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, June 29, 2010

Take Three by Karen Kingsbury

Andi Ellison has made a mess of her life by giving into physical temptation with a shady boy named Taz. Now she has received the devastating news that she is pregnant and she does not know which direction to take. Who should she tell if anyone? Should she keep the baby or kill it? If she knows anything, she knows she does not want to tarnish her father's image in the film making industry. Keith Ellison has been enjoying his success in Hollywood as a Christian director and is looking forward to his next movie. But the strange behavior of his daughter and his co-director Chase Ryan are keeping him distracted. Bailey Flanigan also remains confused about her two suitors, Tim Reed and Cody Coleman. She wants to do the right thing, but what she thinks is the right thing is not what her heart tells her. Only God holds the answers for all their dilemmas-if they will seek Him with all their hearts.

When I finished this book, the first thing I said was "Karen Kingsbury can do better than this." I know she can; she has proven she can. Through uncharacteristic cheesy circumstances and characters, Karen is bringing the never-ending Baxter Family Saga down to the mud with such writing. It is clear she is trying to shake off certain characters, but she could have done so a better way.

After all their imperfect circumstances were resolved, the Baxters became perfect characters. Keith Ellison, Chase Ryan, the Flanigans, Cody Coleman, and Tim Reed are not exemplary characters either. Andi Ellison is the best character of this book because she is the only one that makes any realistic mistakes. She is the only believable character. The Baxters are fountains of wisdom, the Flanigans are a perfect family, Keith and Chase are simple characters, Cody Coleman is a perfect victim who is fast becoming a perfect male lead, something Karen Kingsbury has never done before, and Tim Reed has become a cheesy villain, for lack of a better word. Either Karen is slipping as an author or this series has met entropy. I agree with the latter, for all good things must come to an end.

The Bailey\Tim\Cody triangle was finally resolved in this book after much ring-around-the-rosy, but it could have been handled in a better way. Tim and Cody become polar opposites instead of the ambiguous characters they once were. It was predictable which one Karen was pulling for, so the best thing she could have done was do the opposite. The least she could have done was avoid the black and white answer she gave. The Andi Ellison situation is another problem. While she created the situation by her imperfect choices, Karen did every possible thing she could do to help her avoid the consequences. The end is not realistic, something Karen has not done since her early days.

I know Karen Kingsbury is not failing as an author; the Baxter Family Saga is failing as a series as result of longevity and entropy. The realistic, everyday life plots are gone, replaced by typical plot molds. I hope Karen can end the series on a good note with Take Four and avoid adding anymore sub-series' to the saga. But don't count on it.

2 stars

Glorious Appearing by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins

Glorious Appearing by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins

Armageddon is under way. Nicolae has gathered all those loyal to him and has thus created the largest army ever seen on earth to oppose Jesus and His followers. The Tribulation Force's numbers are dwindling, but they it's only a matter of hours before they see their Risen Lord and King descend upon the earth to take possession once and for all. As the hours tick down, the last hours of earth, the world spins into chaos and confusion as Satan takes his next to last stand against God. The believers know the battle has already been won, which is why they are keeping their eyes on the sky.

In the final book of such an end times series, nothing else can be said or done but to have Jesus triumph over all because there is no other end possible. This gives Glorious Appearing a non-fiction feel because a fiction plot needs conflict, and there is virtually no conflict in the end. Glorious Appearing cannot be Elite, yet that does not make it a bad book.

Character development is useless at this point in time because there is no more imperfection among believers. The sides are black and white, as it would be at the end. To say the least, it is not exemplary character development, yet there was nothing else to do at this point in the series.

This is the hardest book of the series for me to review because there are many elements that are realistic yet they go against my fiction standards I have laid down. Christians and everything Christian are invincible, but what would one expect? Satan and everything to do with him is weak, but what would one expect? Jesus and everything to with Him is perfect, yet this is the truth. This is the dilemma I am in. The biggest problem with the book is what? Any of the things I listed above? I do not know what the biggest problem is, yet I do not know what the biggest asset is either. It simple is what it is.

All in all, it has been an interesting if not landmark series in Christian fiction because it opened the door for Christian suspense. It brought Christian fiction out of the dark ages and to a point where it could be as good as it is today. It was not a mistake-free series, yet the idea was groundbreaking. At most points it was an enjoyable series, yet I am interested to see whether an author or pair of authors can make a better version sometime in the future.

3 stars

average series rating: 3 stars

Armageddon by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins

The Tribulation Force has been forced literally underground, scattered across the country, due to the extreme crackdown of the GC on those not bearing the mark of loyalty. The great battle of Armageddon is nearing, and Nicolae Carpathia has begun gathering all those loyal to him to defeat Jesus and his followers in the valley of Armageddon. The Tribulation Force soon finds that they must relocate to Petra due to the captures of Chloe and Albie. As the times become more evil and the end of the world is on the horizon, the Trib Force does not know whether or not they can stay sane enough until the Glorious Appearing.

