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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Monday, August 31, 2009

Poll Report August 2009

Which of these is your favorite author?
This was the first question we asked in our existence. Here are the results:

1. Randy Singer (50% of votes)
This was a stunner for us because we were sure Karen Kingsbury would win. This shows the sensibility of our viewers. We think several of our author friends chose this one as well.

2. James Scott Bell (25% of votes)
We think that James voted for himself (sorry, James). We are also quite sure that Randy Singer did not vote for himself.

3. Karen Kingsbury (17% of votes)
We don't really understand this outcome, but we are pretty sure Trisha Kingsbury voted for her sister.

4. Angela Hunt (8% of votes)

5. T Davis Bunn (0% of votes)
This one also shows the sensibility of our viewers. T isn't as good or as popular as he thinks he is.

Thank you everyone for casting your vote! Be sure to vote for the current poll.
As for which author we cast our vote to, that will be an eternal mystery.

If you would like to reveal whom you voted for just send us an email.

Best Authors on the Market

Best of Legal: Randy Singer
Randy is the only author out there who can craft realistic court cases and combine them with realistic characters. In all of his cases, save for his first book, neither side is perfect. Both have flaws. This is true with all court cases, and Randy is the one who has captured it into fiction.
Book of 2008 (By Reason of Insanity)
Book of 2009 (The Justice Game)
Elite books: 6

Best of Diversity: Angela Hunt
"Expect the unexpected" is her motto, and it is true. You never know what genre she's going to write next. But she needs to jump from genre to genre because that's where she thrives: unpredictability. Other authors have tried to do this but have failed. She is the only one who has mastered it.
Book of 2008 (The Face)
True Suspense Award 2008 (The Face)
Elite books: 8

Best of Suspense: James Scott Bell
"The suspense never rests" is his motto. Though he has tried legal in the past, he has been unsuccesful at it. His true talent is suspense, and that's what he should write from now on. He has a way of hiding things within the plot and keeping them hidden for a while. No one else has truly mastered this yet.
Book of 2005 (Glimpses of Paradise)
Book of 2009 (Decieved)
Elite books: 6

Best of Speculative: Robin Parrish
This is the author who changed the face of Christian speculative with the Dominion Trilogy. Before, this genre was full of nonsense and mediocrity. But he showed the world that all was not lost in the world of speculative. He combines imperfect characters with suspenseful plots and original plot ideas to have the most Original Books awards to date.
Book of 2006 (Relentless)
Book of 2007 (Fearless)
Book of 2008 (Merciless)
Perfect Debut Novel (Relentless)
Perfect Trilogy (The Dominion Trilogy)
100% Elite Rating 2008
100% Elite Rating 2009
Elite books: 3

Best of Contemporary: Karen Kingsbury
She knows how to craft realistic characters and combine them with everyday plots. She captures the emotion of life and puts it into her characters. No one has mastered her in this genre, and even we must admit that her romances are the best.
Author of 2008
Book of 2003 (One Tuesday Morning)
Book of 2008 (Ever After)

Vanished by Kathryn Mackel

Two teenagers plant a backpack in a city park thinking they are part of a drug pickup. But little do they know that inside the backpack is a rigged explosive designed to destroy experimental train tunnels below.
When the bomb explodes, three people who were working on the trains get trapped and spend the whole book trying to get out.
Also, one of the teenagers dies in the bomb explosion, while the other escapes with his life. He seeks help from a high school friend on what he should do.
But the most mysterious thing that comes to pass when the bomb explodes is a strange mist it emits. The mist is slowly covering the town, cutting it off from the rest of the country. Anyone who enters the mist is virtually eaten by it.
Several police officers and relief workers work to restore order to the pandemonium, but it's hard, especially since the mist has turned off all the power. No one know what to think about it because they don't even know if they are on planet earth anymore.
There are several problems with this otherwise creative idea. First, there are way too many characters. I only outlined the key characters above because there are too many to talk about them all. It gets really confusing. Most are believable and imperfect, but I think Kathryn should have cut several.
Also the creatures living in the pipes is a bit much, especially since there's no explanation.
The second problem is the fact that this book is continued. Nothing is resolved in the end just because Kathryn wanted to write another book. Most of the book is filled up with wasted time. I think she could have condensed it all into one novel.
The funny part is, as far as I know, she has no other plans to write a sequel, and for a good reason. Unfortunately, the publisher dropped her completely, therefore forcing her to take a steady job and put writing on hold. It's a shame because I really want to know what happens.
It's hard to rate this kind of book, but I have to anyway.
3 stars

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

Now that Peter and Susan cannot return to Narnia, Lucy and Edmund are called back one last time to Narnia-mostly to introduce their bothersome cousin Eustace.
Eustace is one of Lewis' better characters. He's a spoiled brat who only wants certain things. He clashes a lot with Reepicheep.
This time, the three children are transported to Narnia through a picture of a ship and dropped out in the middle of an ocean. They are saved by the Dawn Treader, a Narnian ship that King Caspian mans. Their quest is to see what's beyond the Great Sea. Also, they are trying to find the seven lost lords of Narnia, which King Miraz sent on a fatal voyage across the sea.
Their first stop is the Lone Islands, in which they tangle with some illegal slave traders. After that, they visit several other islands such as ones containing one-footed dwarfs, dragons, water that turns things into gold, nothing, and more.
One of the more interesting islands is the Dark Island, an island that shows you your worst nightmares. Lewis shows off his extreme creativity with the creation of these islands.
The whole concept of the book is different from all the other Chronicles of Narnia, which is what makes this series so interesting.
The end is not one I would have predicted, but it is one that I like. It's probably the most different end of all of them.
There are no villains in this tale, save for the slave traders.
There is a romantic subplot in this book, the first for the series. It's interesting because it's introduced near the end of the book.
As I have said before, an author has yet to top the Chronicles of Narnia.
5 stars

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

Now that Eustace has been introduced into the series and since all the Pevensies are done with Narnia, it's time for Eustace to show someone around. Namely, Jill Pole.
The beginning opens and issue of the day that C.S. Lewis felt he needed to address: Experiment Houses. They were apparently new types of "schools". The "teachers" supposedly let the children run around and do whatever they wanted because they were living experiments.
Of course Eustace's parents would have put him in something like that.
Jill is a victim of the bullies that rule the school, and Eustace finds her hiding from them. Not long after, they step into Narnia after asking Aslan to take them there.
They start off at an unknown location above Narnia in which they meet Aslan. He tells Jill six signs she needs to remember in the journey ahead.
Afterward, they are blown down to Narnia just in time for Eustace to see old King Caspian board the Dawn Treader for one last voyage to the Lone Islands to see if Aslan is there.
Unfortunately, Eustace being able to meet him before he left was the first sign.
There goes number one.
Then Eustace and Jill learn from a Parliament of owls that King Caspian's son Rilian disappeared several years earlier and hasn't been heard from since. He disappeared right after Caspian's wife, the star's daughter, died from the poison of a serpent. Apparently Rilian went hunting for the serpent, and after several trips, never returned.
Eustace and Jill then go off hunting for the prince, accompanied by Puddleglum, a marshwiggle (a half man, half frog). Puddleglum is probably Lewis' best character to date.
The journey north is intriguing and entertaining. There are several new features Lewis shows off in this book, mostly giant-related things.
While most people believe that the emerald witch who is the villain is Jadis reincarnated, I don't believe so.
This is easily the third best of the series because of the interesting end.
5 stars

The Shack by William P Young

To be honest, I was skeptical about the hype surrounding new author William P. Young's The Shack. I've read rave reviews for it and seen high recommendations from all kinds of people of many different walks of life. Even people around me were talking about how good it was. At this point, it seemed like I was the only one who didn't read and I wondered what I was missing out on. I was missing out on something enjoyable and original, that's what I was missing out on.
The plot develops slowly, describing a certain man's family life: how he and his wife are the perfect couple and how they have many children. But the story really focuses on their youngest child: Missy, who was kidnapped by a serial killer at a young age. Bearing all this, the man is invited by God to return to the very shack where she was murdered and meet Him there. The back of the book reads "and what he finds there changes his life forever".
I was skeptical about this line because it's been so overused. But I was truly surprised about what he found in the shack. It is truly original. It brings up an issue and a concept that I had never thought of before, but it is one that is all too true.
The only problem I found with it was Young's inability to cut the bait near the end of the book. In my opinion, he should have let the readers find the bait themselves, but this is really inconsequential, especially if you don't care about plot structure. However, this minor detail keeps this book off the Elite List.
The other thing that keeps the book off the Elite List is the boring second half. It mostly consists of philosophical conversations. Also, the characters aren't too wowing.
However, William P. Young has showed us all two things: it doesn't take a fancy, "professional" writer to write an original book, and, originality is better when not forced.
3.5 stars

