Book Review: ‘Nine’ by Rachelle Dekker

Dekker knows how to write a page-turner that keeps the reader on their seats. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy her stories. In this story, we have 3 combatants who are all in various stages of dealing with their pasts. 

Zoe Johnson, comes from a traumatic family situation and has spent many a day in front of psychologists and other people who apparently seek to help her and her brother. She meets Lucy, a lost runaway, who happens to wander into Zoe’s cafe where she works as a waitress. Zoe soon discovers Lucy is on the run and trying to get somewhere 700-odd miles away in Corpus Christi. And there are some serious people who want to find her and won’t stop until they do.

Enter Agent Seeley, the lead pursuer. He too has a past that has led him to surrender to the darkness in himself which makes him a perfect agent: uncaring, unflinching in his duty.

It’s exciting and Dekker keeps up the pace so those pages keep on turning. We discover Lucy is part of a human experiment (she’s Number Nine), commissioned and approved by the President. She reminded me a bit of an American equivalent of Angelina Jolie’s Russian ‘Salt’ – Lucy is a trained mercenary with very special skills.

It’s hard saying much more without giving spoilers. It’s thoroughly entertaining but I will warn you there is a lot of close hand killing which some readers may not appreciate.

But it’s the struggle the 3 of them have with their own identities that takes the story to another level. Are we resigned to be who someone else wants us to be or defined by what happened in our past? Can we chose to be someone else? Fascinating themes. But this is where I struggled a little with the story. If it was a secular novel then all is good – some of the conclusions and discussions wouldn’t have fazed me. However, who we are and who we were made to be are pivotal aspects of our stories and a relationship with God helps us to unravel it. I feel the novel missed an opportunity to present a powerful picture of how a relationship with God does this.

I’m hoping there’s more to come in these three characters stories as Dekker has really only touched the surface and be fun to explore both their backstories and their futures.

I received an early ebook copy of the novel being a member of the Revell Reads program via NetGalley but with no expectation of a favourable review.

Book Review: Persian Betrayal by Terry Brennan

This is a thrilling continuation of The Ishmael Covenant. I’d encourage any readers to read that one first before diving into the second. This story builds upon the first one and is a tremendous mix of fulfilment of Biblical prophecy, Middle Eastern political tensions, America’s role in global affairs and supernatural intervention.

Brennan gets the chance to further develop his main characters. Brian Mullaney and Atticus Cleveland are excellent characters; men conflicted in their roles both because of their family situations and their Christian belief in the Word of God. It’s inspiring and convicting. How would I response if placed in a similar conflict?

The story moves fast. Brennan uses short scenes to keep us engaged with all the various players in Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Washington DC. It can be confusing at first but all the moving pieces soon begin to gel in one’s mind the longer the story goes.

I particularly enjoyed the stronger supernatural aspect of this story. We met the Turk in book one and what an evil creature he is. He continues to wreak havoc in order to wrest control of the Vilna Gaon box and prophesy away from the good guys. And then we’re introduced to Bayard, an equally imposing knight in shimmering armour. I’m looking forward to what these two bring in Book three.

I also appreciated how Brennan developed Mullaney’s faith in this story. He handled this very well and I hope we see more of this in the next edition with his relationship with God playing an even more influential role.

The story ends on a cliffhanger and so I trust Mr Brennan will get book 3 out soon so we can all discover how this riveting drama ends.

I received a PDF copy of the story from Kregel working alongside ‘I Read with Audra’ blog tour with no expectation of a favourable review.

Book Review: Cross Shadow by Andrew Huff

I really enjoyed the first in the Shepherd Suspense series and was eagerly awaiting to read the second one. However, I found it didn’t really meet my expectation. It’s interesting how many second novels in a series can seem a bit flat but interestingly, more often than not I find the third one wraps up the series in a similar manner to how it started.

