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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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fire By Night by Lynn Austin

After years of living a carefree and rich life with her well-to-do parents, Julia Hoffman has forced herself to reflect upon her very existence. When she discovers that she is disagreeable to the handsome yet fierce Reverend Nathaniel Greene, Julia begins to devote her life to service as a nurse on the front lines of the Civil War. Her path soon crosses with Phoebe Bigelow, a woman impersonating a male soldier in order to make a new life for herself. However, Julia also draws the unwanted attention of a seemingly heartless surgeon who orders Julia to leave the front lines and return to her pampered life. However, Julia refuses, stubbornly deciding to prove her worth to the world. However, it seems as though the war is bigger than them all, and none of the wrongs will ever be righted...
While some authors are inconsistent in their writing styles, Lynn Austin is the picture of consistency. She is a master at writing historical fiction and developing complete characters, but a master of endings she is not.
Julia Hoffman is one of the more interesting leads Lynn has ever developed. Her purpose in the plot is unique and makes the book interesting. While Phoebe's situation is not entirely original, her subplot is interesting enough. Nathaniel Greene is an ambiguous character with a different end. There is no real villain, save for the Confederates. All in all, Lynn Austin knows how to develop characters and she did not stop using this talent in Fire By Night.
As usual with Lynn Austin books, the beginning and the middle are more tasteful than the end. Though there are interesting elements in the end, the unoriginal elements overshadow them. However, though there are romantic subplots, they are not structured typically or straightforwardly. However, in the end, Lynn Austin did not depart from her typical fiction model and wrote another typical end.
However, Fire By Night is not a book to complain about since Lynn Austin is very consistent in using her abilities to craft intriguing historical plots and develop good characters.
4.5 stars

Monday, November 29, 2010

Blind Trust by Terri Blackstock

Sherry Cranston has tried to move on and find a new purpose for her life after her fiance, Clint, abruptly disappeared from her life just days before their impending wedding. Now, eight months later, Clint has suddenly reappeared in her life with an urgency to keep her safe from an unknown foe. However, he will not tell her any helpful information, yet only wants her to trust him. Sherry and her roommate Madeline suddenly find themselves dragged across the country with Clint and his bodyguard Sam, heading to unknown locations with the enemy on their tails. Despite all of the danger and intrigue, can Sherry and Clint find once again the love they lost?
If one wants to learn how to write a completely run-of-the-mill suspense plot, one should read Blind Trust and write accordingly. Not only does this book borrow the same old, worn out plot; it borrows it in an unprofessional fashion that does not reflect well on Christian fiction as a whole.
Sherry, Clint, Madeline, and Sam are the core characters of this plot, but they are not characters that carry the story along with their personalities. Though the character count is few, the quality of the characters is lacking. Terri Blackstock has done better with character development in her career; obviously this book was written before she established this talent. The villain is not as bad as they could have been, but still not very intriguing.
This plot is definitely not lacking in potential. At any point, Terri could have changed up the pace and surprised her readers. There are plenty of opportunities for surprises and plot twists. However, Terri Blackstock took the safe way out by writing a predictable novel. Two, not one, romantic subplots are formed by the time the book is over. A typical showdown at the end makes for a boring read. However, despite these wasted opportunities, I know that the Terri Blackstock today would not write such a plot in the same fashion.
These are the types of books that make one appreciate how far an author has come in their career since they started.
2 stars

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner

Jane Lindsay never thought her husband of twenty plus years would leave her. But now he has announced that he is moving out to take another job several states away, in order to give them some space. As Jane tries to figure out where their marriage went wrong, she finds solace in discovering the past behind a ring with her name inscribed on it, which she found in the pages of an old prayer book. She discovers the story of Lucy Day, a dressmaker for Lady Jane Grey, who held the throne of England for less than two weeks. Even though Jane Lindsay tries to numb the situation with her husband, she cannot hide forever and will soon have to face the truth.
Susan Meissner has continued her new trend of writing past\present plots with Lady in Waiting. She has departed from the average historical account by discovering an obscure tale to write about. She combines this with an above-average present plot to make for an interesting read. However, Susan could still use some help with her ends.
Jane and her husband are both well-developed characters and are both at fault for their separation. As the book progresses, the reader discovers more and more how these two characters' choices drove them to where they are at the beginning of the novel. The characters in the past could be better than they are, but they are not unbearable. There are no real villains in particular, making for an interesting and ambiguous read. All in all, the characters are good, but not great.
The problem with a marriage trouble\separation plot is the inevitability of the end. There are really only two options, and Susan chose the more predictable, though it could have been worse than it was. There was one element of the past plot that Susan could not avoid being that it is historical fact. However, Susan took liberty to add unoriginal elements to the past plot. However, these issues are not something dwell on, since they can be easily forgotten in the light of other original elements, such as key character deaths.
While this book cannot be five stars, it is nonetheless an enjoyable book to read. Susan Meissner clearly knows what she is doing as an author.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fatal Convictions by Randy Singer

Civil attorney\part-time pastor Alex Madison makes his living preaching the Word of God and offering his services to patients in hospital beds. However, one of these such incidents changes the face of his career. While visiting the room of a Muslim car accident victim, Alex saw a typical opportunity, but not the groundbreaking case it would eventually become. After taking on the woman’s case, her husband is accused of ordering an honor killing, sparking one of the most heated and publicized court cases of the year. The question is this: did the quiet and reserved Muslim imam, who calls himself a Muslim reformer, order the death of a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity and the man who converted her? Alex takes his case because he believes his client is innocent, but what he soon discovers is that this case is dangerous. Alex soon finds himself fighting not only for his reputation, but for his life.

As is his custom, Randy Singer wrote a book that appeared to be a typical legal thriller he should have never written, but once again, he proved us wrong. Though on the surface Fatal Convictions looks like a run-of-the-mill plot, it is really run-of-the-mill Randy Singer.

As usual, Alex Madison is an exemplary lead, not a perfect and downtrodden attorney looking for a big case to lift his head out of the mud. Alex is actually far from perfect. The defendant is not a perfect victim, the prosecutor is not a belligerent criminal, and the judge is not a biased idiot. If Randy Singer has anything above other legal authors, it is his characters.

On the surface, this plot looks highly typical: an impossible case with international ramifications. It appears this way all the way up until the end. That’s when Randy Singer starts going crazy, placing one character with the enemies, while proving an enemy innocent. Kill one off here, save one there. In the end, the outcome is surprising yet is packaged with a purpose. Randy Singer proved us all wrong once again.

Randy Singer has reached a point in his career where he is not exhausted his store of ideas, but keeps slowly giving us another groundbreaking novel each year. He’s a role that does not appear to be ending any time soon.

5 stars

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson

May Seymour was a confused college student when Claudius Borne, a simple old man who exhibited better relational skills toward plants and animals than toward people, found her on the street, passed out in a hangover. The two of them struck up an odd relationship that did not end, even when May went on a mission trip to Rwanda, attempted to fulfill her purpose in life. But genocide in the hostile African environment sent her back to hide at Claudius’ farm. However, when tragedy struck May’s life, she vowed not to set foot into the outside world, relying on a church friend for sustenance. But when May receives news that an old college friend refuses to appeal his death row sentence, May’s life takes a turn for the better as she begins to discover life once again.

Lisa Samson has continued her streak of avoiding the same old plot with the same old characters. Like Embrace Me and The Passion of Mary-Margaret, Resurrection in May is a departure from her old self of writing about crazy female leads in certain situations. May Seymour is not one of those leads; however, she is not an exemplary character either.

May and Claudius could have been developed better. I am surprised at how much Lisa Samson’s character development skills have digressed the past three years. Obviously creating spastic female leads was the only skill she ever had. There is one good character among the mix, but since there are few characters, all of them should have been developed better. Believe it or not, this area is the weakest area of the book and causes its fall from five stars.

The plot is original and intriguing, much like that of The Passion of Mary-Margaret. There is nothing normal about the circumstances, but there is nothing wrong with this. A self-made farmer, a confused college graduate, a busybody church leader, and a prison inmate all thrown together make for irregular circumstances indeed. Even the romantic subplot Lisa invented was off the wall. No plot can be compared to this plot, making it unique. This is the sort of fiction that should always be: unique, original, and fresh plots.

However, the second component to a perfect book was partly missing: well-developed characters. However, one can never really complain about a Lisa Samson book to the point of never wanting to read her again. I’m sure she’ll be writing unique books until she dies.

4.5 stars

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Immanuel's Veins by Ted Dekker

The year is 1772. Toma Nicelescu and his partner Alek Cardei have been assigned by Catherine the Great of Russia to guard the estate of the Cantemirs during the Russio-Turkish War, namely their daughters, Lucine and Natasha. Toma and Alek both know that they cannot allow themselves to become emotionally involved with the sisters, even if the allure is tempting because of their close quarters. Alek is the first to fall, hungry for Natasha. However, Natasha introduces them all to something beyond their control and imagination. In a castle on a mountain not to far away, the devil has come down to tempt humans with the ultimate choice between living free or living dead. Though Toma and Lucine first resist the temptation Alek and Natasha first fell to, they find that there is little they can do to resist it forever.

Immanuel’s Veins can be considered a culmination or an example of everything Ted Dekker has done in his writing career. It is a cornerstone and a sample of everything he has ever done, yet nothing more and nothing new. Combining elements from the endless Circle saga, When Heaven Weeps, and his serial killer novels, and packaged in his trademark epic style, Immanuel’s Veins is deep on the outside yet very empty on the inside. However, nothing Ted Dekker writes can be completely discounted.

