Redeeming Love (January 2022)

Coming to select theaters January 21, 2022

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.

The Staff and the Sword Series by Patrick W. Carr, Series Review (UPDATED)

Image result for the staff and the sword series patrick carr

Author’s Note: We were provided with free copies of the novels in this series in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Staff and the Sword Series

The Staff and the Sword is a powerfully written book series that, at the time of it’s release, shook the fantasy genre at it’s core. In this series, Patrick Carr deviated from the typical pitfalls and tropes used in many fantasy novels by crafting relatable, deep characters and an engaging storyline. While each novel in the series contains both strengths and weaknesses, the series rounds out with a strong score, and would make a great Christian animated series. Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses in each novel.

A Cast of Stones (4 out of 4 points)

The opening novel of the series, A Cast of Stones, introduces the reader to a broken young man named Errol Stone who lives in the poor village of Callowford. Errol hides from past trauma by getting drunk as often as possible. He has little care for those around him, and has given himself entirely over to his addiction. One day an important messenger arrives in Callowford with a package that needs to be delivered to a nearby churchman. Errol realizes that he is out of money with which to buy ale, so he volunteers to make the harrowing journey. Little does Errol know that this decision will greatly alter his future. Unlike the other novels in this series, this one contains no errors.

Major strengths of this novel include the engaging and consistent storyline, the well-structured plot, and the character depth. Additionally, Errol is one of the best developed protagonists I have seen in some time. His struggles and learning experiences are perfectly crafted and align very well with his character’s purpose. It would take some time to cover all the positives in this novel, so perhaps the best way to sum it up is by saying the following. Fantasy authors who are looking to craft a story that real people can relate to should use A Cast of Stones as an all-purpose reference guide. For these reasons and more, the first book in this series earns a perfect overall score.

The Hero’s Lot (3.5 out of 4 points)

The second novel in the series, The Hero’s Lot, contains similar strengths, but has some flaws. Major strengths of this novel include it’s realistic portrayal of legalistic church corruption and it’s theme of living under The Holy Spirit’s direction. Major weaknesses of the novel include some choppy chapter transitions and abrupt character introductions. This being said, it would have been helpful to add an additional book in-between this and the final novel. Doing this would have allowed Carr the creative space he needed to flesh out some key characters’ backstories (and the content in The Book) and to better establish how the interactions between different cultures in Illustra influence the storyline. If the entire additional book was set in Merachi, for instance, then a lot of plot holes could be filled in. For the strengths and errors listed, The Hero’s Lot stops just short of a perfect score.

A Draw of Kings (2 out of 4 points)

The final book in The Staff and the Sword series – A Draw of Kings – is the weakest novel, but still has plenty of strong content to work with. Major strengths of the novel include the lessons learned by the main characters and the original ending that isn’t overly predictable. Major weaknesses include Liam’s unfinished character arc (his character desperately needed some realistic flaws, no one is perfect), the overwhelming number of sub-plots, and the plot gaps (i.e. the disappearing barrier) that could have been remedied by adding another novel to the overall count. Thus, this novel earns an average score for not reaching it’s full potential.

Conclusion

Finally, Carr earns a half an x factor point for originality for crafting an excellent Christian fantasy series, and for coloring outside the lines with his incredible protagonist. Additionally, the BOR team believes this book series would make an excellent multi-season Christian animated series made for a teenage audience. Maybe Angel Studios will pick up this project next..;)

Wish List Series Rating: 10 out of 12 points

A Midnight Dance by Joanna Davidson Politano

A Midnight Dance - Kindle edition by Politano, Joanna Davidson. Religion &  Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Politano’s latest novel, A Midnight Dance, is a true work of art that encapsulates ballet in the Victorian era and takes an alternative look at the Christian life – a look that is both relevant and needed.

A major strength of the plot and storyline is the many relevant Christian themes woven into the story – listening to the Holy Spirit, not caving to legalistic behaviors, and living out one’ faith through action (Matthew 3:8). Other strengths include an engaging plot and the story’s strong conclusion. Major weaknesses of the plot and storyline include some minor choppiness throughout the plot, and the story’s rocky beginning. For example, the five-year time jump at the start of the novel is a bit awkward and could have been filled in through well-placed flashbacks throughout the story. It would have been nice to hear more about what happened during those missing five years of Ella’s life. Despite this, the story is quite good on the whole, and the plot twists in the last quarter of the novel are well orchestrated. This being said. the pros and cons in this area balance out to an above average score in plot and storyline.

Character Development (3 points)

Likewise, the character development in this novel is also above average. Elodia/Ella is a strong protagonist with a fully developed personality, tendencies, strengths, and flaws. Furthermore, Ella is not dragged around by the plot, so to speak, but learns important lessons throughout her fictional journey and maintains an unpredictable character arc. Lily, on the other hand, could have used further development. For instance, the story can exist without Lily, so her role in it is a bit underdeveloped. If Lily had been developed via the flashbacks we mentioned earlier, she could have added an additional layer of depth to Ella’s backstory. In comparison, Jack is a strong character, and while the first-person perspectives him are good, it would have been nice to see more of the story from his perspective. Finally, the minor characters are above average. These pluses and minuses round out to a strong score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

To conclude, A Midnight Dance earns a point in creativity for portraying how the arts can be used to glorify God, and a half an x-factor point in originality for exemplifying true romance and real relationships in an overcrowded genre full of…well…garbage. This novel would make a very strong Christian series or miniseries, and should be adapted to a screenplay sometime very soon! Politano shows the talent and ability to act as a screenwriter, so she should be at the forefront of any project whose goal is bringing this novel to the big screen. If more Christian authors wrote with their Savior as Politano does, we would soon see a real revolution in Christian fiction.

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

Vindication, Season 2 (September 2021)

Coming to Pureflix.com September 1, 2021



Writer(s): Matt Chastain, Meredith Johnson, Jarod O’Flaherty, Alan Tregoning, Micheal Willbanks

Director(s): Jarod O’Flaherty 

Producer(s): Jarod O’Flaherty, William Carroll, William Curtis, Corey Cannon, Abby Wilkie, Micheal Willbanks, Michael Dennis, Candace Collier, Katherine Johnson, Kat Steffens, Nene Nwoko

Starring: Todd Terry, Peggy Schott, Emma Elle Roberts, Steve Mokate, Matt Holmes, Ben Davies, Venus Monique, T.C. Stallings, Cameron Arnett, Andrew Cheney, + more

Plot Synopsis: Vindication is an episodic faith-based crime-drama series that follows the small-town investigative work of Detective Travis.

Secrets in the Mist by Morgan Busse (Book Review)

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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)

Secrets in the Mist has a creative storyline that many readers will love, but because the characters lack depth, the novel’s main points fall a bit flat.

There are three major strengths of the plot and storyline. (spoilers ahead) First, Busse creates a believable reason for the Turned to exist and places limits on their abilities – making this aspect of the plot more realistic. Second, the plot contains enough small twists to keep the story’s progression from becoming overly predictable. Finally, the storyline contains some original themes that are not usually portrayed in Christian fiction.

In comparison, there is one overarching error. The plot focuses heavily on Cass and her perspective, and in doing so, fails to connect other characters to the plot in a memorable way. For instance, it would have been nice for the author to include a parallel storyline about Theo’s grandfather when he was Theo’s age – a present vs. past contrast, so to speak. This would have created an opportunity for her to establish what the world was like before the Mist was widespread, and to deepen Theo’s point of view by crafting a backstory for his family that explained how past decisions led to their present condition. Alternatively, a past-to-present parallel storyline from Luron’s perspective would have been interesting as well – especially if the author did not reveal that character’s identity as an opportunistic villian until later in the series. To sum up, the plot and storyline are lacking this author’s usual depth and attention to detail. Therefore, Secrets in the Mist receives an average score in this section because the plot and storyline are full of good, but unfinished ideas.

Character Development (2 points)

Much like the plot and storyline, this novel’s characters are full of potential. However, improvements can be made in several areas.

There are two main strengths in this part of the novel. One, Cass (the protagonist) has a fully developed personality, tendencies, and consistent behaviors. And two, this character was given both motive and a meaningful backstory that helps establish the setting in an organic way.

In spite of these strengths, this novel needed some work in character development. Theo is an incomplete character who lacks flaws, motive, and a fully developed personality. With what we know about Theo’s background, it would have been very easy to establish some flaws. (spoilers ahead) For instance, Theo grew up in a privileged society and never consistently interacted with people from the lower classes. At the very least, Theo would have developed an unconscious attitude of entitlement, even if he was only copying his family’s behavior patterns. Moreover, what is his motive for wanting to eradicate the Mist? Because no one is born wanting to save the world, something had to have happened that would inspire his drive to fix things. (spoiler) If this motivation is his father’s death, we needed to hear more from the character about how this affected him in the past and present.

The only other error in this section is the underdeveloped minor characters. As readers, we are told what the minor characters do via expository dialogue, but we never really get to know them. Including one or two meaningful scenes each with the minor characters would have helped to cement them as key parts of the storyline. On the whole, this section is lacking some of the elements of a good story, and for that reason, it too receives an average score.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

In closing, Secrets in the Mist is an enjoyable, easy-to-read story that features a well-built fictional world and relevant themes. For this reason, it earns a point in creativity. However, because it lacks depth and has a few plot holes, it is not re-readable. Additionally, this book would need some rewriting before it would be ready for a movie/series adaptation. For that reason, it does not earn an x-factor point. Overall, I enjoyed this novel, but would have liked to see the author go a step further in several areas and take a few risks.

