These Nameless Things by Shawn Smucker (BTSNBM)

These Nameless Things - Kindle edition by Smucker, Shawn. Religion ...

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Shawn Smucker’s latest novel delivers the usual dose of insanity that we’ve come to expect from this author. With literally no discernible plot/storyline to follow, partially developed characters, and no creativity/originality, These Nameless Things receives an entirely negative review from us here at BOR. Additionally, it receives the double honor of being the first book on this column to score negative points. Oh, where to start. Before I say anything let me clarify that we went into this reading experience with an open perspective. Dan and his friends live in a peaceful village in a valley at the foot of “the mountain”. After escaping the mental and physical tortures of said mountain they came to the valley to forget everything that happened and try to heal. As members become strong enough, they leave the village and return to normal life. The whole system is pretty perfect if you ask Dan, except the part about people leaving him behind. Dan has been waiting for his brother to come down off the mountain for many years, and is beginning to lose hope that he ever will. When a dear friend decides she is ready to leave the village and a strange woman shows up on Dan’s doorstep at nearly the same moment, Dan is thrown for a loop. The strange woman knows his elusive brother somehow and says she has come to tell him that his brother is alive and needs his help. Dan is reluctant to return to “the mountain” and debates what he should do. (spoiler) After several vague conversations with other members of the community and the strange woman who’s always sleeping in his bed, Dan finally decides to make the journey. Will he survive the perils of “the mountain”!? First of all, the plot and storyline in this novel are very confusing at best. The author starts off the novel with a big information dumps about things we’re supposed to know, then nearly lulls us to sleep with boring conversations. Following this, the reader comes fully awake as bizarre, off-the-wall, and sometimes crude things happen. As the reader struggles to climb the cliffs of insanity that are this story, they are continually pelted with rocks in the form of odd flashbacks that don’t seem to have much to do with the rest of the novel. As they reach the top, they will realize that it’s all about to cumulate in an abrupt ending. Furthermore, the world construction is weak because we aren’t told how either the mountain or the valley came to be, what each represents, or what their connection (or lack of for that matter) is to the real world. How does one travel from this unusual place to other locations? In short, the errors are too many to note, and I have more questions about this story than answers. This being said, Smucker earns zero points here.

Character Development (-1 points)

Unfortunately the character development fares much the same. Dan is an semi-interesting protagonist concept, but its hard to understand who he actually is. The antagonist lacks motive and a clear arc, so she is virtually useless. Additionally, the large cast of minor characters are basically blank faces who say their lines robotically, so there’s nothing good to note there either. Dan’s friends are also a huge error because there is no reason given for why he is friends with them. Anyway, I’ll stop while I’m ahead her because there’s just nothing good to say. The irony is that there is also not an extensive list of errors to point out because there is so little development to work with. For these reasons, Smucker earns zero points here as well.

Creativity & Originality (-3 points)

Finally, the creativity and originality are nonexistent in this novel. There is a huge difference between creativity and madness, which I would explain if we had the space. Additionally, I’m not entirely sure how this is supposed to be a Christian novel as there are no Christian themes or tie-ins. A very great stretch would identify this novel as an allegory on Hebrews 12:18-19, but that’s the best we could come up with for something in a genre called Magical Realism. Also, this is a PSA, please, please, please don’t try to make this into a movie or series…anyone! The last thing we need is more Christian movies that give the genre a bad name. Christian filmmakers, look elsewhere for much better mystical Christian novels to work with, like the The Girl Behind the Red Rope, for example.

Wish List Rating: -5 out of 10 points

Synapse by Steven James

Synapse | Steven James

Plot & Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Steven James’ latest work is a science fiction/dystopian thriller that contains great dialogue and many creative ideas…along with enough errors to make it a slightly less than average novel. After nine months of carrying her daughter, Kestrel’s child is stillborn. Even though she lives in a world where Naturals (human beings), Artificials (lifelike robots), and Plussers (humans with robotic implants) live alongside one another, Kestrel wanted a human child to love and care for. When this is snatched away from her, she is left feeling hurt and alone. After witnessing a terrorist attack from an unknown source on the way home from the hospital, Kestrel is contacted by Agent Nick Vernon. Nick is investigating the company which creates Artificials, Terabyne, along with the terrorism issue. In the midst of all this, Kestrel’s brother Trevor decides to send her a ‘special’ Artificial named Jordan as a companion. Against her better judgement, Kestrel turns Jordan on and soon finds that he is not what she expected. When Kestrel’s apartment is ransacked and a prized possession of hers is stolen, she realizes she got more than she bargained for when she agreed to help Nick. Nick and Kestrel soon discover a wide-ranging corporate scheme that no one could have foreseen. Will they live to see justice prevail? The plot and storyline in Synapse are engaging, however, there are some moments of choppiness and a few too many meandering philosophical conversations. Additionally, there are several violent combat scenes that don’t fit with the questioning nature of the rest of the novel. The only other error to note is the rushed ending. On the other hand, the dialogue is above average. The discussions between characters about the afterlife, Christianity, and who can be saved are interesting and acknowledge the reader’s intelligence. Finally, it was interesting to build a storyline around the potential dangers of giving AI too much power, but without a strong conclusion this section cannot receive more than an average rating.

Character Development (2.5 points)

In contrast, the characters are the strongest point of the novel. Kestrel is a strong and relatable protagonist who sometimes questions God and the spiritual guidance she offers others. It was a great idea to include the character’s thoughts in the text, as this adds depth and meaning to conversations. Comparatively, the large cast of minor characters is a mixed bag, with some having clear arcs and others seeming to exist only for individual scenes. Additonally, the villian reveal is interesting and outside the box, but there wasn’t much of a lead up to the same. Thus, because this section contains only minor errors, James receives an above average score in character development.

Creativity and Originality (1 point)

Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, it was a very creative idea to create an world were humans and AI coexist together. Because James was able to implement this idea in a believable way, he earns a full point in creativity. This being said, it is possible for a Christian filmmaker to adapt this novel into a Christian futuristic/sci-fi film if they wanted to. However, the screenplay would have to focus more closely on the characters from a first-person perspective, and the ending needs some work. Overall, this is an interesting story that could have been a bit more personable.

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano (October 20, 2020)

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Release date: October 20, 2020

Author: Joanna Davidson Politano

Plot summary: The night Willa Duvall refuses her fourth marriage proposal, she discovers a forgotten love letter in a crack of her old writing desk. As she seeks to uncover its author and intended recipient, she follows a trail through past secrets and deep family shadows. Is there any hope for this long-ago secret love–and for her to finally have one on her own?

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox (September 8, 2020)

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

Release date: September 8, 2020

Author: Amanda Cox

Plot summary: In this dual-time narrative, Ivy Rose returns to her hometown to oversee an estate sale but soon discovers her grandmother left behind more than trinkets and photo frames–she provided a path to the truth behind Ivy’s adoption.

The Key to Everything by Valerie Fraser Luesse (BTSNBM)

Alabama Bookshelf | Alabama Living Magazine

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange to a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Valerie Fraser Luesse’s latest work of fiction is a good coming of age concept that gets a bit lost along the way. Peyton Cabot, a Southern teenager, is currently experiencing the aftermath of his father’s stint in the military and his mother’s grief over these goings-on. His father, Marshall, tries to drown his war trauma in bottles of bourbon, but has so far been unsuccessful. One afternoon when Peyton and his family are at the annual Cabot family picnic at his paternal grandparent’s estate, Peyton’s father has a tragic accident involving a high-strung horse, a tree, a bottle of alcohol, and a dog chasing a squirrel. While the entire clan of Cabots are in the hospital waiting room arguing about what will happen to the inheritance if Marshall, the heir, dies, Peyton’s grandfather suddenly has a stroke and dies instantly. As time moves forward, Peyton will find himself evading his relatives, meeting a long-lost family friend, and embarking on a journey that will change his life forever. To find out how it ends, read the book! The plot and storyline in this novel are average, but not for the usual reasons. The fast-paced storyline gives the reader a lot of information that is delivered through backstories, historical facts, and fact-filled conversations. The major errors in this aspect of the novel include the abrupt shift from a family drama to a coming of age tale, and the way the book loses the reader’s interest as the story continues. Firstly, around a third of the way through the book it’s almost like it changes genres. (spoiler) One minute Peyton is sitting by his father’s deathbed, the next minute he’s in Florida on summer vacation with his Aunt Gert, then he’s embarking on a bicycle quest through the Florida Keys, and the next thing you know he’s taking in orphaned children and falling in love. This being said, it’s hard to understand which one of these four plots is supposed to be the main one. If they are intended to be subplots that tie together, then the author should have taken more time to develop her large cast of characters. Additionally, the dialogue in this novel is above average but doesn’t reach it’s full potential, and Peyton’s character arc falls flat when the author doesn’t state what he learned from the bike quest – especially after she made a big point to reference his search for meaning. Thus, on the whole the plot and storyline feel thrown together and needed closer attention.

Character Development (1.5 points)

The characters in this novel are mixed, with the protagonist being one of the weakest ones. It is hard to get to know Peyton on a personal level as he is thrown about by the confusing plot structure, and most of what we do know is told to us by the author. It would have been better to let readers discover who he is on their own, rather than stating personal traits and interests directly as though we are reading a biography. This being said, the heavy-handed narrative style of writing Luesse uses in this novel acts as clutter that crowds out opportunities for character depth to be developed. Peyton’s mother also feels partially developed as we hear a lot about her from others but don’t get to see her in action very often. Moreover, while the colorful Aunt Gert is a bright spot in the humdrum cast of minor characters, she gets lost in the sea of people in this novel who have only a few lines. In short, while there is some good in every character, it feels like they exist only to connect the dots of the storyline.

Creativity and Originality (.5 point)

Lastly, it was a creative idea to portray how multiple crises effect a teenager mentally and emotionally, but because this idea remains unfinished, Luesse earns only a half point in creativity. As such, we cannot recommend this novel as being good material for Christian film, but believe that Luesse can improve as time goes forward because of her ability to craft original ideas.

Wish List Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Nine by Rachelle Dekker (September 1, 2020)

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Release date: September 1, 2020

Author: Rachelle Dekker

Plot summary: A young woman trying to escape her past collides with a girl trying to escape her future, both carrying secrets they’re terrified to share. Can they abandon it all—secrets, past, and future—for the freedom they’ve been offered?

Superbook, Season 1 (Series Review)

Marybeth Whalen: Cue Your DVR!

Plot Summary

Chris Quantum, Joy Pepper, and their robotic friend Gizmo often find themselves facing moral and spiritual dilemmas. Every time they face one of these conundrums, a mysterious book-like device appears and sucks them into an alternate dimension where they become minor characters in Old and New Testament Bible stories. As they move at a breakneck speed through the entire Bible, Chris, Joy, and Gizmo find themselves participating in everything from the creation story to the end of the world!

