Original Books

Original Books is the blog where you will find the best of Christian fiction reviews. We hope you enjoy this blog and that you keep up with us as we continue to post reviews. Make sure you check the Elite List, the list of books we have rated 4 stars and above and the coming soon list to see what will soon be posted. If you feel we have forgotten about an author or a book or have any questions please email us at originalbooks200@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tears of a Dragon by Bryan Davis

Now that Billy let the Watchers out of their prison in order to save his father, these evil spirits are roaming all over the earth, wreaking havoc wherever they touch, and attempting to distract Billy and company. When Morgan kidnaps Walter's sister Shelly in order to have a hostiam, they decide it's time to take drastic measures. Therefore, Billy and Bonnie enter Dragon's Rest, a place where the dragons come to rest when they die, since they have had no redeemer to let them into heaven. They are looking for three people in particular: Clefspeare, Merlin's wife, and Professor Hamilton's wife. Billy faces a hard decision there in which he must sacrifice himself to be a redeemer.

The entire concept of Dragon's Rest is an original setting, much like the concept of the candlestone. Bryan Davis returns to originality in Tears of a Dragon, but not completely. The first half of the book is littered with wasted time and situations with typical outcomes. The last chapters of the book and Dragon's Rest are the saving grace that puts this book on the Elite List.

The characters never developed any personality as they should have throughout the series, but most of them stayed realistic and imperfect throughout the series. Bryan's worst problem in the character area was unnecessary characters, but that was set straight in the end.

The basis of the series, translumination, comes too much in handy at times for the characters. In every book, Bryan seems to come up with a new way Excaliber can get the characters out of scrapes. However, the idea of translumination was well thought out and not mindless like some of the other ideas Bryan Davis has cooked up.

The ideas and legends about dragons Bryan invented were ingenious and original, thus creating a good basis for a series. These ideas, again, were not mindless most of the time in their origin. They instead were very persuasive in their content and were good enough to be real.

I wish I could rate the final book in this series five stars because of the highly original end, but there is too much clutter at the beginning keeping the book away from this honor. Nevertheless, this has been a good debut series and gives hope for Bryan Davis down the road. If he keeps this trend up, he'll have a five star in no time.

4.5 stars

The Chairman by Harry Kraus

Nathan McCallister was a police officer-until a tragic shooting ended his career and landed him in a wheelchair. He is a C3-4 quadriplegic, which means he has lost all use of his arms and legs. He relies on his mouth stick, his wheelchair, his wife Abby, and his hired attendants to help him preform simple daily tasks. Because of this, he has turned into a different person. He feels like a failure because he can no longer work a job. Abby's job is now the sole source of income, so she leaves there daughter home alone with Nathan. Nathan fears for his daughter because he would be inadequate if something were to happen to her. On top of that, Abby seems to hiding something from him-something that is keeping her from loving him the way she used to. On top of that, Nathan is trying to remember what happened the day he was shot. He can't seem to remember anything about the accident.

Dr. Ryan Hannah is a neurosurgeon who is obsessed with fixing the mistakes he's made in the past in order to successfully discover a cure for quadriplegics everywhere. But when the baboon he had been experimenting on suddenly disappears, he becomes frantic to discover a new subject. When he and Nathan cross paths, Nathan agrees to undergo experimental surgery by Ryan's hands.

Harry Kraus, as usual, demonstrates his expertise in the medical field with this novel. Any other author, even though they would research the subject, could not match his first hand experience in the field. His realistic writing style forces him to have to end his books realistically, thus creating five star books left and right. Harry has done it again.

As usual, Nathan, Abby, Ryan, and several other characters are very well-developed characters. Not only do they have personalities, but they are also all imperfect character. Nathan is not treated as a victim. Ryan is not, thank God, an evil genetic scientist like Harry could have easily portrayed him as. All the characters are very real, as Harry has become a master at.

The Chairman

is not marketed as suspense, and it is not suspense. I am so glad Harry did not try to force this book to be suspense. It is a normal plot, nothing dramatic or sensational.

The best part of the entire book is its original and realistic end. Not many authors out there would do what Harry did in this situation. This was a book whose rating pivoted on its ending, and Harry delivered again. He did not resort to a typical, public end that would have deserved a low rating, but he took the step forward to do something original.

The market needs more authors like Harry Kraus.

5 stars

DragonLight by Donita K Paul

When we review a book we usually have at least two of our judges read it and after a period of discussion one of them writes the final review. In this case the two judges had such differing views they could not be reconciled into a single review. Therefore we have decided to post two separate reviews of this novel that show the differing perspectives. First of all we all agree on the description so here it is:

Now that Amara has had rest from war, the dragon races are thriving. Kale and her father are taking care of dragons that are hatching left and right. The country seems to be at peace. But all is not well in Amara. A cult calling themselves the Followers of Paladin has appeared throughout the country. They claim to be revealers of the real truth of Wulder and Paladin. They are encouraging the seven high races to join their ranks and to donate money to their cause. Kale and Bardon set out to discover the meaning of this as they travel with Regidor and Gilda to find the lost meech colony. But then another disaster strikes. An enormous black dragon named Mot Angra is awakening from his deep slumber, and is causing earthquakes with his movement. Every time he sheds a scale, it turns into a vicious minor dragon. These small black creatures are swarming the countryside and wreaking havoc. As they are under attack at every side, Kale and Bardon must stand firm to defeat their foes.

Now the first review:

It is clear the Donita K Paul had no business writing this fifth addition in the DragonKeeper saga. The writing style is not at all like her normal self. It is choppy and disjointed, thus revealing that she threw this novel together just to have it.

Any personalities these characters had in the first four books are gone. They have become the typical non-characters you would expect from a fantasy novel. The only good character is Toopka, and it was about time she developed a personality. Gilda is the only character who retains her personality, but in the end, she turns into a perfect character. Toopka and Gilda are two of the only positive things in this book.


is another mindless quest to go with the other mindless fantasy quests on the market. The characters go here, the characters go there. A problem appears, the problem is fixed. And many things are fixed in the end. Here is a quick summary:

There appears to be four key character deaths at the end. In the end, they are brought back to life. One character is good example of the cost of having a gift-he is blind yet he has the power of premonition and foresight. This character's eyes are healed in the end. The inevitable showdown with Mot Angra ends predictably. A ridiculous CRT is the source of most of these healings and fixings.

Besides that, there are other typical plot ideas like pregnancy in the two married couples and cult mentalities. Also, Kale's myriad of minor dragons makes her and Bardon invincible. They can do anything by just calling a minor dragon. This combined with Kale's wizard powers makes them invincible. They never have to work for anything. Donita should have had Kale lose her powers at the end of the previous book and ended the series there. That would have the original thing to do.

Basically, what Donita has done with this novel is stoop to the level of all other cheap fantasy. The first four books in this series are above such cheap fantasy. I wish Donita had not ended her series on such a sour note.

At least there is hope for the future of Donita K Paul.

2 stars

Here is the second opinion:

Contrary to the opinion of my partner I quite enjoyed this novel. I certainly do not feel that it is perfect and acknowledge that it has several problems but it deserves a better rating than he assigned. First about those problems, most of them are contained in the final fifty pages something that is all too common for Ms Paul.