What I found most disappointing about this story was that I didn’t feel there was anything new. Sure, we’re thrown into a new plot scenario but the action scenes were similar and I didn’t feel there was any real chemistry between John Cross and Christine Lewis and wondered why there was a seemingly romantic connection between them. At times, Christine barely appeared to like John.

The story begins with Christine. Her step-brother, Philip, has been arrested for the murder of a work colleague. Christine heads to Dallas to help her brother, and John pursues her fearful she will get into some danger. Well, he was right about that. The baddies soon get involved and for much of the second half of the book we see John, in particular, get himself out of some precarious situations as the aforementioned seek to kill him.

The story around the bad guys takes over, and the original matter of Philip’s role in the murder gets lost, even though the two are linked. Huff loves car chases and used them extravagantly in book one. This time they play an even bigger part. There are two chase scenes that probably take up about 20% of the novel. To his credit, Huff makes them incredibly visual but sometimes one loses track of the detail. I skimmed over much of the second one because I got bored. I hope Huff leaves the car chase behind for book 3 as I feel they’ve lost their impact and would encourage him to find an alternative device to ramp up the visual action.

Yes, there is a Mission Impossible feel about the story and it’s easy to turn the pages as the pace is always fast and exciting. The most fascinating aspect to the series is John Cross and his faith and his vocation. Can he be an effective pastor when his heart longs for the thrill and chaos of the CIA life? We see the grapple and Huff uses Cross’s head church elder, Gary, to serve as a form of intercessor which is done well, but the overall struggle is mostly sidelined by the action.

I liked how Huff brings together a couple who are trying to develop a relationship and clearly following traditional conservative practices. However, the long distance aspect of their relationship inhibits it plus Cross’s uncertainty about his vocation and Christine’s young faith. But as I mentioned I struggled to see any real chemistry between the two nor any real deep connection that gave me hope there is a future for them.

I do look forward to the next in the series simply because I believe John Cross has the potential to be developed into a really fascinating character.

I received a marked up copy of an early PDF version of the story from Kregel via ‘I Read with Audra’ launch services without any expectation of a favourable review.

Book Review: Ishmael Covenant by Terry Brennan

I loved this first instalment of the 3-part series. It’s a fantastic combination of thriller, historical conspiracy, Biblical prophecy, Middle Eastern complexity and one’s never sure where the line is drawn between fact and fiction.

There are a lot of players but Brennan supplies a ready-reckoner at the beginning. And there are a few plot lines thrown at us early in the story which takes a little working through but by around 40% of the way through it I was getting the hang of it.

This is a very plot driven story but Brennan gives us sufficient insights into some of the key players like Brian Mullaney, the DSS Head responsible for guarding the US Ambassador to Israel, Atticus Cleveland and his daughter, Palmyra Parker. There are a bunch of bad guys, one in particular, a mysterious ‘otherworldly’ type dubbed The Turk, who takes the story into a different realm for parts of it. I particularly appreciated how Cleveland had a strong faith, even when confronted with some hairy situations, that Mullaney was struggling in his faith and Palmyra had many questions about hers. I’m excited as to how these three navigate the rest of the story as regards their faith.

I found it enthralling and even though this story wraps up one of the key plot points there’s still much to resolve when it ends leaving us enthusiastically waiting for Book Two.

I received an ebook copy of the novel from the publisher via NetGalley being a member of Audra Jennings PR blog tour with no expectation of a favourable review.

Book Review: A Cross to Kill by Andrew Huff

This story starts fast and doesn’t really let up for the rest of it. John Cross is a ‘retired’ assassin who worked for the CIA and after giving his life to God determines to live the life of a small town pastor. However, his past won’;t let go of him.

It’s a good story especially as it’s not the usual thing we get to read in Christian fiction. Here is a man, grappling with being obedient to God, to his new calling while all the habits and thoughts so ingrained in his heart and mind seek to keep him from that obedience. It’s a fascinating insight into the struggle we all have to allow our hearts and minds to focus on the kingdom of God rather than the world we’re familiar to.

