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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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Wager by Bill Myers

Michael Steele is a popular actor with a problem: he's a Christian in a non-Christian workplace. Temptations stalk him at every turn and threaten to take away his purity.
God and Satan have made a wager: can Michael follow every point in the Sermon on the Mount without failing? God alerts Michael of this proposition by playing verses from the Sermon on the Mount through radios and TVs.
The biggest problem with this book is its straight-forwardness. It's all too clear cut and sermon-like in its execution. Everything happens in consecutive fashion without plot twists or surprises.
Michael completes each test over and over again. He's nothing short of a perfect character. None of the other characters are any good either.
Because of the book's lack of plot twists, the novel is basically a novella. It's very short; less than 200 pages long. I think Myers could have made it longer with better characters and more plot twists. As it is, it's just a long sermon illustration.
There's not really much else to say about this book because of its length. I think Bill Myers can do better than this.
1.5 stars

The Fine Art of Insincerity by Angela Hunt

Coming 2010...


Lillian Harper has had an long, interesting life, but not an empty one. She has gone through a number of husbands due to death and divorce. However, those marriages have produced children who have done the same thing. And those marriages have produced more children. Now they are calling it the Grandma Gene.
Now Lillian has died and has willed her house and her possessions to three of her granddaughters. As the three women enter Lillian's house, they begin to discover much of their grandmother's precarious past.


This looks like a good genre for Hunt to settle into. Her days of suspense may be over, but she has never tried a good character-based plot before.
I didn't think a title like The Grandma Gene would stick, but even though it does make sense she has adjusted it to The Fine Art of Insecurity, I guess she is becoming a little more creative with titles over the years.
The number one thing that could go wrong with this kind of book is excessive repetition. She'll need to tone it down and change up a little to make it interesting.

The author has posted a timeline of the book on her blog. Just click here:

The Dogs of Snoqualmie by Calvin Miller

When an old priest calling himself Father Peter is found on the steps of a mental hospital, he is immediately admitted because of his meaningless ramblings about finding the Virgin of Stockholm. He also prophecies about the end of the world using distorted Scripture verses. But when one of his prophecies actually comes true, several of the employees start to believe him.
The story also follows the lead psychiatrist and his broken marriage. But when a wolf named Kinta saves his wife from an assailant in the night, his marriage is miraculously repaired.
Shortly following that, several other marriages and relationships are miraculously repaired overnight.
A woman is also leading people in worship of Gaia out in a forest that is threatened to be cut down. Who or what Gaia is is never explained, though it is an extremely disturbing factor in the plot.
There are many other mentions of environmentalism throughout the book, such as one of the women going out to live in the woods with Kinta.
Shortly after Father Peter is admitted into the mental hospital, he becomes a benevolent grandfatherly character who thinks he is at one with Kinta. There's no explanation for his sudden personality switch. It just happens.
The villain is extremely obvious and cheesy, complete with a showdown at the end.
The dialogue and the characters are generally unprofessional and cheesy. It's like this one was overlooked by the editor.
The characters are either perfect are very evil. There's no in between.

I don't even have time to address the dumb villain, childish dialogue, rash decisions, unnecessary scenes and other plot issues that litter this book.
Despite all of this garbage, the book was actually so bad it was funny.
But this book is a complete disgrace to Christian fiction. If someone was new to Christian fiction, and they read this first, they would probably be turned off. Such a book as this should have never been published.
0 stars

Salty Like Blood by Harry Kraus

David Connors is a surgeon who's obsessed with his daughter first and his job second. He has spent most of his life building a protective bubble around his young daughter. But when his Rachel disappears from a beach, his life begins to spin out of control. Rachel was the only thing holding his marriage together, and now his wife has withdrawn into herself.
David immerses himself into his job and into finding his little girl, while one of his wife's old boyfriends pays her a visit to "comfort" her.
It's a very well executed, complex plot that is wholly based upon the imperfect characters, which is what Harry Kraus is good at. Every characters has a deep, imperfect past that is not fully revealed up until the end. And some of it is not revealed at all.
The one downside to their pasts is that it is not very well distinct from the present. Though there are scene breaks, there are no dates or italics to distinguish between past and present, so it gets a little confusing.
David's days as a surgeon are very realistic and believable. Every patient that comes in doesn't have something to do with the mystery. There isn't a tragedy or a near-death experience every day; it's just normal. Some patients work out, some don't.
Though the end seems typical at first, you have to read on through it to discover the meaning for it all. It's very original.
The end also does not sew up all the loose ends like one would expect him to. It leaves several aspects of the plot to an imperfect end.
Harry Kraus has proved himself to be one of the best authors on the market with his plots based on imperfect characters. This also makes him the most underrated author.
5 stars

Dark Water by Linda Hall

Elise St. Dennis is a jewelry designer who has recently moved to Fog Point, Maine is order to escape her newly-released criminal husband. She and her daughter, Rachel, are trying to start over in the small town of Fog Point. But something is not right. Her ex-husband has somehow traced her to the small town and she thinks he is following her around. So she hires private detectives Jake and May to help contact him and tell him to stay away.
But Jake and May aren't exactly model characters to follow. He's middle-aged man trying to forget about the family he left behind. She's an old woman who's known for solving a few cases in her day. As they work on their new case, they soon discover that there is more to the case than meets the eye.
Probably the best thing about Dark Water is the characters. Not only do they have clear personalities, but four of them are not who they say they are or who they appear to be at first. No one is perfect. They are all real people.
The end of the case is one of the most original I have ever read. It's definitely not what you expect. It does not sew everything up neatly like some people would want it to either.
The main thing keeping this book from being five stars is its silly dialogue end and the idea behind it.
Linda Hall has proved herself to be one of the best Christian mystery authors on the market.
4.5 stars

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chop Shop by Tim Downs

Nick Polchak, the Bug Man is back with his second adventure. After being suspended from teaching at NC State again, he goes on the entomology trail again and gets caught up in another investigation with a local forensic coroner.
This time the investigation has pointed them toward PharmaGen, a genetic company with an interesting mission: to do extensive DNA research to find out exactly what certain people are genetically allergic to or what they genetically lack and fix it-with "borrowed organs". These organs have come from people who "don't deserve to have them". PharmaGen is just doing a service to mankind by killing them.
But don't jump to any conclusions because during the investigation, Nick and his friends don't do the right thing every time either. They do many slightly illegal things throughout the book.
While, we're on this subject, I must say that this is one of the best cast of characters I have ever read in a genetic book. Nick remains the same; he does not achieve perfection in this installment.
There is one foil introduced to Nick's character-an exterminator. What better a foil for someone who is paid to examine bugs than someone who is paid to get rid of them.
While most people wonder why Kathryn was left behind in this book, it really makes a lot of sense. Nick's job took him to another state, not to the exact same place as Shoofly Pie. That would just be downright cheesy.
This is the best genetic book ever written because of its highly original end. After you read it, you have to go back and read it again because you're not sure if Tim really wrote it or not. It's just that original. I can't believe he did it, but I'm glad he did.
This is the kind of originality that belongs on the Christian market. The kind that makes you think. Perfect ends don't make the reader think; imperfect ones do. And there's not a single perfect thing at the end of this book. The public will hate this type of end because of its pure originality, but I'm glad someone finally stood up for originality.
In the end, I'm still not sure which side was right. Tim Downs handles the issue of organ donation very well. I don't really know where I stand on the issue.
But there is one sad thing about this book. After this book, Tim Downs was dropped by Howard Fiction. Afterward, Thomas Nelson picked him up. That's when he wrote Plaguemaker.
I only hope that Tim Downs finds his way back to this type of originality.
5 stars

Birth of an Age by James Beauseigneur

Birth of an Age is a far cry from the manual-like format of In His Image. There are several very interesting scenes, to say the least.
Christopher Goodman is now an ambassador in the United Nations, and everyone looks to him when the world begins to fall apart. Three asteroids are approaching planet Earth, and the world is scrambling to protect itself.
There isn't really a plot; it's mostly very detailed descriptions of the judgements. Though most people won't like this, I found it to be very interesting.
He disects each asteroid's trip to Earth. Each one has a surprising purpose, one that I did not see at first.
However, a majority of the judgements are crammed into this one book, so if you're looking for lingering suspense and not a play-by-play, then read the Left Behind series.
But in some ways, this play-by-play method is interesting, especially if you're into sports. It removes the suspense from the plot and just tells it like it is.
Now, this book is far from Elite, but I still found it more interesting than most people would.
The end of the book gets pretty strange, but also very interesting. It illustrates the adage "if you're going to tell a lie, tell a big one."
Decker doesn't make very many appearances in this plot, and that's a good thing because he seemed to make In His Image the way it was.
This book is definitely continued, into Acts of God, which we will review as soon as possible.
2.5 stars

