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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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Intervention by Terri Blackstock

Emily Covington has gotten herself in trouble before with her drug addictions, but now she's hit the bottom. Her mother, in a desperate attempt to save her life, sent her with a paid interventionist to a drub rehab center. But things went wrong and her interventionist was somehow murdered and Emily herself was kidnapped. Dragging her son along with her, Barbara Covington is now frantically trying to find her missing daughter before something worse happens to her, all while trying to refute speculations that Emily murdered the interventionist herself. Police detective Kent Harlan wants to get to the bottom of the case himself, but is having a hard time doing so with Barbara constantly meddling in his business. Many things about the strange case do not add up-including motive and ability. Whoever the killer is, they're still on the loose, ready to kill anyone who stands in their way or who has information to implicate them. In all the madness, Barbara and Kent are forced to evaluate the way they've been living their own lives before moving any further.

Terri Blackstock has written another book with good characters, a good case, and a bad end. One would think that after ten years of writing, she would have broken this vicious cycle by now. Perhaps Terri Blackstock is the one in need of intervention.

Barbara is one of the best leads of a suspense novel I have ever read about. Her constant meddling in the case adds an interesting flavor to the book that it probably needed. Emily is no saint, and there are plenty of reasons to pin the murder on her. Kent is no perfect male lead, but his character has room for improvement. The villain is not a mindless killing machine but instead has a good purpose and reason for what they do. There are few things Terri needs to improve regarding characters. She just needs to stay the course and not waver from her establishment as a good character developer.

The case is not simple or straightforward. Few authors can write a case like Terri Blackstock because of her ability to withhold important information from the reader until the right time. Intervention also brings an interesting issue to light that not many people want to discuss. Along with this are the usual elements-twists, turns, and false suspects. Also as usual, Terr Blackstock writes a cheesy showdown scene in which all "good" characters come out unscathed. However, there are several issues not addressed at the end, making for a more tasteful end than usual.

All in all, Terri Blackstock is a very consistent author-consistently almost five stars. However, this is not a bad thing because Terri brings her own thing to the Christian fiction table. That's something that most authors cannot claim.

4.5 stars

Danny Gospel by David Athey

Danny Gospel's mind has been playing tricks on him ever since his mother and sister died. One morning he wakes up and gets kissed on the lips by a woman wearing white, but she disappears after their kiss. He tries desperately the find her, but he comes to realize that his mind has run away from him again. His brother and close friend are the only people who seem to understand him. But when he finds himself wanted for stealing mail and assaulting a man at a bar, Danny flees from him home state of Iowa and drives as far as he can away. But he soon realizes that he cannot escape is problems and that he should return and face the music. But what he finds when he returns to Iowa surprises even him.

Danny Gospel challenges Bye Bye Bertie by Rick Dewhurst as one of the strangest and most nonsensical books ever written. It seems as though David Athey uses Danny's mental disorder as a licence to do whatever he wanted with the plot, thus creating plot holes and leaving sanity behind. He causes the reader to feel like they have a mental disorder themselves, an ability I am not sure should be rewarded. In short, Danny Gospel is a book about nothing.

The cast of characters through Danny's eyes is certainly an experience in itself. There are several other mentally ill characters, but the reader does not know whether these are real characters or just extensions of Danny. Danny's brother is the best character because he has a personality lurking beneath his skin. There are few other character David Athey sticks with. Most of the characters are just drive-bys that are never mentioned again. Basically, David Athey also used Danny's mental illness as an excuse to avoid character development.

Besides Danny's crimes and infrequent trips to the psychologist, there are few other plot points that can be nailed down. Abstract scenes and conversations plague this book. Events occur erratically, as one can expect when seeing life through the eyes of a mental case, yet the author goes beyond this and rambles on about what he wants to talk about at the moment. There is some interesting events that occur in Danny's past, yet there is no boundary between reality and insanity or past and present; it all melds together. A split first-person account with another character would have helped to clarify some things, but obviously David Athey did not want this book to make any sense.

If David Athey is to have a future as an author, he needs to actually learn how to write a plot instead of write a meandering book about nothing in particular. Some parts of Danny Gospel showed promise while the book as a whole did not. David needs to go back to the basics before writing something like this.

2 stars

Broken by Travis Thrasher

Laila had it all-before she made the wrong choice. This wrong choice resulted in the life of another man-one she killed with her own hands. Now she is on the run from the sins of her past and has settled anew in Greenville, South Carolina. However, her past does not want to leave her alone. Now several different men are after her for different reasons, and the only person she can trust is Kyle, whom she barely knows. Laila also fears she is going insane because of the frequent and unexplained visions she keeps experiencing. Above all else, she knows she will have to confront her past eventually and take what's coming to her, but what if there is another answer to her troubles? What if grace is real? What if God is real? She'll have to find out-otherwise she'll face death.