Production Quality (2 points)

The production quality of season 1 of Superbook is fine for the most part, with no major errors. The animated characters move about and interact with one another in realistic ways. Additionally, they demonstrate basic facial expressions. The creators also avoid reusing the same character molds for differing characters (if you’ve been watching animated Christian kids content for while, you know what I mean). Comparatively, the animation quality in this series is above average, but leans towards being a bit clunky. For instance, the characters’ skin and hair quality is not extremely realistic, and the overall presentation reminds the viewer of plastic figurines. Additionally, the musical score is average, but the show’s intro and outro are above average and demonstrate creative potential that was not applied to all aspects of the series. On the whole, there are neither major errors nor successes to note in this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The plots and storylines found in Superbook, Season 1 are a hodgepodge of above and below average content. First, the redundant Bible lesson setups at the start of each episode are not very creative, and the Bible story portrayals range from very creative to generic. For example, at the beginning of every episode either Chris or Joy (mostly Chris) either refuse obey authority, misjudge someone else’s character, etc. Following this, Superbook flies out of Chris’s pocket and transports the two children – via a colorful portal – into an alternate Biblical timeline. The remainder of the runtime is spent here, and each episode concludes with the show’s theme song. The main problem with this storyline model is that is becomes very monotonous if the creative team does not include self-aware dialogue that pokes fun at this fact – see the older VeggieTales episodes for more on this. In comparison, as we indicated earlier, a few of the episodes portray well-known Bible stories in unique ways and have above average depth for a children’s series. Unfortunately, other portrayals are choppy and very basic. The only other major error to note for storyline is that this first season moves at a breakneck speed from Genesis all the way through Revelation in only thirteen episodes. In order to accomplish this feat, the creators included a handful of Old Testament characters, along with Jesus, his disciples, and Paul from the New Testament. This cherry-picking style leaves out many important parts of the Bible and makes it impossible to maintain a discernible storyline. Lastly, the character development in this series is also a mix of good and bad. In this portrayal, Jesus is stiff, inaccessible, and speaks in a monotone. The issue here should go without saying. Moreoever, all of the adults are always trying to teach the kids something – there’s no regular conversations between these two age groups. And now for the most unusual part of this series. The Satan character is completely non-believable and satirical, as evidenced by this sinister screenshot of a moment that happens over and over again in the series:

no we didn’t add that caption, unfortunately:)

Ahem, I think you get the point there. Basically the New Testament portion of the series focuses on Satan way more than on Jesus, which basically negates the entire purpose of this being a Bible show. In summary, the plots, storylines, and character development in this series are all below average.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Similarly, the acting quality of this series is average. The voice actors are mostly fine, with nothing extraordinary to note. Most of them use well modulated tones (except the guy voicing Jesus), and produce a quality performance. As a side note, some of the children are voiced by adults, which is apparent in the show. This is distracting and sends an odd message to viewers. Additionally, it would have been nice to have some culturally authentic voice casts (i.e. not all white cast members), as many of the actors are clearly not of Israeli descent. Other than that, there’s not much else to note here.

Continuity Quality (0 points)

One of the biggest issues with Superbook is that each episode could stand alone – there is no continuity. Every episode has a unique lesson, features a different Bible character than last time, and is set in a different time period. Thus, the lessons are self-contained and don’t relate to the others. Furthermore, the characters have no arcs. For example, Chris and Joy don’t apply anything they learned in the previous episode during a new episode. They are always learning something new; to put it succinctly, they are always being taught. Chris and Joy’s character’s never have the chance to simply live. On top of all these errors, at the end of the series Chris burns down his family’s house, and after learning a vague lesson about forgiveness from the book of Revelation, the characters give verbal hints that another season of the show is coming…?!?!? Basically, after being spoon-fed a whole bunch of Biblical principles and burning down your family’s house, it’s time to move on to new horizons??? Anyway, there is simply nothing good to note here, and for that reason this series earns zero points.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Superbook is just another Christian kids show that meant well, but didn’t deliver any original or truly meaningful content. There’s nothing wrong with you and your kids watching this show, just don’t expect them to glean deep spiritual truths from it’s teachings. If even half of the errors listed above did not exist, this series could have helped fill the ever-increasing blank space of content that points children to Christ and helps them grow in their faith. Going forward, Christian movie-makers should make God-inspired content for children that they themselves would actually watch.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 14 points

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Amazon.com: Stories That Bind Us: A Novel (9780800735708 ...

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Finkbeiner’s latest novel, Stories That Bind Us, is a great depiction of the struggles we all face in the everyday. While the novel is imperfect, Finkbeiner continues to set what should be the standard in Christian fiction. Betty Sweet loves her simple life with her husband Norman. When Norman dies suddenly of heart failure, Betty is thrown for a loop. For the first few weeks after his death, she shuts everyone and everything out, determined to hide from the world until it makes sense again. Shortly after her sister-in-law Marvel intervenes by forcing her out of the house, Betty’s estranged sister Clara and her son Hugo show up on the doorstep one rainy evening. Betty finds a new purpose in caring for the two of them, but soon notices that all is not well. Clara is extremely moody and often spends long hours in bed, and Hugo shows signs of abuse. Clara’s mental state takes Betty back to her difficult childhood with a mother who struggled with the same difficulties. Even though she has the support of her husband’s exceptional family, Betty struggles with loving her sister, caring for Hugo, and dealing with her husband’s death. This leaves her feeling a bit frayed at the edges. In order to go forward, Betty must trust in Jesus, come to peace with the difficult parts of her childhood, and learn to accept the ways her life has changed. What will happen to Clara? Will Betty weather the storm? To answer these questions, read the book!;) The plot and storyline in this novel are well above average. Among the novel’s strengths are excellent dialogue, great continuity, and a strong storyline. Additionally, the poignant messages about perseverance and the healing power of love give the story meaning. In comparison, the weaknesses are minor. First, the plot could have had added depth if we heard a first-person perspective from Clara as well as Betty. Lastly, the first quarter of the book doesn’t always hold the attention, and the ending is a bit rushed. In spite of these errors, Finkbeiner has turned out another great novel that has the potential to be an excellent Christian series. Because of this, she earns an above average score for her plot and storyline.

Character Development (3.5 points)

Similarly, the character development in this novel is also above average. Betty is a realistic and relatable protagonist who has believable responses to life crises. Clara is also an above average character, but as we mentioned earlier, her character could have been even better if she had told the reader her side of the story. Comparatively, Hugo is one of the best characters in the novel. It is refreshing to see a child character who is portrayed as intelligent and fully aware of all the goings-on in his life. There is simply not enough good to say here. The minor and secondary characters are very strong and their subplots make significant contributions to the plot. Other than the minor error with Clara, there are no other flaws to note in this section. For this reason, Finkbeiner earns just shy of a perfect score for her strong character development.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Lastly, it was a very original idea to portray a widow who has to deal with her husband’s death, her difficult childhood, and troubled sister without further complicating things by starting a new romantic relationship. Too many Christian novels make this mistake, as we’ve said before, it is just not a good idea to encourage people to start new relationships during the grieving process. Any-who, we’re very glad Finkbeiner did not do this, and award her a full point in originality for this and other reasons. Likewise, we believe Stories That Bind us would make a great Christian series. The screenwriter(s), one of which should be Finkbeiner, would have very little difficulty adapting this novel for the big screen. The dialogue, character depth, and storyline concept are already there. If the screenwriter made Clara a protagonist alongside Betty and included flashbacks to the girl’s childhood, this content could change American Christian culture for the better. In summary, we commend Finkbeiner on another job well done and recommend this book for filmmakers who want to bring exceptional Christian books to the big screen.

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points

The Man Who Went to Heaven (2021?)

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Currently in pre-production from JC films

Writer(s): Gregory Cottrell, Jason Campbell

Director(s): Jason Campbell

Producer(s): Jason Campbell

Cast: DEAN CAIN

Plot summary: Following an automobile accident in which his wife was killed, Dr. David Burrows is called to heaven to fight in spiritual warfare against Satan and his demons to win back his wife’s lost soul. He must learn to fly, put on spiritual armor and fight in hand-to-hand combat against Satan’s army. Along the way, he must learn who he can trust, how to forgive and how to have complete faith in himself and God.

Storks Funny Boss Mind Blown Scene | Storks Movie Clip GIF | Gfycat
Our immediate reaction

Don’t Give Up (2020?)

Coming to DVD and Amazon Prime Video in 2020; currently being filmed

Writer(s): Amy Samuel, Jason Campbell

Director(s): Jason Campbell

Producer(s): Jason Campbell

Cast: Amy Samuel, Dean Cain, more TBA

Plot summary: A movie about a woman named Amy Samuel who battled depression. Based on her book by the same name.

Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes (June 30, 2020)

Set the Stars Alight by [Amanda Dykes]

Release date: June 30, 2020

Author: Amanda Dykes

Plot summary: Lucy Clairmont’s family treasured the magic of the past, and her childhood fascination with stories of the high seas led her to become a marine archaeologist. But when tragedy strikes, it’s Dashel, an American forensic astronomer, and his knowledge of the stars that may help her unearth the truth behind the puzzle she’s discovered in her family home.

Movies/Series to Watch With Your Kids

As we draw near to what is hopefully the last month or so of quarantine (depending on what state you’re in), I’m sure everyone is getting a little stir crazy. This being said, we thought there was no time like the present to post some clean, enjoyable entertainment options you can watch with the whole family. In this post we will provide a list of family-friendly Christian movies, where you can find them, and the links to our reviews of each film. Without further ado, here’s something to kill the boredom and inspire some great family conversations.

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Our Review: Woodlawn (10 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.pureflix.com/

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Our Review:   Voyage of the Dawn Treader [2010] (9.5 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.amazon.com/Chronicles-Narnia-Voyage-Dawn-Treader/dp/B004PIRE5W

Our review: I Still Believe (9.5 points)

Where you can find it: Available soon on streaming

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Our review: Nativity Story [2006] (9.5 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.amazon.com/Nativity-Story-Keisha-Castle-Hughes/dp/B003UOQ0LQ

ulmte

Our review: The Ultimate Gift (8.5 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Gift-James-Garner/dp/B004CQ3HTE

bydmsk

Our review: Beyond the Mask (7.5 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Mask-Andrew-Cheney/dp/B083FL5PS6/ref=tmm_aiv_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

crgs

Our review: Courageous (7.5 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.amazon.com/Courageous-Alex-Kendrick/dp/B006P96PAO

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Our review: Heaven Bound [2016] (7.5 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.pureflix.com/

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Our review: Summer Snow (7.5 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Snow-David-Chisum/dp/B07G8P1G1L

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Our review: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe [2005] (7.5 points)

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Our review: Mom’s Night Out (7.5 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.amazon.com/Moms-Night-Out-Sean-Astin/dp/B00M39CKMC or Pureflix


Our review: War Room (7.5 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.amazon.com/War-Room-Alex-Kendrick/dp/B014Q77YJW

whtif

Our review: What If… (7.5 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.pureflix.com/

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Our review: Christmas Princess (7 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Princess-Nicole-Mu%C3%B1oz/dp/B07QD7RJYJ

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Our review: Facing the Giants (7 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.amazon.com/Facing-Giants-Alex-Kendrick/dp/B000N2KM4O

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Image result for the world we make

Our review: The World We Make (7 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.amazon.com/World-We-Make-Caleb-Castille/dp/B07S651KWK

Our review: The Chosen, Season 1 (13.5 points)

Where you can find it: https://www.pureflix.com/

We hope you and your family enjoy these titles as much as we have over the years!

Where Tomorrow Leads by DiAnn Mills (June 9, 2020)

Where Tomorrow Leads (Hope of Sudan Book 2) by [DiAnn Mills]

Release date: June 9, 2020

Author: DiAnn Mills

Plot summary:

Once a member of the royal family in Sudan, Paul Farid now carries a price on his head for becoming a Christian. Called to aid his persecuted countrymen, Paul risks his life nearly daily but worries that his sometimes-reckless actions may bring harm to his wife, Larson. This war-torn country is certainly no place to raise a family . . . but that’s little comfort when Larson realizes she’s pregnant. After fighting more than two decades against the Sudanese government’s mandates, Colonel Ben Alier is wary of the fledgling peace treaty meant to unite the north and south again. Ben vows not to give up the fight, but a pressing health concern turns his thoughts toward securing his legacy and finally acknowledging his son. The days ahead hold no promise of peace, so Paul, Larson, and Ben must learn to trust God in all things, no matter where tomorrow leads.