In His Image by James Beauseigneur

When the Shroud of Turin is found at an archaeological dig, the evidence for Jesus is boosted. This is compounded by the discovery of living cells still on the Shroud.
Without anyone's knowledge, the college professor overseeing the dig takes those cells and injects them into his unborn son. His son is born with the very cells of Jesus in his body.
Decker Hawthorne is a newspaper reporter who is friends with the college professor. He sees this as an opportunity for a big story. But then a tragedy devastates not only his life, but the whole world.
But there are other problems with this book. Since Decker is a reporter, the entire book is basically a long news report. It's very boring and a struggle to finish, especially with its 400-page length.
Because of the boring format, there aren't any good characters or interesting scenes. Just the unadulterated view of a transcript writer.
The book hardly has anything to do with the Christ clone subject; it's basically a boring End Times book.
James Beauseigneur writes weapons manuals for a living, so there is an explanation if you've never heard of him before.
1.5 stars

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Green by Ted Dekker

Like White, Green is a disappointment because it fails to complete the Circle.
In Other Earth, Thomas and Chelise's son Samuel has rebelled against the Circle and has joined the Eramites, an army of half breeds, people who are half-Circle and half-Horde. They intend to wreak havoc on both the Horde and the Circle in one final battle.
Billos, Bill, Billy, Will or Ba'al Bek, whatever you want to call him, reappears in Other Earth using the Lost Books\blood trick. He takes his girlfriend, Janae with him, and together they become instruments of Teeleh.
After his son's rebellion, Thomas convinces Qurong to let him use some of his Lost Books to get back into our world to help Kara and Monique, who are still working on the antivirus using Thomas of Real Earth's blood.
There isn't really much substance to the plot, mostly going back and forth between the worlds using their conveniently crafted methods of transportation. The whole Lost Books\blood method is an outstanding plot hole.
The characters remain to be of the caliber of White: either evil or perfect.
Ted Dekker says the Circle is not broken, but after reading the end of Green, I must continue to disagree. I guess when one writes thirteen books about the same subject, one becomes quite attached.
In my opinion Real Earth and Other Earth are not a Circle. The series is a circle, thanks to Green, but the worlds are not.
Real Earth is a line that intersects the circle of Other Earth in convenient places. Green is simply a forced connection between White and Black.
But coming with this forced connection is a lot of muddle. This makes the plot extremely complicated and confusing.

It is possible that in the midst of all this confusion we missed something so Ted or anyone else is free to send in an alternate explanation that we will post if it makes sense.
The way to fix this series would have been to have the Raison Strain destroy the world in White and have Elyon recreate everything in Green. Then it would truly be a circle and something to be proud of.
Green, though it is well written, is a disappointment.

3 stars

Twilight by Kristen Heitzmann

Cal Morrison was the best firefighter in Montrose. But then the accident happened. The accident that made him change his career from firefighter to fire safety promoter. He never wants to return.
Laurie Prelane comes back to Montrose, running with her children from a disastrous marriage to a sports star. Memories of a lost love are stirred when she finds that Cal is still living there.
But someone wants Laurie dead. Someone who is willing to vandalize her home to do so. Cal is the only one who can save her, if he can face his fears.
I don't know why Cal is the only one who can save her. Why can't any other person do it? I guess Kristen Heitzmann had to have a perfect male lead in there somewhere.
Cal is the picture of perfection. Not a spot on this sheep. Or ram, more like it.
Laurie and the rest of the characters are created straight from molds. They remind me of some many other romantic suspense books.
But to say this book is suspense would be an overstatement. It's boring, even without any traces of sensationalism at all. It's just mediocre and bordering on stoic.
Believe it or not, there are many opportunities for this book to make it onto the Elite List. There are lots of almost original aspects to the plot. But every time one came up, Kristen went the other direction.
Everything works out perfectly in the end. Not a single thing left undone or imperfect.
Lots of people will like this book, but it's just another one of those romantic suspense books.
2 stars

The Edge of Darkness by Tim LaHaye and Bob Phillips

There are several things I can't understand about The Edge of Darkness. Number one, why he wrote this book. It seems like it could have ended in The Europa Conspiracy. Number two, why Summer is introduced into the plot. And number three, why the authors are talking about continuing this book.
The plot starts out with Michael playing another one of Methuselah's games. This time it leads him to search for the Temple of Dagon. Of course, Talon and the Seven also want it. But not only the temple itself but what is contained there.
The characters remain senselessly perfect, and a plot device named Summer is introduced into the plot to wreak havoc on Michael's relationship with Isis.
There is one unnecessary scene of exorcism that adds nothing to the plot except to further show how perfect Michael Murphy is.
However, bearing this evidence that shows The Edge of Darkness is the same as the other books in this series, just wait; there is a smoking gun: the conclusion. The ends of all the subplots are superb. The very end of the book was good enough to overcome the bad characters and land this book a spot on the Elite list. I have no idea what possessed Tim LaHaye to write such an end to an otherwise mediocre series.
But maybe it isn't the end. I have heard rumors of Tim LaHaye and Bob Phillips writing a fifth book to this series. Of course, you had to see it coming with that kind of end. The public won't let that rest.
But Tim LaHaye and Bob Phillips should cut their losses and end the series with this book. It will be one of the best things they ever do if they do so.
All in all, this has been an entertaining series that probably warrants a read.
4 stars

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

I'm not sure a title as long as On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is very conducive to an author's professional reputation. But maybe Andrew Peterson isn't going for that. The overstatement in the title coincides with the fact that Andrew Peterson is a professional Silly Song writer. For those of you who don't know what a Silly Song is, it's a seemingly nonsensical ditty that appears on those Veggie Tales videos.
The Igiby family lives in the town of Glipwood in Skree, which is literally on the edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, in which dragons dance on Dragon Day.
Our story starts on one such Dragon Day, the only happy day the Skreeans get to celebrate. Ever since the Fangs of Dang, a lanf across the Dark Sea of Darkness, came and ravaged the land and took it over. The Fangs rule the towns with iron claws. A person can be arrested whenever a Fang feels like it.
Gnag the Nameless rules over Dang and has tried all his life to try to find the Jewels of Anniera, a greater civilization prior to the rule of Dang.
Perhaps the most original aspect of the book is where the jewels are located. This one even caught me by surprise. If you're going to have the heroes find the treasure, than surprise the reader. That's exactly what he did.
The setting is slightly original. I can't think of an alternate world with a government system like the dictatorship of Dang.
The downside of the book is Peterson doesn't do a very good job of masking his goofy nature. Maybe he wasn't trying to. But the reader is thrust into a world with just enough explanation to be acceptable and yet little enough to still feel isolated. There are numerous creatures unexplained throughout the book. The whole premise of the book is basically a children's tale, except that the book is nearly 300 pages long.
There is a major CRT at the end that helps to stop the death of an important character.
The characters aren't very good. They're just average.
Peterson approaches the book like a historical account he found, which accounts for the many footnotes that explain legends and other things not mentioned in this historical account.
At the end of the book, the plot takes an 180 degree turn that changes everything. The series is continued into North or Be Eaten!, which we will review as soon as possible.
All in all, the book is good, but could be better if Peterson cut down the silliness a little.
3 stars

Meltdown by Chuck Holton

Like I said before, the Task Force Valor series is one of those series that goes from one character to the next and fixes them up. Next in line is Bobby Sweeney.
While in Ukraine investigating the Dead Zone in Chernobyl, the Task Valor Force begins hearing about terror threats back in their home country. These threats just happen to have something to do with their investigation.
CIA agent Mary Walker accompanies them on this mission again. You would think that after the last book, she would have retired. But no, she's back and as annoying as ever. Her character is just obnoxious.
The reason for Bobby's atheism is his "bad family life". His family went to church but they weren't a good example of Christianity to him.