Cross is a good character and I’m excited to see how Huff develops him through the series. What I found intriguing in this first story Cross appeared more at ease in his old role, the assassin. When we see him as pastor, he’s a bit stiff and tied to what I’d describe as ‘religious’-type behaviours to keep focused on his pastoring. He was a traditional old school preacher who was still learning on the job. I hope we see his character develop where he warms to his pastoral role and more significantly, being a man who walks with God.

Christine Lewis is also a good character who is not your average journalist. She’s gutsy and feisty. I’m also looking forward to seeing how she develops in the series.

The action was intense and at times a little hard to visualise. I found that perhaps it went on for too long, particularly the car chases that covered multiple chapters. I hope as Huff develops he’ll be less reliant on using the same action tropes, eg, the car chase. However, he handles it all very well and keeps the pace fast which keeps the pages turning.

This is an intriguing series that I’m sure will develop into a really good one.

I received a complimentary ebook copy from Audra Jennings PR and Kregel via NetGalley with no expectation of a favourable review.

Book Review: ‘Rule of Law,’ by Randy Singer

This is the first Randy Singer novel I’ve read and I’m certain it won’t be the last. The combination of the legal, military, political and intrigue is compelling. Yes, some of the legal mumbo-jumbo and Supreme Court protocols were at times a bit tiresome but it wasn’t long before Singer brought us back to the human element. Special forces soldiers who were fighting for their country were killed in a bungled raid in Yemen. And now their loved ones had no father, no husband, no son, no brother and no explanation as to what really happened to their men.

Paige Chambers and Wyatt Jackson are two excellent creations. So different in style, mannerism and attitude but a terrific combination of youthful innocence and seasoned cynicism. And Amanda Hamilton, the President, was a leader with heart and courage to do what is best for the people of the nation not just make the right political move.

I suspect the story line borders on the truth – are the CIA effectively a rogue unit when operating outside the US without appropriate Congressional authority to act? When acts of war occur without appropriate authority are the executive branch protected by the “state secrets” provisions allowing such acts to not be properly brought to account and the perpetrators brought to trial?

Like many novels the novel is set up well and the first 200 pages are compelling. The story sagged a little in the middle as our lawyers went through their processes to testify in multiple court situations. But the last 50 pages or so are brilliant. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and I was kinda sad when it all came to an end.

I do hope Randy Singer has found himself a new hero that he can use in a series of JAG-style novels: Paige Chambers. I know I’ll certainly be reading that series.

If you enjoy watching TV shows like JAG and Madam Secretary you going to enjoy Rule of Law (without the soap opera that sometimes comes with TV shows).

I received a Net Galley copy of Rule of Law as part of the Litfuse Blog Tour with no expectations of a favourable review.

“Spirit Bridge,” James L Rubart

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Image courtesy of James L Rubart’s website

Spirit Bridge is the third and final episode in the Well Spring series. And wow, it sure finishes in a mighty way, so much so I’m very sad that it has now ended.

I’d suggest all readers read the first two in the series: Soul’s Gate and Memory’s Door, not just because they are fabulous novels but they provide a valuable introduction to this final episode.

This one starts where the last one ended, the Warriors Riding hoping to take some time out to rest and convalesce after the battle with Zennon and his demonic warlords. However, the Spirit has other ideas and it isn’t long before the battle is renewed and with tragic circumstances.

Two additional characters play pivotal roles. Simon, who we’ve met previously, and are never quite sure whose side he’s on. Rubart manages this ambiguity brilliantly. The second, Miyo, is in fact a new character and she plays an important leadership role in discerning the insidious plot of Zennon.

Brandon and Dana’s characters are well developed in this episode and I especially grew to like both of them. The romantic tension between them continues as an undercurrent but doesn’t distract the reader in developing empathy for them both.