The authors have drastically turned the series around by pulling it out of its second nose dive The Remnant created. Armageddon is a return to the originality of The Mark because the authors were not afraid to kill off a few very key characters.

Chloe and Albie suddenly become imperfect characters, because it is their fault that they get captured; they are not victims of circumstance. This is the first book of the series that eliminates four characters and does not add any new ones. No other characters really undergo any major changes. This is not a character-based book, but a plot-driven book, following the theme of the series. With only one book left in the series, the characters obviously aren't going to get any better than this.

Without the captures of Chloe and Albie, there would not be much to talk about in this book. The authors probably realized this and decided that it was time to do something original. It was high time, because such originality has not been used since The Mark. As usual, end times elements are presented well. This is the point in the series when lesser known events occur, and the authors did a good job of finding those such events and portraying them. There are four key character deaths in the book, but one of them is unknown, making the best end of any book of the series. It was better than any other end because it did not force suspense upon the reader. It is a mysterious end that actually made me want to read the next book. The series really should end with this book because I doubt Glorious Appearing will come up with a better one. But this is a futile hope because the authors are not going to cut the series off here.

One can assume that this will be the last interesting book of the series because from here on out, the authors can begin using creative licence as a shield. But Armageddon was enjoyable nonetheless because it exhibited elements the authors should have been using all along.

5 stars

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Remnant by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins

With many wanted people gathered in the desert fortress of Petra, Supreme Potentate Nicolae Carpathia launched a full-scale missile attack against it to once and for all vanquish his enemies. Unfortunately, things did not go as he planned. After the bombs fell on the people in Petra, they were seen walking around in the fire unharmed by the flames. When it becomes clear that he cannot destroy his enemies, he turns his attention to a more pressing matter-the oceans have turned into complete blood, and people all around the world are thirsty. Meanwhile, Chloe Williams, Hannah Palemoon, and Mac McCullum pose, with the inside help of Chang Wong, as GC Peacekeepers in Greece in order to spring their friend, George Sebastian, from captivity there. But when their covers are blown by experts in New Babylon, they are forced to escape with their very lives.

The Remnant

covers more ground in the Great Tribulation than I can explain in my summary, mostly because it skips through time once the book nears an end. A large majority of the book is an extreme waste of time, spent mostly on the Greece rescue mission. Since this is the most useless book of the series, The Remnant is the worst book of the Left Behind series.

Buck really hangs up his cape in this book and becomes a stay-at-home dad while his wife becomes the world-traveling superhero he was. Rayford becomes a go-to character whenever the authors have an extra Co-op mission to demonstrate. I never understood why Mac was introduced; I have always seen him as a useless character. Ming Toy is also a useless character, yet she has an entire sidebar plot devoted to a random mission of hers. George Sebastian has been made into an important character by the sudden urgency of the rescue mission this book focuses on. Basically, the character department was gone from one extreme to the other throughout this precarious series, especially since the series is driven by plot and action.

After the Petra miracles, the authors spend way too much time elaborating over the Greece rescue mission. Chang does his usual magic and makes the aliases of Chloe, Mac, and Hannah look real for a time while they rescue the great George Sebastian. After spending much time and drama on this portion of the book, the authors throw the plot into time warp, stopping at random and sometimes useless points in time, such as when they demonstrated Rayford preforming a Co-op mission to exchange water for wheat. Then the authors stop off at the sun bowl judgement to show off what they've come up with before speeding ahead to the darkness bowl judgement. All this time warping was only necessary because the authors spent way too much time on Sebastian's rescue mission. The saddest things of all about this book is that, were it deleted from the series, nothing would be missed, save for the sun judgement, which could have been moved. This makes this book the lowest point of the series.

With so little time left in the series, the authors do not need to be playing around with rescue missions anymore. It's time to step things up, now that there are only two more books in the series. I expect better things than this.

2 stars

Desecration by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins

As the risen Nicolae Carpathia tightens his grip on the world by required everyone to receive a mark of loyalty to him or face death, the Tribulation Force, scattered around the globe, settles into their hiding places. Chaim Rozenweig feels called by the Lord to openly oppose the Antichrist, so Buck follows him to New Babylon to witness Nicolae desecrate the Jewish temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. The bowl judgements have become, now that everyone bearing the mark of loyalty to Carpathia is suffering from severe boils, allowing the Trib Force to launch Operation Eagle, a plan that allows many Christians and Jews to escape to Petra, a rock fortress in the Israeli desert. Many have no other choice now that the Great Tribulation is in full swing, since earth's days are running out.