There is one silly object that seems to have the power to do almost anything namely healing and defeating enemies. Also I have grown a bit weary of Kale's entourage of powerful creatures. However Kale herself remains to be a good character and struggles with her own sinful nature in a way that adds great depth to the plot. She is far from perfect and at one point her powers are even limited for a time. I was also relieved that we did not have to endure yet another quest littered with battles with mordakleeps and grawligs. These same scenes were not missed as the heroes dealt with other enemies instead. Finally the other interesting aspect was that the cult involved is a very interesting group with an interesting explanation. Holt the marione continues to be an intriguing character and does not come to a perfect end. One particular tool invented by the seemingly all powerful Regidor has trouble functioning at some points a small thing that combined with several others creates a realistic element in the plot. The only way this book could have been improved would be to have a more imperfect end and tone down all of the powers a little. I know that on this site we are critical of healings in plots but sometimes they occur and I will not pull down an entire plot just because one occurs. Also I believe that the statement by my partner that there seemed to be four key character deaths is ridiculous. If the reader got this impression it was for about half of a page and similarly to the healing issue, I will not require there to be a death in order to approve of a plot. Deaths can add a realistic and original aspect to a plot but they are not necessary and this "false death" is nothing compared to some that have been pulled off.

Obviously there are differing opinions here but I think that if you look for the good you can certainly find it here. I am no faithful optimist who tries to shine the best light on every book I review and I still hold very negative opinions about several books, but when a book is not deserving of a bashing I am not afraid to defend it. I would similarly write a challenging review if my partner wrote one that I deemed too positive.

All in all this is a good fantasy plot especially when compared to other fantasies and young adult books that are on the market. It has its issues and it is not the best end to the series but Paul's creativity and ability to pull you into her world keeps this book Elite.

4 stars

Circles of Seven by Bryan Davis

Billy and Bonnie are called into a series of alternate dimensions called the Circles of Seven in order to free prisoners that have been bound there by Morgan, the evil sister of King Arthur. She wants to lure the two anthrozills to her so she can destroy them. Professor Hamilton continues to decipher Merlin's diary in order to guide the two chosen children through the circles safely. But when Bonnie becomes seriously injured, Billy must make a hard choice between saving the prisoners or saving his only true love.

I can't express to you how tired I am of plots like this. Circles of Seven is a cheap, mindless quest with all the trimmings-CRT's, near-death experiences, confrontations, showdowns, and the like. There nothing really special about this addition to the Dragons in Our Midst series.

The characters are slowly morphing into perfection with each book. Bonnie and Ashley lost whatever good characteristics they had in The Candlestone. Morgan is a typical, cheesy villain, complete with Literary Trash sayings at the push of a button and maniacal laughing. Also, the discovery of the knights in The Candlestone has created a sea of unnecessary characters without personalities.

Where Bryan Davis did well at thoroughly explaining fantastical elements in The Candlestone, he lacks that in Circles of Seven. There are several tools and procedures regarding alternate dimensions that confuse the reader because of lack of explanation. This is unprofessional, especially since he described things well in The Candlestone.

Other than those things, there is really no point to the book at all. I would say that it is a sidetrack from the original point of the series, but what is the point of the Dragons in Our Midst series? One interesting thing happens at the end of the book that serves to open up a new topic of exploration in the fourth and final installment of the series, Tears of a Dragon. It also serves to make sure everything doesn't turn out right.

I hope Bryan Davis discontinues his track of inconsistency as he continues to author books.

2 stars

A Son Comes Home by Joseph Bentz

Chris LaRue has returned to his hometown in Indiana for the first time since his brother David died tragically in a car crash. Chris finds his family the same as they were when he left. His ex-fiancee is still there, unmarried. Nothing has changed. Except his sister Robin. Robin confides a dark secret to Chris-she is pregnant by one of their father's young friends, Bobby. Chris observes that Bobby has been acting as a replacement for David to their father, since his father always loved David more than Chris. Robin fears for her father, because of his recent heart attack, if she tells him.

The first half of the novel basically fills time by introducing the characters and their pasts. As usual with Joseph Bentz, most of his characters have personalities, and none of them are perfect. However, nothing else worthwhile is accomplished in the first half of the book.

At the beginning of the second half is where things start to get interesting. Several bad choices are made by main characters, leading to interesting circumstances that do not end in a perfect fashion. Chris also reveals to the reader a long, complicated story about him and David that serves to explain several previously unknown aspects.

The end tops the book off complete with the originality Joseph was lacking in Cradle of Dreams and At Close of Day. He finally learned how to write a realistic end instead of a perfect, fluffy end. This is probably why people don't talk about A Son Comes Home.

But Joseph Bentz is nonetheless an underrated author who deserves more attention than some of the more popular authors on the market. However, the wasted time at the beginning of the book keep this book away form five stardom.

4 stars

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Poll Report for November 2009

During the month of November 2009, we asked our readers what their favorite author was according to the choices, so here are the results:

1. Robin Parrish\Brandilyn Collins (both 33%)

Since they are tied, we will send both authors to the final round, scheduled for April 2010.

2. Jerry B Jenkins (27%)

Jerry fell short, probably because of his low standing in the spec world.

3. Tim LaHaye (9%)

His popularity lies mostly in the non-fiction market.

4. Alton Gansky (0%)

Everyone must be tired of old Al. However, his standing in the spec world made me think he would get more than none.

As for who we voted for, that will remain a mystery forever.

The Candlestone by Bryan Davis

Bonnie Silver has been lured to a mad scientist's laboratory under the assumption that the mad scientist is her father. He wants her to enter the candlestone, which he now has in his possession, and retrieve her mother, who is trapped inside of it. Bonnie agrees to do so only for her mother. When she is transported into the candlestone, she is surprised by the strange surroundings, yet she takes comfort that God is with her. Ashley, a girl working for her father, marvels at Bonnie's faith and immediately feels guilty for ever sending her in. Meanwhile, Billy, Walter, Professor Hamilton, Clefspeare, and Billy's mother are all trying to figure out where in the world Bonnie could have gone and why she left, all while Professor Hamilton is trying to decipher Merlin's cryptic diary.

The setting inside the candlestone is one of the most original fantasy settings ever created. Bryan Davis worked very hard crafting each detail and intricacy of the workings of his original setting. It is not a fantastical setting in which anything can happen and any convenient element can be created to save the characters from harm. It has its limits and flaws, thus making as realistic as it possibly can. Bryan did not spend little time thinking about this; the evidence is clear: he cared about what he was doing when he wrote The Candlestone.

The characters are getting better as the series progresses, as it should be. Billy continues making normal mistakes, and Bonnie and Professor Hamilton begin developing personalities. Ashley, the new character, is a realistic genius character in that she is not very practical. However, Walter and Billy's mother cease to have any purpose in the plot and should have never been introduced.

Besides all this, the end of the book is mostly original. The best part about it is the key character death. The showdown at the end was a bit much, and several other things turn out perfectly. Other than these minor mistakes, the book is flawless.

It is very promising to see that Bryan Davis didn't let the ideas he introduced in Raising Dragons go to waste. He put them to good use and invented several more. I can only wonder what the rest of the series will be like.

4.5 stars

Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish

Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish

When deputy Benjamin Patil finds an hours old baby abandoned in a field, he wonders what the world is coming to. Who would abandon their child, much less leave it to die? He and his fellow officers do their best to find out who did it while he and his wife Abbi take the baby girl in.