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

Narnia is ending. All worlds must end. But no one expected it to end this way.
Shift is a clever ape, but not as clever as he thinks he is. He only thinks he's clever because he's smarter than Puzzle, his donkey friend who does everything he wants. When Shift sees a lion skin floating in Caldron Pool, he has a grand idea. When he fits it over Puzzle, Puzzle looks an awful lot like Aslan. Especially since no one in the current generation of Narnians has seen him before. With the fake Aslan, Shift has unlimited power of the Narnians. But soon, things begin to spin out of control.
He sets up shop in front of a stable, in which he hides the new Aslan. Shift then pretends to be man, the mouthpiece of Aslan. But he begins to invite trouble on himself when he signs a treaty with the Calormen.
King Tirian, the grandson of Rilian, knows nothing about this until a dying dryad comes to him and tells him how Aslan is ordering the animals to cut down trees to sell to the Calormen. After letting his anger get the best of him, Tirian is captured, along with his trusted friend Jewel the unicorn, and tied to a tree, by orders of Aslan.
But when Eustace and Jill appear in front of him at let him go, he knows all hope isn't lost.
They proceed to try to win Narnia back and find themselves in the midst of the last battle as things spin out of control for Narnia.
This was the bestselling book of the whole series for a good reason. It was mostly because by then, everyone had heard of the series and wanted to see the end. This book is probably the best series ender ever written.
Many other alternate world series have tried to copy this end but have fallen short. I believe what makes this series unique is that each book is different, as I've said before, and also, C.S. Lewis didn't try to make the books too long. Many fantasy authors like to cram all kinds of far out ideas into one to three books and it doesn't end up working because they don't know where to stop. People think that lots of original ideas make a good book, but it's really the plot that makes the book good. That's why the Chronicles of Narnia is the only Elite Series ever.
5 stars

The Importance of a Standard

The problem with most other reviewers for anything is that they don't have a standard theory that they review by. Most just review by whatever they're feeling at the moment or depending on what author it is or what everyone else says. These kinds of systems are not fair to books that don't deserve to have a high rating or that do deserve a high rating.
Believe me, I know how it feels to like or dislike a book depending on the whim of the moment. However if you're going to review something, you have to be fair about it.
Therefore, there is a need for a standard, not just in reviewing, but in life.

Standard #1: Liking everything
This one isn't hard. Just rate everything five stars. Then you're done and you don't have to think about the stress of picking apart the plot. Believe me, Christian reviews have too many of those already

Standard #2: Liking the idea behind the plot
There's nothing wrong with this way; I just don't like it because the reviewer ends up basing most of the review on what the cover description says, not on what the plot actually is. It's fine to like original ideas. I like original ideas, I just also care about what the author does with them.

Standard #3: Liking good characters
Some of us like the people we meet. But this also means that those types of people will discard bad characters. Again, nothing wrong with that one; I dislike bad characters as well. But one cannot base the plot heavily upon the characters just because they aren't as good as others. Especially if the plot is good.

Standard #4: Liking entertaining plots
This is a popular one, especially in the world of suspense lovers. They like a plot that twists, turns, and explodes in their face, no matter if the plot is typical or not. They just want a wild ride. Usually these types of people discard character development and just want the plot to sweep the characters along. The problem with this type of standard is that "boring" plots with good characters are tossed by the wayside in the wake of false suspense.
Another version of this type of standard is liking "funny" plots. The problem with this one is most of the time, the reviewer will ignore bad plot structure and downright stupidity all in the name of comedy.

Standard #5: Liking a certain genre
This is another popular one, but one of the most limiting. If this is your standard, than you are putting on blinders everything you enter the bookstore or the library. This limits your scope of thinking and reading and blinds you to the fact that there are other genres out there. While this fine for your everyday reader as a reviewer you must attempt to be neutral and simply appreciate great writing.

Standard #6: Examining the book as a whole
This is the type of standard I finally came to like because it encompasses the whole book. A five star book, using this type of standard, is balanced. There is a good, entertaining plot and believable characters. This type of standard does not get too focused on any one aspect of the plot unless it is poisoning the rest of it. As a reviewer, you cannot focus in on one thing and look for it in every book. You must think about the plot as a whole.
Just something for you to chew on

The Dark Tower by C.S. Lewis

Probably not many people have ever heard of or read The Dark Tower by C.S. Lewis. It might be because the book isn't finished. The original manuscript was never finished because Lewis started it right before his death. The manuscript was also damaged by handling and thus is missing a few pages.
The Dark Tower probably began the now popular fiction topic of parallel universes. It tells the story of a scientist who has invented a mirror that will show the viewer a view of a parallel universe. Eventually, one of his colleagues falls into the mirror and into the parallel universe where a horned man is ordering slaves to build his tower. The man was angry because he saw an alternate version of his fiancee.
He eventually finds a library in the alternate dimension and begins reading about theories of parallel universes. The manuscript cuts off at this scene.
My speculation is that either C.S. Lewis was tired or he didn't know what to do next because his theories about parallel universes were running in circles. It was getting a bit too obscure. I don't really know how he would have ended it. I've heard about people coming up with ends, however.
The best thing about this book is that it hasn't been tampered with yet. No one ever added anything to it, but that's probably because Douglas Gresham, Lewis' stepson, won't allow anyone to do that.
This book is interesting if you can find it.
I'm afraid I can't rate it because it is unfinished.

The Accidental Pope by Ray Flynn and Robin Moore

You've probably never heard of The Accidental Pope. There's a reason for that. But if you have heard of it, than run far in the opposite direction.
The plot is about a certain New England fisherman named Bill Kelly (what a name) who is chosen to be the next Catholic Pope. The reasoning behind the decision is a heroic act he did for a group of priests one year.
Though Bill Kelly is ordained as a priest, he has been out of service for over a decade because of his marriage and his family. Now his wife is dead and he ready to take the position of papacy.
Before he was elected pope, Bill was a wisecracking fisherman. After being made pope, he becomes a benevolent wisdom-giver. He can quote whole Scripture passages without looking at them, even though he has been out of the church for over a decade.
I always say good dialogue makes good characters, so that means bad dialogue makes bad characters. This theory is exhibited in this book. Bill's dialogue is very formal and unrealistic. Everyone else's is close to the same thing. Everyone is perfect and never makes any mistakes.
There is a villain introduced into the plot who is a newspaper reporter being given information by a covert operative known as Deep Throat Two (real creative there), but he disappears from the plot.
Bill's acts as pope are seemingly pointless, including trips to Africa and giving meaningless lectures.
There are other meaningless parts of the plot, such as his daughter's discovery of the body of the Apostle Paul. She found the grave by falling into it. "What a fortunate find," to quote Pope Bill.
Besides all this, the reader is lost in the sea of unknown Catholic terms. There's no glossary or explanation of them. The reader is just supposed to figure them out.
The author's note is ridiculously unparalleled to Scripture.
Also, if this is supposed to be a Christian book, why is the dialogue littered with expletives and profanity?
There is a an unnecessary, overemphasized, and rushed romantic subplot contained in the plot.
Each chapter is a struggle to finish. It took willpower for me to finish this book.
At the end, the authors preform a desperate attempt to be original, which comes off as cheesy. The end itself is a bad dialogue end, leaving the reader completely in the dark.
Need I go on?
1/2 star

That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis

That Hideous Strength is probably the only novel I have never finished. And I did so for a good reason. I couldn't make heads or tails of it. I know I'm not the only one because I've heard other people say so as well. It makes absolutely no sense.
It's something about a woman who keeps having nightmares and eventually meets Merlin, who has appeared from the past. Also, a planet is coming down on top of Earth or something.
The dialogue and chapters are spastic and impossible to follow. I'm not sure what Lewis was going for with this one, and I don't think anyone will ever know but him.
I'm afraid that, out of fairness, I cannot rate it because I did not finish it.
If you completely understand what this book is about, than email us your review and we may post it. You can find our email address on the home page.