The series takes a slight dip after its first five star mostly because of a cheesy end. While there are a few good elements, they are not enough to offset the end, which is clearly trying too hard to be suspenseful. However, Desecration does not miss the Elite List.

The characters seem to have settled into a groove at this point in the series. While Buck is still traveling the world with Chaim, he seems to have hung up his cape in that he has discontinued his late-night rescue missions. Rayford is one of the most active and useful characters now, which is a change from the first half of the series, when Buck was a more active character. The biggest problem remaining in the character department, one that has lingered throughout the series, is the magnitude of the cast of characters. There are so many characters that when one dies, they are hardly missed because the authors introduce a handful of new characters in every book. Each character could have been much better had the authors chosen one or two leads from the beginning and focused primarily on them throughout the entire series. Characters have been the most constant problem of the series, and it would be refreshing to see it fixed before the end.

The desecration scene and the relocation effort to Petra are are handled well enough, but they are not the highlights of the plot. Rather, several mistakes made by characters lead to more interesting circumstances. There is one key character death, but that character is not missed because they had become highly unnecessary. Chang Wong seems to be able to do whatever he wants as the Trib Force's palace mole. The sooner this is cut off, the better. But this is not the worst problem with the book. The worst problem is the end, which tries way too hard to make the end suspenseful. An original follow through of the end in the next book would create countless key character deaths, but everyone knows the authors are not going to blow up a majority of their characters. Thus, this ending is an unnecessary and somewhat desperate attempt to make the reader keep reading.

All in all, Desecration is an above average novel with a few problems. However, with the series winding down, the authors need to step up the originality in order to keep the end of the series from being a bore.

4 stars

Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes

Jenny Lucas has returned to her sleepy North Carolina hometown with her only daughter to reveal to her family two horrible secrets. One, her daughter's biological father is the son of man Jenny's father hates most in the world. Two, she is dying of a widespread cancer in her body and she needs to know who will be taking care of her daughter when she's gone. Naturally, her ex-boyfriend and his wife make a play for her on the basis of biological connections. Jenny's father and grandmother immediately fall in love with six-year-old Isabella, while Jenny finds herself falling for their hired hand. Jenny knows she cannot allow herself to fall in love when she's so close to death, and she has other things on her mind. Little does she know that she will have to cross an ocean to find the answers she wants.

Gina Holmes writes an unforgettable and unashamed debut dripping with originality. The stage was already set-her lead was dying-yet she resisted the temptation of miraculous healing and wrote a five star debut novel.

The end is not the only amiable quality this book contains. I cannot think of a single key character without a personality. Jenny, Isabella, Jenny's father, Jenny's grandmother, Jenny's ex-boyfriend and his wife; even Jenny's love interest is not a perfect male lead. There is no real villain in the story; it is simply a book about the end of one's life. Gina has already proven she is a master of characters, a quality that some veteran authors cannot seem to grasp.

Many plot cliches are defied in this novel. Characters who are portrayed as bad aren't really. Characters who are portrayed as good aren't really. In the end, there is no real romantic subplot. The tale is told through the mournful eyes of Jenny in a voice reminiscent of Mary E DeMuth. The end is the icing on the cake, not only because of Jenny's end, but because of the realistic end to Isabella's custody case. With this end, Gina proves that she is not afraid to take the step toward complete originality. I hope other new authors follow her down this path.

I look forward to what Gina will do in the future. I expect nothing else but originality now that she has set the bar so high.

5 stars

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mark by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins

Having been resurrected and indwelt by Satan himself at his own funeral, Nicolae Carpathia is now exercising his power over the world by requiring everyone to receive a mark of loyalty to him on their forehead or right hand. The millions that flocked at his funeral to mourn his death now openly worship Nicolae and his images. As the GC sets the mark of loyalty plans into motion, David Hassid, Ming Toy, Mac McCullum, and Abdullah Smith craft a plan of escape from New Babylon so that they are not required to choose between the mark of loyalty or death by guillotine. Meanwhile, the stateside Tribulation Force moves more believers into their Chicago hideout before Buck must travel to Greece to attempt to rescue their Greek Trib Force members and Rayford and Albie attempt to rescue Hattie from a women's incarceration center. The Great Tribulation is in full swing, and the times are evil. As Christians are forced underground instead of making a deadly choice between mark or death, the Trib Force does what it can to survive the final years of earth.

The Great Tribulation has finally come to the Left Behind series. These are the wildest times in the history of Planet Earth, and a perfect chance for the authors to showcase originality. Believe it or not, they delivered, finally, in this eighth installment of the series. They have hit the five star mark with The Mark through originality to the end. This is definitely a high point of the series.