The Patils' marriage has been failing ever since Ben returned from war. He carries emotional baggage, and Abbi hate his ever going to war, since she is a pacifist. Neither of them can ever seem to talk without getting into an argument. But when Silvia arrives, Abbi finds something new to spend her time on. A deaf young man also enters their life around Silvia's arrival, but he knows far more about Silvia than he's letting on.

As Christa Parrish did in her perfect debut Home Another Way, Watch Over Me is a character-driven plot with very realistic characters. Abbi is an even better character than Christa has ever made. She has a very deep personality, but Christa spent most of her character development on her and left the others to fall by the wayside. The rest of the characters are imperfect and a few have personalities, I just feel that Christa burned out by spending so much time on Abbi. But if she keeps this kind of character development up, she will always be an Elite author.

As a side note, Matthew, the deaf boy, is not a stereotypical sympathy plot device as most handicapped characters are. He has his flaws and a personality. This shows Christa's superb efforts to be original.

The plot is extremely realistic, as was Home Another Way. Christa Parrish knows how to capture real life in action and knows how to not fix everything at the end. She started out writing realistically, and I hope she continues this trend throughout her writing career.

However, Christa could not resist sewing up one thing at the end. This is the first typical thing I have seen her do. I don't really understand why she did it; it is completely uncalled for. One would not miss had she taken it out. This is the only thing that keeps it from being five stars. Perhaps her publisher was leaning on her to do something typical to keep her readers happy. Either that, or Christa is bottoming out from such a good start.

As long as Christa eliminates mistakes like this, she will always be an Elite author.

4 stars

The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K Paul

Tipper, an emerlindian, and her mother, Lady Peg, live on an estate in Chiril, a country far away from Amara, where no one has ever heard of Wulder. Tipper and Peg live alone with their servants and caretakers, ever since Verrin Schope, Peg's husband and famous artist, disappeared without explanation. Tipper and her mother were forced to sell many of his sculptures in order to keep the estate afloat. But now Verrin has reappeared, bringing with him two unknown companions. For those who have read the Dragon Keeper chronicles, these two are Wizard Fenworth and Librettowit, only younger. Apparently, they have crafted a gateway that ends in Lady Peg's closet in an effort to reach the farthest ends of the earth. However, the stone they anchored the gateway to was used by Verrin to sculpt three statues. Now the gateway has gone awry and threatens to destroy anything it gets its hands on. Therefore, they must set out to find the three sculptures before it is too late.

Several things are to be expected in Donita K Paul books-good characters, a quest, and new creatures. All three are satisfied with Donita's latest novel. Because Fenworth is younger, he is a better character than he was in the later Dragon Keeper chronicles. All the new characters are realistic as well, each one having flaws and personalities. This has become a staple in Donita's books.

The idea behind the book is very original and ingenious. Donita has taken her creativity to a new level by using her own creative ideas in new ways. However, the problem with the plot is that there is only one end it could have-and that entails having the characters find the statues.

But there are many surrounding aspects that make this book Elite. Besides good characters, there are several plot twists, including a very original villain. Even though the plot follows along the same lines as the other quests she has written, she at least has made this one fresh with her original villain.

Tipper has a watch of minor dragons-two of them are healing dragons. Donita is creating her own brand of Literary Trash already. She needs to stray from this path in her next book before it becomes too predictable.

But other than these minor problems, Donita still holds true to her reputation of the best modern fantasy author.

4 stars

Songbird by Lisa Samson

Charmaine Hopewell never used to be where she is now-married to a pastor, singing professionally, and taking care of foster children. It all started when her mother left her with her neighbors. Then the neighbors could no longer take care of her, so she went out on her own. After living with college students, singing in a bar, and working in a restaurant, she finally settled down to work at a mission where she met her future husband, Harlan. But things did not stop for her there. Charmaine still wanted to find her mother and grandmother and know the truth about her heritage.

It's hard to completely summarize the plot of Songbird in one review. Songbird is an epic tale of Charmaine's wanderings, starting when she was twelve. There are many more things that happen during the plot than I can tell about in my review.

Epics are something Lisa Samson has never tried and has not tried again. Epics are hard plots to write because the reader can get bored with the slightly choppy writing style. Authors can make mistakes by jumping through life too much or too fast. Lisa didn't make either of these mistakes, but she made another one. The first three fourths of the book are average and run-of-the-mill fiction. The final fourth of the book has five star qualities, but it took too long to get there.

As usual, the characters are realistic-complete with personalities and imperfection. That is, the characters Lisa sticks with. This is namely Charmaine and Harlan. All the other characters are passable, only appearing in the plot for several chapters at a time. There is nothing inherently wrong with this writing style; it's realistic to move from place to place. The problem comes in when your epic begins to lose its purpose.

Obviously, Charmaine's purpose is to find her mother. Of course, she does find her mother, but not in the way the reader might like. That's what I like about Lisa Samson. She strives to do different things with her plots.

As I said, the end is very original and realistic. Lisa went the extra mile to be original with her end. It just took too long to get there. I really enjoyed this book, as I do all of Lisa Samson's books. I continuously expect great things from Lisa Samson.

4.5 stars

Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis

Billy Bannister thought he was a normal kid. He was an only child, going to school, having a good life-until one day he set off the fire alarm at school, thus turning on the sprinklers. All Billy did was breathe. His parents eventually tell him that he's descended from dragons-namely his father. His father used to be a dragon, living in King Arthur's time. Billy eventually finds out that another girl at school is also a dragon descendant. He also finds out that there is a group of people who call themselves dragon slayers, who believe that all dragons are from Satan and that they should be destroyed-and several of them work at his school. He, his parents, and several other allies soon find themselves on the run from the dragon slayers-and in a fight for their lives.

The best thing about the first book in the Dragons In Our Midst series is that it sets up the background for the series very well. Bryan Davis has already built a sturdy foundation for his dragon theories that should be promising for the rest of the series. However. Raising Dragons is not a very good novel in itself.

To begin on a positive note, the characters, while they lack personality, make realistic mistakes. This also is a good start to the series. Another positive note is that the villains are not mindless hatemongers. They have a point and actually believe in what they are fighting for. This will do well down the road.

However, the book in itself, being introductory, doesn't have much of a point. It is merely an adventure that consists of parachuting off of a crashing plane and then being chased through a forest by black knights. The plot has no substance, therefore causing it to be mindless. The only saving grace it contains is the amount of evidence Bryan Davis has created for his dragon theories.

Raising Dragons

is a fine read when one takes into consideration that it is a debut novel. The near-death experiences at the end were just a bit much for me.

The Dragons In Our Midst has a lot of potential if Bryan continues to strive for originality.

2.5 stars

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sadie's Song by Linda Hall

Sadie lives the typical life of an abused wife. Her husband, Troy, has forbidden her to have any friends or contact to the outside world. He doesn't want her to leave the house without his permission. He doesn't want her to wear anything that hasn't been approved by him. He doesn't want her to enter his locked workshop outside. The worst part about it is Sadie's denial of the situation. On top of this, her kids are crazy, her house is a disaster, and a little girl has gone missing. What's worse is Sadie has found some of the little girl's drawings in Troy's briefcase. Sadie only finds refuge in classical music she keeps hearing coming from the lake. Nobody else but her can hear it, so no one believes it is there.

Sadie's Song is nothing like any of Linda Hall's other books. It reminds me greatly of a Lisa Samson book for several reasons.

1. Sadie is a typical Lisa Samson female lead.

2. The book is written in a schizophrenic writing style.

3. There are good characters.

4. The people have strange names.

5. At the end there is a scene involving a hospital stay.

I don't know what made Linda Hall write a book like this, but I like it.

