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, November 17, 2009

Shades of Blue by Karen Kingsbury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 stars

Obsessed by Ted Dekker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 stars

DragonQuest by Donita K Paul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 stars

Storm Gathering by Rene Gutteridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.5 stars

Last Breath by Brandilyn Collins and Amberly Collins

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 star

Always Watching by Brandilyn Collins and Amberly Collins

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

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

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

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

1.5 stars

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Contest!


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

Here's what you have to do:

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

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

3. Each person can enter up to five reviews.

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


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

2. You must give a summary of the plot.

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

4. You must give the book a rating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tiger Lillie by Lisa Samson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 stars

The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klaven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 stars

All I'll Ever Need by Harry Kraus

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

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

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

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

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

2 stars

When Heaven Weeps by Ted Dekker

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

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

When Heaven Weeps

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

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

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

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

2 stars

The Great Divide by T Davis Bunn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.5 stars

Skizzer by A J Kiesling

Claire Trowling's sister Becca has disappeared from the country, leaving only a cryptic note behind. Her husband has no idea where she went. As Becca's big sister, Claire feels an obligation to keep her out of danger. Claire looks for answers in their past and discovers a strange family situation that took root two generations before her. The deeper she digs, the more interesting the mystery gets, even leading her across the Atlantic to England.

My summary of Skizzer mirrors how short the book actually is. Without the flashbacks Claire has, the book wouldn't have even been published. It's barely long enough to be interesting at all.

The plot is a typical missing person setup. Find a clue here, find a clue there, do a little research, travel here, travel there. Nothing interesting or surprising is contained within the novel.

There is no villain in this plot. While I think it's good that Becca was not kidnapped and that we were spared a cheesy showdown scene, the lack of a villain makes the plot sappy. While this is realistic, I feel like more everyday things should have occurred. The plot is too straightforward.

The best thing about the book is its good characters. They all have personalities, which is a good start for a debuting author. Not many authors have figured this out even on their fifth book, but A J has crafted good characters in her debut novel. This will be a great asset to her down the road.


seems like a rough draft an author sends into the publisher. Only, this rough draft actually got published. While Skizzer is a lot better than some of the other things on the market, it still has some work to do. But this also means it has potential.

I am interested to see what AJ Kiesling will do in the future.

2.5 stars

For the Rest of My Life by Harry Kraus

Claire McCall is living the life of a country doctor-busy, harried, and frustrated. As she waits for test results to see if she is positive for the Huntington's disease gene she may have inherited from Wally, her father, her mother has to daily deal with the stress of a Huntington's patient. Wally cannot control a majority of his actions, now including bodily functions. Della has turned into a new person ever since her husband's change.

But Claire doesn't have time to think about this with patients constantly coming in with any number of ailments. A recurring theme of rapes among several female patients bothers her when she hears the rapist wears a surgical mask. She fears for herself and for the women she knows.

John Cerelli is still struggling with his relationship with Claire. He wants to get re-engaged to her, but he wants to wait until she reads her test results. Claire believes he is holding back on her for this very reason and descends deeper into depression and frustration.

Lena Chisholm lives a rough life with her ever-drunk husband. When he's not drunk, he's a saint; when he is drunk, he's a devil. He drinks almost every night. Lena is fed up with it. She confronts him after he attacks her one night, and their relationship takes a strange twist.

Harry Kraus has done an excellent job at making the Claire McCall series extremely realistic and believable. Only someone who is in the medical field daily like he is could pull this off. Many frustrating things happen to the characters, and Harry does a good job of not bombarding the reader with tragedy after tragedy.

The characters remain to be imperfect, as usual. Harry does a good job at keeping this cast of characters realistic. I especially like the way he develops John Cerelli. Normally, an author would make a male lead like him perfect, but Harry does the opposite.

The identity of the rapist wasn't all that surprising to me, but it was appropriate because he had a good explanation behind him.

A few too many tragedies occurred at the end of the book, but this does nothing to detract from the rating. The point is, not everything turns out perfectly in the end like some authors would have it. This is Harry's specialty and the reason we like his books.