Toma, Alek, Lucine, and Natasha are not exemplary characters, but neither are they empty characters. The villain is a mix of all the villains Ted has ever created, making for a predictable result. Of course, there is some offhand allusion to some version of the great Thomas. It’s a miracle this book escaped without a millionth manifestation of Billy\Billos\Will that is really controlling the whole situation with a Blood Book, even though there is a Blood Book mentioned briefly. Basically, this cast of characters is nothing new for Ted Dekker.

The first half of the plot is empty and confusing, lacking substance and locational awareness. Things don’t really get going until the creatures in the dark castle, another manifestation of the Shataiki, start biting people. However, whatever smoke and mirrors and optical illusions Ted Dekker creates are only a cover-up for a very typical plot. By the time the book was half over, Ted created a situation similar to the end of When Heaven Weeps, with the same outcome. Though Ted had a chance to pull things out of a nosedive, he did not, though there are few interesting elements at the end. As mentioned before, Immanuel’s Veins is an example of Ted Dekker, namely the new Ted Dekker, the one that markets himself as an epic and new author but still does the same old stuff.

I used to say that Ted was better at his standalone novels, but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps he can redeem himself in his upcoming co-authored series that seems to be just as mystical as ever.

2.5 stars

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Take Four by Karen Kingsbury

Young and popular actor Brandon Paul has lived his short life starring in movies by day and making the tabloid headlines at night. Christian movie directors Keith Ellison and Dayne Matthews of Unlocked, the next movie Brandon is starring in, have instructed him to clean up his act if he expects to star in the film. However, Brandon decides the follow their instructions for an entirely different reason: because of Bailey Flanigan, his co-star in Unlocked. However, despite the heartthrob’s obvious affections for her, Bailey wants to understand her kind yet tight-lipped boyfriend Cody. She knows something has been going on in his life, but he refuses to tell her. This only makes things more complicated for her. Meanwhile, Andi Ellison is trying to make the hard decision as to what she will do with the baby growing inside her. Should she raise the child as her own or give it up for adoption? With so many questions, how will the intertwining lives of these families affect one another?

Karen Kingsbury seems content to write the never-ending Baxter Saga for the rest of her life, but it’s time for this series to be put to rest. The Baxter family long ago became perfect, and her attempts to create another family like them have failed. There are few characters that are realistic, and she is generally running out of good ideas for this saga. It’s really time to move on.

Brandon Paul is a more ambiguous character than one may expect, even if Karen is trying to create the next Dayne Matthews through him. Keith Ellison, Dayne Matthews, and all the Baxters are dead characters with no substance. Bailey Flanigan is an situational character that Karen can use for any purpose. Cody Coleman remains to be an interesting character, but beyond him, this cast of characters is suffering for substance.

The relationship between Brandon and Bailey was a copycat of Karen’s former relationship between Katie and Dayne, but at least it had a different outcome. At least Brandon was no one’s long lost son. Yet. The situation with Andi and her baby was cheesy and convenient, however. At least the roller coaster relationship between Bailey and Cody always makes things interesting. The best thing Take Four produced was an end to this mediocre film-making series. However, Karen has already made it clear that she’s not ending the Baxter Saga, but is continuing it with Leaving, no doubt the beginning of another single-word-series. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Karen Kingsbury needs to stick with standalone novels.

Perhaps Karen will surprise us all with the beginning of this next sub-series.

2 stars

Friday, October 8, 2010

Unpretty by Sharon Carter Rodgers

The Michaelangeles Movement has kidnapped a man and taken him to an undisclosed location. Hummingbird Collins witnessed the kidnapping, and now is getting harassed by one of the movement's members. He keeps sending her cassette tapes to listen to, disclosing some information of the background of the movement, but not disclosing any whereabouts of the kidnapped man. Hummingbird's lawyer brother, a former NFL player recluse, and a retarded man have all become involved in the perplexing case that involves a higher power than any of them expect. In order to solve the case, they must delve into the strange mind of the "artist" they are dealing with who desires to remove all things "unpretty" from the earth, and trust the strange mumblings of the retarded man...before time runs out.

Sharon Carter Rodgers has set out, as an author, to be as different, abnormal, and offbeat as possible. I like it. Despite the strange character names and the strange purpose behind this book, I find Sharon Carer Rodgers interesting. However, in all their abnormalacy, they still slipped into typical traps along the way.

The character base is scattered. Hummingbird is an interesting enough character, as is her brother. The ex-NFL player acts as a superhuman bailout tool. The retarded man is passable. The "artist" villain is interesting enough, and his philosophical ramblings are intriguing. He may be the most interesting character; however, this is not a model cast of characters. Rodgers needs to work in this area a bit more.

Rodgers builds an interesting case centered around obscure historical facts and philosophy and driven by an odd writing style. One plus is that Hummingbird has no romantic subplot. There is virtually nothing wrong with the body of the plot; things go south when the showdown occurs. However, while the showdown is quite cheesy and predictable, the villain's outcome is quite different and interesting. An epilogue serves to answer some of the reader's question regarding the movement, but the author leaves most of it up to the reader's imagination.

All in all, Sharon Carter Rodgers is an interesting author that needs help with character development. However, they may be able to use their creativity properly in the future.

3 stars

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Bishop by Steven James

Patrick Bowers, special agent for the FBI, has solved quite a few cases in his day, but this current case has him stumped. Teamed up with two women he can’t seem to decide between-Lien-Hua and Cheyenne-he must try to stop a pair of killers who have been leaving their mark around random Washington DC attractions, using misdirection every step of the way. Besides his new case and his relationship confusion, the biological father of his stepdaughter, Tessa, is seeking legal custody of her in a lawsuit. Tessa doesn’t understand the intricacies of life herself, since she is now wondering whether there is a true difference between man and beast. When it comes to criminal investigation, Patrick has to wonder the same things as well. With fake clues and no leads, the time is running out before true disaster strikes Washington DC…

In his usual epic and dramatic storytelling style, Steven James has weaved another complicated and deep mystery wrought with philosophy, suspense, and originality. Driven by good characters, this plot is only tarnished with minor missteps at the end.

Patrick and Tessa are the core characters of the series. They drive it along with their deep ponderings and well-developed personalities. Other characters are fine, but Patrick and Tessa and the true heart of the character base. The only problem with Steven James’ character department in The Bishop is the cheesy identity of one of the villains. Otherwise, I have no complaints.

As usual, Steven builds a strong case filled with dead ends, false suspects, and Patrick premonitions. Tessa’ philosophy adds no small addition to the series; in fact, I would miss her contributions if they were left out. One of the better points of the book is that Patrick’s relationship issues are not resolved. However, Steven may be purposely dragging the issue out. The showdown is the best of the series, though it may not seem like it at first. There is a deeper meaning that requires a second look, which then warrants an applause. There are unresolved issues at the end of this book that Steven will no doubt use to fuel a case for The Queen.

All in all, Steven James makes his books ten times better than they could be with his masterful storytelling abilities. While the originality of the Patrick Bowers Files may be coming to an end, I hope he does not lose to epic qualities he has demonstrated thus far.

4.5 stars

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

All She Ever Wanted by Lynn Austin

Kathleen Seymour has been running from her past and her family all her adult life, but now her teenage daughter, Joelle, has been caught shoplifting, sending off alarms in Kathy's head. On top of this, Kathy has gotten herself fired from her job because of her temper. Now an invitation to a family party being thrown for her father don't seem so bad. Kathy and Joelle skip town not only to escape the endless counseling sessions, but also to discover what really went wrong in Kathy's past and how it can impact their future. Little do they know that the deeper they go into the past, the more surprising things get, and more secrets are revealed.

As usual, Lynn Austin has crafted a non-linear plot driven by well-developed characters and imperfect circumstances. The plot covers several generations of women and the highlights of their lives, namely their mistakes that impacted future generations. Nonetheless, this is a typical Lynn Austin book.

Kathy is a refreshing lead for Lynn Austin, since she is not her typical stereotype. She brings a unique flavor to the plot that would be otherwise lost. Joelle is interesting enough, but Kathy's parents, grandmother, and uncle are all interesting and ambiguous characters that make for an entertaining plot. These add a little more of a comedy touch than Lynn Austin usually has, but it's good to change things up once and a while. As usual, Lynn Austin has crafted a flawless character base.

Lynn Austin specializes in past\present plots, and All She Ever Wanted is no exception. She uses this format to creatively conceal secrets until the reader needs to know them. She is a master of telling the reader why something is what it is by telling the reader the background behind the situation. She has learned to right lengthy novels in this manner, but she does it correctly. Though she repeats her same tendencies every time, they are tendencies worth repeating. As usual, it is the end of this novel that keeps it from being five stars, because she fixes too much rather than just leaving things alone. However, I cannot complain, for Lynn Austin has written more Elite novels than most other authors ever will.

Whenever I'm in need for an Elite novel, I can always refer to Lynn Austin.