This isn't your typical abuse situation. Sadie is not a perfect victim. There isn't a perfect male lead that saves the day. Sadie's house is in an constant disarray. My personal favorite is her kids. They act like mental cases, even though everyone thinks they're normal. Sadie's oldest son thinks he's a worm, her twins think that everyone besides them are aliens, her oldest daughter is always whining about something insignificant, and her baby eats weird things like newspapers. I'm glad that since Linda Hall was going to use a typical plot pattern like wife abuse, she used it in an original way. This is more of a comedy than a suspense plot.

Since Linda Hall had the body of the plot in order, it came down to how she ended it. Only one thing ended the way I expected it to, and even it wasn't perfect. I can't think of much that turned out perfect in the end. Linda Hall made sure she made the entire end realistic and plausible, right down to Sadie's mysterious music.

I always enjoy books like this because it reassures me that there are still authors out there who know how to write a realistic plot that makes you think. Perfect ends don't teach you anything; imperfect ends make you think things like "What can I do to avoid this situation?"

This is the kind of book I like to reserve the five star rating for.

5 stars

Home Another Way by Christa Parrish

Sarah Graham returns to the tiny town of Jonah only to redeem the inheritance the father she hardly knew left her-his house. When she arrives, she finds the house, like her life, is a disarray. The townspeople attempt to be kind to her, but she refuses their hospitality. She also refuses to believe that her father was as good of a person as they tell her he was. She just wants to know if her father told anyone to tell her that he was sorry for the way he treated her. She never expected to become entangled into the lives of several people.

Home Another Way

is a raw character-based plot, the best type of plot, in my opinion, because it portrays real people living real lives. Jonah is not a small town full of countrified, stereotypical hicks like you would expect. It's full of real, flawed people who are living their lives the best they can. Even the characters who seem perfect at first have their problems. Not only are the characters imperfect, but they also have personalities. This is huge step in the right direction for debuting author Christa Parrish.

Though the book is mostly a first person perspective told by Sarah, there are a handful of chapters that take the reader out of her limited perspective and into the lives of several of the characters. This lets the reader know a little more about them and makes for a realistic plot.

As I've said in the past, you never know what a debut author might do. They could be typical or original. Thankfully, Christa Parrish has begun her writing journey as an original author. Nothing typical happened at the end of this book. And thankfully, this book is not tragedy-ridden like some authors try to make this genre. It's normal, not depressing, because Sarah and the reader both learn something at the end.

Not only was the end realistic, but Christa went the extra mile to be original by fixing two pieces of Literary Trash. This also shows promise down the road.

There are virtually no problems with this book, making it a perfect five. I'm glad there is a handful of authors on the market that strive to be this original. I expect great things from Christa Parrish down the road.

5 stars

The Last Word by Kathy Herman

Vanessa Jessup returns home from her sophomore year of college with a dreadful secret that she must disclose to her parents. She is pregnant by her psychology professor, who disappeared off the face of the earth after she told him she was pregnant. Now Vanessa is forced to put college on hold and think about what she's going to do with the life growing inside of her.

Brill Jessup, on top of learning of her daughter's untimely pregnancy, is investigating a difficult case that could threaten her career as the Sophie Trace sheriff. A maniac killer has been stabbing police officers, putting them in the hospital, and killing most of them. Brill suspects he is targeting her, so she puts her entire family on lock down in their own home. She can only imagine who will be stabbed next...

At first I didn't think The Real Enemy needed a sequel, but I thoroughly enjoyed Vanessa's subplot. However, her subplot was the only good part of the entire book. Brill's case was only slightly better than the case in The Real Enemy.

The cast of characters is virtually the same as that in The Real Enemy, only they have improved. Most of them have actually developed personalities and are imperfect. This gives me hope for Kathy Herman in the future because good characters can overshadow a mediocre plot.

Brill's subplot, another "big case" is the only thing keeping the book off of the Elite List. Though the showdown was better than the showdown in The Real Enemy, it was still rather predictable. I think this series would have done better with a normal, character-based book, and not another "suspense" plot.

I loved Vanessa's subplot because it has a very original end, one that I did not expect. I've never even seen an author end a pregnant college student plot like Kathy ended Vanessa's. I can now happily expect more original things like this from her in the future.

Even if Kathy had eliminated Brill's unnecessary case, it still would not have been five stars because the Jessups have gone from being the broken family in The Real Enemy to being the nearly perfect family. Kurt and Emily are downright annoying characters, even though they are the only bad ones.

All in all, if Kathy keeps this up, she'll have an Elite book in no time.

3 stars

Women's Intuition by Lisa Samson

When Lark Summerville's house burns down in a freak fire, she is forced to go live with her mother, daughter, and their housekeeper, the very people she has been lying to about her husband over the years. Since she was a hermit in her former life, these three women attempt to re-introduce her into the real world. But Lark resists and continues to live the same old lifestyle as a church organist and the owner of the hot line 1-800-IPRAY4U.

If anyone could write a book about nothing, then Women's Intuition is the book. It follows the lives of four slightly unusual females from different age groups as they carry out their activities. Each one has a first person point of view, so it gets confusing hearing the stories told by four females who are virtually the same. But in my opinion this book is literally about nothing.

Unfortunately I didn't really get anything out of the book. It has no point and barely a plot. The best thing Lisa Samson did with it was capture real life. This is a book of everyday activities; nothing more, nothing less. It's raw Lisa Samson material, and frankly, this isn't a good thing.

The characters don't have personalities that I can pin down, but at least they all have their flaws. Their dialogue and thoughts are littered with nonsensical, offhand comments that mean nothing. I would have liked it better if these four women would have each had a different personality. As it is, it's like talking to the same person over and over again, only in different age groups.

I befuddled when I came to the end of the book. It took me a while to gather what I was going to say about this book. In short, it's a snapshot of life. It comes in a random spot, and then it cuts off a random spot. But like I said, the book has no point.

Unfortunately, I can't put it on the Elite List for this reason. But I can see that this is an older work of Lisa's, so I believe she has grown out of this type of immaturity with her recent novels. I hope Lisa never returns to this stage of her writing.

3 stars

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lunatic by Ted Dekker

When Johnis, Silvie, and Darsal return to Middle after their strange adventure in our world, they find that the followers of Elyon have diminished and the Horde has grown in their absence. Nothing is as it was, since five years have passed. The trio splits up, Johnis and Silvie going into the desert, and Darsal going to the Horde. Each of them encounter their own trying circumstances. Johnis is seduced by a strange woman who seems to be able to get inside his head and control him. She wants him to destroy Shataiki for her, so Johnis deems it a worthy endeavour. Silvie is skeptical the entire time and follows only to keep Johnis out of trouble. Darsal is captured by the Horde and is taken prisoner. There she hear Elyon tell her of His mission for he-to love the Horde.


is the best Lost Book yet because Dekker has abandoned the search for the seven special Books of History. Their finding a book under every rock was getting really old. It takes the series on a whole new track because it makes the great Johnis an imperfect character. Is this done?

Apparently it is. The positions of the characters change in this installment in the series. Where Johnis and Silvie were the leaders who knew what to do, they are now the followers who don't know what to do. Darsal has also turned into a different character because of her circumstances.