Shivering World by Kathy Tyers

The best thing about Kathy Tyers is that she knows what she's doing. She knows what genre she can write and she writes it to her best ability. Her problem is disguising typical plots with original settings, which she did in the Firebird trilogy.She has done that again in Shivering World, her first standalone novel.
It's about a woman with a genetic disorder who is working with a team of terraformers who are trying to make Goddard, a planet outside of our solar system, able to be lived on without oxygen. The only problem is that solar system's "sun" is inconsistent in the heat it gives off, thus causing temperature problems.
Also, a villain has unleashed a virus upon the planet that is really making the place inhabitable. The plus is, the villain is kind of different.
There are several problems with this book, the first being the lead character. She's practically Firebird reincarnated. Another problem is the deceiving cover description. It says it's mostly about her genetic disorder, but it's really not. There are very few scenes depicting her struggle with it. It's basically a sidebar plot device, not the main plot device. The other problem is the end. The lead characters come up with a CRT (Convenient Rescue Technique) at the end to remove the virus, though the plot never shows them using it. The book cuts off before it gets to that part.
The whole book is kind of long winded and boring. However the idea behind the plot is really interesting, as usual. Kathy has just yet to write that good plot.
I have mixed feelings about this book, but it's definitely above average, making it her best book to date.
3 stars

Perelandra by C.S. Lewis

Perelandra is written of a completely different tone that than of Out of the Silent Planet. This time, the professor launches himself into space because he had a dream about going to Venus, which is really Perelandra.
Perelandra is just beginning to be inhabited by life. The planet is a sea of floating islands. The islands are like ships. On one of these, he meets a green woman leading animals around.
There is really no plot structure to this book; it consists of philosophical conversation between the professor and the green woman as she shows him around the planet. This does not hold the reader's attention very well and doesn't really seem like a fiction book. It seems like Out of the Silent Planet could have stood alone and perhaps be expanded upon.
The end of the book shows the professor fighting with the Satan character, who is trying to get the green woman to succumb to his lies so that he can rule Perelandra too. since the professor knows what happened on Earth, he knows he must try to stop him. This is the most interesting part of the book because it asks the question "What if someone stopped Eve from taking the fruit?"
However, it seems like Lewis wrote the book for the end and filled up the rest of the book with philosophy.
All in all, the book is interesting if you like that type of thing. The whole idea is original, but it isn't handled correctly. This is one of the rare books by C.S. Lewis that I do not like as much.
3 stars

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

Lewis may have not been the first to speculate about other planets, but he wrote one of the best space books when he wrote Out of the Silent Planet.
When a university professor is kidnapped by two mad scientists, they launch him into space is a spaceship prototype. Destination: Mars. While the professor does not believe that living on Mars is possible, he is proven wrong. When he arrives on the red planet, he discovers several abnormal creatures. Actually, there are supposedly only three type of creatures on Mars. One is a tall human like creature, about the twice the height of an average human. They must be tall because of the atmosphere. The second he meets is a type of otter, only they have a language the professor eventually learns. They live just like people and are very deep into their arts. The third type of creature is a small little mole like creature that is very fast at digging and building things.
He also discovers that the nine planets have real names besides the ones the humans gave them.
After staying on the planet for a while, the professor discovers a drawing of the solar system on the side of one of the buildings. It depicts the entire solar system except for earth. Earth has been erased from the map. He soon finds out that earth is called the silent planet because it is the only one that does not have an angel ruling over it. Instead, Satan rules over it because of the Fall of Man.
The whole concept behind the book is both original and believable. I believe all of Lewis' philosophy in this book. The silent planet theory is highly probable.
As with most of Lewis' books, it isn't very long. He just wrote as much as he thought he should.
There is a "suspenseful" scene at the end involving a gun, but it's not what you think it might be. It's very different form modern "suspenseful" scenes.
If you haven't read this book, than you should as soon as possible. It's just as good as the Chronicles of Narnia.
4.5 stars

Merciless by Robin Parrish

At the end of Fearless, Grant Barrows fell into a chasm deep under mountains in Turkey. At the beginning of Merciless, Grant climbs back up as Oblivion, an evil gray creature who does not breathe and whose touch is death.
This is perhaps the most original villain idea in the history of fiction.
Now he walks the earth, destroying everything and setting the planet afire. He is the ultimate culmination of the Secretum of Six's plans. They have unleashed him, and now he is beyond their control.
The Loci have no choice but to hypnotically follow him and use their powers for his purposes. But Lisa and David are not Loci, and therefore the fate of the world rests in their hands. Though Morgan is now dead, she left behind a DVD of instructions for them to follow.
Once again, the characters stay true to their personalities, a rare feat for a trilogy.
Not only does Merciless explain who the Secretum of Six is and what their plans are, but it also tells why Grant Barrows had to be the Bringer. All explanations are well thought out and ingenious.
The end of the book is, of course, a showdown with Oblivion. It's not what you might think it is. There are no literary trash sayings or false death scenes. What Robin Parrish does at the end is something that had to be done, despite what others might think. This was the only way he could have ended the trilogy well.
The Interregnum no longer depict the Secretum of Six, since they have already been introduced to the reader. Instead, it shows what happened to Grant when he fell into the chasm.
Oblivion is not your typical villain. He isn't ridiculously gross or disgusting. He's not a monster and he's not overplayed. He is something very real, something mentioned in the Bible several times.
If you were tired of characters dying, than hold on. There are more key character deaths in this one.
Robin says Merciless is his favorite idea ever, and for a good reason. I know of several authors who have tried to use this idea but have failed. Robin Parrish has succeeded.
Parrish has changed the face of Christian speculative fiction with this series. He has showed us that this genre can have good characters and original plot ideas. He has made all other speculative series look ridiculous. They all pale in comparison to the Dominion Trilogy. The Dominion Trilogy has taken the world of Christian fiction by storm. It's the best thing since the Chronicles of Narnia.
This makes me excited to see what direction Robin Parrish will take his writing career next.
5 stars

Fusion Fire by Kathy Tyers

The only thing that makes Fusion Fire and any of the books in the Firebird trilogy worth reading are their extremely original settings and surroundings. Otherwise, the plots and characters struggle for originality.
Fusion Fire continues Firebird in a predictable way. Firebird has become pregnant with her and Brennan's twins, and is on the run from the Neithans, her former family. But in their way is Dru Polar, a Three Zed mad scientist who experiments with the mind.
Dru Polar is a typical villain to go right along with Kathy's other cast of typical characters. He's too evil to be believable. Firebird and Brennan are too perfect to be believable.
When Firebird and Brennan got married, a forge occurred between them through which they can read each other's thoughts and feel each other's feelings. This is one of the more interesting plot points.
But then Kathy introduces an odd plot point: fusion fire. after Firebird turns (who knows what that means) during the inevitable birth of her twin boys, she and Brennan can create fusion fire when together. Fusion fire is apparently a powerful weapon that can destroy people's minds therefore kill them. But they only use it one in this book.
When they get inevitably captured by Dru Polar, Tyers uses fusion fire as a CRT (Convenient Rescue Technique). A CRT is an idea that the author comes up with to get the heroes out of the bind they're in. This is usually a fantastical idea or tool that the heroes found before (kind of like James Bond). See Literary Trash.
Anyway, since fusion fire came in handy in this situation, it comes off as convenient. But Kathy Tyers is a growing author and has much to learn.
But while the public will be wowed by this book, I am not.
2 stars