4.5 stars

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin

Caroline Fletcher always wondered why white people took advantage of black people and forced them to be slaves. From the time she was a little girl to the present, in which she is now a woman, she has never understood why her father, along with many other plantation owners, treated his slaves like animals. But now the country called America, the free country, is at war with itself over this very issue. The North believes that slaves should go free, while the South wants to keep them. As a "slave-lover" in the Southern state of Virginia, Caroline feels torn, especially since her fiancee is now fighting against the North. But her cousin, a Northerner has recently been taken captive in a prison near her, and he wants her to help him spy on the people around her in order to get information for the North. If she ever felt torn between two different beliefs, Caroline feels torn more than ever now, with people dying pointlessly around her. What ultimate decision will she make?

As usual, Lynn Austin has written a historical epic driven by good characters, but which has a slightly typical end. However, Candle in the Darkness is a linear plot rather than a past\present plot. Otherwise, this is classic Lynn Austin fiction.

As usual, Caroline is a superb leading character complete with a well-developed personality. There are many other good characters as well, including Caroline's fiancee, her cousin, her father, her mother, and most of the slaves. There is no true villain, which makes this plot interesting. There is virtually nothing lacking in the character department, as usual for Lynn Austin. She could develop these types of characters for the rest of her writing career and I would be eternally happy.

Candle in the Darkness presents a sad but true situation that occurred in our country's past, one that many wish could be erased from history. Slavery in the South led to many problems we still face today, even though it was eventually eliminated. Lynn does not downplay any of the sins of the Southern plantation owners or sugar-coat the way they treated their slaves. She puts Caroline in an interesting situation: the position of the slave-lover in the South. However, this does not mean she is a perfect victim. To change up the pace, Lynn creates everyday life circumstances throughout the plot. However, when the end looked like it was going to be quite interesting, Lynn backpedaled at the very end to make a few things turn out right. However, this does not completely ruin the plot, and Lynn Austin will get the same old rating again.

Lynn Austin has clearly found her niche in fiction, and there is no reason for her to change things now, when mostly everything she does turns out in her favor.

4.5 stars

Friday, September 24, 2010

Serenity by Harry Kraus

Adam Tyson came to the sleepy town of Serenity, North Carolina, to create a non-descript life for himself, where no one would find him or recognize him. He has taken the job as the head surgeon at the local hospital, and he hopes that he will lead a quite life. That is, until Beth Carlson, the head nurse, walked into his life and made him wonder if he could love again. But when she is suddenly hospitalized due to a car accident, she fights for her life. What's worse, there seems to be something suspect going on behind the scenes in Serenity-a strange operation no one seems to know about or care about. Adam finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy-one besides the one he has created for himself. Before he knows it, the truth about his identity will come out and he will have to face his past.

As is his custom, Harry Kraus has crafted a an anti-run-of-the-mill plot driven by good characters. However, the end of this book is not as good as it could be, therefore costing this book the five star rating.

Adam and Beth are interesting characters, especially since neither one of them is perfect. Adam is perhaps one of Harry's best leads, maybe one of the best ever created, since no author has tried to create one like him. There are few characters in this plot, but none of them are as intriguing as Adam. The villains are a bit typical and tend to wear on the character department, but they are not as bad as they could be. Basically, Harry Kraus is still a master of imperfect characters.

From the start, the foundational idea behind this plot was original. Harry Kraus purposed to craft this plot around Adam's mistakes, making it interesting. However, this purpose became slightly muddled when Harry introduced two typical villains that the book could have gone without. Their purpose is predictable and uninteresting. This purpose climaxes into a cheesy showdown with a predictable outcome. However, the saving grace of the book was the fact that the inevitable romantic subplot did not end up as expected from the beginning. Even though he reverted back to his old ways of cheesy villains, Harry still created enough original elements to put this book on the Elite List.

Harry Kraus is perhaps the best author nobody talks about because no one likes his blatant originality. However, this reputation has gained our respect.

4 stars

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin

Elin Carlson is determined to find a new life for herself and her two sisters, Karen and Sofia, in America. Their uncle has paid their passage from Sweden to Chicago, so Elin wants to take the chance at freedom while she has it. Her sisters are none too happy about the arrangement, but they reluctantly board the ship to America when the time comes. With only a trunk full of possessions and the clothes on their backs, the sisters Carlson believe that everything they need lies in America. However, they are proven wrong when trouble meets them at every turn and they find themselves as house maids employed by a grumpy old woman. Elin wonders if she made a mistake, but she does not know what secrets her sisters are hiding from her-or what awaits her around the next bend.

As is her custom, Lynn Austin has crafted another historical epic driven by good characters yet tainted by a predictable end. The only difference in Until We Reach Home and her other historical epics is that it does not jump back and forth from the past and the present, but stays on the same timeline the entire time. Otherwise, this is classic Lynn Austin fiction.

Elin, Karen, Sofia, and most of the other characters all have well-developed personalities. If an author is to follow a similar pattern with every book, developing good characters is a good pattern to be stuck on. There is no villain in this plot, as is the case with most Lynn Austin plots. I may sound like a broken record when it comes to Lynn Austin characters, but there is honestly nothing else to say about her superb character development.

The plot records the Carlson sisters' journey from Sweden across the Ocean and through America to Chicago, but does not revert to the past as is Lynn Austin's norm. The second half of the book is spent in an uncharacteristic situation for Lynn Austin but nonetheless interesting and creative. As usual, the end of the book is its downfall, though it is not entirely bad. It is partly ambiguous but it is not creative as it should be. Endings have always been Lynn's downfall, and nothing has changed here.

Nevertheless, as usual, Lynn Austin has written a memorable plot that is definitely worth a read. If she continues writing these types of books all her writing career, I have nothing to complain about.

4.5 stars

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee

Created from the rib of the adam, the first man, came Havah, the first woman the walk the earth. She was one of the two only human beings to ever walk the ground of the perfect Garden of Eden. There she had intimacy with Adam, and intimacy with the One. Life was perfect until she met the Serpent, the most crafty of creatures. When she listened to his lies and ate of the forbidden fruit, she ruined perfection and was cast out of the Garden with the Adam. They were the only human beings to ever see perfection and imperfection. Destined to live a life of toil and hardship, Havah became the Mother of All yet carried the guilt of destroying the One's perfect world for everyone.

Determined to be an outlying author, Tosca Lee has crafted an interesting and unique account about the beginning of our world. Though it does not seem so, this Biblical account is not oft written about in Christian fiction, so Tosca has trailblazed a new path. Despite this book's uniqueness, Tosca failed to develop good characters, costing her the five star rating.

Havah (Eve), Adam, Kayin (Cain), Hevel (Able), or any of the other character do not have personalities as they should. It should have been easy for Tosca to develop these characters since there were few, but she was too caught up in her obscure writing style. The one characters she did portray correctly, besides God, was Lucifer. He was not the cheesy serpent he could have bee, but more. However, Tosca has some work to do with her characters in the future.

Tosca's narrative is unique and hard to describe. It definitely fits with the setting she chose, a setting that no other author has ever dared to breach. Books have been written about finding the Garden of Eden, but this is the only one that actually tells the story of what happened there. Tosca also goes beyond the Garden and takes Eve up to her death, using creative licence along the way. Her additives are refreshing and do not subtract from this book's rating.

However, this book could have been five stars. It disappoints me to see Tosca waste this potential. However, this book is not entirely bad and is in fact better than most. If Tosca will develop her characters better in the future, she has all the potential in the world.

4 stars

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Breaker's Reef by Terri Blackstock

A Cape Refuge rookie police officer has found the body of a Cape Refuge teenage girl floating in the bay. However, thanks to his carelessness in moving the body without gloves, Chief Matthew Cade cannot identify the killer. Besides having another killer on his hands, Cade is trying to figure out how he can ask Blair Owens to marry him-but it can't just be a simple question. However, he did not expect that his romantic scheme would get him into trouble with the law. A popular mystery author has moved to Cape Refuge and Sheila Caruso has taken a job with him typing his old novels onto his computer for him. His eccentric nature almost scares her off the job, but the longer she stays with him, the more she wonders if this strange man is the killer everyone is looking for, especially since all his books are from the viewpoints of killers. With more uncertainty on Cape Refuge, will everything ever get back to normal?

Even though Terri Blackstock should have departed from Cape Refuge killings several books ago, she actually found a way to make this final installment in the series interesting. The case is up to Terri Blackstock par, and maybe even above. But most of all, she finally wrote an interesting showdown. However, as I expected with this last book of the series, impending wedding bells put a damper on things.

The miracle of the Cape Refuge cast of characters is the fact that they never changed throughout the entire series. Cade, Blair, Morgan, Jonathan, and Sadie never changed. This is not necessarily a good thing, but it is not a bad thing either. In this final book, Terri finally created a good villain whose identity is hidden until the last chapters. The Cape Refuge characters have not always been model characters, but they are not disgraceful either.

Terri Blackstock has always been able to build a strong case in her mysteries, and Breaker's Reef is no exception. Her unique multiple point of view plots get the story at all angles and through different perspectives. As a side bar, this title actually makes sense. However, the ongoing relationship between Cade and Blair finally came to a head at an inopportune time for the series. This is the main problem with the book. However, Terri actually created an interesting showdown-two of them actually-fueled by true surprise and ambiguity. This book rivals Cape Refuge for the best book of the series.

At least Terri Blackstock found a way to end this series on a good note, which was the best thing she could have done. The Cape Refuge series was not the best series in the world, but neither was it the worst series in the world. Terri Blackstock remains to be one of the best suspense authors on the market.