Dekker has also used his own licence to create a new type of creature in Other Earth-one that no one but a select few has heard of. It seems that Ted has no long-term planning for the extensive Circle series; he just writes whatever comes to his mind. This gives him freedom to do whatever he wants to his limitless world. This can be good at times, and it can be unprofessional at times.

The book is directly continued in Elyon, the final Lost Book, so it's hard to tell what Dekker might do. There are several things that could very easily be fixed in the last book.

The only problem with Lunatic is the lack of personalities among the characters. They all act stereotypically according to their circumstances.

All in all, the Lost Books is one of the rare series that has actually improved with each book. I didn't think any of these would make the Elite List, but this one has. That goes to show you that you should never prejudge.

4 stars

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner

The Janviers live the perfect life. Amanda and Neil both have good jobs, and their teenage twins are doing well in school. They feel good about their stable family life, so that's why they take in their niece Tally to live with them-so she can see how a good family functions. Since her grandmother died and her father is traipsing all over the world in search of a treasure, they think she deserves it. But what the Janviers don't know is that in the midst of their perfect family, things are not right. Discord has been sneaking in right under their noses, ready to tear them apart.

Their son, Chase, has been struggling with the memories of a house fire he thinks he started as a four-year-old. Every time he sees fire, he thinks it's calling him, wanting revenge for the time he escaped from it. He tries to forget this as he and Tally work on a school project-interviewing two Holocaust survivors living in an assisted living establishment.

As is her new trend, Susan Meissner has been paralleling true history with a fictional present to make for an interesting story. But contrary to my previous beliefs, White Picket Fences is nothing like The Shape of Mercy. They are entirely different books, and it is a good thing to see that Susan can write with such diversity.

As usual, the characters of White Picket Fences are realistic because they are imperfect and they have personalities. This is such a welcome addition to Christian fiction because authors often overlook the importance of characters having personalities. I'm glad Susan understands that.

The Holocaust story actually plays a very small part in the plot. Most of the book is about Chase's struggles with fire and Amanda's struggles at her workplace. Susan captured the frequent denial of imperfection so many "perfect families" have throughout their lives in a very realistic way through these two subplots.

Tally's strange family life also plays an important part in the book. Sporadic letters from her father and flashbacks to her former life help the reader understand what she's been through. It's not only realistic, but intriguing.

This book came so close to being five stars. Two things kept it from receiving this honor. First, Chase's subplot ends perfectly, and second, there is a strange convenient connection at the end of the book that serves no purpose whatsoever. Susan could have easily removed these two things and it would have been five stars.

All in all, there were several imperfect things that occur ed at the end that I am very pleased with. I know Susan Meissner has a deep-seated originality within her, but sometimes it gets covered up.

4.5 stars

DragonFire by Donita K Paul

Amara is in trouble. Paladin is on his sickbed. Crim Cropper and Burner Stox are wreaking havoc on Amara with fire dragons. The quiss are threatening to rampage the countryside. Wizards have come together in a conclave in order to decide a plan of action. Kale and Bardon, now married, are ready to do whatever it takes to save Amara-as long as they are together. But things get interesting when they hear they are going to be separated.

While Bardon stays behind to defend the land against quiss using a strategic plan, Kale and her father, who she barely knows, travel around Amara, in search of dragons to use for war. As Cropper and Stox build their army to destroy Amara, they must work quickly to save their land.

Dragon Fire

is the best chronicle yet because it is not full-fledged quest. It is an abnormally complex plot for an alternate world, one filled with ambiguous characters so that not even the reader knows who is good and who is bad. None of them are perfect, and most have personalities. The superb character development has set Donita K Paul apart from other fantasy authors, however, she has yet to write a five star ending.

Near the middle of the book, things start to look toward the five star direction, as it was in Dragon Knight. However, ends are not Donita's strong point because she fixes too many things. Several realistic things happened that ended up being fixed in the end. I became frustrated because this book had so much potential. Only one aspect of the plot is unresolved, but never fear; there is a fifth book.

The best part about the plot is the three villains-Burner Stox, Crim Cropper, and the Pretender. None of them are typical villains. Stox is overconfident, Cropper is lazy, and the Pretender is exactly like his name. He acts just like Paladin in many ways, making him my favorite villain ever. This is realistic because even Satan masquerades himself as an angel of light.

Although I have enjoyed every Dragon Keeper book so far, I don't want Donita to fall short of five stars any more. She needs to go ahead and take the leap into complete originality.

4.5 stars

Dragon Knight by Donita K Paul

When Bardon is called into the service of Paladin to train as a knight, Sir Dar gives him his first assignment-to go live in solitude in a cabin on the shores of a lake. Bardon looks forward to this because he craves solitude. But when he arrives, he finds that Dar left out some important details-three women already live in the cabin. However, Bardon forgets about his frustration when he hears that they have a common goal with him-to find the sleeping knights of Paladin that were enchanted by Risto. Using the journal of a famous Amaran explorer, they search for the cave at all costs, for they need the knights in order to defeat Crim Cropper and Burner Stox.

Dragon Knight

is divided into two unequal parts. The first part is five stars because it's realistic without Fenworth, Cam. Lyll, Kale, and her entourage of dragons to get anyone out of any pinch. Bardon and the others actually have to work to do certain things instead of having someone make it using their "gifts". However, in the second part, Kale and company reappear to make life easier.

The characters remain to be realistic, complete with imperfection and personalities. Donita also goes against one of her own cliches and makes an emerlindian granny imperfect. Bardon, in my opinion, is a better lead than Kale because he doesn't have so many tools to get him out of scrapes.

Even though this book is another quest, Donita is getting more and more professional and mature with every book. She has stayed true to her setting and has resisted the impulse to create more and more fantastical tools and powers as some authors would. She does add new creatures with every book, but the glossary in the back is very helpful.

The location method of the sleeping knights was one of the more original I've ever read. It's more realistic than simply walking right into the cave. And even when the knights are located, there is still more work to do.

But the Dragon Keeper series does still have more work to do, even though Donita keeps writing Elite books. I have a feeling she has a five star somewhere in this series.

4 stars

Bye Bye Bertie by Rick Dewhurst

Joe LaFlam is a private detective who specializes in working with Christians because his ultimate goal in life is to marry the perfect woman. He wants to marry so bad he's committed to fasting for twenty-one days. The perfect match walks through his office door one day during his fast. She claims that her sister Bertie has run off to join a cult. Joe takes the case immediately with hopes to win her heart.

Bye Bye Bertie

is not very long at all. My copy was large print, and it was only 234 pages long at that. Not only is the mystery really bad, but there many surrounding plot points that make for a very unusual read.

The characters aren't even imperfect or realistic. They are downright strange. They act and talk abnormally, yet everyone around them thinks that it's normal. Among these characters are a woman who speaks gibberish, claiming that it is a special language given to her from God that she can't understand, and a cult that believes the god of the earth will clone Bill Clinton and raise him up as a great leader.

If this wasn't enough to make you frown or scratch your head, than the mystery is sure to do you in. I understand why it ended the way it ended, but if it had not ended that way, it would have been extremely cheesy. The clues are obviously bogus and something that you would find in a children's movie.

All this plain weirdness is only masking typical plot devices such as romantic subplots and convenient connections. There's nothing new about the plot concepts Rick Dewhurst uses in this book.

To top it all off, the end is one of the weirdest ends I have ever read. It's far from original as it tries to explain some of the nonsense that has occured but falls on its face. This was supposed to be the first book in a series, but I am very sure that Rick's publisher dropped him like a hot potato since I can't find the rest. How the book was even published I have no idea.

