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, September 29, 2010

All She Ever Wanted by Lynn Austin

Kathleen Seymour has been running from her past and her family all her adult life, but now her teenage daughter, Joelle, has been caught shoplifting, sending off alarms in Kathy's head. On top of this, Kathy has gotten herself fired from her job because of her temper. Now an invitation to a family party being thrown for her father don't seem so bad. Kathy and Joelle skip town not only to escape the endless counseling sessions, but also to discover what really went wrong in Kathy's past and how it can impact their future. Little do they know that the deeper they go into the past, the more surprising things get, and more secrets are revealed.

As usual, Lynn Austin has crafted a non-linear plot driven by well-developed characters and imperfect circumstances. The plot covers several generations of women and the highlights of their lives, namely their mistakes that impacted future generations. Nonetheless, this is a typical Lynn Austin book.

Kathy is a refreshing lead for Lynn Austin, since she is not her typical stereotype. She brings a unique flavor to the plot that would be otherwise lost. Joelle is interesting enough, but Kathy's parents, grandmother, and uncle are all interesting and ambiguous characters that make for an entertaining plot. These add a little more of a comedy touch than Lynn Austin usually has, but it's good to change things up once and a while. As usual, Lynn Austin has crafted a flawless character base.

Lynn Austin specializes in past\present plots, and All She Ever Wanted is no exception. She uses this format to creatively conceal secrets until the reader needs to know them. She is a master of telling the reader why something is what it is by telling the reader the background behind the situation. She has learned to right lengthy novels in this manner, but she does it correctly. Though she repeats her same tendencies every time, they are tendencies worth repeating. As usual, it is the end of this novel that keeps it from being five stars, because she fixes too much rather than just leaving things alone. However, I cannot complain, for Lynn Austin has written more Elite novels than most other authors ever will.

Whenever I'm in need for an Elite novel, I can always refer to Lynn Austin.

4.5 stars

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin

Caroline Fletcher always wondered why white people took advantage of black people and forced them to be slaves. From the time she was a little girl to the present, in which she is now a woman, she has never understood why her father, along with many other plantation owners, treated his slaves like animals. But now the country called America, the free country, is at war with itself over this very issue. The North believes that slaves should go free, while the South wants to keep them. As a "slave-lover" in the Southern state of Virginia, Caroline feels torn, especially since her fiancee is now fighting against the North. But her cousin, a Northerner has recently been taken captive in a prison near her, and he wants her to help him spy on the people around her in order to get information for the North. If she ever felt torn between two different beliefs, Caroline feels torn more than ever now, with people dying pointlessly around her. What ultimate decision will she make?

As usual, Lynn Austin has written a historical epic driven by good characters, but which has a slightly typical end. However, Candle in the Darkness is a linear plot rather than a past\present plot. Otherwise, this is classic Lynn Austin fiction.

As usual, Caroline is a superb leading character complete with a well-developed personality. There are many other good characters as well, including Caroline's fiancee, her cousin, her father, her mother, and most of the slaves. There is no true villain, which makes this plot interesting. There is virtually nothing lacking in the character department, as usual for Lynn Austin. She could develop these types of characters for the rest of her writing career and I would be eternally happy.

Candle in the Darkness presents a sad but true situation that occurred in our country's past, one that many wish could be erased from history. Slavery in the South led to many problems we still face today, even though it was eventually eliminated. Lynn does not downplay any of the sins of the Southern plantation owners or sugar-coat the way they treated their slaves. She puts Caroline in an interesting situation: the position of the slave-lover in the South. However, this does not mean she is a perfect victim. To change up the pace, Lynn creates everyday life circumstances throughout the plot. However, when the end looked like it was going to be quite interesting, Lynn backpedaled at the very end to make a few things turn out right. However, this does not completely ruin the plot, and Lynn Austin will get the same old rating again.

Lynn Austin has clearly found her niche in fiction, and there is no reason for her to change things now, when mostly everything she does turns out in her favor.

