Original Books

Original Books is the blog where you will find the best of Christian fiction reviews. We hope you enjoy this blog and that you keep up with us as we continue to post reviews. Make sure you check the Elite List, the list of books we have rated 4 stars and above and the coming soon list to see what will soon be posted. If you feel we have forgotten about an author or a book or have any questions please email us at originalbooks200@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hadassah: One Night With the King by Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen

Haddassah has been taken by force to Persian King Xerxes' palace in order to undergo a year of treatment to be ready to meet the king and perhaps become the future queen. Hadassah did not choose this life: it chose her; but she is willing to do all she can win the contest she's been caught up in. She has had to leave behind her adoptive father and the only man she ever loved in pursuit of a new and greater love. She has to keep her identity a secret for fear of those who want to kill her. As the day draws near, everything in her life hinges on her one thing; one thing decides what she will do the rest of her life. It all is decided on one night with the king.

Tommy Tenney seems to enjoy fictionalizing Scriptural accounts, and perhaps he has found his place in life. A story like the story of Esther gives him room for creative licence, and he used this freedom in the correct way by making it realistic. Yet Hadassah fell short of the Elite List because of one thing-that thing being the most important thing an author can add to his book.

Characters are the most important thing, and Tommy fell short in this category. He retained the personality of Xerxes, for one can hardly ignore that, yet he resorted to stereotypical characters when dealing with the others. This is critical in such a limited plot as this, yet Tommy did not deliver, causing this book to fall below the Elite List.

Tommy expanded the story by adding background on how Haman was an Agagite and how Hadassah came to be named Esther. He opens the reader's eyes to what really went on in Persia using historical accounts. Many realistic things happen outside of the true story. The plot was as good as it could have been under the circumstances.

But adapted plots can never be five stars unless they are altered. There is a cap of four stars on an adapted plot because the reader already knows what is going to happen and because the author did not necessarily invent anything. Hadassah did not make this par because the characters are undeveloped. The only thing an author can do to improve an adapted plot save for changing it is adding good characters.

Yet Tommy Tenney shows promise as an author. It would be nice to see what he can do when he's not hiding behind borrowed plots, but again perhaps he has found his place in this world.

3.5 stars

Hunter's Moon by Don Hoesel

CJ Baxter is a successful suspense author who is being criticized for his latest work. He is also going through a messy divorce with an uncaring ex-wife. But a family death takes him away from the press conferences and book signings in Nashville, Tennessee, and to his hometown in Adelia, New York, where the well-to-do yet scandalous Baxters live. The Baxters are a political family, and CJ's brother Graham is the current elected Baxter. The Baxters have many secrets that they do not want some black sheep of a son to uncover with his return. CJ knows many things he has kept buried for many years, but now he is ready to reveal some secrets. But the Baxters will do anything to protect their reputation and keep Graham Baxter in office-even murder.

Hunter's Moon

is basically 400 wasted pieces of tree. In a long, drawn-out, detailed fashion, it accomplishes nothing but recounting the same old political scandal story, mixed with a return-to-your-hometown story. Don Hoesel has not brought anything new to the table, making this book worse than Elisha's Bones, which is an accomplishment in itself.

Despite what I heard other reviewers say, there are no good characters. Other reviewers called CJ "an annoying and rash man who often makes rude outbursts." I looked forward to this because this would have equaled an imperfect character with a potential personality. But halfway into the book, I found nothing that made CJ this type of person. CJ is your average perfect victim who is going against the odds to find truth. All the surrounding characters are stereotypical to this sort of book, such as the rude father, the corrupt politician, the politician's hit man, CJ's old flame, and so on. Elisha's Bones had better characters than this. In fact so much of this book reminds me of T Davis Bunn (not a compliment).

This book is not suspense, and while there is nothing wrong with this, nothing is accomplished throughout the plot. Don makes the book long by painfully describing every meaningless day CJ lives in Adelia. And during these days, nothing about CJ's character or any other characters is developed. Don learned descriptiveness too well, but not character development at all. During the last fifty pages, Don Hoesel steps out of the obsessive narrator role and embarks on a typical chase-and-showdown scene series that ends predictably. The best thing Don did was avoid romantic subplots altogether. Beyond this, there is nothing good about this book.

1.5 stars

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Rivers Run Dry by Sibella Giorello

Raleigh Harmon has been relocated to Seattle because of a conflict. Her mother Nadine has moved with her across the country. Raleigh's eccentric aunt has moved in with them in order to keep Raleigh's FBI missions a secret from Nadine. Raleigh must now work with Jack Stefanson, an agent she doesn't like, on a case of a missing college student from a mountain trail. This college student has had a past of gambling in Las Vegas, possibly connecting her to an abuse case Jack is currently working on. As Raleigh investigates the casinos of Las Vegas and the streets of Seattle, she finds that sources for the whereabouts of the missing girl are dry, forcing her to take extreme measures.

With her rising popularity, Sibella Giorello has lost a few of the original qualities that came from The Stones Cry Out, but she did not lose all of them. She uses several suspense cliches in The Rivers Run Dry, but she maintains her streak of Elite books nonetheless.