Rip Rubio, new convert from Island Inferno has gone from loudmouth "pagan" to Bible-toting, Scripture-quoting, constant prayer warrior. It's really pretty cheesy.
Bearing all these facts, the book has more potential than Island Inferno. Believe it or not, the enemy is not a Muslim terrorist. Also, as far as I could tell, there was no last chapter conversion by Bobby or Mary.
However, Chuck needs to stop this series immediately and try something more original next time.
1.5 stars

Island Inferno by Chuck Holton

Seargent "Rip" Rubio is sent on a special mission with Task Force Valor to a Pacific island to try and recover a stolen military device. Back in the States, Rip's sister is falling under the influence of local gangs. Rip is powerless to help her.
Fernanda Lerida is a grad student on vacation with her fellow students on the very same island. She, of course, gets caught up in the action with Rip.
It's obvious that this book lacks the interesting plot of Allah's Fire. Gone is the original weapon idea and in comes typical suspense. Hostage scenes, explosions, jungle chases, gunfire, and more litter the plot and make it very mediocre and mindless.
The Task Force Valor series is one of those series that goes from one character to the next and fixes them up, makes them perfect. Allah's Fire did John Cooper; Island Inferno did Rip Rubio.
Rip Rubio, atheist at first, whole-hearted Christian in the end, with a free girlfriend to go with his purchase. It's just so typical and clear cut it's ridiculous.
Chuck Holton needs to try something different.
1 star

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Unseen by T L Hines

Lucas is a loner, but he's not alone. He creeps from one public building to another and lives wherever he can set up. He makes his bed wherever he stops for the day. He eats whatever he can find. He's a creeper.
He takes on odd jobs just for fun, but he really likes to watch people. He likes to watch them carry out their every day life.
But one day he comes into contact with another creeper. Lucas is not the only creeper out there. After some contact with this new creeper, he takes Lucas to a meeting of the Creep Club, a group of creepers.
But Lucas does not like them because they conduct covert surveillance on people in their houses just for fun.
Then Lucas is visited by a Dark Suit, a CIA agent who wants to stop the Creep Club and may also be a Chinese government agent.
Then a Russian Mafia hit man. Then some Venezuelan diplomats. Then a wasp-man.
All of these are villains of some sort. Normally, I would say that there are too many villains, and there are a little too many, but it all makes sense in the end.
As the reader is vaulted into Lucas' strange world, the reader begins to pick up on some of his oddities, like his always saying "Humpty Dumpty had some great falls," and his obsession for making Connections with people, and his feelings of Dark Vibration. Normally, I would say that such strange capitalization is juvenile, but it all makes sense in the end.
Things start to make sense after Lucas' showdown with the Creep Club, the Chinese agent, the Mafia hit man, and the wasp guy. It was one of the most entertaining final scenes ever written.
After all of this nonsense, it really gets down to the interesting parts. Hines flips genres on the reader and comes up with something very original. Very original indeed.
The main things keeping this book from being five stars is the oddities at the beginning and one plot hole that if removed, wouldn't be missed.
The book has a five star end. I never thought I would be saying that after The Dead Whisper On. But I think Hines has finally found his niche, it will be interesting to see what he produces next. (I hope)
4 stars

The Rook by Steven James

Special agent Patrick Bowers is back with another serial killer mystery. As I predicted, he is now following the arsonist that was released from jail at the end of The Pawn. Only, the plot isn't that simple.
He is also on the trail of another serial killer who likes to drown his "girlfriends" in tanks of water. On top of that, he witnesses a suicide by a brain-damaged homeless man and gets sucked into that case.
Tessa, his stepdaughter, is still hanging around, spouting her usual comments. As expected, she gets herself into another mess while poking around a tattoo parlor.
The whole stepdaughter plot device pops up to frequently in these types of mysteries. The male detective\FBI agent doesn't get along with the younger female in his life, and they go up and down throughout the series.
There is a convenient connection between Patrick's three cases, but it isn't absurd. It's realistic and disguised well by the good writing style.
This book should have not been called The Rook. It should have been called The Shark. The whole book is about sharks. It's only called The Rook to keep with the theme of chess pieces. James also forces the title to work at the end.
The serial killer character is, once again, not absurd. He has an interesting past and actually acts like a human.
Barring all these details, there is a sad fact about The Rook. It could have been five stars. James set it up to be five stars. But he didn't do it.
However, this book is still Elite because of the original answer to the mystery. It's one of the better plot devices ever used in a serial killer book.
It will be interesting to see what Steven James will do down the road in his career.
4 stars

Angel of Wrath by Bill Myers

Bill Myers is an old dog who needs to learn new tricks. Either that, or retire.
Charlie, Lisa, and Jazmine from The Voice are back with a new case on their hands: members of a certain mega church are dying for sins in their past. The killer is relentless, and they are working overtime to discover the culprit in time.
A coven of teenagers are playing with things they don't understand. In their quest to bring the end by purging the church of evil, the open a Pandora's Box and unleash something they can't control.
Among the myriad of issues pushed throughout this book, the one that seems to stand out among the rest is worship used as warfare, like King Jehoshaphat did. While this sounds interesting, it becomes a CRT for the final showdown.
Of a book could be worse than The Voice, than Angel of Wrath is that book. Aside from less than average characters, the supernatural themes are all to familiar to other books.
As I've said before, supernatural is just a nice name for Christian horror. That's what "supernatural" really means anyway.
The final showdown was hardly bearable. You can imagine what it was like-screaming demons, attempted exorcism, Bible verses, and, of all things, singing.
I don't want to be cruel but Bill Myers really needs to stop writing before he embarrasses himself further.
1 star

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Offworld by Robin Parrish

Commander Chris Burke and his crew have been on Mars for over half a year. They have made headlines back on earth, and are now ready to return home to their families. But while in route back to the home planet, they lose contact with Houston.
When they reach the ground and exit the ship, no one is there to greet them.
They're all just gone.
There's not a sound to be heard or a soul to be seen. All the animals are gone too. Florida is barren.
All except for one teenage girl. She's apparently all that's left. Only she has no idea what happened either.
One of the Mars crew obtains access to a live video satellite in geocentric orbit and decides to remotely explore the planet. He finds that it's not just Florida that's barren. It's the whole earth. The only thing that's left is a giant beacon of light over Texas.
Chris leads his crew, along with the girl, toward that beacon of light, believing that it has something to do with the disappearances. What they find is stunning.
You would think a book about an empty earth would be boring, but it isn't really. There is plenty of action, not just long descriptions of empty cities.
Also, the believable and imperfect characters sustain the book and make it realistic. Normally you don't find good characters in speculative books, but Robin Parrish is the exception.
The one drawback that keeps this book from being five stars is the explanation of why everyone is gone. There's a small plot hole filling what would have been a large plot hole. But at least Robin did his best.
The villain isn't your typical speculative villain. He isn't a mad scientist or a supernatural creature. He's just a normal man with issues, like we all have. In some sense, he isn't even a villain at all.
The chapters are named, but they aren't normal. They're very cryptic and abstract. But this is good because the chapter names we see these days are uncreative.
The girl they find plays a huge part in the plot, bigger than it seems at first. She is one of the most original plot devices ever created. She is mostly what keeps this book on the Elite List.
The idea behind this book is similar to that of the idea behind the Dominion Trilogy. The whole purpose is similar. I wonder if Robin has something stuck in his head. Or maybe he's trying to tell us something...
While it doesn't have the five star calibration that the Dominion Trilogy had, it's still Elite. Robin Parrish is still one of the best authors on the market.
4 stars

