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, October 27, 2009

Could I Have This Dance? by Harry Kraus

Claire McCall has just started working as an intern at a university hospital, though she one day wants to be a full-fledged surgeon. When she arrives at her new job, she finds that life in the medical field isn't all that easy or fun. It's a daily struggle against the odds for survival.

Being an intern means leaving her fiancee behind in her hometown. She only sees him on rare visits, and this puts a huge strain on their already fragile relationship.

On top of that, her alcoholic father, Wally, has been behaving very strangely even though he's been off the bottle for several years now. Her mother doesn't know what to make of her husband's strange behavior. She's at a loss for what to do about him, so Wally's mother steps forward with a dark, hidden truth about their family tree that could shed light on his condition.

On top of that, Clay, Claire's twin brother, is following in the footsteps of his father as a drunkard. He's always getting into trouble and coming to Claire to bail him out.

If Claire's life isn't complicated enough already, she gets slapped with a lawsuit from an angry parent who claims she let his daughter die on her shift.

While it seems like this book is wrought with woe and tragedy, think again. These hardships are well-displaced throughout the book and are not consecutively introduced. They are woven into the realistic, everyday life of a medical intern who has struggles like everyone does.

Harry Kraus' number one asset in his books are his imperfect and believable characters. We are all imperfect human beings, so why not have our fictional characters be like us?

I believe it would be hard for any author to correctly handle all the issues I listed above in my summary in one book alone. There are more small ones besides the ones I mentioned, but I must say, Kraus handles them like the Elite author he is.

Kraus brings up an interesting issue with this book that not many of us outside the medical field think of: how Huntington's disease can be mistaken for alcoholism. Only Kraus' expert knowledge in the medical field could handle an issue like this.

The one drawback to this book that keeps it from being Kraus' usual five star rating are two things that worked out right in the end. Normally, I would let this slide, but they are unrealistic in the way that they play out.

All in all, Harry Kraus is one of the most unsung authors on the Christian market.

4.5 stars

The Knight by Steven James

Steven James started out the Patrick Bowers files strongly with an abnormally good writing style for a rookie and with excellent research. Combine that with an Elite plot, and this author is unstoppable.

As Patrick Bowers prepares to testify at the case of his nemesis, Richard Basque, concerning Richard's actions in an abandoned slaughterhouse, he is still haunted by the ever-elusive Sebastian Taylor. But when he receives news of the untimely death of Taylor, Bowers is relieved.

But not for long, for questions of who killed him and how began to form in his mind. The deeper he and his team go with the investigation, the more complicated and powerful the killer seems. The killer is telling them a story, but Bowers and his team have to figure it out in time-or someone important dies.

Tessa, Pat's step-daughter, discovers her mother's diary in a box and begins to read it. The more she reads, the more she discovers about her real father.

Now when you look at my summary above, you wonder why in the world I would like a plot like that. Doesn't it go against everything I stand for in suspense?

Not when you combine that plot idea with a superb writing style, thorough research, imperfect characters, and an unpredictable end. The four components for a good suspense plot.

First, the story the killer is telling is a real, very obscure book that James dug up out of the past. How he bases the killer's patterns on the book is very professionally done and excellently researched. The fact that he even came up with this idea shows deep seated creativity.

Second, the characters he introduced in The Pawn and The Rook are better in the The Knight because they have developed personality and they remain to be imperfect. A character like Bowers is not easy to make because he can easily become perfect. A character like Tessa is not easy to make because she can easily become stereotypical.

Third, who the killer is and what his purpose is was a surprise to me. James has finally eliminated his typical showdown pattern. He made the showdown unique and unpredictable.

What James has done with The Knight has taken the series to a whole new level. The cutoff end makes the reader want to read more. The Bowers Files has become an epic, and I'm excited to see the end.

Sadly, however, the killer's stereotypical character keeps the book from being five stars. Few authors have captured the elusive art of making the villain, though he commits monstrous deeds, into a believable human character. Nevertheless, Steven James has made a name for himself in my book because he isn't like all the other mindless suspense authors on the market. He thinks and so he does. I can't wait to see what he gives us next.

4.5 stars

The Firstborn by Conlan Brown

Devin Bathurst is a member of a secret society called the Firstborn. The Firstborn is divided into three groups-the Prima, the Ora, and the Domani. The Prima have the power to see certain pasts, the Ora have the power to see the truth of the present, and the Domani have the power to see certain futures. Past, present, future. Devin is a member of the Domani.

The three Firstborn groups have been separated for some time because of dissension and fights among the groups. Each group thought that they were better than the others rather than be unified in Christ.

But now the time has come for the groups to come back together, for a terrorist has threatened to attack America. Many of the Domani have for seen the tragedy and want stop it. But someone is trying to break up the groups from within by causing old scars to surface on the minds of the Firstborn. As they get distracted from their task, key people begin to die.

Conlan Brown isn't like most other debut authors on the market. For the most part, he reminds me of Robin Parrish. Brown writes well-written suspense that actually means something. The Firstborn is not mindless suspense like most other books on the market.

None of the characters are perfect. For me, that's a HUGE step in the right direction. Not only are they imperfect, but they also show personality. Good characters is a rare feat that is not achieved by most suspense authors.

The idea of the Firstborn is not a mindless superpower idea. Brown bases the source of their powers directly on a Scripture verse not many of us think of. It's very unique and believable at the same time.

Finally, ends are not usually very good in suspense. But Brown has defied the typical and has gone the opposite direction. There's no predicting the end of The Firstborn. Not many things work out right. For me, that is an excellent suspense novel.

It seemed to me like Brown left the end open ended so he can write a sequel. I believe he will, but I must advise him to be careful not the wear out the original idea or try to fix everything he didn't fix.

Brown has claimed to write high octane but thought provoking fiction. These two aspects are the foundation of truly great suspense and he has captured them both most excellently.

5 stars

The Martyr's Song by Ted Dekker

The Martyr's Song by Ted Dekker

When I read Heaven's Wager, I understood that I had broken a cardinal Dekker rule by not reading The Martyr's Song first. I understand the reader cannot understand anything in Heaven's Wager without reading The Martyr's Song, the book that started it all.

The cover of Heaven's Wager was wrong. I didn't miss anything by not reading The Martyr's Song first.

Marci is a teenage girl with the same struggles all teenage girls have-she wants to be beautiful. She wants her outward appearance to please those around her. But when she is picked out at random by an old flower shop owner to come and talk, she knows not what to think.

Eve is the owner of a flower shop, but she doesn't live for her profession. She lives to tell the story of the Martyr's Song to those she believes need to hear it. She invites Marci to her flower shop in order to tell her the story.

