Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Grace in the Shadows, by Christine Dillon

Grace in the Shadows, by Christine Dillon | Christian fiction, Australia, Bible storytelling, cancer, family
Grace in the Shadows, by Christine Dillon (2018)

Author Christine Dillon’s fiction tackles some of the hard issues that Christians face in the real world. In Grace in Strange Disguise, the challenge was “what happens when the prayer of faith doesn’t heal?” In Grace in the Shadows, it’s “how—and why—would God love me, after what I’ve done?”

Book one’s Esther believed her faith wasn’t good enough, and book two’s Rachel believes she isn’t good enough. They both must overcome negative father influences and false ideas of who God really is.

Readers of book one will be glad to see Esther and her family again. Grace in the Shadows is Rachel’s story, but Esther has plenty of point-of-view time as well.

Rachel is resisting God’s call, while Esther, who’s been growing in faith, comes face-to-face with the realization that she needs to re-learn some of the lessons He’s already walked her through. Isn’t that typical of most Christians in our spiritual lives?

What keeps the Grace books from feeling preachy is that the conversations about God and faith are natural to the characters and their struggles. It’s kind of like eavesdropping on real people who are working these things through in their lives. Here are some of the lines that resonated with me:

“God loves to take the worst things and bring good out of them.” [Naomi, Kindle location 202]

Esther always wanted to rush in and explain, but Joy kept saying, “Use questions, not explanations.” [Kindle location 856]

“Your mistakes can’t derail God’s plans. You and I aren’t big enough to do that.” [Naomi, Kindle location 1801]

I didn’t engage as fully in this story as in the previous one, but I attribute that to the different subject and to having already encountered the Bible storytelling theme in book one. There is perhaps a storyteller voice to the narrative, instead of the deeper point of view that’s common these days, and this can make it easier to maintain a bit of reader distance. Yet the novel is well-executed, and the characters’ experiences are worthy of our time and can encourage us in our own daily lives.

And the ending is beautiful.

Christine Dillon is a missionary whose tag-line is “multiplying disciples one story at a time,” and the author of the Grace fiction series. She has also written non-fiction books about the Bible storytelling approach. For more about the author, visit storytellerchristine.com.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

Review: Asrian Skies, by Anne Wheeler

Asrian Skies, by Anne WheelerAsrian Skies, by Anne Wheeler (2017)

Avery Rendon needed special permission to leave her home planet, Asria, to join the interplanetary Commonwealth forces as a pilot. Asria’s government has many restrictions, especially for a member of the royal family. Add to that her doubts about her culture’s faith, and she’s happier elsewhere.

Naturally she finds herself back on Asria, embroiled in all she wanted to escape—and then things get worse. When Asria is invaded, she must do her part to fight the oppressors without pushing them far enough to kill her.

Interacting with those she trusts—and those she doesn’t—not only shapes her as a leader but it makes her take a second look at faith.

Asrian Skies is well-crafted, with unexpected twists and reversals. It’s a bit heavier in places than I’m used to (the planet is under occupation by a brutal enemy after all) but it’s not graphic.

Anne Wheeler writes character-driven Christian science fiction. The sequel to Asrian Skies, Unbroken Fire, is now out. For more about the author and her books, visit anne-wheeler.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Firewall, by DiAnn Mills

Firewall, by DiAnn Mills | Christian suspenseFirewall, by DiAnn Mills (Tyndale, 2014)

An explosive start, and the pace accelerates from there.

Taryn expected to be on her honeymoon. Instead she’s wanted by the FBI, and the man she married may not be who she thinks he is.

Meanwhile, someone wants to hijack the software project she headed—if they succeed, they can cause mass destruction on a global scale.

FBI Special Agent Grayson Hall must convince her to trust him—if he can keep up with her. And if he can keep them both alive.

I liked Taryn and Grayson, and Grayson’s Uncle Joe. I enjoyed the fast pace, and the way the story wasn’t too dark despite the danger. It did get a little heavy at the end, but not extremely so.

Taryn has a lot to deal with: physical injury, her supposed husband’s deception, danger and death on all sides. The crisis draws her to risk trusting not only Grayson but God.

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author of Christian romantic suspense. Firewall is Book 1 in her FBI: Houston series. For more about the author and her books, visit diannmills.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: When the Smoke Clears, by Lynette Eason

When the Smoke Clears, by Lynette EasonWhen the Smoke Clears, by Lynette Eason (Revell, 2012)

Alexia, Serena, and Jillian were inseperable until high school graduation—when Jillian fled, terrified by something she couldn’t tell even her closest friends. Alexia left too, desperate to get away from an abusive home life. Serena and Alexia kept in touch over the years, but neither of them know how to find Jillian.