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

God’s Not Dead 4: We the People (Fall 2021)

Coming to theaters in Fall 2021 from PureFlix

Writer(s): Tommy Blaze

Director(s): Vance Null

Producer(s): Brent Ryan Green, Ben Laurro, Kim Percival, Michael Scott, David A. R. White, Anna Zielinski

Starring: David A. R. White, William Forsythe, Isaiah Washington, Antonio Sabato Jr., Jeanine Pirro, Amanda Jaros, Paul Kwo, Francesa Battistelli, Matt Anspach, Marco Khan, Benjamin A. Onyango, Hadeel Sittu, Deborah Tucker, Lena Harmon, Anna Zielinski, Vincent De Paul, Nancy Harding, Gary Galone, Christian Stokes, Dani Oliveros, Leticia Robles, Grayson Palumbo, Benét Embry, Tatum Hatfield, Victor Caballero

Plot Synopsis: When an evil government official inspects a homeschooling family and tries to shut down the home learning operation, Pastor Dave (along with some lawyers) is ready to take the fight to highest court in the land! Liberty and religious freedom (as well as PureFlix’s future finances) are on the line, so there’s a lot resting on this fictional court drama that will inevitably feature a Fox News anchor. Will PureFlix be able to successfully use the fourth installment of a half-baked franchise to revitalize their business model?

A Piece of the Moon by Chris Fabry

Amazon.com: A Piece of the Moon: A Heartwarming Novel about Small Town Life  Set in West Virginia in the 1980s (9781496443441): Fabry, Chris: Books

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (.5 point)

A Piece of the Moon is an eccentric novel with an intriguing storyline that, unfortunately, leaves the reader with little in the way of meaningful content.

Like most novels, this one contains both strengths and weaknesses. However, I regret to say that the weaknesses outweigh the strengths. Major strengths of the novel include it’s timely message of finding meaning and hope in the midst of trying circumstances, and the way the story illustrates the importance of learning from past mistakes. Biblical principles like these are a vital part of any story’s foundation, but with the absence of excellent storytelling, the message gets lost in translation. This brings us to the novel’s weaknesses.

First, the storyline’s pace is inconsistent – one minute we’re riding the wave of a tutorial on how to run a radio station, only to fall back into the sea of the story’s overwhelming amount of content. Second, the plot goes in and out of focus as the reader is pelted with different story ideas all rolled into one – is this a story about a treasure hunt in the mountains of West Virginia, an unlikely love story, a broken father-daughter relationship, one man’s path to salvation, how to run an old-fashioned radio station, or a boy who finds redemption and purpose working with his mentor at said radio station? Two or three of these ideas would have fit well together, but all of them in the same novel results in both wordiness and a hasty ending that tries to resolve everything too quickly (and cheesily). Finally, the dialogue and storytelling style are not engaging for multiple audiences.

For these reasons, A Piece of the Moon earns less than an average score in this section.

Character Development (1 point)

Much like the plot and storyline, the story’s characters are also fraught with errors. While there are strengths in this section, they are not enough to outweigh the weaknesses.

Major strengths include the spiritually sound themes and the occasionally meaningful dialogue between characters, along with the author’s use of comedic imagery to build character traits. The biggest weakness in this section is that the reader is basically told what to think about the characters. Using first-person dialogue would have allowed readers to develop an organic understanding of who the characters are and what they learn/experience/feel as the story unfolds – no one wants to feel like the outsider looking in while they’re reading a novel. All-in-all, the characters seem a bit thrown together and needed more depth, and reader engagement is nil.

For these reasons, A Piece of the Moon earns less than an average score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (0 points)

In conclusion, there is really nothing especially creative or original about Moon. We are all familiar with small-town plots like this one – although I must say this novel is in an a category all on it’s own in some areas. When it comes to Moon, this section can be summed up in the following sentence. A plethora of oddities (and eccentric metaphors) is no substitute for great storytelling. This being said, Moon earns zero points in this section. Finally, we do not recommend that anyone make this into a Christian film/series…unless they want to embrace the zany qualities and make it a comedy of errors. 🙂

Wish List Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner

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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)

The Nature of Small Birds promotes poignant themes like truth and transparency among family members, but has a disorganized plot and storyline that detract from the central message. Like most novels, this one has both strengths and weaknesses. However, the novel’s strong points do not outweigh it’s many errors.

First, major plot and storyline strengths in this novel include the non-linear plot progression, the first-person dialogue, the partially developed flashbacks, and the outside the box historical theme. In contrast, major weaknesses include the story holes left behind by the disorganized plot, the split storyline that has multiple protagonists, and the weak conclusion. At it’s core, is this novel portraying generational dysfunction among Bruce’s family, or examining a young Vietnamese American’s experience growing up in small-town USA? It attempts to do both, but does not fully commit to either. If the author had committed to one of these ideas, the novel would have been less choppy and more memorable overall. For these reasons, the novel earns a below average score in plot and storyline.

Character Development (1.5 points)

Second, major strengths in character development include the first-person dialogue that is used to develop the character’s personalities and tendencies, and the nostalgic portrayal of family life. These are commendable, but were not enough to carry the entire novel. This being said, the biggest weakness in this area is the fluctuating protagonist role (is the protagonist Bruce, Sonny, Mindy, or Linda?). All of them are good characters, but they are all left unfinished because no one was the central focus of the storyline. Fixing this error would have greatly upped the overall score, and provided a solution to some of the plot and storyline errors we mentioned above. For these reasons, the novel earns a below average score in character development.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

Finally, it was an original and relevant idea to fictionally portray this little-known part of world history, and for that the novel earns a half point in originality. However, most of the novel is not from Mindy’s perspective. This makes it hard for the reader to retain any of the historical facts shared in the story. For this reason, the novel earns no points in creativity.

In conclusion, we at BOR had high hopes for this novel, but were disappointed by the flaws we mentioned above that kept this from being a well-written story. We do not think this novel should be made into a film or series. But…we would love to see someone make a movie or series from the perspective of a Vietnamese American who came to the U.S. during Operation Baby Lift! As we’ve said many times before, if Christian entertainment would commit to continually turning out only the best quality products, we would soon see a blessed change!

Wish List Rating: 3 out of 10 points

The Wingfeather Saga, Season 1 (Fall 2022)

Pre-Production Starting July 2021, Tentatively Releasing Fall 2022

Writer(s): Andrew Peterson, Keith Lango, Jacob Roman, Kenny Ryan

Director(s): Tom Owens

Producer(s): April Lawrence, J. Chris Wall

Starring: TBA

Plot Synopsis: This animated series is based on the bestselling novels by Andrew Peterson. For twelve-year-old Janner Igiby, life in Glipwood is anything but adventurous. His only escape is the stories he reads at Books and Crannies. Janner’s dream of adventure becomes a perilous reality when his sister, Leeli, stumbles into a Fang of Dang and his little brother, Kalmar, finds a mysterious map that may lead to the powerful Jewels of Anniera.

For more information, check out their site! https://invest.angelstudios.com/wingfeather-saga/

Interview with Dallas Jenkins, Christian filmmaker

Box Office Revolution: “What inspired you to first get into making Christian entertainment?”


Dallas Jenkins: “I loved media and entertainment and was confused as to why I never saw anything of faith that I liked, so I wanted to fill that void if possible.”

BOR: What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of movie making?

DJ: “I’m obsessed with honest portrayals of real people, I think that’s probably my #1 priority. I want the people and their dialogue to feel real, I want the key moments to feel earned.”

BOR: What do you think is the hardest part of making a good Christian film?


DJ: “I don’t think it’s any more hard to make a good Christian film than it is to make a good film period. It’s all hard. The hardest part is simply writing a great script.

BOR: What do you think we need to see more of in Christian entertainment?

DJ: “I can’t think of anything specific, I just want to see us Christians working just as hard as everyone else. Making a good piece of entertainment requires a lifetime of preparation and work.”

BOR: What do you think needs to be improved in Christian entertainment as a whole?


DJ: “That’s not for me to say, I’m just working hard to improve myself. I can’t worry about how to improve others; and who am I to tell someone else they need to improve? I’d just say we all need to constantly work to get better at our craft every day.”

BOR: How do you feel about Christian entertainment creation being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?

DJ: “Hopefully, if you’re making a project, you surround yourself with people who are all better at their jobs than you are.”

BOR: How has Christian entertainment improved during the time you’ve been involved in it?

DJ: “Back when I started, Christian entertainment was so rare, other than music. It’s great to see that now it’s finally seen as an acceptable art form by the church at large.”

BOR: Is working on Christian movie sets any better or worse than working on ‘secular’ movie sets?


DJ: “I hope that the leaders of Christian film sets are so honest and kind and generous that it feels better than any other set, but each set is different, Christian or non.”

BOR: What are your future plans for new Christian entertainment (movies, series, etc.)? Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?


DJ: “Nothing but Season Two of The Chosen for now, that’s enough to keep me wall to wall busy. But yeah, I’ve got a few projects I’m hoping to do if I get any breathers from The Chosen. But for now…let’s focus on The Chosen. That said, you can watch The Resurrection of Gavin Stone on Netflix right now, that’s pretty cool.”

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us Mr. Jenkins, we really enjoyed hearing your perspective!:)

Interview with Jerry Jenkins, Christian Author

Jerry Jenkins | Proven Writing Tips from a New York Times Bestseller

Box Office Revolution: “What inspired you to first write Christian books?”

Jerry Jenkins: “I had done a magazine story on a dynamic young evangelist. Though he was only 25 and I was 23, I felt he was worthy of an as-told-to-autobiography. Sammy Tippit: God’s Love In Action became my first book. He and I are now both in our 70’s and that book is still in print (in its fourth iteration, called Unashamed: A Memoir of Dangerous Faith). And I have served on Sammy’s board for decades. He remains my spiritual hero.”

BOR: “What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of writing?”

JJ: “Being an evangelical Christian, my worldview is hope, and that should come through in everything I write.”

BOR: “What do you think is the hardest part of writing a good Christian book?”

JJ “Making what the uninitiated feel is religious nonpreachy and accessible. To me, religion is man’s attempt to reach God. Jesus is God’s attempt to reach man.”

BOR: “What do you think we need to see more of in Christian novels?”

JJ: “Realism, believable characters. Credible skeptical characters. Not everyone comes to faith and many raise demanding questions that must be faced.”

 BOR: “What do you think needs to be improved about Christian books as a whole?”

JJ: “The writing itself. It’s gotten better and better, but there’s always room for improvement.”

 BOR: “How do you feel about Christian novel writing as being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?”

JJ: “The writing itself will never be collaborative for me. If two people are collaborating on a book, only one should do the actual writing. The other can be a resource, an idea person, an editor, but not the writer.”

 BOR: “How have Christian books improved during the time you’ve been involved in writing?”

