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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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Drift by Sharon Carter Rodgers

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

Friday, August 27, 2010


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

Last Light by Terri Blackstock

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Southern Storm by Terri Blackstock

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

Life in Defiance by Mary E DeMuth

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

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Elite List

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

Faith of My Fathers by Lynn Austin

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

The Strength of His Hand by Lynn Austin

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

Friday, August 20, 2010

Song of Redemption by Lynn Austin

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

Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky

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

Angel's Den by Jamie Carie

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

Angel by Alton Gansky

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

Saturday, August 7, 2010

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

1. Ted Dekker (33%)

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

2. Randy Singer (20%)

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

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

4. Brandilyn Collins (8%)

5. Mary E DeMuth (4%)

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

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

1. Left Behind (57%)

2. Assassins (28%)

3. Tribulation Force (14%)

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

Raven's Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.5 stars

The Right Call by Kathy Herman

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

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

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

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

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

2.5 stars

What She Left For Me by Tracie Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 stars

Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith

Coming March 2011...


Bathsheba is a woman who longs for love. With her devout husband away fighting the king’s wars for many months at a time, discontent and loneliness dog her steps–and make it frighteningly easy to succumb to King David’s charm and attention. Though she immediately regrets her involvement with the powerful king, the pieces are set in motion that will destroy everything she holds dear. Can she find forgiveness at the feet of the Almighty? Or has her sin separated her from God–and David–forever?


This final installment in the Wives of King David series could be the best one of all because the plot is already set up to be original. As long as Jill continues her knack for developing good characters and creating interesting outside elements, Bathsheba could be a hit.