In sequels and as series progress, characters tend to lose whatever imperfection and personality they started out with if they had any. This is not the case with the Raleigh Harmon series. Raleigh continues to be the same, imperfect character with a personality that she was in The Stones Cry Out. Her mother, the only other returning character, also remains the same. This is realistic because people do not automatically perfect with the passing of time. Jack Stefanson is not the best character he could have been and contributes to this book's fall 5 stars. There are also several other good characters in this novel that flavor it.

Sibella continues to refrain from romance, even though one with Jack is readily available. But it only makes sense that two people who don't like each other from the beginning will probably not like each other in the end (at least in the real world).

The case is flavored with dead ends, false suspects, and false villains, as all cases should be. And there is no convenient connection between Raleigh's kidnapping case and Jack's abuse case, thank God.

So what's wrong with the book? First of all, Jack's lack of personality, but also a typical showdown. Sibella also fixes several minor things at the end. Sibella remains to be one of the best authors on the market save for these reasons. I expect more great things out of her in the future.

4 stars

The Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorello

A police detective and a man with a troubled past have fallen off the roof of an abandoned building while hundreds of people were protesting the owner of the building, but none of the protesters saw what really happened. Raleigh Harmon, FBI agent and forensic geologist, has teamed up with her fellow FBI agent John in order to investigate the case. The town has taken the side of the man with a troubled past because of his alleged acts of kindness toward them. The evidence Raleigh and John gather even shows that he was an inherently kind man. But other things about the case do not add up. No one's talking about the rooftop fall, and when no one talks, the stones cry out. Raleigh only hopes she's listening intently enough.

No one acknowledges Sibella Giorello as a respectable author, but this is probably because no one knows how to handle her originality. She uses plot elements not many authors use and eliminates plot elements too many authors use. There is only one reason not to like The Stones Cry Out.

The cast of characters is all it needs to be-imperfect with personalities. There are no mentor characters or perfect male leads. John is hardly a typical male lead at all, since he is in his fifties. Raleigh is an exemplary lead shown from the first person perspective, which is the best way any author can show off a character. There is virtually no villain-at least in the sense that most people think of villains.

There is no romantic subplot, not even the potential for one. In this day and age of fiction, that is a huge accomplishment. The absence of a perfect male lead must be rewarded because other authors have made this plot element distasteful. So many times suspense authors try to create the perfect male, but Sibella has done just the opposite.

But this is not the end of the superb plot elements. The answer to the case is surprising and unexpected. Not many other authors would have ended it the way Sibella did. From the start, the case was not typical; it set a precedent for other mystery authors to follow. Sibella also abstained from useless "suspense" elements that would have cluttered up the plot. The showdown, if you can call it a showdown, is realistic because Raleigh and John are not dealing with a typical monster villain. But the one reason not to like this book is because Sibella uses a strange and unrealistic method to reveal the answer to the mystery to Raleigh, therefore taking this book out of contention for five-stardom. This particular method is not really possible in the real world and thus cheapens the otherwise realistic plot.

In short, if Sibella can debut with this good a book, who knows what the rest of her career has in store for her.

4 stars

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Listen by Rene Gutteridge

The town of Marlo has been thrown into confusion and crime all because of words that appear on a website. Someone has recorded conversations of the townspeople, word for word, onto the website. The words found there are shocking and devastating. Neighbor has turned against neighbor, friend against friend, husband against wife, all because of careless words spoken when they thought no one was listening. Their private conversations have just gone public. The police are scrambling to control the insanity the town is descending into, but they themselves are caught in the undertow. Marlo Sentential writer Damien Williams is trying to get to the bottom of the problem with his police officer friend Frank. But when words on the site begin to hit his own home and family, the police try to pin it on him and Frank. Damien resolves to find the culprit, or else.

When I first heard the description for this book, I knew it had to be good. Unlike most plots, there's no way this book can't be original. The foundational idea is very strong. The plot makes the reader think rather than only be entertained. The message is cutting and convicting because this type of thing could happen anytime anywhere, and it's all because of our words.

As usual with Rene Gutteridge, the characters are complete with personalities and imperfection. Damien is not the type of lead one would expect from this type of book. Since this plot is all about imperfection, there is no way it can be crafted without imperfect characters. Not even the seemingly typical mentor character is innocent of serial speaking.

The best parts of the plot are who is writing the website and how they are capturing the conversations. This was the area of concern I had because Rene could have easily reverted to a sensational supernatural explanation, bringing down the rating a bit. But she kept the book in reality and gave a good explanation for how the eavesdropping was taking place. But the person who is doing it is the icing on the cake. Not many authors would have taken the leap she did in making the culprit close to home. There is also a key character death near the end to serve as a deep consequence of words.


is the type of plot we don't get to read very much-one that is centered around choices of the leads. I love these types of plots not only because they are realistic, but also because they make the reader think. Fiction should be about making the reader think about how they can make their life better rather than entertaining him, but doing this through using examples and not being preachy. Rene Gutteridge is one of the most prolific authors on the market because she has mastered this difficult goal.