JJ: “More grit and realism. More believability.”

 BOR: “Is working with Christian publishing companies any better or worse than working with ‘secular’ publishing companies?”

JJ: “It varies. Some of the best, most encouraging editors I’ve worked with have been general market New York editors, but there are great ones in the Inspirational market as well.”

BOR: “What are your future plans for new novels?  Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?”

JJ: “I’m about to deliver Dead Sea Conspiracy to the publisher for a ’22 release. It’s a sequel to Dead Sea Rising, the story of an archaeologist. Then I’ll write The Chosen Book 2; Title to be determined. I’m novelizing each season of my son Dallas’s creation, The Chosen TV series. Book 2 will release in late ’21 or ’22.”

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Mr. Jenkins, we appreciate your feedback and look forward to reading your upcoming releases!

Interview with Chris Fabry, Christian Author

Chris Fabry Live! - Faith Radio Faith Radio

Box Office Revolution: “What inspired you to first write Christian books?”

 Chris Fabry: “I don’t call my books “Christian” because only people can be Christians, but I know what you mean. I try to write authentic stories that have elements of faith in them and have a redemptive message that other mainstream novels may not deal with. I once had an atheist tell me she read June Bug and that while she didn’t agree with some of the conclusions characters came to, she understood why they believed. That was a big compliment.”

BOR: “What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of writing?”

CF: “I want to write compelling, engaging stories that make you feel the characters are real. I go by the dictum of Hemingway, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” And I believe in the power of stories to change hearts in a different way than a non-fiction book. A novel engages the heart like Nathan’s story to David. It can sneak around the back and knock gently.”

BOR: “What do you think is the hardest part of writing a good Christian book?”

CF: “There are different struggles for different writers. Some struggle not to bang the reader over the head with spiritual content. Fiction shouldn’t preach. My struggle has been taking the idea I have in my head and bringing that to the page. I have high expectations for my stories to be cinematic as you read.”

BOR: “What do you think we need to see more of in Christian novels?”

CF: “Real-life issue and deeper character development. That’s what I’m striving to do.”

BOR: “What do you think needs to be improved about Christian books as a whole?”

N/A

BOR:  “How do you feel about Christian novel writing as being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?”

CF: “Most of my novels have been done in seclusion. Writing is a solitary job, which is part of what I like. Then, when editors get involved, it’s total teamwork and you try to make the book the best it can be. My latest novel, A Piece of the Moon, was like that. I finished and was happy with the story, but my editors felt it needed more work. I had to go back and change a lot of elements of the book and in the end, I think they made the book a LOT better. My work on making films into novels has been collaborative and it’s a different discipline. With that, you know the world being built is a community project.”

BOR: “How have Christian books improved during the time you’ve been involved in writing?”

CF: “There are more writers and publishers willing to tell gritty stories, real stories. Across the board I see a greater commitment to depth in good storytelling.”

BOR: “Is working with Christian publishing companies any better or worse than working with ‘secular’ publishing companies?”

N/A

BOR: “What are your future plans for new novels?  Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?”

CF: “On April 6, A Piece of the Moon releases and I’m really excited about it. I’ve waited 40 years to tell this “small” story about a treasure hunt, a radio station morning show, a love story—there are so many characters I think readers will identify with and come to love. The story is based on a fictional song that weaves itself throughout the story. I’m hoping the novel will sing in your soul!”

Thank you for your time and for sharing your perspective Mr. Fabry, we look forward to reading and reviewing your new release!

Interview with Joanna Davidson Politano, Christian Author

Box Office Revolution: “What inspired you to first write Christian books?”


Joanna Davidson Politano: “I honestly just love stories so much—that’s my primary inspiration. God is woven into my real-life story so deeply that I can’t really come up with a story that doesn’t involve him, and some of the bigger truths of life with him, so there you go.

BOR: “What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of writing?”

JDP: “I’ve heard that every pastor has one sermon they preach over and over, from a different angle, every Sunday. Every writer has a heart thing, and it shows up in every book, no matter the specific theme. Mine revolves around the value of each person—especially the ones the world undervalues or overlooks. In grade school, I actually made superheroes out of bullied kids in my earliest stories, and I tend to make the underdog shine somehow in my book—or have my characters peel back unexpected layers of a character to reveal surprising elements of their nature. I don’t set out to do it, but I love doing that! Writing has also been a true deepening of my connection with God—talking through every nuance of every book.”

BOR: “What do you think is the hardest part of writing a good Christian book?”

JDP: “It’s hard to find a balance between including “Christian content” and being overly preachy with it. Often authors start writing because they have messages they want to share, but to be honest, my most authentic work has come from a place of “ok God, I don’t understand this—let’s untangle this throughout a story” rather than, “Here reader, here’s what I’ve learned.” It’s hard to write that way because you don’t have the answers when you start—and you have no idea where the book is going! It’s a great adventure, though.”

BOR: “What do you think we need to see more of in Christian novels?”

JDP: “Authenticity. It’s like a rare gem when you find it, because it’s hard to be authentic and to write the things that scare you, to expose your vulnerabilities. Again, this goes back to writing to learn rather than teach, and it isn’t easy. I love when I find a book that’s raw and real and honest, and I soak those books up.”

BOR: “What do you think needs to be improved about Christian books as a whole?”


JDP :”Wow, we’ve come a long way as a broad genre! When I first started reading Christian fiction, there wasn’t much variety in storylines, settings, or subgenres. Publishers and authors have really stretched their boundaries to include very diverse voices, real life character flaws and dilemmas, and new and unusual rule breaking books. It’s been amazing to see what is being released now. That said, I’d love to see more truth-filled books that non-Christians find accessible. I always think about how Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles didn’t mention God at all, but his books were full of God’s truth.”

BOR: “How do you feel about Christian novel writing as being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?”


JDP: “I’ve never known of a book that didn’t have a team behind it, and I’ve never written a book worth reading without loads of help and input. From beta readers to marketing teams and even friendly cheerleaders, everyone contributes brush strokes to the canvas, and the final artwork is richer and nuanced because of it. The biggest difference in my own writing journey happened when I first off made it a collaborative effort with God instead of letting the sound of my own voice bounce around the empty pages!”

BOR: “How have Christian books improved during the time you’ve been involved in writing?”


JDP: “I mentioned the broadening in publishing limits, and that’s been true even in the few years I’ve been involved. I’ve seen books published that no publisher would have touched a few years ago—stories that are a little creepy or set far off or even simply far outside the box that are now shaking up (in a good way) the way readers walk out their faith. Those books really make us think, and I’m extremely grateful for them!”

BOR: “Is working with Christian publishing companies any better or worse than working with ‘secular’ publishing companies?”


JDP: “I’m new on the scene, so I can’t speak to general market publishing companies, but the absolute support and almost “family” feel I’ve found at Baker has been a delightful surprise. It’s wonderful knowing I have extremely talented people who can help me with the aspects (like cover design and titling) in which I have zero skill. It frees me up to focus on writing, knowing my team has my back.”

BOR: “What are your future plans for new novels? Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?”


JDP: “For my next novel I’ve ventured into a place I’ve hardly ever gone in real life—the theater. The Victorian ballet theater, to be exact. I started on this project when my sweet little daughter fell in love with ballet, and even though I’ve never been coordinated enough to dance, the first time I took my girl to a live performance I was mesmerized! I poured all those impressions—and a whole lot of research—into a mysterious, romantic story about a ballet dancer who is determined not to be one of those “doomed” theater stories. I can’t wait to share it this fall–there was so much energy in life in the hero that I can still picture him!”

BOR: “Thank you for your time and input Ms. Politano! We value your perspective and can’t wait to read your upcoming novel!”

Every Knee Shall Bow by Bryan Litfin

(image coming soon)

Release date: October 12, 2021

Author: Bryan Litfin

Plot summary: The year is AD 316. Imperial persecution has ended, but Christianity’s future still hangs in the balance. For the first time in history, the Roman emperor supports the church. Bishop Sylvester sends Flavia from her convent to seek Emperor Constantine’s permission to build great churches and determine the canon of Scripture. But the enemies of God are on the move. Joined by Rex, Flavia’s beloved protector who has fought his way out of exile, the two friends cross the empire by land and sea on an epic quest to free the Roman people from the tyranny of the ancient gods. Bristling with tension and undergirded by impeccable historical research, this tale of courage, defiance, and humble submission to God continues the captivating saga of two unlikely allies in the age of imperial Christianity.

2020 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 or absence of plot continuity and exceptional storytelling skills, above average character development, and whether or not a novel correctly addresses 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 2020

Thriller of the Year: Nine by Rachelle Dekker

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Fantasy of the Year: Cry of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse (the final novel in the Ravenwood Saga)

Image result for cry of the raven

Historical of the Year: Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

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

Contemporary of the Year: The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

Romance of the Year: The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano

Staff Choice Honorable Mentions of 2020

Biblical Fiction: Daughter of Rome by Tessa Afshar

Image result for daughter of rome by tessa afshar

Speculative: Synapse by Steven James

Synapse | Steven James

Allegory: When Silence Sings by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Image result for when silence sings"

Reader’s Choice Book of the Year

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Book Review: Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner –

Staff Choice Authors of the Year

Rachelle Dekker

Rachelle Dekker (@RachelleDekker) | Twitter

Morgan L. Busse

Morgan L. Busse | Morgan L. Busse

Susie Finkbeiner

Amanda Cox

Edge of Belonging: Cox: 9780800737405: Amazon.com: Books

Joanna Davidson Politano

Staff Choice Honorably Mentioned Authors of the Year

Tessa Afshar

Steven James

Sarah Loudin Thomas

Concluding Remarks

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!

The Conqueror by Bryan Litfin

The Conqueror (Constantine's Empire, #1) by Bryan M. Litfin

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

In the fourth century Roman Empire, Brandulf Rex grew up as a Germanic barbarian, but he found a new life as a spy for the Roman army. However, not all is well in Rome as Constantine is trying to rise to power. Elsewhere, Junia Flavia, the daughter of a Roman senator, is caught up in local politics as she tries to use her time to help the church. Inevitably, Brandulf and Junia cross paths and are forced to go on a quest together.