4 stars

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Eve's Daughters by Lynn Austin

Emma Bauer has held a secret about her past for some time now, not telling her daughter or granddaughter, who are quite close to her. But now that her granddaughter's marriage is in jeopardy, Emma feels that she must do something. Beginning with her mother's story of how she unwillingly came to America from Germany in order to escape the war, and continuing to her daughter's story and finally her own, Emma reveals to Suzanne what it really means to be in love and what a privilege it is. She only hopes that her secret does not further destroy her Suzanne's marriage, not to mention to the lives of her other family members.
If you couldn't tell already, Eve's Daughters is another one of Lynn Austin's patented historical epic tales with a nonsensical title. Some authors are very good at writing one brand of fiction, or one type of plot, and Lynn Austin is one of those. The key to success for these types of authors is finding a good plot to repeat over and over again, not mention always doing something a little different. Lynn has proved that she can do these things, yet ends are not her strong points, often costing her five star novels.
Emma, Suzanne, and all the rest of the characters are all developed well, as usual for Lynn Austin. There are no villains in any of the stories save for the wrong choices of the characters. I always enjoy plots where the main characters are the villains themselves because this proves that all plots do not have to be the same.
Lynn Austin systematically tells the stories of four different women, each from a different generation of the same family, with some present scenes sprinkled in. Lynn has mastered this type of plot so that it seems second nature to her. Each story is realistic and unique; the same thing does not happen every time. However, in this variety, Lynn could not abstain from fixing some imperfect elements in these stories. This is perhaps Lynn's biggest problem. There is nothing wrong in general with writing a story that works out somewhat; the problem occurs when an element is fixed in an unrealistic fashion. This is the most popular issue in Christian fiction today. Lynn did not prove herself to be above this in Eve's Daughters.
However, this is only a minor issue and should not be given much attention, for Eve's Daughters is a masterfully written epic with a good foundational idea. Lynn Austin is the best historical fiction author on the market.
4.5 stars

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Nightmare by Robin Parrish

Raised as the daughter of the two most famous paranormal investigators in the world, Maia Peters is dead to any idea involving ghosts, apparitions, or hauntings. She attends the new amusement park Ghost Town, a park designed to scare its patrons to death, only to disprove everything the park throws at her. Everything goes as she expects, but at the end of her visit to the park, she encounters an apparition not fabricated by man. She sees the face of a girl she knows-Jordin Cole-a girl who has asked her is the past to help her delve deeper into the paranormal for a price. Without telling anyone about her encounter, Maia is visited the following day by Jordin's fiancee, who tells her that he cannot contact or find Jordin anywhere. As Maia recounts her past adventures with Jordin, she and Derek delve into the supernatural in ways they never expected they would have to and uncover one of the most elaborate and dangerous plots known to mankind. They must stop it before it takes over the world, but at what cost?
Robin Parrish stays true to himself a fabricates another huge 'what if?' plot that adds to his 100% Elite Rating. It seems second nature for him to write an Elite book, but when will he return to his five star days?
Maia, Derek, and Jordin are all good characters, as usual. Robin Parrish seems to be able to develop good characters in his sleep as he focuses his real attention to a super plot. His villain development has seen better days, but under the circumstances, his choice of a villain was the only logical choice. There are very few characters in this book because it is more of a plot-focused book, but the few character there are Robin developed correctly.
Robin delves into the world of hauntings, ghost, apparitions, and other paranormal claims by sending his characters to some of the most popular "haunted" locations in the world. He does not attempt to build a case for any side of this issue but instead writes an interesting plot. His speculations about the paranormal are eye-opening. As usual, there is a seemingly off-the-wall foundational idea behind this plot that really makes this book worth reading, as is Robin's specialty. However, the only thing that keeps this book from being five stars is an uncharacteristic showdown that does not end originally. This tarnishes Robin's reputation and makes me wonder about him.
Nevertheless, Robin has maintained his 100% Elite Rating because he continuously asks outrageous 'what if?' questions and answers them in interesting ways.
4 stars

Vigilante by Robin Parrish

Coming Summer 2011...

Nolan Gray is an elite soldier, skilled in all forms of combat. After years fighting on foreign battlefields, witnessing unspeakable evils and atrocities firsthand, a world-weary Nolan returns home to find it just as corrupt as the war zones. Everywhere he looks, there’s pain and cruelty. Society is being destroyed by wicked men who don’t care who they make suffer or destroy.

Nolan decides to do what no one else can, what no one has ever attempted. He will defend the helpless. He will tear down the wicked. He will wage a one-man war on the heart of man, and he won’t stop until the world is the way it should be.
The wicked have had their day. Morality’s time has come. In a culture starving for a hero, can one extraordinary man make things right?
Robin Parrish is addressing another controversial issue through fiction. Vigilante looks like another one of his "big" plots, like Merciless. Perhaps he is departing from the supernatural for a time. All I know is that Robin does not disappoint.

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Bound By Guilt by CJ Darlington

Coming February 2011...

Roxi Gold has been shuttled from one foster home to another most of her life. She longs for a family and will do anything to fit in - even if it's against the law. Soon she's traveling the country in an RV stealing rare books from unsuspecting bookstores. If she refuses she'll be put out on the streets. Police officer Abby Dawson has seen the worst of society, and not just at work. Her ex-husband has wrested her daughter away from her in a bitter custody battle. The job she once loved has become a chore - the world isn't safer, and there's no joy in her life. One night a man's innocent blood changes Roxi and Abby forever. One searches for justice; the other finds herself on the run until a first edition of The Great Gatsby catches up with her. Will the power of forgiveness set them free, or will they both remain bound by guilt?

CJ Darlington appears to have something going with this new novel, though it is slightly similar to her debut novel, Thicker Than Blood. The greatest thing she can prove with this new plot is her hopefully improved ability to develop characters correctly. CJ has a lot of potential as an author if she will tap into correctly.

Want more previews? Visit https://sites.google.com/site/originalbooksnews/home!

Friday, September 3, 2010

River's Edge by Terri Blackstock

With the Cape Refuge mayoral race in full swing, the last thing Chief Matthew Cade wants is a missing person to deal with. The wife of mayoral candidate Ben Jackson has disappeared, causing the race to pause. But the case gets even more interesting when a psychic on the island claims that he knows where the woman's body is-and turns out to be correct. This causes new Christian Blair Owens to ask questions about the supernatural-questions with immediate answers. Cade openly denies any supposed power of the psychic, but Blair wants to whole story. Besides all this, the third mayoral candidate wants to continue the race without Jackson at all. Also, Sadie's mother Sheila has been released from prison ahead of time and as joined her children on the island, but has not kept herself out of trouble. With so much uncertainty on Cape Refuge, it's enough to drive one to madness. When will someone make sense of all the messes and answer some questions?
As expected, the Cape Refuge series isn't getting any better as it wears on. It seems to me that the biggest problem is the island's death count. How many people could possibly die on the same island? Why can't Terri Blackstock write a different plot? So far it's been all deaths and kidnapping. This is probably the series' biggest problem. Unfortunately, this problem is not alleviated in River's Edge.
The main miracle of this series is the consistency of the characters. None of them have changed much, except for maybe Jonathan, who is inching toward perfection upon his mayoral campaign. Otherwise, Morgan, Blair, Cade, and Sadie remain the same. Sheila provides an interesting flavor to the story as well. The identity of the villain is well concealed by the many suspects. Perhaps the biggest issue here is the lack of progress. These characters are stuck in a rut. Characters in a series should progress and become better and deeper as the series progresses, and I have yet to see that in the Cape Refuge series.
Terri wrote an extremely average and mediocre mystery in River's Edge that is only spiced up by the culprit confusion. Otherwise, it is quite cut-and-dry. Besides this, the surrounding elements, such as the mayoral race and the eternal romantic subplot between Blair and Cade are predictable and mediocre. Sheila's subplot provides a counter to this mediocrity, but it is not enough to alleviate this book's low rating. As I said before, if this series is to go anywhere from here, Terri has to invent a more creative plot pattern. She needs to make a change of pace before this series goes down the tubes.
Perhaps there is hope for Breaker's Reef, but hopes are dim with wedding bells tolling.
2.5 stars

Poll Report August 2010

In August of 2010, we asked our readers what their favorite series was according to the choices. As usual, the results were not surprising.