5 stars

Shepherd's Fall by Wanda L Dyson

Nick Shepherd own one third of the family business-Prodigal Recovery Bounty Hunters. In short, when the police need an escaped convict or any person in hiding from the authorities, the Bounty Hunters go in undercover to retrieve them. Nick loves his job, but his love for his job has destroyed his other loves. His personal life is a mess. His ex-wife, teenage daughter, brother, and sister are enough to keep him going crazy. On top of this, he's searching for two different people-a prostitute and a crafty escaped convict. In the process of trying to find the prostitute, he accidentally apprehends her twin, who is also trying to find her because she needs a bone marrow transplant. Nick has been running from God, but his current case could bring him back to grips with Him. When his teenage daughter is kidnapped, Nick becomes desperate in order to reach her before time runs out.

The best thing about this book is that Wanda has returned to her roots with a book with many intertwined plots instead of a simple plot. The bad thing is she does not handle it properly, like she did in Abduction. I'm not sure if Wanda will ever return to her former glory.

Nick is a good, imperfect character with a personality. His troubled past and troubled family life are both his fault. He isn't a victim. The bad part about the characters is that there aren't any other good characters. There are a few other imperfect characters, but Wanda seemed to forget about the other characters. There is good character interaction throughout the book, but there is also unproductive dialogue, and dialogue is required the build characters.

It's refreshing to see a different Wanda L Dyson series after the disappointing end to the Shefford-Johnson series. The bounty hunters idea is a very good idea, Wanda just can't seem to get her ends down. In these types of fragile plots, ends are everything. There is virtually nothing wrong with the body of the book, but a cheesier-than-usual showdown really puts a damper on things. The twins subplot adds an interesting twist, but that too is ended incorrectly. Wanda basically does everything she can to fix every subplot, going against standards she set earlier in her career. Perhaps it is that Abduction was her only good idea and now she writes only because people expect her to.

I've heard people say that her books are very riveting and exciting, but other than Abduction, they are really no different than any other average suspense novel.

2.5 stars

The Best of Evil by Eric Wilson

Aramis Black and his brother, Johnny Ray, have moved to the outskirts of Nashville to start a new life away from their home in Oregon. Aramis has opened up his own coffee shop while Johnny Ray pursues his country music dreams. Aramis's world is changed when he witnessed a murder right in his own shop. While the police close his shop for investigation, Johnny Ray leads him on a wild goose chase concerning gold, Meriwether Lewis, and their mother. When the investigation of the murder is over, Aramis discovers that Johnny Ray has signed him up for a new reality show called The Best of Evil...When Good Things Happen to Bad People because Johnny wants him to reconcile with a family member in his past. With all of this coming down on Aramis at the same time, he finds himself once again calling upon the name of God for help.

Eric Wilson abandons his supernatural roots with The Best of Evil and creates a realistic mystery. Eric has a lot of deep-seeded originality, but his knack for fixing things gets in the way of true greatness.

As usual, the characters are superb. Aramis, Johnny Ray, and several others are imperfect with personalities, something Eric Wilson learned early on and has continued since. Good characters are key in fiction, especially mysteries and suspense because authors can get bogged down in action and forget about giving attention to their characters. Eric Wilson has never done this, making his books stand out of their genre.

The Best of Evil

can not be considered suspense because it is based on normal, everyday life. There are many subplots contained in Aramis's life, and this is realistic because everybody has a lot going on. As usual, one of these is a romantic subplot, but Eric finds a way to end it very originally, making it the highlight of the book. The murder subplot ended next to perfectly, as did Johnny Ray's music subplot. These two subplots are the things that tie this book down from true greatness. had these been eliminated, we could have been looking at a five star book.

Nevertheless, Eric Wilson has proved to be one of the most prolific authors on the market with his deep-seated originality. I expect more great things out of him in the future.

4 stars

Friday, March 12, 2010

Abduction by Wanda L Dyson

Karen Matthews woke up one morning to find her infant daughter's crib empty. Jessica Matthews was gone without a trace. When the police investigate the situation, they suspect Karen and Ted of foul play. Zoe Shefford has been calling herself a psychic for years because of her strange mental ability to know what kidnappers are doing at certain time. She wants to bring all kidnappers to justice ever since her twin sister was kidnapped and killed when they were both young. Now the police have asked her to help in the baffling case. Josiah "JJ" Johnson objects strongly to the use of a psychic and immediately makes an enemy out of Zoe. But their incessant fights do not help the case since the killer is still on the loose...

Where most authors feel content to write a simple and straightforward suspense plot, Wanda L Dyson has done just the opposite in Abduction. This book is not a straightforward mystery. There are multiple plot elements introduced; half of them ending perfectly, half of them not. This is slightly realistic, but more comforting because Wanda, unlike most suspense authors, seems to actually have a grip on reality.

First of all, the characters are well developed. There are no perfect characters. Many of the characters have personalities, and all of them are imperfect. Character development is a necessity in fiction, and more and more authors are getting a grasp on this concept. The character development makes Abduction a stronger plot than most of its suspense counterparts.