Plot & Storyline Quality (0 points)

For all of Bryan Litfin’s assertions about how much of Christian fiction is derivative, The Conqueror follows one of the cheesiest and most worn-out plots ever. It offers nothing new and falls into familiar pits, such as absurd romantic situations, fake death scenes, and villain monologues. Historical information dumps are about the only unique elements in the novel, but they interrupt the story’s flow and make for awkward reading. Also, huge time jumps cause the narrative to hop from one thing to the next. The plot culminates in an outlandish climax scene that leads to a desperate attempt for a follow-up book. In the end, due to all these problems, no points can be awarded here.

Character Development (0 points)

Obviously, the time jumps and information dumps wreak havoc on the novel’s characters. Each character is one-dimensional and stock, offering no reasons for why the reader should care about them. Dialogue is either bland or obvious, ruining opportunities to create realistic conversations. The characters are merely pawns in the narrative, being directed where the author wants to them to go without being naturally developed. Because of these issues, no points are given here.

Creativity & Originality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, The Conqueror offers nothing original or creative despite the author’s complaints about the Christian market’s problems. While we’re in full agreement with his assertions, there’s no evidence that he’s actually trying to do anything about them. Litfin’s first fiction book lazily borrows from age-old fiction tropes and fails to generate anything worthwhile or new. This novel is certainly not ready to be adapted for entertainment, but it’s clear that Christian publishing companies will put out basically anything these days.

Wish List Rating: 0 out of 10 points

All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese (April 2021)

All That Really Matters  -     By: Nicole Deese

Release date: April 6, 2021

Author: Nicole Deese

Plot summary: Molly’s trendy fashion and beauty advice gains her a substantial social media following and an audition to host a makeover show for underprivileged youth. One problem: she has zero experience with kids in need! So she volunteers for a transitional program. Silas, the director, isn’t impressed. Can she win him over—and discover what matters most in life?

Miriam’s Song by Jill Eileen Smith (March 2021)

Miriam's Song  -     By: Jill Eileen Smith

Author: Jill Eileen Smith

Release date: March 2, 2021

Plot summary: Prophetess, songstress, sister to one of Israel’s greatest heroes—Miriam’s story is often overshadowed by Moses’ own. In her vivid retelling of the life of one of the Bible’s most fascinating women, Smith reimagines how Miriam navigated the challenges of building a family, serving as a leader, and holding onto hope as she learned to trust God

Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti (March 2021)

Facing the Dawn  -     By: Cynthia Ruchti

Author: Cynthia Ruchti

Release date: March 2, 2021

Plot summary: With her husband, Liam, off digging wells in Africa, Mara Jacobs knows she should feel proud—but she’s exhausted! Then his temporary absence becomes something else, plunging her into sunless grief. Struggling to find a foothold, will Mara discover that even when hope is tenuous, faith is fragile, and the future is unknown, we’re never forgotten?

A Piece of the Moon by Chris Fabry (April 2021)

A Piece of the Moon  -     By: Chris Fabry

Release date: April 6, 2021

Author: Chris Fabry

Plot summary: Led by divine revelation, eccentric millionaire Gideon Quidley hides a fortune in the West Virginia hills, using Bible verses as clues. Soon, treasure hunters arrive, and local radio DJs T.D. and Waite keep them updated. When a friend goes missing, T.D. must join the hunt himself. Will he discover where true riches lie?

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin (January 2021)

When Twilight Breaks  -     By: Sarah Sundin

Release date: January 31, 2021

Author: Sarah Sundin

Plot summary: In Munich, American foreign correspondent Evelyn Brand is determined to prove herself in her male-dominated profession—and spotlight the growing tyranny in Nazi Germany. Working on his Ph.D. in German, fellow American Peter Lang is impressed by Germany’s prosperity and order. But when the Reich’s brutality shows itself, will he work for its downfall instead? 

A Week Away (Summer 2021)

Coming to Netflix in Summer 2021 (tentative)

Writer(s): Kali Bailey, Alan Powell, Gabe Vasquez

Director(s): Roman White

Producer(s): Alan Powell, Steve Barnett, Gabriel Vasquez, Tameron Hedge, Roman White

Cast: Sherri Shepherd, Bailee Madison, Kevin Quinn, David Koechner, Jahbril Cook, Iain Tucker, Kat Conner Sterling

Plot summary: With nowhere left to go, Will Hawkins finds himself at camp for the first time. His instinct is to run, but he finds a friend, a father figure and even a girl who awakens his heart. Most of all, he finally finds a home.

The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Joanna Davidson Politano’s latest novel is a live coal among so much ash in the Christian romance world. While the story and characters have two small flaws, the beauty and depth of the story is more than enough to render it worthy of the big screen. Willa Duvall is an ambitious, outspoken, big- hearted young woman whose dream is to shake up the 19th century medical field by being one of the first female doctors. The problem is, her physician father and society are desperate to marry her off. After yet another refused marriage proposal, Willa’s father has enough. Just before he puts his foot down, Willa finds a mysterious love letter whose words hold the power to change someone’s fate. After signing an involved contract with her father, Willa chooses to prove her ability to care for a patient alone by choosing the head of the very house to which the mysterious letter belongs. Golda Gresham is a hardened, wealthy socialite who rules her home, Crestwicke, and its inhabitants in a cold, controlling manner. When Willa answers her call for a private nurse, both women will find that there is much more to one another than meets the eye. Gabe Gresham found his true love years ago, the problem is, she’s afraid of marriage. This being so, he waits patiently to be chosen by her, and tries to help out wherever he can in the meantime. As the story unfolds, Willa discovers that Crestwicke is a house with many secrets, and that nothing turns out the way she expects.

The strengths and weaknesses of the novel are as follows. The Love Note has very timely, well-thought out storyline that holds the attention all the way through. Additionally, the plot contains enough twists to keep things interesting, and enough depth to set it apart from nearly all Christian romance novels. The well-crafted twist 2/3 of the way through is particularly notable. Moreover, its consistent themes that build on one another support the strong spiritual message without being preachy. Creative analogies and metaphors are used to deepen the plot and the characters, and the dialogue is excellent and meaningful. Lastly, the first person narrative style is a breath of fresh air for this critic. As for the weaknesses, there is only one in this area. The ending is somewhat rushed and could be expanded on the big screen in a multi-season TV show. This being said, the novel’s plot and storyline score culminates as being just shy of exceptional.

Character Development (4 points)

Politano’s characters are realistically flawed, relatable, and astonishingly deep. Each one has a clearly developed personality, realistic tendencies, and strong ties to the past and present that are built through well-placed flashbacks. Willa is arguably one of the best female protagonists I have ever seen in Christian fiction. Golda is also an excellent character whose arc unfolds in a surprisingly strong way. On the whole, Golda and Willa’s stories are beautifully woven into the fabric of this tapestry using atypical but brilliant methods. In comparison, Gabe could be stronger than he is. To put it frankly, he’s too good and could have used a few relatable flaws. However, he is still an excellent character. Burke and Willa’s father are also great characters. Clara, Aunt Maisie, Essie, and all the other minor characters are exceptional because they all have a memorable role in the story. In summation, this area also receives a perfect score because the minor flaw mentioned above does not affect the overall quality of the cast of characters.

Creativity & Originality (2 points)

It was amazing to see an entire cast of characters with both motive and realistic beliefs/fears/life experiences that drive their choices and reactions. I was also incredulous and happily surprised to see real love portrayed in a Christian novel, not to mention the wisdom of waiting for it indefinitely being promoted. For these reasons and more, this novel earns a full point in creativity and an x factor point in originality. Thus, we here at BOR believe that The Love Note would make an excellent Christian series. Very little content would need alteration, as the dialogue and storyline are already excellent. Christian moviemakers, look no further than this novel for fresh inspiration, and a lesson in proper character development.

Wish List Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

Nothing Short of Wondrous by Regina Scott

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Regina Scott’s latest historical romance, Nothing Short of Wondrous, has a few moments of creativity but is mostly the humdrum norm we see in women’s fiction. Kate is the widowed owner of Geyser Gateway, a hotel in a young Yellowstone National Park. A year ago she lost her husband in a grizzly attack, and now works doubly hard to provide for herself and her son Danny. Will is a U.S. calvary officer who has been tasked with hunting down and arresting buffalo poachers hiding out in the park. The two are instantpy attracted to each other and find themselves spending a lot of time together out of mutual need…or is that the real reason? Will soon learns that Kate and her husband were dedicated to protecting a herd of buffalo from being poached – a project that Kate continues. Will’s presence at the hotel seems to make unsavory characters more eager to cause trouble. As so-called natural disasters and accidents begin to happen more frequently, Will and Kate wonder who they can trust, and who the real troublemakers are. Will their budding love survive adversity?? (insert long-suffering sigh here). The strong points of the plot and storyline are its attention to historical detail and the effort the author made to paint Yellowstone in a realistic, rather than fantastical light. It was also nice to see an attempt at continuity here and there. Unfortunately, much of the dialogue and word pictures are littered with silly romance aspects that need depth and basis. Additionally, the plot tends to be choppy and has an inconsistent pace. These culminate in an average score for this area.

Character Development (1 point)

Scott’s characters show some potential, but are underdeveloped. Kate has relatable tendencies and learns an important spiritual lesson, the third person dialogue makes it hard for us to know who she really is. Will is little more than a plot device, unfortunately, because he lacks motive. Minor characters are textbook and forgettable. It was nice to see the author infusing unexpected spiritual depth in the storyline, but this does not always tie in well with the novel’s themes. In short, the characters lack emotion, personality, and depth. This earns the novel a below average score in character development.

Creativity and Originality (0 points)

Finally, other than the attempt at a spiritual connection we mentioned earlier, there is nothing particularly original or creative about this novel. Thus, we here at BOR do not recommend that it be adapted to screenplay form. Christian screenwriters should look to the novels rated 7 points and above on our site for higher quality content that would make great films or series.