The story is about a group of soldiers who, at the end of World War II, come across a Bosnian village untouched by the tentacles of war. All the buildings are still standing, including the church. That church becomes an object of jealously for the leader of the group. That's why he sets out to make life miserable for the villagers.

The biggest problem with the book is its length. It's less than two-hundred pages, for crying out loud. The whole plot is a half effort. It doesn't even seem like Dekker tried to make the story interesting or long. He just slapped something together and called in an emotional story.

The characters are shallow because they didn't even have enough time to develop. Not that it would have mattered, because they were already just typical plot devices anyway.

I just don't understand why people think this book is so interesting. Dekker didn't even try his best. It doesn't even seem like Ted Dekker fiction at all. It seems like one of those short stories you would find in Chicken Soup for the Soul.

But the worst part of it all is that the reader can read the entire book and more by reading When Heaven Weeps. It is completely unnecessary to read The Martyr's Song because of this. This book is a complete waste of your time.

1\2 star

Eye of the God by Ariel Allison Lawhon

I never know what to expect with debut authors these days. They could be highly original or highly typical.

Dr. Abigail Mitchell, curator of the Smithsonian Museum, is obsessed with the Hope Diamond. She goes to gaze upon it in its glass case nearly every day. So when the board of directors votes to let her wear it during a banquet centered around the Hope Diamond, she becomes elated.

But her elation doesn't even last until the banquet is over. When the power goes out during the banquet, someone steals the Hope Diamond right off her neck. But when the power comes back on, everyone blames her for its disappearance.

One of the best things about Eye of the God is its theme: greed. Not a single character is innocent of the crime of greed and jealously, not even Abby. This creates imperfect characters, a very good start for an author this new to the market.

Allison weaves into the plot snippets of the Hope Diamond's checkered history. Legend says that all of its owners suffered from the curse an Indian idol put on it when the jewel was removed from the idol. Allison never says she believes in the curse, but I do agree with her theory that greed tends to make a person dissatisfied with life. Needless to say, Allison did well on her research.

Allison creates what starts as an original romance between Abby and one of the jewel thieves, only Abby doesn't know that he's a thief.

The number one issue keeping this book off the Elite List is Allison's meddling. She just couldn't resist making everything turn out perfect at the end. She muffed a key character death, did what she could to make the romantic subplot work, and even fixed an tiny insignificant detail mentioned near the beginning.

But what is to be expected of a debut author? I wasn't the least bit surprised when I read these things. I wasn't surprised either when I heard that Ariel wrote this book while homeschooling four boys all under the age of five. I wanted so badly to put this book on the Elite List, but I just can't.

As a side bar that does not figure into my rating, I must suggest that Ariel find a new publishing company. The packaging of the book is less than professional. There are several obvious spacing and capitalization errors. But again, that does not figure into my rating.

All in all, I enjoyed Eye of the God and expect great things from Ariel Allison down the road.

3 stars

Chaos by Ted Dekker

Johnis and Silvie have been transported into an unknown world filled with things they have never seen before-horseless carriages, strangely dressed people, boxes with people in them. They are in a village called Las Vegas, a city they assume existed in the histories. But despite their unfamiliar location, they still continue their mission to find the seven Lost Books of History before Teeleh or Alucard can get their claws on them.

Deep in the mountains of Romania, Alucard lives in an abandoned monastery waiting for his charges to find the seven Lost Books of History. He intends to use the books to open a gateway between this world and the other world in order to let Shataiki through to inhabit the earth.


is the best Lost Book so far because Dekker has transported his characters into an alien setting in order to continue the story. This alone makes it interesting and worth a read.

However, there are several things keeping it off the Elite List. First, the main two lead characters remain to be unrealistic and plastic. You would think that this deep into the series, Dekker would have at least made them slightly believable.

Second, there is a cheesy supernatural showdown at the end of the book complete with CRTs and Literary Trash. It seems like Dekker could have avoided a showdown in order to be more unpredictable to his readers.

The good parts of the book are several unpredictable characters that appeared in the first three books. In Chaos, however, they have been taken to a whole new level by becoming complex and confusing. This was a good change to these particular characters because in their old self, they were getting boring.

As a side note, the end makes the reader think that this is the last book in the series. This is cheesy because it's obvious Dekker has not yet completed the CIRCLE acrostic at this point in the series.

Unfortunately, since the mission is completed at the end, I have no idea what Dekker will do in Lunatic and Elyon, the last two books of the series. But we will review them as soon as possible.

3.5 stars

Cast a Road Before Me by Brandilyn Collins

Jessie was orphaned when her mother died tragically in a freak car crash. Jessie herself was a witness to her death.

After her mother's death, Jessie went to live with her aunt and uncle in a small town called Bradleyville. Her aunt was very proud of Jessie and did all she could to keep Jessie with her as long as she could. After leaving Bradleyville for several years and than returning, Jessie discovers that not much changed in her absence. However, when she returned, she found herself swept away in a romance with a local boy.

But slowly yet surely, the townsfolk began to argue with each other and fight over their pay. This soon led to a labor strike and other violence that could not be stopped at any cost.

Collins says the Bradleyville series is for the people who are too afraid to read her "scary" books. While I don't believe any of her books are scary, I do know that the Bradleyville series isn't for the suspense crowd.

At first I thought the Bradleyville series was going to be a good, character-based series that would show off another side of Collins. But I was wrong.

While the characters are imperfect, they lack personality, even though the book is told from a first person perspective of Jessie. And Collins did not resist the untrue notion that all small towns are full of hicks. That's just downright cheesy.

This book has its high points and its low points. Many realistic things happen throughout the book. Some things work out; some things don't. Collins almost made the book have an original end. She had it all set up. But she didn't do it.

Cast a Road Before Me

is a book loaded with original potential, like most of Brandilyn's books are. But in the end, Collins chose the easy road and went with the typical. That's why I can't rate it anything but average.

2.5 stars

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Skin by Ted Dekker

The subtitle of Skin is "don't trust your eyes." It couldn't be more accurate.

The town of Summerville is about to be ravaged by three tornadoes a nearby storm has spawned off. When the tornadoes blow over, the entire town is covered in sand. There are only five apparent survivors-a police officer and four citizens. They are all being stalked by a killer by the name of Sterling Red, a man who wants to settle a past score with each of them.

As Red keeps telling them to do more and more things, life gets more and more crazier for the five survivors. Nothing makes any sense as it seems that Red is in complete control over their lives.

Trying to summarize the plot of Skin in a few sentences is nearly impossible to do. For one thing, it would take too long, and for another, it would ruin the highly original end.

But first things first. First, the characters are Dekker's usual brand of imperfection. They all make mistakes and behave like normal humans would in this certain situation.