Zoe's gift is a bit off and not well explained. Adding this gift element throws a little spice onto the recipe, but it also serves to slightly clutter up the plot. At least the gift subplot comes to a good end.

The rest of the plot elements are very contradictory.The kidnapper is not an animal and is surprising, but he instigates a cheesy showdown, and Zoe knew him from her past.

Basically, the biggest asset this book provides is good characters, and the biggest drawback is the cheesy showdown that ends predictably. We must always reward good characters, but we must never reward predictable showdowns.

Wanda's biggest strength is plot element diversity. She is able to create multiple realistic situations at once and not end them all predictably. I expect more good things from her in the future.

4 stars

Obsession by Wanda L Dyson

Josiah "JJ" Johnson has once again been thrown into a kidnapping case with Zoe Shefford, much to his dismay. Female college students are disappearing, and one of them is the niece of Zoe's closest friend. But Zoe has resolved to never use her psychic gift again now that she is a Christian, leaving the police in the lurch about who the killer is. JJ continues to argue with Zoe about her blind faith in God without accepting it. The police have apprehended a suspect, but he is not saying anything. As time keeps ticking and the killer keeps killing, the police are running out of options...and hope.

Another kidnapping case was not conducive to the progress of this potentially good series. Wanda should have deviated and tried a different case topic, because kidnapping cases are very limited. Abduction is only as good as it is because Wanda created many original plot elements outside of the case. However, she did not do so in Obsession.

The biggest asset to this book is that Wanda retained the characters' personalities very well. In the transition from one book to another in a series, the characters' previous personalities tend to get lost in the shuffle. This is not the case with Obsession. Zoe and JJ continue to be good, imperfect characters. However, Donnie Bevere is quickly transforming in a perfect mentor character.

There are only a handful of realistic things about this case-one of them being dead ends, and the other being one slight key character death. But convenient connections, the completion of a potential romance, and the villains make for a mediocre read. I'm getting tired of serial killers or kidnappers turning out to be police officers or FBI agents. This plot device was interesting the first time it was used, not the numerous other times it was used. It is only slightly realistic to have this fact be true, but the corrupt police officer stereotype is cheesy.

At the beginning of the book, it seemed like JJ and Zoe were never going to fall in love. I liked this because those who fight do not necessarily fall in love eventually. Unfortunately, at the end, Wanda scrambled around and caused the two to literally kiss and make up at the last minute. She would have done better not to fall into this common fiction trap.

In short, Obsession is not as good as it could be, but it is not as bad as it could be. There are good things about it, making me sure that Wanda L Dyson has a lot of potential.

3 stars

Intimidation by Wanda L Dyson

In an act of retaliation, someone has kidnapped FBI agent Donnie Bevere's wife Lisbeth in order to exact a valuable piece of evidence from his possession. Once this happens, Donnie becomes a very desperate man who will do anything to get the love of his life back. When he word reaches him that his wife has been buried alive in a coffin, he becomes frantic. But there is nothing he or the police can do about it. Zoe Shefford and Josiah "JJ" Johnson feel for their mutual friend, but there is nothing they can do about it. The two of them are struggling with their own problems as it is. They know they both love each other, but JJ has been resisting God all his life. Since Zoe has recently accepted Him, she has discovered that a believer should not be unequally yoked to an unbeliever. At this, she has no idea what she is to do but pray.

Wanda would have bettered herself by ending the Shefford-Johnson series with Obsession. But of course, she could not resist yet another kidnapping case when Zoe and JJ are so close to marriage. She needed to leave well enough alone, but she refrained from logic and spun a ridiculous tale that tarnishes her image as an author.

The characters' personalities are all but gone near the middle of the book, and they are all gone by the end of the book. Wanda reverts back to old standby stereotypes for her characters-Donnie as a perfect victim who never commits a sin even in the face of adversity, Zoe as a young Christian in a hazardous relationship, and JJ as the struggling atheist who inevitably gives in at the end of the book. The best thing Wanda could have done was deepen her characters' personalities, not destroy them.

Once again Wanda refrains from complex plot elements and borrows the standard, stereotypical kidnapping plot that was written ages ago. The best thing she did was kill off an expendable character. Otherwise, Wanda proceeds to fix everything possible, including extracurricular activities such as saving three children from a bomb explosion.

Wanda also throws in an endorsement for a non-profit organization that has no bearing on the plot at large.

Since it was inevitable that the Shefford-Johnson series would reach the point of embarrassment, Wanda could have saved herself by avoiding the third book altogether and ending on a good note. Intimidation is by far her worst book, and one that she should never repeat.

1.5 stars

Rescued by John Bevere and Mark Andrew Olsen

Alan Rockaway, his second wife Jenny, and his teenage son Jeff are currently on a cruise geared toward married couples. They think all is well in their lives until they get caught in a government operation gone wrong. Everyone on the cruise except Jeff ends up trapped underwater in a submarine in which the oxygen levels are limited and time is running out. Jeff tries frantically to reach them in time, but his efforts seem futile. Meanwhile, in the submarine, something is happening that no one else knows about. Those who are facing death are about to experience something they never thought they would experience that day. Their lives and destinies are about to be changed forever-and death is only the beginning.