Daughter of Cana by Angela Hunt

Daughter of Cana (Jerusalem Road): Angela Hunt: 9780764233845 ...

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Angela Hunt’s latest work, Daughter of Cana, is the first installment in her new Jerusalem Road series. The novel gives a nice overview of Jesus’s life and ministry from the perspective of Jesus’s brother Jude and Thomas’s fictional sister Tasmin, but fails to offer any groundbreaking or original content. The opening chapters of Daughter of Cana introduce us to Tasmin, who Hunt presents as the disciple Thomas’s twin sister. Tasmin and Thomas live at home with their widowed father and run a wedding party business in Cana. Tasmin has never been interested in marriage and views it as a frivolity, instead preferring to keep busy and act responsible. Thomas enjoys socializing and taking time to relax, and though he is practical, Tasmin feels that he does not take their business seriously. One day while the siblings are hosting a wedding for a friend, Jesus and His mother and siblings suddenly arrive as guests. Thomas is immediately enthralled with Jesus, but Tasmin has heard rumors that He is a radical preacher who shouldn’t be trusted. When Jesus saves the bride and groom’s reputation by turning water into wine, Tasmin is even more confused about Him. Her confusion turns to anger when Thomas agrees to become Jesus’s disciple and leaves suddenly for an extended period of time. Tasmin decides to go after her brother, and departs with Jesus’s brother Jude on a cross-country journey to bring Thomas home. As previously mentioned, the plot and storyline in this novel give us a brief overview of Jesus’s entire adult life and ministry, and detail Tasmin’s journey to find Thomas, and ultimately, her life purpose. The strengths of the storyline include that it moves along at a steady pace, covers a lot of time without being choppy, and gives the reader a glimpse of someone who did not believe in Jesus until after His death. In comparison, the weaknesses are minor, but do pull down the overall quality. First, the novel does not hold the reader’s attention very well, and has a very simplistic, humdrum writing style. This is very unlike Hunt’s past writing style. Second, the storyline tends to plow forward in an attempt to cover all the high points in the Gospels and brushes over character development and depth. Finally, there is not really a personalized spiritual connection for Christian readers – the novel is primarily marketed towards people who are not familiar with the Gospels. In summary, there are no major errors in Daughter of Cana, but there is also no memorable content. For this, Hunt receives an average score for her plot and storyline.

Character Development (2 points)

In comparison, Tasmin is a fairly good protagonist who responds in relatable ways to life’s challenges and has a partially defined personality. Her flashbacks are also a great addition to the story, but needed further exploration. Jude is also a fairly good character who is understandably skeptical that his brother is the Messiah, (spoiler) but aside from loving Tasmin, what is his overarching purpose? Much the same, the reader has no emotional connection to Tasmin or any of the secondary characters. This makes everyone feel a bit like a shell of what they could have been. Unfortunately, this concept also applies to Hunt’s depiction of Jesus, who feels more like a nice concept than the Risen Christ. In contrast, Hunt did well to use first-person for both Tasmin and Jude, and included some interesting minor characters. However, because the strengths and weaknesses are equal in this category, Hunt receives an average score here as well.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

In conclusion, Hunt earns a full point in originality for creating two characters who did not fully embrace Jesus at first, but avoid becoming strawmen. We really appreciated that Hunt portrayed her two main characters as having realistic doubts and honest concerns about how following Jesus would alter their lives. If only more authors would catch on to this concept. Unfortunately, there is nothing especially creative about Hunt’s portrayal of Jesus’s life and ministry, so we leave it up to filmmakers as to whether or not they want to bring this book to the big screen. The book would need several additions, such as bringing Tasmin’s flashbacks to the forefront of the story, but it could be done right in the right hands.

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Redeeming Love (Spring 2021)

Coming spring 2021 from Pureflix and Paradigm and Link Entertainment

Writer(s): Francine Rivers

Director(s): D. J. Caruso

Producer(s): Cindy Bond, Simon Swart, Wayne Fitzjohn, Michael Scott, David A.R. White, Brittany Yost, Roma Downey, Francine Rivers

Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Abigail Cowen, Nina Dobrev, Famke Janssen, Tom Lewis, Eric Dane, more TBA

Plot summary: Based on Rivers’ bestselling novel, the story takes place against the romantic backdrop of the California Gold Rush of 1850. The story centers on Angel, who was sold into prostitution as a child. She has survived through hatred and self-loathing until she meets Michael Hosea and discovers there is no brokenness that love can’t heal.

Coronavirus: Patient Zero (May 2020)

Coming to Amazon Prime Video May 15, 2020 from JC Films

Writer(s): Jason Campbell

Director(s): Jason Campbell

Producer(s): Jason Campbell

Cast: Tim Ross, Samantha Melvin, Bobby Lacer

Plot summary: Inspired by the actual events of early January 2020, when a young girl entered an urgent-care clinic in a suburb north of Seattle with a slightly elevated temperature and a cough she’d developed from a family trip to Wuhan, China.

Looking for a Way to Entertain Your Kids…and Yourself?

Author’s Note: This is not a paid advertisement of the AIO Club, just a friendly recommendation.

Hey all! If you’re looking for a way to entertain your kids and yourself with clean, quality content, look no further than Adventures in Odyssey! The online Adventures in Odyssey Club (AIO Club) has a free 30-day trial available that gives you access to all of their audio drama albums, exclusive bonus content, and their animated videos. The website is easy for kids and adults to navigate and has a fun layout.

Insider’s tip: Use Firefox to listen to episodes, not Google Chrome. The website acts buggy on the latter.

All you have to do to get access to loads of free, family-friendly entertainment is make an account and start listening! A pro here is that the account doesn’t require a credit card number, so an older kid could make one on their own. The avatar choices are a bit limiting, but that’s just my opinion.

Here’s the link to the AIO site: https://www.oaclub.org/

We have loved listening to Adventures in Odyssey since childhood, and recently started listening again when the pandemic struck. It’s a great way to use your afternoon free time wisely! Here are some tips from a veteran Odyssey fan on the best selection of AIO episodes:

  • The first ten albums or so have simple plotlines, but there’s nothing really wrong with them.
  • Albums 11-13 are forgettable, but may appeal to some audiences.
  • Album 14 has some priceless comedy, especially the License to Drive episode.
  • Albums 19 and 21 are good.
  • Albums 22-25 are very good, even if Blackgaard is a strawman villian.
  • Pretty much everything else is very good as well after album 25 (except for Back on the Air), until you finish album 57.
  • The most recent albums after 57 are very politically motivated and not especially memorable.

With so many hours of clean, quality content at your fingertips, there’s something here for everyone! We hope you and your family come to love Odyssey as much as we have over the years, and that it leads to some great discussions between you and yours.

Stay strong,

BOSs (Box Office Sass)

Jesus is in This Pandemic

Three weeks ago (give or take) all our lives changed to some extent. For many of us, circumstances that are out of our control have changed our day-to-day lives dramatically. Many people have lost their jobs, have sick loved ones, or are struggling to find someplace to stay because they were previously living on a college campus. For the rest of us, while we have only experienced a change in our daily routines, we are beginning to miss the one-on-one time we previously enjoyed with friends, co-workers, our church families, etc. Regardless of how you have been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, everyone has had to give up something – some more than others. But in the midst of it all, there is hope, there is joy. We can go on.

Those of us on the Box Office Revolutionary team have observed many ways that this pandemic is drawing people closer together. Families are spending quality time together and strangers are trading much-needed supplies with one another via social media. Church families are finding new ways to worship Jesus together and are reaching out to others in atypical ways. That’s right! Jesus is here is this pandemic, and He has a purpose for everything we are going through right now. I don’t know what it is, but I can tell you that He has been very near these days, giving me the strength I need moment by moment. Hmmm, maybe His purpose for some of us is to use this time at home wisely.

For example, what if we turned off the news channel and used our time at home to have one of those long heart-to-hearts (or more than one) with our spouse that we never had time for while we were driving the the kids to and from one hundred extracurricular activities and working full-time jobs? What if we put down the smartphone and played with our kids for an hour? If you live alone (or with only one or two other people) and are feeling lonely, how about looking outside yourself and finding some ways to reach out to others who are feeling the same way. If you do, you just might find that your anxiety is gone.

All of this may sound like corn-pone wisdom, but it really does work. With texting, emails, video chatting, Google hangouts, and a host of other e-communication tools, we really have no excuse. Not even social distancing can stop us from reaching out! It’s time to fight back! Don’t lie down and accept a bleak future, fight for a better tomorrow! Spread the love of Jesus in any way you possibly can!

14 Best Amazing Grace images | Amazing grace, Romola garai ...
Us to COVID-19

Sorry, I got a little excited. Any-who, the coronavirus pandemic is not the end. Jesus still has a purpose for your life. It may look a little (or a lot) different than you thought, but it’s for your good.

Food for thought:

(1) As followers of Jesus, are we going to be just as afraid as those who do not know Him?

(2) Or are we going to take this opportunity to show unbelievers the difference He can make in their lives?

They will know Jesus by His love that overflows through us and spills over onto them. They will not know Jesus by the way we squabble over toilet paper (ahhh, Charmin, those good ol’ days!) and Lysol. Ok, so I admit that Angel Soft is a piece of junk none of us want, but it’s better than nuthin’! So go forth and invest in your kids lives, in your spouse’s life, in your parents’ and siblings’ lives, in your friends’ lives, and in the lives of people you don’t even know!

Remember:

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” ~ James 1:12 NLT

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

~ Romans 5:3-5 NLT

“And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” ~ Hebrews 13:16 NLT

Never give up!👊😎

Box Office Sass (BOSs)

Standoff by Patricia Bradley (BTSNBM)

Author’s note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Standoff, the first book in Bradley’s new Natchez Trace Park Rangers series, gets this new series off to a very, very rocky start. Brooke is a budding park ranger who wants to be taken seriously by her co-workers and do her job well. She has a wealthy boyfriend, a great family, and a promising future ahead of her. Her idyllic lifestyle comes to a screeching halt when her father is murdered and left for dead while in patrol one evening. Luke is a law enforcement officer (of sorts) who is currently working undercover to expose a big drug cartel that is bringing loads of heroin into the U.S. When he hears that Brooke’s father has been killed, he wants to help find the criminal responsible. The problem is, he and Brooke have a bit of a checkered past, and now that she has a corny villian wealthy boyfriend with a big family inheritance package, he believes any future they had together is now out of the question. She hates him, he has commitment issues, it would never work. You can pretty much guess what happens in this tale, so I won’t bore you any further. As to the plot and storyline quality, let’s just say that the only bright spot in this trainwreck are the chapters featuring the ‘unnamed’ villian. This adds an appropriate air of suspense, but unfortunately the concept isn’t fully developed. Other than that, there are only errors to note here. First, the storyline moves at an inconsistent pace, so much so that the reader sometimes feels like they are being jostled from one scene to another before they can fully understand what’s happening. Second, the author tends towards what I like to call the information-dump style of writing, which interrupts the pace of the story and distracts from whatever point she was trying to make. For example, she offers many unnecessary definitions of crime-related terms and foreign foods Americans may not be familiar with that interrupt the flow of the story. Third, heavy-handed narration is used throughout as the reader is force-fed the major plot points. Fourth, I’m not sure how this is suppsoed to be romantic suspense, since it’s made clear that Jeremy only wants Brooke as a babysitter for his daughter and Luke barely spends any time with Brooke throughout the story. Lastly, perhaps the most unusual facet of this novel is the borderline-racist depictions of non-white characters. Every person with a Cajun accent seems to eat only Cajun food (whose composition the author explains to us in detail), and every other non-white person is a drug dealer or other type of criminal. This messaging is very offensive and unprofessional not to mention bizarre. For these reasons, Bradley earns far below an average score in this section.