Sterling Red is another one of Dekker's strange, almost comical villains. He acts almost like Marsuvees Black in a sense.

Even though things seem to become highly absurd and far-fetched in the middle, just stay the course and don't give up on the plot. The end awaits you. Don't give up even when it seems like the same thing keeps happening over and over again without explanation.

I couldn't have come up with a better end than the end Dekker wrote. It surprised me and delighted me at the same time. There wasn't a single plot hole at the end. Every unexplainable aspect was explained.

Not only was the end surprising, but it was also imperfect. There are several key character deaths, one of which I can't believe Dekker did.

As usual with a Ted Dekker book, Skin is loosely connected with Project Showdown and the Circle. I heard someone else say that it was connected, so I assumed that Sterling Red was just another Marsuvees Black creation. Thank God I was wrong.

All in all, Skin is an example of Dekker's inner originality that only comes out at certain times. I hope in the future that this originality will appear more.

5 stars

Cyndere's Midnight by Jeffrey Overstreet

Cyndere is the heir to the throne of House Bel Amica, but when her husband of three months dies in a hunting accident, she fails to see the meaning in life. But soon her paths cross with a beastman named Jordam who wants revenge on House Bel Amica. They form an unlikely bond, and soon, Cyndere discovers that it was Jordam's brother who killed her husband.

The ale boy (nameless for no reason) continues to wander the countryside and spread Auralia's colors to those who need them. He soon discovers that he has been gifted with the gift of fire walking, that is, walking through the fire without being burned.

Overstreet remains to leave his reader in the dark about what is going on in the Expanse. Obviously, he is the only one who understands what creatures like beastmen, vawns, and viscorcats look like. However, since this book delves deeper into the politics of the beastmen, the reader can catch glimpses of what these mysterious creatures look like. But still, the editor should not have let this book go to the press without some more descriptiveness.

But that's not the only problem. The plot of Auralia's Colors was more original than the plot of Cyndere's Midnight. Cyndere's Midnight cleverly disguises a typical plot with features that are sure to wow Christian spec fans. There are pieces of Literary Trash such as false key character deaths, typical romantic subplots, showdowns and perfect characters.

The characters, mainly Cyndere and Jordam, spend most of their time wandering around the countryside whining about what hard lives they have. They don't get much accomplished as far as moving the story of House Abascar along. Actually, House Abascar and their hiding in the caves is brushed under the rug for basically the whole book. There is a rare mention of them throughout the whole thing.

Cyndere's Midnight

is basically a complete waste of time. I hope that Cal-raven's Ladder, the Gold Strand in the Auralia Thread, is better than this one.

2.5 stars

Heaven's Wager by Ted Dekker

Kent Anthony has the perfect life. He has the perfect job, the perfect wife, and the perfect son. Now he's getting a raise. He's going to use the money to take his family on a vacation. But one day before the trip, his wife falls ill to bacterial meningitis and dies. Kent and his son are devastated but begin to cope with it. But three months after his wife's death, Kent's son dies in a tragic car accident. Kent begins to go crazy with hatred toward God.

Then Kent comes up with the perfect crime. As an employee with a banking company, he alone knows about a back door he installed into their system. He uses that back door to steal twenty cents from each account he can get his hands on. By the time he's finished, he has $20,000,000.

Normally, I would say that that is one of the best book ideas I've ever heard. But there's always more to the story.

First of all, the characters are lacking in personality, even though Kent is an imperfect character. There are several other characters, including Kent's replacement romance and Kent's mother-in-law. His mother-in-law is sickeningly perfect, but I can't pass much judgement her way because Dekker swears there's a reason that is explained in When Heaven Weeps.

Anyway, the Kent's plan is well-thought out and executed in a very professional fashion. His plan is probably the highlight of the book.

The main things keeping this book from being Elite are the average characters, the replacement romance, and the scenes of light at the end. These scenes of light are referred to by Kent's mother-in-law as "glory". Kent has one of these such experiences during his conversion. It's very sensational and unrealistic.

Many people say that this book is very emotional. These people liked it because it made them cry. However, this book is not entirely bad because of its good idea. For that only, will I rate it what I rate it.

3 stars

Renegade by Ted Dekker

Billy has now entered a forbidden world. By touching his blood to the three Books of History, he has transported into a world he has never seen before. One with strange machines that move. One with people that aren't dressed like him. One with people that kill with black things called guns.

A world that is inhabited by Marsuvees Black, the very man who wants Billy on his side.

Darsal bribes a Roush to take her to a Black Forest so she can follow Billy, who she loves. Meanwhile, Johnis and Silvie attempt to sort out the mess on their own.

For what it's worth, Renegade is the best Lost Book yet. This is mostly because Dekker transitions his characters into a different setting other than the forest. I was getting sick of the forest.

But any book that's inhabited by Marsuvees Black is bound to be slightly comical. His offhand remarks that are so unlike most other villains are refreshing and make the read entertaining.

But each of the Lost Books are, in my opinion, much too short. I think this is only because Dekker wanted their first letters to spell out CIRCLE.

As usual, the characters lack personality and imperfection, but I've gotten used to this Literary Trash after three books.

I fail to understand where Dekker stands on Billy. Is he good or bad? Dekker seems to be able to fit him into any situation and put him on any side and have him however old or young he wants him to to be. It gets very confusing.

It gets even more confusing because when the four chosen ones come into our world to inhabit their perspective characters in Paradise, Colorado, they start to make different choices than the characters did in Showdown. Dekker says that when things repeat over and over again, things have a way of changing themselves.

Cop out.

But Renegade was probably the best Lost Book yet, nevertheless.

3 stars

Something That Lasts by James David Jordan

When Ted Ballick stands up in church one normal Sunday morning, he shares a secret that shocks the entire congregation. Their pastor, David Parst, has had an affair with Ted's wife, Erica. David Parst makes no move to defend himself.

Slowly, after that Sunday morning, the Parst family begins to pull apart. David's wife, Sarah, leaves with their son, Jack, and doesn't speak to David for several years.

As Jack grows older, he grows more and more resentful of his father. But when a baseball injury ends his career, he decides to become a lawyer, but not after marrying his fiancee, Katie. But after nearly ten years of marriage, Jack finds himself in the same position his father found himself in with Erica.

Many years pass between each major event of this book. There are gaps between David's affair and Jack's teen years and between Jack's injury and his marriage and between several other parts. These gaps in time are slightly awkward and make for slightly underdeveloped characters.

Besides all the plot points I listed above in my summary, many tragedies occur in the plot. By the end of the book, there are two key character deaths, four serious medical conditions, two marriage breakups, and several other minor tragedies. Normally, I would say that this is original, but these tragedies in the consecutive fashion they are written in is little much for me.