The best thing about Rescued is the element of surprise. I love it when authors mislead the reader with the book's description and then in the middle of the book, flip the world upside down and change the rules. Rescued is not cheap suspense because of this. Even though the cover and the description hint cheap and predictable suspense, this book is a good example of not judging a book by its cover.

The plot is based entirely on imperfect characters and how wrong choices effect eternity. Even though at first, the characters are good at deceiving the reader into thinking everything in their lives is fine, everything is not fine. There is something seriously wrong with each one of them. Not a single character is perfect in this book because imperfection is its basis.

I cannot tell you anything about this book's real purpose because that would be giving things away. It has a point deeper than the reader realizes at first. I simply love books like this one that are centered around choices. This book is clearly John Bevere's life work. It also makes evident that Mark Andrew Olsen needs a good coauthor to write successful books.

Besides the deep foundational idea behind this book, the biggest lesson I learned was how not to prejudge a book by its description. This book also proves that any kind of plot has potential.

Mark Andrew Olsen should consider coauthoring more books.

5 stars

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Expiration Date by Eric Wilson

Clay Ryker has just discovered something very disturbing about himself-he knows when people are going to die. Just by touching them, he knows the date of their eminent death. He has returned to Oregon from Wyoming in order to escape from his broken family life. He has moved back in with his parents and sees many things throughout his hometown that remind him of his childhood. But the death dates he knows are wearing on him and causing him to go crazy. Things become even more disturbing when a common date appears among people. He goes to the police, but they only cautiously believe him. Someone is playing a game with him, and they hold all the cards. Clay just needs to do everything he can to stop the approaching deaths.

Expiration Date

begins in the theme of Jonah in that Clay has to warn the town of coming disaster. He has the same personality as Jonah, and Scripture verses at the part changes indicate the author's intentions of this parallel. It's just a shame that Eric Wilson abandons this creative theme in the end. There are many strong points throughout the book that put this book on the Elite List, but a weak end makes it fall short of perfection.

For starters, the characters are good. Clay is a good, imperfect lead with a personality. He is very much alike Jonah in that he does not necessarily like people. The other characters are good as well, proving that Eric Wilson does not write cheap novels. I was skeptical about him at first, but clearly, he has most of his ducks in a row.

The book has a strong foundational idea. The gift of knowing people's death dates is innovative and used and presented properly. The gift genre is an unknown genre most people do not think about, but some of the best books come from this genre.

The book is long and drawn out, but it is necessary because Clay does not know what the numbers on his hand mean at first. Realistic events happen throughout the book to cause this book to be placed outside of the supernatural genre and give it a normal feel. The supernatural touch is slightly necessary and not overdone to the point of sensational. The showdown is kept to a minimum and not overdone. The biggest problem with this book is the fixing of one thing in particular. With the way Eric had the book written, an original end would have caused the book to go on longer. Eric did the best he could under the circumstances.

All in all, Expiration Date was an enjoyable read that I do not regret. I look forward to seeing what Eric will do next.

4 stars

Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills

Paige is a CIA agent who has been relocated to the small town of Split Creek, Oklahoma, as a librarian, in order to conduct further investigation on a fellow renegade agent who is running for Oklahoma governor. She lives in constant paranoia over the agent finding her out or someone in town finding out who she really is. She is also fighting a relationship with the town's high school football coach, who she really loves. She does not want to fall into a relationship at such a crucial time. Also, something from her past she thought she had buried has resurfaced at the worst time possible, causing her to take drastic action. Her nemesis is closing in, and someone in town has discovered her true identity. And time is running out...

I was skeptical at first when I read the description of this book, but in the end, the book was not all that bad. It definitely could have been better, but it sure could have been worse. There are many strong and realistic points, but DiAnn could not resist several "suspense" cliches. The book did not live up to its full potential, but it did not go as low as it could have gone.

For starters, Paige is one of the better female suspense leads I have ever met. She is realistic, believable, and imperfect. I wish I could say the same about the rest of the characters, however. There is a perfect male lead and several other undeveloped characters. Paige is really the only good character, leaving a major gap in the character department.

Paige really does love her perfect male lead, but she does not want to sabotage her career. At least it isn't one of those I-hate-you-then-I-love-you deals. Paige has an interesting opinion about TV dramas on CIA agents, which I wholeheartedly agree with. Her troubled past is also her fault. She is not a victim by far. The high school football subplot did not end in the way I expected it to end (even though DiAnn seemed lost when it came to real in-game action, offensive techniques, and general final scores). Also, Paige never really faces her nemesis in a showdown. The case is left open, unresolved, and in progress by the time the book ended, which is realistic.

So what's the problem? The romantic subplot pans out, unfortunately. Most of the characters are suffering for life. There is an unnecessary showdown with an extra villain. This book was a hard call, but the good is not enough to make up for the bad.

In short, DiAnn Mills has a lot of potential if she will line up her ducks correctly. I look forward to what she will produce next.