Wish List Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Something Worth Doing by Jane Kirkpatrick

 Something Worth Doing

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)

Jane Kirkpatrick’s recent novel, Something Worth Doing, is an intriguing historical account that fails to fully develop fictional aspects of the protagonist’s life. The novel chronicles the life of Abigail Scott Duniway, a journalist, non-fiction author, and early women’s rights suffragist who believed women in her state – Oregon – should be endowed with their God-given right to vote. Abigail was born into a large family of mostly daughters, and grew up watching her mother’s health fade with each child she bore. When childbearing finally became too much for Abigail’s mother, she died. Abigail vowed to never suffer the same fate as her mother, and to stand up for other women who had no voice during the patriarchal trend of the 1800’s. When an unexpected turn of events with her father’s second wife forces Abigail to seek a home of her own, she marries a kind man and starts a family of her own. But unlike many of the other women in her state, she uses her status as wife and mother to spread her message of free thinking and self-respect among women of all social classes. Will her efforts be successful? The plot and storyline in this novel are somewhat well-developed because the author closely follows the real historical account of Abigail’s life. However, the weaknesses in this area exist because the author barely deviated from being historically accurate. In simpler terms, this book is more non-fiction than fiction. All of the facts about Abigail’s life are true, but the story would have been more engaging and meaningful if she was brought to life through first-person. This being said, the narrative third-person writing style makes it hard to get to know the characters and makes the story more of a history lesson than a pleasurable read. While it is interesting to hear about an extraordinary woman who helped other women in Oregon gain the right to vote, it would have been nice to get to know the fictional person as well. For these reasons, this area of the novel earns less than an average score. Had it been in the non-fiction genre, the rating would have been close to perfect.

Character Development (.5 point)

As for character development, readers will find that Kirkpatrick’s characters have a few good moments, but are mostly underdeveloped. Abigail has a clearly defined personality, which makes the protagonist the strongest part of this section. However, too often we hear more about what she is doing when we should be learning more about who she is. Ben, Abigail’s children, and her other relatives are all below average minor characters because none make a lasting contribution to the novel. Thus, this area of the novel receives a below average score overall

Creativity & Originality (0 points)

Finally, there is nothing particularly original or creative to note here because the novel did not build on the original historical account through creative license. Therefore, we at BOR do not recommend that this book be made into a film. Christian filmmakers should look to other novels, especially those by relatively new faces in the fantasy genre (Morgan Busse, Patrick Carr) for quality content that would translate well to the big screen.

Wish List Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Oath of the Brotherhood by Carla Laureano

Oath of the Brotherhood (Book One) by Carla Laureano

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 (1.5 points)

Laureano’s first foray into the fantasy genre is a confusing mix of great potential and missed opportunities. Conor’s life has been confusing from the beginning. His father, King Galbraith, left him to be raised by a lower lord for most of his life, and now he is expected to prove that this upbringing taught him to be a budding warrior like the other boys his age. Unfortunately, this destiny was not meant to be. Instead, Conor is a young scholar whose swordsmanship skills are greatly lacking, but whose musical ability is nearly unsurpassed. In a world of Balians (Christians) and Druids (pagans), Conor’s foster father raised him to be a Balian, a secret that must be concealed from King Galbraith, who is under the influence of a corrupt Red Druid. On the flipside, Aine is a one of the younger ladies in a neighboring kingdom who freely serves Lord Balus (Jesus). Where Conor has the gift of music, she has the gifts of healing and seeing visions of the past, present, and future. When Conor ends up in her domain due to a shrewd political move on behalf of his father the king, the two have an immediate connection that goes beyond friendship. When threats to their lives and livelihoods arise and escalate, will Conor and Aine learn to trust the One who is writing their stories?

The storyline in this novel is slow to develop and information heavy at the beginning. Likewise, the plot becomes very interesting and engaging towards the middle but is vague and disconnected at the beginning. Additonally, the pace of the storyline is inconsistent, as is the novel’s focus. Much the same, the dialogue is very meaningful at times, but other times it is average. Finally, as we will expound on later, both Aine and the evil Red Druid are given way too much power and influence over the plot.

Comparatively, the novel also contains strengths. These include the character’s direct communication with God, the realistic and relatable relationships they have with God, and the deep spiritual truths engrained in the story. Moreover, the lessons characters learn along the way are very relatable. Thus, because the weaknesses outweigh the strengths, this area of the novel receives a below average score.

Character Development (2 points)

As for character development, Conor is an average protagonist who is slow to develop but relatable in the end. Aine’s flaws are few, and sometimes it seems she can do no wrong. Brother Liam is the one of the best characters in the novel because he has a clear motive and personality (even though his motive gets lost along the way). In contrast, the antagonists are both oddly complicated and simple at the same time (more on this later). Lastly, minor characters are vast and varied, with a 50/50 split between memorable and forgettable.

As promised, we found it necessary to ask a few questions about the errors in this novel’s character development that will hopefully help other authors avoid the same pitfalls. On the good side of things, since Aine can see and reveal the past, present, and future in various ways why did she not use her knowledge to wipe out the antagonists and speed along the happy ending? (spoilers ahead) On the evil side of things, why did the Red Druid not use his mystical abilities to wipe out Conor, other important blood relatives, and the lengthy list of heirs to the throne all at once? Why did he stop with his first victim and settle for slowly dominating and manipulating people? The ultimate question that needed to be asked here is what were the motives behind all of the characters actions (besides Liam)? Without a motive for all protagonists, the story feels unfinished (and not just because it is a series). In spite of these errors, this section receives an average score.

Creativity and Originality (1 point)

In conclusion, it was very original of Laureano to portray the flaws in a legalistic society where free will and independent choice are nonexistent. She also did very well to show how a person’s spiritual gifts can be used for either good, bad, or to gain attention. Furthermore, it was even more creative to portray how an authority figure can think they are doing what is right with their spiritual gift when it is actually wrong. These pros make this the novel’s strong point. Laureano could have capitalized on these themes by using them to improve other areas of the story. On the whole, however, we do not recommend that this novel be made into a movie or series unless someone is willing to do some rewriting along with screenplay work.

Wish list rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner (July 2021)

Author: Susie Finkbeiner

Release date: July 2021

Plot summary: In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives. Though her father supports Mindy’s desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he’ll lose the daughter he’s poured his heart into. Mindy’s mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy’s sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family–but also speak of the beauty of overcoming. Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

My Brother’s Keeper (March 2021)

Coming to theaters March 19, 2021 from Manns/Mackie studios

Writer(s): Ty Manns

Director(s): Kevan Otto

Producer(s): Robert C. Bigelow, Troy Duhon, Joel M. Gonzales, Robert Katz, Bishop Charles Mackie, Ty Manns, Pat Mathews, Brandon Riley

Starring: Joey Lawrence, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Robert Ri’chard, Gregory Alan Williams, T. C. Stallings, Shannen Fields, Blue Kimble, Karen Valero, Jeff Rose, Ty Manns, Derrick Gilliam, Stephanie Katz, Delone Manns, Nate Jones, Justin Clark, Roz Williams, Amberiell Hudson, Jermal Martin

Plot Synopsis: Travis Fox is a returning veteran struggling with PTSD and his faith in God.

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

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)

Jaime Jo Wright’s latest novel, The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus, has an engaging and creative storyline with a few interesting twists along the way. However, some plot choppiness and the inconsistent pace of the storyline set the novel’s rating back to average. The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus has a split storyline with two protagonists, one in the past and one in the present. In the past, Pippa Ripley is the adopted daughter of a wealthy circus owner and his wife. Pippa is engaged to a prominent figure in society and has every creature comfort at her fingertips, but her predictable existence has one abnormality. A mysterious figure who calls himself The Watchman has lurked in the shadows of her life for as long as she can remember, and now he wants to meet in person. Against her better judgement, Pippa meets with him. This act that inadvertently becomes the straw that broke the elephant’s back (pun intended), as it opens the door to a conflict that grows and becomes increasingly complex. In the present, Chandler is a single mother who works for her uncle in his business of renovating old buildings for resale. While surveying a recent purchase – an abandoned train depot – Chandler uncovers a unsolved historical murder mystery. Her renovation project happens to be the site of the famous, decades-ago murder of Patty Luchent, an employee of the Bonaventure Circus. This discovery unfolds into increasing chaos, and Chandler soon finds herself swept along in a strange series of events that will force her to face her greatest fears in the present and reckon with the untold horrors of the past. As we previously mentioned, the plot and storyline in this novel are slightly above average, with interesting plot twists and a detailed storyline that holds the attention all the way through. Unfortunately, there are also errors here. The storyline is a bit scattery and cannot seem to find and hold onto a focal point. (spoilers ahead) One minute we’re witnessing Chandler and or Pippa struggling with their health challenges, then we’re reading interesting dialogue about the murder mystery, but do not fully feel a part of what is happening. This leads me to my final point on errors in this section. Because the novel is written entirely in the third person, the reader feels like a witness to events as they occur, instead of a willing participant. Readers need first person if they are expected to care about the characters and everything that is happening in a novel. In spite of these errors, on the whole Wright’s novel is good for a casual read, and therefore receives the rating we mentioned earlier.

Character Development (2 points)

Much like the plot and storyline, the characters in this novel also hover around the average portion of the rating scale. First, Chandler and Pippa are not bad protagonists, but there is an odd tone with Chandler throughout the novel. Thankfully this is mostly resolved through the lesson she learns in the end. Additionally, Pippa is a mixed character who doesn’t seem to know what she wants out of life. Both protagonists feel thrown together for the most part. (spoiler) In contrast, the antagonists are very well done. They both have realistic motives and backstories, and are realistic in their reactive choices. The minor characters are a mix of good and bad. Some are quite well done and have more depth and motive than the lead characters do, while others (like Pippa’s father and fiance) are stereotypical. Overall, this part of the novel receives an average score because of it’s 50/50 mix of pros and cons.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

Finally, Wright earns a half point in originality for crafting an interesting storyline that does not condone the sad truth behind circuses, nor does it paint them as the worst evil on earth – her view is balanced. It would have been nice to see more of this theme in the plot. Because of the errors listed above, we here at BOR do not recommend that this story be made into a Christian film, however, it is not a bad read for fans of murder mysteries.