Character Development (0 points)

Similarly, Bradley’s heavy-handed, third person narrative tone means that character development is pretty much nonexistent. Brooke is a wooden protagonist who doesn’t know what she wants out of life. Despite her character’s feminist undertones, she doesn’t get much accomplished without the help of her male counterpart, Luke. ‘Luke Fereday’ (no I’m not kidding) has chiseled features, drinks a lot of coffee because “caffeine never kept him up at night,” and goes to a lot of mysterious meetings in bars that make him look really cool…NOT. Jeremy, one of the cheesy antagonists, wears a suit and has a double life as a politician and guy with a Cajun accent who runs a drug cartel. The minor and secondary characters are one-dimensional and add little to the plot. There is unfortunately nothing good to note here. This being said, Bradley earns zero points for character development.

Creativity & Originality (0 points)

In conclusion, there is nothing creative or original to note in this novel. As such, this book should most certainly not be made into a Christian film or series. It is always our practice to point out the good in every novel and commend authors for their strengths, but there was, regrettably, nothing here to commend. Christian authors, we believe in you and the gifts Jesus has given you. Please, don’t write a story unless you are absolutely certain that you have been called by Him to do so. A book you write with Jesus can change the world for good.

Wish List Rating: .5 out of 10 points

Someone Like You by Karen Kingsbury (May 5, 2020)

Someone Like You: A Novel (The Baxter Family) by [Kingsbury, Karen]

Release date: May 5, 2020

Author: Karen Kingsbury

Plot summary: Kingsbury’s latest Baxter family novel takes on a popular pro-life issue. Maddie Baxter West is shaken to the core when she finds out everything she believed about her life was a lie. Her parents had always planned to tell her the truth about her past: that she was adopted as an embryo. But somehow the right moment never happened. Then a total stranger confronts Maddie with the truth and tells her something else that rocks her world—Maddie had a sister she never knew about. Betrayed, angry, and confused, Maddie leaves her new job and fiancé, rejects her family’s requests for forgiveness, and moves to Portland to find out who she really is. Dawson Gage’s life was destroyed when London Quinn, his best friend and the only girl he ever loved, is killed. In the hospital waiting room, London’s mother reveals that London might have had a sibling. The frozen embryo she and her husband donated decades ago. When Dawson finds Maddie and brings her to Portland, the Quinns—her biological parents—welcome her into their lives and hearts. Maddie is comforted by the Quinns’ love and intrigued by their memories of London, who was so much like her. Is this the family and the life she was really meant to have?

Star of Persia by Jill Eileen Smith (BTSNBM)

Star of Persia: Esther's Story  -     By: Jill Eileen Smith

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

In Star of Persia, Smith retells the familiar Bible story of Esther in an everyday fashion that contains no conspicuous errors, nor does it contain anything particularly groundbreaking. King Xerxes is a mighty king with ample political power and influence. Though he has two wives and a full harem of concubines, he loves only Vashti. Vashti struggled to have children for some time, and finally succeeded in giving Xerxes a son. However, because Vashti is only half-Persian, her rival’s son will be his successor. One evening when he has been drinking too much wine, Xerxes gives in to social pressure and summons Vashti to appear before his nobles. She refuses, a fact which earns her eternal banishment from the kingdom. King Xerxes regrets his decision the following day and longs for someone to fill the empty space Vashti left behind. Hadassah grew up as an orphan in her cousin Mordecai’s family after her parents died when she was very young. Mordecai’s wife Levia has been like a mother to Hadassah, and though she is not close to his other children, her life has been pleasant overall. As Hadassah grows older, she begins to take on more household responsiblities in preparation for her eventual betrothal to an eligible male in their community. One day Levia suddenly falls ill, and despite Hadassah’s vigilant care, she does not recover. Following Levia’s death, Hadassah and Mordecai are left shocked and saddened. Hadassah is even more confused about her future when her best friend Jola is betrothed to a young man she liked. When King Xerxes issues a decree that will change the lives of all the unmarried women in the empire, Hadassah becomes Esther, and has her future decided for her. Star of Persia’s plot moves along at a steady pace and contains no continuity errors, but sometimes it fails to hold the attention. Additionally, it contains one historical error. (spoiler) The prologue depicts a young Hadassah visiting Queen Vashti on palace grounds at night. It is very unlikely that a peasant girl would be allowed to wander through the palace gate, let alone speak to and touch the queen. In contrast, the storyline follows the Biblical narrative almost to the letter, but tends to romanticize Esther and Xerxes’ relationship, and contains very little depth. Therefore, Smith earns an average rating in this section for writing a story that is fine at face value, but failing include any content that is especially memorable or unique.

Character Development (2 points)

Similarly, the character development in this novel is pretty good, but not great. Esther is the weakest character – not a good fact when she is the protagonist. She is continually portrayed as an almost perfect character who displays almost angelic obedience and complacency even as a child. What we need here is a little spirit and rebellion! Esther was human after all, and it must have taken some kind of gumption to appear before Xerxes uninvited. The girl had spirit I tell ya! Anyway, Xerxes is a slightly better character than Esther because he makes irrational decisions he later regrets and learns from these bad choices. Haman is a partially developed antagonist who lacks motive for his actions. The other characters, like Moredecai and Levia, are fairly good minor characters who have a clear role in the story. Because of this mix of good and bad, Smith receives an average score here.

Creativity & Originality (0 points)

Finally, there is nothing particularly original or creative about Smith’s depiction, so this section is awarded zero points. Likewise, we do not believe that this novel contains content that should be made into a film or series. There have been many unsuccessful portrayals of Esther in film thus far, and as of now we do not expect this to change. It would be pointless for someone to try again with incomplete content. If someone attempts to make another movie or series about Esther, they will need to avoid making it a romance, think outside the box, and depict the historical setting as it actually was.

Wish List Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Water Keeper by Charles Martin (May 5, 2020)

Water Keeper  -     By: Charles Martin

Release date: May 5, 2020

Author: Charles Martin

Plot summary: A retired priest, Murphy Shepherd lives alone on an island tending the grounds for a church with no parishioners. But when his best friend dies and asks Murphy to scatter his ashes on the other side of the world, he takes off on his boat to carry out his friend’s wishes. Along the way he meets a dance instructor named Summer who is searching for her daughter. She believes she was abducted into the world of trafficking. As they search for Angel, they discover a stowaway. And its not coincidence that he chose Murphy’s boat. There is more than it first seems, but memories have long compelled him to keep the truth hidden.

The Hail Mary (2021)

The Hail Mary film by DR.jpg

Filming this summer, coming in 2021 from A Channel of Peace

Writer(s): Daniel Roebuck

Director(s): Daniel Roebuck

Producer(s): Daniel Roebuck, Tammy Roebuck, Samantha Edwards, Davie Cabral

Cast: Daniel Roebuck, Sean Whalen, Timothy E. Goodwin, Duane Whitaker, Joe Estevez, Wyatt Root, Harri James, Ashley Berman, Marsha Dietlein

Plot summary: A comedy about Sister Kathy, a Nun with a sense of humor and purpose, who finds an angry loner in need of redemption and leads him to his atonement by conning him into creating a football team for her All-Boys Catholic School.

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright (September 2020)

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Release date: September 1, 2020

Author: Jaime Jo Wright

Plot summary: The old circus train depot will either be torn down or preserved for historical importance, and its future rests on real estate project manager Chandler Faulk’s shoulders. As she dives deep into the depot’s history, she’s also balancing a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and the pressures of single motherhood. When she discovers clues to the unsolved murders of the past, Chandler is pulled into a story far darker and more haunting than even an abandoned train depot could portend.

Isaiah’s Legacy by Mesu Andrews (BTSNBM)

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Andrews’ latest novel, Isaiah’s Legacy, takes a different turn than many of it’s counterparts by thinking outside the box regarding Biblical narratives, but falls a bit short in several areas. Manasseh is a young boy who lives mostly in his own little world and struggles to cope with noise and crowds – two things that are very prevalent in the life of a future king. Zibah, his mother, fears for his future and feels helpless to teach him how to cope. Hezekiah, whose is living on borrowed time, doesn’t fully share Zibah’s level of concern about their son, but knows that something must be done if he is to rule Judah successfully. Shebna is a jealous man of Levite heritage who has been scheming for an advantageous political position for many years. On a visit to his brother Haruz’s home, he meets his niece, Shulle, and learns that she has a way with people society rejects. Shebna brings her to the palace under the guise of being a companion for Manasseh, but is secretly training her to influence the future king as he sees fit. As Shulle grows older, Shebna and his servant Belit, a sorceress, lead Shulle astray; and as Manasseh grows older, Shulle leads him astray. By the time Shulle and Manasseh are adults, they are fully immersed in the cuttthroat world of politics and surrounded by bad influences. Will they choose Yahweh’s way before it is too late? As previously mentioned, this story contains both strengths and weaknesses. On a positive note, the latter half of the novel has strong Biblical themes of redemption and forgiveness. Additionally, it is clear that the bad decisions Manasseh makes in this depiction are not related to his disorder, but his bitterness against his Maker. In contrast, the plot and storyline contain four central flaws. First, the storyline starts out on shaky ground with an information dump from Shebna that seeks to give the reader a historical background for coming events – it would have been better to divide the vast content in this novel between it and a sequel. Second, the last third/fourth of the novel tries to cover over ten years of content, which makes the ending a bit rushed. Third, there is too much page time spent explaining how pagan rituals were carried out, and author also dwells on sensual scenes between Manasseh and Shulle (before they follow Yahweh) for a bit too long. Lastly, though it is a noble idea to portray one of Israel’s kings as having Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD], it is not clear why Andrews chose to do this. As a special ed major, I wholeheartedly affirm the inclusion of people who have special needs in literature, and think that they should be represented more than they are. However, every good story needs one or more specific reasons for why it’s characters exist as they do, and great stories will use these reasons as pivotal parts of the plot. If Manasseh having ASD does not directly tie in with the plot somehow, why does he have it at all? The answer to this question is never made clear. In summary, Andrews earns slightly below an average score in this section for numerous plot and storyline errors.

Character Development (2 points)

Comparatively, Manasseh is a fairly good protagonist who has realistic responses to change and tragedy. Shulle is a good secondary main character who makes realistic wrong decisions based on duty and the desire to protect her father. (spoiler) However, at times it is hard to know what her role in the story is, outside of calming Manasseh down and trying not to have children. As for the rest, Zibah is a relatable, flawed mother figure who wants her son to follow God and make good choices. Isaiah is a good minor character, but comes off as a bit too saintly at times. Shebna is a weak antagonist who is usually angry at someone or plotting…something. Lastly an additional error to note here is that Shulle’s father basically disappears shortly after the author introduces him, then reappears at the end of the novel with no explanation. This creates a plot hole. Overall, character development is mixed, which leaves Andrews with an average score here.

Creativity & Originality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is not really anything creative or original to note in this novel that has not been done before in varying forms. Needless to say, this was not our favorite book by Andrews. As such, we do not recommend that it be made into a film or series. Early on in Andrews’ career, she had a rare talent for crafting original characters and deep, meaningful dialogue – see Love Amid the Ashes for an example of this. Because of this, we believe that she still has the potential to be a great author, and maybe even a screenwriter. But she, like many other authors, needs to consider collaboration as the key to future writing success.

Wish List Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

Rise (April 2020)

Coming to theaters April 10, 2020, currently in post-production

Writer(s): Randy Brown, Gregory Allen Howard

Director(s): Kevin Rodney Sullivan

Producer(s): TBA

Cast: TBA

Plot summary: This films tells the improbably true story of a janitor who took over a middle school basketball team and a won a state championship.