Firebird by Kathy Tyers

I've been told that the Firebird trilogy is the best trilogy ever written. Based on the setting of Firebird, I'm almost convinced. The setting is probably the most original I have ever read. The plot, however, is a different story (pardon the pun).
I guess most people are blinded by the extremely original setting. It's set in an alternate universe in which people travel back and forth between the planets. The universe is basically divided to the left and to the right; between good and evil. Our main character, Firebird, starts out on the evil side and ends up on the good side.
Firebird is little lost in her royal line of siblings. She's fourth in her family and is destined to be a wastling all her life, and to die heroically in a inner space battle. But when the enemy saves her on purpose to milk information from her, the plot takes an interesting turn.
Unfortunately, from that point, the plot gets less original and more typical and same old, same old. The only thing that redeems this book is the original setting. Without that, it wouldn't be worth reading.
Most people look at the surroundings instead of at the plot and the characters. While this is important, one should not focus entirely on it. One should focus on the plot most of all. The plot is a typical romance plot. Firebird meets Brennan, the perfect male lead, on the good side and they fall in love, especially after Firebird becomes a Christian in the last chapter.
Tyers' characters aren't as good as she thinks they are. I think she has them scripted to well. They say all the write things and do the write things. She needs to throw in some surprises.
But this is a debut novel, so I can't expect much. I have mixed feelings about this series and will wait to see how the rest of it turns out.
2.5 stars

Fearless by Robin Parrish

Normally in fiction, events like fire raining down from heaven, mass diseases, mass natural disasters and superpowers happen off in alternate worlds, safely away from Planet Earth. But Robin Parrish has brought these events to our home planet has pulled readers from their comfort zones.
Therein lies the originality of the Dominion Trilogy.
The world is falling apart around the Loci, and only they can save it. But how can they save it when they themselves are afraid?
Grant, Alex, Morgan, and several other new characters are working to control riots, heal disease and restore order. But order lies in the hands of the Secretum of Six. They alone hold the fate of the world.
The main thing that drives this plot and makes the book long is Grant's obsession for finding the location of the Secretum. The journey is not lacking for bumps.
Payton has gone crazy with blood lust. He doesn't know who he works for or what he should do. So he's just using his power for bad-he's killing random people.
The world has idolized Grant, calling him Guardian. This fact has made the FBI mad. So Robin Parrish introduces a new villain in the series-the FBI. They are chasing the Loci around, but they don't even know their significance in the world's ever darkening future.
Parrish introduces several new powers he invented just to add to the plot.
The characters remain the same as they were in the first book. No miraculous shifts to perfection (pardon the pun).
The end is definitely continued and cannot end here. Unlike the end of Relentless, this definitely keeps the reader looking for more.
Several more key character deaths accelerate the originality. No one has ever done so many key character deaths without resurrection.
I did not believe at first that Relentless should have been continued. I had no idea what Robin was going to do for two more books. But I was wrong.
The main reason this book is also five stars is because I can see no flaws in it. Any suspenseful scenes are necessary and not overplayed.
The only problem I can for see is how in the world Robin is going to end this trilogy. But it must be something good, because everybody loves it. We'll just have to wait a few more days...
5 stars

Eternity's Edge by Bryan Davis

Bryan Davis is trying desperately to make Echoes from the Edge a trilogy. It would have done better as a standalone novel. But for some reason, all speculative books belong in trilogies.
The biggest problem with these first two books are their length. There is lots of wasted time in both books.
Eternity's Edge picks up where Beyond the Reflection's Edge left off-in the hospital. After a suspenseful scene with Mictar, Kelly is checked out, miraculously healed so they can continue their mindless adventure. After that, they proceed to waste some more time with their new friend Daryl, the token computer geek who can do anything technical. Her wisecracks are unbearable.
After accidentally creating a misty veil, they walk through and find themselves in world where the people talk in musical notes. This is one of the highlights of the book because no one has ever done such a thing before. But the idea is quickly ruined when the reader finds out that Kelly is the only one who can understand them. How she can understand them, I have no idea. This is just giving her a point to the series besides the romantic subplot. Even though Nathan is perfect, he can't do everything, you know.
After visiting that world, Patar pops up again and tells them they need to find Sarah's Womb (whatever that is) in order to find Nathan's mother and the giant magical, I mean, healing violin that will fill in the holes of the universe.
If I may pause for a minute, I must say that Patar is the best characters of the series. He's not your typical benevolent otherworldly guide. Nathan and his parents take up all the perfection in the series. Patar is a bit belligerent at times with his advice, mostly because he wants them to stop his brother Mictar.
Anyway, before getting around to Sarah's Womb, Nathan and his two servants, I mean, friends enter a dream world to talk to a girl named Scarlet. She is a supplicant (whatever that is) who is trapped under a glass dome.
Also, they take their time jumping between the earths to pick up Francesca again and attempt another tragedy prevention on Yellow-the space shuttle Challenger.
Davis covers for his key characters deaths conveniently. Though a key character may die on Earth Blue or Red, they can always go find the other one.
As it turns out, Mictar is building the Lucifer machine, a machine that converts light into dark energy (whatever that is). With this he will destroy the universe.
How juvenile.
This series has the two pieces of literary trash I hate the most-sensationalism and perfect characters.
But I could ramble on and on about the abused originality of this series, but I would run out of room on the post. Thankfully I only have one book left.
2 stars

Crown of Fire by Kathy Tyers

As with most trilogy enders, Crown of Fire is a letdown. I'm not even so sure if Fusion Fire needed to be continued.
The plot follows Brennan and Firebird as they planet-hop, fighting and escaping the forces of Three-Zed while their twin boys are being kept on the other side of the Whorl. Meanwhile, a young Shuhr woman has been impregnated with a zygote of Brennan, without his knowing.
Firebird is charged to where the crown of her people for a night to see who his really trying to attack them. That's where the title comes from.
The villain is a typical serial killer character disguised as someone really interesting. Like I've said before, the Firebird trilogy is a deception; typical plot points disguised as something original.
The plot kind of meanders along with action interruptions. At least the characters are consistently perfect. Her characters actually come off as boring and un-lifelike.
There are also too many near-death escapades that leaves the heroes, primarily Brennan, alive. I can't believe he almost died twice. Both times he was miraculously healed. First, he almost died by the serial killer, and second he almost died in a space battle.
The end was a letdown because Tyers set up a really good ending that she didn't do. I've never really liked series enders, and this one is no exception. But what can I expect from a debut trilogy? I've given her a chance with this series, but she needs to improve with her next book. Combining her original ideas with original plots would make her better than she is now.
1.5 stars

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Ultimatum by Nancy Moser

The Ultimatum directly continues where A Steadfast Surrender left off. It follows Jared as he lives the cutthroat life of the streets and gets caught in the wrong crowd. Also, it focuses on the waitress Annie and her family.
Annie is a Christian, but her husband is not (yet). They frequently have fights about faith and money. The fights are juvenile and predictable because Annie always wins them. Annie is a ridiculously perfect character. She's a model Christian, always doing the right thing and saying the right words that will win the arguments with her husband.
Meanwhile, Jared is pursuing his dreams as a musician and ends up getting sweet talked into working with a criminal.
Both plots are propelled together in a dramatic string of scenes that involve Annie and her family in a hostage situation in their own home. Jared and his new friend are the instigators. The hostage scene drags on and ends predictably.
It would have been better if Annie had died during it, like Nancy Moser planned to do. Having her die would have made her husband learn a lesson about taking things for granted. As it was, she lived, and he became a Christian. They lived happily ever after.
Well, life does not live happily ever after. Stuff happens. People die. The faster Nancy figures this out and finally exits her sensational dream world, the better Christian fiction will be.
2 stars

The Temptation by Nancy Moser

She did exactly what I didn't want her to do. She wrote a third book in the Seeds of Faith series! Nooooooooooooooo!
The five, or however many there are now, are still doing their things. But this time, Arthur is back-and working for our new villain, a man posing as a pastor! No one knows but the reader!
The plot of this book is virtually the same as that of The Quest. There are many similarities. The two plots meld together in my head, and it's hard to pick them apart.
Not that I really want to remember.
The characters are just the same, if not getting increasingly worse. I know Nancy's choice in villains is getting worse.
The best character I can think of the compare our new villain to is the pastor from Deliver Us From Evelyn who's always changing his name.
Nancy preforms one desperate attempt to get this book back on the map, which is having a key character die in a bomb explosion the villain sets off. It's pretty obvious that she couldn't think of anything else to do.
I don't really know what else to say about this book except that the best thing Nancy Moser can do in her career is to stop this series and move on the something more interesting and original.
1 star