1. The Circle by Ted Dekker (50%)
2. The Baxter Saga by Karen Kingsbury (21%)
3. The Bun Man Novels by Tim Downs (14%)
4. The Occupational Hazards by Rene Gutteridge\The Ty Buchanan series by James Scott Bell (each 7%)

Stay tuned for round two.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Drift by Sharon Carter Rodgers

Charlie Murphy, a powerful, self-established mob leader, is now dead, and the symbol of the mob leadership, a unique ring, if missing. Baby Doll, his adopted daughter knows how Charlie died and also knows where the ring is-but she isn't telling. The guilt of her sins weighs heavily on her, and she wants to run away-that is, until she sees a man at Charlie's funeral that no one else can see. He is a Drifter, a soul lost in the shallows of the river of life. He has formed a Tether to her, making her the only person who can see him. Baby Doll sees this as the answer to her problems-an invisible man can help her escape from her ever-present bodyguard and make a life of her own. But the sins of her past are chasing her...and they aren't relenting.
Sharon Carter Rodgers, whoever this person is, maintains a odd and offbeat image. The secret identity, the illusions to obscure philosophers, and the strange plot themes seem deliberate and purposeful. However, it matters not who this mysterious person is, for they have written a book worth talking about in Drift. Using original themes and good character development, they have produced a surprise five star novel.
There are few characters in this novel, but I believe the quality of the characters is more important than the quantity of the characters. Baby Doll may be a strange name for a lead, but that does not mean she is any less of a good character. The Drifter is not a perfect character as one would expect him to be. The few other characters in this book are also well developed, proving that the author has something going on when it comes to character development.
The author handles the idea of a "Drifter" well all while not only writing the plot for this idea by actually creating an alternate objective. The author does not try to get too supernatural, different, or typical with this idea they have invented; they handle it very well. But even after all of this, the end of the book is the icing on the cake. The author actually wrote a showdown that did not end predictably. Even when they could have used the Drifter as a CRT, they did not. They showed that they have the guts to write original ends rather than typical ones. This is impressive.
In the end, it does not matter who Sharon Carter Rodgers really is; all I know is that the mastermind behind the books with her name on them is a genius who can help usher in the new era of Christian fiction.
5 stars

Friday, August 27, 2010


Does anyone want to become the proprietor of Original Books News, the sister site of Original Books?
If you like researching the latest Christian fiction news and telling everyone else about it, then this is the site for you to manage!
Visit originalbooksnews.blogspot.com and read the Help Wanted post or email me at originalbooks200@gmail.com if you want to get started right away!

Last Light by Terri Blackstock

In one second, planes begin falling from the sky, vehicles stall out on the road, no electronic device or equipment works, and no power functions. Suddenly everything America depends on is ripped away from them and they are forced to go back to the basics in order to survive. The Branning family has found themselves caught in the middle of unrest and crime throughout their neighborhood since the local police force has been crippled. They attempt to band together with their neighbors, but many of them are tight-fisted. On top of this, there is a killer among the neighborhood who has killed two whole families for the goods they had been hoarding. This only incites more fear and uncertainty. How could people become so dependant on electronics that they have become desperate in their absence?
While the idea of the gift of electricity and electronics being taken away from the world is nothing new, Terri Blackstock has put her own spin to the idea and actually refrained from the usual quest plot pattern most authors use when dealing with this subject. However, Terri stills falls into her old suspense traps in the end, causing this book to only be a little above average.
The characters are no better or worse than typical Terri Blackstock characters-they are all imperfect yet without personalities. Terri continues her trend of a split point of view, but there seems to be too many points of view because it is difficult for the reader to follow all the characters at once. The villain is not as bad as they could have been, at least. Terri still has some work to do with her characters.
Terri accurately captured what would happen if electricity and electronics were suddenly taken away, namely the effect this would have on the economy and on crime rates. The killing is justified and expected in this type of situation, as is amateur crime solving. There is really nothing wrong with the body of the plot, but the cheesy showdown with the killer at the end tarnishes this book's image. It appears that Terri cannot invent a creative end and always resorts to a predictable showdown. When will she ever come up with something different?
On most points, Terri Blackstock is one of the better suspense authors on the market, yet she almost always does the same thing in her books. The day that she refrains from a showdown or actually kills off a key character in the showdown, I will be happy.
3 stars

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Southern Storm by Terri Blackstock

Matthew Cade has invited unwanted trouble upon himself by running down a dying man with his police cruiser one rainy evening on the island of Cape Refuge. The man died shortly after his arrival at the hospital, and Cade is blaming himself. This is not helped by the gossip circulating the island upon the event. However, Blair Owens knows Cade didn't kill the man because he was already bleeding of a gunshot wound. But when Cade disappears from the island mysteriously, suspicion mounts against the police chief. Blair is furious and launches a reckless campaign for Cade's innocence, quitting her job as island librarian in the process. The facts don't add up to her, even when a note supposedly sent by Cade arrives saying he has eloped with an unknown girlfriend. Or maybe Blair is just trying to keep her heart from being let down...
In the second installment of the Cape Refuge series, Terri Blackstock does little to instill confidence that this series will avoid decreasing in value as it wears on. She started the series out with a four-star, and now a three-star. At least plot structure is the main problem in Southern Storm rather than character development. Needless to say, I don't have high hopes for the remainder of this series.
Morgan and Blair remain the characters they were in Cape Refuge. Blair may even be better than before; her reckless nature and methods for solving the mystery are entertaining and promising. Jonathan is not the character he was in the first book, mostly because he is not shown enough. Cade remains to be the same-a neutral, gray character with a little imperfection but no personality. Sadie also remains to be the same as she was, yet does not develop a personality. Basically, Terri's Cape Refuge characters took no steps in either direction, however this is better than most authors regarding series characters.
Terri did not resist the urge to connect all her subplots with convenient connections. Blair's subplot, Cade's subplot, Morgan's subplot, and Sadie's subplot are all connected in one way or another, by believable connections or by convenient connections. Convenient connections are never advantageous to use when writing a mystery because they are amateurish and cause the author to look as such. There are no obvious romantic subplots, except for the ongoing silent one between Cade and Blair. This is another reason I do not have high hopes for the remainder of this series. Sadie's overlooked subplot is better than it could have been and should have only served to provide a distraction from the mystery. The mystery itself is not well written because the reader knows the entire time where Cade is and why. Besides this, Cade's disappearance is for typical reasons, reasons that Terri has shown herself better than before. To top this all off, she throws in a cheesy showdown that ends predictably.
Basically, the only thing that saved this book from complete disaster was the character development, an uncharacteristic move for her. Now, if only she will develop good characters as well as returning to her superb mystery development of old, she will be a sight to behold.
3 stars

Life in Defiance by Mary E DeMuth

Ousie Pepper is a woman of secrets. She keeps the violence of her husband-the Reverend Hapland Pepper of Defiance, Texas-toward her a secret. She keeps his violence toward her two children, Jed and Sissy, a secret. She keeps her drinking habit a secret. And worst of all, she knows who killed Daisy Chance, her son's best friend, yet she is keeping it a secret. She believes that her husband's violence is her fault, and therefore begins to read books on the subject of being a Godly wife. But as her future becomes more and more uncertain because of Hap's unpredictable nature and the fact that a killer is on the loose, Ousie soon finds that the only One she can trust is God, but she's not sure if she's ready to face her own sins yet...
There were many mistakes I was afraid Mary E DeMuth would make in this last installment of the Defiance, Texas Trilogy, yet she made none of them. Deeply imperfect characters, superb plot development, and an interesting end make for another five star read.
If anything is Mary' strength as a writer, it is her ability and will to develop deeply imperfect characters with personalities. Ousie is not the perfect victim she could have been; this is evident through her drinking problem. Hapland is not the monster he could have been, but instead is a mentally unstable character. Emory is not the perfect, reformed character she could have been. Daisy's killer is not the monster he could have been. Throughout this series, Mary has showed the people of Defiance are very broken and unclean, and she brings this all together at the end of Life in Defiance. As long as Mary is an author, she never needs to lose this skill for creating such characters. Many other authors need to learn from her how to develop characters.
My number one concern for this book's plot was a miraculous resurrection of Daisy through a misunderstanding of the corpse, yet Mary did not do this. The return of Daisy's killer was a concern to me, yet he was not unbearable. By delving into Ousie's past, the reader discovers how she got herself into the mess with Hap and why she kept herself there. Mary has an intangible quality of her descriptions that no other author can grasp. Her creative word adjectives and verbs, combined with her out-of-context use of the word 'defiance' make for an interesting read. Where there could have been cheesy showdowns between Ousie and Hap or Ousie and Daisy's killer, there were none. While there are no key character deaths at the end, Mary delivered a series end that deals with imperfection and forgiveness.
The Defiance Texas Trilogy has been one of the more enjoyable series I have read, and it is one of the few Elite Series. Mary has proven herself early on to be one of the best authors on the market, and this should continue, as long as she keeps her emotions out of the way of originality. As long as she does the bare minimum of developing her broken characters, her books will always be worth reading.
5 stars