3.5 stars

Swope's Ridge by Ace Collins

Lije Evans has taken on a case that involves a Middle Eastern American citizen being charged with murdering a family in their own home. He is also suspected to have connections to the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center on September 11th. Lije and another lawyer are the only ones who believe the man is innocent. There are those who want him put in prison, however. On top of this, the intrigue around the mysterious estate of Swope's Ridge escalates when the possibility of a deadly secret being hidden on the property arises. There are many people after this secret, and they are all willing to kill to get to it. But when someone Lije loves in put in the hospital for this cause, his priorities shift and the stakes become much higher.

Why throw a ridiculous court case into the potentially interesting story of Swope's Ridge? The court case is a non-factor as it is and only serves to clutter up the read. The entire mentality of this book is wrong. The mentality is what the public calls "suspense." This book is supposed to be exciting and interesting, but to me, it was really quite a boring read.

The characters suffer from under-development. One cannot feel that Lije Evans is even a real person. He has no thoughts, dialogue, or actions that serve to create a personality. He is basically perfect, but he relates more to T Davis Bunn's non-character entities. His robotic feelings do not make the reader feel like he is even real. The rest of the characters are bad as well, but Lije is definitely the worst. It only goes downhill from here.

Ace Collins does not seem content to stick with one foundational idea for his books. Instead, he crams multiple predictable plots into one book, causing multiple crucial areas to suffer. In Swope's Ridge, he crams an impossible court case, an ongoing murder mystery, and a save-the-world situation all into one mediocre plot. This is why to plot is a mess. Ace also proceeds to fix every possible thing he can think of, including finding Kaitlyn's killer from Farraday Road. There are also amateurish and unnecessary scenes including driving through a tornado that serve to clutter up things. Convenient connections cause the garbage can to overflow. Ace may have been good at non-fiction, but the evidence shows that he has no business being a fiction author. He can't handle it.

Good characters would have been a huge bound for him to complete. Eliminating unnecessary subplots would be enormous. The best thing about this book is the lack of a replacement romance for Lije. Ace probably didn't have time because he had too much else going on.

I would not recommend that Ace write any more books. The market can't take it.

1 star

Why the Sky is Blue by Susan Meissner

Claire Holland's life is changed forever one night when she is attacked and raped by an unknown assailant. She wakes up later in the hospital with no real memory of the incident. She thinks the danger is past until she discovers that she has been impregnated by her attacker. But she is married already, and has two children of her own. She knows she cannot in good faith abort the life growing inside her. She and her husband finally decide to put the unborn child up for adoption. So, when the child is born, she is whisked away into the arms of another couple. Katie Holland, Claire's daughter, cannot understand why her half-sister was taken away from her. Over a decade later, Katie receives a life-changing letter from her half-sister's adopted mother. What she reads re-opens the past and forces them to face something everyone tried to forget.

Where Susan Meissner's other books are character-driven masterpieces, Why the Sky is Blue falls short of this standard and is instead a simplistic story. Gone are her normal complex plot twists and complex characters. This novel lacks surprises, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, this type of plot needs complex characters, and yet there are none.

Only Claire and Katie show any hint of personality. They are both limited characters, who, though imperfect, are not in the least bit realistic. The other characters suffer for any kind of realistic nature, especially Lara, Katie's half-sister. This is very unlike Susan because she usually has very realistic characters. This is a shame and drags the entire plot down.

The book is divided into two parts-the first part being about Claire's unwanted pregnancy, the second part being about Katie's adult life. This book is so simple it could have been written by a ten-year-old. I don't understand why Susan wrote such a simple plot. The foundational idea behind the book is interesting enough, but it needed complex characters to make it work.

There is not much else to critique about the plot. Susan has not written anything like this since, so she clearly learned her lesson. This is why she is an Elite author-because she adjusts. Hopefully she will never return to this point in her career.

2.5 stars

The Falling Away by T L Hines

Coming Summer 2010...


Native American Dylan Runs Ahead is running away. He ran from the Crow Reservation where he grew up because he felt responsible for his sister's disappearance. He ran to the Army, but after his leg was mangled and his buddy was killed when a bomb exploded, he had to escape from those memories too. Now he's gotten mixed up in the wrong line of business and he's running from people who would prefer him dead.

But then he meets a woman named Quinn. She claims to see things that others don't and tells him that he's "chosen." Oddly enough, his buddy in Iraq kept telling him the same thing. Before Dylan Runs Ahead can figure out what that really means, though, he's going to have to stop and face the demons--both literal and figurative--that he's been running from.


Perhaps T L has a fabulous idea to back up this otherwise typical and mediocre plot he has crafted. Or perhaps he has merely peeked out and feels to need to write something just for the sake of writing. He has never dabbled much with demons and supernatural elements before, which I am surprised at. This plot has the potential to have imperfect characters, but there could also be victims. It is truly impossible to tell what a plot like this will turn out like. It could be another The Unseen or it could fall by the wayside as another The Dead Whisper On.

Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann

Coming May 2010...