The characters are okay, actually better than most. The tragedies bring out their personalities well.

At the end, James David Jordan backtracked and fixed everything he could to make the end sound better. He even came up with a last chapter conversion-complete with sensational details about seeing the two dead characters once again and how all the colors were more vivid when he became a Christian.

I really wish I could make this one Elite, but I just can't.

3.5 stars

Steal Away by Linda Hall

Teri Blake-Addison is a former police detective, and now she runs her own private detective business. When a pastor comes to her wanting her to find his missing wife, she immediately takes the job. Unfortunately, the case isn't as simple as it looks. They never are.

First, his wife has been missing for two years. Everyone has presumed that she is dead, except for Pastor Carl Houseman. He still believes Ellen is alive, even though he is already engaged to another woman.

The case leads Teri into a web of lies and deception (like any mystery would) that many people have had a part in. Ellen, if she is still alive, doesn't want to be found. Or is she really dead?

I have liked Linda Hall in the past, but this time, she just didn't live up to her full potential. Here's why:

First of all, the characters didn't seem real to me. They all seemed like mediocre players in the mystery, each one playing their part too well. Only a few characters weren't easy to figure out.

Second of all, the answer to the mystery isn't very mysterious at all. It isn't a mystery when people know what's going on. I had a very good idea of what was going on the whole time.

Third of all, despite the predictability of the outcome, there were still multiple original things Linda Hall could have done. I know she has done these types of original things in the past. Why stop now? This book has lots of potential, potential to even be five stars. But she didn't do it. She escaped down the easy, typical path.

Fourth of all, because she didn't do the realistic things with certain plot points, there are several small plot holes that have no explanation. The unnecessary villain is one of these. He's a very dumb character who is introduced and defeated in the same chapter.

I know Linda Hall can write good mysteries, but Steal Away isn't one of the better ones.

2.5 stars

Friday, October 16, 2009

Embrace Me by Lisa Samson

Drew Parrish used to be a pastor, but now he has left his church and is on the streets. Not literally the streets, but close enough. He feels that he failed as a pastor because everything couldn't be perfect. So now he spends his days cataloguing his sins in notebooks in order to give them to a local priest. The first half of the book records these such writings.

Valentine travels around with a side show of "freaks" like herself. She is called the Lizard Woman, because her skin in deformed as the result of an acid accident. She lives her life in a very mediocre way-just day after day, night after night, working a steady job with people just like her. But something in her past has haunted her for nearly six years. Only one other person knows about it, and she refuses to forgive that person for what they did.

For all it's worth, none of what I wrote above came off of the cover description of this book. The cover description was highly misleading and unprofessional. I don't know what somebody was thinking.

But back to the plot. As usual, Lisa Samson has realistic, imperfect characters. But these don't necessarily make you laugh. They make you think. It's a good thing these characters are a departure from her usual crazy female leads. I don't know how many more of those we could take.

The whole book is a complete departure for Lisa Samson. It's a departure for anybody. I've never read anything like it. It's a modern-day parable about loving the unlovable.

The end will catch you off guard. When you're done with it, you don't quite know what to think right off. And because of this, there isn't much more I can say about the book. The end isn't one of Samson's usual perfect ends. There are many things left undone that could have been fixed.

The main reason this book is five stars is because there aren't any problems with it. Lisa Samson has finally eliminated her few mistakes that were standing in between her and a five star book. For that, I am proud of her.

5 stars

Showdown by Ted Dekker

Everything changes in Paradise, Colorado, when Marsuvees Black walks into town and begins preforming miracles. If people will just drink his water, they will be healed. But when the people who drink of his cup begin to see strange visions, a boy named Johnny senses that all is not all right.

Thirty-seven teenagers are currently living in a monastery and are all a part of Project Showdown, a project they don't know about. But someone is trying to sabotage the project in ways they don't expect.

Billy and Darcy, two teenagers in the project have recently discovered secrets in the forbidden basement of the monastery. Secrets that could change the entire world as we know it. But someone wants to use them for their own purposes.

As usual, Ted Dekker finds a way to incorporate this series into the Circle. But in saying that, it's more like he incorporated the Circle into this series.

What I mean is, I don't think the Circle needed the Books of History, the objects in question. The Books of History only need to be in the Project Showdown series. I would have liked it much better if Project Showdown existed outside of the Circle. Dekker finds an original way to use the blank Books of History in Showdown, more original than any way he ever used them in the Circle.


is an example of Ted Dekker's good, philosophical, allegorical writing style that I like better than his typical, run-of-the-mill writing style he acquired after becoming too popular. If only he would have stuck with this instead of going toward the typical.

However, there are several things keeping Showdown from being five stars. While it is very well-written, the characters lack personalities, though they are imperfect. Also, the end is slightly expected. But the end needed to be expected in order for this story to be an allegory.

I know there are two more books in this series, but I fail to see what needs to be continued. However, this series has much potential and I look forward to the rest of it.

4 stars

Saint by Ted Dekker

On the outside, Saint looks like it has nothing to do with Showdown, its predessecor. But don't worry. Once you dig deeper, deeper than its two covers, you will find the connection.

Carl wakes up beside a crying woman he believes is his wife. He knows he and his family have been kidnapped by black ops. But why? His question is answered when the black ops tell him to kill someone. Someone very specific; someone they want to rid the world of. If Carl does not fulfill his mission, his family will die.

As Carl falls deeper and deeper into the new world, he discovers that no one is who they say they are-not even himself. He also discovers that he has suddenly become one of the world's best snipers. He has excellent marksmanship is shooting. He never misses.

They call him Saint. He doesn't know why. I don't either.


once again demonstrates Dekker's deep-seated originality he has within him. When I first started reading it, I had no idea how it was going to connect with Showdown. But in the end, it did; in a very interesting way.

The downside to this book is the lack of realistic characters. One of the pluses was that they were imperfect.

Dekker truly surprises the reader with who some of the characters really are. This combined with a good writing style makes for an interesting read.

A setting like the one in Saint can easily be abused and made unrealistic because of the black ops touch. But Dekker actually made the setting very original and believable.

In this book, Dekker not only ties the Project Showdown series to the Circle, but it also ties House to the Circle in a slightly far-fetched way.

The main thing keeping this book from being five stars is the generally expected end. But coming with this end is loose ends. Dekker didn't tie everything up. He left our characters in a non-typical place. But this is something he could fix in the third book.

All in all, Project Showdown is probably better than the Circle overall.

4 stars

Sinner by Ted Dekker

*Warning* Contains spoilers for Showdown and Saint *Warning*

Billy and Darcy, two teenagers left from the fated Project Showdown, are now living out in the real world working steady jobs. He's a lawyer; she works in a factory. But their lives are changed when they meet again and discover that each has a strange power. He can read minds; she can control people's will. Together, they can be the most powerful people on earth.

