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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Friday, April 23, 2010

Healing Sands by Stephen Arterburn and Nancy Rue

Ryan Coe is a reporter who has made an interesting life for herself. After she divorced her husband, she took an emotionally-jarring trip to Africa to get an in-depth story for the AP for six weeks before returning to find that her ex-husband had moved with their two sons from Chicago to New Mexico. These were the three sons who refused to live with her after the divorce. Ryan quits the AP and joins a local newspaper in New Mexico in order to be closer to her rejecting sons. Her entire world is rocked when she arrives at the scene of a crime to snap photos and finds that her son, Jake, has been accused with the crime-running over a Hispanic boy with a pick-up truck without a driver's licence or driver's permit. He has been accused of hate crime and sent to jail to await a sentence. Ryan tries to use this as a springboard to get back into her elusive sons' lives, all while trying to wrench the truth out of a very silent Jake. Ryan turns to Sullivan Crisp, Christian counselor extraordinaire, for help on controlling her anger and ends up telling him everything. But Sullivan Crisp may not be who he seems to be, especially since he's now been charged with murder as well. With the world falling in around Ryan, she must cling to God to make it through the storm.

Stephen Arterburn clearly draws from his experience as a counselor in order to fabricate a realistic story that could happen to anyone. But in the end, this plot is highly typical, and is only anchored to the Elite list by its superb characters.

The characters are some of the best I have ever met in my entire life. Never in all of my reading have I seen any this good. Stephen Arterburn slowly develops them throughout this 400-page tome, proving that it doesn't take a complex plot to fill pages, just good character development. Ryan is a very good and imperfect lead that brings a lot of real people I know to mind. Her ex-husband, two sons, and many other characters are also fully developed. Stephen did not make the common mistake of only giving attention to the lead or leads, but gave each character personal attention, making this book strong and long. Since Stephen wrote a typical plot, he had to deliver with characters, which he did.

The court cases of Jake Coe and Sullivan Crisp are not completely unrealistic or outrageous, their ends are just predictable. Stephen should have chosen a little more complex elements than the ones he chose. Perhaps he spent so much time on his characters, he didn't feel like trying to write a good plot. Surely as a counselor, he cannot excuse the end to be very realistic. Perhaps this is what Nancy Rue contributes to the book. There are two good plot elements that make the end more tasteful, one of them being a key character death, but it isn't the same as a more realistic court case.

All in all, Stephen Arterburn is a good author because of his superb character development. But if he expects a five star book out of us, he needs to work on his ends.

4 stars

Michal by Jill Eileen Smith

She's in love with her father's worst enemy, but so is her sister. David returns her love, but the kingdom is unstable, and there is talk of him stealing the crown. Not only is she in love with him, but Michal does not want to become destitute if he does. Through deception and scheming, Michal finally gets her way with David, but at a price. By doing this, she subjects herself to an undesirable life, because her husband is a wanted man. Her love is torn away, replaced, and then reunited at a cost all because of her selfish choices. Now she wishes she had listened to the voice of Yahweh years before...

It's refreshing for an author to choose such an underused and under told Biblical story. Looking at a prominent Bible character through the eyes of another is certainly refreshing, yet Jill Eileen Smith colored outside the lines on some accounts. In the end, the book ends in the correct way, but not after a rocky start.

The characters are slow in developing, but eventually reach the point of personality, perhaps too late. For characters to be successful they must be developed from the start, though not too obviously. Michael is definitely an imperfect character from the start, as she was portrayed in the Bible, and slowly develops personality. At first, it looked like David was going to look like a saint, but Jill turned that car around before it could reach its destination. Often, authors portray such popular characters as perfect when they really were far from such an honor. Considering the fact that this book took ten years for her to finish, one can see why the characters are developed in this fashion. Jill will need to work on her characters in the future for sure.

Jill perhaps did too much skipping around in history, hitting on high points of David's story that Michal was probably not even part of. It would have been better if Jill had kept the story in one place for longer than she did, then perhaps Michal would have been a better character. Michal needed to be a first person character, and a first person account would have perhaps limited Jill's scope of writing. As it was, she tried to show the reader the highlights of David's life sort of through Michal eyes, rather than leave some of it for the reader to fill in by reading the Bible for themselves. Jill said she wanted to do this with this book, but I'm afraid she failed in her endeavour.