The Quest by Nancy Moser

Thank you, Nancy Moser for cutting nearly two thirds of the original manuscript of this book. I don't think we could have standed any more spiritual warfare scenes.
Now that the five main characters have returned from Haven, they're all fired up and ready to change the world. Haven has produced the first female president of the US of A, one of the best writers on the market, a VERY famous artist, a street preacher, and an extremely popular TV host. The world just lavishes on them. But the supernatural isn't happy.
Demons are stalking them at every turn. But they don't know it! They can't even tell who they are!
So they have a showdown at the old bird pavilion. The demon standing up on the waterfall dangling the girl over the edge while the others shoot him down with Bible verses and prayer. Good wins in the end!
I'm not kidding.
Perhaps if Nancy had refrained from having our original five meet MORE people who went to different Havens that popped up all over the country, this book would have been more tolerable.
The replacement romances for Natalie and Kathy are cheesy.
The characters are worse. There are too many of them. Now can Nancy give any of them personal attention?
There are too many villains.
The plot is for the sensationalism lovers. This one makes them feel like they're reading suspense.
Please Nancy, spare us a third book.
2 stars

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

A common mistake readers make is reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe before The Magician's Nephew. The Magician's Nephew is the most vital to the series for this reason. Perhaps the reason the read these books out of order is because C.S. Lewis originally wrote this one sixth in the series.
It tells the story of Digory and Polly, two children who do not reappear until The Last Battle. Digory's uncle Andrew is a mad scientist, so to speak. The two children find out what he's doing in the attic of his house one rainy day while they were exploring. His secret: a box of humming rings.
But not just any rings. These were supposedly the only thing saved from the lost island of Atlantis. To put on a yellow ring will send the wearer to the Wood Between the Worlds. A green ring will send them back to our world.
Inside the Word Between the Worlds are lots of pools, each one leading to another world. The first world Digory and Polly step into is Charn, a dying world in which Digory wakes up Jadis, whom we hear more of in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
After accidentally taking Jadis back to our world for a day, Uncle Andrew figures out a way to take them all back. The only problem is, they take a horse and buggy with them, along with the driver.
The other problem is that they do not end up in Charn, because Charn is now dead. They end up in a world that is being created.
That world is Narnia.
The inventive genius behind this book is extraordinary. The concept of multiple different worlds besides Narnia is something he came up with after he had already written five books.
This book comes shy of five stars mostly because the idea of magic rings is a little bizarre. But nonetheless, this book, along with the rest of the series, is Elite.
4.5 stars

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Everyone knows the story of the four Pevinsies, but I've never read a professional review of it.
When Lucy first walked through the wardrobe, I think the public fails to grasp the complete originality of C.S. Lewis' new world. Tolkien had already created the concept of an alternate world, but Lewis added the feature of someone from our world finding their way into it. If you read The Magician's Nephew first like you should, you would understand the significance of the wardrobe. This will also explain the lamppost and how it got there.
I believe C.S. Lewis fully understood the concept of taking children in during the war because he did so himself. He took in a number of children to his country home during the London Blitz.
Mr. Tumnus symbolizes the backsliders, the ones who work for Satan just because it's more popular than working for Jesus. His involvement in the plot is interesting.
The concept of the White Witch is also original especially if you know English faerie tales. Normally, the white witches were like faeries, whereas the black witches were bad. Lewis added to feature to show how deceptive Satan can be.
The snow itself is also symbolic, symbolizing Satan's hold on the world before Jesus died. Father Christmas is a nod to the youngsters of Lewis' day.
The concept of talking animals was something very "magical" in Lewis' day. No one, not even Tolkein, had come up with this one before. Today it seems normal as we see children's TV shows all the time depicting talking animals.
Dwarfs were popular in faerie tales and mythology. So were fauns, satyrs, centaurs, naiads, and dryads.
The sacrifice of Aslan on the Stone Table was the first allegorical version of Calvary ever written into a children's book. However, Tolkien had already come up with a Christ figure in his Lord of the Rings.
The main purpose of this review is to show you where and how speculative fiction was born-in the creative mind of C.S. Lewis. No other alternate world, in my mind has topped that of the Chronicles of Narnia.
5 stars

The Invitation by Nancy Moser

When four people are given invitations to come to Haven, Nebraska, they have no idea what they're in for.
A cancer patient, an struggling politician, an aspiring writer, and an undiscovered artist are all searching for the meaning of life. That's why they've been invited to the special town of Haven.
The funny thing is, four are invited, but five go because there was some kind of extra unknown invitation.
Anyway, when they arrive there, they encounter some strange events. Very strange events. A kidnapping by the only sinful person in town, miracles, and strange tornadoes are just the tip of the iceberg.
The main problem with this book is that it's overplayed and overly dramatic in some parts. The five people that are brought there are supposed to be being taught what their talents really are by perfect teachers.
Nancy could use some character development.
Also, some censorship on the dramatic scenes. The hostage scene at the end involving small children is a bit much. Everyone becoming a Christian, including the criminal, at the end is a bit much. The healing of the cancer patient really sends it over the edge of sensationalism.
There are multiple romantic subplots, too many to count, and they all work out in the end. By the last page, everybody's happy and Nancy has her emotional readers all pumped up and ready for the sequel.
Oh boy.
Needless to say, I didn't hate this book like I did some of her other books. I actually liked the idea. She just didn't use it right.
3 stars

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

This installment in the series is often skipped over because no one knows where to put it. It comes third in the series because the timeline occurs during The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Shasta is a boy with a troubled life. He lives in Calormen, the nomadic country south of Archenland, which is south of Narnia. He lives with an abusive man not his father and just tries to survive from day to day. But when a Calormen official comes to stay at their hut, Shasta overhears something dreadful.
He's about to be sold as a slave to the official.
So he runs away on the official's horse. But what he doesn't know is the horse is a talking horse stolen from Narnia. Bree is his name, and he decides that he and Shasta are going to run away to "Narnia and the north".
Along the way, they hook up with another talking horse, Hwin, and her rider, a runaway Calormen girl. The two groups join together under one common goal: reaching Narnia and freedom.
But along the way, lions keep following them...
They go from large desert cities to ruthless desert battles in their quest to reach Narnia. Several surprises are introduced along the way, such as who Shasta really is.
To let past Narnia readers know that this is still a Chronicle of Narnia, Lewis throws the four grown Pevinses in as the four kings and queens of Narnia. They are visiting Calormen to talk about signing a treaty. Tumnus makes an appearance as well.
This book is not a five star book, mostly because there are several boring scenes. However, Bree is one of Lewis' better characters ever created.
4.5 stars

Scoop by Rene Gutteridge

Hugo Telley didn't know what he was getting into when he hired Hayden Hazard on as his executive assistant at the News Channel 7, the station he produces. But things were already going wrong before he arrival. Gilda Braun, their popular news anchor, is forever ensconced in her position at the desk. She's practically an idol in the town, having her own statue at the airport. Or used to be an idol. The problem is, she's really old. Old in age, old in wardrobe choices, old in makeup choices, and generally old-fashioned.
But replacing her will be a hard task, especially since their station has been last in ratings for the past few years. Changing anything would wreak even more havoc. But when his only good reporter gets injured while out in the field, things start to take a turn for the better, believe it or not.
Hayden Hazard comes from a big family who used to make up a clown business. But now, their parents have died, and the oldest son has sold the business, leaving the seven siblings to fend for themselves in the big world. That's why Hayden is eager to step in when Gilda mysteriously disappears from the desk and her home.
There are several things keeping this comedic book off the Elite List. First of all, Hayden is perfect. As perfect as she can be. She has no flaws at all. However, most of the other characters are funny and believable.
Second of all, ends are not Rene's forte, so to say (pardon the rhyming). By the end, she had created four romantic subplots. She hooked every significant female with every significant male and they were all happy. Everything turns out perfect at the end.
I think it would have been better if Gilda would have remained missing and if Hayden had just stayed at the desk.
Also, surely Rene could have worked on Hayden's character more. She worked on all the others and they were just fine.
Those are the only black spots that keep this book off the Elite List. Otherwise, it's a fine read.
3 stars