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner (February 2, 2021)

Release date: February 2, 2021

Author: Susan Meissner

Plot summary: Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin’s silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin’s odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn’t right.Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved. The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Amanda Cox’s début novel, The Edge of Belonging, has strong characters and a rich, split storyline, with only a few minor errors along the way. In the present, Ivy is a talented young woman who is caught in the web of an emotionally abusive relationship with a man who uses his wealth and position in society as weapons. Following an unexpected episode of physical abuse, Ivy is called home to deal with the sudden death of her beloved grandmother, Pearl. In her hometown, Ivy finds things much the same, expect for one thing. Pearl has left behind a string of clues that promise to lead Ivy to her origin story – who she was before her adoption. In the past, Harvey is a broken, homeless man living in the shadow of his childhood trauma. One day as he goes about his normal routine, Harvey stumbles upon an abandoned baby girl. He decides to care for her as a way to make up for the past. After trying to rob the local church’s supply pantry for single mothers, Harvey gets a job there as a groundskeeper. This step brings Harvey back into contact with people, and he soon finds himself getting in too deep. Will Ivy discover who she is? Will Harvey let Jesus heal his brokenness? To answer these questions, read the book! The Edge of Belonging has a strong, engaging storyline with consistent themes and plot points. The main error to note here is the choppiness in the latter half of the book that unfolds as the author tries to quickly wrap up the main points. This error could have been fixed by splitting the story into a three-part series. The first book could have a first-person dialogue from Harvey, the second could have done the same with Pearl, and the last one could have focused primarily on Ivy, or any other arrangement like this. (spoiler) Additionally, it was a nice idea to explore Ivy’s mother’s backstory, but this wastes valuable time that was needed to deepen the main character’s development. Thus, while the errors are minor, they hold the author back from receiving more than a slightly above average score.

Character Development (3.5 points)

The character development in this novel is well above average. Ivy is a relatable character with a clearly defined personality and consistent traits. Her past, present, and future tie together in a great arc that helps the reader understand who she is and what her character wants. Harvey has a strong arc as well, however, his childhood/adulthood experiences could use a bit more definition, for it is not clear why he has remained in this state of trauma for so long. Pearl is also a great character with a strong arc, but her backstory could use a bit more development as well. Comparatively, each of the characters displays realistic spirituality and views of God. As we mentioned earlier, the biggest error here is the numerous protagonists whose stories cannot be fully explored in one novel. Keeping track of three protagonists in one novel is too much to ask of any author, and though Cox does an admirable job here, the main characters could be just a bit stronger and needed space to grow. Lastly, the minor characters are quite good, and dialogue contains depth and holds the attention. Cox rounds out with a nearly perfect score here.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

Finally, the weakest area in this novel is creativity and originality. Cox earns a half point in creativity for her deep and unique characters. However, her plot could use more originality. Despite this, The Edge of Belonging would make a great Christian miniseries or 1-2 season series. The screenwriter would need to deepen all the characters and fill in the plot holes. It might also be nice to add a plot twist or two. On the whole, a great first novel that shows much promise for the future.

Wish List Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Nine by Rachelle Dekker

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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.

UPDATE: After a consultation with our writing team, it was determined that the previous review was too harsh and overlooked some of the superior qualities of this novel. Thus, two points have been added to the overall rating.😃

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Rachelle Dekker’s latest thriller, Nine, is a well-crafted and engaging novel that gets off to a rocky start. Zoe is living an average life working as a waitress and living in a hotel room. She has finally gotten a handle on managing the dark forests of her childhood memories, and is generally content to drift through each day. One rainy day, a terrified red-headed girl with an innocent expression bursts into the diner. She says her name is Lucy and claims she can’t remember anything. Zoe is drawn to Lucy’s vulnerability and decides to help her. Little does Zoe know that the price tag for this decision could be her life. Tom Seeley is a hardened FBI agent who threw himself into his work after losing his wife. Seeley found himself deeply involved in The Grantham Project, a top-secret government operation – based out of a campus named Xerox – whose goal is to genetically engineer biological weapons to defend the U.S. on special assignments. When the powers that be begin to do things that go against the few morals Seeley has left, he finds himself torn between obeying orders and exposing criminal activity. Zoe, Lucy, and Seeley find themselves thrown together in an on-again-off-again trio who are each forced to decide between who they are and who they have been trained to be. The strongest point of the plot and storyline is the theme I just mentioned. Deciding to be who God made you to be, no matter the cost, is a vitally important message in today’s world. Dekker beautifully weaves this theme throughout her novel and makes it the defining question amid the madness. This gives her story both depth and a purpose. Another strong point in the plot and storyline are the extremely well-crafted psychological elements. These are mainly showcased in Lucy’s deep and illustrative flashbacks that unfold throughout the middle of the novel. In comparison, this area of Nine also contains weaknesses. There are a few typical thriller elements, like a crazy lady living in a bunker, and the ending of the story is somewhat choppy. On the whole, this area of the novel rounds out with an above average score that could have been perfect if the errors listed above did not exist.

Character Development (4 points)

In comparison, the strongest aspect of the overall novel is Dekker’s character development. Lucy is a very well-crafted character with a fully developed set of emotional, behavioral, social, and spiritual characteristics. Her choices are relatable and, as previously mentioned, the flashbacks Dekker uses with her character add a lot of depth. Zoe is a believable main character who changes in realistic ways as time goes forward. Seeley is a mixed bag. His identity towards the beginning is unclear, but as it unfolds he becomes a strong character. Moreover, the back and forth shift between third and first person in the novel’s dialogue is very creative and illustrates the book’s key themes very well. Additionally, Olivia and other minor characters have clear roles in the story and are well-developed. The antagonist is actually quite good and avoids the typical thriller villian pitfalls. On the whole, a job well done, which earns Dekker a perfect score in this area.

Creativity & Originality (2 points)

Finally, Dekker receives a full point in creativity for her excellent dialogue, and a full x-factor point in originality for her superbly crafted psychological elements – i.e. flashbacks, etc. This being so, we highly recommend that the content in this novel be made into a Christian TV series. By doing this, the screenwriter would have room to do an in-depth exploration of Seeley and Zoe’s pasts, and therefore make their characters as strong as Lucy’s. They would need to tone down the violent torture sequences in the latter half of the story and edit out some of the characters’ brushes with death, but it can be done. To sum up, this novel is a great read for mature audiences and would make a great Christian series in the right hands.

Wish List Rating: 9 out of 10 points

Interview With Erin Bartels, Christian Author

Box Office Revolution: “What inspired you to first write Christian books?”

Erin Bartels: “I have never been inspired to write specifically Christian books or write for a specifically Christian audience. I aim to write thoughtful stories about people dealing with the tough things in life, irrespective of the faith of my potential readers. My stories come from and express my own worldview, which is informed by my faith, but the reason they are categorized as Christian fiction is because company that publishes them is a Christian publishing company. They could just as easily be categorized as book club fiction, general fiction, women’s fiction, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, family saga. I just want to write good stories. They won’t all have a specifically Christian message—just as a Christian carpenter does not build specifically Christian shelves but rather builds shelves to the glory of God. As to what actually inspired me to start writing? Reading. Thinking. Observing. And, at some point, realizing I had something to say.”

BOR: “What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of writing?”

EB: “Honesty. Truth through fiction. I want to tell the truth about people and life, even if it’s not popular or politick. I never want to write or edit from a sense of fear of what people will say. I don’t want to hedge my bets. I want be authentic and write stories that feel real-to-life. I want the characters to feel like real people (even if that makes them “unlikeable”). I want the setting to feel visceral. I want readers to feel real emotions and wrestle with real problems. I’m interested in this world and the people in it and our problems and our mistakes and our triumphs, and I want everyone else to be interested too!”

BOR: “What do you think is the hardest part of writing a good Christian book?”

EB: “I think the hardest part of writing a good novel, irrespective of genre, is getting the story from the writer’s head to the page in such a way that readers experiences in their minds and hearts what the writer experienced in her mind and heart. To write in such a way that we take readers on the journey we mean for them to have. That means plot, character, pacing, etc. all need to be working together to allow readers to immerse themselves in the story and truly feel what the characters are feeling. It feels magical and effortless to read that kind of book, but to write it is always an enormous challenge.”

BOR: “What do you think we need to see more of in Christian novels?”

EB: “I’d like to see a whole lot more of the world represented in Christian fiction. More characters of color, more authors of color, a wider swath of the vast and varied Christian tradition than just white Evangelical America. I’d also like to see more honest representations of human nature which allows for characters to make real mistakes with real consequences that real people make. Perhaps more realism and less idealism. Because real life is messy and our deepest problems are not easily solved. Yes, we have an incredible hope, we have victory in Christ, but we also we live in a fallen world with fallen people and I think if we’re to have a strong witness in this world we have to be honest about our challenges and not gloss over the hard stuff. Christian artists should be in the business not of putting rose-colored glasses on the world, but of holding a mirror up to society—without flinching—and shining the light of truth on it.”

BOR: “What do you think needs to be improved about Christian books as a whole?”

EB: “For a lot of readers, the “Christian” in Christian fiction means “clean.” No swearing, no sex, no characters will be portrayed smoking or drinking alcohol. No one will do anything too awfully bad and what happens to them will rarely be the result of their own bad or morally suspect choices. Characters will be put upon, misunderstood, falsely accused, but we’ll be cheering for them the whole way because we know that they’re actually really good people at heart. So, what “Christian” comes to mean for many readers is unrealistic, trite, formulaic, moralistic, didactic, and insincere. I’d like to see the general impression of the genre change for the better, and that means we need to write and publish not just “clean” stories but the best stories. Readers come to fiction not to learn a lesson but to experience a great story, to see themselves and their struggles reflected in characters, warts and all. I’d like to see stories that stretch the limits because those are the stories that stretch us as readers.”

BOR: “How do you feel about Christian novel writing as being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?”

EB :”Publishing a great book is absolutely a team effort. I know, because I’ve been part of that team for the eighteen years I’ve worked in the marketing department of a Christian publishing company! Yet when it comes to entertainment, be it books, music, movies, or TV series, I’m someone who nearly always prefers the work of an auteur over art by committee. I love it when you can tell that what you’re experiencing is an artist’s vision coming to life. And you can nearly always tell when there were too many cooks in the kitchen. Lowest common denominator entertainment lacks teeth. It’s never going to shift a paradigm or cut a new path or even raise the bar. An author’s publishing team—her agent, her editor, her publicist, early readers she trusts for feedback—should be committed to helping her tell the story she longs to tell in the clearest and most effective way possible, not to change that story to fit reader expectations or placate the most conservative sales channels.”