The best thing about the end of the book is that while Jill had the creative licence to fix something no one knows the answer to, she refrained and chose a realistic end rather than a plastic end. Once she reached the point at which the Bible tells no more about Michal daughter of Saul, Jill could have fixed something no one could have faulted her on for lack of information, but she did not. This shows how much potential she has as an author and that she is willing to try to be realistic.

I look forward to what Jill Eileen Smith will do in the future of her writing career. I presume she will continue to write books concerning Biblical women, since she has expressed interest in this subject. She may not need to leave these guidelines.

4 stars

Beyond the Summerland by LB Graham

Joraiem son of Monias has joined hundreds of other young adult Novaana for the annual Sulare gathering to train for war against the wicked Malekim, the sons of Malek, the enemy of Kirathiam. As they await redemption from Allfather, they must consistently protect themselves from adversity. Joraiem yearns to do battle against the Voiceless, yet his heart yearns for the love he lost when he departed for Sulare. Now, at the gathering, he has met Wylla, a princess who has stolen his heart. He longs to tell her of his affections, yet there is another who wants her for himself, someone closer to her. Unfortunately, this man has struck up a friendship with Joraiem, one that he does not want to sever. But all idea of love are put on hold when Malekim invade the camp on their first night in enemy territory. When Joraiem awoke, he found all the women kidnapped. Only Valzaan, the prophet of Allfather among them, is wise enough to discern a plan of action. Yet Joraiem will stop at nothing to tell Wylla of his love before one of them dies.

Authors like LB Graham are sometimes overlooked because their original ideas do not want to be heard. I suspect there are many people being turned away from publishers because their books end like Beyond the Summerland does. Yet a unknown publishing company does not keep this book from being five stars.

The character department is better than I expected it to be, especially since LB didn't very likely receive good editing help. Joraiem is a good lead, and several other characters are non typical for an alternate world, especially Valzaan, the prophet character. Another good thing about the character department is that we never truly meet a villain. Whoever Malek is, he is very standoffish, not appearing in the plot very often. This is realistic because since Malek is a Satan character, one would not meet him in sight.

The best part of all is the end of the book. At the end of the book, LB Graham did something entirely unexpected, something uncharacteristic for any author. LB wrote one of the best ends I have ever read in all my reading. But based on the situation, the book had to end the way it did; otherwise it would have ruined it. Other pluses about this book include a well-crafted world. LB has created a world filled with well-described creatures and a well-stocked history. Alternate world author Jeffrey Overstreet could not even accomplish this, yet he is more popular. The mind boggles.

There is a movement of originality moving below the radar, and some have penetrated the publishing companies. But the market is changing, and the purpose of this blog is make sure it does. To make sure that authors like LB Graham are heard. To bring you original books.

5 stars

A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick

It is the turn of the nineteenth century, and Jessie Gaebele is in love with photography. She loves the intricacies of taking the photo, developing it in the darkroom, and the new art of touching them up. She has recently taken a job as the assistant at the town studio, where she meets FJ Bauer, a quiet photographer who shares her love of the camera. But he cannot share with her the love they want to have because he is married with two children. Every time Jessie tries to cut her ties with the attractive man, she assures herself that nothing will happen between them. Her parents are afraid for her heart and for her future because they do not strongly believe that a woman should go into photography. Jessie feels herself even more pulled in different directions when they take her special needs brother to the Mayo clinic to diagnose his problem. Though Jessie's future is uncertain, one thing is certain-she loves a married man, and he loves her. The question is, what will they do about it?

I was skeptical about Jane Kirkpatrick until someone recommended this book because of its realistic characters. I've always said that authors should write about circumstances that really happened if all they're going to write about is unrealistic situations. This is the story of Jane's grandmother, and this plot is successful because it is realistic. And this plot is only realistic because it is based on a true story.