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Elite List

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
The Iron Sceptre by John White
A Season of Shadows by Paul McCusker
The Mill House by Paul McCusker
Epiphany by Paul McCusker
Arin's Judgement by Paul McCusker
The Hand That Bears the Sword by George Brian Polivka
Deceived by James Scott Bell
Glimpses of Paradise by James Scott Bell
Deadlocked by James Scott Bell
The Whole Truth by James Scott Bell
No Legal Grounds by Jams Scott Bell
Try Fear by James Scott Bell
Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer
Fuse of Armageddon by Sigmund Brouwer
The Leper by Sigmund Brouwer
Tyrone's Story by Sigmund Brouwer
The Disappearing Jewel of Madagascar by Sigmund Brouwer
Creature of the Mists by Sigmund Brouwer
The Second Thief by Travis Thrasher
Sky Blue by Travis Thrasher
Out of the Devil's Mouth by Travis Thrasher
City of Dreams by Stephen and Ross Lawhead
Dominion by Randy Alcorn
Deception by Randy Alcorn
Edge of Eternity by Randy Alcorn
Armando's Treasure by Melody Carlson
Let My People Go by Jefferson Scott
Operation Firebrand by Jefferson Scott
Fatal Defect by Jefferson Scott
The Resurrection File by Craig Parshall
The Second Time Around by Nancy Moser
Solemnly Swear by Nancy Moser
Growing Up on the Edge of the World by Phil Callaway
Nobody by Creston Mapes
Oxygen by Randy Ingermanson
The Fifth Man by Randy Ingermanson
The Root of All Evil by Brandt Dodson
Original Sin by Brandt Dodson
False Witness by Randy Singer
By Reason of Insanity by Randy Singer
Self-Incrimination by Randy Singer
Dying Declaration by Randy Singer
The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney by Randy Singer
The Justice Game by Randy Singer
Fatal Convictions by Randy Singer
Riven by Jerry B Jenkins
The Rookie by Jerry B Jenkins
Tribulation Force by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins
Assassins by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins
The Indwelling by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins
The Mark by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins
Desecration by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins
Armageddon by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins
The Edge of Darkness by Tim LaHaye and Bob Phillips
Out of Time by Alton Gansky
Dark Moon by Alton Gansky
A Ship Possessed by Alton Gansky
The Awakening by Angela Hunt
The Elevator by Angela Hunt
The Face by Angela Hunt
The Immortal by Angela Hunt
Uncharted by Angela Hunt
Brothers by Angela Hunt
Unspoken by Angela Hunt
The Justice by Angela Hunt
The Debt by Angela Hunt
Let Darkness Come by Angela Hunt
Even Now by Karen Kingsbury
Ever After by Karen Kingsbury
One Tuesday Morning by Karen Kingsbury
Beyond Tuesday Morning by Karen Kingsbury
This Side of Heaven by Karen Kingsbury
Oceans Apart by Karen Kingsbury
Shades of Blue by Karen Kingsbury
Widows and Orphans by Susan Meissner
Days and Hours by Susan Meissner
The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner
White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner
Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner
Whom Shall I Fear? by Athol Dickson
Winter Haven by Athol Dickson
They Shall See God by Athol Dickson
Tribulation House by Chris Well
An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers
As Sure as the Dawn by Francine Rivers
Leota's Garden by Francine Rivers
The End of Act Three by Gilbert Morris
Firestorm by Jeanette Windle
Veiled Freedom by Jeanette Windle
Blood Brothers by Rick Acker
Turn Four by Tom Morrisy
Deep Blue by Tom Morrisy
Secrets by Kristen Heitzmann
Unforgotten by Kristen Heitzmann
Deeper Water by Robert Whitlow
Life Support by Robert Whitlow
Higher Hope by Robert Whitlow
Jimmy by Robert Whitlow
Beneath a Southern Sky by Deborah Raney
Kyra's Story by Dandi Daley Mackall
Island of Refuge by Linda Hall
Kathryn's Secret by Linda Hall
Dark Water by Linda Hall
Sadie's Song by Linda Hall
The End is Now by Rob Stennet
Perfect by Harry Kraus
Salty Like Blood by Harry Kraus
Could I Have This Dance? by Harry Kraus
For the Rest of My Life by Harry Kraus
The Chairman by Harry Kraus
Serenity by Harry Kraus
Dogwood by Chris Fabry
Quinlin's Estate by David Ryan Long
Face to Face by Linda Dorrell
Eli by Bill Myers
Skid by Rene Gutteridge
Snitch by Rene Gutteridge
Ghost Writer by Rene Gutteridge
Troubled Waters by Rene Gutteridge
Listen by Rene Gutteridge
Relentless by Robin Parrish
Fearless by Robin Parrish
Merciless by Robin Parrish
Offworld by Robin Parrish
Nightmare by Robin Parrish
Black by Ted Dekker
Red by Ted Dekker
Thr3e by Ted Dekker
Showdown by Ted Dekker
Saint by Ted Dekker
Sinner by Ted Dekker
Skin by Ted Dekker
Lunatic by Ted Dekker
Adam by Ted Dekker
Burn by Ted Dekker and Erin Healey
Boneman's Daughters by Ted Dekker
Exposure by Brandilyn Collins
The Rook by Steven James
The Knight by Steven James
The Bishop by Steven James
The Unseen by T L Hines
Waking Lazarus by T L Hines
Chop Shop by Tim Downs
Less Than Dead by Tim Downs
Wonders Never Cease by Tim Downs
North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson
Leaper by Geoffrey Wood
The Living End by Lisa Samson
Club Sandwich by Lisa Samson
Embrace Me by Lisa Samson
Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson
The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson
Tiger Lillie by Lisa Samson
Songbird by Lisa Samson
Straight Up by Lisa Samson
Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson
The Firstborn by Conlan Brown
Daisy Chain by Mary E DeMuth
A Slow Burn by Mary E DeMuth
Life in Defiance by Mary E DeMuth
The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klaven
Home Another Way by Christa Parrish
Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish
DragonSpell by Donita K Paul
DragonKight by Donita K Paul
DragonFire by Donita K Paul
The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K Paul
The Candlestone by Bryan Davis
Tears of a Dragon by Bryan Davis
The Assignment by Mark Andrew Olsen
Ulterior Motives by Mark Andrew Olsen
Rescued by John Bevere and Mark Andrew Olsen
Rolling Thunder by Mark Mynheir
The Void by Mark Mynheir
All Through the Night by T Davis Bunn
My Soul to Keep by Melanie Wells
When the Day of Evil Comes by Melanie Wells
Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky
The Other Side of Darkness by Melody Carlson
Crystal Lies by Melody Carlson
The Sacred Cipher by Terry Brennan
Expiration Date by Eric Wilson
The Best of Evil by Eric Wilson
Abduction by Wanda L Dyson
The Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorello
The Rivers Run Dry by Sibella Giorello
The Clouds Roll Away by Sibella Giorello
Things Left Unspoken by Eva Marie Everson
Tested By Fire by Kathy Herman
Day of Reckoning by Kathy Herman
The Color of the Soul by Tracey Bateman
Serenity Bay by Bette Nordberg
Beyond the Summerland by LB Graham
Healing Stones by Stephen Arterburn and Nancy Rue
Healing Waters by Stephen Arterburn and Nancy Rue
Healing Sands by Stephen Arterburn and Nancy Rue
A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick
Michal by Jill Eileen Smith
Chateau of Echoes by Siri Mitchell
Red, White, and Blue by Laura Hayden
A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin
Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin
Gods and Kings by Lynn Austin
Eve's Daughters by Lynn Austin
Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin
Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin
All She Ever Wanted by Lynn Austin
Fire By Night by Lynn Austin
Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes
Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent
Covenant Child by Terri Blackstock
Cape Refuge by Terri Blackstock
Breaker's Reef by Terri Blackstock
Intervention by Terri Blackstock
What She Left For Me by Tracie Peterson
Havah by Tosca Lee
Playing God by Michelle McKinney Hammond

Faith of My Fathers by Lynn Austin

At the sudden death of King Hezekiah of Judah, his immature son Manesseh was given control of the entire kingdom. However, Manesseh is no more than a boy who knows nothing about being king. Soon, paranoia and confusion are triggered in his mind by an encounter with a strange man preforming sacrificial rituals in a graveyard. This man plants seeds of doubt in his mind regarding a supposed conspiracy against him designed to usurp the throne. Manesseh soons foolishly allows this man to take control of his life-and all of Judah. He murders the only people he can trust, forcing his childhood friend, Joshua ben Eliakim, into hiding with other family members who escaped with him. As Manesseh leads Judah further and further away from Yahweh, the one true God, further away Joshua wants to be from his friend-turned-enemy. But when Joshua is faced with the opportunity to smuggle all that is Yahweh's out of His defiled temple, he will stop at nothing to visit revenge upon the young king of Judah.
Lynn Austin's series has entered a new dimension. Gone is Hezekiah and his righteousness, mistakes, and repentance. In is Manesseh and his wickedness, confusion, and immorality. I imagine that this is how it was for Judah as well, so Lynn did a good job of capturing this. All series need a changeup if they are to continue past the normal three-book limit, and she has done this as well, by choice and by requirement. What she has done with Faith of My Fathers is something she has never done before in her career-break her limits and finally achieve the five star rating.
Joshua is a better character than one may expect at first. He is perhaps the deepest character of this series. Manesseh's journey to wickedness is much like that of Uriah's in Gods and Kings-slow but sure, and prodded by an outside force. Lynn Austin did an excellent job by handling this deeply troubled man correctly rather than making him out to be a cheesy character, causing him to begin his reign with wickedness. There are no perfect characters as there were in the first three books of this series. Lynn has finally returned to her old self by crafting and developing good characters.
Lynn must have worked overtime studying the Bible and paralleling historical accounts, because she discovered some intruiging passages of Isaiah's prophecies that the average readers does not think much of. She showed readers many overlooked things in the Bible and developed a good plot based on these such things. There are no romantic subplots that work out, and most key character deaths are based on the Bible. Lynn has shown that she is a true research author, for she has researched the forgotten corners of the Bible and has written a superb book as a result. There is nothing wrong with this plot, therefore finally awarding Lynn Austin a five star book.
Lynn Austin is the best Biblical\historical author on the market because not only does she research her plot backgrounds well, but she also writes an original plot to complement this. She has done what no other author in her genre has done before by simply going to extra mile.
5 stars