Now, ten years after graduation, Alexia nearly dies fighting a fire—because her equipment was sabotaged. While she’s off work, she decides to go home to visit Serena… and face her estranged mother, since the woman is in hospital.

Can her mother really have changed, like Serena says? And what’s with Serena, Alexia’s mother, and even Hunter Graham (last seen making eyes at her at graduation, now a handsome-and-single cop in town) telling Alexia that God loves her? That He thinks she’s worth something?

More urgently, who keeps trying to attack her? And why?

When the Smoke Clears is a thriller first, with romantic and spiritual sub-plots. It’s also book 1 in the Deadly Reunions series, and while this book’s main plot resolves satisfactorily, the man who’s after Jillian is only getting more desperate. And Alexia’s and Serena’s lives may still be in danger.

Definitely a series I want to keep reading.

Lynette Eason is a multi-published author and a trusted name in Christian suspense. For more about the author and her books, visit lynetteeason.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Shadows’ Sorrow, by Galadriel Pittman

Shadows' Sorrow, by Galadriel PittmanShadows’ Sorrow, by Galadriel Pittman (publisher, 2018)

Raven and his horse, Taikon, are a telepathically-linked team of Deinya warriors, sworn to protect against the returning dark forces of the Rakon. As if their current quest weren’t hard enough, Raven becomes the unwilling master of an honourable thief – and the party grows from there.

Tara, the thief, is my favourite character in the book (except perhaps for Taikon the horse). She’s skilled at reading people and situations and knowing how to fit in and gain whatever information or goods she needs.

The world of Shadows’ Sorrow has a medieval feel, poised for a battle between the opposing light/dark forces and the people who serve each side. In this book we begin to see the history of this conflict and the prophecies which may help the Deinya to succeed. We begin to see characters grow, and they have the rest of the series to become who they’ll need to be to defeat the darkness.

I enjoyed the novel, and would like to see what happens next. It’s a clean read (purists might take objection to one or two words) and it introduces interesting characters with significant potential for growth and heroism.

Shadows’ Sorrow is book 1 in the Morovian Destiny series. For more about the author and her work, visit galadrielpittman.com.

Review: Always Watching, by Lynette Eason

Always Watching, by Lynette Eason. Elite Guardians book 1, romantic suspenseAlways Watching, by Lynette Eason (Revell, 2016)

Olivia Edwards is an expert bodyguard, but when she’s thrust into the key role in guarding psychologist Dr. Wade Savage from an obsessive stalker, the personal walls she’s built start to crumble.

Olivia must keep Wade and his daughter, Amy, safe and maintain a professional distance even as she and Wade discover a strong mutual attraction. But Wade and Amy’s faith may help her find her way back to God.

Always Watching is a fast-paced, enjoyable read, with a bit of a twist at the end. The characters are likeable, and it’s far too easy to keep reading “just one more chapter.”

Lynette Eason is a multi-published author of Christian romantic suspense. Always Watching is book 1 in her four-book Elite Guardians series. For more about the author and her books, visit lynetteeason.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Guilty Blood, by Rick Acker

Guilty Blood, by Rick AckerGuilty Blood, by Rick Acker (Waterfall Press, 2017)

The worst thing in Jessica Ames’s life was losing her husband in a construction accident. Until her son Brandon is arrested for a murder he insists he didn’t commit.

Afraid the public defender assigned to Brandon’s case won’t have the time or skill to prove his innocence, Jessica turns to Nate Daniels, a successful corporate lawyer who’s also a family friend. The feelings that develop between the two can only complicate matters.

Nate, Jessica, and the other lawyer, Sofia, scramble to find witnesses who can point to who really killed the victim, who had ties to an international group of human traffickers, while Brandon tries to survive life in jail.

Guilty Blood is an engaging, well-written legal thriller. It’s a clean read, including a few Christian characters whose faith comes out naturally in the story. Brandon’s doubts about God, and his anger at the injustice in his life, also comes out naturally.

One of the things I appreciated about the novel is that although it deals with horrific subjects like human trafficking and gang warfare, the content is neither sugar-coated nor traumatic. The author does a great job of presenting the realities while providing a “safe” read.

My favourite character is Kevin Fang, a 30-something computer genius on the Autism Spectrum, whose hacking is instrumental in finding many of the keys to the crime. Actually, I picked up this book after “meeting” Kevin in a novella by Rick Acker included in the Kill Zone box set.

The novel talks a lot about DNA and computer hacking, but never in a way that’s skim-worthy or that requires a PhD to understand. The possibilities are interesting—and disturbing.