Since there are few characters, Jane had the chance to give each one a personality. Good characters are key in this sort of plot because the plot is very simple. With this type of plot, the characters have nothing to hide behind and are exposed for what they truly are. In any everyday setting, there must be good characters. Jane Kirkpatrick delivered. Jessie is a good lead, as is FJ. Jessie's siblings and FJ's wife are also good characters. Jane no doubt used the same personalities as they were in real life, which is another advantage to writing about real circumstances.

The best thing an author can do with an everyday plot is use the situations to reveal characters' personalities and write a good end. Jane did both of these. Jane no doubt used things that truly happened in her grandmother's life to shape her plot. And such an end could not have been completely fabricated. The end is all based on the wrong choices of Jessie and FJ. The outcome of these choices produces a realistic and believable end. There were so many other directions Jane could have chosen had this book not been based on her grandmother's life. There was no way she could avoid something that really happened.

Basically, there is nothing wrong with this book. This is just another example of the things an author can accomplish all in the name of a book based on a true story.

5 stars

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Color of the Soul by Tracey Bateman

Andy Carmichael has left his struggling marriage behind to travel to the South, to the mansion of an old woman with an intriguing story. There he finds that the prejudice toward "coloreds" has never died, just as it was in Miss Penbrook's story. She tells him of her sinful life and the sinful life of her adopted sister, a slave her mother redeemed from the auction block. Camilla and Catherinia Penbrook hated each other for a good part of their lives because of the color of their skin. They spited each other, refused to put aside their differences, and ultimately both faced the sins of their past. There, at Penbrook Estate, Andy learns something both women wished they had learned earlier in life-that a person should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the color of their soul.

Tracey Bateman has been unsuccessful in the other genres she experimented in except this one-historical fiction, of all things. Normally historical fiction is plastic, lacking in good characters and original or realistic ends. But the precarious Tracey Bateman has actually struck gold with the writing of this book, which is something she did not do with her more popular books. But when one considers the end of this book, one understands why this book is unpopular.

The characters are exquisite. They are highly imperfect and each have personalities. Cat could have easily been portrayed as a victim because of Camilla's prejudice and hate, but Cat commits several sins of her own. This is also true about Andy. This is not a cast of characters that uses the typical good characters and the typical bad characters. All of the characters are sinners, which is the way characters should be portrayed. Not all characters should be as sinful as the characters in this book, but it is appropriate for this type of book.

There are many original plot elements, such as key character deaths, different romantic subplots, broken romantic subplots, and general imperfection. These plot elements apply to the past and the present. Many authors try to place imperfection in the past and perfection in the present with these types of plots, but that is not the case here. Tracey captures the sin of prejudice in the late 1800s as well as the early 1900s, which are the two different time lines of the plots, accurately proving that this sin did not cease with the end of the Civil War. She uses the sin of prejudice as a plot device to show the reader the different ways it can affect different people, making the reader think.

Besides all the imperfection, the best thing Tracey did was abandon the typical plot structure used in historical fiction. This is because the Segregation can not be talked about so lightly. It was a serious issue that Tracey handled in the correct way, making this the best work of historical fiction to date.

Who knows what Tracey Bateman has in store for us in the future, but for now, we can bask in the superb work of fiction called The Color of the Soul.

5 stars

Blindsided by Calvin Miller

Father Peter and Kinta have returned to Seattle in order to thwart an evil terrorist plot to blow up the Seattle Seahawks stadium, killing thousands of people. Paul and Rhonda Shapiro, Gary and Melanie Jarvis, and Joanna Nickerson join them in their quest for justice but find that they themselves have befriended several of the terrorists. When several of them are kidnapped by the ruthless terrorists, all seems lost until Father Peter and Kinta show them a way to save them. But the stadium is set to blow-unless someone stops it.

While writing my summary of the plot above, I wanted to write more, but I realized that there was nothing much else to say about this book. The plot is as shallow as it looks from here. Calvin Miller has returned with a sequel to truly the worst work of Christian fiction ever written. One may think that he can do better than zero stars, but think again.