White by Ted Dekker

The Circle series is almost complete. Thomas of Hunter is stuck in Other Earth because he died in Real Earth. He and the other followers of Elyon have formed a group called the Circle. Despite what the cover description says, the fate of both worlds does not hang in the balance, only the fate of Real Earth, which is infected by the Raison Strain. But Thomas does hold the answer to the cure for the Raison Strain, only he is dead.
But you probably already forgot that insignificant object from Red, the blank Book of History. This acts as a CRT (convenient rescue technique) to bring Thomas back to life in Real Earth. While the idea is creative, it's just a little too convenient.
Once Thomas resurrects in Real Earth, he visits the president and his sister about what he can do. The cure to the Raison Strain isn't what anyone thinks it is. The antivirus does not work. Newly resurrected Monique is working around the clock with another antivirus.
Back in Other Earth, Chelise, daughter of Qurong, is pledged to be married to Woref, general of the Horde. Woref has been recently visited by Teeleh. Teeleh intends to poison Chelise' thoughts of conversion through her husband.
But Thomas of Hunter is always there for the downtrodden Scabs. While none of the other warriors in the Circle want Scabs to convert, Thomas becomes obsessed with converting Chelise. He alone loves the Scabs. In fact, all the characters have lost their personalities.
If you haven't noticed by now, Thomas has morphed into a perfect character. All he does the whole book are the right things. He becomes ridiculously in love with Chelise, the replacement romance for Rachelle. Unfortunately, I knew that was going to happen. I'm so sick of phrase "he\she would have insisted I marry her" when speaking for a dead love interest. All that does is justify the replacement romance.
The cure for the Raison Strain is original, but the fact that Thomas lives in both worlds is all too convenient. How did Rachelle\Monique die at the same time and Thomas didn't at the end?
But by curing the virus, Ted Dekker broke the Circle. The series is no longer a circle, but a line. Having this book continue into Green would have very original, making it one of the best series ever written.
But Ted Dekker couldn't resist the perfection.
Though this book is written well, the content is suffering for originality. Dekker ruined his chances at an Elite series.
2.5 stars

When the Last Leaf Falls by Bill Myers

Pastor Paul Newcomb's seventeen-year-old daughter is in the hospital with bone cancer. She's just gone through the third stage of chemotherapy, and things aren't looking good. While Ally is in a coma, Paul takes that time to ask God why and to reminisce a little about his oldest child.
The book is full of interesting and entertaining memories. Most of them are comedic, thus being the product of well-developed characters. But the truth really is, Paul and Ally are the only good characters in the book. The others are either perfect or background.
In my opinion, the book is entirely too short. It contains 137 pages, each only a little larger than a passport. I think the book and characters could have been better if the book had been a long epic. More memories is what it needed. This equals better characters and more pages.
The end is fairly stupid, destroying the whole point behind the book. They kept saying "in her death God will be glorified" but that never held true. Everything turned out perfectly at the end, more than it needed to be.
There's not really much else to say about this book since it's so short. While I found many of memories to be funny and realistic at the same time, I think Bill Myers abused this idea.
2 stars

The Voice by Bill Myers

FBI agent Charlie Madison has just taken in his thirteen-year-old niece Jazmine since her parents has been kidnapped by Muslim terrorists because of something they posses: a recording of the voice of God. The only problem is, no one knows where the recording is.
Charlie and Jazmine join forces with Lisa, another FBI agent to try and find Jazmine's parents and the recording. The result is a globetrotting adventure.
The fact that anyone could actually record the voice of God is absurd. Jazmine's parents did it by working all kinds of formulas or something.
It's a good thing the book was short because I couldn't have stood anymore international suspense than there was. Not only that, but the whole book was absurd.
To fill time, the characters go off on this tangent about being kidnapped by Muslims who lead them to the site of Mt. Sinai.
The characters struggle to be realistic. Charlie Madison is almost a good character, but the book is too short for him to develop any real personality. Jazmine is semi-interesting, if not a little stereotypical for a teenage girl. None of the other characters had any hope, however.
When the recording if the voice of God is played, very sensational things begin to happen. I won't go into any detail here because it would make the review too long.
There is one original thing that occurs in the plot, but it's drowned out by all the nonsense.
It might be time for Bill Myers to put the pencil down and retire.
1.5 stars

Snitch by Rene Gutteridge

Even though I read the Occupational Hazards series out of order, it still made sense because these books can stand alone. This is one of the good things about the series.
While I wasn't impressed by Scoop and liked Skid pretty good, Snitch is definitely the best in the series.
Ron Yeager is an old police officer just trying to fill out his last years with the force before retiring by sitting at a desk all day. His wife insists he do so. But when he is charged to train several new recruits on the force to be undercover officers like he was back in the day, he jumps at the chance without telling his wife. The only problem is, he bites off more than he can chew.
Mack Hazard has joined the force after her parents died. Her brother has sold their clown business off and encouraged his younger siblings to find new jobs. Undercover work is the direction she shoots for.
Jesse has been an undercover officer for some time, so he has a lot of baggage. But he wants to do undercover work his way, not the way some crotchety old man wants him to. Jesse is a bit of a maverick when is comes to dealing with criminals.
Kyle is a pastor unsure of himself and of his sermon lengths, so he's come to hang out with his old friend Ron. He joins the action temporarily and gets more than he asked for.
Kyle is one of the best characters I have ever read. Normally, his kind of personality would be an in for a perfect character, but Rene handles it very well. He's very gullible, not understanding sarcasm well. There aren't many characters out there like him.
There are many good background characters with unemphasized traits. Overemphasizing is the worst thing an author can do to their "funny" characters, but Rene controlled herself.
Mack is the one downfall to this book, since it is a character based plot. She's perfect, like all the other Hazards. She's constantly spouting off Scripture and knows what to say in any situation.
At least Rene didn't try to make this a suspense plot, because if she had, it wouldn't even be Elite.
There is only the slightest hint of a romantic subplot at the end. Otherwise, nothing!
Where there was an opportunity for one of the characters to have a last chapter conversion, they didn't!
This is Rene's best book to date, mostly because of the imperfect end.
4.5 stars

Shoofly Pie by Tim Downs

After reading the excellent prologue and first chapter I knew I was going to like this book.
Nick Polchak is a Bug Man. He arrives at crime scenes and listens to the flies on the wall. They tell him what happened. Literally.
In short, he is a forensic entomologist, trained to examine decomposed bodies and figure out the cause of crime.
Kathryn Guilford's brother has been found long dead in the woods. She joins forces with Nick to find the killer, but there's a problem. Ever since a traumatic experience as a child, she's been deathly afraid of bugs. Any kind of bug.
Although the mystery is pretty simple, the characters sustain the plot. Nick isn't your average perfect male lead. He's an eccentric geek who spends too much time around bugs and Latin. His wardrobe and his people skills are suffering greatly.
Nick is the kind of character we like. Imperfect and realistic.
The villain isn't a mindless serial killer like you see in most murder mysteries. He's a normal man who has flaws like the rest of us. This is the type of villain we like.
So what's keeping this book from being Elite? I'll tell you.
There is a pretty cheesy chase scene at the end. "suspense" and all.
There are major hints of a romantic subplot. You can't miss it.
All in all, this book is great for a debut novel and deserves attention.
However, this book is directly continued, and you never know what a series is going to do as it progresses.
3.5 stars

Nightmare's Edge by Bryan Davis

And so we come to the end of the Echoes From the Edge series. When we last left our heroes, the three worlds were propelling toward each other and to the state of Interfinity. Nathan, Kelly, Daryl, and several other copies of people from alternate earths were trying desperately to save the universe and Nathan's parents. Poor Nathan is torn between the two.
The beginning half of this book is basically the same as the second: wasted time. After Kelly disappears in a swirling tornado, they try desperately to find her. This time, to fill the book, Bryan Davis has come up with a new time waster the dreamscape. Apparently, Gordon Yellow developed a system so the heroes could get into people's dreams in order to find Nathan's father and Kelly. This comprises easily half the book.
The other half is comprised of dramatic scenes with Mictar and scenes of them trying to find Felicity, a blind girl.
The plot is a mess. It's hard to point out one meaningless part from another.
I won't even get into the characters I've already talked about. Nathan's mother, when she isn't weeping, which she does most of the book, is saying long sentences of sensationalism. Nathan's father is one of those characters who spouts off unwanted pearls of wisdom all the time (think Clark from Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly series). Mictar remains to be one of the worst villains of all time. The only things he says are Literary Trash sayings.
The explanation for Sarah's Womb makes no sense whatsoever.
Nathan spends most of the book bleeding. In pretty much every chapter, one of the characters comments about how his hands are bleeding profusely. He's also constantly complained about how he can't play his violin because of his scarred hands. It's a miracle he didn't need a blood transfusion somewhere in the middle.
Patar is the one saving grace of this series. Not only is he an original speculative character, but his end is also original.
Bryan Davis went the extra mile at making this book perfect at the end. We all knew that they were going to stop Interfinity, but he went too far with the perfection.
This has been a disappointing series with an unsurprising end.
1 star