BOR: “How have Christian books improved during the time you’ve been involved in writing?”

EB: “In my eighteen years in the Christian publishing industry, I’ve read a lot of Christian fiction and been privileged to work with many fine writers who are interested in telling compelling stories. Some of the writing I have enjoyed most are those books that don’t fit neatly into the typical Christian fiction subgenres (meaning they are not historical romance, romantic suspense, or set in closed religious societies, like the Amish). It’s been great to read more literary and upmarket books in the past few years that deal with complex issues and themes in creative ways. I’d love to see more of that.”

BOR: “Is working with Christian publishing companies any better or worse than working with ‘secular’ publishing companies?”

EB: “I don’t know. My work in publishing has been entirely for a Christian company and I currently publish with a Christian company. My experience has been, on the whole, positive.”

BOR: “What are your future plans for new novels? Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?”

EB: “My third novel, All That We Carried, comes out January 2021. Here’s the description: Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a backcountry hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. Over the years, they grew apart, each coping with the loss in her own way. Olivia plunged herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world—what you see is what you get, and that’s all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life-coaching business around her cafeteria-style spirituality—a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy. Now, at Melanie’s insistence (and against Olivia’s better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they’ll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.

EB: “Thanks so much for the opportunity to share my work and my thoughts!”

BOR: “Thank you for your time and input Ms. Bartels! We value your perspective and can’t wait to read your upcoming novel!”

Interview With Jaime Jo Wright, Christian Author

The Writers Alley: Interview with Author Jaime Jo Wright {VIDEO + ...

Box Office Revolution: “What inspired you to first write Christian books?”

Jaime Jo Wright: “I’ve always harbored a deep love of story. When I was little, my first read that completely captivated me—I still vividly recall the feeling—was Dick and Jane. It was an old, hardback copy and seeing Dick run was riveting. It sounds silly, but as a four-year-old, those words made such a lasting impression on me. Movement was encapsulated on the page and became a story that breathed life into my imagination. From there, I devoured books until I was introduced to authors like Janette Oke, Tracie Peterson, Michael Phillips, and then I saw that not only were stories a reflection of life, but they could also reflect our Spiritual walk. The marriage of story and relationship with God became a passion of mine by the time was an early teenager.”

BOR: “What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of writing?”

JW: “Wow. What a great question! My underlying philosophy of writing is to write stories that can influence hope in Jesus, but also in a way that will touch the heart of someone who may not be familiar with faith. My passion is to show the reality of hope in real-to-life people—in broken people—and in circumstances that are less than ideal. I want Jesus to be real in the broken places, and even though the broken places may remain dark, there is hope. Hope is the driving force of each and every one of my stories. What do you think is the hardest part of writing a good Christian book? For me it’s finding the balance between writing solid thematic messages without being overtly evangelistic in my approach. There is a place for that approach in fiction, for sure, but I’ve felt led to write stories that come alongside and walk with the reader rather than a more bold, outright message. Because of that, trying to show faith and hope in action while not watering down the Gospel into a non-existent message, can be very challenging. It’s a balance between wanting to inspire the faith-driven reader, while not wanting to drive away the reader who may be exploring Christian fiction for the very first time.”

BOR: “What do you think we need to see more of in Christian novels?”

JW: “Diversity. Hands down, diversity. We need more authors from varying backgrounds, because we can’t all reach all cultures. I would write a very poor representation of an African American or Asian heroine as compared to an author coming from that specific background. And those stories need to be told so those who love to read and who want to grow in their faith, can do so under the representation of characters they can relate to. In this need for diversity, I also believe we need to diversify the characteristics and backgrounds of our characters. It’s time we realize humanities’ flaws aren’t something to be hidden, but embraced, challenged, and even confronted.”

BOR: “What do you think needs to be improved about Christian books as a whole?

JW: “I think Christian books could afford to be less concerned about portraying a “separate from the world” hero or heroine. This tends to set them so apart that the only readers who can relate, or even want to relate, are Christians themselves. While this is good in some respects, it can ostracize non-believing readers as they see characters being caught up in trivial issues like drinking wine or using a slightly off-colored word. Instead, I’d like to see humanity represented as humanity truly is. We’re imperfect, searching people. Whether drinking wine or dropping a cuss word is or isn’t allowable, to me, isn’t so much the issue as the character’s journey toward faith and toward a relationship with Christ. When we vet all Christian fiction to be “clean” and “separate”, we can run the risk of vetting out reality. It’s a fine line, I realize. I would never argue that overt sexual material or dropping four-letter words are necessary to reach the non-believing reader. But I would argue, that sugar-coating our characters can make them very unrelatable in a world where very little is sugar coated any more.”

BOR: “How do you feel about Christian novel writing as being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?

JW: “Oh, I definitely feel Christian novel writing is a community effort. There is a distinct, warm atmosphere among Christian authors where we support and back one another. It’s less competitive and more “how can I help”. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the collaborative efforts of established Christian authors nudging me, mentoring me, and helping me along.”

BOR: “How have Christian books improved during the time you’ve been involved in writing?

JW: “I see an upswing in Christian books attempting to reach a broader readership. While I feel there is still plenty of room for growth, I’ve been thrilled to read authors like Kara Isaac, Rachel McMillan, Natalie Walters, and Joanna Davidson Politano who aren’t afraid to tackle deep topics, relatable characters, and create clean reads without incorporating sermons and soapboxes.

BOR: “Is working with Christian publishing companies any better or worse than working with ‘secular’ publishing companies?”

JW: “I honestly haven’t worked for ‘secular’ publishing companies, so I would have to defer on this question.”

BOR: “What are your future plans for new novels?  Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?”

JW: “My upcoming novel, releasing in Spring 2021, will be the first novel where I touch on the Civil War, and also the first novel to incorporate a treasure hunt. It was so fun to write and so eye-opening to research the Civil War and how far north the Confederacy actually reached. But that’s all I’ll say for now.”

Thank you for your time and input Ms. Wright! We look forward to reading and reviewing your upcoming novel when it is released!

Interview with Susie Finkbeiner, Christian Author

Susie Finkbeiner – Living the Story

Box Office Revolution: “What inspired you to first write Christian books?”

Susie Finkbeiner: “Honestly, it was never my intention to write books specifically for the Christian market. I just wanted to write stories. My world view as a Christian just became part of the novel. As with anything in my life, I’m hard pressed to divorce who I am in Christ from what I do.”
 
BOR: “What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of writing?”

SF: “I guess it all comes down to writing the very best story of hope that I can manage. Everything else — the plot, characters, themes — come together out of that.”
 
BOR: “What do you think is the hardest part of writing a good Christian book?”

SF: “From my experience, it’s hard to write a book for a Christian readership that avoids being preachy. But it’s so important that we, as writers, produce a story in which the art isn’t drowned out by a message. A sunset speaks to the glory of God without a big sign that declares,
“GOD MADE THIS AND HE IS SO GREAT FOR SHARING HIS BEAUTY WITH
US!”. The sunset is message enough. It’s the same for books that are written from a Christian worldview (as well as movies, fine art, etc.). The art is message enough on its own.”

 
BOR: What do you think we need to see more of in Christian novels?

SF: “You know, I would love to see more character driven novels on the shelves of the Christian bookstore. The past few years have brought a few, but I’d love even more!”
 

BOR: What do you think needs to be improved about Christian books as a whole?

SF: “We need to make room at the table for authors of color. These writers have much to say, incredible talent, and hearts for Jesus. It’s well past time for their stories to be shared!”
 
BOR: How do you feel about Christian novel writing as being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?

SF: “I don’t know a single writer who thrives in the ‘lone ranger’
mode of writing. We all need community in order to create our best work. I’ve been so fortunate to have many friends in all different aspects of the publishing world and I’ve worked with some incredible people. When we go at it together we have support, lots of fun, and can share in the good work God has for us to do.”

 
BOR: “How have Christian books improved during the time you’ve been involved in writing?”

SF: “When I started writing novels I was often disheartened when I visited the fiction section of Christian bookstores. It seemed that most of the books on the shelf were romance. That’s not to say that the romance genre is bad, its just isn’t what I choose to write. Back then I worried that there wouldn’t be a place in Inspirational fiction for me either as a writer or reader. Now I see much more diversity of genre when I peruse the shelves. This
is exciting!”

 
BOR: “Is working with Christian publishing companies any better or worse than working with ‘secular’ publishing companies?”

SF: “I can’t say from personal experience. However, I have
friends who have worked in both Christian and General Market houses and have had fantastic experiences in both. I’ve not heard a horror story from either side of the coin, which is great! I think that publishing houses are peopled by those who love good books and are enthusiastic about helping authors grow as writers.”

 
BOR: “What are your future plans for new novels?  Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?”

SF: “I have a novel releasing next year that I’m very excited about. It revolves around the events after the Vietnam War, particularly the adoption of 3,000 Vietnamese children by American, Canadian, and Australian families.”

Thank you for your input Mrs. Finkbeiner! We look forward to reading you new novel when it releases!

All That We Carried by Erin Bartels (January 5, 2021)

All That We Carried  -     By: Erin Bartels

Release date: January 5, 2021

Author: Erin Bartels

Plot summary:

Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a backcountry hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. Over the years, they grew apart, each coping with the loss in her own way. Olivia plunged herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world–what you see is what you get, and that’s all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life-coaching business around her cafeteria-style spirituality–a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy. Now, at Melanie’s insistence (and against Olivia’s better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they’ll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.

The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas (November 3, 2020)

The Right Kind of Fool  -     By: Sarah Loudin Thomas

Release date: November 3, 2020

Author: Sarah Loudin Thomas

Plot summary: One hot summer day, 13-year-old deaf Loyal swims in the creek—and discovers a dead body. He rushes to tell his absentee father, Creed, who abandoned the family because he didn’t want to deal with his disabled son’s hearing loss. When Creed is drawn into a murder investigation, will he solve the killing—and reclaim his family’s hearts?