On the surface, Broken seems like an interesting book, mostly because it is largely based on the wrong choices of the lead. Travis Thrasher has somewhat abandoned his supernatural\horror kick he has been on for the past few years, but not really. Broken is much more meaningful than Ghostwriter and Isolation, but this does not make it an exemplary book.

Laila is the best character because her imperfect choices created a mess for herself. There seems to be a personality hovering beneath the surface, but it is not fully developed. There are only four other characters the plot focuses on, and none of them are very good either, but at least none of them are perfect. It's hard to nail down a villain, because any of the characters could be labeled a villain in other circumstances. Basically, this is an average cast of characters because Travis was more interested in supernatural elements than character development.

The biggest factor in this novel's fall from the Elite List is the vast and varied number of plot holes. There is no explanation for Laila's strange visions, even though they help her save one character from death. One character appears in the middle of the plot with no past and explanation for where he came from or why he was involved in the situation. There are no plot points that can be nailed down because the plot meanders along in an abstract fashion, sometimes showing the present and sometimes explaining the past. The characters wander around their world but never really get anywhere or accomplish anything. The biggest thing the plot is missing is a purpose. The biggest factor that saves the plot is a key character death at the end caused by Laila's wrong choices.

Travis seems to be making a roundabout journey back from his self-exile into the genre of horror. Broken is reminiscent of his past works, something he needs to return to in order to salvage his inconsistent career. Travis has much more potential as an author than he realizes, but he needs to tap into it before it's too late.

3 stars

Cape Refuge by Terri Blackstock

Thelma and Wayne, the beloved parents of Morgan Cleary, have been found murdered with a spear gun. Morgan's husband Jonathan is the number one suspect in the murder, but no one on the small island town of Cape Refuge believe Jonathan would do such a thing. Morgan and her sister, Blair, are determined to find the real killer in order to convince police chief Matthew Cade that Jonathan is innocent. But Hanover House, the refuge for released convicts and runaways Thelma and Wayne operated, is under the fire of the city council on the grounds that it attracts criminals to Cape Refuge. A teenage girl with an unknown past has appeared on the island seeking refuge in Hanover House, but she seems to know more than she lets on. With so much uncertainty, Morgan does not know if she can carry on with her husband in jail. However, she and Blair must face alone a terrible secret in their parents' past.

Terri Blackstock is a not a cheap suspense author who scribbles down a cheesy story whose plot is borrowed from so many other authors and calls this story exciting and suspenseful. No, her fiction has meaning and purpose behind that is not found in just any suspense book. However, even with these strengths, Terri does not seem to want to shed some cliches of suspense-namely the showdown scene.

Morgan, Blair, Jonathan, Cade, even Thelma and Wayne are all imperfect characters. Some of these have better personalities than the others, but there is not a perfect character on Cape Refuge. Even though Thelma and Wayne are portrayed as saints at first, later information shows these reports to be false, thank God. Cade is not the perfect male lead he could have been, but he still does not show any personality. Jonathan is not the perfect victim he could have been; he still has a lot of issues, even though it is obvious early on that he is innocent of the deaths of his in-laws. The true villain is one of the better killers I have ever read because they actually have a purpose in their killing. This is often a cliche in suspense-a ruthless, killing-machine villain. However, this is not the case here.

Whatever her discrepancies with ends are, Terri Blackstock knows how to make the journey interesting. The case is as realistic as it could have been and is certainly not straightforward. There are many twists, turns, dead ends, false suspects, and key character deaths along the way. This elevates her another level above cheap suspense because she demonstrates the ability to actually write a creative plot. However, a showdown scene with a fake death keeps this book from all that it could have been. I fail to understand suspense authors' obsessions with showdown scenes. However, if they are going to write them, they should at least kill off a key character or two. Showdowns and hostage situations do not turn out squeaky clean in the real world.

Whatever her faults are, Terri Blackstock clearly knows what she is doing. She is a true author because she writes her own plots rather than borrow them from someone else. If she'll improve her ends, she'll be a flawless author.

4 stars

Covenant Child by Terri Blackstock

Amanda never thought she would have the love she had when she married the man of her dreams after only a week of knowing him. Now she has become a full-time mother of his twin daughters from a previous marriage. But when her new husband dies suddenly in a plane accident, his first wife's parents come calling, trying to claim the girls as their own. The judge tragically grants them custody, leaving Amanda with a hefty inheritance from her husband but an empty house. Kara and Lizzie grow up in the unstable home of their irresponsible grandparents and soon become shoplifting, drug-using teenagers who think they can make their own way in the world. But Amanda is still there, quietly trying to invite them back into her life, free of charge. They can learn how to run the family company and own the company one day-if they will only take the gift Amanda is offering them.