David Hassid remains an improved character, as do Albie, Leah, Hattie and Chaim. Chloe returns to her personality of old. Several new characters come in already with personalities, thus demonstrating the inconsistency of this series' character development. It matters not in this installment for the characters are now where they need to be. No more changes need to be made; no more new characters need to be introduced. This is the high point of the series' characters.

The plot is even better than the character department. The authors handle the mark of the beast situation very well. They do not protect all Trib Force members from the guillotines, let's just say. There is also one other key character death unrelated to the guillotines that serves to sever a building romantic subplot. That was definitely an unexpected but nice touch. Hattie, though she completes her realistic journey to the faith, does not cease being a good character after accepting Christ. The authors also explore an interesting sidebar issue in this book having to do with taking the mark of the beast against one's will. This book was the authors' chance to show off some originality after playing around in the first seven books of the series, and they finally delivered with the best book of the series yet. This is hopefully only the tip of the iceberg.

The remaining books of the series should at least be Elite, but one never knows, especially with Petra approaching. For now, let us celebrate that Tim and Jerry finally wrote that impending five star novel.

5 stars

The Indwelling by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins

Nicolae Carpathia, the Supreme Potentate of all the earth has been murdered unexpectedly at a worldwide gala in Jerusalem. As the Global Community authorities study videos of Carpathia's murder and the body itself, they come up with differing opinions of the cause of death. As millions of worshipers flock to New Babylon to attend his funeral and mourn his death, the Tribulation Force are keeping their eyes on Carpathia's dead body, waiting for the moment when Satan will indwell the corpse and rule the world for himself. David Hassid and Annie Christopher see firsthand the evil that is brewing in New Babylon-namely the outright worship of the Antichrist. Meanwhile, the stateside Trib Force begins a relocation project to the abandoned city of Chicago while the GC is distracted with Carpathia's funeral. It's only a matter of time before Satan enters the corpse of the world's most loved man and begins to take the throne-namely rule the world-for a time.

Time comes to a halt in this seventh installment of the Left Behind series as it is the first and last book to contain no judgements. The Indwelling spends a painful amount of time on the attention to detail and the dissection of the three days the Antichrist lies in state, describing every little detail of the funeral. While there are many other good plot elements, this fact keeps the book from being five stars.

Chaim Rozenweig becomes a better character than he ever was in this book because the authors suddenly "turn on" his personality. The same is done with David Hassid, in that he is no longer a Trib Force spy tool. Otherwise, there are no other career moves in the character department. All other characters stay the same.

It seemed as though the authors wanted another suspenseful end, namely Carpathia coming back to life, thus they slowed time down dramatically and did not institute any judgements. While there is a single key character death as a product of another rescue mission, this book is mostly a waste of time. Had the authors not been so intent on writing another suspenseful end, this book could have been five stars. This book makes the series very time-inconsistent. However, one could say that The Indwelling is another transitional novel like Nicolae, this time transitioning the series into the Great Tribulation.

The good thing about the Great Tribulation is that the authors can no longer produce Hollywood-ish judgements and protect their special characters. It's time to get down to the nitty-gritty in the final five books ahead, and I'm interested to see what will happen.

4 stars

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wonders Never Cease by Tim Downs

Kemp McAvoy is living the hard life of a UCLA night nurse while his aspirations are to be an anesthesiologist. These aspirations were put to rest, however, when his residency at Johns Hopkins was rejected because of drug abuse. Now, he lives with his girlfriend and her "loony" daughter from a previous marriage. Kemp is tired of being strapped for money. He wants to be free. The opportunity presents itself when he is assigned to monitor an aging movie star who was the victim of a car accident. She has been put into a medically-induced coma to prevent her brain from swelling, but an "angel" by the name of Kemp McAvoy is about to lower her drug dosage slightly and appear to her with a message she is proclaim to all the world. With the help of her agent and a struggling publisher, they will write the ultimate bestselling book about her experiences in the coma. But little do they know that they are tangling themselves up in their own web-all because they practiced to deceive.

Tim Downs is back. That was my first thought when I finished his latest release. He has returned to his land of originality after being exiled to typical island for too long. Through superb characters and a highly original plot, Tim has written himself a second five star novel.
Kemp is one of the most imperfect leads I have ever met. This is probably because he has an underused personality. He rivals Nick Polchak for one of the best leads ever developed. I cannot think of a single character in this plot who does not have a personality. One of the best things about the character department is that there is no real villain. If anyone is a villain, it's Kemp. Tim Downs already proved that his character developing skills are exquisite, but he did not stop just because he has now become popular. He is truly a master of characters.