Daughter of Rome by Tessa Afshar

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Tessa Afshar’s latest novel is a great concept that does not quite reach it’s fullest potential. The novel covers multiple different timelines, but centers around Priscilla and Aquila’s young adult lives and the early days of their ministry. Priscilla is the daughter of a revered Roman general and a Germanic mother – much to her brother’s chagrin. When her father died, he left her with her freedom, but no real way to make a living. As such, Priscilla lives in her brother’s home. Following a dark period in her youth that still haunts her, Priscilla decided to seek help at a local Jewish synagogue. She soon found that many of the attendees were secretly Christians. Despite her unfortunate home life, Priscilla found sincere friendship and support in this group of people who follow Yeshua. Just when she thinks her life is settling down, Aquila steps into it. Aquila, a recent convert to Christianity, comes from a staunch Jewish background and still has trouble treating Gentiles as equals. He carries his recent hurtful experiences deep inside, and sometimes lashes out at others instead of being honest with himself and God. While he is suspicious of Priscilla at first, he soon finds himself attracted to her against his will. The problem is, both Priscilla and Aquila are afraid to open their hearts to love again. To find out what happens, read the book, and leave your opinions in the comments section below!:) As I previously indicated, the plot and storyline in this novel contain both strengths and weaknesses. The plot starts out strong with a well-placed flashback to a tragic, life-altering decision Priscilla almost made, but fades to a pedestrian pace after that. While the storyline improves greatly in the last two-thirds of the novel, the first third tends to meander along through the daily lives of Priscilla and Aquila, all the while hinting at their shadowy backstories. For example, throughout the first third of the novel backstories are revealed in third person to the reader early on, then from one character to another via dialogue. There’s nothing wrong with this technique, but it does not hold the reader’s attention in this case. Furthermore, the secondary and minor characters’ sub-plots are interesting but feel incomplete. In contrast, the novel contains many well-placed Scripture references and a clear Christian message of Jesus’s grace and redeeming love. It also contains realistic portrayals of marriage relationships and friendships. Lastly, the attention given to historical detail – without lapsing into wordiness or boring narration – is impressive and adds much to the plot. Thus, Afshar earns just above an average score for her plot and storyline that improved as they unfolded.

Character Development (2.5 points)

In comparison, the character development in this novel is also above average. Priscilla is a great protagonist who is portrayed as someone earnestly seeking after Jesus, while also trying to pay penance for past sins. This paradox is a very relatable illustration of how people try to earn Jesus’s free gift of salvation and forgiveness. Antonia is a great antagonist who has a realistic motive and changes in response to her life experiences. Making the effort to craft meaningful antagonists is sometimes what saves Christian novels from obscurity. Aquila is a fairly good character, but throughout the first half of the novel we hear more about his life experiences than who he is. Although this error is nonexistent in the second half of the novel, his character feels incomplete in the end because of it’s rocky beginning. However, the minor and secondary characters are above average and round out the story well. Thus, Afshar earns a slightly above average score in character development as well.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

In conclusion, Afshar’s original idea to portray Priscilla and Aquila before they were married and in the early days of their ministry together earns her a half point in originality, while her effort to bring Biblical accounts to life in meaningful ways earns her a half point in creativity. While the novel could have been better, we here at BOR still think it could make a great Christian series. If the novel was converted to a series screenplay, the screenwriters would have more space to flesh out Aquila’s character and improve both him and Priscilla through the use of flashbacks. It is no great secret that the Christian film world suffers a great shortage of excellent Bible-based films. We sincerely hope that Christian filmmakers will look to Biblical fiction novels like these for inspiration on how to proceed in future.

Wish List Rating: 6 out of 10 points

The Islands: Betrayal (January 2021)

Coming to theaters January 2021 (or sometime in the near/distant future)

Writer(s): Timothy Chey

Director(s): Timothy Chey

Producer(s): Timothy Chey

Cast: TBA

Plot summary: Based on the true story of the betrayal of the last queen of Hawaii and her incredible faith and courage that inspired the world.

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The world’s reaction

2019 Box Office Revolution Book Awards

Every year, many Christian books are released, and writers of the same show off their creative talents. Across the many genres, these novels are judged based on the presence of absence of plot continuity and exceptional storytelling skills, above average character development, and whether or not a novel correctly addresses an issue or issues that relate to current American Christian culture. These novels are separated into roughly three groups of authors and their respective works of art: the exceptional, the potentially great, and those chosen by the votes of our readers. Likewise, winning titles are listed according to their genre. At Box Office Revolution, we believe it is our prerogative to annually recognize the entertainment creators who have the ability to bring revolution to Christian entertainment.

Staff Choice Winning Books of 2019

Thriller of the Year: The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Rachelle and Ted Dekker and The Line Between by Tosca Lee are tied for first place.

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Fantasy of the Year: Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse (#2 in the Ravenwood Saga)

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Biblical Fiction of the Year: The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr

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Historical/Coming of Age of the Year: All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

Suspense of the Year: The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

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Staff Choice Honorable Mentions of 2019

Drama: The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels

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Historical: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

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Romance: Courting Mr. Emerson by Melody Carlson

Courting Mr. Emerson  -     By: Melody Carlson

Biopic/Romance: My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt

My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Lost Love  -     By: Amanda Barratt

Reader’s Choice Book of the Year: The Line Between by Tosca Lee

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Staff Choice Authors of the Year: Rachelle Dekker, Tosca Lee, Morgan L. Busse, Patrick W. Carr, Susie Finkbeiner, and Jaime Jo Wright.

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Rachelle Dekker
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Tosca Lee

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Morgan L. Busse
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Patrick W. Carr
Susie Finkbeiner
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Jaime Jo Wright

Staff Choice Honorably Mentioned Authors of the Year: Erin Bartels, Susan Meissner, Melody Carlson, Amanda Barratt

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Erin Bartels
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Susan Meissner
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Melody Carlson
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Amanda Barratt

Congratulations to all the authors mentioned in this post on their wins and honorable mentions! Thank you all for being committed to producing high quality Christian entertainment and for glorifying God with the gifts He has given you!

Selfie Dad (June 2020)

Coming June 19, 2020 to Video on Demand

Writer(s): Brad J. Silverman

Director(s): Brad J. Silverman

Producer(s): Michael Curlyo, Amy Hunter, Patrick G. Ingram, Karen Long, Paul L. Long, Mike Sullivan, Geno Taylor

Cast: Michael Jr., Chonda Pierce, James Denton, Karen Abercrombie, Jamie Grace, Johnny Pacar, Dahlia Waingort, Shelby Simmons, Jalon Christian, Shelley Dennis, Emily Tosta, Pat Finn, Charissa Saverio, Maurice Hall, Peter A. Hulne

Plot summary:

Spiraling uncontrollably into a mid-life crisis, Ben Marcus, a reality TV editor, is convinced he can only be happy by fulfilling his lost dream of being a comic. Ben posts his stand-up comedy to a YouTube channel, and the videos fall flat until his tweener son posts Ben failing miserably on a home improvement project. Much to his teenage daughter’s embarrassment, this video goes viral, launching Ben into a new career as Selfie Dad. Soon Ben is an award-winning, social media comic phenomenon! Problem is, no amount of success seems to bring Ben satisfaction. Through an odd relationship with studio IT guy Mickey, a brash 25-year old studying to be a pastor, Ben is unknowingly mentored into daily Bible reading. As Ben gets serious about the Word, his heart is forever changed.

From Sky to Sky by Amanda G. Stevens (BTSNBM)

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (1 point)

Stevens’ sequel to No Less Days makes a good attempt at humanizing brokenness and mental health disorders, but falls short when it comes to continuity and a well-constructed plot and storyline. While the novel contains many spiritual truths and fairly good characters, it is hard to understand what the point of this tale is – more on this later. Zac Wilson is having a hard time dealing with the execution he and his fellow longevites were forced to carry out on the previous novel’s antagonist, Colm. The incident has resurfaced all his old trauma flashbacks and is threatening to send him over the edge. However, he is trying his best to keep his inner turmoil buried away so he will not be a bother to his friends. When Zac and his friend David come across two other longevites who need their help, Finn and Cady, they decide to do the honorable thing even though they are suspicious of Finn. When their new relationship with Cady and Finn leads to news of what seems to be a terrible crime, they are thrown headlong into an investigation of the same. Little do they know that this case will not be easy to solve, and that the people they will meet along the way carry information that affects longevites everywhere. To find out what happens, read the book! Or don’t, your choice – this one is an entirely optional read. As I said earlier, the weakest areas of this novel are it’s plot and storyline. The plot limps along on Zac’s panic attacks and references to the previous novel, and unfortunately offers little else besides a few moments of interesting dialogue. In comparison, the storyline follows a lot of rabbit trails that coincide in a choppy conclusion which is both dissapointing and confusing for the reader. (spoiler) Furthermore, the only way to make the longevite concept believable would be to create a plausible explanation for how these characters are still alive, which has not happened thus far. In contrast, the only strength in this area of the novel is Zac’s spiritual journey, but this meaningful sub-plot is buried under a lot of sensationalism when it should have been the driving force behind the story. In summary, this novel had the potential to be better than it is, but sadly it is not.

Character Development (1.5 points)

Comparatively, the characters in From Sky to Sky are an improvement over the plot and storyline. Zac is a somewhat relatable character who makes realistic choices throughout the story, but his development and that of the other characters are continually hampered by the author’s seemingly morbid fixation on Colm’s execution. David is also a good character who displays a great relationship with God and a genuine care and concern for other people, however, his character offers the reader no more than it did in the previous novel. Finn and Cady are good additions to the story, as is Rachel, but all three of these minor characters are left unfinished. The main strength here is the atypical antagonist who has a realistic motive and relatable personal weaknesses, but we are not introduced to her until the story is nearly over. In short, the character development is this novel is sadly lacking as well.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

Finally, Stevens earns earns a half point in originality for her dialogue between Zac and Jesus. This brief bright spot is the strongest point of the novel, but unfortunately it is too little, too late. Needless to say, we do not recommend that anyone make this novel into a Christian film or series. Christian movie-makers should look to the novels rated seven points and above on this column for ample content that would make a great screenplay. Books like these exemplify the desparate need for Christian authors to let Jesus dictate their writing process. If God does not want you to write a book, please don’t write it. The world does not need more sensation, it needs what is real and true and eternal.

Wish List Rating: 3 out of 10 points

First Lady (February 2020)

Coming to theaters February 14, 2020

Writer(s): Nina May

Director(s): Nina May

Producer(s): Nina May

Cast: Nancy Stafford, Corbin Bernsen, Stacey Dash, Bejamin Dane, Melissa Temme, Jenn Gotzon, Burgess Jenkins, Tanya Christiansen, Gabriela Kostadiniva, Paul Milotte, Griffin Duy, Joel King, Robert Shepherd

Plot summary: A romantic comedy about a woman, not married to the president, who runs for the office of First Lady. However, she winds up getting a much better proposal than she ever expected. She is torn between a promise and her calling.