Terri Blackstock departs from her usual genre of suspense and writes something fresh-a parable. Allegorical fiction and parables can make very interesting novels when used correctly. In this case, the parable follows the concept of God's undying love for everyone, no matter how sinful. However, the biggest problem with this book is the fact that Terri took a shortcut at the end where she could have truly written a powerful parable. However, she did not, costing her a perfect rating.

When viewed in the correct light, the characters are appropriate for this parable. Amanda is a perfect character, yet she is modeled after God. This is evident because no other character is perfect. In fact, there are many imperfect characters. The story is told from the first-person perspective of Kara, making her the only character with a personality. This did not have to be, however. While the character development isn't horrible, Terri took some shortcuts by developing circumstances better than she developed characters.

Parables add fresh novels to Christian fiction mostly because they depart from cliched and worn-out plot patterns. While Terri did depart from the norm during the plot, she did not depart from the norm at the end of the plot. There was most definitely a better way she could have ended this book, one that would have taught the reader more. However, the end does not entirely ruin the book, it merely scars it.

The fact that Terri Blackstock was able to write this book so well shows that she is a true author-able to leave her comfort zone and try something different without thinking twice. More authors should at least experiment outside their comfortable genre, just to shake things up a bit.

4 stars

Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent

In the summer of 1932, Jessilyn Lassiter thought she killed a man after a midnight run-in with the Ku Klux Klan. The entire town was in an uproar because the Lassiters chose to take in Gemma, a black orphan, rather than let her wander the world alone. Their decision brought no small share of trouble on their family. They have few allies in this battle, and the local law enforcement is not one of them. Jessilyn soon finds herself being harassed by one of the men she knows is part of the Klan, but does not want to tell anyone about it. To make matters worse, she also discovers that her father's farm hand may be part of the Klan as well. So much uncertainty is not healthy for a thirteen-year-old girl, for she does not know who to trust in all this deceit.

Jerry B Jenkins' Operation First Novel contest does not usually produce an Elite book at all because his judges are not seeking original plot elements but rather a professional writing style and plot development. Original plot elements must be brought to the table by the authors themselves. However, Jennifer Erin Valent is the exception to this rule because she actually as great potential as an original author. Fireflies in December is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Jessilyn, Gemma, Jessilyn's parents, and a handful of other characters are all well-developed. Jessilyn is one of the best thirteen-year-old leads I have ever read. It is especially refreshing to see that Gemma is not a perfect victim, but rather a real person. While there appears to be a cheesy villain, the villain is not who he appears to be. Racial prejudice on both sides of the issue create imperfect characters automatically. Jennifer clearly knows what she is doing when she develops her characters.

Racism in the 1930's South is one of the more interesting topics on which to base a book. Authors can not afford to be touchy-feely with this issue because they must address it head on. Jennifer crafts a plot around this issue very professionally while adding original plot elements. While there is the potential to be a romantic subplot, there is no follow through. There are many realistic events that occur throughout the plot as well. The end is imperfect as she both surprises the reader by showing a character's true colors and by refraining from fixing imperfect circumstances.

Jennifer Erin Valent, unless this is her only worthy idea, is ready to embark on a full writing career with this five star debut. As long as she does not waver from her foundation, she is a promising author of the future.

5 stars

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gods and Kings by Lynn Austin

As a young boy, Prince Hezekiah first met Yahweh, the one true God, at the altar of the pagan god Molech, when his brother was sacrificed instead of him. All his growing up life, Hezekiah watched as his father, King Ahaz, led Judah down a path of destruction by closing the doors of the Lord's temple and rejecting Yahweh by worshipping all the false gods of the nation around them. Now King Ahaz is dead, and King Hezekiah has inherited a financial disaster because his father sold Judah to Assyria in return for a war alliance. Yet somewhere in Hezekiah's heart, Yahweh is calling him back to Himself, and calling Judah back to Himself. If only Hezekiah will listen to His call.

Gods and Kings

is the best work of Biblical fiction I have read for several reasons. One, Lynn Austin does not refrain from her norm of developing good characters like so many authors do when writing historical and Biblical fiction. Two, Lynn is not afraid to create extra biblical original plot elements to make the story interesting and unpredictable. Yet, once again, she makes a minor mistake that costs her the five star rating.

Hezekiah is one of the best characters in the novel, as all leads should be. The best aspect of his character is that he did not immediately begin making reforms once he was king because he was not born a perfect person. Lynn Austin portrayed this correctly. King Ahaz is all one can expect from him and accurate to the Biblical account. Hezekiah's mother and grandfather are good enough. The prophets Isaiah and Micah could have been better than they were. I wish authors would not portray prophets as perfect characters. The invented villain, Uriah, is one of the more interesting characters because he did not begin the plot as a villain. He gradually became a villain over time through the hardening of his heart and the watering down of his faith. This is the correct way to portray a villain if you're going to have one at all.