Kiss by Ted Dekker and Erin Healey

Shauna McAlister wakes up after a six-week coma to find that she and her brother were mangled in a car crash. Her brother is basically brain dead, yet she is almost back to functioning normally.
Only, several days after leaving the hospital, she discovers that she has a mysterious gift. Every time she kisses her boyfriend, she dreams something from his past. As the book progresses, she discovers that her gift runs deeper than she originally thought.
This core idea behind the plot is very original. But why do authors have to muddle original ideas with Literary Trash?
The characters aren't any good. Everyone plays his or her part too well. Everything is too clear cut.
The villains are cheesy, one of them being an evil stepmother! I thought we retired that one back in the days of fairy tales! The other villain is just average.
There are too many issues crammed into this plot; politics, dealing with your past, inevitable romance, and selling babies on the black market.
Shauna's original gift is stifled among all this littering the authors did. When she starts to use the power in an original way, the authors cut it off.
Hostage/kidnapping scenes are getting as old as the proverbial hills. Now there's only one way to end a hostage scene, and Kiss did not use it.
It's really hard to tell how much either of the authors did in this book. It's half Ted Dekker good suspense and half rookie mistakes by Erin Healey.
The prologue and the epilogue are in the first person perspective of Shauna, but the rest of the book isn't. I think it would have been better if the whole book would have been in that context.
Shauna's gift is the only thing keeping this book afloat form the doldrums.
2.5 stars

Isle of Swords by Wayne Thomas Batson

A group of British army renegades is scouring the ocean, just trying to survive. They are the good pirates. Declan Ross is their captain. His only child, Anne, is trying hard to be a pirate, but her father insists that she not live that kind of life.
A group of unruly sailors is scouring the ocean for treasure. They are the bad pirates. Their captain is the ultimate nemesis of the good pirate captain.
A young man has awakened on a beach with a pouch containing jewels strapped to his side. He doesn't know who he is or where he came from. He eventually joins the good pirates to try to figure out who he is.
A group of monks holds the secret to the treasure the bad pirates want, and they aren't going to give it up easily.
The treasure they all seek is on an island impossible to reach unless one knows the secrets. They all want the secrets, but one man stands in their way.
The characters are pretty much stereotypical for this kind of adventure book. Everyone plays their part a little too well. It's all clear cut except for a few minor details, like the locations of the maps.
There are a bit too many near death escapades. Explosions and cliff hangers litter the book. It's bordering on a B-grade action movie.
But the slightly original end brings it back down to earth a little.
The whole concept of the book is a departure for Batson. He has actually brought his fiction to our world, but to an unlikely set of characters.
All in all, the book is worth reading, but it isn't Elite.
3 stars

Fiction Fact #7:

Did you know that Karen Kingsbury was the first female and the first fiction author to win the ECPA award? The book was Ever After.

Apocalypse Dawn by Mel Odom

The Left Behind series is apparently one of those series that people feel the need to write many spin offs for. The Left Behind Military series is one of those such spin offs.
Samuel Adams "Goose" Gander is a brave man fighting in the 75th Infantry of the Army. He's currently in Turkey on an anti-terror mission. Then one of his closest friends disappears into thin air. He's gone just like that.
His wife, Megan is back in the states, living at a base with their two sons. She's on staff with the Army as a counselor. When one of her clients suddenly disappears under strange circumstances, she is put under suspicion of kidnapping. But her five year old son disappeared also...
Danielle is a reporter caught in the middle of the vanishings. She works with FOX News, but now One World News, owned by Nicolae Carpathia, is trying to literally buy her for themselves.
In my opinion, Mel handled the situations surrounding the vanishings better than in the original Left Behind series. However, there are many similarities. There is a chaplain who is left behind because he thought his father's faith would save them. He serves as the "guide" for the confused people.
Pretty much every character that was left behind says something along the lines of "I was a good person. Why was I left behind?" or "I know I was a Christian. Maybe I just wasn't a good enough Christian." This suggests that Mel Odom has a philosophy contrary to the Bible.
The book is far too long. There are too many explosions in Turkey. I would have liked it better if he would have set the book more in the states.
The characters are just whatever. Megan is a good character, and so is her seventeen-year-old son Joey. But Goose, according to what other characters say about him, is perfect. His own actions do not demonstrate such perfection.
The near-death scene at the end was pretty unnecessary in my opinion.
All in all, this book is okay. It will be interesting to see what Mel does with the rest of the series.
3 stars

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Help Wanted for New Blog

We have realized that we have forgotten an important aspect of Christian books: having an accessible Christian book news site. The only problem is, we have to focus all our attentions on writing book reviews, so we need some help.

We are looking for someone who is good at surfing the net and finding bits and pieces of Christian book news. We want someone who is thorough, responsible and professional. We want someone who knows what they are talking about and can scour author's sites, blogs, and twitters for info.

1. Accountability to the blog
We don't want someone who is only going to post news a few times a year whenever they feel like it. We want someone serious and responsible.
2. Interest in the line of work
We don't want someone who is half hearted. If you are, than don't even think about doing this. We want someone who likes compiling and researching news. In order for the results to be good, the effort has to be good. And in order for the effort to be good, the attitude must be positive toward the line of work.
3. Good Internet access
This shouldn't be too hard these days to find. Whether you have to go to friend's house or a cafe, just find good Internet access. Without it, the job will come off as sloppy.
4. A thorough and un-biased view
We don't want typos or mis-information. We want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
5. Free time
Sorry, you won't get a salary with this job. You have to be willing to this out of the goodness of your heart. Remember, we don't get paid for what we do either.
6. Communication with us
If something's going on in your life, you need to tell us about it so we can work something out. If you're having any trouble with posting news, don't hesitate to talk with us via email.

Things You Will Need to Stay on Top Of:
New authors
Book release dates
New books
When authors are coming to certain areas
Book and author contests
Happenings in authors' lives

We would like to get this news blog off the ground as soon as possible, so if you think you're cut for this line of work, email us at originalbooks200@gmail.com as soon as possible.

Fiction Fact #12:

Did you know that prior to writing, T L Hines worked the graveyard shift at a convenience store among other jobs?

Wind River by Tom Morrisey

When a soldier returns from Iraq, he carries more than just external scars. Even though he has now married his sweetheart, he feels restless. So he decides to go visit a childhood friend in the mountains of Wyoming.
That childhood friend is now old and slipping into the grips of Alzheimer's. So the former soldier takes his old friend on one last camping\fishing trip to Wind River, like they used to. While on the trip, his old friend confides in him a deep secret he has been hiding for decades.
The story comprises a majority of the book. Without it, the book would be pretty boring with the redundancy of outdoor activities. The story is the highlight of the book, and for a good reason. It is very intriguing and unlike anything I have ever read.
The main thing that keeps this book from being Elite is the general boring tone the book has. Though there is a twist in the story the old man tells, everything pretty much works out perfectly in the end.
The characters struggle to be realistic. Sometimes they are; sometimes they are not. The lead is basically perfect.
However, this book does deserve recognition for its partial originality.
3 stars

The Promise Remains by Travis Thrasher

Debut novels have a low success rate in my book. The Promise Remains is no exception.
Sara and Ethan were young people in love back in the day. But when Ethan proposed one day, she refused for undisclosed reasons. Then the two of them went their separate ways and lived separate lives.
Now, years later, Sara is on the verge of marriage to another man, and she remembers Ethan's letters. As she begins to read them, she begins to have second thoughts.
Ethan is living the exciting life of a bachelor. He's got nothing to live for, and now his mother, the last person on earth he loves, is dying.
But Sara begins searching for Ethan without his knowledge. Will the two of them find each other in time?
That's a dumb question to ask. Of course they will. This is what drives this genre. It's hopeless.
But the plot was not completely hopeless. I see no reason why it needed to be so short. It's one of the shortest books I've ever read. The characters were starting to show some personality, but Thrasher gave them no time to develop. He cut them off at the end when they were just getting started.
With better characters, this book would have been a lot better than it was.
Sara's refusal of Ethan the first time, the very thing that drives the plot, is vague and hardly explained, not even at the end.
Yet this book still has potential, if Travis feels the need to rewrite it.
1.5 stars