Cry of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (4 points)

The final installment in Busse’s Ravenwood Saga does not disappoint. Cry of the Raven’s well-constructed storyline, deep and relatable characters, and strong underlying message of freedom and light in Jesus cumulate to make an enjoyable read that points you to Him. The opening chapters of Cry of the Raven pick up where the previous book left off – Selene and Damien are both growing closer to the Light and letting Him use their gifts for good. However, their faith and endurance are being tested by worries about how they and the other Houses will fight against the invading Dominia Empire. At a meeting of The Great Houses where everyone discusses their plans for defense, Selene reveals the secrets of House Ravenwood – her dreamwalking gift can and has been used to kill others. In return, Selene finds out that the ancestry of each House – including hers – harbored darker and more complex secrets than she already discovered. Understandably, she is angry, hurt, and reluctant to trust anyone. Damien feels like something inside is keeping his gift of manipulating water to protect others from being all it could be, but isn’t sure what it is. He still struggles with flashbacks of painful events in his past whenever he uses it, and cannot seem to overcome the physical toll it takes on his body. When he is pushed to the breaking point, he must remember Who the Light is and make an important life choice. Will the Great Houses choose to do what is right and break up with the sins of their forefathers? To answer this question, read the book!:) It goes almost without saying that the plot and storyline in this novel are excellent. Busse does an great job of picking up where the last story left off, keeping track of a large number of characters, and utilizing varied settings without being overly wordy or choppy. Thus, she demonstrates above average continuity and fictional world-building skills. Busse also pens an intriguing plot that holds the reader’s attention from beginning to end and even inspires excitement about the conclusion. Thus, Busse earns a perfect score in this section for the reasons listed above.

Character Development (4 points)

Next, Busse’s character development is the strongest point of this book. She has correctly utilized the space given in the series format to deepen already strong characters by exploring their spiritual lives. Selene displays extremely realistic struggles and emotional responses. Moreover, the illustration painted by her arc of how Christians can only be strong through surrendering to Jesus’ strength is very meaningful. Damien continues to be a refreshingly atypical male lead who actually has more to offer to the story than having chiseled features. His spiritual and emotional battles are very relatable and his personality is clearly established. (spoiler) Comparatively, Busse’s use of childhood flashbacks with her antagonist helps this character avoid the pitfall of being a villian just because. Finally, her minor and secondary characters are very well-developed and have clear roles in the story. In short, there is not enough good to say here, and for that reason Busse earns a perfect score in character development.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Busse really shines in the areas of creativity and originality. This being so, she earns a full point in originality for crafting intelligent and relatable characters who have realistic emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical traits. Additionally, Busse earns a half of an x-factor point in creativity for her strong plot and storyline. Because of this, we here at BOR feel that Busse’s Ravenwood Saga would make an excellent multi-season Christian fantasy series. Step aside Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, there’s a new story in town!

Wish List Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

Mulligan (2021?)

The Mulligan: A Parable of Second Chances, Wally Armstrong, Ken Blanchard, Good

Coming soon from Liberty University Film School and Reelworks; currently in pre-production

Writer(s): Ken Blanchard, Wally Armstrong, more TBA

Director(s): Stephan Schultze?

Producer(s): Rick Eldridge

Cast: TBA

Plot summary: This film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Ken Blanchard and Wally Armstrong. It tells the story of a father with a passion for golf who is offered the opportunity to have a “do-over” with his son.

When Calls the Heart, Season 7 (February 2020)

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E: Be still, my heart, I’m hardly breathing. He’s such a tall dark strong and handsome brute Mountie!
E: I like looking at stars Him: Well that’s funny because I do too!

Airing on the Hallmark Channel Channel February 23, 2020

Writer(s): Brian Bird, Michael Landon Jr., Kevan Smith, Jack Wagner

Director(s): Brian Bird, Michael Landon Jr.

Producer(s): Brad Krevoy, Brian Bird, Michael Landon Jr., Alfonso H. Moreno, Neill Fearnley, Eric Jarboe, Susie Belzberg, Michael Shepard, Jimmy Townsend, Annie Brunner, Derek Thompson, Elizabeth Stewart, Lori Loughlin, Erin Krakow, Amanda Phillips Atkins, Vicki Sotheran, Greg Malcolm

Starring: Erin Krakow, Lori Loughlin, Lori Loughlin’s replacement/memory (Kellie Martin?), Pascale Hutton, Jack Wagner, Kavan Smith, Mark Humphrey, Erica Carroll, Carter Ryan Evancic, Eva Bourne, Chris McNally, Kevin McGarry, Rob Estes, Jocelyn Hudon, Morgan Kohan, Aren Bucholz, Martin Cummins

Plot Synopsis: From the ashes of Jack’s death and Lori Loughlin’s Abigail’s departure comes new blossoms of romance – for literally every character. Elizabeth struggles to choose a new husband from the two lookalike bachelors in town…oops, three, I forgot about Gowan. Gowan is pursuing his on-again off-again relationship with his alter ego Mr. Nice Guy. Abigail’s daughter-in-law will likely be planning her wedding to that generic doofus whose name escapes me. Doctor White and Nurse Blonde are finally ‘secretly’ engaged and planning their ‘secret’ wedding. Rosemary and Elizabeth’s friendship is on tenterhooks as Elizabeth juggles being a MOM, a TEACHER, and the heart of the show. Lllllllllleeeee is trying his hardest to fill Jack’s large shoes by having important conversations with Bill, but he struggles with being everyone’s confidant. Will petty fantasy love and friendship survive all these first-world problems? Most importantly, will Elizabeth get married again, and who is the new Abigail?

If I Were You by Lynn Austin (June 2, 2020)

If I Were You: A Novel  -     By: Lynn Austin

Release date: June 2, 2020

Author: Lynn Austin

Plot summary: In the wake of the war, Audrey Clarkson leaves her manor house in England for a fresh start in America with her young son. As a widowed war bride, Audrey needs the support of her American in-laws, whom she has never met. But she arrives to find that her longtime friend Eve Dawson has been impersonating her for the past four years. Unraveling this deception will force Audrey and Eve’s secrets―and the complicated history of their friendship―to the surface.

The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler-Younts (BTSNBM)

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Plot & Storyline Quality (0 points)

Byler-Younts latest novel is a real doozy. From the confusing storyline that can’t pick an identity to the spastic character arcs, this novel is all bad and no good. The opening chapters of the book introduce the reader to Brighton, the daughter of a longtime patient living at Riverside, a mental asylum. Brighton was born at the facility and is used to hearing the cries of the insane as they undergo ‘treatments’ that are questionable at best. The things she has seen and heard there will never be far from her mind. Her days are spent caring for her mother’s needs, talking to her best friend – a boy named Angel who is called an albino because of his bleached skin tone and features – and finding reassurance in Nursey, a nurse who is a mother figure of sorts for her. When Brighton finds out that one of her friends has built their life on lies and deceit, her life will never be the same. Unlike most of the other titles on this site, I do not recommend that you read this book. At best, it’s a waste of your time, in reality, it’s like a fever dream. As for the specific flaws…oh, where to begin. Earlier I mentioned that the storyline can’t pick an identity – this is a major error for many reasons. Is this an expose of the cruel practices used in historical mental asylums? Is it an honest look at how circus employees were/are manipulated for profit? Is this a coming of age tale in a bizarre setting? What is it? An author should always answer this question before writing a story. In comparison, it almost goes without saying that the plot is extremely discombobulated. As the reader is pulled from one climactic and sensational moment to another, the author forgets to include pertinent information about exactly how key events in the story were accomplished (and do we really need so many scenes of people being dragged kicking and screaming to solitary confinement??). Finally, the dialogue swings back and forth between a melodramatic view on life and an unusual narrative tone that sometimes makes inappropriate, crude remarks about the private aspects of a person’s life. This is not only distracting to the reader, but something that should never be found in a Christian novel. In summation, Byler-Younts receives no points in this section for the reasons listed above.

Character Development (0 points)

Similarly, Byler-Younts’ character development is just good enough to keep this section from receiving negative points, but that’s not saying much. Brighton has the most potential to be a good character because her dialogue gives the reader a first-person perspective on what’s happening. However, her character arc is inconsistent. One minute she’s fighting tooth and nail against everyone, then she’s depressed and crawling back to dysfunctional relationships for comfort. Angel isn’t a bad character concept, but that’s all he is – his character never moves beyond an idea to gain a personality and tendencies. Unfortunately, it seems like Grace only exists so the author has a reason to mention how biracial asylum patients were sterilized at one point in time. Most of minor characters are either forgettable or incomplete concepts because of their short lifespan. It is never a good idea to steadily introduce new minor or secondary characters all the way through the end of a storyline as a way of filling in plot holes – this is nothing more than a lazy method of writing. In short, there’s really nothing good to say here. As such, Byler-Younts earns zero points in this section as well.

Creativity & Originality (-1 points)

Finally, because there is no creativity or originality to speak of here, numerous writing errors, and no spiritually uplifting moments, Byler-Younts earns a negative point in this section. Please know that we tried our best to find something positive about this novel and are always willing to give authors the benefit of the doubt, there just wasn’t anything good here. It is truly disheartening to see how some Christian authors will abandon any talent they had in exchange for a sensational story that will make some fast cash or gain them social recognition. The lesson that the fictional Jo March learned long ago is still true for today’s authors – “aim at the highest, and never mind the money.” If Jesus has placed a story on your heart and compelled you to share it with others, this will be obvious to all who read it, and money will be of no consequence.

Wish List Rating: -1 out of 10 points

Don't Say My Name (2020/2021)

Currently being filmed

Writer(s): Patricia Landolfi

Director(s): Federico Segarra

Producer(s): Marty Jean-Louis 

Cast: Brooklyn Wittmer, Cory Kays, Anita Cordell, Joel C. Hunter, Samuel Morales, Josh Morales, Luis Morales, Jenny Porrata, Rasheda Issac, Ariana Ruckle, Dominick LaBlanca, Jason Barbeck, Ariel Kelly, Melissa Pagan, Creisson Soni, Raymond Pozo, Tony Russilo, Halyn Rose, Courtney Dawn

Plot summary: This film follow Adriana, a human trafficking survivor, as she escapes her captors and begins a harrowing journey of survival as she navigates the road to recovery and healing.

Echoes Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Wright’s latest novel is an excellent example of how to weave life lessons into an intriguing story that would make a great Christian suspense series. The first few chapters of Echoes Among the Stones make it seem like a typical murder mystery, but as the story unfolds it becomes clear that there is much more to this book than meets the eye. When Aggie Dunkirk loses her realty job and is left floundering, she receives a letter from her grandmother, Mumsie, saying that she has broken her hip and needs help. As thoughts of her mother’s recent death crowd her mind, Aggie reluctantly makes the journey back to her hometown of Mill Creek, only to find upon her arrival that Mumsie has neither broken her hip, nor does she appear to be in poor health. Aggie is angry with her at first, but her anger turns to concern when she discovers a skeleton lying in Mumsie’s back yard. The local police brush off the incident as ‘kids’ pulling a prank, but she isn’t so sure. At her new job restoring Mill Creek’s flooded cemetery, Aggie observes more unusual occurrences and begins to wonder if something or someone is targeting Mumsie. Imogene Grayson is a young woman living during the aftermath of World War 2 who has just experienced the violent, completely unexpected murder of her younger sister Hazel. With the war barely over and her brothers just home from the same, Imogene is left grasping for sanity. She vows that she will bring Hazel’s killer to justice, and begins to take great lengths to fulfill this mental declaration – but resolving the same will prove to be nigh on impossible. To find out what happens to these women, read the book! Echoes Among the Stones has a very detailed plotline that holds the attention from cover to cover. There are no lull periods as even the slower-paced scenes are full of meaningful dialogue – one of the novel’s biggest strengths. (spoiler) Another big strength is the fact that the killer is a surprise, and they are not the only one at fault. In comparison, the novel contains a few weaknesses. First, the ending feels a bit rushed as the climactic question asked throughout the novel is answered in an old video on someone’s cellphone, and there are a few moments of sensual thought processes on Aggie’s behalf that we could do without. Lastly, Imogene’s mental murder reenactments are extremely raw and may not sit well with younger readers. In spite of this, this storyline has plenty of potential to be a Christian series, thus earning it an above average score.