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

The Return to Narnia, as it is appropriately called, is the second in written order and the fourth in chronological order. It shows how the four Pevinses are pulled back into their favorite world by the blowing of Susan's horn, ironically.
When the four siblings return, they find that hundreds of Narnian years have past. The country is in ruins-especially Cair Paravel. The trees and talking animals have been silenced and humans rule the country.
The siblings eventually rescue a dwarf sentenced to die. Trumpkin is his name, and he proceeds to tell them everything that has happened and how Caspian came to blow Susan's horn.
King Miraz is a cruel dictator to his people, and he was teaching his nephew Caspian to be so as well. But Caspian had a nurse who taught him about old Narnia, as did his new tutor, a half human, half dwarf.
When Miraz's wife has a son of their own, Miraz proceeds to kill Caspian. But Caspian's tutor makes sure Caspian escapes from the castle into the woods, where he meets old Narnians in hiding.
The battle scene at the end of this book, in my opinion, is a copy of the first. However, the notion of Narnia changing after such a short time is interesting and inventive.
Lewis says he came up with the idea for this book by asking himself the question, "What if someone from that world called someone from this world instead of someone from our world going into that world?" And it worked.
It's good that C.S. Lewis did try different things with this series instead of the do the same thing over and over again. That's probably the biggest problem with series' today.
4 stars

In Sheep's Clothing by Susan May Warren

Warren crafts a good plot, but not a great one in In Sheep's Clothing. The storyline is great considering that she wrote it in a Russian flat while homeschooling three kids under eight where she had no email or running water during the day.
The main problem with it is that while the plot isn't as predictable as it could be, I found the story to be slightly boring and normal. The characters and their histories are well developed, but they aren't anything different.
The story itself is set in Russia and is about a missionary who thinks she has failed in her faith. She's about to pack it in when her best friend and her husband die in their apartment because of some kind of medical secret they were hiding. She is afraid she will be charged for their deaths, so she clams up when under interrogation. An FSB agent comes onto the scene to try to protect her, and you can imagine where that leads. Since the agent isn't a Christian, Warren had even more room to be typical with this book.
I guess I can't really fault her for being typical. Here's why: this is a debut novel that was written under hectic circumstances. It's actually very surprising that it's as good as it is.
The "in sheep's clothing" part is actually very original. Who the criminal is is different. It would have been unpredictable if the enemy wouldn't have called himself the Wolf and if the title wasn't what it was.
If you are looking for a normal thriller, then this is the book the read.
2 stars

Germ by Robert Liparulo

If you breathe it will find you. That's what the cover of Germ says. And it's true. Too true.
A certain genetic research company has created the ultimate weapon: a fatal virus that seeks and destroys certain people. It can pick and choose, depending on the DNA imprinted on the virus. A list of random people of all races, ages, positions, and payrolls has been compiled and the virus has been put into circulation. If the virus is caught by someone whose DNA is not printed on the virus, it is simply a common cold. But that person becomes a carrier and will spread it to someone whose DNA the virus is seeking out.
An FBI agent's closest friend has been killed in a crime related to the virus. Now she has quit the agency and is going to investigate on her own. Along the way, she hooks up with two brothers, a doctor, and a pastor who have all also experienced things related to the virus. Only the they can stop it.
A newspaper reporter has been emailed a list of names. Seemingly random names of people all over the country. He begins calling them and comes to a startling conclusion.
A mysterious villain is chasing the ex-FBI agent and the two brothers around. But he's popping up everywhere. Even when they thought he was dead...
In the midst of all this, one old rich man knows who has unleashed the virus and why. And he's trying to use the trio to stop them. But they're running out of time...
This is definitely a five star idea, but as with all genetic thrillers, there is no good way to end them. The good thing is Robert did everything he could do with the idea, including inventing an original kind of serial killer, expanding upon every character, even those who only have one scene, and having a key character die at the end.
The other good thing is that the virus isn't overblown. The enemy is isolated to one place only, not all over the whole world. The villain has a purpose and a reason for the things he does. He isn't an animalistic character. He's a real person with issues.
This is what really brings it down to earth for the reader. All the characters are human; none are perfect. They all make mistake. That's the biggest battle of all.
Nevertheless, this book just came shy of the Elite List.
3.5 stars

Deadlock by Robert Liparulo

If you like action adventure, perfect and indestructible characters, and absolutely no plot, then you will like Deadlock. But if you actually care about the quality of the fiction you read, than run far, far away from this book.
In this unnecessary sequel, Liparulo turns Hutch and his crew into perfect characters as they fight for the truth about Brendan Page's secret military operation. No one will believe them, so they must recklessly fight for their lives and for what they believe is the truth. When Logan gets kidnapped by the bad guys, Hutch goes ballistic. Though he pretends to be smart and cool the whole time, he stops thinking rationally. Of course, his irrational thinking was what got Logan into the mess in the first place. But that part of the plot is brushed over, because remember, Hutch can do no wrong.
From there, all that's pretty much left are gun fights and gore. The end is ridiculous, having Hutch fight Brendan on top of a building with a longbow AGAIN. But there's another whole issue that no other reviewer had opened up yet. The characters talk about praying and going to heaven, but the names of God and Jesus are never mentioned. Instead, the "good" characters are free with the expletives and other colorful words. Call me old-fashioned, I don't care. If Liparulo is trying to not shove Christianity down people's throats, he's gone the other extreme.
Also, the title makes absolutely no sense. It should have been called Shootout.
From this point on, Liparulo needs to sit back and actually think about what he's writing before he produces more useless books.
1.5 stars

Deadfall by Robert Liparulo

While the idea behind Deadfall is more original than that of Germ's, and while the writing was superb, and while it held my attention, unfortunately, I knew exactly how it was going to end.
The book also didn't live up to its full potential. It almost did, but it fell short in several parts. The plot is about four friends who decide to go rugged in the Canadian wilderness, escaping from their draining lifestyles. The main character, perfect John "Hutch" Hutchinson, is the product of a nasty divorce that wasn't his fault at all.
But what they find in the wilderness surprises them-a maniac testing his new weapon on victims in a small mountain town.
The book is mostly filled up with mountain and car chases, explosions, shoot-em-ups, and predictabel hostage scenes. The book is pure action, not suspense. The good guys are really good; the bad guys are really bad. It's all black and white, clear cut, and easy to figure out. Suspense for the simple minded.
Having two key characters die was a plus. I think Robert did everything he thought he needed to do with this book. But there's always room for improvement.
The end makes everything turn out all right and perfect. There's a final showdown with the enemy and a rescue of a child. The whole works.
While the public likes this book, I do not.
2.5 stars

Soon To Be Reviewed

Coming Soon:

Book of Days by James L Rubart (January)

Possession by Rene Gutteridge

The Watermark by Travis Thrasher
The Remedy for Regret by Susan Meissner
Lies of Saints by Sigmund Brouwer
Maggie's Story by Dandi Daley Mackall
The Trees of Eden by Linda Dorrell
A Skeleton in God's Closet by Paul Maier
Though None Go With Me by Jerry B Jenkins
The Rookie by Jerry B. Jenkins
John 3:16 by Nancy Moser
Drummer in the Dark by T Davis Bunn
Faces in the Fire by T L Hines
Shattered Justice by Karen Ball
Kaleidoscope Eyes by Karen Ball
A Test of Faith by Karen Ball
My Soul to Keep by T Davis Bunn
Gold of Kings by T Davis Bunn
The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterson
Against All Odds by Irene Hannon

Inside Story by Susan Page Davis
Ransomed Dreams by Amy Wallace
Healing Promises by Amy Wallace
Enduring Justice by Amy Wallace
Monster by Frank Peretti
Tillie by Frank Peretti
Tears in a Bottle by Sylvia Bambola
Refiner's Fire by Sylvia Bambola
Nowhere to Hide by Debbie Giusti
After the Rains by Deborah Raney
Escape to Morning by Susan May Warren
The Presence by T Davis Bunn
The Warning T Davis Bunn
The Ultimatum T Davis Bunn
Starlighter series by Bryan Davis
Blink of an Eye by Ted Dekker