Midnight in Madrid by Noel Hynd

Angry Alex LaDuca is back with another international adventure. You can tell by the cover that she gets easily riled.
This time she is on loan to the Spanish government to help them find the Pieta of Malta, a famous Christian sculpture that is said to have supernatural powers. It is missing from the museum it was in.
Truth be told, the book is hardly centered around the supernatural sculpture. The main point of the plot is really a French Muslim bomber wiring a bomb to blow up the Spanish Embassy.
The book is mostly Alex sitting in meetings with the Spanish government, researching about art theft, and running around with Peter Chang, her temporary bodyguard and latest love interest. She seems to ditch Ben at the end of the book.
The most "suspenseful" thing about the book is the scene where Alex gets trapped in a Metro tunnel near the Spanish Embassy right before the bomb explodes.
Whatever "righteous indignation" Alex LaDuca had in the first book of this series is gone. She is now a perfect character. None of the other characters are any good, save for Peter Chang. He's a mysterious character who is not fully explained in this book.
Yuri Fedorov is also back. Though he serves a small purpose in the plot, he remains to be one of my favorite "villain" characters.
I still fail to see how this series can be called the Russian Trilogy when the three books take place in Ukraine, Spain, and Venezuela. They get farther away with every book.
The upside to this book that keeps it on this side of one-stardom is Hynd's flair for extensive international research.
Otherwise, this book is just another one of those typical international thrillers sure to knock the socks off of those looking for mediocre suspense.
2 stars

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thr3e by Ted Dekker

One normal day, Kevin Parson gets phone call from Slater, a stalker. Slater tells him to confess his sins in three minutes on his car will explode. Kevin leaves his car behind and horrifically watches as his vehicle explodes into oblivion.
From there, Slater keeps calling him with riddles for him to solve. The penalty for failing to solve them within the allotted time frame are the deaths of loved ones.
Accompanied by police detective Jennifer Peters, the two of them attempt to unravel the clues about Slater and stop him before any more things blow up.
The characters are good, especially for this type of book. They are imperfect and believable.
The funny thing about this book is the end. I didn't see it coming. It might be the most original end I have ever read. The idea behind it is very real and something I believe could happen to a person.
This is not your typical serial killer book, even though it seems like it at the beginning. Just bear with it and you'll find the original end soon enough.
There are no plot holes in this book. Ted Dekker has it all sown up nicely. He even based the book on a Scripture reference, one that people don't think about very much.
The title makes sense. It means something beyond Slater's obsessions with threes and multiples of threes.
This is the kind of book that makes me proud of Christian fiction and of what authors can up with these days.
5 stars

Vanish by Tom Pawlik

Not many debut books have the good writing style or original ideas that are contained in Vanish. There is a reason why this book won the Christian Writer's Guild award. The book is worthy of that award.
The plot focuses on six people in a small town in Indiana. After a wild thunderstorm, they are the only ones left in the town. Everyone else has vanished.
They eventually all meet up and discuss the issue. Then they make plans to escape. They siphon the gas out of all the vehicles to fuel their escape vehicle.
But ultimately, it is futile. There is no escape.
There are also these strange creatures that have suddenly inhabited the town. They want to kill the humans, and the humans want to kill them.
This book is better than other similar books like Vanished by Alton Gansky and Vanished by Kathryn Mackel, mostly because of the explanation of why everyone vanished. The idea is a five star idea.
But that's not the problem. The problem is with the content.
First of all, the characters could have been better. But, after all, this is a debut novel.
Second of all, the explanation for what the creatures are is amateurish. It makes it unnecessary, which is funny, because the creatures are what fills the plot. Without them, it would be pretty boring.
Third of all, not all the characters ended originally. One of them is predictable, three are original, and two are strange.
The book isn't as long as it looks because Tyndale wasted a lot of space on each of the pages to make it look long.
The dialogue end leaves the reading thinking, "What does that mean?" That's not a good impression to leave on the reader.
All in all, the book is good and worth reading. It's just a debut novel, a good idea not used quite right. But I'm interested in what Tom Pawlik will do next.
3.5 stars

The Shadow at Evening by Chris Walley

The year is 13851. War has been eliminated and peace reigns on over 1600 terraworlds throughout the Milky Way galaxy and beyond. Everyone acknowledges Jesus is Lord and everyone agrees with each other. They all live in harmony.
But evil has returned to the edge of the galaxy in the form of giant apes and cockroaches. They are scaring people and wreaking havoc. Two heroes, Merral and Vero, are sent to search for the strange creatures and exterminate them.
This is basically the summary of the entire plot except for the long conversations that do nothing to develop the characters. All the characters are kind of happy the whole time. I guess it has something to do with the whole perfect universe thing.
The whole idea of a perfect universe is absurd and juvenile. Before I read this book, I thought everyone just thought everything was perfect, when it really was not. But that was not the case here.
The idea behind the plot is interesting enough, but Chris Walley didn't utilize it correctly. It didn't really even need the setting it was in. It could have been set on Earth and it wouldn't have made any difference.
Basically, I'm not losing any sleep over the fact that we have no access to the rest of this series.
2 stars

The Pawn by Steven James

Patrick Bowers is an FBI investigator. He thinks he can capture every serial killer in the world. He thinks he's invincible. But he hasn't met the Illusionist.
The Illusionist is a powerful serial killer. He is extremely smart. His mental capacities are above average. He's definitely not normal. He stalks women and leaves chess pawns at the scenes of his crimes. Sometimes they are black; sometimes they are white.
Patrick Bowers is fighting his past by immersing himself in his job. He lives and breathes his job. He's completely obsessed with finding and apprehending serial killers. But when things start to not add up about the Illusionist, he starts to go crazy.
The book is partly a first person perspective of Patrick, and partly omniscient point of view of several other characters. Though Patrick is showed to the reader via first person, he isn't a very good character. He has flaws, but no personality.
The Illusionist is one of the best serial killer characters ever crafted. He is very realistic and thought out. He's so real it's scary.
Unfortunately, James spent most to all of his time working on his character, while he let the rest of the plot go to waste.
Don't get me wrong; the first half is exceptionally written for a debut novel. But in the second half, James loses the handle.
He begins introducing too many villains at once. There are too many unrelated things happening by the end of the book. It gets confusing and downright typical at the same time.
The other characters aren't really any good; they are merely plot devices.
At the end, James hints about the topic of the next book, The Rook. It could be interesting; it could not.
All in all, The Pawn is good for a debut novel. I'm interested to see what Steven James will do next.
3 stars

Red by Ted Dekker

Red directly continues the cliff hanger ending of Black. Tom has aged fifteen years in Other Earth. He has fathered two children, and he leads Elyon's army against the destroying Horde, who want capture all their forests.
Then Tom wakes back up on Earth in the middle of the battle to find that someone else wants him dead.
Raison Pharmaceuticals released the Raison Strain virus at the end of Black, and now it's spreading around the world rapidly and viciously. It's uncontrollable. People at Raison are working hard to come up with an antivirus, but they're running out of time.
The Horde is relentless in Other Earth. They inflict casualties on Elyon's people endlessly. The people try not to lost faith in Elyon, but it's hard. On top of that, a mysterious new man has appeared proclaiming and demonstrating peace. Can he be trusted?
Tom is caught between the two worlds as he fights to keep both afloat as they both spin out of control.
The title of both books in the Circle non-Trilogy have made sense so far, even though they are both simple.
As I said in the my review of Black, no author has before written anything like the Circle non-Trilogy. Combining medical suspense and alternate world was genius. Also, no one has ever written a medical suspense book where the virus actually does get loose. Usually, the heroes stop it before that happens.
But our hero was sleeping when it was released.
The main thing that keeps this book from being five stars like Black is the slightly boring and typical middle of the book.
However, I am wary about the next two books in the series and of how Ted Dekker will end it.
4.5 stars

Fiction Fact #8:

Did you know that Ever After was the easiest book for Karen Kingsbury to write? She wrote over 25,000 words a day while writing it.