Johnny, the Saint, is still living in Paradise, with his fiancee, Kelly. When he and the citizens of Paradise hear about a new amendment Congress passes stating that no one can condemn any race or religion, they band together to stand against it.

Marsuvees Black is back. He is a villain created from Billy's imagination, and now, without the Books of History, no one can stop him.

One of the best things about Ted Dekker is his flair for always coming up with good central themes. Sinner's theme is free speech and what would happen in a world without it.

Another good thing about Sinner is that it ties Showdown and Saint together very well. It answers several questions and allows the reader to see how the three books go together.

There are several surprises at the end. Dekker did things that I didn't know he had in him. Original things. Things that public doesn't like.

The one drawback that keeps this book from being five stars is the slightly cheesy showdown with Marsuvees Black at the end. I really wish Dekker would have avoided this, Otherwise, it would have been five stars.

Even though Marsuvees Black is sort of a dumb villain in the way that he's dressed as a black cowboy straight from a cheesy western, at least there is an explanation for why he looks like that: because Billy created him. Also, Black's dialogue is definitely abnormal for a villain.

It's a good thing Dekker those not to utilize the Books of History in this book instead of using them as a CRT. Otherwise, Project Showdown wouldn't be an Elite series.

4.5 stars

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Through the Fire by Shawn Grady

The kind of things you would expect from a book about a firefighter would be an arsonist, a fear of fire because of a traumatic experience, a romantic subplot, and a final confrontation with fear.

That's exactly what you get from Through the Fire.

Aidan O'Reilly is a firefighter with a gift of reading fires and knowing what to do in a tight situation. But this gift soon gets him overconfident, which leads to the injury of a rookie. Aidan is put on probation because of his negligence, but soon the station call him back because an arsonist is targeting the town.

Aidan teams up with a fire investigator to try to figure out what the arsonist wants-all while probing her for information about the fire that killed his father.

I thought the bit on the back cover about his probation meant Aidan would be an imperfect character. But to be honest, his probation didn't last that long; only a few chapters. Then the station called him back.

Aidan is one of those characters who is obsessed with his father and finding his father's killer. He considers his father's axe to be sacred and carries it everywhere.

While the dissolving of his engagement would be an original addition to the book, never fear, Shawn Grady had a replacement romance up his sleeve.

The main things saving this book from total mediocrity are the identity of the arsonist and the abnormally good writing style.

Though Grady pulled the ol' enemy-is-someone-you-know trick, it still remains to be slightly original.

Also, Grady's writing style is very good considering that this is his debut novel. It is very professional and could come from a seasoned author.

The best thing about Shawn Grady is that he actually served as a firefighter and paramedic for ten years before writing this book, so he actually knows what he's talking about.

All in all, I see great things for this author down the road.

3 stars

Starlighter by Bryan Davis

Coming March 2010...


Jason Masters has heard his older brother Adrian’s tales about dragons kidnapping humans. Supposedly, almost one hundred years ago, a dragon stole away several humans and enslaved them on its own planet. These Lost Ones, as Adrian called them, live terrible lives as cattle. Yet, the Underground Gateway, the portal to the dragon planet, still exists somewhere, and a secret society of the same name has long tried to find it so they can rescue the Lost Ones.

When Adrian leaves to find the portal, Jason takes his place as the Governor’s bodyguard. Although the government has tried to cover up the evidence, he learns that the legends are true, and after being accused of murder and learning that Adrian’s life is in danger, he has to conduct his own search for the portal, a journey filled with danger and intrigue.

Aided by a gifted young lady named Elyssa and an eccentric escapee from the dungeon named Tibalt, Jason ventures into the wilderness to locate Adrian and the Lost Ones. Yet, what he finds on the dragon planet proves to the biggest surprise of all. Koren, a lonely slave girl, is a powerful being called a Starlighter, the slaves' only hope for survival and rescue, though most refuse to believe that their ancestors ever came from another planet.


Bryan Davis is really good at coming up with five star ideas. What he needs help with is combining those with five star plots. Once again, Starlighter looks like an extremely original idea. But what will he do with it?

Maybe he's better at the whole dragon theme than other things. Maybe the Echoes From the Edge was a fluke. Maybe he really has originality deep in there. I guess we'll find out next March.

Stainless Steal Hearts by Harry Kraus

Matt Stone is a surgeon just trying to do his best in the medical field. Every day he has patients that need his special attention. But one patient in particular opens his eyes to a conspiracy.

When a pregnant woman in a car wreck is brought to the hospital, he has no other choice but to steal the premature baby out of her womb before the mother dies. After identifying the mother, he learns that the father of the baby is pro-choice candidate for Governor, Layton Redman. Layton does his best to cover up the illegitimate child, and the conspiracy Matt discovers.

Dr. Simons is a co-worker of Matt's who is in charge of new cutting-edge research-stealing the hearts out of aborted fetuses to give them to babies with heart problems.

While this seems like it would be a very good issue to try to present to the reader in a novel, Harry Kraus immediately condemns the issue and doesn't, in my opinion, give an objective view as he does in his later books.

Dr. Simons is immediately portrayed as an evil mad scientist who wants to abort all babies and steal their hearts. He incessantly uses profanity, which is denoted by symbol combinations like &#?!@. The funny thing is that this begins halfway through but once it begins it is very frequent. These such sequences litter his dialogue and are juvenile at best.

Matt Stone has little to no purpose in this book, except for completing the other half of the very cheesy romantic subplot. This romantic subplot takes up most of the book. Besides that, he is a very perfect character.

There is also a subplot portraying a couple who is struggling to have a child through all the usual methods. Unfortunately, I could tell from the first time this subplot was introduced where their baby was going to come from.

But even in all this muddle, Kraus demonstrated a small part of his deep-seeded originality that would come out later in his writing career. I would like to see him re edit this work and release it again.

The great thing is that we can look back as this and see how far Harry has come in the past fifteen years.

2 stars

June Bug by Chris Fabry

June Bug is a young girl who lives with her father in an RV. Every day they travel from one Walmart parking lot to the next. But one day her world is rocked when she sees her face on a missing person poster. That poster changes everything.

Mae Edwards always believed her missing granddaughter would once again return to her hometown of Dogwood. Her daughter, Dana, has given up hope, but Mae will never stop believing and working to find her Natalie.

The characters lack the realism they had in Dogwood. The characters of June Bug are now just average characters who play their parts too well.

June Bug is a juvenile name for our main character at best. Surely he could have come up with something better. She is just an average child character. She says and thinks things anyone would expect from a young girl. But I think Chris Fabry meant her to be "everygirl".