Arena by Karen Hancock

After reading several of Karen's other books, I must say that Arena is her best book to date, even though it is her debut novel.
Callie agrees to be a guinea pig for a new type of psychological testing because it pays well. The job: enter a psychological world and exit as fast as possible. She is given several instructions along the way, such as staying on the white road at all times and avoiding distractions. She must reach the Benefactor's Gate in order to exit the world and return to her her home.
But when she comes face to face with a human just like herself, her view of the test changes. Especially when he tells her that there is no way to reach the Benefactor's Gate. He knows because he's been trying for five years.
He eventually takes her to the group of people he's staying with, people who have also been in the Arena for a long time.
The Arena is filled with all kinds of dangers-Trogs, which are human like enemies; harries, which are like flying manta rays; and other dangers like menacing sand mites.
Callie fears she is trapped in the Arena forever until she convinces the group to scale the cliffs that lead to the Benefactor's Gate. They soon discover that reach the Gate was easier than they thought. What they find at the top stuns them.
The whole premise of the book is very original for a debut novel. Karen could have spent several books outlining all kinds of paths for the characters to take (don't get any ideas, Karen; I don't like sequels). The path she chose for her characters to take isn't the best, but it is still enough for it to be Elite.
If it were not for the end. After the characters return home, Karen makes a rookie mistake by adding an extra chapter at the end that ruins the whole book.
But there are other drawbacks to the book, such as the the perfection of most of the characters, including Callie. Also, there is an extremely predictable villain that should have been eliminated.
Also, there are too many scenes depicting the characters eating the foreign cuisine. It seems like Karen could have used those spots in the book to show off some more creativity besides eating.
All in all, it's not a bad book, and it should warrant a read. After all, what should one expect from a debut novel?
3.5 stars

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Seat Beside Me by Nancy Moser

An airplane is yet another setting in which Nancy Moser can exhaust her recurring talent of writing about groups of four or five people.
Dora is a reporter who was supposed to be on a flight that crashes not long after takeoff. But since her mother was healed and didn't have to go to the hospital, she cancels her ticket.
The next day, the plane crashes.
The plot also focuses on a self-absorbed doctor, a young mother and wife, a bookstore owner, and a man contemplating suicide. All four survived the crash, but none of the people in the seats beside them. Beside the doctor was a woman he didn't care to save, beside the young mother were her husband and son, beside the bookstore owner was a Christian man who taught her the meaning of life, and beside the man contemplating suicide was another Christian man who made him change his mind about his decision.
Dora eventually meets up with all of these to interview them, but all the while she is overwhelmed of how she missed the flight. The whole book is basically a journey of grief and searching for the meaning of life.
The characters are pretty good on the Nancy Moser scale. None of them are perfect except for maybe Dora.
Nancy Moser seems to be very impressed with this book. All authors pick out one book of theirs they really like. But this book does not top the Time Lottery series or Solemnly Swear.
However, it does warrant a read.
3 stars

The Good Nearby by Nancy Moser

The Good Nearby is another one of Nancy Moser's absurd, cheesy, and sensational plots. It's about Gigi, a woman who's obsessed with the number 91. She bases her life decisions on whether the number appears or not. She married her husband because he was number 91 on the football team, she visits a certain woman's house because the number 91 was in the address.
Besides that, the plot also follows five other people in her town that each have something in common-a medical condition. What this has to do with Gigi is original enough. But this original idea is overshadowed by the general stupidity of the plot.
The characters are just average. Gigi, of course, is an absurd character. She acts half her age most of the time.
I can't believe Nancy did what she did at the end of the book, but it served her own sensational purpose to make everything work out right. By the end of the book, several of the other characters are also obsessed with the number 91.
Perhaps if she had cut out the number nonsense, this book would have been average. The number alone drags the whole book down.
Most people will like this book because it's "touching". Maybe it is, if you can forget about the 91 part.
1.5 stars

Solemnly Swear by Nancy Moser

If anyone was going to invent a new kind of legal plot, it would be Nancy Moser. This is the first legal book I know of that puts it from the perspective of the jury. This setting also gives her freedom exercise her specialty in writing-groups of four or five people.
The case is the murder of a local rich man, who was killed in his own hot tub. The person being accused is his girlfriend.
The jury consists of an actress past her time, a workaholic father, a rich wife of a doctor, and a playboy with family troubles. One of the jurors knows who the culprit is, but is trying to cover it up.
The characters are better than most of Nancy's others. Most are actually believable. The plot is original because it focuses fully on the jury instead of on the lawyers. It makes the lawyers and the judge merely background characters.
The end is one of the more original ends Nancy Moser has ever written. I can't believe she did. It's completely against her norm.
But going against her norm is good because it breaks her out of her comfort zone as a writer and puts her in the Elite class.
4.5 stars

Skid by Rene Gutteridge

Danny McSweeney never knew what he was in for when he agreed to be first officer on flight 1945, Atlanta to Amsterdam. Between an eccentric, aloof pilot, a copilot who's always got a nickname and a conspiracy theory to spout, and a lead flight attendant who thinks she runs the show, he almost resigns from his job.
On top of that, on the over side of the cockpit door, a woman has a very original carry-on: a pot-bellied pig with a personality. Also, a thief is aboard, along with a loud Oprah worshiper and of course, Hank Hazard, the sibling in this book.
Hank is almost a background character himself. His occupation is an airline inspector, a man payed to test the airline's patience and accommodations. The problem with Hank is that he's a perfect character, despite what some people might say. The other characters, however are real and believable.
Rene makes the flight drag on for a while without making it boring. The planes takes off at about page one hundred and stays in the air all the way until the epilogue.
The main problems with this book are, of course, Hank's perfection, and also a "suspenseful" scene at the end in which a passenger holds up the plane with a gun. This, in my opinion was unnecessary and forced into the plot.
Also, the book is hardly about Hank's profession. He isn't even the type of person to hold down a picky job like that. I think the book would have achieved a five star rating if the book has been completely from Hank's perspective and to have it all about his asking for accommodations. That would be truly funny and original.
To say this book is a comedy would be an overstatement. I believe that those looking for a comedy will be disappointed, but those looking for a good character based story will be satisfied.
It's good enough to be Elite.
4 stars

Relentless by Robin Parrish

One ordinary morning, Colin Boyd steps off the bus and sees himself standing across the street. After looking in a shop window, he realizes that he is no longer Colin Boyd. His new driver's licence tells him so. He is now Grant Barrows. He has been Shifted.
From there, he is chased by a serial killer who wants to ring that has appeared on his right middle finger. The only problem is, the ring won't come off. It won't even budge.
After being guided by a barefoot woman to a compound filled with other Shifted people, called shimmers, he starts to get some answers. But not all of them. They are all players in a dangerous game. A game that decides the dominion of the world. They are wanted by a secret society called the Secretum of Six, who has unlimited resources and can get whatever they want when they want it.
Grant also finds out that the shimmers have been waiting for him for a long time. He is the Bringer, their leader. With him, they can begin their work.
But they don't exactly know what that work is. Only the Keeper knows.
Each of the shimmers has a special power that is given off by the ring. Each is different from each other, and also different from anything I have ever read. Robin Parrish did a good job coming up with original powers.
Normally, I would say that's a five star idea, not necessarily a five star book. But I was wrong.
Normally, speculative fiction doesn't have good characters. But there's always an exception.
Normally, when key characters die, they come back to life. Think again.
Normally, the villain is a completely unbelievable, animalistic character with no personality. I don't think so.
Normally, debut novels aren't five stars. There never has been, in fact. Until now.
Normally, an author wouldn't have handled this kind of plot the way Robin Parrish did. But Robin Parrish is the kind of author the Christian market needs: one who can combine five star ideas with five star plots.
The one problem I can think of is I have no idea what the next two books in the series are about. It seemed like everything was resolved at the end. But when you're dealing with an author who can write a five star debut novel, you never know what he might do next. This is why I plan to review the rest of Robin's books, as well as look to the future to see what he will do next.
5 stars

Edge of Eternity by Randy Alcorn

A prominent businessman suddenly wakes up in another world where everything is red. The exact place where he wakes up is a cave with all kinds of strange writings on the wall. Only one sentence is intelligible, and it tells him to go to a certain place.
When he goes there, he meets several other people who have also been called into the strange world. From there, they embark on a journey similar to that of Pilgrim's Progress.
There are several unexpected twists to the plot, one in particular being more interesting and original than the rest.
The characters are actually pretty good, considering the type of plot this is. Not many allegories have good characters.
If you thought you had the ends to all allegories figured out, than think again. This one will surprise you.
What Randy Alcorn has done with this book is he has mixed up all kinds of interesting philosophies and shoved them all into one book.
This book is definitely worth your time.
4 stars