4.5 stars

Friday, September 24, 2010

Serenity by Harry Kraus

Adam Tyson came to the sleepy town of Serenity, North Carolina, to create a non-descript life for himself, where no one would find him or recognize him. He has taken the job as the head surgeon at the local hospital, and he hopes that he will lead a quite life. That is, until Beth Carlson, the head nurse, walked into his life and made him wonder if he could love again. But when she is suddenly hospitalized due to a car accident, she fights for her life. What's worse, there seems to be something suspect going on behind the scenes in Serenity-a strange operation no one seems to know about or care about. Adam finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy-one besides the one he has created for himself. Before he knows it, the truth about his identity will come out and he will have to face his past.

As is his custom, Harry Kraus has crafted a an anti-run-of-the-mill plot driven by good characters. However, the end of this book is not as good as it could be, therefore costing this book the five star rating.

Adam and Beth are interesting characters, especially since neither one of them is perfect. Adam is perhaps one of Harry's best leads, maybe one of the best ever created, since no author has tried to create one like him. There are few characters in this plot, but none of them are as intriguing as Adam. The villains are a bit typical and tend to wear on the character department, but they are not as bad as they could be. Basically, Harry Kraus is still a master of imperfect characters.

From the start, the foundational idea behind this plot was original. Harry Kraus purposed to craft this plot around Adam's mistakes, making it interesting. However, this purpose became slightly muddled when Harry introduced two typical villains that the book could have gone without. Their purpose is predictable and uninteresting. This purpose climaxes into a cheesy showdown with a predictable outcome. However, the saving grace of the book was the fact that the inevitable romantic subplot did not end up as expected from the beginning. Even though he reverted back to his old ways of cheesy villains, Harry still created enough original elements to put this book on the Elite List.

Harry Kraus is perhaps the best author nobody talks about because no one likes his blatant originality. However, this reputation has gained our respect.

4 stars

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin

Elin Carlson is determined to find a new life for herself and her two sisters, Karen and Sofia, in America. Their uncle has paid their passage from Sweden to Chicago, so Elin wants to take the chance at freedom while she has it. Her sisters are none too happy about the arrangement, but they reluctantly board the ship to America when the time comes. With only a trunk full of possessions and the clothes on their backs, the sisters Carlson believe that everything they need lies in America. However, they are proven wrong when trouble meets them at every turn and they find themselves as house maids employed by a grumpy old woman. Elin wonders if she made a mistake, but she does not know what secrets her sisters are hiding from her-or what awaits her around the next bend.

As is her custom, Lynn Austin has crafted another historical epic driven by good characters yet tainted by a predictable end. The only difference in Until We Reach Home and her other historical epics is that it does not jump back and forth from the past and the present, but stays on the same timeline the entire time. Otherwise, this is classic Lynn Austin fiction.

Elin, Karen, Sofia, and most of the other characters all have well-developed personalities. If an author is to follow a similar pattern with every book, developing good characters is a good pattern to be stuck on. There is no villain in this plot, as is the case with most Lynn Austin plots. I may sound like a broken record when it comes to Lynn Austin characters, but there is honestly nothing else to say about her superb character development.

The plot records the Carlson sisters' journey from Sweden across the Ocean and through America to Chicago, but does not revert to the past as is Lynn Austin's norm. The second half of the book is spent in an uncharacteristic situation for Lynn Austin but nonetheless interesting and creative. As usual, the end of the book is its downfall, though it is not entirely bad. It is partly ambiguous but it is not creative as it should be. Endings have always been Lynn's downfall, and nothing has changed here.

Nevertheless, as usual, Lynn Austin has written a memorable plot that is definitely worth a read. If she continues writing these types of books all her writing career, I have nothing to complain about.

4.5 stars

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee

Created from the rib of the adam, the first man, came Havah, the first woman the walk the earth. She was one of the two only human beings to ever walk the ground of the perfect Garden of Eden. There she had intimacy with Adam, and intimacy with the One. Life was perfect until she met the Serpent, the most crafty of creatures. When she listened to his lies and ate of the forbidden fruit, she ruined perfection and was cast out of the Garden with the Adam. They were the only human beings to ever see perfection and imperfection. Destined to live a life of toil and hardship, Havah became the Mother of All yet carried the guilt of destroying the One's perfect world for everyone.