Prophet by Frank Peretti

Prophet was written in the age of no characters, so I won't even talk about that.
John Barret is an anchor on the coveted show News Six at Five. But his popularity is boosted by something he didn't want or expect-his father is showing up at campaign rallies for Governor Slater and prophesying about him. He is saying all kinds of bad things about him, and and John's coworkers are amplifying it.
Governor Slater is the current Governor and is campaigning for reelection. His pro-choice views on abortion are sure to be popular, but he's got a secret that someone wants to uncover...
On top of that, John's estranged son shows up on him to try to find out what his distant father is up to.
Carl, his son, to me, adds nothing to the plot but filling time. It seems like Peretti is pushing the abortion issue strongly in this book. I stand pro-life on this issue, so I don't really want to say anything negative about pushing the issue, but pushing issues can be a problem in fiction.
The only reason this book is called Prophet is because of John Barret Sr., who plays a small part in the plot.
Peretti did well on his research of newsrooms and such. It's believable and unlike any other type of writing style I've ever read. It's very descriptive.
One of the more unemphasized parts of the plot is the recurring appearances of campaign commercials for Governor Slater. This "subplot" is probably the highlight of the book, since not many authors include descriptions of commercials often.
All in all, I can't rate this book very high because of the lack of characters.
Not only for that reason, however. The end, to me, was odd. At least there wasn't some kind of supernatural confrontation. It was still strange.
2.5 stars

Presumed Guilty by James Scott Bell

A local porn star has been murdered. Celebrity pastor Ron Hamilton has been charged with the murder because of his recent book against pornography. His wife, Dallas, refuses to believe the accusations and does everything in her power to prove her innocent. But forces beyond her control are working against her.
Their prodigal son has returned from the Marines with lots of emotional baggage. He has turned away from God. Dallas desperately wants him to turn back.
Dallas feels pulled into multiple directions at the same time. Her abusive ex-husband shows up on top of all this to wreak havoc on her life. Demonic forces are trying desperately to keep her from doing what God wants her to do.
The whole idea behind this plot is really nothing new. We've heard it before. There could have been a saving grace in this plot, and that would have been an original end. But James chose to go with the typical, public-pleasing end, even after he set the original one up and gave it a purpose.
The characters are good, which is an upside. Neither Dallas nor Ron are perfect.
I didn't expect James to make who we made the villain. I don't mean that in a good way. I thought he was above that.
The end is pretty cheesy. This is not one of James' best.
But the plot was entertaining and well written, I have to give him that.
3 stars

Out of the Devil's Mouth by Travis Thrasher

The year is 1929. Henry Wolfe is a writer with big ideas. He writes books about his great world adventures. No one's really sure if they're true or not.
But one winter day, he is kidnapped by a car full of men and charged with a mission given by a rich man: to find his lost son.
Louis Prescott was an adventurer with wild ideas of finding the fabled Fountain of Youth in South America. He has yet to return.
Joined by his partner of old, Max Jourbet, Henry ventures into South America guided by Louis' older sister, a colonel, a doctor, and a handful of Indians. They are headed for the Devil's Mouth, the fabled location of the Fountain of Youth.
Along the way, they encounter several dangers. Though there are many character deaths, Thrasher makes sure he protects the central three characters: Henry, Max, and Kate, Louis' sister.
There are many legends surrounding the Devil's Mouth, but Thrasher made sure that only some of them were true, which was very realistic.
However, the legends that are true are a little absurd and without explanation. Thrasher says that he used these to transition his reader into the mindset of his new genre, supernatural. But they create plot holes because of their lack of explanation.
The characters are pretty good. Henry Wolfe, though I'm sure he is no Indiana Jones, has no personality, even though the book is told from his first person perspective.
If this book did not have the realistic end it had, it wouldn't even be worth reading. As it is, it seemed like Travis Thrasher just wrote this book for fun. But writing a book for fun and having it become Elite shows talent.
This book is a quest, but not a clear cut, boom-boom-boom kind of quest. It's just a normal adventure, one that's definitely worth reading.
4 stars

Fiction Fact #11:

Did you know that prior to writing, Robert Liparulo was a newspaper reporter?

Lunatic Fringe by Robert Liparulo

Coming 2010...

Description (not final):

A fringe group is working to take justice into their own hands by punishing criminals their way because they don't think the authorities are doing it right. The reason behind it because of their own personal issues, obviously.


This is probably Liparulo's most original idea yet. I say idea because I have no idea about the plot after reading the disasters Deadfall and Deadlock. All I know about this book is, judging by Rob's past, there will be a lot of gore included.
It all depends on how he uses this idea. Is it from the viewpoint if the fringe group or from some investigator or agent? No one seems to know. Rob isn't saying much.
We'll just have to wait this one out.

Exposure by Brandilyn Collins

Before reading any of her books we thoroughly researched Brandilyn Collins . What we found didn't surprise us. Her trademark is Seat belt Suspense and her slogan is Don't Forget to Breathe. After reading lots of typical suspense, I wasn't excited about reading Exposure.
Kaycee is a newspaper columnist whose articles tell people about her many phobias and what she has done to face them. But when the same picture of a dead man with blood seeping out of his head keeps appearing throughout her house, she goes crazy. Especially since no one believes her. Every time the police arrive at her house, the picture is gone. They think she's crazy.
Hannah is a teenager who misses her mother. Now that her father has remarried and spends a lot of time with his new stepdaughter, Hannah feels abandoned, so she runs away. The only problem is, a kidnapper interrupts her plans...
Martin and Lorraine Giordani are struggling just to get by, living paycheck to paycheck. Their young daughter, Tammy, is constantly sick with bad coughing. Every extra penny is spent on her. But when a tragedy rocks their family, Lorraine makes a rash decision that changes her future...
All three plots are connected in original ways, though it doesn't seem like it up until the end.
I was pleasantly surprised by what Collins did at the end. I never expected her to do what she did. After bearing with many scenes of Kaycee's craziness, the original end made it all worth it.
Collins did a good job of showing that Kaycee does other things besides see gory photos. The two subplots do a good job of balancing out these such scenes.
Though the book is shorter than most suspense books, it didn't need to be any longer than it was. It was just right. Collins gets straight to the point.
There are several good characters, including Kaycee. This is also something rare for this type of book.
The main problem with the book is the lack of explanation for how the photo of the dead man appeared on every TV channel and on her computer desktop. Collins never explained that part.
All in all, I learned a lesson of not judging the book by its cover...or its author.
4 stars

Fiction Fact #6:

Did you know that Nancy Moser wrote The Time Lottery before she was a Christian?

Deep Blue by Tom Morrisey

One wouldn't think that a suspense novel about diving would be very interesting, but it is. Deep Blue follows the story of Beck Easton, an experienced diver trained in diving for lost treasure. While working in an office, he meets a woman who directs him to a lost treasure off the coast of the Bahamas. As usual, someone else wants the treasure too.
The character development is stereotypical, but what does one expect from a budding author? The female lead is perfect, mainly because she is a Christian. Beck Easton is not, and she is trying to get him to become one.
Though there are hints of a last chapter conversion, as one would call it, the reason behind it is plausible, and not to mention original.
The end is the reason it is as good as it is. I can't believe Tom did what he did at the end. It was a whole separate part to the book that he could have easily eliminated. But he did not.
The main things keeping this book from being five stars are, of course, the romantic subplot, and also the inevitable finding of the treasure at the end.
It's a good thing Tom didn't delve any deeper into the villain than he did. It was just right.
All in all, this book is very original and warrants a read.
4.5 stars

Dark Fathom by Tom Morrisey

Where Deep Blue has originality, Dark Fathom does not. I'm not going to compare the two books; I'm going to focus on Dark Fathom by itself. It's ridiculous and unnecessary.
Beck Easton is back with another treasure, another mystery, and another girlfriend. That new girlfriend ruins the originality of the first Beck Easton adventure.
There's not much different about the plots of Deep Blue and Dark Fathom. They are almost exactly the same.
Except that Beck has become perfect and mysterious male lead with a troubled past unknown to those who did not read Deep Blue.
The biggest problem with authors today is that they can't leave well enough alone. Tom Morrisey just had to continue the story. He couldn't leave it alone. If he had left it alone, Deep Blue would have been one of the best books on earth.
But no, he had to do it.
I know the public wanted a sequel, and Tom satisfied them. I know everyone probably loves this book better than the first, but I found it nearly unbearable to read.
I would not recommend this book to anyone.
1 star