What I particularly appreciated about this episode is how Rubart presents spiritual warfare in the context of the daily battle we all have in surrendering our desires and hopes to God. He explores it through Reece, Brandon and Dana demonstrating how each of them unknowingly allows the enemy to infiltrate through some form of self-glorification.

This culminates in a fantastic final battle scene that is magnificently described allowing the reader to visualize it effortlessly.

This is a wonderful series that so powerfully demonstrates spiritual warfare in a fictional context that is uplifting, challenging and thrilling in its suspensefulness.

I can’t recommend it enough and so look forward to reading Rubart’s next creation.

“Hacker (Outlaw Chronicles),” Ted Dekker

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Image courtesy of Worthy Publishing

My name is Nyah and I’m a hacker. I know things most people would never believe. Things that shouldn’t exist, but do.” 

Seventeen year old Nyah Parks is a genius hacker whose world is unraveling. Desperate and with no other choice, Nyah turns her programming skills to cracking the firewalls of the world’s largest corporations. She exposes their weaknesses, and then offers her services to secure their systems from hackers.

But when the most dangerous job of her life backfires and forces her to go on the run, she encounters an impossible reality that shouldn’t exist, but does.

A hack unlike any other. A hack that will take her beyond the firewall of the human brain itself. A hack, which may be the only way to save her mother now.

What if there was a way to tap into the unseen reality that surrounds us all? Would you hack in? How far would you go to find the answers to your deepest questions? The answer lies deep beyond the firewall.

As part of the FirstLook Blog Tour Worthy Publishing provided a Q&A with Ted Dekker which adds good background to the above teaser.

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Q&A with Ted Dekker – Blog Tour for “Hacker” (Outlaw Chronicles)

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Image Courtesy of Worthy Publishing

I was given the opportunity to participate in Worthy Publishing’s First Look blog tour for Ted Dekker’s latest novel: “Hacker”.

Hacker is the third installment of the “Outlaw Chronicles” which Dekker describes as follows:

“THE OUTLAW CHRONICLES consist of EYES WIDE OPENWATER WALKER and HACKER. Although related through one common character, Stephen, they can be read in any order.

Written in the vein of Ted’s thrillers like Thr3e and Blink, these are transformational stories that take the reader on an intense ride full of twists that unravel the deep mystery or reality in ways rarely seen.

To discover the profound origin story of how Stephen came to live out of the law of darkness, read Ted’s novel by the same name: Outlaw.”

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“Raptor 6,” Ronie Kendig

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Image courtesy of Shiloh Run Press

This first instalment in “The Quiet Professionals” series has everything we’ve come to love about Kendig’s writing: thrills a plenty, heart-pounding pace, solid character development, great military heroes, some crazy mad bad guys and a love story in a war zone.

But in this novel, it’s wonderful to see how Kendig has excelled in upping the ante so everything I’ve mentioned is even better.

What I’ve always loved about Kendig’s writing is her tremendous craftsmanship in drawing the reader into her war zone. In Raptor 6 it is no exception. She takes us right into the thick of it. We can feel the tension, hear the guns being fired, smell the sweaty testosterone within the cramped confines of the military vehicle and taste the grittiness of the dust.

And then there’s the love story. A young military leader passionately responsible for leading his small troop go where very few dare but emotionally wounded by events of the past. Torn by serving his nation and opening his heart to what has only led to heartbreak in his past.

The soldier soon meets a striking American but with Afghani blood and an absolute ripper of a name: Zahrah Zarrick. The daughter of a military hero who has returned to her mother’s homeland to bring hope to the children who know no other life than living in a war zone.

Zahrah falls hard for her soldier hero, he reminds her of her father, the decorated General. But it’s her faith and willingness to die serving God that attracts me the most to Zahrah. Kendig handles this well in demonstrating the challenge it can be when faced with terrible consequences for one’s faith.

I’ll stop there before I start giving too much of the engrossing story away.

This is a great start to the series and I can’t wait for next one.