Determined to be an outlying author, Tosca Lee has crafted an interesting and unique account about the beginning of our world. Though it does not seem so, this Biblical account is not oft written about in Christian fiction, so Tosca has trailblazed a new path. Despite this book's uniqueness, Tosca failed to develop good characters, costing her the five star rating.

Havah (Eve), Adam, Kayin (Cain), Hevel (Able), or any of the other character do not have personalities as they should. It should have been easy for Tosca to develop these characters since there were few, but she was too caught up in her obscure writing style. The one characters she did portray correctly, besides God, was Lucifer. He was not the cheesy serpent he could have bee, but more. However, Tosca has some work to do with her characters in the future.

Tosca's narrative is unique and hard to describe. It definitely fits with the setting she chose, a setting that no other author has ever dared to breach. Books have been written about finding the Garden of Eden, but this is the only one that actually tells the story of what happened there. Tosca also goes beyond the Garden and takes Eve up to her death, using creative licence along the way. Her additives are refreshing and do not subtract from this book's rating.

However, this book could have been five stars. It disappoints me to see Tosca waste this potential. However, this book is not entirely bad and is in fact better than most. If Tosca will develop her characters better in the future, she has all the potential in the world.

4 stars

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Breaker's Reef by Terri Blackstock

A Cape Refuge rookie police officer has found the body of a Cape Refuge teenage girl floating in the bay. However, thanks to his carelessness in moving the body without gloves, Chief Matthew Cade cannot identify the killer. Besides having another killer on his hands, Cade is trying to figure out how he can ask Blair Owens to marry him-but it can't just be a simple question. However, he did not expect that his romantic scheme would get him into trouble with the law. A popular mystery author has moved to Cape Refuge and Sheila Caruso has taken a job with him typing his old novels onto his computer for him. His eccentric nature almost scares her off the job, but the longer she stays with him, the more she wonders if this strange man is the killer everyone is looking for, especially since all his books are from the viewpoints of killers. With more uncertainty on Cape Refuge, will everything ever get back to normal?

Even though Terri Blackstock should have departed from Cape Refuge killings several books ago, she actually found a way to make this final installment in the series interesting. The case is up to Terri Blackstock par, and maybe even above. But most of all, she finally wrote an interesting showdown. However, as I expected with this last book of the series, impending wedding bells put a damper on things.

The miracle of the Cape Refuge cast of characters is the fact that they never changed throughout the entire series. Cade, Blair, Morgan, Jonathan, and Sadie never changed. This is not necessarily a good thing, but it is not a bad thing either. In this final book, Terri finally created a good villain whose identity is hidden until the last chapters. The Cape Refuge characters have not always been model characters, but they are not disgraceful either.

Terri Blackstock has always been able to build a strong case in her mysteries, and Breaker's Reef is no exception. Her unique multiple point of view plots get the story at all angles and through different perspectives. As a side bar, this title actually makes sense. However, the ongoing relationship between Cade and Blair finally came to a head at an inopportune time for the series. This is the main problem with the book. However, Terri actually created an interesting showdown-two of them actually-fueled by true surprise and ambiguity. This book rivals Cape Refuge for the best book of the series.

At least Terri Blackstock found a way to end this series on a good note, which was the best thing she could have done. The Cape Refuge series was not the best series in the world, but neither was it the worst series in the world. Terri Blackstock remains to be one of the best suspense authors on the market.

4 stars

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Eve's Daughters by Lynn Austin