Blind Sight by James H Pence

There are some little-known authors that are little-known for a reason. But some have no reason to be little known. The only reason I can think that James H Pence isn't any more popular than he is is because he never wrote any other books. That might be a good thing.
Anyway, Blind Sight is the best cult suspense book I have ever read. It follows the tale of a broken man named Thomas Kent, who has just received an email from an old friend calling in a favor. What does he want them to do? Save his children and wife from a cult he has himself tangled up in. Thomas is actually a lead with a true personality. He isn't perfect, and neither are any of the other characters.
The first chapter does a very good job of holding the reader's attention. It drops the reader in the middle of the situation and leave the explanations for later.
The premise of the cult is very well thought out and crafted. It's so realistic and possible, it's scary. However, it does get cheesy in some parts.
And there is one character that Pence actually kept dead! He didn't show up at the final scene! The confrontation at the end is actually not cheesy.
There is no romantic subplot, though if a sequel is to be written, than there probably will be.
However, this book is a debut novel. While this is one of the better cult books, it's a predictable and impossible situation. The best thing Pence did was write it to the best of his ability.
3 stars

Black by Ted Dekker

When Thomas Hunter is shot by an unknown assailant, he falls into unconsciousness and wakes up in another world. A world where evil is contained and where good reigns. Unfortunately, he wakes up in a black forest, where the evil is contained.
He soon escapes the forest and meets the people of the land. Only they already have an opinion about him. They think that he lost is memory and has been dreaming out the histories, meaning Tom's world. They tell him that their world is the real one, not the other.
When Tom falls asleep in Other Earth, he wakes up on Earth and tells his sister about it. She, of course, tells him that Other Earth isn't real; that Earth is the real one, he is only, dreaming about Other Earth. Tom is confused, as is the reader, about which world is right. That issue is not resolved in this book.
Tom continues to fall asleep and wake up in the opposite world. He repeats this pattern over and over again throughout the book.
To throw a twist into the plot, Dekker combines the alternate world genre with a medical thriller. Raison pharmaceuticals is secretly developing the world's most deadly virus with which they can wipe out the world. Tom finds out about this from the people of Other Earth because it happened in their history.
The whole concept of this book is extremely original, unlike any other series I've ever read. I believe I understand the meaning of the Circle and which world is the real one, but I could still be wrong since this is the first book of four.
The romantic subplot is actually necessary in this book. When Tom arrives in Other Earth, everyone has already decided that he is going to fall in love with Rachelle. Might as well get it out in the open if you're going to have a romantic subplot. But this romantic subplot is actually necessary, after reading the end.
The characters are good and believable, something rare for this genre.
I didn't see the end coming, believe it or not, but it is directly continued. We'll have to wait and see about the rest, it's hard to know what a series is going to do these days.
5 stars

Fiction Fact #5:

Did you know that Karen Kingsbury's inspiration to write Christian fiction was Francine Rivers?

A Rush of Wings by Kristen Heitzmann

A Rush of Wings is basically an unedited version of Halos with the character names and setting changed. Otherwise it's the same.
Noelle is running away from home and from her painful past. She lived all her life in her rich father's protective bubble, and now she's leaving the nest. She takes up lodging at a ranch in the mountains owned and operated by two brothers. Morgan is the wild child; Rick is the perfect child. Morgan captures her heart at first.
The obsession with seeing halos is replaced with an obsession for hearing the flapping of wings (hence the title).
Instead of a short, novella-style book, we have a long-winded, typical Kristen Heitzmann book.
The characters are as bad as ever. Rick is the perfect male lead without flaws; Noelle is the scared female lead with secrets. Someone from her past is stalking her, blah, blah, blah. We've heard it all before.
I think Noelle should have had to endure consequences for running away instead of falling onto a perfect male cushion. Nobody learns anything in the end.
There are several plot holes at the end, including how Kristen worked out a way for everything to turn out perfect at the end. Several "bad" characters become good and the one "bad" character that doesn't become good just dies.
Basically, I was not impressed by this book because I've heard it all before.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Mill House by Paul McCusker

When a man begins researching his grandfather's past in order to compile a photo slide show for this grandfather's upcoming birthday, he discovers a hidden piece of his past that he refuses to talk about.
Across the Atlantic, in England, a woman is trying to take care of her bedridden grandmother. Her grandmother has gone deeper and deeper into depression over the past few weeks, and no one understands it because she refuses to speak. She just sits in bed and moans.
The four people are connected by a forgotten piece of past. A hidden relationship, a dark secret, and several interlopers play into the mystery as the two of them work to discover what really happened. Only one person besides the grandfather and grandmother knew, but now he's dead.
The characters are realistic and believable. None are perfect. Though it is inevitability obvious that the grandfather and grandmother connected, the reason they split apart is unknown for a while. It's very original.
The main thing keeping this book from being five stars is the inevitable romantic subplot.
Another plus is the lack of a last chapter conversion by one of the characters. That aspect of the plot is left up to the reader's interpretation.
All in all, Paul McCusker is one of the best authors on the market.
4 stars

Fiction Fact #3:

Did you know that T Davis Bunn wrote several books under the pen name Thomas Locke before becoming T Davis Bunn?

The Silence by Jim Kraus

When an unforeseen solar flare enters earth's atmosphere, everything having to do with electricity is wiped out. Planes fall from the sky. Cars cease to work. All microchips melt. Everything electronic is useless.
If you read Solar Flare by Larry Burkett, than you know about this type of disaster. But unlike Solar Flare, The Silence actually has plot structure and harmony.
It focuses on a certain man whose family died when their house collapsed on them. Only he escaped. Now he is driving to his aunt's house with only his dog and the clothes on his back.
It also follows an accountant whose job has become, of course, useless. She joins a priest in an old German car and together they drive toward a pastor who has set up the only current radio station in the world. He is broadcasting to the world for everyone to come to him so they could create a new Eden.
But he has ulterior motives, of course. He is now the most powerful man on earth.
The book is a bit long winded and little boring in parts, but the end is interesting. After all, how do you fix a solar flare disaster?
The characters aren't as good as they could be, and there is an inevitable romantic subplot.
These are the main things keeping the book off the Elite List, but it's still worth reading.
3 stars

The Real Enemy by Kathy Herman

The Real Enemy had received a lot of acclaim from respected authors who say it's very suspenseful and holds one's attention until the end. But in a world of mediocre fiction, The Real Enemy blends in with the rest.
It's about the first female sheriff of a certain small town in Tennessee. Her first big case is seven disappearances of people in seven days. There seems to be no connection to their disappearances except that they all disappeared on consecutive days. On top of that, she's having marriage and family troubles.
I don't really see any difference in this plot and with many other mysteries like it. The characters are just average and the end easy to figure out.
Having a "suspenseful" hostage scene at the end is never something you should do unless you aren't going to have the hostages escape.
Some people will like this book, but I didn't really find any enjoyment or original about it. The best thing about it is that it's well written. She wrote it as good as she could have except for the hostage scene at the end.
But basically, this story has been done before by many, many female authors. And the fact that the book has a sequel doesn't ease my dislike.
My hope is that a female author besides Angela Hunt will find some originality in her writing.
2.5 stars

The Faded Flower by Paul McCusker

When a man's father is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, he takes his family to his hometown where his father lives. His aunt is taking care of his grandfather, but his grandfather insists nothing is wrong with him. But as he descends deeper and deeper into the disease, the prognosis because more evidently true.
There's isn't a single character I can think of that's perfect. Not only that, they are all believable and sometimes funny characters. Since this is a character based plot, this is essential. The need is clearly met.
Another mistake authors could make in writing a character-based plot is overemphasizing the character's personalities. But that mistake is missing in this book.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part is the longest and the third is the shortest. The interesting thing about the parts is that the first part is just a omniscient point of view. In the second part, it switches into a first person account of the lead. No author has ever tried this before, but for no apparent reason.
The history behind the town is exquisite, and it is not given in information dumps. It's lightly sprinkled throughout the plot at given and appropriate places.
As I have said before, I will say again. Paul McCusker is one of the best authors on the market.
4 stars