Basically, if you've never heard of this book, there is definitely a reason.

1 star

Adam by Ted Dekker

FBI agent Daniel Clark is obsessed with apprehending a serial killer they are calling Eve, because he always writes "Eve" on the bodies he kills. So far Eve has killed sixteen women. Daniel teams up with medical partner Lori Ames to catch the criminal before he kills any more. But Daniel's obsession comes at a price; his wife has already divorced him because of the case, and now he is about to face Eve himself-and die in the process. When Daniel revives in the hospital, he becomes even more determined to catch Eve at all costs.

A magazine article subplot helps develop Eve's past and helps the reader understand where he's coming from. It also develops his character, a strange but good addition to the book.

The characters are up to usual Ted Dekker par, only they have personalities. It's clear that Daniel is not a perfect male lead, and this is a step in the right direction for a seemingly mediocre serial killer plot.

But this serial killer plot has the Ted Dekker philosophical spin on it. The end of the book perks the reader's interest and hopefully makes him think more about the spiritual realm. I'm glad Ted Dekker always attempts to make his suspense have a purpose instead of fall in line with all the other meaningless suspense on the market.

However, Adam is not without its flaws. One would be hard-pressed to find a five star serial killer plot, anyway. The exorcism scene at the end is a bit much for me, even though it was better than most exorcism scenes I've read. Also, there is a convenient connection at the end that is highly improbable and unrealistic. These two things really ruined an otherwise great read.

There are many realistic aspects that can only come from good research. Dekker covered his bases on FBI cases, medical studies, and real-life demon possession. The sources on demon possessions help bring the plot a little more down to earth than other supernatural titles do. One can usually expect quality fiction from Dekker.

The serial killer genre might not be closed after all if authors continue to produce meaningful suspense. Books like Adam are a refreshment to the suspense market.

4 stars

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shades of Blue by Karen Kingsbury

Brad Cutler has it all-a promising career as an advertising agent, an upcoming marriage to his beautiful fiancee; no worries about anything in life. God is good. But why does Brad keep having flashbacks of a relationship with a high school girlfriend? Isn't his fiance enough? What is this nagging at him? Something from his past is calling him back to Holden Beach, North Carolina, where he did something he needs forgiveness for.

I said there was no way Karen couldn't end this originally, and I was right. However, the end wasn't the one I was expecting. I mean that in a good way. Though it seems like at first that the end is predictable, it is also very realistic. Karen ended the book in the most realistic way she could, and it worked.

Besides the realistic end, there is an original end to a subplot that I did not expect her to do. This shows that even when Karen ends her books predictably, she always strives for originality in other areas. This alone puts her above other female authors.

But Karen also has a superb writing style that makes the reader feel as if it were really happening. I think this is because Karen is very good at capturing real life through her imperfect characters. Imperfect characters are another one of her specialties that rank her higher than most female authors.

The biggest problem with Shades of Blue is the characters' lack of personalities. I can only think of one character with a true personality. This is strange for Karen Kingsbury and there is really no reason for it. She usually has better characters than these.

If you read the afterword, you realize that this story means more to Karen than it seems like at first. I applaud her for writing what she wrote in the afterword, because it took courage to reveal what she wrote there.

All in all, Karen Kingsbury's writing style has not decreased over the years, and I doubt it will. I only hope she continues to write original plots similar to Shades of Blue.

4 stars

Obsessed by Ted Dekker

Stephen Friedman has an obsession-he is obsessed with finding the Stones of David, smooth stones that were allegedly used by David to defeat Goliath. As a Jew, he feels the need to retrieve them before they fall into the wrong hands. When they surface in a dead widow's apartment nearby, he tries many different methods to enter the apartment before a Nazi group can find them.

In the past, his mother tries to survive a spin off Holocaust camp while carrying him inside of her. The Nazi in charge has his own methods of how to eliminate the apprehended females residing there. She only hopes that her baby will survive his antics.

The parallel stories between the past and the present (or the nearer past, since they take place in 1943 and 1975) make the story longer and more interesting. The idea of a rebel Nazi camp is ingenious and highly probable.

Stephen's attempts to enter the apartment are downright comical, a rare feat for Ted Dekker. Burning holes through walls and dressing up as a woman are only two of his attempts. Dekker uses a satirical writing style to demonstrate what people will do for what they are obsessed with. This is very interesting because he has never tried anything like this before.

These failed attempts reflect upon Stephen's good personality development. This is also a rare feat for Ted Dekker, since he doesn't usually develop characters with personalities. This makes the book not even seems like Dekker at times, even though Stephen is the only good character.

Unfortunately, the last one hundred pages were like a completely different book to me. In the end, it turned into an average suspense book with an unrealistic location of a missing person, a last minute romance, a showdown, a hostage scene, a last minute conversion, and two characters who come back from the dead. All of these pieces of Literary Trash ruin an otherwise Elite book.

It's very disappointing to read a book like this. Dekker gets your hopes up with so many good things at the beginning, and in the end, he turns it into cheap suspense.

3 stars

DragonQuest by Donita K Paul

Kale has been called by Paladin to come and serve as one of His dragon keepers in The Hall. There she tries to begin training as a warrior, but after a summons from Wizard Fenworth, she goes to become an apprentice wizard and to help Fenworth train a meech dragon named Redigor. Bordan, a warrior she does not like, comes along with her, as well as Dar and several other new characters.

The plot eventually turns into a quest to find a meech dragon the evil wizard Risto stole and brainwashed. I'm not sure whether the Dragon Keeper series needed another quest or not.

The longer the book drags on, the more characters Paul invents. By the end of the book, there are so many characters, the reader is confused as to who is who. The cast of characters in DragonSpell was better because Paul could give each character the personal attention they needed to become complex. In DragonQuest, the characters are half-heartedly developed because there are too many to give proper attention to each one. Kale, Dar, and Fenworth aren't near as interesting as they were in DragonSpell.

There is really no point to this book whatsoever. Where the quest of DragonSpell was unique, this one is mediocre. It seems like the same thing happens in every chapter-the characters encounter a new location and fix a problem there. Kale is visited by her so called "mother" nearly everyday during which the two of them carry on nearly the same conversation about how Kale puts too much affection on her "pets". The book is quite repetitive, to say the least.

The best thing about the book is the explanation behind the power of the wizards. Paul makes it so that they are not simply magical people. There is a detailed process by which the wizards use their powers. This elevates the setting of the Dragon Keeper series to an even higher level than it already was because it shows that Donita actually thinks through what she writes. She writes fantasy with purpose. She makes her world of Amara seem as real as our world with her descriptiveness. This aspect of the book keeps it from being rated lower.

I know that the third book is this series follows Bardon instead of Kale, and I'm glad. Having a dragon hatch all the time was getting silly. Plus, Bardon's character has the potential to be interesting.

I see great things in Donita K Paul's future.

3 stars

Storm Gathering by Rene Gutteridge

When Mick Kline wakes up on the floor of a woman's apartment he barely knows with no remembrance with what happened the previous night, he is immediately accused of her murder. No one believes him when he says he didn't kill her. Everyone just wants someone to blame, and he's the most convenient target.

Evidence continues to mount against him and implicate him with her murder, so Mick finds himself literally on a run for his life. With no one on his side, he must find the evidence he needs in order to prove himself innocent.