There is a romantic subplot introduced for Hezekiah, but it does not work out. This is to Lynn's favor because she had the creative licence to follow through with it. Lynn stayed true to the Biblical account of King Ahaz and was historically accurate on many other accounts. The only problem with the book is a cheesy showdown scene at the end between Hezekiah and Uriah. It did not end originally, but she could not have killed off Hezekiah and still stay Biblically sound. This shows that the showdown should have been avoided altogether. This really put a damper on the book because it was almost a perfect novel.

Nevertheless, Lynn Austin proved with this book that she can dabble into other genres besides historical America. Yet there always seems to be one small thing standing between Lynn Austin and the five star award. Perhaps she will fix this soon. All in all, she is better than other authors she is often listed with.

4.5 stars

Detours by Bette Nordberg

Callie O'Brian has found herself at a crossroads in her life when the tenant of her guest house, Celia Hernadez, dies in a mysterious traffic accident. Trying to own and work two businesses at once, Callie is not prepared to care for the young boy Celia left behind-even temporarily. An air of mystery surrounds Celia's past, one that Callie does not particularly want to delve into. Celia's son proves to be a handful at first, but once the two of them settle in, their lives are rocked once again when the boy's supposed uncle shows up in town wanting custody of the boy. He seems to know more about Celia's past than he's letting on, but Callie wants nothing to do with him. But someone is targeting the both of them, wanting something Celia had. Can they put aside their differences in order to save their own lives?

Once again, Better Nordberg writes a plot that intrigued me at the beginning and disgusted me at the end. Whatever originality this book started out with was lost by the time I turned the last page. In the end, there were only a few good things about this plot, making it a waste of my time.

One of the few good things about the plot is Callie's well-developed personality. Unfortunately, this brings to light the fact that she is the only character with a personality. Keeshan, Celia's son, is not a typical angelic kid character, which is refreshing enough. Marcus is an annoying character because he is a perfect male lead with a troubled past that isn't his fault. The villain is a typical villain. Otherwise, there aren't any other characters worth mentioning besides a typical old lady character. Bette has always struggled with characters, but this is her worst cast yet.

If it's any consolation, this custody case is not a typical custody case. One side of it is not an angel and the other side is not a monster. However, as a suspense plot, it is quite typical. The first half of the book is interesting as Callie and Keeshan clash with each other and their grief. Celia's past is interesting enough and could have been utilized better with a better surrounding plot. Things go south when Marcus comes to town and invites the cheesy villain upon them. The second half of the book is a lackadaisical waste of time as it beats around the bush on a very obvious subject just to fill time and come to a suspenseful end. The cheesy showdown with the villain at the end does not help matters. In the end, a cheesy romantic subplot fixes everything.

Bette Nordberg has consistently gotten worse as an author as her career has gone on. She has never returned to the glory of Serenity Bay because she has adapted typical plot structures ever since then. If she did not have any good ideas besides Serenity Bay, she needed to stop writing altogether after her debut novel. This may be the answer for her now.

2 stars

Hidden Places by Lynn Austin

Eliza Wyatt does not believe in prayer anymore. Not since her husband died of tetanus and her father-in-law died of a heart attack, leaving her and her three children helpless during the Great Depression with debts they have no money to pay. But when two people invite themselves into Eliza's life-her old aunt Batty and an injured hobo-things begin to change for the better. Even so, Eliza does not open up or let anyone into her heart, even though she's falling in love with the hobo. There are still many unanswered questions that she desperately wants answers for, but sometimes answers can be found in the past. Eliza embarks on a journey into her family's past with Aunt Batty, who seems to know more than she lets on.

Hidden Places

is another one of Lynn Austin's historical epics that traces the strands of a complicated family web. Lynn intertwines each character's past with the present plot to make for an interesting read. Even though the present plot is a fairly typical story, Lynn Austin made the plot as good as it could have been by deeply developing each character and their past. However, she once again falls short of the five star rating.

Eliza, Batty, the hobo, and several other characters in the past are all good characters with personalities. These developments are aided only by the past subplots. Without these, this book would be a run-of-the-mill historical novel. There are no perfect characters, even with the presence of a mysterious male lead. Just because an author is going to write a typical plot does not mean that they should ditch character development. I believe Lynn Austin understands this, which causes her to stand out among other female authors she is often placed with. Characters should be developed above all else, despite what type of plot one is writing.

Lynn masks her weakness of writing typical plots by creating intricate pasts for each character, which she does again in Hidden Places. Many realistic events occur in the pasts of each character, which serve to jack up the book's rating. There is an angel theme throughout the book that is used correctly and not extravagantly and serves to keep things interesting. The end of the book is what really ruins this book's chances at a five star. Even though one unexpected event happens regarding the hobo, there is much tidying up in other areas. As I said before, without the three hundred pages Lynn Austin's hard work adds to this book, this novel is nothing special.

