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!

Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tears of a Dragon by Bryan Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 stars

The Chairman by Harry Kraus

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

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

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

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

The Chairman

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

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

The market needs more authors like Harry Kraus.

5 stars

DragonLight by Donita K Paul

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

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

Now the first review:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

2 stars

Here is the second opinion:

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

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

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

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

4 stars

Circles of Seven by Bryan Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 stars

A Son Comes Home by Joseph Bentz

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

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

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

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

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

4 stars

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Poll Report for November 2009

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

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

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

2. Jerry B Jenkins (27%)

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

3. Tim LaHaye (9%)

His popularity lies mostly in the non-fiction market.

4. Alton Gansky (0%)

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

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

The Candlestone by Bryan Davis

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 stars

Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish

Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 stars

The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K Paul

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 stars

Songbird by Lisa Samson

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 stars

Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis

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

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

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

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

Raising Dragons

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

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

2.5 stars

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sadie's Song by Linda Hall

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

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

1. Sadie is a typical Lisa Samson female lead.

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

3. There are good characters.

4. The people have strange names.

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 stars

Home Another Way by Christa Parrish

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

Home Another Way

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

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

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

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

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

5 stars

The Last Word by Kathy Herman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 stars

Women's Intuition by Lisa Samson

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 stars

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lunatic by Ted Dekker

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

4 stars

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 stars

DragonFire by Donita K Paul

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

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

Dragon Fire

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

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

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

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

4.5 stars

Dragon Knight by Donita K Paul

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

Dragon Knight

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

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

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

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

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

4 stars

Bye Bye Bertie by Rick Dewhurst

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

Bye Bye Bertie

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 star

Adam by Ted Dekker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 stars