Emma Bauer has held a secret about her past for some time now, not telling her daughter or granddaughter, who are quite close to her. But now that her granddaughter's marriage is in jeopardy, Emma feels that she must do something. Beginning with her mother's story of how she unwillingly came to America from Germany in order to escape the war, and continuing to her daughter's story and finally her own, Emma reveals to Suzanne what it really means to be in love and what a privilege it is. She only hopes that her secret does not further destroy her Suzanne's marriage, not to mention to the lives of her other family members.
If you couldn't tell already, Eve's Daughters is another one of Lynn Austin's patented historical epic tales with a nonsensical title. Some authors are very good at writing one brand of fiction, or one type of plot, and Lynn Austin is one of those. The key to success for these types of authors is finding a good plot to repeat over and over again, not mention always doing something a little different. Lynn has proved that she can do these things, yet ends are not her strong points, often costing her five star novels.
Emma, Suzanne, and all the rest of the characters are all developed well, as usual for Lynn Austin. There are no villains in any of the stories save for the wrong choices of the characters. I always enjoy plots where the main characters are the villains themselves because this proves that all plots do not have to be the same.
Lynn Austin systematically tells the stories of four different women, each from a different generation of the same family, with some present scenes sprinkled in. Lynn has mastered this type of plot so that it seems second nature to her. Each story is realistic and unique; the same thing does not happen every time. However, in this variety, Lynn could not abstain from fixing some imperfect elements in these stories. This is perhaps Lynn's biggest problem. There is nothing wrong in general with writing a story that works out somewhat; the problem occurs when an element is fixed in an unrealistic fashion. This is the most popular issue in Christian fiction today. Lynn did not prove herself to be above this in Eve's Daughters.
However, this is only a minor issue and should not be given much attention, for Eve's Daughters is a masterfully written epic with a good foundational idea. Lynn Austin is the best historical fiction author on the market.
4.5 stars

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Nightmare by Robin Parrish

Raised as the daughter of the two most famous paranormal investigators in the world, Maia Peters is dead to any idea involving ghosts, apparitions, or hauntings. She attends the new amusement park Ghost Town, a park designed to scare its patrons to death, only to disprove everything the park throws at her. Everything goes as she expects, but at the end of her visit to the park, she encounters an apparition not fabricated by man. She sees the face of a girl she knows-Jordin Cole-a girl who has asked her is the past to help her delve deeper into the paranormal for a price. Without telling anyone about her encounter, Maia is visited the following day by Jordin's fiancee, who tells her that he cannot contact or find Jordin anywhere. As Maia recounts her past adventures with Jordin, she and Derek delve into the supernatural in ways they never expected they would have to and uncover one of the most elaborate and dangerous plots known to mankind. They must stop it before it takes over the world, but at what cost?
Robin Parrish stays true to himself a fabricates another huge 'what if?' plot that adds to his 100% Elite Rating. It seems second nature for him to write an Elite book, but when will he return to his five star days?
Maia, Derek, and Jordin are all good characters, as usual. Robin Parrish seems to be able to develop good characters in his sleep as he focuses his real attention to a super plot. His villain development has seen better days, but under the circumstances, his choice of a villain was the only logical choice. There are very few characters in this book because it is more of a plot-focused book, but the few character there are Robin developed correctly.
Robin delves into the world of hauntings, ghost, apparitions, and other paranormal claims by sending his characters to some of the most popular "haunted" locations in the world. He does not attempt to build a case for any side of this issue but instead writes an interesting plot. His speculations about the paranormal are eye-opening. As usual, there is a seemingly off-the-wall foundational idea behind this plot that really makes this book worth reading, as is Robin's specialty. However, the only thing that keeps this book from being five stars is an uncharacteristic showdown that does not end originally. This tarnishes Robin's reputation and makes me wonder about him.
Nevertheless, Robin has maintained his 100% Elite Rating because he continuously asks outrageous 'what if?' questions and answers them in interesting ways.
4 stars

Vigilante by Robin Parrish

Coming Summer 2011...

Nolan Gray is an elite soldier, skilled in all forms of combat. After years fighting on foreign battlefields, witnessing unspeakable evils and atrocities firsthand, a world-weary Nolan returns home to find it just as corrupt as the war zones. Everywhere he looks, there’s pain and cruelty. Society is being destroyed by wicked men who don’t care who they make suffer or destroy.

Nolan decides to do what no one else can, what no one has ever attempted. He will defend the helpless. He will tear down the wicked. He will wage a one-man war on the heart of man, and he won’t stop until the world is the way it should be.
The wicked have had their day. Morality’s time has come. In a culture starving for a hero, can one extraordinary man make things right?
Robin Parrish is addressing another controversial issue through fiction. Vigilante looks like another one of his "big" plots, like Merciless. Perhaps he is departing from the supernatural for a time. All I know is that Robin does not disappoint.