The plot is most similar to Deceived by James Scott Bell, yet it is unlike any other plot. It is a highly underused plot style I call Deception. It begins with an elaborate money-making scheme and becomes more and more complicated as more people get involved, making this book more of a comedy than any of Tim's other books. The dealing and the scheming don't end until the book ends. While this book does not have a smashingly original end like that of Chop Shop, the entire book is a constant; it is wholly original rather than partly. Not only is there nothing wrong with this book; there are also many things right about it.

In short, Tim Downs is a man to be reckoned with because his writing career is far from over. No, he is only getting started with the great impression he will make on Christian fiction.

5 stars

Assassins by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins

The four horsemen have been released from the Euphrates River to slay a third of the world's remaining population. The Tribulation Force witnesses the deaths of many at the hands of these invisible horsemen. Since the deaths of many of his Christian friends, Rayford Steele has come to blame Nicolae Carpathia for it all. This blame has birthed into utter hate for the Supreme Potentate. Ray knows that someone must kill the Antichrist, so why can it not be him? Hiding his plans from the rest of the Trib Force, he acquires a deadly weapon for the job. David Hassid has become the Trib Force's full time inside spy since he has access to the Antichrist's very conversations. He does not know how much time he has until he must join the others in hiding, but he hopes that he will be able to take his new love, Annie Christopher into hiding with him. Apocalyptic events come to a head as Nicolae Carpathia issues a Utopian gala in Jerusalem of an unknown length. Tsion Ben-Judah predicts the deaths and resurrections of both the Two Witnesses and the Antichrist during the gala. But the question is, at whose sword will Nicolae fall and when?

The idea behind Assassins is probably the most interesting idea of the series yet because someone must kill the Antichrist, and it was only so fitting that one of the Trib Force plot to do so. Rayford becomes a better character because of his scheming, yet a majority of the book is wasted on David Hassid exhibiting all that he can do as the Trib Force's spy so that the book can end with Nicolae's death. Because of this, the book is not five stars.

The characters go in more extreme directions than they ever had before. Rayford becomes more imperfect and actually develops a personality. Buck loses personality and becomes a perfect character. Chloe becomes an extra character. Tsion stays the same, as always. David Hassid is a non-character because his purpose is based entirely on an idea instead of a real person. Albie is one of the more interesting characters of the series because is against Jesus and Nicolae Carpathia and has not converted to either yet. Basically, the character department took a step forward and a step backwards.


is definitely a good theme title for this book because it covers the assassinations inflicted by the horsemen, the assassinations of the Two Witnesses, and the assassination of Nicolae. Even though the true murderer of Nicolae is not revealed in this book, it still makes for an interesting story. Yet there are also many weak points in the plot, such as the convenient abilities of David Hassid, his unnecessary romantic subplot, and the unnecessary antics of Mac McCullum and Abdullah Smith. However, this book is an improvement from the previous three installments. The biggest thing keeping this book from five stars is its wasted time.

All in all, the series is progressing in the right direction because the time of the Mark of the Beast is nearing.

4 stars

Apollyon by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins

In the wake of the wrath of the Lamb earthquake, Nicolae Carpathia has rebuilt the world along with his own state-of-the-art city, New Babylon. The Tribulation Force has been forced into hiding in the underground bunker of a deceased friend. Hattie Durham joins them there after being kidnapped by Buck from an abortion clinic, yet she has brought with her a strange disease. Buck soon finds himself torn between his very pregnant wife Chloe and his very unsaved friend in Israel, Chaim Rosenweig. In the midst of all this, the next trumpet judgement hits in the form of poisonous locusts instructed to torment those not bearing the mark of Christ for nine months. Buck finds himself caught in Israel when their resident physician Floyd Charles finds something wrong with his unborn child. In the midst of all this uncertainty, the Tribulation Force must prepare for a future when they can no longer be seen or heard.


is a slight improvement from Soul Harvest if not for any reason other than the fact that the authors finally learned how to write a realistic Buck Williams Rescue Mission. Actually, several of these take place in the book, which suggests that the authors cannot come up with anything better to write, yet on of these such incidents they actually end realistically. The series has not reached its full potential yet, but it is getting there.

It's hard to know what to expect out of a series' characters in its fifth installment. They did not take any steps forward or backward, yet remained the same. Tsion is still the most under developed character. Buck, Chloe, and Rayford are still their usual selves. Hattie is still an interesting character. One character in particular became ambiguous when the authors decided to do something unexpected with him. When a series is five books deep, the characters should be superb because they consistently show off their personalities. However, Buck is consistently used as a stunt-rescue man yet has not developed any conclusive personality. Chloe has settled into being a nothing-character ever since her earthquake injuries. Rayford in the only one with a varietous life at this point. I think the biggest problem with the character department is the number of characters. There are too many for any of them to be given personal attention. The authors do this to cover a lot of bases since this is a virgin series idea, but it isn't working.