Something sinister is happening in Radcliff, Colorado-and police chief Jonah Westfall must stop the twisted behavior. His investigation forces him to involve his childhood friend Tia Monroe; new veterinarian Liz Rainer; and the local baker. Haunted by his past, can Jonah ignore his personal demons to protect the town-and the people he cares about?


I thought Kristen Heitzmann was finished writing, but obviously she wants to retell her same old story again. Just compare the description above to so many of Kristen's other books. Granted, Secrets, Unforgotten, and Freefall are original enough, but if I were a betting man, I would bet all my money that this book has a similar ending to Halos, A Rush of Wings, Twilight, or Echos. I thought Kristen was finished because she needs to be finished unless she is going to produce good books like Secrets. Otherwise, there's no hope for Kristen.

Edge of Apocalypse by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall

Coming April 20, 2010...


Former US spy-plane hero Joshua Jordan has created the world's most sophisticated missile defense system to secure America against new enemies. But he finds himself trapped between international and domestic assailants who conspire to steal the weapon. Will Jordan pay a personal price to save the nation he loves?


The Christian fiction market is weighing heavy with apocalypse and end times books already, but these two otherwise handicapped authors may have something together. This is one of the more original angles I've seen on the apocalypse. The title is suffering for distinction on the market, but this book has more potential than one may think.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Crystal Lies by Melody Carlson

Glennis' life is falling apart. She has just moved into an apartment after leaving Geoffrey, her husband of twenty-five years. Then she discovers that her nearly-adult son Jacob has been getting into trouble and is illegally using an unknown drug. He keeps saying he will change, but the same things keep happening. On top of this, Glennis' older daughter Shelly resents her for leaving Geoffrey. While riding a roller coaster with Jacob, she does not realize that she has to let him go and show him tough love if she ever expects him to change. No matter how much Jacob promises her, she has to love and let go before anything changes.

Let me start out by saying that Glennis is one of the better leads Melody Carlson has ever crafted. She is reminiscent of a Lisa Samson lead because of her spastic decisions. She is highly imperfect, as are all of the other characters in this book. Several characters that Glennis thinks are perfect turn out to have some major flaws in the end. The plot is all about wrong choices made by Glennis, Geoffrey, and ultimately Jacob, and how those choices effect other people. Melody has mastered this plot structure and knows how to keep perfect mentors out of the picture while teaching the readers something.

With these types of "everything-goes-wrong" plots, authors must be careful not to make the situations too dramatic and sensational and how to not meddle with an original end. Melody does a very good job at not letting things get too out of hand, staying away from unnecessary drama. She keeps everything down to earth and realistic. She also does a fairly good job of not making things work out in the end, yet ends are not Melody's strength. She fell short of the original end and settled for the appropriate end. However, only one situation is completely resolved, and it is done so in a realistic manner.

Crystal Lies is definitely better than her more popular book, Finding Alice, but Melody seems to settle for simple ends rather than letting the book live up to its full potential. This is not a bad thing however, because she is trying harder than most authors on the market are.

Melody is definitely an author that is not to be ignored because of her superb character development and realistic ends. I expect more good things from her in the future.

4 stars

Fossil Hunter by John Olson

A lone shepherd has stumbled across a whale fossil in the Iraqi desert. Analysis indicates that it could be a newly-discovered species that could shed light on the evolutionary debate. Dr. Katie James has been asked to lead an expedition of grad students to recover the fossil before her rival, Nick Murad, can find it first. But when they arrive, Katie finds the unexpected-a human fossil. She is forced to collaborate with Nick to analyze the find before a faction of the Iraqi government can find it and destroy it. Soon they find themselves on a run for their very lives. Their careers and reputations are on the line-not to mention their hearts and souls.

John Olson refrains from his usual weirdness and bizarre writing style, mostly because this book has been written for a cause. This book attacks evolution at an interesting angle while supporting creationism. This is good, but it does not effect my rating either way. The plot is still mediocre and predictable. John Olson hasn't really learned anything about originality.

Katie James is an imperfect character and has a slight personality. Nick Murad is a standard perfect male lead, and the other characters are just cardboard cutouts. But then again, John's female leads are usually imperfect because they're so afraid of everything. Katie reminds me a lot of Darcy from Adrenaline. John still suffers in the character department.

The foundational idea behind the book is good enough, but the plot is muddled with cheesy suspense. With every page turn, Katie and Nick are either being chased around the desert or are about to die of dehydration or heat stroke. John does that annoying thing some authors do to create "suspense" by ending every chapter with a suspenseful statement. But at the beginning of the next chapter, it's either a misunderstanding or quickly resolved. I particularly care for any kind of overused drama or forced suspense, but this is the worst thing an author can do when trying to write suspense. These such episodes fill the book and make it unprofessional and shallow. If these such parts are censored from the book, there is next to nothing remaining, therefore suggesting that John Olson is not creative enough to write a truly interesting book, but can only create unnecessary drama.

The method in which the fossils are found is realistic enough. When compared to John's other nonsense, this book is very good. It is a very possible and realistic situation. But when compared with other books, this book is only average.