Lynn Austin is a true author because she actually writes her own plots rather than borrow ideas from other authors. She may never write that five star novel she has the potential to write, but at least her work is refreshing and reflects her hard work.

4.5 stars

The Weight of Shadows by Alison Strobel

Kim has always carried the weight of the shadows of her past on her shoulders. She has punished herself by denying herself what she calls pleasures, such as love. But when she met Rick at a birthday party her roommate threw for her, things started to change. From day one, Rick made her feel special and loved. The more she went out with him, the more she fell in love with him and more she let him into her life. Soon she threw caution to the wind and moved in with him. That was when he took full control of her life. That was when the abuse started. Joshua, their next door neighbor is concerned about the things he hears through the walls and wonders what he can do about it. His employer, Debbie, runs a shelter for battered women, so he wonders how he can get Kim to safety. But there's still a problem-Kim is standing in her own way because she doesn't want to leave Rick. It's only a matter of time before this stubbornness will lead to a fatal wound.

The Weight of Shadows

is a non-typical plot, especially for a debut author, because it abandons the cliched boy meets girl, girl hates boy, girl loves boy later type of plot. Of course, I any abuse plot is going to be realistic as long as there's not a perfect male lead the bail out the victim female. However, The Weight of Shadows is not a highly original novel, though it does have potential. It misses the Elite List for several reasons.

The characters are not as good as they could be. Kim is the best character because she is not portrayed as a victim. She stays with Rick of her own accord. Rick is an interesting and realistic enough villain. Debbie should have been expanded upon more than she was. Joshua's life is delved into more than it should have been for him to play such a small purpose in the overall plot. It seems as though Alison only did this to make the book longer. However, for all the time she spends on Joshua, no real personality is developed. Alison has a little more work to do in the character department.

There is no romantic subplot completed, though there was the potential for at least one. However, in the end, it seemed as though Alison forgot she was developing one. This is a promising sign. Kim's subplot is also the best subplot because Alison tried the hardest to write it, it seems. Her past is her fault; she was not a victim of circumstance. Debbie's subplot is merely demonstrative, and Joshua's is too long, since it is so insignificant. Joshua is more of an over explained tool than anything else.

Alison Strobel fixes too many things at the end of the novel for this book's plot to put it on the Elite List in light of the shallow characters. This plot had a lot of potential, but Alison's delivery seemed half-hearted sometimes.

All in all, Alison has a bright future as an author if she will finish the things she starts. With better characters alone, she can be a formidable author. I expect her to improve down the stretch.

3 stars

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Flight of Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer

Now that Caitlyn Brown has escaped the bondage of Appalachia, she is running for her life in the wilds of the Outside. Multiple different groups are chasing her for one reason-her DNA is the most valuable in the world. Caitlyn cannot easily hide because on many counts, her wings give her away. She decides to gamble and throws in her lot with Razor, a street illusionist whom she can only half-trust. He helps her to understand many things about the Outside she never knew before, from city-states to the caste system. Caitlyn wants to meet up with her Appalachian friends who helped her escape, Billy and Theo, but she does not know of their whereabouts. The only choice she has is to trust Razor to lead her to one of her father's friends that will hide her until she can escape to the west. She is more valuable alive than dead, so Caitlyn forces herself to take drastic measures.

I said that Broken Angel did not need a sequel, but it probably did, because Sigmund had many ideas bottled up in his mind that he needed to exhaust in this novel. He has many interesting theories about the near future that are highly probable. He has crafted a very intriguing setting with these ideas. However, the under-developed characters from Broken Angel were not developed in Flight of Shadows. They remained the same as they were. Another major aspect that keeps this book off the Elite List is many typical plot elements at the end. Sigmund could have done better than this.

Razor is the best character because he is the only one with a personality at all. All the other characters are imperfect, but not a single one has a personality like Razor does. For all the time spent on Caitlyn, Sigmund only developed a vague idea of a personality for her. This goes for all the other characters as well. I usually like the presence of multiple villains, but Mason Lee from Broken Angel did not need to make a comeback. He is a cheesy serial killer villain who adds nothing to the plot. The other villains are more interesting because they actually have purposes.

The Outside is an interesting world and an extension of Sigmund Brouwer's fascinating mind. This setting is the strongest plot element because it is something that could happen within the next one hundred years. In this way, Flight of Shadows demonstrates the qualities of a good sequel. However, it does not in other ways. Brouwer has always held a fascination for genetics and DNA, a fascination that is repeated through Caitlyn. A winged person was an interesting concept from Broken Angel, yet in Flight of Shadows, Sigmund goes a little too far with her mysterious genetic makeup. Besides this, there is a cheesy showdown between all the main characters and all the villains that ends typically.

Basically, there are some really interesting things about Flight of Shadows and some really typical things about Flight of Shadows. Had Sigmund eliminated Mason Lee and some of Caitlyn's invincibility, this book could have been Elite. Sigmund has been consistently inconsistent in his writing career, and it would be nice for him to settle down on one side of the fence.