The characters are worse than before because they lost whatever imperfection they had in The Dogs of Snoqualmie, which wasn't much. Besides the seven main characters, there are many other extra characters that only serve to muddle the mess. Their dialogue is cheesy and simple. The characters lack anything interesting about them whatsoever, except that Joanna Nickerson deserves to be put in a mental hospital because of her conversations with Isaiah and Spotty-an imaginary man and his owl. But since this is portrayed as normal, it cannot be rewarded. Father Peter and Kinta remain to be very strange and abnormal characters portrayed as servants to the world. Calvin attempts to create a purpose for them, but fails. There are other "bad" characters as well who are stereotypical. But by the end of the book, most of them have converted to Christianity.

A terrorist plot is one of the shallowest plots an author can write because it is predictable and overused. Since no one wants to use them in the correct way, they need to be discontinued. Any truly professional author can come up with something better than stopping terrorists from blowing a football stadium sky-high. Obviously Calvin Miller chose this type of plot because he does not belong in the fiction market whatsoever and has no idea what he's doing. There are many amateurish plot elements such as creating four romantic subplots by the time the book was over. Romantic subplots are a simple outlet through which an amateur author can fill time with. Kidnapping and hostage scenes are also simple outlets to fill time with and create "suspense" with.

In short, Calvin Miller has produced another shallow tale that won't stick to the walls of my brain with original glue. He needs to stick to his poetry.

0 stars

Dark to Mortal Eyes by Eric Wilson

Josee Walker has returned to the hometown of her birth parents with her mind full of questions of why she was given up for adoption. Her birth father, Marsh Addison, a wealthy vintner, wants nothing to do with her because of what she reminds him of. But Kara Addison sets out to an arranged meeting place to meet the child she gave up years before. But when Kara disappears and her car is found at the bottom of a ravine, Marsh, Josee, and a local police officer are forced to join forces against something evil and sinister that wants to control them. Marsh discovers something uneasy about his father's past, and Josee discovers something terrifying about her boyfriend. Before they know it, they are thrust into a race against time, fighting against the supernatural and a potential end to the world. It's only a matter of time...

Debut novels from spec authors are not usually very interesting. Eric Wilson adapts a typical save-the-world situation, mixes it with a supernatural plot, a custody case, a kidnapping case, and a few original elements. Perhaps this is the reason for its 400+ page length. Yet I found that the length only prolonged the agony of unoriginality.

The characters lack personalities, yet most of them are imperfect. They make wrong choices that lead to some consequences. Giving the characters personalities would have raised the rating slightly. The villains are quite typical, even though one of their identities is unexpected. Demon possession has been taken to the extreme in villains. It has become very cheesy and sensational and should be discontinued unless it is going to be used in a correct way.

There are many mixed plot elements in Dark to Mortal Eyes. Eric Wilson underlies a chess theme that is used in an un emphasized and interesting fashion. There is virtually no romantic subplot, even though Eric hints at several. This was one of the stronger points because most authors believe that a romantic subplot is a staple to fiction, especially debut authors. A conflict is introduced to whether Josee is really Marsh's child or not, but it was unnecessary because it was resolved. There is one key character who is seized by demon possession but is never recovered from their grasp. Marsh's father is not found to be innocent of the matter in the end.

All these conflicting elements cause this book is be a little above average. It is good to know that Eric Wilson has learned from his mistakes and his written better books since this one. This shows the mark of an author who wants to improve.

3 stars

Serenity Bay by Bette Nordberg

Patricia Koelher has invited more adversity into her life than she bargained for by marrying Russell, the man she thought was the man of her dreams. They settled together on an island in the Puget Sound, where he became the island doctor. The first year together was wonderful, except that Russel work himself to death. The times they had together were few but memorable. The trouble started when Patricia told him she was pregnant, but refused his order to abort the baby. She knew she should have left him when he hit her, but could not bring herself to, especially when he did not do so again for a long time. But now is the last straw. Russel has clamped down on her life for the past eight years and has stripped her of friends, money, and sanity. Now he has put her and their eight-year-old daughter in the hospital with severe injuries and has dangered the life of their second unborn child. Now, when her baby is born, with the help of her close friend Susan, Patricia is going to run. She does not know where, but she knows that she has to leave before someone dies.