The locusts are a Hollywood-ish plague because the believers can basically do whatever they want during the span of this plague, but one cannot contradict the Bible. There aren't really any key character deaths in this book for that reason. The authors are trying to create a romantic subplot between two characters in the underground bunker. This needs to be stopped because one of the characters has already had way too many romantic interests. Introducing the issues with Chloe's baby was unnecessary unless the authors were actually going to use them originally.

Basically, Apollyon is an average novel, yet an improvement from Soul Harvest. The authors need to continue improving like this to bring the series out of its nosedive.

2.5 stars

Soul Harvest by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins

The wrath of the Lamb has come upon the earth. The largest and most destructive earthquake ever recorded has just shaken the entire globe. Cities are leveled, mountains have fallen, thousands have died, meteors have fallen from the sky, the moon has turned blood red. God's most severe judgement yet has struck the earth as millions were unprepared. The Tribulation Force themselves is shaken from its effects as they scramble to discover how many of them are dead. Rayford Steele fears that his wife is dead, as does Buck Williams. Neither Amanda nor Chloe have been spotted according to their sources. Something Rayford finds disturbing is that Nicolae Carpathia seems to have known that the earthquake was going to happen, yet did nothing to warn people about it. As the world regroups from this terrible disaster, it is a perfect time to convert more people to Christ, yet the Tribulation Force finds this a hard task when some of their own are missing.

The Left Behind series has dipped to a low point in Soul Harvest because there are many unrealistic plot points. The authors use the earthquake as a tool to kill off unnecessary characters and to create drama about important characters. Nothing very interesting is accomplished throughout the book except for many unrealistic circumstances, thus making it the worst book of the series.

Character development is halted in this installment in the midst of drama and catastrophe. This book reminded me of a B-grade action adventure movie-all show and no realistic plot or good characters. While the situation could have been used to bring out the characters' personalities, it did not.

There are several expendable character deaths, most of them characters who were never fully developed. Yet none of the main characters pass on to eternity-even though Chloe spent a good long time on death's door. Her situation is the most unrealistic because it's so much like a disaster movie that jumps through hoops to keep the central romantic subplot alive even through adversity. By the time Buck finds her, her body is completely battered and torn, yet her-and her unborn baby who no one knew about-are not dying at all. Half the book is spent trying to find her, and the other half is spent bringing her back from death's door. Another problem with the plot is Buck's unlimited GC credit card that allows him to cover any expenses immediately. This becomes a sort of CRT that keeps several characters from spending a few nights in the streets. The sooner this convenient feature is eliminated from the plot, the better.

The wrath of the Lamb could have been a good outlet to change things up in the Tribulation Force-kill off a few key characters, bring out personalities in those that were left. Yet this was not accomplished in Soul Harvest. But now that Buck and Rayford have to leave the GC scene very soon because of their Christianity, the series could take a turn toward more interesting plots. The authors definitely need to pull the series out of this nose dive somehow.

1.5 stars

Nicolae by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins

Nicolae Carpathia has now established himself as the leader of the world by orchestrating a treaty between Israel and Egypt. He has seized the control the world gave him after the disappearances. The Global Community has been firmly established. Rayford Steele and Buck Williams are walking the line by serving Jesus Christ and serving Nicolae Carpathia at the same time. Tsion Ben-Judah, a world-renowned Jewish scholar, has shocked the world by publicly professing that Jesus is the Messiah the prophets spoke of. Nicolae sees him as an automatic threat and attempts to snuff him out deceptively, thus forcing the Trib Force to take Tsion into their care. As the time nears for the wrath of the Lamb earthquake to shake the earth, the Trib Force does their best to prepare for and warn others about the looming catastrophe, but most of the world has already turned their hearts toward the Antichrist.


is a transitional novel in the series between the earlier judgements and the famed wrath of the Lamb earthquake. Because it is a transitional novel, there are not many outstanding qualities, good or bad. In the end, the rating comes out average.

The character development done in Tribulation Force comes to a halt seemingly because Buck and Chloe and Rayford and Amanda are married. Tsion, the new perfect mentor character is a worse character than Bruce because of his constant pithy sayings and Scripture quotations and general care for all mankind. I have nothing against mentor characters; an End Times series needs a mentor character to keep the reader up with Scripture, but mentors do not have to be perfect. Because there are already too many characters in this series, the authors are taking shortcuts on character development.

Seemingly to fill time, the authors had Buck preform a lengthy rescue mission in Israel. It seems as though the authors are using the label "End Times" as an excuse to write cheap action fiction. The fact that Buck and Rayford work for the GC only adds to this because they are able to manipulate things from the inside. To compound this, more and more Christians are discovered on the inside.