3.5 stars

The Bridegrooms by Allison Pittman

Vada Allenhouse's life is simple until her father, the town doctor, takes a new patient into their home-the victim of a misplaced baseball at a local baseball game between the Cleveland Spiders and the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. The man is in a comatose state because of the strength of the blow and must be confined to bed. Vada's bed. Now that this stranger has been let into their lives, Vada begins questioning her own life, including her boring love life and her "understood" engagement to Garrison, the town lawyer. One of the Brooklyn Bridegrooms is pursuing her for her heart, and she is seriously considering giving in. On top of all this, a man shows up claiming to be Vada's mother's lover who fathered her younger sister, Lisette. With so many questions, Vada wonders if any of them will be answered.

The best way to describe The Bridegrooms is to call it an unfinished work. There are many good ideas woven into its plot, but they are all vague and unfinished. This book somehow missed the editorial department on its way to the printers. There are not grammatical errors or outright amateurish writing, yet there is much underdevelopment and vagueness. Many original ideas lurk throughout the plot but are not completed. However, there are several completed unoriginal ideas that serve to keep this book off the Elite List.

Vada and Garrison are the best characters. They are not your typical couple in love, to say the least. Vada's alternate love interest is good enough, but no other character has a nailed down personality. There aren't any perfect characters, however, staying away from such cliches altogether. The entire character department in just an example of the unfinished feel of the book.

Some things that were left unfinished needed to be left unfinished, such as an unnecessary fourth romantic subplot. However, Allison took no time at all to fulfill three romances in the end. This is probably the ultimate downfall of the book. The subplot concerning their mother's old lover had potential, but Allison left this open-ended. The subplot concerning the unconscious man plays little part in the overall picture and only serves as something to talk about. The subplot concerning Vada and Garrison ends interestingly enough, and while it is nothing groundbreaking, it is the highlight of the book.

The Bridegrooms

could have been much more interesting had Allison Pittman actually done some of the interesting things she talked about doing and refrained from doing not so interesting things. This cast of characters should have been exemplary, yet Allison let them fall by the wayside. Allison has potential as an author if she will stop thinking about writing things and start doing them.

3 stars

Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin

Beatrice Monroe was taken from her life as a quiet farm worker when she met and married Horatio Garner. Her world is forever altered when he takes her away to his home and his mother attempts the transform Bebe from the farm worker she was into the socialite Mrs. Garner is. Through it all, Bebe found a purpose for her life when she discovered that her new husband was taken to drinking-to aid the Prohibition cause by shutting down saloons and appealing to the politicians. Her daughter, Lucy, did not share these views at first and allowed herself to be raised by her father's mother. How Lucy has two daughters of her own-Alice and Harriet. Now Harriet sits in a jail cell because of the very thing her grandmother tried to prevent. While she is in jail, she reflects on the stories she has heard about her mother and grandmother and tries to find a purpose for her life as they did. But things are complicated when one is in a jail cell...

As you can see by my scattered summary of the plot, Though Waters Roar is an epic covering the lives of three generations of the same family, as told by Harriet. Through good characters and original plot elements, Lynn Austin crafts an interesting read that is only kept from the five star rating because she is too long-winded with her book.

Bebe, Lucy, and Harriet are all good, imperfect leads with personalities, even though they are all similar. Other characters are also well-developed, such as Horatio. The good thing about most epics is that there isn't usually a villain because their is no need for one. Yet an epic needs good characters just the same, and as usual, Lynn Austin delivered in the character department.

Bebe's life is the most realistic and interesting portion of the book. It seems as though Lynn tried the hardest on this section, because it shows. Lucy's life is runner-up, not because of lack of original plot elements, but because not as much thought was put into it as there was in Bebe's. Harriet's account is the worst, mostly because Lynn took the liberty in this portion to begin doing typical things she avoided doing in the other two portions. A cheesy romantic subplot is introduced, despite previous opposition to the notion; it turns out that Harriet didn't deserve to be in jail at all; and this portion is generally not needed except to recount the other two portions, which can be done in an alternate fashion. What I'm saying is, the fact itself that this book is nearly 500 pages long does not keep in from being five stars. The fact that keeps it from being five stars is that Lynn did not want to end her book where it needed to end. The eternal progression of the book caused a natural entropy in quality. However, there are many original plot elements to enjoy in Bebe's and Lucy's tales, which keep the book from being any worse.

Lynn Austin has proved that she is better than the other authors she is often grouped with because she is willing to devote time and energy to developing her characters and her plots rather than led them slide by borrowing overused ideas. If she continues this trend, she'll have a five star book in no time.