Bette Nordberg has put together a realistic plot based on imperfect characters. No one has written an abuse plot quite like Serenity Bay; it is a one of a kind. Instead of stopping in the usual place, which is after the woman has her final confrontation with her husband and escapes, Bette Nordberg went further to tell what Patricia did after she escaped, how she lived her life. The end is highly realistic, yet weak characters take this book down a notch from five-stardom, a disappointment indeed.

All of the characters are imperfect, yet they lack true personality. I don't know how Bette Nordberg avoided good characters with this plot, but she did. Russell is not your typical villain, and he fits this situation aptly. Patricia clearly made choices that put her in the situation; she is not a perfect victim. Susan is one of the better characters, yet she does not appear in the plot enough. Basically, Bette needs to develop her characters better in order to be awarded a five star book.

The progression of the abuse is realistic. It starts with a slap, progresses to a punch, then to control over her life, then to hospitalization. Bette clearly knew what she was doing when she wrote this plot. One of the best things Bette did with this plot was resist the urge to give Patricia a perfect male lead to bail her out and give her a second romance. This could have been very easily done, and maybe even justified, but she did not do it. Another different thing Bette did that she didn't have to do was show Patricia's life after the escape. Other authors would have built up to the big fight and end the book with a near-death experience in the hospital. Instead, Bette showed the realistic side of the story by taking Patricia to a battered women's shelter. In the end, it comes down to a custody battle over the two children Patricia and Russell produced together. This comes down to one of the more realistic ends I have ever read regarding custody battles. Basically, the plot is filled with a lot of imperfection that was wasted with weak characters.

All in all, with a debut novel this strong, Bette Nordberg is a reputable author who knows what she is doing. If she can strengthen her characters, she is on a fast track to greatness.

4.5 stars

Tested By Fire by Kathy Herman

Jed Wilson's world has been devastated. The house boat of his best friend, Mike McCalley, has been blown to bits during the night. All family members are presumably dead. Arson is suspected, but there were no witnesses and the evidence is slim. But when the FBI hears word that Mike may still be alive and on the run, they begin a manhunt, suspecting that he was the one who started the fire. Jed leaves his failing marriage behind and decides to race the FBI to get to Mike first and discover the true story, because he does not believe that Mike murdered his own family. He embarks on a trip across the country and soon finds that God has been working on his heart, trying to draw him closer to Him. Not only is he on a race against time-he's on a journey for his soul.

Kathy Herman has spun quite a mystery in Tested By Fire, one of the best mysteries I have ever read. I liked everything about the explosion case, but there were surrounding plot elements that took this book's rating down from five stars.

The characters do not have personalities per se, but they are all imperfect. The entire book is based on their wrong choices; no one is innocent. Surprisingly, Kathy Herman completed avoided creating a villain. This is a very interesting touch because it is more realistic without a villain. Kathy definitely could have developed her characters better, but imperfection is a step in the right direction.

One would assume that Kathy would give poor Mike an out by the discovery of a serial arsonist on something of the like, but she does not, to my surprise. The rating of this book truly hinged on this factor, and she delivered. Kathy even added two key character deaths at the end to spice things up. However, she needed things like this to counter the typical plot elements she wrote in. There are a series of key character conversions, which occur in an unrealistic, simultaneous fashion. The best way to avoid conversions is to eliminate the need for them, for we should not be against people accepting Jesus into their life. However, we must write about it in a realistic way. Another major problem is a wasted series of chapters depicting Jed driving from city to city with a random child along for the ride. I assume that Kathy wrote this in merely to fill time, but the void could have been filled with something more worthwhile.

Generally, Kathy Herman is a good author, even though this is her first Elite book. She has original ideas in her books, but she muddles them with typical plot elements. With the elimination of such things, she can be a superb author indeed.

4 stars

The Remedy for Regret by Susan Meissner

Tess Laungher is 28 and lives the simple life working at a local boutique. She makes a nice living dressing rich women, but deep down, her heart and soul are empty. She and her fiancee, Simon, are living together, waiting for the right time to get married. Simon is currently going through a rough time because he feels guilty for a traffic accident he caused, which resulted in the deaths of two innocent people. Tess feels rejected by her father because she thinks he blames her for her mother's death, since she died bringing Tess into the world. To get away from it all, Tess agrees to a road trip with a friend of hers in order to help her friend make something wrong right. Tess finds that there is only one remedy for regret-and it is the remedy she has tried to ignore her entire life.