Chris Fabry loses the element-of-surprise writing style he introduced in Dogwood with this type of description. While the cover description makes one want to read the book, it ruins all potential surprises.

Sometimes the amount of originality depends on the way the book is packages. June Bug is not packaged in an original way.

But there are other problems with the book, such as June Bug's and her father's wanderings throughout the country in the RV. While these scenes are realistic they mainly serve to make the book longer and since they lack well developed characters they are not that interesting .

Nevertheless, there is one surprise at the end that helps the book to be rated higher.

I only hope that Chris Fabry finds his way back to the originality of Dogwood.

House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti

When Jack and Stephanie get lost on an Alabama highway, they are forced to stay at the Wayside Inn, along with another couple who also got lost. But the longer the four of them stay at the Wayside Inn, the more the four of them realize that they are the accidental players of a deadly game in which the outcome is decided by what they do...and what they have done. Someone wants them to kill someone by dawn-or they all die.

It seems to me that the whole "haunted house" theme could have been discarded and we wouldn't have missed anything except for maybe several unneeded special effects that make the whole book "scary".

But truly, the foundation of the plot, like most Ted Dekker plots, was very profound and philosophical. I fail to see what part Frank Peretti played in this book.

Believe it or not, the tense situations and the stressful circumstances force personality out of the characters, a rare feat for a supernatural thriller. But this is even rarer because Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti aren't exactly super character creators.

Because of the profound foundation of the plot, I wish that I could make House Elite. But I cannot, for two reasons.

First, the several elements of nonsense in the final showdown that I will not reveal except to say that they are rather sensational and movie like.

Second, there was a key character death-then the character was resurrected back to life. It was a waste of originality.

Nevertheless, House was an interesting read and I do not regret reading it.

3.5 stars

Ends of the Earth by Tim Downs

The FBI has called upon forensic entomologist Nick Polchak once again because of the unexplained happenings on a North Carolina tobacco farm. Number one, the farmer died without explanation. Number two, a strange fungus is growing on all the crops in the surrounding area.

When Nick arrives, he meets the last person on earth he expected to meet-Kathryn Guiliford. Only her last name isn't Guiliford anymore. The farmer who died was her husband. All she has left his her autistic daughter and Nick.

But Alena, the Witch of Endor from Less Than Dead isn't going to let Nick go easily. She shows up on the farm with her dogs to reclaim her prize. Then she meets Kathryn.

What Tim Downs has done with Ends of the Earth is something he hasn't done at all in the entire Bug Man series-resurrect a previous female lead. Not only one, but two, for the sake of polling his fans on which female Nick should marry in the end.

But that is only why he resurrected Kathryn, and everyone can see that. That's why Alena is currently winning the poll. Kathryn's personality has changed for this particular conflict-just to make it interesting.

But that's not the only problem. The villain is extremely obvious. From page one I knew who the villain was. But Tim Downs didn't even try to hide who the villain was. He just tells the reader outright.

"Save the world" situations have got to be one of the most worn out plot ideas ever. The world has been saved too many times. The only original way to end this type of plot now is to have the world not saved.

The biggest pluses to the book are how Nick and Alena remain to be imperfect yet entertaining characters through it all and how the villain's subplot ends.

The Bug Man series remains to be an anomaly in my mind. There is no pattern to the ratings of each book. Also, each one is about something entirely different. Murder, organ donation, disaster relief, and fungi to name a few. It's been an entertaining series, but I believe Ends of the Earth should be the end.

3 stars

By the way Tim needs his readers to vote for the end of the book! You can do so here. We endorse Alena!

Club Sandwich by Lisa Samson

Ivy Scheider is a juggler-but not in the entertaining sense, mind you. She juggles her crazy life and just tries to survive one second to another. While her husband is on the road touring with a gospel music group, she stays home with the three kids and her aging parents.

She feels that she's the only sibling suited to take care of her parents because she doesn't trust the other two. At first it was only her mother, but then she takes in her father, who divorced her mother, without her mother knowing it.

She calls herself one of the sandwich generation-someone sandwiched between taking care of kids and taking care of aging parents. She writes a newspaper column offering support to other women in her situation. On top of that, she's trying to write a book.

There are many parts of Club Sandwich that are hard to review because the plot contains many realistic, everyday-life scenes that are driven by superb characters. Characters are the biggest thing Lisa Samson has over other female authors on the market. Without characters, her books would be very mediocre and typical.

However, these kinds of character based plots are usually limited to four and four point five star ratings because of their lack of complete originality.

That is true with Club Sandwich. While she builds up a strong base of good characters in the body of the book, the last chapter lacks originality because she tries to right too many wrongs. Too many things are sewn up to perfection except for one factor. This factor alone is original, but it is drowned out by all the other perfection.

I really wish Lisa wouldn't have done what she did in the last chapter. Otherwise it would have been five stars. She just couldn't leave well enough alone.

Nevertheless, Lisa Samson still impresses me more than most authors in this genre.

4 stars

Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet

When a young orphan girl is found in the snow by a band of thieves, they immediately take her into their culture. They live as outcasts in the land of Abascar, a land where a stingy king reigns who has outlawed all color.

But as the young girl, Auralia, grows, she discovers that she has and uncanny gift of coloring the colorless objects of the kingdom. This gift gets her into a lot of trouble with the royal house of Abascar. The good thing about her is that she is no superhuman, she simply finds color in nature where others pass over it.

Despite the original end of this book and the general originality of this debut novel, there are several problems with it.

First, there are many creatures in the world that have no explanation or description. The reader is simply supposed to understand what those imaginary creatures are supposed to look like. The reader gets lost among these undescribed animals and people.

Second, the political houses and parties are also vague and hard to understand. There are several other houses such as the Bel Amicans, that have no explanation as to who they are and where they stand with the House of Abascar. There are also several other cultures and peoples around the area that lack explanation. Perhaps this will come later in the series but we could have used it in the first book.

Third, none of the other characters have personalities, but at least they are imperfect and slightly believable.

I like most of what Overstreet has done with this novel, and I expect greater things from him down the road. I just wish Auralia's Colors could have been Elite.

3.5 stars

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Help Wanted

We are looking for a third reviewer to add to our team. While we will take anybody, here are the specific areas we are looking to improve:
Romance: We need someone who knows their love stories and knows what a good love story is. We do not have the time or the expertise to advance into this genre.
Speculative: We need someone who has connections in the speculative underground. We do not have the resources necessary to discover the unpublished speculative authors out there.
We are also willing to accept reviewers for any other books, these are just the areas we need the most.

Email us at originalbooks200@gmail.com if you want a job. We will invite you onto our blog as an author and you may begin work immediately. However this is simply volunteer work, you will not be payed, we aren't either. You must love reading and want to tell others about it.