4.5 stars

Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith

Abigail has lived a life of oppression as the abused wife of the evil man Nabal. She has been trapped in this impossible situation ever since she was forced into a union with her father's tormentor. But little does she know that her life is about to be forever altered when a renegade band of warriors led by a young shepherd threatens to attack Nabal and his land to take it for themselves. In a desperate move to save her life, Abigail pleads with this shepherd to relent, which he does. Suddenly, by a supernatural turn of events, Abigail is freed from her life of misery and is whisked away by the romantic shepherd into a life she never bargained for. Little does she know that her life will never be the same.

Jill Eileen Smith said she began this series because of Abigail, which was actually the first book she wrote. She has always seemed to sympathize with this seemingly mistreated woman, but I do not. While the situation with Nabal did happen, Jill adds other unknown circumstances to Abigail's life, causing her to be a victim her entire life. This was the major flaw with this work of fiction.

While Abigail demonstrates some slight personality, she is mostly a perfect victim. David is an imperfect character with a slight personality, a fact that cannot be denied from the Biblical account. Joab and Abishai are perhaps the best characters. Nabal is a cheesy villain, as are some of David's other wives, which all serve to create a pathetic lifestyle for Abigail. As you can see, Jill was inconsistent with her character development; making her favorite characters perfect, making her hated characters evil, and giving personalities to characters she didn't care either way about. This is not the correct method of character development, to show favoritism in this way. The character development in Michal was much better than this.

There is one key character death near the middle of the book, which is one of the only highlights of the plot. There are many romantic subplots, most of them through polygamy, which is an interesting subject more explored in this book than in Michal. However, in the end, this issue does not matter. While Abigail does not hit on all the high points of David's life like Michal did, Jill took the liberty to add many plot points in order to make Abigail's pathetic. For some reason, most readers enjoy reading about perfect characters in hopeless situations not of their own making. I do not deem this good fiction because it is not realistic. There were many things Jill could have done to make this book more interesting, such as devoting time to every character's personality instead of just some. This would have done wonders for the book. Even though Abigail's real life seemed pathetic, there are better ways to write such plots.

All in all, Abigail is one of those works of art that is liked more by the artist than by the public.

2 stars

Monday, July 5, 2010

Predator by Terri Blackstock

Fourteen-year-old Ella Carmichael's corpse has been discovered buried in the woods. The suspect is a cyber stalker who found and kidnapped Ella as a result of her constant status updates on GrapeVyne, a social networking sight. Upon her sister's death, Krista Carmichael becomes obsessed with stopping the stalker before he kills more girls by becoming another person through GrapeVyne. Unfortunately, the stalker captures two more girls and kills one of them. The one who escaped thinks she can give the police an accurate description of the killer. David Carmichael, the girls' father becomes obsessed with finding the killer's face in public when he hears this. Ryan Adkins, founder and president of GrapeVyne is going crazy over his company's bad publicity and begins doing all he can to stop the stalker from striking again. Soon his path crosses with Krista's and the two of them join forces to stop the killer, but first they must discover his fake identity on GrapeVyne, which is not a simple task. While all this is transpiring, the killer is still on the loose...

Terri Blackstock crafts a realistic case addressing the dangers of Internet social networking, an interesting issue to me, because I know people like some of the characters in this book who constantly tell their friends what they're doing and where they are on such social networking sites. This begs the question: whose fault is it if you are kidnapped by a cyber stalker-yours or the website's? Terri explores this issue from different sides throughout the plot all while crafting an interesting case. Unfortunately, despite the good foundational idea, this book misses the Elite List because of borderline characters and typical suspense elements.

Krista, Ryan, David, and the others are all imperfect characters, yet without personalities. Not a single character in this book is perfect or is better than the next, yet Terri failed to take her characters to the next level by giving them personalities. Krista is the closest character to having a personality, but it is not finished. David is also an interesting character mostly because of the original role he plays in the plot. He is not an elderly grandfather character who spouts wisdom throughout the entire plot, thank God. His role is interesting and underused. The villain is probably the worst character because of his sheer normalcy. Most authors are not creative with their villains, allowing them to be monsters rather than people. Besides under-developed characters, the villain is Terri's biggest character problem.

There is a very low-key romantic subplot, one of the more background ones I have ever read. However, it is so insignificant to the plot as a whole, its very existence is unnecessary. But there are worse problems that this. The unfolding of the case is realistic, filled with dead ends and mistakes. This book could have been Elite minus full characters had Terri eliminated the showdown scene cliche or at least had a key character die as a result. Since she did neither of these things, the plot's rating suffered along with the character development's rating.

All in all, Predator is not a cheap suspense plot because it departs from some cliches. But the cliches it does not depart from end up to be its downfall. Terri Blackstock has potential as an author; she just needs to work out the kinks.