The Remedy for Regret

is driven by strong, imperfect characters, which is a necessity with this type of simple plot, especially when the author uses the typical plot elements Susan used here. However, these elements are the downfall of the book because they are too typical and too perfect.

Tess and Simon are realistic leads because they are both imperfect. They both make choices that effect the outcome of the plot. Susan could have made Simon into a perfect male lead, something many female authors do, but she chose not to. There are several other good characters throughout the plot that serve to help this book's rating. The characters are the strongest point of this book, as should be the case with all books, especially this type of plot. The Remedy for Regret definitely would have been worse without good characters.

The plot follows a straightforward, quest like structure because Tess goes from one problem to another, inevitably fixing it. First Tess and her friend hunt down a boy whom they rescued as a baby to tell him the truth about his mother, then Tess visits her father to try to reconcile with him about her mother's death before traveling to England to clear the air with her mother's family. Even though each situation is fixed, each one serves to add to characters' imperfection and personality. It was not the best thing she could have done, however, because Susan should have had at least one situation not be fixed.

The book could have lived through these things with an Elite rating, but what Susan did in the epilogue really ruined things for me. Anything that was left to fix, was fixed in a sped up, haphazard fashion. This is a bit cheesy, to say the least. I'm not saying that good things never happen to people and that authors should never have good things happen to their characters, but there is a realistic balance to find and realistic way to write plots.

I know Susan Meissner wrote this in her early years, and I'm glad she has learned from this and has not returned to this stage in her career. This shows the mark of a truly good author.

3 stars

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

In the month of March, year 2010, we asked our fan base who they thought their favorite author was according to the choices. The results were not surprising:

1. C.S. Lewis (84%)

2. Travis Thrasher (16%)

3. Jeanette Windle\Karen Hancock\Randy Ingermanson (each 0%)

C.S. Lewis will advance to the final round of authors.

Things Left Unspoken by Eva Marie Everson

Jo-Lynn Hunter is at a crossroads in her life, mainly her marriage, when her great aunt Stella insists she return to her hometown of Cottonwood, Georgia to restore the old family mansion. She and her husband have grown apart over the years, and she blames it on the fact that he is always golfing or doing some other activity. Not to mention the fact that he does not want to have any children. But while in Cottonwood, Jo-Lynn finds secrets beneath the dust and peeling wallpaper-secrets about her great aunt's past that she has not divulged to anyone. Jo-Lynn wants to understand Stella's past and and reconcile with her husband, but she does not know that she has to let go of her wants and let God deal with the rest.

Eva Marie Everson based this story on her past, and I have found that books based on realistic events are often better than completely fictional stories because authors are forced to be realistic. So is the case with Things left Unspoken.

First of all, the characters are complete with imperfection and personalities. This type of plot needs good characters, otherwise the book is incredibly boring. Eva delivered in the character department. This is another reason one should write books based on real life events: because hopefully the real people are captured with the real plot.

This is not your typical return-to-your-hometown-and-reconcile-with-your-past book. There is no ice between Jo-Lynn and her family, which is a nice change. There is no former boyfriend or old flame. There is no political intrigue or family enemies. This is a normal, everyday life story. The plot alternates between the past and the present, giving the reader glimpses of what really happened in Stella's interesting past. Jo-Lynn and Stella are not portrayed as victims because they were instigators in their perspective situations.

The end gives Eva a lot of potential to fix things. She may have been tempted to fix the situation between Jo-Lynn and Evan. She could have reunited them in a fierce love of their youth and had Evan give in to the idea of children. But Eva resisted. She could have had Stella's past be reconciled by a certain method. But she did not. She didn't have to have all the key character deaths at the end. But she did. This book is very unusual when one considers that Eva Marie Everson also wrote the Potluck series and the Potluck Catering series, books I would never think about reading. But that's what happens when authors use real life experiences rather than manufacturing something that is improbable to happen.

I can think of many authors who need to learn how to write a five star book by reading Things Left Unspoken. Eva Marie Everson has made her mark on fiction. The fiction market is turning toward originality.

