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The Bible is ripe with great stories. I believe there is a very good reason for it to be called The Good Book. It is filled with larger-than-life tales that just scream to be given an epic fantasy treatment, while holding onto the Truth that is at their core.
Among those tales, the biggest and boldest, in my view, is the story of Noah and his iconic Ark. It has everything: adventure, faith, impossible odds and a truly inspiring ending. And it is my great honor and blessing to say that I have found a novel that truly does justice to the story of Noah, giving it a fresh perspective while keeping the Truth in it intact.

The book is called ARMY OF GOD, and it is written by Mr. Dennis Bailey, to whom I extend my gratitude for the copy he graciously provided. With this in mind, DISCLAIMER: The views herein are my own. This kind of book deserves nothing less.

I think the author chose the style of the novel very well. From the very beginning, it all feels so cinematic, as people seek to take Eden by storm.
I loved how the author tried his hand at a bunch of different genres altogether with the book. At some point, it gets going in a sort of whodunit direction, as a mysterious killer leaves a trail of bodies behind, as if in a ritual. And the whole concept of an „Army of God” just SCREAMS IMAX material, and would make an infinitely better version of the Noah story than the confusingly lukewarm movie that came out some years ago, with Russell Crowe in the leading role. This story is never mind-boggling and never preachy. I love the struggle that Noah has with coming to terms with his mission from God. A cardboard-cut, Sunday School Noah would have just gone with it, and his family would have followed him without hesitation. But this interpretation gives them all flesh-and-blood human faces, and Noah is often considered mad by his own family. This is only hinted at in the Bible, as far as I can remember it, but fleshed out in an amazing manner here.
But what I loved the most about the book is how gradual the whole story arc with the animals is. It starts out with two lions, which is a big enough challenge for a family still struggling to figure out what God wants from them. And then it slowly but surely encompasses all of the living things on Earth. The final battle between the animals and the enemies of Noah is worthy of the big screen without any hesitation. The whole feud between Eden and Enoch comes crashing down in a final epic confrontation worthy of Tolkien.

I think this book has the most compellingly drawn villain I have ever read in a piece of Christian fiction, in the person of Bohar. I have never enjoyed the feeling of being disgusted by the appearance and actions of a villain as much as I did here. You are gonna love hating this dude.

This solid, amazingly well-written piece of Biblical fiction that hardly feels like a debut has earned my appreciation and respect. 10 out of 5 solid stars. Thank you, Mr. Bailey! Great work!

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In my previous review, I was talking about a novel called THE OCCUPIED, the first in a series featuring a character named Trevor Black, written by Craig Parshall. That book was all that a solid Christian thriller needs, so my expectations were naturally high.
The sequel, called THE EMPOWERED, did not fulfill those expectations. I should say that it did not ONLY fulfill them. It surpassed them completely.

The thing I loved the most about the first book returns here in spades. I am talking about the relationship betweeen Black and his gift. He is, indeed, a holy warrior. But he is hardly the perfect, spotless and invincible kind of warrior that could be expected. He struggles with his gift, which is a breath of fresh air to read. Plus, the stakes are much higher, as his daughter, Heather, a cultural anthropologist researching voodoo in New Orleans, enters the fray. As Black investigates a voodoo-based murder, he and his daughter enter a race against time to uncover a sinister plot involving two very dark enemies: voodoo and child pornography.
As its predecessor does, this book tackles controversial and intense subjects head-on, and that is something to be applauded. Evil is not turned into a cartoon character here, it is shown in all its ugliness and perversity. And I loved how the author captured the spirit of New Orleans, both its vibrant side and its dark, gritty underbelly. The twists and turns in this book feel like riding shotgun in a high-speed chase. I loved every page of it. A true testament to the power of God and the blessing of fatherhood, THE EMPOWERED will surely be remembered as a classic of Christian thrillers.
Solid five outta five for this one too!

God bless you, Mr. Parshall. Keep them coming!

The views herein are my own, and I am grateful to Mr. Parshall for the copy of his work he was kind enough to send.