5 stars

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Literary Trash

The following is a list of overused aspects of novels that need to be thrown away and never retrieved.

Plot Ideas:

(The following section focuses on plot ideas that we believe have been overused.)

Serial killer chases:

This idea is worn out. There is virtually no way to end this type of plot except for the ways authors refuse to do. But even in these ways, the serial killer usually has to be found out. However, this is not a closed genre if authors will use it originally.

False death scenes:

This has been used since day one of suspense. One of the heroes gets captured by the bad guys. Everybody thinks they're dead. They find out that they really are alive. Blah, blah, blah. It's not realistic that people hardly ever die in situations like that. However, to reverse this Trash would be original.

Hostage situations where the hostage miraculously escapes:

Practically the same as the one above, just more specific. This type actually shows the hero getting away by using a technique they learned earlier in the book or by being rescued by another hero.

Romance in general:

Romance is not just a genre. It consumes all of Christian fiction. Nearly 95% of Christian books have a romantic subplot that always turns out right. This is not realistic. People don't find their perfect match just anywhere. Some people don't even get hooked up at all. It's not realistic to fall in love at every turn. If people really did that, think of the mess we would be in.

Demon possession and exorcisms:

This used to be an original idea, back when Frank Peretti started writing his supernatural thrillers. But books have completely worn this idea into the ground time and again. It's gotten to the point where I don't even want to hear about it anymore. Exorcisms have become sensational at best are often unnecessary to the plot as well.

Mysteries and suspense with an obvious villain:

I've even heard other reviewers say they were tired of reading this one. I can't even imagine why these types of plots sell. Certain types of characters and plot devices should be obvious to readers as to how the author will use them. And the authors do use them over and over and over again. When will someone surprise us?

Legal battles in which one down-on-their-luck lawyer battles insurmountable odds and wins the impossible court case:

This was probably interesting once. Like demon possession, this Trash has been used a hundred too many times. Why do authors use this over and over again? Because people like it. You would think that people would begin to figure out that copying the same plot over again isn't suspense.

Two twin brothers get separated at birth and are reunited later in life by some strange circumstances:

This plot has been used since the beginning of time. Thankfully, it has died out over the past few years. The whole "like looking in a mirror" analogy sounds interesting at first, but when you really think about it, it's not.

Custody cases where the good guys always win and the bad guys are monsters in the closet:

Since custody cases usually have a predictable end, why not make it unpredictable by making both sides good or both sides bad? Why not confuse the reader a little. Change things up. Make it unpredictable. Why not?

Genetic and other medical suspense:

Unfortunately, having viruses and mad genetic scientists threaten to take over the world isn't all that suspenseful if you aren't going to actually have it take over the world. Every time I read a description of a book that says something about DNA, an airborne virus, or cloning, I tend to roll my eyes. Why? Because this genre has been abused. It's time for somebody to bring it back.

Save-the-world situations:

The Trash category above fits into this category, but it does not fill it. There are other situations such as bomb threats, terrorism, and other weaponry that can be used as plot devices to make the plot "suspenseful". Again, suspense is truly not knowing what's going on. Most of the time, the books that are marketed as suspense are more predictable than books that are not marketed as suspense.

Forced suspense:

Some plots just don't need the kind of drama other plots need. Sometimes, an author just needs to write a normal plot. Why? Because life is not all guns and explosions and villains. Sometimes life is just normal. Fiction does not portray life correctly sometimes. Needless to say, some situations need suspense. But not all.

A female lead is being chased by a killer who wants her for some reason and a perfect man she doesn't like is trying to protect her:

Female authors invented this plot style in order to keep their emotional readers happy. There's something about female readers that like perfect male leads. They also tend to root for the downtrodden, dramatic female lead. I guess one of the main reasons I don't like this plot style is because I'm not emotional, but the number one reason is because it's not realistic.

Coincidental connections between unrelated plot devices:

This has been around since the beginning of mysteries. The lead or leads find something early on in the book that has something to do with the ultimate answer. Another form of this Trash is having two leads work on two unrelated cases that end up having to do with each other (The Reluctant Thief series by Jill Nelson). Coincidental connections are not only worn out, but they are unrealistic.