Character Development (3.5 points)

Similarly, the character development in this novel is very well done. Aggie and Mumsie’s character arcs make a great parallel because they have very similar, if not the same personalities and tendencies, and have made similar choices throughout their lives. The comparison between an older and younger woman who have similar struggles is a much needed message for our times – neither older nor younger people are better than one another. Furthermore, the minor characters add humor and vitality to the story – which is much needed because of the rather morbid subject matter. The twist with the antagonist adds a lot to the conclusion as well. In comparison, there are a two weaknesses in this section as well. First, although Collin’s character is saved from being entirely stereotypical by his above average dialogue, he continually leans towards the fairy-tale hero/good guy role (he’s a British guy named Colin Collin, I mean, come on). Any-who, the other weakness is the fact that Glen’s character is somewhat shoehorned into the plot – we needed to know more about him as a person outside of his father’s looming shadow. In summary, the weaknesses here do not have a major impact on the story as a whole, therefore, Wright earns a nearly perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

In conclusion, Wright earns a half point in creativity for writing a suspense story with many meaningful and humorous moments, and a half point in originality for her effort to focus the reader’s attention on Who holds our lives together in the midst of life’s most difficult and dark moments – an aspect that can be seen all throughout the story. As such, BOSs (Box Office Sass) thinks that this would make a great Christian suspense series. Some aspects of the novel would need to be toned down a bit to be palatable on-screen, and Wright would have to be a part of the writing process to ensure that the integrity of her story is upheld, but it can be done. We here at BOR long for the day when Christian movie-makers will start looking for movie ideas in the right place – exceptional Christian novels.

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

When Silence Sings by Sarah Loudin Thomas

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

When Silence Sings is a very creative novel that displays a refreshing Biblical worldview and an openness to diversity that is rarely seen in Christian fiction; however, the novel is a mixed bag that had the potential to be much better than it is. Colman Harpe is a young man caught in the middle of a clan battle between two prominent mountain families – the McLeans and Harpes. He feels called by God to be a preacher, but isn’t quite sure what to do with that calling…until God tells him exactly what, Tell the McLeans about Me. Colman resists this message because he believes the McLeans don’t deserve forgiveness and love, and when he does, one disaster leads to another until he’s lost in the mountain caves with no hope of escape. On the outside, Serepta McLean is a hardened, bitter middle-aged woman who enjoys establishing control and dominance over everyone and anyone she comes in contact with by any means necessary. At least, that’s what she wants everyone to see. On the inside, Serepta is a hurting, vulnerable young girl who has never been able to escape her past. When Colman and Serepta find their carefully constructed lives shaken by the One who loves them most, will they choose to withdraw or look up? This novel is an interesting mix of excellent characters and a creative storyline and too great of an emphasis on physical attraction paired with some unusual elements. It was a creative idea to parallel Colman’s character arc with the prophet Jonah’s, but while the author seems committed to making this an allegory in the beginning, the Jonah themes fade away and she turns to other Biblical illustrations as the pages go by. Thus, plot inconsistency is the first major error here. The second major error is harder to explain, but is in existence. The author writes in a whimsical, mysterious tone that is not inherently bad, but leans towards sensuality during conversations between characters and their love interests. In contrast, the plot contains several strengths. First, her messaging is very good. The way she illustrates the absurdity of treating so-called different people as such through her dialogue and mental imaging is excellent. Finally, her unique take on both the Gospel message and God’s grace is very meaningful. In culmination, Thomas earns an average score for a plot that had roots but no blooms.

Character Development (2.5 points)

In comparison, Thomas’ characters are her biggest writing strength. Colman is a very human prophet who has just as many strengths and weaknesses as the next person. Serepta is an excellent antagonist whose backstory – while incomplete – gives clear reasons for her behavior. (spoiler) Additionally, the fact that everything in her life isn’t fixed at the conclusion of the tale is much appreciated by us here at BOR (which now stands for Box Office Razzmatazz😎). The minor characters are also slightly above average because their character arcs are unpredictable and each one has at least a partial backstory. However, there are a few flaws here as well. First, the romances between characters are portrayed as being based mostly on physical attributes, and some of the same relationships display some unusual behavior. Lastly, while each character displays consistent themes, it is hard to get to know them because of how many there are. This novel would have been better if the content in the same was broken up in a series – we could get to know the characters better if they had an individual voice. Likewise, the third-person narrative style of writing makes all the characters seem a bit impersonal. In spite of these flaws, Thomas shows much potential for future novels and or screenplays because her spiritual foundation is strong. Therefore, she earns a slightly above average score here for making an effort to include substance alongside whimsy.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Thomas earns a full point in originality for her obvious grasp on good character foundations, and for her effort to portray diversity as being multifaceted – as not only involving race inclusion, but acceptance of behavioral, cultural, and other factors that make all people unique. For this reason, we here at BOR feel that Thomas has the potential to be a great screenwriter and recommend that she collab with other good authors like Francine Rivers and Susie Finkebeiner to create scripts based on her novels and creative ideas.

Wish List Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Box Office Sass on Christmas

Well its that time of year again. Every time I turn around someone seems to be caught up in the ‘Christmas spirit’ – buying presents for people

Not to mention the fact that most of those gifts will show back up at their original locations when the returns line at Walmart stretches all the way out the door and down the sidewalk. Anyway, I couldn’t let Kirk Cameron and BORe have all the Christmas fun. I just had to get my two cents in!:) So let’s take a closer look at what appears to be Christmas-themed fluff.

Christmas Floats/Christmas Parades in General

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Picture it. You’re standing or sitting in/on a lawn chair outside in the dark by a roped off stretch of the road. It’s very cold and windy, and you think that might be snow that’s starting to fall. Nope. It’s sleet. Anyway, you’ve been waiting over an hour for your city’s local Christmas parade to start, and you’re getting a little antsy, and cold. In fact, you can’t even feel your face anymore. But that’s ok! Because you’re not just here for you. That’s right! Waiting for the Christmas parade to start symbolizes how the world was waiting for the Messiah to come! When the parade finally does start, remember – as huge trailers covered in inflatable lawn ornaments pulled by trucks wrapped in Christmas lights go by, and the suspicious characters on the ‘floats’ throw useless plastic necklaces and confetti in your face – the joy you feel when the parade finally started (or maybe it was relief) is the same joy all humanity felt when our Savior came down to earth as an infant to save us all. If you don’t see anything that resembles the true meaning of Christmas in Christmas parades, don’t worry! ‘Cause

So

The Elf on the Shelf

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No, not that one (shudders in revulsion).
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This one (shudders in slightly less revulsion)

I know what you’re thinking, this has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. Well, put on your Kirk Cameron Worldview Glasses for a minute, and let’s look a little deeper. Picture it. You’re a parent who has jumped on the forming-new-traditions bandwagon. This year, despite your misgivings, you decided to hide ‘that little elf thing’ in various places around your house so your kids can go on a scavenger hunt everyday. Yet every time you do so, you wonder if there isn’t more to Christmas than hiding and seeking a little bendable figure who always

Chestnuts Roasting

Image result for chestnuts roasting"

Ah, that old Christmas classic. What was once just a mediocre nut has become world famous all thanks to a Christmas song. First of all, who here has ever actually roasted a chestnut? Be honest. Alternatively, who here has ever seen a chestnut in it’s original form? Leave a comment below. I for one actually live on a property that is home to several chestnut trees. Because of this, I know that a chestnut is not a cuddly little friend. How do I know this? Well, just take a look at this picture…..

Bet you didn’t see that one coming, huh? Yes, it’s true. A chestnut falls off the tree imprisoned in a creepy sea-urchin like casing. Did I mention that when a chestnut tree sheds its ‘fruit’, it sheds every last nutin a thirty-foot radius. This wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for the searing pain that pierces your foot should you happen to step on one accidentally. Not to mention the swelling and stinging that occurs for days afterward. Anyway, let’s just say I won’t be singing any songs about chestnuts, because stepping on one is just as bad as stepping on a Lego.

Now, I think it’s about time someone reminded us what Christmas is really all about.

That sums it up folks. Christmas doesn’t need saving because Jesus already came and saved us all. I can’t save Christmas, and neither can any of you (or Kirk Cameron). What we can do is donate all those inflatable lawn ornaments to Goodwill and celebrate the real reason for the season with those we love.

This Christmas season, despite my pride in thinking I wouldn’t get caught up in all the madness I just criticized…I did. I got so focused on buying gifts, finishing college finals, and trying to do good works that I forgot Jesus already saved Christmas. This weekend, at a church service in a small local church Jesus has has placed us in currently, He reminded me of three things we all must do if we really want to experience peace at Christmas and all year. We have to (1) respond to His gentle nudging, i.e. slow down, (2) receive the gift of His love, which is all we need, and (3) remain in Him.

As the pastor at said church put it, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is there room in your inn for Jesus this Christmas?

Let earth receive her King!✝️

Box Office Sass (BOSs)

Messiah (January 2020)

Season 1 is coming to Netflix January 1, 2020

Writer(s): Michael Petroni, Bruce Marshall Romans, Michael Bond, Brandon Guercio, Amy Louise Johnson, Kelly Wiles

Director(s): James McTeigue, Kate Woods

Producer(s); Brandon Guercio, David Nicksay, Bruce Marshall Romans
Irene Sommerfeldt, Mark Burnett, Andrew Deane, Roma Downey, James McTeigue, Michael Petroni

Cast: Mehdi Dehbi, Michelle Monaghan, Jane Adams, Mahdi Chalkhaoui, Sayyid El Alami, Melinda Page Hamilton, Fares Landoulsi, Stefania LaVie Owen, Tomer Sisley

Plot summary: When a CIA officer investigates a man attracting international attention and followers through acts of public disruption, she embarks on a global, high-stakes mission to uncover whether he is a divine entity or a deceptive con artist.

The Star [2018] (Movie Review)

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Our reaction to this movie

Plot Summary

Around 4 B.C., a miniature mill donkey is tired of walking in an endless circle as he and his partner grind grain. With the help of a bird who can’t stop dancing and waving his behind at the camera (more on this later), the donkey manages to escape. While he’s running away from his owner he accidentally stumbles onto the aftermath of Mary and Joseph’s wedding feast. Mary adopts him and names him Bo. Joseph doesn’t like Bo because he steals Mary’s attention away from him. As time goes forward, Bo soon finds himself caught up in a very unusual depiction of the Nativity story with no way of escape.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

All things considered, the production in this film is a mixed bag with the animation quality being it’s strongest point. This being said, the animation is fine and has no major errors, and outdoor scenes look mostly realistic; however, the transitions between scenes are either very abrupt and choppy or follow no logical train of thought. The soundtrack is a hodge-podge of several songs by big-name Christian artists, and the said songs don’t usually match the mood of the scene in which they are played. For instance, in one scene where the donkey is depressed, we hear a Casting Crowns song about happiness (?). It’s as if the filmmakers were trying to squeeze as many pseudo-Christmas songs as they could into the run-time with no regard for proper editing. Moreover, the film could have used some instrumental music instead of only songs with lyrics because the viewer is confused as to whether they’re supposed to be listening to the radio or watching a movie. In short, there are more continuity errors than successes. Finally, audio quality contains no notable errors, but editing continues to be a problem here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

What exactly is the plot of this film? Is it a donkey coming-of-age tale? Is it an unusual interpretation of Mary and Joseph’s relationship? Is it about a donkey and a bird who long to join the ‘royal caravan’? Anyway, the plot and storyline are absolute madness, so hold on to your hats. First, it is highly unlikely that Mary was six months pregnant before ever telling Joseph about the angel’s appearance and her new future. Furthermore, the Bible says that Joseph went through a period of indecision before deciding to remain engaged to Mary. In this depiction he says a very brief prayer and hears a one-word answer, then he’s hunky dory. Second, what’s with all the references to animal’s rear ends? From the old donkey in the mill to that obnoxious dove who won’t stop waving his at the camera (sometimes at very close range) and making frequent jokes about pooping on people, we were left slightly repulsed and scratching our heads. Moreover, why are there so many characters in this plot, and why are some minor characters focused on while others have like two scenes? Third, we have no explanation for the weird singular Roman wannabe super soldier who hulks around with a mask on for the entirety of the film, while grunting and leading two ‘evil’ henchman dogs around on chains. Apparently King Herod sent him on a very evil mission to kill Mary, or Jesus, or something. Because said soldier never speaks we are frequently tortured with dialogue from the uber-serious wolf and his unfunny bulldog sidekick. The main question here is why has this soldier singled out Mary and Joseph to follow around??? Finally, no one knows why Elizabeth and Zechariah are only in one scene – Zechariah is apparently a dim-witted guy who loves to gorge himself on free food – or why Joseph hates Bo so much. This maddening tale comes to a screeching halt with a Band-aid style ending that doesn’t make up for everything else.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The acting quality is fine in this movie, but no voice actor portrays much depth beyond reading their lines in varying tones of voice. As is typical for movies by this filmmaker, a whole bunch of celebrities and Christian celebs are thrown together in a mish-mash cast. On a side note, its really too bad Christopher Plummer was wasted on this film because he would have made a great King Herod in a live-action Christmas film. Any-who, there’s nothing particularly remarkable to speak of here. Yes, there’s no glaring errors, but there’s also nothing that makes this film stand out from it’s counterparts. Overall, acting quality is fine, but the performances – with the exception of Zachary Levi, who actually tries – are pretty much phoned in.