The supernatural has always fascinated me. Ever since I was a kid, stories of the battle between good and evil were instrumental in my spiritual development.
The character in the book that I am about to review, Trevor Black, knows all about spiritual warfare, because he finds himself at the forefront of it.
The main character of the eponymous series by Mr. Craig Parshall(who was gracious enough to send me signed copies of his two novels in the series), Trevor Black is a man apart. Once an accomplished criminal lawyer, Black is able to sense demons, and thus selected by God to do battle against the forces of darkness.
The thing about supernatural Christian fiction, and something that Mr. Parshall does with gusto, is that preachiness should especially be avoided, lest the threat comes across as cheesy and one-dimensional. This is definitely not the case here. Trevor is plunged into a world that, at first, is beyond his understanding. And I loved how the book begins with a young metalhead reading a cheap-thrills type of horror novel scoffing at Trevor for reminding him of the reality of evil. The sort of stuff that he has to face is straight out of a Stephen King novel. In fact, I think the book reads very much like what would happen if Stephen King, William Peter Blatty and Lee Child were to team up and write a supernatural story. I loved how Black and his walk with the Lord are portrayed, starting with him as a rebel youth and continuing with his reluctance to accept the gift he is given. This is not the hokey-pokey „I saw the Light and now I am kicking demon butt” stuff some people might be tempted to take lightly.The villains are truly horrifying, and the suspense is really well done. Readers will follow a struggling, deeply flawed hero on a journey he is initially less than willing to embark upon, and cheer him on as he grows into a confident warrior of God. This is a book that does not shy away from heavy topics, so those who expect a Sunday-school, simplistic tale in which evil is cartoonishly ridiculous and good means spotless should look somewhere else. The trials and tribulations of Trevor Black are not for the faint-of-heart, as he faces a horrible string of ritualistic murders, with friends and enemies coming from the most unlikely of places. Oh, and the ending? That will set you up for the second book just fine, as our hero makes a discovery that will change everything he thought he knew about himself. What that discovery is, and how Trevor Black cracks his first gritty, scary case, I will let you discover on your own. You will be a spiritually richer person for it! Five of five for a solid Christian supernatural thriller. Thank you, Mr. Parshall. Great job!

Disclaimer: The views herein are my own and it is a blessing to say so.

I have previously stated my fascination with Beethoven. I see him as the most iconic figure in music, and a living monument of perseverance and tenacity. I think he is the closest thing to a rockstar ever to emerge from the classical music scene. The intensity of his Fifth Symphony is earth-shattering and the triumphant vibration of the Ode to Joy can literally bring nations together. If there is a name that is worthy of being called a musical titan, that name is Beethoven.

What fascinates me more than his unmistakable music, however, is the sheer humanity of Beethoven, the consuming passion within him, the stubbornness befitting a tortured soul, the desire to be the foremost of his craft, the thundering anger.

I had the pleasure of rediscovering this startlingly human Beethoven in the debut novel of Ms. L.A. Hider Jones. The book, called MY INTERVIEW WITH BEETHOVEN, is one of the most vivid historical novels I have ever had the pleasure to read. The premise is awesome, and tantalizing without being lurid, and it turns a story about Beethoven into a profound, humorous meditation about the nature of truth and what makes human beings tick.

George Thompson is a young journalist who has had quite a run with bad luck. His mother is mentally ill, his stepfather is a bitter, harsh man, and he is in trouble with his boss. On top of it all, he finds out that he might be the son of the Lion of Vienna. Yes, that is the premise of this book: what if Beethoven had a son that was kept secret? How would that affect the life of the most iconic composer of his time? Is Beethoven more or less than the man he is made out to be? Is there any truth to this incredible tale? What is his true connection to Hannah Bekker, the troubled mother of the protagonist, who is seeking the truth? What is truth? All of these questions collide in an adventure that is filled with drama and humor, centered around the majestic, and yet overwhelmingly human figure of a Ludwig van Beethoven in the twilight of his career. I LOVED the portrayal of Beethoven. He is meant to stand out, he is a mess in an era where music and those who composed it where meant to be very orderly. If I were to make a comparison, I would say the Beethoven readers have the privilege to see here is a Pitbull among poodles. A larger-than-life, yet deeply flawed figure, who you will feel richer by knowing. A genius of staggering humanity. Oh, and I have been listening to his Fifth while writing this review. The feeling is beyond any words.
Although I am deeply thankful to Ms. Hider for the copy of her novel she provided me with, the views in this review are entirely my own. Ten out of five for a triumph of historical fiction. Thank you, Ms. Hider. A great job, if there ever was one.