The Nephilim:

Every Christian spec author has tried to invent an explanation for that mysterious passage in Genesis about the Nephilim. There are so many versions it's ridiculous. One author wrote something about it, and all the rest followed. There are so many different ideas, it's hard to know which one to believe. The Nephilim have been morphed into aliens, hairy giants, six-fingered people, vampires, half-human\half-demon people, and more in fiction. The biggest problem is that spec authors are trying to make something out of nothing in order to sell. As with most of these this was original once but is now worn out

Finding the Ark of the Covenant:

Ever since Indiana Jones found the Lost Ark, Christian fiction has been trying to copy it. It seems like every author has their own idea about where the Ark is, and how to find it. But every one of these books has something in common: the Ark is always found. This notion is ridiculous because I don't even believe the Ark can be found. I think God destroyed it so people wouldn't worship it. When it disappeared from history, it probably really disappeared. I don't understand why people want to keep bringing it back up. The Ark of the Covenant is part of the old ways, anyway. We don't need the Ark anymore. We don't need to read about either.


There was a time and a place for westerns, but that time and place are now gone. Not only has the public lost interest, but so have we. Westerns were never very original anyway. The perfect leads fought the evil bad guys every time. There was a great redundancy on the TV shows with other plot devices such as gold, gunfights, showdowns at high noon, and romances. Thankfully no one in Christian fiction has ever tried to resurrect this genre.

Finding the "bones of Jesus":

This is a pointless plot because if the bones are Jesus' bones, than the book is no longer Christian. If they are not Jesus' bones, than the reader learned nothing. The only way to end this plot is to have the bones be phony, so why even write the plot at all?

Finding the Garden of Eden:

The Garden of Eden no longer exists on earth as we know it. God took that away from us. What makes authors think their characters can find it again? God sealed it off from humanity. Eden is gone. There is no plausible explanation for characters finding the Garden, so why even write the plot?

CRT's (Convenient Rescue Techniques):

This is probably the most well concealed of any piece of Literary Trash. But it is unquestionably the worst of them all. If I remember correctly, James Bond invented this one. At the beginning, Q would give him a device that he would end up using later to get out of a sticky situation. In modern fiction, the characters no longer use tangible devices as much, but plot devices such as last-minute rescues by perfect leads. Using tangible devices is even more cheesy, especially in a fantasy setting in which the characters use an imaginary device to get themselves out of a rut. (Oh look a magic stone, etc.) CRT's were only created to try to make suspense interesting yet still please the public in the end by getting the heroes out alive. Not only are CRT's overused, but they are also highly unrealistic and make for bad fiction.


(The following section is a list of lines that need to be discarded from characters' dialogue. Please note that some words can be changed and the line will still mean the same thing.)

"Wait! Come back! Don't leave me!"

"You'll never get away get this!"

"I'll be back! You won't get rid of me!"

"You killed my father!"

"I am your father!"

"We shall meet again."

"What! You're alive! I thought you were dead!"

"I'll never leave you again."

"Do what I say or you'll never see him\her again!"


"It's a miracle!"

"I'll get you for this! You'll never get away from me!"

"You're all meddling with my plans!"

"Go ahead. Kill me."

"I'm not a man like you!"

"You're my hero."


(The following section is a list of character types that have been overused.)

Evil villains:

Villains, in my opinion, don't need to be clear cut and purely evil. They need to be more ambiguous and realistic, even seeming good at times. This makes for good fiction because you're hard pressed to find a truly evil villain in the real world.

Genetic scientists:

I'm not completely opposed to genetic scientists per se because the can be very good characters. I am opposed to them right now because everyone always portrays them as evil. Why can't they be simply misguided or even good? Why do they always have to have a plan to take over the world?

Perfect heroes:

This is the other side of the evil villains spectrum. In the past, plots has evil villains and perfect heroes, hands down. Now we have evil villains and perfect heroes with troubled pasts. Somehow, the troubled past bit is more excepted by the public than having the hero be completely perfect. The worst part about the troubled past is the author usually makes it not the hero's fault at all. Thus the hero becomes a victim that the public sympathizes with. However, there is a movement in the world of fiction using imperfect leads. This is the movement we endorse because it is the most realistic.