All in all, Nicolae is an average novel whose only purpose to bring the series into the next era of judgements. Hopefully the authors will be more diligent in their efforts next time.

2.5 stars

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin

Violet Hayes has just recently found out that her father has deceived her all her life by telling her that her biological mother was dead. When he tells her that she is still alive yet divorced from him, she makes it her mission to find her mother-not to mention prevent her father's marriage to a widow whom Violet suspects for murdering her own husband. Through deception and conniving, Violet convinces her father to allow her to travel to Chicago-the supposed location of her mother-in order to stay with her grandmother and three aunts, not to mention attend the Chicago World Fair. But she reaps what she sowed through her deception by getting more than she asked for out of her aunts. She does her best to search for her mother-while her Aunt Agnes isn't constantly trying to marry her off, while her grandmother isn't constantly trying to get her to do mission and church work, while her Aunt Matt isn't constantly trying to convince her than women need to be free to vote and do many other "scandalous" things, while her deranged Aunt Birdie isn't always trying to ask her when her dead husband is returning from fighting the Civil War, and while Violet is trying to ignore the four men competing for her heart and her hand in marriage-all for different reasons. These abnormal encounters away from home force Violet to examine her own life to see if she is really living the way she needs to be living.

Lynn Austin spins a comical yet realistic tale set in the late 1800s around the time of the Chicago World Fair. There is almost too much in the book to contain in a single summary, yet this book is nonetheless entertaining and original at the same time. Through excellent character development and realistic plot development, Lynn vaults this book onto the Elite List-yet falls short of five stars for a single reason.

Violet is shown to the reader through a first-person point of view, the best point of view because it allows the reader to relate to the character and it forces the author to create at least a formidable character. All of Violet's family members-her father, her grandmother, her aunts, even her mother-are good characters with imperfection and personality. Three of Violet's suitors are good characters. Unfortunately, the fourth is the inevitable perfect male lead. Even when Lynn had a chance to make him imperfect, she fabricated an escape, causing him to become and unrealistic character. He is the only problem with the book, along with his situation. Had this aspect been amended, we could have been looking at a five star novel.

Otherwise, there are many good aspects of the plot. Violet's frequent conniving and telling of half-truths gets her into no small share of trouble. There were at least five situations that could have ended perfectly but instead ended realistically or imperfectly. The situation between Violet and Silas, her perfect male lead, is the only problem with the entire book, yet it is a fatal problem because it keeps it from being five stars.

All in all, Lynn Austin is a master at character development except in the area of perfect male leads. But once she works out these minor kinks, she will be a truly good author.

4.5 stars

Red, White, and Blue by Laura Hayden

Now that Emily Benton has achieved the honor of first female President of the United States, her best friend and chief of staff Kate Rosen is unsure of which direction she will take. Given the volatile nature of Emily, now that she is on top of the world, anything could happen. Kate soon finds that her job switch from campaign manager to chief of staff does not lighten the load-but it increases it. Politics are demanding, Kate quickly learns, for everyone wants their problems to be fixed. And with Emily's ex-husband still hanging around with believable secrets implicating Emily, Kate finds herself playing the double agent. Her suspicion mounts when Emily launches a three-part energy transformation project as her first big act as President. Many questionable actions and conspiracies surround the project, and Kate soon finds herself working against her best friend. But she can't hide her actions from Emily much longer, so she'll have to make a decision-fast.

In the follow-up to a promising political novel, Laura Hayden has done what she needed to do. She took the situation she had created and did not waste the opportunity to do something original. Rather write another predictable political story, Laura did something different, earning herself a five star novel.

Kate, Emily, Nick, and the rest remain as good of characters as they were in America the Beautiful. Emily's switch to a villain in this second installment of the series creates an interesting and original twist. Where Laura could have easily created a typical corrupt politician or male supremist villain, she used one of her own lead characters. Laura needed to make a move like this in order to save this series from complete mediocrity. Laura Hayden knows how to create good and ambiguous characters.

There is a "maybe" romantic subplot created during the plot, but nothing is finalized. Laura Hayden sprinkled many realistic political issues into the plot to keep things realistic. Many realistic and everyday events occur throughout the plot; it is not all about Emily's energy project. A key character death occurs in the middle of the book to keep things interesting. Laura Hayden held over the good plot structure and plot development she had in America the Beautiful. The deciding factor in the book's rating, save for the characters, is the highly original end. It was the only end Laura could have written under the circumstances without producing a sappy work. It was the key to the book's success, as are most endings.

Laura says there are more books to come in this series, yet I think the series needs to end now because I do not foresee anything good coming out of a third book. However, I could be wrong. All that matters now is that Laura fulfilled this series' potential and did not let it go to waste. She is a formidable author from whom I expect more great things.