The romantic subplot is highly predictable and uncreative. If two people do not like each other at the beginning of the book, why do they suddenly have a change of heart at the end of the book and fall into each other's arms? This plot device is stock and overused. There's no explanation for why authors incessantly use it over and over again. There is also a cheesy and predictable showdown at end. People can hide behind the fact that this book is attacking evolution all day long, and I have no problem with that. The plot is just not interesting at all.

Perhaps there is hope for John after all.

2.5 stars

When the Day of Evil Comes by Melanie Wells

Dylan Foster is a psychotherapist and a psychology professor at SMU. She has a good life for a thirty-three year old, save for the fact that she has no prospects for male companionship. Nevertheless, she is content to live her single life. But her world begins to tip one day when she meets a very strange man named Peter Terry. He begins to wreak havoc on her life, and soon Dylan suspects he is a demon. He has infiltrated the mind of one of her past patients and has driven him to a reckless suicide. Now the boy's family is suing her for leading him to do so. On top of this, flies keep showing up in her house. Her mother's engagement ring has shown up in her house, along with an unrecognizable necklace. Someone has charged over $600 to her credit card on useless gifts. Something supernatural is happening in her life, but she cannot stop it on her own.

Melanie Wells has shown us that the supernatural genre is not closed, but merely misused. Her handling of demons and angels in When the Day of Evil Comes is realistic because it eliminates sensational confrontations and unnecessary warfare. Melanie has singled handedly fixed the the supernatural genre with the Dylan Foster series.

I love Dylan Foster's character because she is imperfect with a personality. She is a raw, realistic person that is no doubt based on Melanie Wells herself. Melanie has mastered the character development art flawlessly in some areas, but is lacking in the perfection area. There is a perfect male lead that puts a damper on the tale because of his lack of effect on the plot in general and his unrealistic perfection at large. With this eliminated, Melanie Wells will be a superb character developer.

There is virtually nothing wrong with the plot as a whole. There are many imperfect characters that make choices and create dire circumstances for those around them. The way Peter Terry interacts with people is realistic because he is mostly only seen in dreams. This is the same way with the angels in this book. I was completely turned off to supernatural elements in fiction until I read the Dylan Foster series. If more authors write supernatural books like this series, the genre will be redeemed.

But alas, the perfect male lead in the spot of red on this white fleece. There are key character deaths, but his lack of imperfection ruins it all. Actually, I would rather he be eliminated as a starring role in the plot because he serves no purpose. Perhaps she will learn better down the road.

I'm excited to hear more from Dylan Foster.

4.5 stars

Finding Alice by Melody Carlson

Alice is an average college student trying to live a sane life outside the bubble of her mother's strict and judgemental church. But she keeps seeing visions, and she soon believes that God has given her a Golden Key. She also knows a person named Amelia who no one else seems to be able to see. Her mother and her mother's church "friends" come and try to cast the demons out of her, but they end up putting her in a mental institution. But Alice miraculously escapes with the help of Amelia and embarks for life on the streets with the other mental cases. Her fascination for Alice in Wonderland has gone to her head as she imagines people as the characters in the book. As she descends deeper and deeper into schizophrenia, will anyone ever be able to find Alice?

Melody clearly knows what she's doing with the plot setup and surroundings. The journey through the life of a schizophrenic is original and intriguing if not enlightening. Melody also brings up several interesting points about the cure for schizophrenia and how the medical field is not treating it properly. Melody did good research on causes and cures of schizophrenia and found some solutions I agree with. I do believe the medical field is too eager to prescribe drugs for everyone. Schizophrenics are not made to sit in a white room and stare at the wall like a vegetable while people pump them full of drugs. God created all people for a purpose. I agree with these facts wholeheartedly, but one must not get caught up in the surroundings. All of these original settings only mask a typical plot that could have been easily fixed.

For starters, the characters lack personality, yet they are all imperfect. Melody has been faithful to eliminate all perfect characters from her character department. All of her characters are down to earth except for their lack of personalities.

Melody obviously got so caught up in the research that she forgot to write a better plot. She resorted to the typical, very simple, girl-meets-boy plot. The allusions to Alice in Wonderland add an interesting touch, but when broken down, it's very simplistic. Melody could have made this book Elite with a better plot.

Nevertheless, Carlson knows how to create realistic situations based on imperfect characters. This will always be to her advantage. Many things can be learned from Finding Alice, but how to write a plot is not one of them.

3 stars

February 2010 Poll Report

In the month of February, year 2010, we asked our readers who their favorite author was according to the choices. Here are the results:

1. Randy Alcorn (44%)

This was a surprise because we were undecided to his standing in the spec world. Clearly we have a handful of readers who like this apparently retired author. He will advance to the final round, which will come later this year.

2. Athol Dickson\Robert Liparulo (both 22%)

One of these was picked to win the poll, but our readers had other ideas.

3. Robert Whitlow (11%)

Clearly not many people understand Robert Whitlow, including us.

4. Sigmund Brouwer (0%)

Stay tuned for March's primary poll, in which you can choose another author according to the choices to advance to the final round.

As for who won our vote, that will remain an eternal mystery.