Healers, especially small children:

The healing genre has been opened and closed. We've all heard the story: a healer comes to town and begins taking people's money all in the name of God. But authors have also created a genre of young children healers. I don't know how many books have been about this subject or why some are so obsessed with it.

Modern day prophets:

This is not a completely closed subject, as long as authors will use it in an original way. Usually these "prophets" are just messengers of Satan, and while the Bible says these will come, I'm really tired of reading books about it.

Waking Lazarus by T L Hines

The first time Jude Allman died he was eight years old.

That has got to be one of the best opening lines ever.


Jude Allman has died three times. Three times he has been inexplicably raised from the dead. Once when he was eight, once when he was sixteen, and once when he was twenty-four. He is now thirty-two and lives an undercover life as a janitor. He must live under the alias of Ron Gress because one can become a celebrity for dying three times. He is divorced to his wife and son and lives alone. But he has a gift. He has know idea where it came from. All he knows is that it works. By physical touch with a person he can know what is going on in that person's life or what has gone on in their past. This gift comes in handy when his son is kidnapped.

Because this book comes before The Dead Whisper On, I wasn't sure whether it would be good or not. But clearly, The Dead Whisper On was a major slump for T L Hines.

Jude is a very interesting and surprisingly realistic character. Every morning he disengages his elaborate alarm system, searches the house for intruders, and sweeps the house for bugs. This is the reason his wife left him. His paranoia has driven him from the outside world. He is paranoid because everywhere he goes, people recognize him as the dead guy who was raised to life three times.

None of the characters are perfect, in fact. They are all normal people except for the fact that they lack true personality.

The villain, though at first he seems like a mindless serial killer, is not who you would expect it to be. He is not a typical villain, even though he uses random capital words like Quarry and Normal. He is very intriguing and his identity is surprising.

The end of the book is ambiguous if not slightly predictable. There is one part I knew Hines would do, but there are other parts he surprised me with.

So what keeps it from being five stars? The predictable part of the end, and the lack of personalities in the characters. Otherwise, T L Hines has produced an unexpected Elite novel.

Since T L started out this well, I expect him to do more great things in the future like this one and less horrible things like The Dead Whisper On.

4 stars

Daisy Chain by Mary E DeMuth

Jed Pepper is a loyal friend. He does the best he can as a young teenager in a strange family situation. His father is spastic and, most of the time, abusive to his family, even though he pastors the local church in Defiance, Texas. Most of the time, Jed just wants to be a man and stand up to his father, but every time he does, he gets more punishment. His mother is too timid to do or say anything about Hap's abuse.

Jed finds solace in his relationship with a girl his age. Her name is Daisy Chance. She is the one who sought him out and started the friendship, because she is convinced that Jed will marry her one day. Jed becomes very dependent on her company, but when she mysteriously disappears from the town leaving only her shoe behind, Jed begins to blame himself for her disappearance. Why? Because he was the last one who was with her.

Daisy Chain

is a plot based completely on raw characters. And they are good characters at that. They are imperfect and realistic, because they have personalities, something not many authors can seem to grasp.

The setting of the book is a small town called Defiance, yet the town is not full of hicks. Many authors have made this mistake when writing about their fictional small town, yet DeMuth has avoided this mistake and has created a town full of believable people.

Jed has a very interesting view on life. His mission is to be a man, and in the end, it's hard to tell whether he achieved his goal or not. But nevertheless, DeMuth gives the reader an interesting perspective on life by looking through his eyes.

Daisy is not your typical "little girl" character that has been overused so many times. She seems like a real person you could meet anywhere.

The only reason DeMuth got away with the highly original end this book has was by marketing it as a tragedy plot. This book appeals to the emotional crowd, to say the least. Though I do not consider myself one of them, I thoroughly enjoyed the original end. I praise DeMuth for her bravery.

Because of this, I see great things from this author in the future.