5 stars

Tribulation Force by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins

Having found out the truth behind the disappearances, Rayford, Buck, Chloe, and Bruce, who make up the Tribulation Force must prepare for the years ahead-and bring as many people to Jesus as possible before time runs out. With the world's future uncertain, a previously unknown Romanian UN delegate named Nicolae Carpathia has stepped to center stage with talks of peace and world unity in light of the mysterious vanishings. Bruce suspects him to be the Antichrist because of the way the world is swayed in his direction. Buck begins to see more evidence of this as he witnesses the rise of the Global Community, who is dedicated to Nicolae's causes. More Biblical prophecy is fulfilled through the appearance of two strange bearded men at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem who seem to have the power of God at their fingertips. But in the midst of all this, Buck cannot keep his mind off of his new friend Rayford's daughter, Chloe. Even though she is ten years his junior, he feels an attraction to her. The question is, are the End Times an appropriate time to start a long-term relationship? As the world moves further and further away from God, other things seem more important.

The biggest factor that distances Tribulation Force from Left Behind in a good way is the better character development. Another factor in this second installment's higher rating and Elite List placement is its realistic end. Yet one other factor kept this book from being all that it could be, namely five stars.

Buck, Chloe, and Rayford developed more personality in this book than they had in the first installment. They did not become perfect just because they became Christians, which is a good thing. Bruce Barnes is the worst character so far because he is still playing the perfect mentor role. He is a stereotypical character because he always has a Mother Teresa way of going about things, not to mention he is an expert in End Times prophecy. He only serves to degrade the character department. The interesting thing about Nicolae Carpathia is that in this situation, his being a typical villain is justified. While the character development could be better, the authors have definitely improved their character development skills.

The authors continue using Biblical prophecy in the correct way-by creating imperfection instead of keeping all the special characters alive. However, romantic subplots are not avoided. The courtship of Buck and Chloe is at least realistic and serves to bring out their personalities. However, it was completely unnecessary to introduce a romantic subplot for Rayford-especially in the last one hundred pages of the book. The end of the book is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Its strength is a key character death that occurs as a product of one of the judgements. Its weakness is that a love interest for Rayford suddenly materializes without any previous character development or background. In the span of about ten pages, Buck and Chloe and Rayford and Amanda are engaged and married at the same exact time each. While the union of Buck and Chloe was eminent and almost unavoidable under the circumstances, Amanda was an unnecessary character to bring into the series.

All in all, Tribulation Force is better than Left Behind. One can only hope that the series continues this pattern of getting better with each installment.

4 stars

Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins

In one moment, millions disappear from around the planet, leaving their clothes and whatever other accessories they were wearing behind. They disappeared from in fronts of steering wheels, from the cockpits of airplanes, from their own homes, and in broad daylight. All of this causes mass destruction across the globe and sends the world into chaos. The pattern of the disappearances is seemingly random to those who were left behind. Among these are Rayford Steele, a pilot whose whole family disappeared except for his grown daughter, Chloe; Buck Williams, a single magazine reporter who has witnessed catastrophes, yet cannot digest this; and Bruce Barnes, a pastor who thought he was saved. The paths of these four people cross as they all search for the truth behind the vanishings. When it all comes around, there is only one answer that is plausible-Jesus has returned and taken His children home, leaving the rest of the world to fend for themselves as judgements descend upon the earth.

This book was groundbreaking for the Christian fiction market because it brought it out of the dark ages by providing it with its first suspense novel. The foundational idea behind the book is revolutionary even though it may seem old school now. Yet even with these merits, this book is not perfect. It still has its problems.

The characters department is the biggest problem. One cannot feel like these characters are actually real people. The authors tell the reader too often what the characters are thinking or feeling instead of showing the reader through action and dialogue. Slight personalities are meant for Rayford, Buck, and Chloe, yet Bruce Barnes cannot be grasped as a real person. He is the mentor character of the book, even though he was left behind. Basically, in the wake of the authors' inferred delirium over the groundbreaking plot idea, character development was left by the wayside. Had it been tended to, this would have been an entirely different book. If anything keeps this book off the Elite List, it is the characters.

The majority of the plot is spent showcasing and expanding upon end-times prophecies, Tim LaHaye's understood strength. This gives the authors room to create a lot of imperfection, which they did. Imperfection is, in fact, the point of the book. Many realistic events happen, mostly because the authors could not contradict the Bible. The one flaw of the plot is that all four main characters are Christians by the end of the book, but this is preferable than dragging it out over the series dramatically making a spectacle of salvation, as some have done.

All in all, Tim and Jerry's work that began in the '90s and has exploded up until now has been both under appreciated and over appreciated. It will be interesting to see what the rest of the series produces.

3 stars