The Strength of His Hand by Lynn Austin

As Judah thrives under King Hezekiah, his heart soon becomes proud and overconfident. When Babylonian envoys arrive at his palace, telling him that they heard of the Assyrians' flight from Jerusalem and congratulating him for his success, Hezekiah does not acknowledge the Lord nor consult Him when they offer a treaty of nations against Assyria for him to sign. Now that he has ignored Yahweh, the prophet Isaiah tells him that he has brought trouble upon Judah by openly rebelling Assyria without the Lord's consent. What's worse, Hezekiah has no heir and no wife since he banished her from the palace for worshipping and making vows to the false goddess Asherah. King Sennacherib of Assyria has now begun a military campaign to uproot the nations who signed the treaty, and he is not far from Judah. Will Yahweh save Judah once again from Hezekiah's sins?
Lynn Austin continues her series on King Hezekiah in almost the same fashion she has in the first two books. She keeps true to the Biblical and historical accounts and their elements, yet fails to create original elements of her own. Instead, she uncharacteristically creates unoriginal outside elements that serve to bring this book's rating down. I'm not sure where Lynn took this turn for the worst, but it served to ruin her 100% Elite Rating.
Despite Hezekiah's obvious imperfect and sinful choices, he fails to be the character he was in the first two books of this series. Hephzibah begins the book an interesting character, but this trend deteriorates as the book progresses. Eliakim, Shebna, Jerusha, and Hilkiah all remain constant characters. Iddina returns to serve as a better than not villain with a realistic end. Lynn's character development definitely could have been improved, yet this is the not worst of her troubles.
There are no interesting plot elements save for the elements contained in the true Biblical account. Many things are fixed in the end that have nothing to do with the true story. This is the real problem with this book. In Gods and Kings and Song of Redemption, Lynn Austin demonstrated correctly the art of writing a book based on something that truly happened. One must create interesing and original plot elements of their own outside the story that do not detract or add to the actual story, but instead compliment it. This is vital; otherwise the author is just paraphraising the story. This is often not a problem for authors. The problem is introduced when they create unoriginal outside elements to counter the ambiguous elements of the true story. I never expected Lynn to do this, but she did, thus ruining her 100% Elite Rating.
It's disappointing when an author with so much potential lets one down, but there are many other book worse than The Strength of His Hand. This Hezekiah series is one of the more refreshing Biblical fiction series because these stories are often overlooked. Perhaps Lynn will deliver once again in the final two books of this series.
3 stars

Friday, August 20, 2010

Song of Redemption by Lynn Austin

Now that King Hezekiah of Judah has decided in his heart to follow Yahweh and to return Judah to His favor, he has completely ceased paying tribute to the pagan superpower Assyria that his foolish father Ahaz enslaved Judah to. But rebelling in such a fashion has ignited Assyria's anger toward him and has invited trouble upon Israel. Yet the rabbi-prophet Isaiah warns them not to make an alliance with another nation, but to instead make an alliance with Yahweh and wait on them to save Judah from disaster. Eliakim son of Hilkiah agrees with Isaiah and urges Hezekiah to trust Yahweh, yet the Egyptian Shebna is skeptical about their unseen God. Assyria has already ravaged their sister nation Israel and taken many captives, and Judah can only be next. While in the crosshairs of destruction, will Hezekiah heed Isaiah's wisdom and wait for the Lord?
Song of Redemption is neither better nor worse than Gods and Kings because Lynn Austin has changed nothing about her writing style, character development, and plot development. When one is paraphraising a Biblical account in fiction, the best way to do so is the make it one's own by ading as many original outside elements to the surroundings as possible, as well as keeping accurate with Biblical and historical accounts. Lynn has juggled these requirements around and has produced two formidible novels. However, with Lynn Austin, it's always the little things that get in her way.
Hezekiah is not the character he could have been. While he is imperfect, he has no personality, even though the Biblical account clearly shows his personality. This fact is true for Isaiah and several other characters. Eliakim and Shebna, on the other hand, are both good characters with personalities. This inconsistency with characters is puzzling. Lynn uses a particular Assyrian as a Ted Dekker-like serial killer villain, which is an interesting touch. Hephzibah continues to be an ambiguous character. Basically, the character department is the main thing that keeps this book from being five stars.
There are two key character deaths that come as results of interesting situations. A romantic subplot is introduced for Eliakim, but it is as realistic as it could be. Hephzibah's small subplot is one of the more interesting parts of the book. Lynn Austin showed that she was not afraid to add her own original elements to make this book more interesting all while keeping true to the Biblical account and historical proof. The plot is as good as it could be because Lynn went to extra lengths to make it her own.
If Lynn will cut down on silly mistakes that keep her from five stars every time, she could be the best author on the market. Perhaps she will finally break out of her four point five shell soon.
4.5 stars

Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky

Marnie Wittier has made many mistakes in her life, but she has left those behind and has tried to move forward by starting Books and Brew, a bookstore\coffee shop combo. But her old life has found her in the form of Emmit, the Downs syndrome teenage son of her dead sister. Social services has named her next of kin, forcing Taylor Cole, her ex-boyfriend, to relinquish custody of Emmit to her. But Marnie does not want to raise a child, especially not a stubborn Downs syndrome boy who's always finding objects from her past in her house to show her. Marnie does not understand why she is being forced to remember all her mistakes, and Taylor does not understand why the boy had to be taken from him. The answers to their dilemnas lie only in their reconciliation with their past together.
Marlo Schalesky once again crafts an interesting plot built on well-developed characters that makes the reader think she's going to write another five star book. However, she seems to be obsessed with love stories with a "twist", and these twists are ruining perfectly fine plots. As she did in If Tomorrow Never Comes, she invents an outlandish twist that is supposed to be surprising, yet only creates plot holes and causes the reader to scratch his head. If she would only return to the type of twist she used in Beyond the Night, she could be writing five star plots over and over again.
Marnie, Taylor, and several other characters are very well-developed with imperfections-past and present. Marlo subtly brings each character up to the present, exposing and developing personalities along the way. Marlo has always done this, and there is nothing wrong with it. She has also always created few characters, allowing her to give each one special attention. There is no villain, since the main characters are their own worst enemies. There is nothing wrong with the character department, proving that Marlo needs no help developing characters; she merely needs to be consistent as she has been.
There is an obvious romantic subplot between Taylor and Marnie, yet it is not cheesy at first. It is quite realistic in the past, yet this trend deteriorates in the present. However, this is not a cheap romance that there seems to be an overabundance of on the market. There is a key character death, naturally. The biggest and most blaring problem with the entire book is the strange end. As was the case with If Tomorrow Never Comes, Marlo's "twist" creates more questions than it answers. This twist is no plausible, probable, or explained. It is slightly more possible than the twist in her previous novel, yet no explination is given for how it was accomplished. This end makes the reader go back and read several sections near the beginning of the book in order to discover an answer, yet there is no answer.
Shades of Morning is not the disaster If Tomorrow Never Comes was, yet Marlo is damaging her reputation as an author by writing such strange ends. These ends make her appear unintelligent or ignorant. She has all the potential in the world if she will only be more realistic with her twists.
4 stars

Angel's Den by Jamie Carie

Emma thought she had won a ticket to the good life when Eric Montclaire, the most handsome man west of the Mississippi married her over all his other choices. However, married life with Eric quickly showed her that everyone that looks like an angel isn't one. A troubled and a abusive husband, Eric soon embarks on a journey to relive Lewis and Clark's expedition, but he won't leave his wife behind. Determined to control her life, Eric drags Emma into the wild with him. Luke Bowen, the man Eric hired to her his cartographer on the trip, is alarmed at the way he sees his boss treat his wife. He does what he can to report Eric to the judge who is travelling with them, but when Judge Littleton dies suddenly and mysteriously, Eric points his finger at Luke and Emma. On trial for the judge's murder, can Luke and Emma put their feelings for each other aside and show everyone the truth?
Jamie Caire spins a simple yet strange tale that is basically predictable in the end, yet the plot is more her own rather than a copy. Complex plot elements do not exist, and any surprises she tries to create don't make any sense. With halfway characters and a predictable end, Jamie only writes an above average plot.
Emma is the best character because she is the only one with a personality. This is appropriate since Jamie spends the most time developing her. Eric is not the monster villain he seems to be at first, but neither is he a finished character. Judge Littleton is a ridiculously perfect character, yet he serves to point out Luke Bowen's flaws. Luke is not the perfect male lead he could have been, but he has a glued-together personality using attributes of other personalities. All in all, the characters are stale and definitely could be improved. This book could have been Elite had Jamie spent more time on her characters.
The plot begins with the marriage of Emma and Eric and goes straight through to end, casting off prologues and flashbacks altogether. While there is nothing wrong with this, the plot is also lacking in complexities or surprises. One surprise Jamie attempts to fabricate at the end has no explination, but is there just to have a surprise. There are no deeply complex or original elements such as key character deaths. Everything about this book is simple and straightforward. The end is predictable and could have been written by anyone.
While Jamie Carie did not severely detract from her book's rating, she did little to add to it. Angel's Den had a lot of potential, yet Jamie chose not to exert herself. Perhaps she will do better next time.
3 stars