Want more previews? Visit https://sites.google.com/site/originalbooksnews/home!

Bound By Guilt by CJ Darlington

Coming February 2011...

Roxi Gold has been shuttled from one foster home to another most of her life. She longs for a family and will do anything to fit in - even if it's against the law. Soon she's traveling the country in an RV stealing rare books from unsuspecting bookstores. If she refuses she'll be put out on the streets. Police officer Abby Dawson has seen the worst of society, and not just at work. Her ex-husband has wrested her daughter away from her in a bitter custody battle. The job she once loved has become a chore - the world isn't safer, and there's no joy in her life. One night a man's innocent blood changes Roxi and Abby forever. One searches for justice; the other finds herself on the run until a first edition of The Great Gatsby catches up with her. Will the power of forgiveness set them free, or will they both remain bound by guilt?

CJ Darlington appears to have something going with this new novel, though it is slightly similar to her debut novel, Thicker Than Blood. The greatest thing she can prove with this new plot is her hopefully improved ability to develop characters correctly. CJ has a lot of potential as an author if she will tap into correctly.

Want more previews? Visit https://sites.google.com/site/originalbooksnews/home!

Friday, September 3, 2010

River's Edge by Terri Blackstock

With the Cape Refuge mayoral race in full swing, the last thing Chief Matthew Cade wants is a missing person to deal with. The wife of mayoral candidate Ben Jackson has disappeared, causing the race to pause. But the case gets even more interesting when a psychic on the island claims that he knows where the woman's body is-and turns out to be correct. This causes new Christian Blair Owens to ask questions about the supernatural-questions with immediate answers. Cade openly denies any supposed power of the psychic, but Blair wants to whole story. Besides all this, the third mayoral candidate wants to continue the race without Jackson at all. Also, Sadie's mother Sheila has been released from prison ahead of time and as joined her children on the island, but has not kept herself out of trouble. With so much uncertainty on Cape Refuge, it's enough to drive one to madness. When will someone make sense of all the messes and answer some questions?
As expected, the Cape Refuge series isn't getting any better as it wears on. It seems to me that the biggest problem is the island's death count. How many people could possibly die on the same island? Why can't Terri Blackstock write a different plot? So far it's been all deaths and kidnapping. This is probably the series' biggest problem. Unfortunately, this problem is not alleviated in River's Edge.
The main miracle of this series is the consistency of the characters. None of them have changed much, except for maybe Jonathan, who is inching toward perfection upon his mayoral campaign. Otherwise, Morgan, Blair, Cade, and Sadie remain the same. Sheila provides an interesting flavor to the story as well. The identity of the villain is well concealed by the many suspects. Perhaps the biggest issue here is the lack of progress. These characters are stuck in a rut. Characters in a series should progress and become better and deeper as the series progresses, and I have yet to see that in the Cape Refuge series.
Terri wrote an extremely average and mediocre mystery in River's Edge that is only spiced up by the culprit confusion. Otherwise, it is quite cut-and-dry. Besides this, the surrounding elements, such as the mayoral race and the eternal romantic subplot between Blair and Cade are predictable and mediocre. Sheila's subplot provides a counter to this mediocrity, but it is not enough to alleviate this book's low rating. As I said before, if this series is to go anywhere from here, Terri has to invent a more creative plot pattern. She needs to make a change of pace before this series goes down the tubes.
Perhaps there is hope for Breaker's Reef, but hopes are dim with wedding bells tolling.
2.5 stars

Poll Report August 2010

In August of 2010, we asked our readers what their favorite series was according to the choices. As usual, the results were not surprising.

1. The Circle by Ted Dekker (50%)
2. The Baxter Saga by Karen Kingsbury (21%)
3. The Bun Man Novels by Tim Downs (14%)
4. The Occupational Hazards by Rene Gutteridge\The Ty Buchanan series by James Scott Bell (each 7%)

Stay tuned for round two.