5 stars

A Slow Burn by Mary E DeMuth

Emory doesn't know how she's going to live without her Daisy. Daisy was the one who took care of her during the drug highs and after the parties. Daisy called the ambulance when she tried to commit suicide. Emory took her daughter for granted because Daisy always took care of herself.

But now there's no more Daisy.

Upon the death of Muriel, Hixon hears a call from God to go and make Emory his wife. Hixon obeys reluctantly and soon finds his work cut out for him. Emory plain doesn't like him. She just wants to stay to herself and not be bothered by anyone. She wants no contact with the world. All she cares about is going to meet Daisy on her drug trips.

More and more deception and intrigue enter Defiance as Daisy's father returns, Daisy's killer lurks, and Emory's life spins more and more out of control.

A Slow Burn

deals with the broken people of Defiance. Emory is broken by her choices, Hixon is broken by his past, and even Jed is broken by his family life. None of the characters are perfect; all of them are guilty of something. Daisy's death has brought a lot of heartache on the town of Defiance, Texas.

A Slow Burn

shows Defiance through a new set of eyes and lets the reader know several previously unknown things about Emory's messy life.

The characters remain to be as imperfect as ever, some of them even getting worse. The characters are not the typical characters you would think would fill a small town novel. Defiance is not a town full of hicks, as so many authors portray small towns, but a town full of real people with real problems.

The only thing keeping this from being five stars is an unnecessary, sensational scene toward the end of the book in which characters that were already dead begins speaking to Emory through a fire. This only appeals to the public and keeps them interested.

However, DeMuth writes her share of key character deaths into this novel, which is her speciality. I am interested to see how the Defiance, Texas Trilogy will end and where the characters will end up.

Mary E DeMuth has found a way to write original books, and I applaud her for that.

4 stars

The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson

Mary-Margaret is a teenage girl who lives a religious sister on an island off the coast of Baltimore. She is not a nun, for she does not reside in a convent. Yet she is a religious sister, who is married to Christ and must do all she can to spread the gospel to those who need it. All she wants to do is honor God and be like Jesus.

But then she met Jude, a wayward teenage boy who lives a wild life. Her heart goes out to him because of his situation, but she doesn't want to do anything drastic to help him. She prays for him and talks to him often, but she begs to differ when she hears what Jesus has in store for her and Jude.

The book is written by Mary-Margaret as an old woman looking back on her past, therefore the reader gets snippets of the present as well as the past. However, the book seems like it really is written by an old woman, and while this is a nice change from Samson's typical female leads, this also makes for bad character development, a surprise for Lisa Samson. Mary Margaret does not have a very good outlook on character's personalities, and while this is a creative touch, it makes for a slightly unprofessional writing style.

Samson insists that this book is not a paraphrase of Hosea, and that it is not meant to be read that way, but there is really no other way to read it. It's a backwards version of Hosea; instead of having the male pursue the female, the female is pursuing the male. This is the most original touch to the book.

This novel is an epic of sorts because it covers a majority of Mary-Margaret's life. Things work out; some things don't work out. It's realistic in some sense, but in other ways, it's not so realistic.

For example, Mary's father keeps appearing in the present. This means that he would have to be over one hundred years old, if Mary is eighty at the time. This is a plot hole and is very strange for Lisa Samson.

If there were a book that stood out from Lisa's other books, it would be this one, mostly because of the lack of good characters. After Embrace Me, I thought she was going to write more original plots like it. The Passion of Mary-Margaret is original, but it's strange for her. Though this novel is fine, I only hope her next release, Resurrection, is better.

4 stars

Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson

Heather has it all-a heart surgeon for a husband, the perfect boy for a son, a spacious house, an extensive property complete with a swimming pool and tennis courts, popularity in the community-yet she still yearns for something. She yearns to be as thin and to look as beautiful as all her friends. She tries to fill the void by giving hefty pledges to charities, yet the next day she spends twice the amount at the department store. She and her husband are still church shopping-they still haven't settled down.

But then an encounter with two ancient Quaker sisters and an old nun begins to point her in the right direction. She spends the summer with these three women while working at a homeless shelter. Slowly, she begins to learn what she needs to do.