5 stars

A Shred of Truth by Eric Wilson

Aramis Black has changed in the months since his encounters with his past and with greed. His half-brother, Johnny Ray Black, is making it big in country music. Aramis' coffee shop, Black's, is successful. Things are quiet until Aramis discover Johnny Ray tied to a statue one night with the letters AX carved into his back. From there on out, Aramis begins to meet people from his past he thought and wished he would never see again. Someone begins writing notes to him telling him that they have his mother, who was assumed dead for years, in custody. Johnny Ray doesn't believe it, but Aramis does. He begins to compile a list of suspects all while trying to hold his life together. He teams up with Freddy C, his homeless friend, in order to find some answers. But Freddy C knows more than he lets on. Aramis is grasping for a shred of truth no one seems to have.

The Best of Evil

was fine in itself, therefore I am pretty sure that it did not need a sequel. All A Shred of Truth does is taint Eric Wilson's previous 100% Elite rating. Eric always had trouble with his ends, but this time, he had no safety net.

The characters remain the same as they were in The Best of Evil, which is a plus because this does not happen often. Often times, authors will get lax on their characters and let their personalities slide. This was not the case with A Shred of Truth. Aramis, Johnny Ray, and the rest continued to be the same, proving that Eric Wilson cares about his characters. Any extra characters are at least interesting. Eric even threw in several fake villains. The character department is not something Eric struggles in.

Plot elements is a mixed area for Eric. He tends to stray from romantic subplots are at least create different romantic subplots. He knows how to add tidbits of history into his plot in places that need flavoring. Eric creates one key character death and surprises readers with his choice of villain. The looming problem with this book is its cheesy end. I was sure that Eric was going to have Aramis' mother being alive be a hoax, but I was wrong. Eric surprised me in this way, not a good way. He even used a cheap "suspenseful" showdown scene to free her from her bonds. This was uncharacteristic for him as an author.

I do not wish to think that Eric Wilson is sliding as an author and running out of good ideas. I can only hope the A Shred of Truth was a hiccup in a better career stretching ahead of him. I hope he finds his way back to the originality before it's too late.

3 stars

Betrayed by Rosey Dow and Andrew Snaden

Laura McIvor is living a life under an assumed name because her father was a missile scientist who sold weapons secrets to other world powers. Her life has been ruined by Jonathan Corrigan, the man she fell in love with, until she found out that he was the one who put her father in prison. Now someone is pursuing her and breaking into the her apartment in order to find something they think she has. Her only option is to run into the arms of her new love, Wesley. Meanwhile, Jonathan has been on leave from duty because of a life-threatening injury. He goes to stay at his mother's ranch and finds himself coming to grips with the faith she is always talking about. His thoughts are always wandering back to Laura McIvor, the only woman he ever loved. When word reaches him that she is in trouble, he stops at nothing to vindicate her.

There is nothing truly special about Betrayed, but there are many run-of-the-mill aspects. This is the type of plot any author can write because it has been used before. The Christian fiction market would not miss this book had it not been written.

For starters, the characters are typical. Laura is a typical victim. Jonathan is actually a bright spot because he makes a few mistakes-until he becomes a Christian. Any other character is also typical. Besides a predictable plot structure, lack of at least imperfect characters besides the villains is the biggest problem is the genre called suspense. The least authors can do is make memorable characters and eliminate stereotypes. The cast of characters lined up in this book is ridiculously predictable. Laura the female leas victim. Jonathan, the kind-hearted male lead she doesn't like for no reason. Wesley, the love competition. The evil villains. Characters are the core to fiction, and books stink without them.

From the description, it seems like this plot could go somewhere. Not in the hands of amateur authors. Betrayed is a run-of-the-mill, cheap suspense plot that has been used a hundred times over. There is nothing special about this book, nothing that would make me miss it if it were not written. The authors act like this was a big accomplishment to write such a plot, but it is not an accomplishment if one copies a plot that has already been written. This is what makes me incredulous: why authors use the same stock plots over and over again.

If nothing, books like this make me appreciate the growing numbers of original books on the market.

1.5 stars