As administrators, we have the ultimate authority over this review blog, and will terminate your rights if you do any of the following:
1. Continuously write unprofessional reviews. Unprofessional can be described as short, and\or incorrect in fact and\or biased.
2. Continuously write reviews countering our reviews. If you want to do this, then start your own blog.
3. Tamper with any of our previous reviews and\or other posts. You will be sent a questionnaire if you apply for the job.
Thank you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Collins

One night in the small town of Kanner Lake, Idaho, Paige Williams could not sleep. She went outside to get in her hot tub and found a body floating in it. A dead body. In her hot tub. She frantically tries to hide the body for fear of being framed. But the body is not someone who will go unnoticed. It is the body of a movie star who resides near Kanner Lake.

Vince is the police chief of Kanner Lake with marriage problems. When he hears about the movie star's disappearance, he immerses himself into the case.

But the real killer is still on the loose...and he wants Paige too.

Despite Brandilyn Collins' slogan, my lungs received plenty of oxygen through the mediocre read. People say she's really scary, but I say she's really typical.

Black Mamba, the villain, is very run-of-the-mill. He has no substance; he is simply an animal, thus his name. I can much better appreciate villians who are real people with real problems.

None of the other characters are very good either. They are all very typical.

In the end, I think do not agree with what happens to Paige in regard to her hiding the body. Imperfect leads that have consequences for their mistakes really add to any book. While the book had great potential to be original in this area, Collins steered away from the original. This is one of the things that adds to the shallowness of the plot.

The one saving grace of this book is the lack of a romantic subplot, save for the repairing of Vince's marriage at the end.

2 stars

The Living End by Lisa Samson

Lisa Samson does not belong in the genre she has been put in. She isn't like all the other romance authors on the market. The critics just don't know where to put her. The author she is perhaps most like is Angela Hunt.

Pearl Laurel has nothing to live for anymore now that her husband of thirty-five years has died. The two of them always wanted to die together, and Pearl wants to fulfill that wish until she discovers a list in Joe's pocket entitled "What I Want to Do Before I Die". So Pearl sets out to do the things on the list-and some things of her own-before going to meet her husband.

The largest anchor this book has is the superb characters. It's rare that you find any this good. They have very clear cut personalities, though it is subtle at first. None of them are perfect characters; that's the best part about it.

The book isn't just a manual of all the things Pearl completes from the list; the plot is broken up by two subplots: Pearl's and Joe's past, and all of Joe's journals.

But they aren't just simple journals. One of the books are Joe's analytical sketches of people he meets, one is meditations on Bible verses, and one is about everyday life. Pearl becomes obsessed with reading them.

The whole book is a journal of Pearl in itself because of the lack of chapters and the unpredictability of the entries.

The cover and the title are some of the best I have ever seen.

The end is ironic, to say the least. Though it was slightly predictable, it was understandable, sort of like a Karen Kingsbury end.

The way she is packaged as an author is funny because I would normally never read abook by this kind of author. However, do not be decieved for she is an original writer who fits many different genre expectations. All in all, Lisa Samson has been stamped with a title she does not deserve.

4.5 stars

Less Than Dead by Tim Downs

Bones have been discovered on the property of a Virginia senator's estate in Virginia. Since he is very close to winning the next presidential election, he wants an immediate explanation.

The FBI calls in Nick Polchak, the Bug Man, to investigate the bones and figure out how old they are and where they came from. While visiting the town of Endor, Nick hears legends about the Alena, whom everyone calls the Witch of Endor because she walks in the woods every night in a flowing white dress with a three-legged dog. Everyone seems to have a different story about her, like how she can raise the dead and control her many dogs. But Nick wants to know for himself, so he lets himself onto her property several times and eventually finds her useful in the case.

Alena is by far the best female lead Tim Downs has introduced into the series so far. She is a highly original character that shows off Tim's hidden originality.

Nick Polchak has a renewed sense of originality about him in this novel. Where he was boring in First the Dead, he was funny in Less Than Dead.

There are multiple other good characters, ones that don't have to be as good as they are.

One of the best things about Tim's writing style is his flair for detail. He doesn't leave anything out, therefore he has no plot holes.

I wish I could say he has returned to the days of Chop Shop, but he has not quite yet.

While the serial killer in the plot is one of the most original serial killers ever created, there are several unnecessary parts, like the car chase at the end. The book could have easily gone without it.

Once again, I have faith in Tim Downs, that he will do that original thing at the right time.

4 stars

Leaper by Geoffrey Wood

James is just an ordinary guy-with a superpower he doesn't know about. His wife has just divorced him, and he's just getting settled into his new apartment-when he finds that he can leap through time just by thinking about it. He can only leap through the present, but he can do so nonetheless.

It takes him a while to figure out how to trigger this instinct, but once he does, he begins preforming "good deeds". His version of them, anyway.

The book is advertised as a comedy, and I must say, it is truly funny. I don't find many books funny, but James' character is so good, it's comical.

He often misplaces and forgets certain things. He has lots of hair brained ideas, most of them stemming from the many lists he makes of things to do.

There are also several comical conundrums he gets himself caught up in, mostly in public, that all stem from his character.

In fact, his character is the main thing holding the book together. Without it, the book would be very juvenile and more like a comic book than adult fiction.

Since there are not many characters in this tale, Wood gives them each special attention and makes them all entertaining characters instead of only have James be comical. His ex-wife isn't exactly a model character either. She's always checking up on him to make sure he's behaving, even though they are no divorced.

Wood controls James' power very well. He doesn't let him leap out of control, such as jumping all over the world. James' character confines him to his hometown.

The main thing keeping this book from being five stars is the lack of explanation for where he received his power. That area is left blank, and most people miss it.

However, the end of the book is original enough for it to leap onto the Elite List.

It will be interesting to see what Geoffrey Wood will do next.

4.5 stars

Infidel by Ted Dekker

With two Lost Books in their possession, the four chosen teenagers must fight the Horde and avoid danger in order to recover the rest of the books. But this mission puts Johnis in a tight spot when a Roush tells him his mother is among the Horde. The spot gets even tighter when Thomas forbids him to rescue his mother. He must battle the odds in order to do what he thinks is right.

Please. How many times have we heard a plot like that before? Too many.

The Roush have become all too convenient in this series by showing up and giving the teens things they might need.

The characters remain to be as mediocre as they were in the first. Two romantic subplots between the four teens have already been introduced into the series.

Many think that anything that comes out of the Circle is good, but they are missing typical things Dekker has hidden within the series-bad characters, romantic subplots, hostage scenes, bad villains, miraculous victories; the whole nine yards.