3 stars

Rooms by James L Rubart

Micah Taylor's life is spinning out of control. He has just received word that his uncle Archie has died and left him a mansion in north Oregon. The life he is trying to build with his girlfriend\business partner has come to an ultimatum. His software company is teetering between complete success and complete failure. He decides to take a short vacation to the mansion his uncle willed to him to see whether he should keep it or sell it. When he arrives at the house, he finds that it has strange powers. The rooms of the house seem to be the rooms of his very soul. It forces him to face the emotional wounds his father inflicted on him most of his childhood and teenage years. As his time in the house wears on, things begin to make less and less sense and soon Micah finds himself praying to the God he rejected years before.

James Rubart has begun his career as an author with a huge mistake. He says he did not write Rooms for the readers-instead he wrote it for himself. He said that he wrote this book so that he could read the story because it was his story. That was his first and largest mistake in this writing endeavour. Through a shallow plot and shallow characters, James Rubart tries to appeal to the emotions of his readers and thus writes a tale of warped theology.

Micah is portrayed as a victim the entire book. Anytime a mistake of his is brought to light, a heavenly being, whether it be an angel or Jesus Himself, always tells Micah that his father's mistreatment of him as a child is to blame. They constantly give Micah the same excuse for his actions-his father drove him to sin. So, even though Micah makes mistakes, he is still portrayed as a victim. Other characters are no better. There are few other characters, thank God, yet none of them are exemplary characters. Not one character in the entire novel has any hint of personality, thus not allowing the reader to feel like these are even real people. If James wants to make it anywhere in his career, he needs to learn how to develop characters.

The theme of the book seems to be time warping and parallel universes, because Rubart uses these freely, usually without explanation. It is hard for the reader to understand which parts of the plot go where or if any parts of the plot are supposed to be real or not. The mansion Micah inherits is completely unnecessary because it adds nothing helpful to the plot. Micah spends most of his time elsewhere, doing things like sky diving and scuba diving. But then again, this may not be real or it may take place in an alternate universe. Who knows but James?

There are several potentially original ideas buried within the coal that is this book, but they are not used correctly or much at all. Rooms seems to flow from whatever passed through Rubart's mind at the time he was writing it, which is why he uses time warping so freely. Despite what people say about its deep lessons of healing, I learned nothing from it, save that when one sins, they should find someone who "made" them sin by hurting their feelings. After they forgive this person everything will then be alright.

If James is to succeed as an author, he needs to quit writing books for himself and start sharing something interesting with the world. However, if he has nothing interesting to say, he should forever hold his silence.

1.5 stars

Never Let You Go by Erin Healey

Lexi Solomon's life has been spinning out of control ever since her sister was murdered in public by Lexi's lover and Lexi's drug-addict husband ran away from her and their daughter. Now one of her husband's "associates" has begun following her around, using her daughter's life as blackmail to make her pay a debt she never owed. On top of this, her sister's murderer is about be let out on parole. Lexi loses it when her daughter is finally kidnapped. Since her father has been living in a mental health institution for some time now, Lexi wonders if she has inherited the disease her father has. When her prodigal husband returns to help her find their daughter, Lexi begins to realize he is one of the only people on earth she can trust. The question is, will she trust his promise that he will never again let her go?

The release of Burn made me think that Erin Healey truly is an elite author, even in light of Kiss. Yet Never Let You Go only confused me more. In the two novels she co-authored with Ted Dekker, it is hard to know where one of them ends and the other begins, because Never Let You Go is a slight return to the average nature of Kiss, making me wonder if Ted Dekker helped Erin out in Burn to make his fans anticipate Never Let You Go more than they were. All I know is, Erin Healey has not yet arrived.

The characters of this book are reminiscent of Ted Dekker characters: all of them are imperfect, yet not one of them has a complete personality. But what can one expect of the woman who edited Ted Dekker for many years. She obviously does not have any higher standards than this for characters. The surprising part is that Lexi is not played as a perfect victim. This is one of the rare books I have read that does not contain a single perfect character. This definitely keeps the book from being as bad as Kiss, yet Erin needs to learn how to develop personalities.

However, if she does not want to develop personalities, she at least needs to do what Ted Dekker does with his plots-make them so good that the book is either Elite or five stars despite under-developed characters. Unfortunately, Erin did not do this in her solo novel. The foundational idea behind the plot is good, but the delivery is inconsistent. The book is longer than it needs to be, a problem that can be attributed to many unexplained scenes designed only to create suspense and drama. Such scenes are unnecessary and only serve to muddle the book. Lexi's daughter seems to be invincible, since she sustains several near death experiences with minor injuries. Another main problem is a cheesy showdown scene in which the villain explodes. Basically, the biggest mistakes Erin makes in this book is trying to add too many supernatural and suspenseful elements to the plot, trying to copy Ted Dekker. She fails to capture the philosophical writing style that make his books interesting, making herself look like a copycat.

All in all, Erin Healey has potential if she will do her own thing and cease living in the shadow of Dekker. If she will boost her characters or improve her delivery, she can be an elite author.

3 stars