Dominion by Randy Alcorn

Clarence is a newspaper reporter working in Seattle alongside Jake, who was introduced in the first book of this series. Clarence's journey begins with his sister's death by gunfire at night in her own home. Clarence immediately plunges himself into the investigation, which pits him to work alongside Ollie Chandler, our eccentric ho-ho-homicide friend.
On top of that, his teenage son is contemplating joining a local gang with whom he hangs out with often.
The investigation is long and drawn out, like a realistic one would be. It is filled with complexities, rabbit trails, and false clues as Clarence and Ollie are plunged into the street world of gangs, drugs, and racial discrimination. But to make the book not all about the mystery, Randy throws in all kinds of extra scenes such as history lessons on the Negro Leagues, family life in Clarence's family tree, and more heaven scenes, this time focusing on Dani, Clarence's dead sister.
The characters are better than in the first book because they have matured, along with the author's writing style. None of them are perfect.
Randy poured almost every idea he had into this book, which is an explanation for its 600+ page length.
The final scene is not a typical one. It's something that the reader does not expect at first. When the reader is done reading it, they don't know what hit them.
I could go on and on about the flawless writing style of this book, but the best way for you to find that out is to read it for yourself. It may take a week, but just bare with it and finish it. The end is worth the wait.
5 stars

Deception by Randy Alcorn

Finally...the book we have all been waiting for...the book that hands Ollie Chandler the reins and lets him fly-in the first person, nonetheless!
A certain homicide is baffling everyone-even old Ollie. A man is in his own apartment, and the crime scene itself is a complete puzzle. There are many different, nonsensical objects left behind at the crime-each one of them belonging to a different person around town. One by one, the suspects are eliminated until just a select few are left. The ironic thing is, since Ollie was drunk the night the murder occurred, he has no other choice but to put himself on the suspect list.
Having a book in the first person of a character like Ollie Chandler gives Randy Alcorn all kinds of creative avenues to drive down with his sentences. And judging by the length of the book, I think Randy drove down every one of them. The tone is completely different than that of Dominion for that reason. Not as much research, more wisecracks.
Ollie is steadfastly true to his character. He has several daily habits that are not overemphasized by the author. After several times of them preforming them, the reader catches on without any prompting from the author.
There is a very original non-overemphasized romantic subplot-one of the best ever crafted.
It takes a while for Ollie to unravel all the clues-but he finally does. The culprit will shock you.
Usually final scenes are ridiculous and bland, but this one is not. Though it is completely different from the final scene of Dominion, it is still just as original.
Sadly, I must suggest that, while I would LOVE to read another book from the first person of Ollie Chandler, I must discourage Randy to write any more in this series for fear of depreciation.
But for now, I will celebrate in the present.
5 stars

Deadline by Randy Alcorn

Jake is a newspaper reporter working in Seattle. His family life is suffering, and so is his career. One night, while out with two of his buddies, a car comes head on and rams into them. Jake is the only one who survives.
After finding out that his daughter is pregnant and has AIDS, he begins to rethink everything he ever believed and wrote about in his articles. So he begins to write more articles, countering his original ones, all while working with a quirky homicide investigator to find out whether the car accident was really an accident or not.
The characters are pretty good, as good as can be expected with a debut novel. Ollie, the homicide detective, is one of the more creative characters ever crafted.
This mystery isn't really a mystery; the answer is pretty easy to figure out. The end is complete with a long "suspenseful" showdown with the bad guys.
The major plus that keeps this book afloat is a completely original fiction feature Randy has included in this book: scenes depicting life in heaven, which include characters that die during the plot. This originality is what keeps this book afloat.
All in all, this book is good for a debut novel, but otherwise, it's kind of boring. But the characters make the reader want to read the next book.
3 stars

Crossroads by Nancy Moser

Crossroads, to me, is one of the worst books in Christian fiction today (not as bad as The Dead Whisper On, however).
Crossroads was meant to be The Inheritance, the fourth book of the Seeds of Faith series. It think it would have been better placed in that series.
Anyway, the plot is about an old woman who currently owns a small town that is quickly becoming a ghost town. In order to save the town, she decides to sell off the property bit by bit to people out of state who want to move there. She advertises everywhere and they begin bidding for the property. As usual, Nancy uses this setting to exhaust her usual writing style of focusing on a group of four to five people.
As a nod to the Seeds of Faith series, she adds Kathy and her family to the plot with an extra piece of history none of the readers knew about.
The other token characters are a former deputy coming to see if his former girlfriend still loved him, a small family from the big city wanting a quieter pace, and an old couple also wanting the quiet of a small town.
The plot is pretty boring and the characters are average on the Nancy Moser scale.
The end of the book is ridiculous, having two of the characters get away with something immoral. There's lots of sensationalism and cheesy scenes and dialogue. It's beyond predictable. It's just sickening that this type of writing is allowed in the Christian market.

1 star

Beyond the Reflection's Edge by Bryan Davis

While I ignored the Dragons in Our Midst and Oracles of Fire series by this author, the Echoes from the Edge series caught my eye in a good way.
Nathan Shepard is a teenager who has been surrounded by music all of his life. His mother is a famous violinist, and he is trying to follow in her footsteps. His father is an investigator.
But then, one night after a concert, both of his parents are murdered by a strange scientist whom his father was investigating. All that's found on his father's body are the notes for the case and a strange mirror.
Nathan goes to stay with one of his father's friends as he tries to unravel the clues to his parents' deaths. Along with the help of Kelly, his new girlfriend, they discover something very dangerous and life threatening.
Three dimensions are being propelled toward each other because of holes in the dimensions. These holes are created by people traveling between the dimensions. If there are too many holes, than the whole universe will collapse into itself and be forced into a state called Interfinity.
Earth Blue is our world, and Earth Red and Earth Yellow are both behind in time. All three dimensions are virtually identical in their pasts, presents, and futures except for the staggered time lines. But the holes are making it so that things in Earth Red and Earth Yellow are happening differently than it did on Earth Blue.
The whole idea behind this book sounds creative, so the plot content is what keeps it from being Elite.
First of all, Nathan is a completely perfect character. The teen "everyone wants to be." The rest of the characters are also lacking for a personality.
Second of all, the villain is absurd and stereotypical. There's nothing that can make me believe it is real or plausible. It's just another one of those alternate world villains.
Third of all, this book is hardly spent working on the central task: mending the holes in the dimensions. it's mostly spent on street chases, emotional scenes, information dumps about Interfinity, and scenes showing how perfect Nathan is.
Fourth of all, the end of this book does not make me want to finish the series. But I will do so just so I can finish reviewing it. The end shows nothing of them trying to solve the problem; it consists of the characters sitting in a hospital room crying.
Fifth of all, the title makes no sense save for the sentence Bryan stuck at the end containing the title just to make it work.
I wish I could make this book Elite, but I really cannot because I can't do it in good faith. Perhaps the rest of series will utilize this original idea correctly.
2 stars

A Steadfast Surrender by Nancy Moser

To read the back of A Steadfast Surrender makes the reader eager to read it. Until it gets toward the end of the book.
Claire Adams is a rich artist who thinks God has called her to recklessly sell everything she has, and move off somewhere in order to become a living witness to people of not storing up for yourself treasures on earth. So she lets all her riches go, steps onto a bus with only the clothes on her back, and lets the bus take her to the small town of Steadfast, Kansas, which she chooses randomly. In Steadfast, she proceeds to live in the attic of the library with another girl who is running away from her former life.
I don't know about you, but this whole notion is a bit reckless and silly. Nancy is trying a bit too hard to be Biblical and comes off as being sensational.
I must pause here and say that I think it's a little obvious that Nancy's favorite book of hers is The Seat Beside Me. Why else would she have Merry living in steadfast?
And at the end of the book, it veers off the original point of the plot dramatically. The plot is a bit of a mess, and it looks like the editor slept through the end. By the end, Claire isn't even the focus character anymore. The whole second half of the book is used setting up the sequel.
The biggest problem is that this is not realistic and is plagued with Moser's typical amateur nonsense. This book is probably worth your time, however, if only for the interesting plot idea.
2 stars