However, I must say, the end of this book did give me hope that the next book may be better.

2 stars

Ghost Writer by Rene Gutteridge

Jonathan Harper is an accomplished editor, one of the best at his publishing house, but his career and life are about to unravel over an anonymous manuscript. The contents of the manuscript appear to be his life. Starting with his birth and leading up to the present day. Someone knows his life and is trying to scare him with it.

The best thing about this book is that it's not like all the other "ghost writer" stories. This isn't a horror story; it's just a normal plot about an editor. Also, there actually is a real ghost writer.

The other manuscripts Jonathan receives day to day are also very interesting. There are two others in particular that are interesting enough to be real novels and not just figments.

Though the characters are imperfect, they don't really show any kind of personality. But they are better than most.

The person writing the manuscript of Jonathan's life is not revealed until the very end of the book. It's very surprising, yet not so surprising at the same time.

There are several other original things about the book, such as key character deaths and realistic everyday life.

The one drag to this book is its length. It drags on and on mainly because the author reveals the full content of one of the manuscripts besides the one of his life.

But that's not the only thing keeping it from perfection. Several things turn out perfectly in the end, yet several things do not.

There is one disturbing issue brought up at the end. I'm not sure how much Rene believes in it, but it stood out to me. It deals with publishing houses rejecting original manuscripts just because the public doesn't like them.

All in all, Ghost Writer is one of Rene's unsung books, and it is probably better than some of her more popular ones.

4 stars

First the Dead by Tim Downs

Probably the best thing about the Bug Man novels is that they can all stand alone. They all take place in different parts of the country, the always have a different female lead and the only character they all have in common is Nick Polchak.

This time Nick has left North Carolina again to go help with the cleanup of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. But when he sees multiple dead bodies floating along the flooded streets of the Big Easy, he can't help but investigate a little. It's in his blood. After further investigation, he discovers that the bodies died after the hurricane. So he disobeys his direct orders to save the living first and decides to investigate the dead first.

For once, a Bug Man title actually makes sense. That's probably the best thing about it.

The character if Nick Polchak is getting more predictable with every book. His offhand comments and analyzing in the first two books were funny, but now they are expected. At least he's a consistent character.

The mystery isn't all that original or all that typical. It's somewhere in between. At least the villain had an interesting purpose.

One of the saddest parts about this book is that there is no mention of Chop Shop or anything that went on in the previous book. Nobody talks about it.

Tim Downs was sure to gain a wider audience by writing about a sensitive subject like Hurricane Katrina and by avoiding any kind of originality.

It's really hard to know what to say about a book like First the Dead. It just falls in line with a lot of the other books on the market.

3 stars

Chosen by Ted Dekker

The first four Lost Books supposedly cover the time lost in between Black and Red. When I first read the first two Circle books, I didn't notice anything missing that was worth dragging back up again.

But Dekker is using the Lost Books as a marketing tool to bring teens into the Circle because the Lost Books are supposed to be teen fiction.


is not only a marketing tool, but a book used to introduce the Books of History\blood technique that is used conveniently later.

The Forest Guard is supposedly running low on recruits, so Thomas of Hunter is forced to allow teenagers into his army. But he wants to find the Lost Books of History before Teeleh finds them. Rumor has it that whoever has all seven rules all time.

So Thomas chooses four teenagers to the search for them. The way he chooses them is probably the highlight of the book. They play an interesting variation of football to find out who is strongest and wisest.

Johnis, Silvie, Darsal, and Billos are chosen to recover the Books of History. Johnis is immediately portrayed as the "chosen one", the special kid who can see things the other can't like Roush and Shataiki.

The book is very short, shorter than it looks. I think Dekker wanted to stretch the series out so the first letters of every book would spell CIRCLE. There isn't much substance to this book because of its length. The whole book is like a long introduction ending with a suspenseful showdown with Teeleh at the end.

The characters are already plain and stereotypical. There is already a romantic subplot introduced. There's already too much drama.

I know the Circle is Dekker's career work, but this one just doesn't wow me.

2.5 stars

Brink of Death by Brandilyn Collins

Annie Kingston was a courtroom sketch artist, but now she's running from her past. She has come to settle in a small town and has made friends there. But when one of those friends, her neighbor, dies by the hands of a killer, she feels her world begin to rock again.

The only witness to the murder is her neighbor's twelve-year-old daughter, but she doesn't want to say much. Because of Annie's background as a courtroom sketch artist, she decides to help out by drawing the face the daughter describes. But as she draws it, she begins to recognize it from somewhere in her past...

Please. That storyline is way worn out. All convenient connections are cheesy and childish mainly because they are far from realistic.

The characters are just typical Brandilyn Collins characters. They don't have any distinguishing traits that make you think they are real people. They are all just downtrodden victims of a "scary" villain.

Collins needs help with her villains. The villain is the most stereotypical villain you could ever think of. I like villains with pasts and substance, not mindless animals or killing machines.

Brink of Death

was a very easy read for me, however. Its typical nature made it seem short, therefore I didn't waste much time on it. There is a lot of wasted page space as well.

My main advice for Brandilyn Collins is to focus more on her plot and character development instead of always trying to be "scary".

2 stars

Acts of God by James Beauseigneaur

Now that Christopher Goodman has the world following him, he begins to slowly take it over. The world looks up to him as a leader after all the disasters that have befallen the earth. Christopher blames it all on Yahweh, the evil god, who wants to cause humankind to bow to him forever. But Christopher leads them in resistance of Yahweh in order to further humankind.

Unsure of what to do in the midst of the crisis, Decker Hawthorne is forced to rely on what the Bible says about the judgements and prepares for them accordingly. While the world falls into turmoil, he does his best to stay afloat.

Many Jews flee to Petra, God's chosen refuge, until the Battle of Armageddon. This book continues in the manual-like writing style of the first two books in this series, though James Beauseigneaur has found a way to make it a little more interesting, at least to me. While the characters never found any personality, James does seem to improve his writing style which has been the main problem with this series.

One of the best things about this series is Christopher's lie about the origin of Yahweh. This could very well be how the Antichrist will deceive the world. James said he would explain his different version of the Rapture that occurred in the first book and he has. He has a good reason for what he believes though some will not agree. This book is probably the best book of the series because of something unexpected that happens at the end.

Another interesting point is that James should really get the credit for first putting to fiction many of the ideas the the more popular Left Behind series later used. If only he could combine with his work, the more interesting characters and engaging writing style created by Jenkins. As it is this series is kind of a hint at what Left Behind would be if written solely by Tim LaHaye, a report on all the good research he put into it.

All in all, this has been an interesting trilogy, even though it could have been better and I applaud James for his efforts.

3.5 stars