Writing a coming-of-age novel is one of the trickiest endeavors an author might involve themselves into. Getting into the mind and heart of a character who is trying to figure out their way through life at a young age requires a great deal of authenticity. There is something special about it all.
„Special” is also the first word that comes to my mind in regard to the latest coming-of-age novel that I have had the privilege, and even blessing, to read.
The novel is called THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL, and while it is not the first effort by bestselling author Robert Dugoni, it is his first foray into a different genre(thriller buffs might know Mr. Dugoni for such books as THE JURY MASTER and MY SISTER’S GRAVE, the first books from the DAVID SLOANE and TRACY CROSSWHITE series respectively).

For a first venture into a different genre, THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL is impressive. I felt it from the description of the plot, and I was honored to receive an ARC of the book. With the not-that-subtle disclaimer out of the way, the following is my argument in favor of the statement above.

This book could’ve been just another small-town Catholic school tale. But Sam Hill has ocular albinism. A rare condition that gives him red eyes. And the cruel nickname “Devil Boy”, from the pupils of the Catholic school where he studied as a child. Raised by a devout mother and a practical-minded father, Sam goes through a great deal of bullying throughout his life, especially at the hands of his nemesis, the imposing, troubled David Freemon. Through his friends, Mickie Kennedy(a girl who always speaks her mind) and Ernie Cantwell(the only black kid at Our Lady of Mercy), Sam finds a great deal of support while dealing with Freemon and the stern, but also troubled Sister Beatrice. The bullying scenes in this book are like nothing I have ever read before. It’s harrowing, heartbreaking, but the enormity of it all never seems gratuitous. One cannot help but feel for Sam, and at the same time, commend him as he stands up to a brutal beating thinly disguised as a bicycle accident.

The “healthy perspective” that Sam Hill, nicknamed Sam Hell(from an exclamation at his birth), acquires due to his condition, called “extraordinary” by his mother Madeleine, helps him cope with a great deal of misfortune and tragedy in his life. Through a twist of fate(and there are many in this amazing book), he becomes an accomplished ophtalmologist in Burlingame, California. The way in which, as an adult, he is haunted by his traumatic past will have a decisive impact on him.

Each of the characters in this novel have their imperfections, which is another reason to love it. From Sam himself, who is constantly confronted with difficult choices, to his amazing parents, to Ernie and Mickie, you will end up wanting to have these people over for a cup of something and a chat. In my case, it really happened.

Faith plays a central part of the story without this being a preachy novel whatsoever. In fact, a further point of brilliance is the manner in which it is all addressed. The fact that Sam Hill endures bullying in a Catholic school is not meant to be a barb toward Catholicism or any religion, for that matter. Sister Beatrice might be a practicing Catholic who does nothing to stop the bullying, but Sam’s mother is a practicing Catholic who never loses faith in God, the Blessed Virgin, and her son. This might be the most respectful, dignified, and even-handed treatment of faith and religion I’ve ever encountered in a work of fiction.

Sam Hell has an extraordinary life, indeed. His heartrending story, masterfully told by Mr. Dugoni, is the coming-of-age novel that has the most relevance in my own life. And I’ve read a handful of them. Thus, it should not come as a surprise that THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL is officially my measuring stick when it comes to coming-of-age novels. For real. If someone recommends me a good coming of age novel, from now on, I will as if it’s Sam Hell good. I cannot thank you enough, Mr. Dugoni! Ten out of five for a book that has increased my soul!

I love horses. The combination of strength and calm that they are known to exude puts me at ease whenever I have the chance to experience it.
As such, when I found out about the book that I am getting ready to tell you about, I knew it would be an extraordinary read.

The book, called OUT OF THE WILD, is the first novel by acclaimed horse trainer Mark Rashid, tells a tremendous story of second chances, while educating its readers on a different sort of horse training method.