The whole idea behind this plot is pretty lame to start with. Mick Kline is the ultimate downtrodden character who no one likes. No one believes his story. Poor, poor, Mick. Mick is portrayed as a victim the entire time. The sickening part is, evidence is actually found in the end in his favor. Not that I didn't see it coming, though.

There are many stereotypical circumstances throughout the plot like a crooked detective who strives for evidence against Mick, a woman who used to love Mick but now loves his brother, and a typical enemy character who has the same kinds of thoughts that most other murderer characters do. There aren't any good characters, of course. They are all either perfect or evil. As with most "suspense", there are no ambiguous characters.

The problem with books marketed as suspense is that they aren't really suspenseful. The reader knows all along that the good guys are going to win out. That's not suspense. Suspense is truly not knowing what's going on or what's going to happen at the end. That's why suspense has become a mediocre genre.

At the end of the book, there are several unrealistic convenient connections that help the heroes solve the mystery and that help Mick get off clean. This makes the situation even worse because if Rene Gutteridge had actually come up with a good reason for why Mick was innocent, that would have been one thing. But since she resorted to cheesy pieces of Literary Trash like convenient connections, this makes the book even worse.

There is one original thing at the end that saves the book from being completely absurd but that is it.

I think Rene Gutteridge needs to stick to more non-"suspenseful" plots like Ghost Writer and Snitch in order for her to be an original author.

1.5 stars

Last Breath by Brandilyn Collins and Amberly Collins

With his dying breath, Rayne O'Connor's bus driver uttered four words that would change Shaley O'Connor's life forever. Your father sent me. Shaley can only imagine what this means. But she has no time to think about this because directly after this incident, her mother, the famous Rayne O'Connor, gets hit by a passing car when she pushed into the street by a zealous tabloid journalist. During her hospital stay, Rayne tells Shaley more about her father and why they separated in the first place.

Rayne's injury really serves no purpose except the make the book longer and more dramatic. Wasted page space also makes the book seem longer than it really is. Last Breath really has none of the substance or depth that suspense, especially young adult, desperately needs. It's an empty book that, once again, only tries to set up the third book in this trilogy.

Nothing made any sense to me in the end. There are several plot holes that I can only hope will be explained in the third book. Last Breath is just another below average work produced by an author who's better than this.

Rayne's past, though it could have been interesting, is really very empty and void. Brandilyn could have really expanded on the issue and made this book longer than the first. This could have also led to deeper development of characters or delving into complex issues but it mostly does not.

The characters still haven't developed any personality or imperfection. Like the whole series, they are also empty shells preforming robotic tasks. They show some hints at genuine emotion and personalities but they are in need of more work. The young adult market needs help in all of these areas and I thought that Collins might do something for it but I was disappointed.

Don't waste too much money on Last Breath either. It's one of those books that gets pushed to the back of your bookshelf and forgotten about after a few weeks. Forgetability is one of the worst qualities for any work and is more than anything what is plaguing this series.

1 star

Always Watching by Brandilyn Collins and Amberly Collins

Shaley O'Connor is the only child of a rock star, Rayne O'Connor. She is always travelling around with her mother on music tours. Because of her mother's extreme popularity, they are always the target for tabloids and paparazzi. This becomes even more so when one of Shaley's best friends, her mother's makeup artist, is killed mysteriously one night backstage during a concert. No one knows what to make of it or why anyone would do such a thing.

To say that Shaley delves deeper into the mystery would be huge overstatement. Always Watching is so short, there is hardly any time for anything worthwhile to get accomplished. It's one of the shortest books I've ever read. Although this seems to be expected for this genre I feel that a little more content or complexity would have made it feel more professional.

Because of its length, there is no time for the characters to develop. I don't even know who these people are. Always Watching is like a snapshot of something more to come. The entire book is spent setting up the next one. This is another common tactic that I am not particularly fond of.

I wish that this mystery had been furthered explored and better set up here. As it is Always Watching does not really make me desperate to read the rest. Maybe the future books will make it come together but don't waste your time on this one alone.

1.5 stars

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Contest!


This is your chance to win an exclusive copy of On Butterfly Faith by Katrina Wampler before the book is released!

Here's what you have to do:

1. Write a professional review of a Christian fiction book.

2. Email it to us at originalbooks200@gmail.com between November 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009.

3. Each person can enter up to five reviews.

4. Do not give us any personal information, when we decide what place your review comes in we will contact you.


1. The review must be a minimum of 250 words.

2. You must give a summary of the plot.

3. You must explain why you like or dislike the book using good reasons.

4. You must give the book a rating.

5. You must paste the review into the body of your email (no attachments) and use the following as your subject line: Original Books Winter Contest.

We will judge the reviews by how well they summarize the plot and how well we are persuaded by your view of the book. Your review does not have to agree with one of our reviews; we simply want you to write it as professionally as possible.

First Place Prize: An electronic copy of On Butterfly Faith and a signed hard copy when the book comes out.

Second Place Prize: An electronic copy of On Butterfly Faith.

Third Place Prize: An electronic copy of On Butterfly Faith.

We will post the top ten reviews on our blog in January.

Tiger Lillie by Lisa Samson

Lillie has always been the wedding coordinator-never the bride.

Normally that cover blurb would turn me off from a book but Lisa Samson was never normal.

No man can replace Teddy, Lillie's boyfriend throughout high school. She currently works with Extreme Weddings and the Odd Occasion, a wedding coordinating service for those who want an original wedding. Their first big break appears when Lillie accidentally meets the brother of a famous performing artist. The artist is getting married soon, and he chooses Extremely Odd to coordinate the wedding. Lillie immerses herself in the work and tries to stop thinking about Teddy.

Tacy, Lillie's sister, also lives an interesting life. At eighteen, she married a twenty-five year old man who she had known for several years. He seemed charming and gentlemanly at first, but the longer she was married to him, the more she regretted her immature decision.

Despite what every other review I read about Tiger Lillie said, this book is fully based on Tacy's strange life. The title has nothing to do with what the plot is really about. The back description doesn't do Tacy's story justice. Lillie, though her ramblings fill up more than half the book, really only plays a small part in the plot.

As usual, Lisa Samson has crafted realistic, imperfect characters to fill her plot. This has always been Samson's specialty that has made her books Elite. Even though some of her plots are average, the characters make it Elite. This is the case with Tiger Lillie as well.

Lillie has an interesting view on life. The reader has to wonder whether her view of the plot is jaded by her enthusiastic nature or not. But this keeps the reader guessing and makes the book realistic.

The book is also told from the first person perspective of Tacy. She definitely has a more melancholy view of life than Lillie does. This also keeps the plot fresh and realistic.

But there are many other assets to Tiger Lillie besides the characters. The idea behind the plot-planning original weddings-is fresh and original. One can always count on Samson to come up with an original plot idea.

There are two romantic subplots-one for Tacy and one for Lillie. Tacy's in the the central focus of the book, while Lillie's is more extracurricular. Her's is an original romance because it isn't stereotypical. Typical phrases are not used in the dialogue. Their actions are not typical. This keeps the book fresh as well.

I've always said that the majority of the rating is based on the end of the plot. The end can make it or break it for any book. In the case of Tiger Lillie, the end is original because not everything is fixed. One major thing in particular is left imperfect. This is the finishing touch on the book's five star rating.