Angel by Alton Gansky

Priscilla Simms only wants to be the next best reporter and perhaps win a Pultizer sometime in her career. She most definitely does not want to face and earthquake and an extra-terrestrial being in the same day. When an earthquake rocks her San Diego area, a strange spaceship is spotted around the area within the hour. Priscilla is on site when she sees Aster descend from the ship and raise a dead woman back to life. Aster eventually tells her that he has chosen her to help him unveil his plan for furtherment and advancement of mankind, as his people have learned on their own planet. However, the deeper the relationship becomes between human and alien, the more jaded Priscilla's outlook on life becomes and the more dangerous the game gets. Is Aster really a supernatural being sent to help planet earth, or does he have ulterior motives?
Once again, Alton Gansky crafts a fast-paced plot with a supernatural theme and packed with characters and "suspense." While Alton's alien elements are not as off-the-wall as they at first seem, the character department and the end of the plot serve to drag this book down.
Alton knows how to write a long book, yet his length is not a product of deep character development as it should be. Alton knows how to create characters, many characters, that is, but he does not know how or does not want to develop characters. Alton creates so many characters that the reader struggles to understand who is who. Many of these characters are given a shallow rundown yet are not used for more than five chapters. There are only about five characters who are nessecary in the end, yet none of them have personalities. Two of these have excuses for such disrepancies, but the other three do not, especially since one of them in Priscilla, the character Alton spends the most time showing. He obviously has some things to learn about character development.
Alton refrained from excess supernatural elements and scenes, a common mistake he has made in the past. Aster and his surrounding elements are more thought-out and well-developed than usual. However, Alton fell into other old vices such as unnessecary romantic subplots and cheesy showdowns. However, Alton did kill off a few expendable characters at this showdown. In the end, despite the book's length, the plot is quite shallow, which can only be blamed on the magnitude of the character base.
Alton Gansky has only hit on a few Elite ideas because his biggest problem is repetition. He seems to do the same thing in every book, yet not many critisize him for it. I believe that it is time for him to either find something new to write about or stop writing altogether.
3 stars

Saturday, August 7, 2010

At last, the final results have come in. Our readers' ultimate favorite author has been chosen, and his easy victory was not a surprise to us.

1. Ted Dekker (33%)

Though he did not reach the fiftieth percentile, his thirty-three was good enough to take the title of Reader's Choice Favorite Author 2009-2010.

2. Randy Singer (20%)

Randy takes home a runner-up spot because his twentieth percentile was not enough to steal the win from King Ted.

3. Robin Parrish\Rene Gutteridge (each 16%)

4. Brandilyn Collins (8%)

5. Mary E DeMuth (4%)

As for who we cast our vote for, that will be an eternal mystery.

We asked our readers which of the first six Left Behind books was their favorite, and the results are not surprising.

1. Left Behind (57%)

2. Assassins (28%)

3. Tribulation Force (14%)

4. Nicolae\Soul Harvest\Apollyon (each 0%)

Raven's Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet

Scattered across the wilds of the Expanse, House Abascar is growing restless of the ramblings of their supposed king, Cal-raven. They are tired of hearing him talk about the invisible Keeper and the disappeared Auralia. Soon Cal-raven and Tabor Jan turn to House Bel Amica for help. House Bel Amica is the rich kingdom by the sea who give their glory and praise to the moon-spirits, as they are directed by the mysterious Seers. Cal-raven believes that Queen Theresa's daughter Cyndere is the only Bel Amican who can be trusted because of her actions toward Auralia. As House Abascar makes their way toward House Bel Amica for help, Cal-raven encounters many strange circumstances that cause him to question what he formerly called truth. The Keeper is still a mystery, and Auralia, the only person he thinks has any answers, is missing. The Seers are waiting to take control of Abascar because of all this doubt, but few can stop them.

As if Auralia's Colors and Cyndere's Midnight weren't hard enough to decipher and understand, Raven's Ladder is harder. Jeffrey Overstreet's cryptic and abstract writing style does not convey correctly the story he wants the reader to understand. I know this because there is a What's Gone One Before chapter at the beginning of Raven's Ladder, and what it says makes the first two strands of the Auralia Thread useless because the reader cannot draw from these two books what Overstreet portrays at the beginning of this third book. Therefore, Jeffrey has wasted another work of fiction with his nonsense.

Cal-raven is a strange guide to the mysterious and abstract world called the Expanse because he is a mental case himself. He sees things that other characters cannot see. His viewpoints of the plot are a random string of nonsensical scenes that only serve to confuse the reader and muddle the book. There are many other characters such as Jordam, Krawg, Cyndere, Tabor Jan, Ark-robin, Say-Reesa, Luci, Madi, Margi, Ryllion, Theresa, Emeriene, and Wynn who are all undeveloped and half-used because there are far too many characters. Jeffrey did not spend enough time on each individual character and their subplots because there were too many other characters to think about. The Seers are interesting enough villains, but once again, are not expanded upon for the same reason. Jeffrey has a lot to learn about character development, clearly.

There are many interesting otherworldly elements such as triplets who can thought speak together, a healer who takes on the person's illness in order to heal them, and people who can mold stones like clay, but none of these align together to form a plot. Jeffrey throws them all onto the pages of this book without bothering to form a plot with them. I suppose this is the book's biggest problem: there is no sturdy plot. Between all the characters Jeffrey must juggle, Cal-raven's abstract visions, and Overstreet's lack of background or description about the Expanse; there is no plot. There are many interesting ideas stuck to the pages of this book that could be used by a better author in a better way, but Jeffrey Overstreet is clearly not the man for the job. Throughout the book, he seems to be trying to convey an interesting foundational idea having to do with finding the real Keeper, the God figure of this world, but these questions are not answered in the end but rather compounded, making for another wasted book in this underachieving alternate world series.

There is a fourth book in this series coming out soon in which Jeffrey will have to answer some of the questions he's been dancing around for three books now.

Even so, Jeffrey has a lot to learn about writing fiction. He needs to grow out of his abstract writing style and actually write some real fiction.

1.5 stars

The Right Call by Kathy Herman

Ethan Langley has returned to the Tennessee town of Sophie Trace to enjoy his summer with the Jessups-namely their daughter Vanessa and her infant son Carter. He wants to know how deep their relationship can go during the summer and whether or not they are right for each other. He is also looking forward to seeing his cousin, Drew, who he grew up with. But Ethan's plans change when Drew's roommate is brutally murdered by a gunman who eventually shoots two more people dead. Brill Jessup is naturally on top of the case, but there are no concrete suspects since Drew never saw the killer. Ethan fears for the lives of Drew, Vanessa, and Carter and wonders if one of them will be next. But when the shooter finally does hit close to home for Ethan, he wonders what move he should make next. Can he make the right call and save the lives of more victims?

The illustrious conclusion to the Sophie Trace trilogy yields little to get excited about since Kathy Herman has still not completely returned to her originality of old. Through robotic characters, an average plot, and a cheesy end that leads to another series, the Sophie Trace Trilogy becomes an average and very forgettable series among Christian fiction.

Robotic and uncreative dialogue creates many robotic characters without personalities. Ethan, Vanessa, Brill, Kurt, Emily, Drew, and others lost whatever personality or imperfection they had in the first two books of the series. Tessa, the famous nosy neighbor, and one of Ethan's coworkers are the only believable and interesting characters in the entire book. The villain is better than not because he is not a mindless shooting machine. Kathy's bit of dialogue "Look for a fox instead of a lion" is an adage all suspense authors need to live by when creating their villains.

The romantic subplot between Ethan and Vanessa is the heighth of cheesiness, but at least Vanessa didn't play the 'I-hate-you-then-I-love-you' bit. Brill's inevitable police case is better than the other cases of this series, mostly because it is based on gambling addictions. An added plus to this is the fact that Kathy completely avoided a showdown between the villain and any of the key characters. Also, a key character dies in the middle of the book. However, the end of the book is still cheesy because a key character suspect was proven innocent in the end, not to mention what transpired between Ethan and Vanessa in order to set up another series.

Kathy Herman may be making a turn back to her past, but she definitely needs to get some help with character development if she expects to take the next step. She has proven before that she knows how to write a good mystery, but she has never mastered character development. Perhaps she will surprise us all in the Langley Manor trilogy.

2.5 stars

What She Left For Me by Tracie Peterson

Jana McGuire's pastor husband Rob has left her penniless and pregnant and has run off with his secretary. She has not seen him since her return from her Africa mission trip; she received this information from a note he left for her. He took many of his and her possessions with him, leaving her with ten dollars to her name. Her only option is the sign whatever she needs to sign to sever her marital ties with her unfaithful husband before going to live with her mother and great aunt miles away. She barely knows these two family members, but together, these three women are forced to reach into their pasts and reconcile long-buried hurts in order to move forward with their lives.

Tracie Peterson pens an uncharacteristic plot for her normal genre of historical romance with What She Left For Me. Instead, she writes a story of regrets reminiscent to a Lynn Austin novel. Here, she has written a perfect plot based on imperfect choices, yet undeveloped characters keep this book from being all that it could have been.

Jana is not the perfect victim she seems to be at first, but neither does she develop a real personality. There are some wrong choices she clearly made to get her into the mess she got herself into, yet she still has no personality. Her mother and great aunt each have half-personalities that could have been refined more, which is also the case with several characters from the past. There is no real villain, which makes this plot realistic because not every situation in life contains a villain. Basically, Tracie Peterson has some character development issues she needs to fix.

Tracie writes a Lynn Austin-style plot because she brings every main character up to the present by recounting their pasts. Each account has their own value, and none of them serve to subtract from the overall rating of the book. Probably the best outside factor of the plot is that fact that there is no real replacement romance for Jana, despite the availability. There are many everyday aspects that give the book a realistic feel. Therefore, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the plot itself. If Tracie continues writing plots like this, her career has taken a one-eighty.

Tracie Peterson has never been strong with her character development, yet her plot development has never been as good as this. If she continues to write books like this rather than her historical romance novels of old, she is on the right track.

4.5 stars