Henry McBride used to be a hard-working cattle rancher. Now, he is nothing more than a broken,grief-stricken shell of that man. His wife and child are dead. Gone forever, due to him falling asleep behind the steering wheel. Right before a fatal crash. Now, all he can do is drift from town to town looking for jobs and nursing a bottle. All seems lost.
Until he meets Jessie King. A woman looking to escape her own demons. A gifted trainer who creates powerful, inspiring bonds with horses. Through Jessie and a young gray Mustang stallion, Henry’s path to redemption begins.

What I loved the most about this book is the fact that it does little to romanticize the life of a cowboy. It does tell a story in which the fates of a broken-down man and a broken-down horse intertwine. But it also tells a story of abuse, toward both people and horses. Jessie’s past nightmares have a face and a name, Chad, and he has come back with a vengeance. The tension between him and Henry makes for the best “wannabe tough-guy gets a lesson” scenes I have read in a while. And I also love the old-school vibe that Henry exudes. When hearing that the protagonist is an alcoholic cowboy, one might scoff: “Haven’t I seen this before?” But, trust me, when you discover the layers of Henry McBride, see what makes the man tick, and get to see where his devotion to his trade comes from, you’ll love this man. He’s easily the most agreeable alcoholic character I’ve ever come across, and I’ll be having a hard time pronouncing harsh judgments on people who struggle with this from now on.

To those of you who love horses, this is a book that will provide a wealth of information about how they relate to us. To those who love Westerns with an inspirational twist that doesn’t sound preachy or corny whatsoever, this novel is a definite must. A finely wrought tale of second chances, OUT OF THE WILD gets its well-deserved ten outta five!
While Mr. Rashid was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the book, the views herein are my own. Thank you, Mr. Rashid. Great, great job! The future looks good for you as a fiction writer. Here’s to more good ol’fashioned country-tinged tales.

Christians find inspiration in Jesus Christ. He is the core of who we are and what we stand for. But what if, with the power of our imagination, we could do more than that. What if we could see the life of Jesus through His own eyes?

Fiction often offers a great manner of expression for Truth, and I am thrilled and blessed beyond belief to have found the particularly awesome piece of fiction I am just about to review. I am talking about a novel called IN THE FLESH -MY STORY, written by Mr. Michael Gabriele, whom I wholeheartedly thank for the copy of his work he agreed to send me.

The public ministry of Jesus is arguably the most well-known story in the entire history of mankind. And yet, what I love so much about it is that with each retelling I discover of it, it manages to stay fresh. And there have been remarkably few novels about Christ from His own point of view, which makes this book a further breath of fresh air.
Starting right before the very beginning of the public mission of Christ, the novel puts readers in the shoes of Jesus, which is an awesome narrative technique. This book makes it remarkably easy to picture a fully divine and fully human Jesus. It invites readers into the heart and mind of the One person in the history of mankind whose values have never lost their impact. It is definitely a feast of the imagination for the faithful and the unafraid. We see a Jesus who, before starting the work of his Heavenly Father, experiences the pangs of loss for His earthly one, a Jesus whose bond with His blessed mother Mary comes from deep within His heart. A Jesus with a remarkably warm and friendly voice, a compelling storyteller and a revolutionary thinker.
What I loved most about this book, though, were the moments in which Jesus experienced the all-too-human feeling of uncertainty over what to do in certain moments of His life, only to overcome them with the help of His Heavenly Father. And also, the love for His apostles is so vividly represented within the pages of this book, that one can almost literally feel it. I loved how, whenever choosing them, He focused on their strong points rather than their weaknesses. He did not look down upon them. And those who seek to understand the relationship that Jesus had with Judas will find the truly heartbreaking conclusion that Jesus reached about his betrayer as the definitive response to his heinous act.
If I were to choose my favorite scene in the book, however, it would be a little scene in the Temple, when Mary Magdalene brings a bunch of children around Jesus, to counter the slandering words of the Pharisees. There is a small moment in that scene, in which Jesus rubs noses with a little girl, and that made me so, so emotional, because it touches upon the essence of who Jesus is in such an intimately human and utterly innocent manner. And the way in which the Passion is retold…if there is one novel that made me want to go down on my knees and thank Jesus for what He chose to do, knowing fully well that He could have stopped at any moment, IN THE FLESH is that novel. An amazing, potentially life-changing look at the life of Jesus, IN THE FLESH gets a well-deserved ten out of five stars! Thank you, Mr. Gabriele. A fine, fine work!