5 stars

The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klaven

Charlie West wakes up in a dark room strapped to a chair. He has no idea where he is. He has no idea how far from home he is. He has no idea what has happened in the past few hours. The last thing he can remember is a normal day at high school. He can remember his name and the names of his family. He can remember his friends' names. He can remember many things about high school. But he has no idea what has gone on in the past few hours.

On the surface, this book looks like a typical young adult thriller. Amnesia, high school, a torture room-these are the types of things that fill these types of books. But this is not your typical book. After a while, Charlie realizes that he is in a bigger plan than he realized at first. The reader gets this same impression as well. The longer the book goes on, the more complicated the plot becomes.

This book has to do with terrorists-another dangerous subject. Many authors have tried and failed this genre. I usually say this is a closed genre. But Andrew Klaven has changed my mind. He has opened up a whole new perspective of the terror genre.

Believe it or not, Charlie is an imperfect character. Perfect characters are the worst thing authors write in the young adult genre. But Charlie is a real person. He makes mistakes, he learns from them. It's just that simple.

The setting of this book is also realistic. No, Charlie doesn't spend the whole book strapped to a chair, like another reviewer said he did. He enters several other settings that are all realistic according to the circumstances.

This book is continued, and for once, I think it does need to be continued. This series has huge potential if Klaven will use it right. This series could be entirely Elite. It all depends on what Klaven does in the second book.

The one drawback to this book is an unnecessary showdown at the end of the book. While the characters involved do not use typical dialogue, showdowns are really worn out as long as authors make them all end the same.

All in all, Andrew Klaven uses the element of surprise to make this book interesting.

4 stars

All I'll Ever Need by Harry Kraus

Claire McCall and John Cerrelli desperately want to get married. They want their wedding to be perfect. They want to stop dancing around the issue and actually get married. They've already tried for two books, and now they're at it again for a third. But things keep getting in their way, such as Claire's attempted rapist escaping from jail, Claire being sued by a patient for inducing euthanasia without permission, Claire's Huntington-diseased father wanting to die, and John being stalked by a delusional woman in his workplace. All these things come to a head as it seems like everything wants to keep them from getting married.

I liked the first two books in this series for their realism in the medical field and in life. But a third book full of more tragedies for Claire and John is just too much. All good things must come to an end. Harry could have easily ended the series with For the Rest of My Life.

First of all, the characters have lost their personalities and imperfection. Where John was a good original male lead in the previous book, he is typical and perfect in this book. Claire has become more of a victim than an imperfect character who makes bad choices. The rapist and John's female stalker are both typical characters as well. I can only think of one good character this time.

Too many bad things are fixed in the end. This is where Harry Kraus thrived in the first two books: imperfection in the end. But with this third book, he has pleased the public with last page-perfection. There were plenty of opportunities for imperfection, but Harry didn't take any of them. Imperfection has always been his specialty, so without it, he isn't very interesting. I liked one part at the end-the part that involved the only imperfect character.

Harry just went too far with the Claire McCall series. He just had to write that third book. He had everything going just fine at the end of For the Rest of My Life. Everything was great. The Claire McCall series was an Elite series. But All I'll Ever Need was ruined by its typical nature. I know Harry can do better than this.

2 stars

When Heaven Weeps by Ted Dekker

Jan Jovic was forced by Karadzic, his former comrade in battle, to mistreat a handful of villagers one day following the end of World War II. Now he has traveled to America with Ivena, an old woman whose daughter he killed. They both now know the Lord and have written the story down in a book form and have made a business out of it. Jan Jovic continues to gain popularity in the media world and achieves success. He proposes marriage to his book agent and she accepts. Life is good.

Then Helen enters his life. He found her as a tramp living on the streets, running away from her abusive boyfriend. He took her in and slowly love began to blossom. But this love destroyed his suitable engagement and makes him a target for her old boyfriend. Helen feels unworthy of his love and goes back to her boyfriend. But Jan will not give up on her.

When Heaven Weeps

is a parable of sorts. Jan represents Jesus and Helen represents the world. This aspect of the book is fine; it's the lack of good characters and the unrealistic end that ruin the book.

The characters are either perfect or evil; there is no in between. I have said before that I don't like such contrasts, and I still do not. Dekker should have at least made his characters imperfect.

There are multiple showdowns between Jan and Glenn, Helen's boyfriend. They all end realistically except for the last one. The final showdown is very sensational, filled with bursts of light, distant music, and typical dialogue. It ends very unrealistically when several characters escape death in order to make the reader happy. The final showdown also betrays the parable and makes it another typical suspense plot.

As with Heaven's Wager, I liked the idea behind the plot, but did not like the end. I only wish Dekker would have lived up to his full potential in the end.

2 stars

The Great Divide by T Davis Bunn

Marcus Glenwood is a lawyer who recently suffered a family tragedy. As a result, he reigned from he prestigious law firm he worked for and went to live in Rocky Mount, North Carolina to live in a house he inherited from his grandfather. There he opens up his own law firm from his house.

Austin and Alma Hall come to him, asking him to represent them as they sue New Horizons, a successful sports gear company, for allegedly kidnapping their daughter in China. Their daughter had been investigating their labor practices as a civil rights activist. As a result, the head of the Chinese factory kidnapped her and began to make her work for them. The Halls know this because of a ransom video the factory head sent them. Apparently they want $100,000 for her release.

Marcus agrees to take on their impossible case and together they fight against a Fortune 500 company who has never lost a case.

I can't tell how sick I am of these types of plots. I can't even fit all the problems with this book in one review. I can't even tell you how surprised I am that people actually like this nonsense. But I will try.

First of all, Marcus Glenwood is portrayed as a victim throughout the entire book. Apparently his past isn't his fault at all. He's a victim of circumstance. Nobody likes him. Everybody hates him. No one is fair to him. Poor, poor, rich Marcus Glenwood. He is also a T Davis Bunn specialty-a non-character. He's not even a perfect character. Judging by his dialogue, I can't even feel like he's a real person. He acts like a robot the entire book. He doesn't have any thoughts or any kind of unique statements.

Second of all, none of the other characters are any good either. They are all either perfect, evil, or robotic. The reader doesn't even feel like the people are real.

Third of all, Rocky Mount is a small town full of, you guessed it, hicks. I am so tired of authors filling small towns with hicks! But these aren't your typical hicks. No, these are far worse. Their dialogue makes me wonder whether they even earned an education. Besides that, small towns full of hicks is a piece of Literary Trash.

Fourth of all, there are three really stupid villains. Two of them are the lawyers opposing Marcus and the other is the owner of the Chinese factory. The lawyers act like clowns in court. They definitely don't act professional. Impromptu outbursts in the middle of court, obnoxious behavior toward other characters, and typical dialogue litter these ridiculous villains. These are some of the worst I've ever read.

Fifth of all, the court case might as well be a kangaroo trial. Nothing about it is realistic. Since when does a Fortune 500 company nab an American college student and make her work in their factory? And why do they need a ransom of $100,000? Why did the parents sue the company over a kidnapping? Why couldn't they just go to the authorities? In the end, nothing else matters but the tiny thread of evidence Marcus finds directly before closing arguments. These types of cases are unrealistic and ridiculous.

The whole book is just a sham. I could go on and on about all the problems, but I don't have time. There are only two good things I can say about the book: there is no romantic subplot, which is a surprise for T, and there is one original thing at the end of the book. Otherwise, The Great Divide is a cesspool of Literary Trash.

1.5 stars