Conclusion

In summary, there is no reason to even try to make a kids animated film unless you’re going to commit to making it high-quality in all respects – the world has enough B-grade Christian kids movies. We don’t really know why this movie was made or how it possibly got back into theaters this year. I guess the Christian kids entertainment genre is really that starved for content. One of the most offensive things from this movie (out of many) is the fact that they felt the need to include the statement “We tried not to stray too far from the original story”. Not too far?!?! They went way off the road! Needless to say, we don’t recommend that you watch this film, for it may cause your kids to become confused about how the Nativity story actually happened and expose them to inappropriate ‘humor’.

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

The End of the Magi by Patrick Carr

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Patrick Carr is back and is trying out a new genre – Biblical fantasy. Biblical fiction is a literary genre that desperately needs creativity and new kinds of writers. Thankfully, Carr does both. His story, set around the time that Jesus Christ was born, is a revolutionary idea that paints the traditional, but historically and Biblcally inaccurate “three wise men” in a whole new light. Myrad is the adopted son of Gershom, a secret member of the king’s magi. The magi are an elite group who are advise the king and approve his decisions. However, this is only part of their job. As we all know, they’re keeping track of time to see when the Messiah will come. Myrad has suffered from a clubfoot all his life, and it has kept him one step behind (literally) everyone else. When he has a dream about the future, Gershom sees his gift and takes him to the palace to become a magus. But on the very day when he is to become such, Gershom and the majority of the other magi make a decision King Phaartes and his wannabe queen Musa don’t like. As punishment, the king orders the mass slaughter of all the magi, save for Myrad and a handful of others. Myrad escapes (mostly) and runs into a merchant named Walagash. The two join forces, and Myrad soon learns that life on the road is unpredictable, and the course of his life has been forever changed. After all, he’s following the star. To find out what happens to Myrad and the other characters, read the book!:) No really, read it, it’s actually worth your time.😃 The End of the Magi wades through this section with few errors. The plot is excellent, per usual for this author, and the storyline holds the attention from cover to cover. There are no continuity errors, and the story takes several unexpected turns up to the very end of the story. Additionally, there are several reveals throughout the plot that make for an exciting read, and the startling attention given to historical detail is impressive. The main error to speak of is minor – the eventual romance feels a bit tacked on, but the dialogue between the two characters in question is so good that there’s not much else to say. Other than that, there is a sequence that it is hard to believe the character lives through – but this is fantasy, after all – and a few dialogue sequences that are just a hair long. In spite of this, there is not space here to list the remaining positive aspects. Suffice it to say, Carr earns just short of a perfect score here.

Character Development (4 points)

In comparison, Carr’s character development is excellent. Myrad is an imperfect protagonist who learns from his good and bad decisions and – realistically – changes as a person throughout the story. Walgash is a great minor character and father figure who adds a lot to the plot, but in my opinion we could use fewer references to his hugeness and strength. However, as this is not an error, but an opinion, Carr isn’t marked off for it. Rashan is a surprisingly good character who gets better as the story continues. Additionally, the antagonist(s) are believable and the secondary characters make meaningful contributions to the plot. In short, there are no errors to speak of here.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Carr earns a half an x-factor point in originality for actually having the magi visit Jesus when he was a young child instead of an infant, because nobody does this. He also earns a full point in creativity for his unique depiction of the magi and his commitment to historical accuracy. As such, we believe this novel would make an excellent Christian series. The storyline would need very little alteration, and Carr must be involved in the screenwriting process if the characters are to be interpreted properly. Excellent novels such as these leave no excuses for filmmakers to continue to ignore this valuable moviemaking resource.

Wish List Rating: 9 out of 10 points

Peace River (coming in 2020)

Coming in 2020 from FaithWorks Pictures

Writer(s): Benjamin M. Jones

Director(s): Douglas James Vail

Producer(s): Benjamin M. Jones, Margaret B. Jones, Douglas James Vail

Cast: Cazzey Cereghino, Sabastian Neudeck, Virginia Tucker, January Loomis, Trace Carper

Plot summary: Peace River is the story of a young, modern, champion rodeo cowboy and Special Ops soldier who is crushed by war and personal loss and must draw on the cowboy way and a profound faith in Christ to recover the will to live and love of his life.

The Shepherd’s Wife by Angela Hunt (October 6, 2020)

Release date: October 6, 2020

Author: Angela Hunt

Plot summary:

Yeshua of Nazareth has two sisters: Damaris, married to a wealthy merchant’s son, and Pheodora, married to a simple shepherd from Bethlehem. When Pheodora’s husband suffers an unexpected reversal of fortune and is thrown into debtor’s prison, she returns to Nazareth, where she pins her hopes on two she-goats who should give birth to spotless white kids that would be perfect for the upcoming Yom Kippur sacrifice. In the eighteen months between the goat’s birth and the opportunity to sell them and redeem her husband from prison, Pheodora must call on her wits, her family, and her God in order to provide for her daughters and survive. But when every prayer and ritual she knows is about God’s care for Israel, how can she trust that God will hear and help a lowly shepherd’s wife? 

When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Musser’s latest novel is an intriguing blend of imperfectly unique characters and a creative suspense-style storyline that communicates an outside-the-box message about humanity’s need for God’s grace. While it has several strengths, perhaps When I Close My Eyes‘ biggest strength is how the author humanizes the struggle many people have with depression. Josephine Bourdillon loves to write. For her, writing is more than a hobby, it is how she makes sense of life’s joys and sorrows. Holding onto God’s promises and putting her pain in story form is how she has survived her difficult life. Josephine has a happy existence overall – she has several close friends, a devoted husband, and two loving daughters, Paige and Hannah. Though her troubled older sister is a continual rain-cloud in her otherwise sunny life, she really can’t complain. When Josephine is suddenly shot in the head by a scapegoat named Henry Hughes, her family is horrified and the world wonders if her stories will die with her. Henry is pinned as the key suspect in the case as everyone tries to find out who tried to kill Mrs. Bourdillon, and her family tries to hold onto hope that sue will survive. To find out what happens to the Bourdillon and Hughes families, read the book!:) On the whole, this storyline is a very interesting idea that wasn’t fully carried out. For instance, Josephine and Paige have very well-done stories; the former’s is established with timely and meaningful flashbacks, and the latter has a clearly outlined personality and relatable thought processes. However, Paige’s story is a bit rushed, and the audience needed a bit more information about both her and her love interest as children. In spite of this, the dialogue between characters is exceptional and Henry is a refreshingly original antagonist. In comparison, Josephine’s story tends to be quite morbid at times. (spoiler) Although her flashbacks give ample reason for her struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, the reader is left to assume that this was just a natural tendency for her as a person, rather than a result of her difficult childhood. It is our opinion that the latter plot device needed to be more clearly emphasized for her story to be truly relatable. (spoiler) Lastly, the misdirecting plot twist towards the end of the story is an intriguing idea, but I must say I’m glad the novel ended the way it did for a number of reasons; however, the epilogue is unnecessary. Thus, this combination of strengths and weaknesses earns Musser an above average score in this section.

Character Development (3 points)

In contrast, the character development in this novel is better than that of many, but it still leaves some room for improvement. First, the author employs excellent development of Josephine’s through flashbacks and shows how she weaves pieces of herself into her novels as a way of coping with trauma. This is an excellent plot device that humanizes her character and demonstrates the author’s deep understanding of people’s response mechanisms. Furthermore, Musser’s subtle explanation of how Josephine deals with her past by trying to help others reconcile with theirs helps make this character believable. In addition, Paige is a great alternate lead, and minor characters like her boyfriend and Henry’s wife are above average. In comparison, it is hard to get to know Josephine’s husband as a character in the midst of the fast paced plot, so it is clear that he needed a bit more development or an even smaller role in the story. The same is true for Hannah, for though she is an interesting idea, her character never fully comes to fruition. Therefore, Musser earns just under a perfect score here.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Musser earns a full point in originality for writing a true contemporary novel that is not fully a suspense, romance, or thriller. Instead, it somehow contains aspects from all three of these genres in a very surprising way. While this novel is not great, it is good, and there are many recent novels of which we cannot say the same. Likewise, we feel that this novel would make a great Christian drama/biopic film if the screenwriter took a little time to develop the minor characters further and cemented Josephine’s life as the main focus.

Wish List Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

The Encounter Season 2 (January 2020?)

Coming to Pureflix.com January 29, 2019?

Writer(s): Timothy Katajczak, Keith Ray Putman

Director(s): TBA

Producer(s): Andrea Logan White, David A. R. White, Bradley Dorsey? Bruce Marchiano?

Starring: Brooke Becker, Gina Simms, Bruce Marchiano, Shari Rigby, Michele Gomez, Ashley Bratcher, Bradley Dorsey, Brooke Becker, Ty Anaya, Josh Tipis, more TBA

Plot Synopsis: What would you do if you had an encounter with Jesus? In the first episode, Lily is devastated when her idea of a perfect wedding doesn’t go so perfect. She and the other characters will discover what happens when Bruce Marchiano Jesus steps in. Currently slated for 8 episodes with the first one airing January 29th, 2020 (maybe) on Pureflix.com.

The Baxters, Season 1 (2020)

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with Roma Downey and Ali Cobrin on set of "The Baxters"

Coming to the LightWorkers streaming service sometime in 2020

Writers: Karen Kingsbury, Christina De Leon, Marilyn Fu, Olumide Odebunmi

Directors: Rachel Feldman

Producers: Roma Downey, Mark Burnett, Will Packer, Christopher Boyd, Brendan Bragg, Rick Christian, Ashlee Cohen, Karen Kingsbury, Kevin Mann, Dominic Ottersbach,

Starring: Trevor Donovan, Ali Cobrin, Brandon Hirsch, Taylour Paige, Roma Downey, Kai Caster, Ted McGinley, Masey McLain, Cassidy Gifford, Damien Leake, Asher Morrissette, Josh Plasse, Sheila Cutchlow, Victor Rodriguez, Jaime Primak Sullivan, Jake Allyn, Orel De La Mota, Emily Peterson

Plot Synopsis: This series is currently slated for 36 episodes that are based on Karen Kingsbury’s famous Baxter family book series that chronicles the trials and tribulations of a large family with six adult children.