As well as writing legal thrillers, Rick Acker is a Supervising Deputy Attorney General. For more about the author and his work, visit rickacker.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: The Wounded Shadow, by Patrick W. Carr

The Wounded Shadow, by Patrick W. CarrThe Wounded Shadow, by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House, 2018)

This is one of those books I didn’t want to end. It felt so good to be back with these characters, even in their overwhelming struggle, and I found myself rationing the reading time to make it last.

Willet Dura, the hero, has been my favourite all along, and I became very fond of Mark early on in this book.

The Wounded Shadow is the third and final book in the Darkwater series, and it’s not one to pick up if you haven’t started at the beginning. The scope is vast, and enough has happened that a reader starting here would feel lost.

In this, book three, the hints and threads set out in previous instalments come together in satisfying and surprising ways. Even nearing the end, I couldn’t see how this conflict could find a satisfactory conclusion, but it did.

I confess I didn’t fully understand part of the ending, but that’s me, not the writer. I need to re-read it and to talk to others who’ve also finished the story. For now, my limited understanding doesn’t diminish my sense that this is a rich, immersive series that I look forward to re-reading in the future.

I highly recommend the series, and suggest readers begin with the free ebook-only novella (you can read it on your phone if need be) By Divine Right. The rest of the series is available in print and ebook versions, and it’s too good to miss even a bit. Great characters, epic story, lots to love… even some humour.

This is Christian fiction with an allegory feel, and definitely without pat answers or anything trite or simplistic. As with everything else in the series world, the faith is complex and nuanced.

As well as the Darkwater Saga, Patrick W. Carr has also written The Staff & The Sword series (also highly recommended). For more about the author and his books, visit patrickwcarr.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Dark Star, by Creston Mapes

Dark Star, by Creston Mapes (Multnomah, 2005) Dark Star, by Creston Mapes

Rock idol Everett Lester has dragged himself and his band from sordid beginnings to the peak of fame—and into as many excesses and vices as he can find. Through it all, two women hold increasing influence in his life: Endora Crystal, his personal psychic, and Karen Bayliss, a young stranger whose letters say she’s praying for him.

The novel is written in two intertwining threads: Everett’s past leading up to his present, and his present, told in the form of an autobiography written from prison while he’s on trial for murder.

It’s a dark tale of redemption, with elements of spiritual warfare and the occult. Some readers may be uncomfortable with scenes of Endora’s tarot cards in use. She does have power, which Christian readers would recognize as not the power of the occult but the power of the devil working through her.

I found the book a good read, although some aspects of the ending didn’t work for me. What I enjoyed was watching Everett discover the Light and then learn how to live it out as his world fell apart.

I love what Karen says to Everett at one point:

What do you think, that God’s looking at you going ‘Oh my! This Lester is a bad one… I better stay away from him, or he’ll rub off on Me?’ You think you scare Him? You think He doesn’t know your problems or can’t overcome your sin? He’s God, for heaven’s sake. [page 172]

Good message for any of us.No one's too far gone for redemption. If you liked Dark Star, try Heaven's Prey.

Dark Star was Creston Mapes’ first novel, followed by book 2 in the Rock Star Chronicles series, Full Tilt, and a number of Christian suspense novels. For more about the author, visit crestonmapes.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: By Darkness Hid, by Jill Williamson

By Darkness Hid, by Jill WilliamsonBy Darkness Hid, by Jill Williamson (Enclave Publishing, 2009)

In a world where orphans are physically branded as “strays” and subject to suspicion and abuse, Achan Cham has reached his teen years and somehow maintained a compassionate heart and a dry wit. Coming of age brings an unexpected opportunity to leave his kitchen drudgery and train as a knight’s squire—which thrusts him into conflict with the prince soon to be crowned king.

Then he starts hearing voices in his head, and discovers the legends of “bloodvoicing” are true. Those with the gift (he’d call it a curse) can communicate mentally across great distance.

Vrell Sparrow is a young noblewoman hiding out as a boy stray so she won’t be forced to marry the prince. She, too, has the gift, and there are those who want her secrets—and her service.

Many citizens follow pagan idols, but Vrell serves the one true God, known in this world as Arman. Achan only knows of the local goddess, and she doesn’t seem to have paid him any attention throughout his harsh life.

The author’s website describes By Darkness Hid as an “epic medieval fantasy tale.” The characters are engaging, the settings are rich and interesting, and there’s trouble rising in this land which is already half in the shadow of Darkness.

The teen protagonists may make this a young adult novel, but I fully enjoyed it as an adult, and look forward to finishing the series.

By Darkness Hid is book 1 in the Blood of Kings series. It Christy Award for Visionary (2010), ACFW Carol Award Nominee for Speculative (2010). Jill Williamson has also written The Kinsman Chronicles and other speculative tales. For more about the author and her work, visit jillwilliamson.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]