What Samson has done with this book is she has taken one of her typical crazy female leads and has given her a lot of money. This equals a dangerous yet comedic combination.

As usual, all her characters are up to par. They are all realistic and imperfect; they are just believable people. Samson seems to be able to capture that with her plots.

Heather spends most of the book musing and analyzing life during her wanderings. This becomes very intriguing because it makes the reader think. I've heard people say that this is depressing, but life isn't all cream puffs. You have to think about the tough stuff sometimes.

Samson finds creative ways to keep the book interesting. This seems like a hard task since the theme of the book is not very appealing to some people. Yet she found a way to make the issue comedic yet thought provoking.

The only thing keeping this book from being five stars is a highly unnecessary scene that makes one of the characters stereotypical, even though he was beginning to not look so clear cut. This scene could have been easily cut and not missed by the reader, because following the scene, the characters make no mention of it.

I regret that Samson put this scene in the book because I wanted it to be five stars. Yet Samson did not let other things turn out perfectly that could have been that way. That is why it is rated what it is.

All in all, Lisa Samson is one of the best authors on the market.

4.5 stars

Lost Mission by Athol Dickson

Fray Alejandro lives in Mision de Santa Delores, an idyllic Spanish mission located in southern California. But in the eighteenth century, the mission collapsed, and only now are people beginning to unearth it. But caught in the middle of its unearthing are a Mexican shopkeeper who moved to America to preach the gospel, a pastor who feels he is failing his congregation, and a desperate man who feels he married the wrong woman.

Most of the book is spent in the past, telling from Alejandro's perspective how the mission collapsed and why. It eventually transitions to the present within each chapter, but not in a very obvious way.

Lost Mission

is a very hard book to review because it is spread out over time. In the past, it spans a century, yet in the present, only a few months. The vague transitions between past and present confused me at first. I do believe the book could have been better with more obvious transitions.

The best thing about Lost Mission is that Dickson set out to make the book full of imperfect characters, and he succeeded in doing so. They all suffer consequences for their wrong choices in the end. I love plots that are set up in this sort of way.

But why then did I not make it Elite? Here's why: Dickson made mostly everything turn out perfectly in the end. However, he disguises it very well. But he does nonetheless.

In the past, I have not fully known what to think about Athol's works. I like some of them; I scratched my head at the others. But there is a reason why Athol has never received a five star award from us: he has a penchant for making things turn out unrealistically perfect in the end. This is why his works appeal to the public.

Unfortunately, Lost Mission is one of those such works. I hate to say it. This book had a lot of potential, and I do not regret reading it. I only wish I could have made it Elite.

3 stars

Deadfall by Patricia Rushford and Harrison James

Detective Mac McAllister is back working on a new case with the homicide department of the Oregon State Police. A ski instructor has disappeared, and his parents refuse to believe in the option of suicide. They believe his girlfriend had something to do with his disappearance, but Mac won't say anything until he delves deeper into the case.

Mac has also been having trouble with his fiancee. She wants him to come to pre-marital counseling sessions at her church, but Mac doesn't have any use for church or religion. An even bigger strain is put on their relationship when Mac begins to have feelings for a woman he works with.

The rest of the plot progresses like any other mystery plot would-investigate a little, find a clue here and there, interview people-but nothing very special or ground-breaking. That's the biggest problem with this book. There's nothing that makes it stand out from any other mystery books on the market. It's very run-of-the-mill.

Another problem with this book is the lack of good characters. While Mac is an imperfect lead, there are several other typical plot devices, such as the old Christian mentor he works with.

Some parts of the investigation are realistic, but they are mostly boring. However, I am glad the authors avoided forcing this plot to be suspense. I don't know if I could have taken any of that.

The authors avoid a typical showdown with the criminal at the end, but this leaves several plot holes. For one thing, key things happen at the final scene, but nothing is ever said about them. This only leaves the reader scratching his head, wondering whatever happened to them.

While there is one unresolved issue at the end of the book, a majority of the issues are fixed at the end, making for an unrealistic plot. Basically, I just didn't see anything that made this book special. Maybe the authors will do better in the next book.

2.5 stars