not something I’d quibble about. And while I can’t say I was thrilled with the ending, knowing things will be resolved in Justice League provides some peace of mind.

So my opinion on the film on a whole? It certainly is an ambitious undertaking, but one that does not quite meet the mark. But while it certainly isn’t the best superhero film ever made, it certainly isn’t the worst. There are some fantastic action scenes, and the performances of Cavil, Affleck, and Gadot in their respective roles are above excellent. It’s a comfortable film and one I intend on watching again, despite the hiccups it goes through. And in the meantime, I shall wait for Justice League and hope that it will give a better story than its predecessor.

Justice League

(DISCLAIMER. All credit for these images goes to the copyright owners. No copyright infringement intended. These are posted for review purposes only.)

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