Interview with Angela Hunt, Christian Author

Angela Hunt: Writing to sell | WORLD News Group

Box Office Revolution: “What inspired you to first write Christian books?

Angela Hunt: “I have never felt inspired to ONLY write Christian books, but since I am a Christian, I tend to write books about people who believe what I believe—to a point. Someone once asked me whether I considered myself a Christian writer or a writer who was a Christian, and after giving it some thought, I’d have to say the latter. Christian dentists don’t only work on “Christian” teeth, so why limit my intended audience?  Of course, when you’re writing for the world at large, you have to speak the language of the world at large. That does not mean using inappropriate speech, but it does mean avoiding “Christianese.” 

BOR: “What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of writing?”

AH: “I write to communicate something important, and often I have to figure out what that is as I’m writing. For instance, I once wrote a book about cloning (THE PEARL), and though I knew we Christians were generally against it, I wasn’t sure exactly why. I mean, if we could clone a liver to save someone’s life, why not do that? So I had to investigate to understand why, and then I had to present both sides of the equation.”

BOR: What do you think is the hardest part of writing a good Christian book?

Ar: “What is a “Christian book?”  Is it a book for Christians or a book containing Christian characters and concepts? If it’s the former, well, Jesus didn’t speak only to believers. And if it’s the latter; He told lots of parables, but few of them were about religious people; most were about farmers and families.  Lately I’ve been writing a lot of “biblical fiction,”  but if something is biblical, it can’t be fiction, right?  I prefer “historical fiction involving biblical characters,” but that’s not nearly as succinct.  But I haven’t answered your question. The hardest part of writing ANY book is getting started.  There is always something else to do, like laundry, gardening, staring into space . . . . “

BOR: “What do you think we need to see more of in Christian novels?”

AR: “More characters whose flaws are revealed through deep, strong pressure. All Christians struggle with specific issues, but often we never see those struggles in our fiction because our characters maintain a pristine facade. We writers tend to be too gentle for fear of offending an audience that is too easily offended.   We live in THE WORLD—Jesus said, “I pray not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).  Once at a convention, a womancame up to me with a copy of my book—she had written BANNED across the cover in thick, black marker. She wanted to be sure I knew she would not allow a story (about an unsaved woman who has an affair—with nothing explicit described) in her church library.  I understand the principle of being gentle with weaker brothers, but why are folks who have been Christians for years still weaker brothers? They ought to be strong enough to realize what is happening in the world around us, and rejoice when a believing character’s grace (another woman in the book) makes a difference in an unsaved character’s life.”  

BOR: “What do you think needs to be improved about Christian books as a whole?”

N/A

BOR: “How do you feel about Christian novel writing as being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?”

AR: “Collaborative efforts can be fun—a couple of years ago, Bill Myers brought Al Gansky, Frank Peretti, Jeff Gerke, and I together to write a series of novellas, and that was a blast because we brainstormed events beneath one story arc. But in the end, each of us still had to sit alone with our computers and spin our own stories.  At its core, writing is an individual expression.

BOR: “How have Christian books improved during the time you’ve been involved in writing?”

AR: “Christian novels have come a long way in the way they describe reality. I can’t think of any subject that we haven’t addressed from a Christian viewpoint and with discretion and sensitivity.”

BOR: “Is working with Christian publishing companies any better or worse than working with ‘secular’ publishing companies?”

N/A

BOR: “What are your future plans for new novels?  Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?”

AH: “I am about to begin writing the fourth book in THE JERUSALEM ROAD series, a series about actual women who lived at the time of Christ. I have learned so much by studying the Jews of the first-century—it’s been an amazing experience that I hope will translate to my readers. After that, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing, but God does. :-)”

Thank you for your time and for sharing your perspective Mrs. Hunt!

Interview with Morgan Busse, Christian Author

Morgan L. Busse | Morgan L. Busse

Box Office Revolution: What inspired you to first write Christian books?

Morgan Busse: “Years ago, I walked into a Christian bookstore looking for Christian fantasy and science fiction. I had devoured the small section in my local library, but got tired of running into language or scenes that ran contrary to what I believed. Then I thought, what about Christian fantasy? I asked the lady working in the bookstore and she gave me a puzzled look before pointing toward the lone Frank Peretti book at the bottom of the bookshelf. After talking to my husband about what little I had found, he said I should write. I kept saying no, I had never thought about writing, but months later I had an idea for a book that eventually became Daughter of Light, my first novel. I discovered I loved combining my imagination and my love of God into a story. I can’t imagine writing anything else!

BOR: What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of writing?

MB: “I ask questions when I write: who am I? Who is God? What does it mean to be a Christian? Can a person fall so far as to be unredeemable? What does it cost to follow God? Every single one of my stories asks these questions and I search for answers through my characters. Selene from Mark of the Raven is searching for who she is and can her gift of dreamwalking be used for good? Kat from Tainted has never heard of God, only science, so she is asking is there more to this world than what she can see? Rowen from Daughter of Light asks if the pain of following God is worth it? I don’t always find the answer these questions, but I think the best novels ask questions, the same questions people are asking themselves.

BOR: What do you think is the hardest part of writing a good Christian book?

MB: “Being both authentic in your storytelling and in your theology. My job is not to write a sermon, it is to tell a story. So I want to write one that grips my readers and shows the world how it really is. But I also want to stay true to who God is, to reveal Him through my story in an honest way. That’s why I pray before I write each day and talk to God about my story.

BOR: What do you think we need to see more of in Christian novels?

MB: “Reality and God. Show real situations, real emotions, real questions. But also bring a real God into the story. Not someone who solves everything, but tackle with how and why God allows evil in the world, where is God when it hurts, and how great His love is for us.”

BOR: What do you think needs to be improved about Christian books as a whole?

MB: “Honestly, I think Christian books are pretty good. They have grown in quality and craftsmanship with a good understanding of balancing the Christian worldview and writing a good story (at least all the novels I’ve read recently).”

BOR: How do you feel about Christian novel writing as being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?

MB: “I think it can be done both ways. It takes a good team to be able to collaborate and work together, but sometimes it is easier to write solo. As of right now, I do solo projects because I’m able to work on my own timetable, which I need as a mother of four.”

BOR: How have Christian books improved during the time you’ve been involved in writing?

MB: “I think the biggest improvement I’ve seen is the inclusion of the fantasy and science fiction genre. Back when I first started writing, there wasn’t a publisher who would approach those genres with a ten foot pole and self-publishing really wasn’t a thing. Since then, traditional Christian publishers have started carrying a few speculative titles, numerous small presses have risen with quality books (like Enclave Publishing), and self-publishing is allowing even more Christian fantasy and science fiction to be written and published.”

BOR: Is working with Christian publishing companies any better or worse than working with ‘secular’ publishing companies?

MB: “I think it depends on what your end goal is and understanding the publishing house you’re choosing to go with. Each one has its benefits and flaws. If you writing a secular book, a Christian publishing house probably isn’t a good fit since there are certain Christian worldviews editors like to see in the books they publish. Same goes with a secular publisher. The best advice I can give is know your book, your audience, and which publisher would be best for that book. Also, don’t go with just any publisher, make sure you will work well with them since you will have a close relationship with them.”

BOR: What are your future plans for new novels?  Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?

MB: “I just signed a two-book contract with Enclave Publishing for a steampunk series. I’ve written steampunk before and look forward to working in that genre again (steampunk is a high science novel set in either the Victorian era or the Wild West). This particular series will take place in a world were humanity lives on mountaintops or on airships due to most of the ground being contaminated with a spore that turns humans into walking dead husks. Of course, like all my novels, there will be a spiritual twist and insight into the story.”

Thank you for sharing your perspective with us Mrs. Busse. We are excited to read and review your new series when it is released!

Interview with Patrick Carr, Christian Author

Box Office Revolution: “What inspired you to first write Christian books?”

Patrick Carr: “I wasn’t so much inspired to write a Christian book as I wanted to write the best book I could. That it was Christian fiction was more because that’s my belief system and my worldview. I don’t really like that we have ABA and CBA. To me that’s like saying “Oh, you can’t read that,” or “You won’t like that. It’s Christian.” A great story is a great story.

BOR: “What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of writing?”

PC: “To write the best story that I can at that point in time. Hopefully, as we get more experience as writers we progress in the craft. A Christian book, piece of music, anything, should be the very best we can make it. If we’re doing this to honor God, it should never be anything less that our absolute best.”

BOR: “What do you think is the hardest part of writing a good Christian book?”

PC: “The hardest part of writing a good book is making it good, Christian or not. For a Christian book it’s allowing the faith portion to flow in an organic way. I don’t like being preached to in my literature no matter what the writer’s worldview is. That kind of author intrusion always comes across as heavy-handed, and the work suffers for it. Lately I’ve noticed that there are shows on TV or Amazon or Netflix that seem to have some kind of checklist they have to satisfy and it ruins the product. I’m sure people feel the same about Christian writing that sacrifices the story for the message.”

BOR: “What do you think we need to see more of in Christian novels?”

PC: “It would be nice to see a little variety. If you look at the awards that are given for Christian writing, they’re dominated by romance in some form. This means that most Christian fiction is written by women and most Christian fiction is read by women. Men largely avoid it. Is that what we really want?”

BOR: “What do you think needs to be improved about Christian books as a whole?”

PC: “Better story-telling. There are some amazing Christian fiction authors out there, but there are also a lot of authors that are so intent on pounding the message into the story that the craft suffers. This is just my viewpoint, that craft should be the first priority. Others will say that Christian fiction should make the message paramount. I get that, but it’s important to remember that most Christian fiction is being bought and read by Christians. In essence, we’re already preaching to the choir.

BOR: “How do you feel about Christian novel writing as being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?”

PC: “That’s funny. My wife asked me today if I thought I would collaborate with another writer on my next book. I think it’s hard to keep the voice from getting muddled during collaboration. I’ve seen cases where it’s been done well, but I’m pretty intent on how I want my narrative and my characters to sound. I don’t know if I could ever do it.”

BOR: How have Christian books improved during the time you’ve been involved in writing?

PC: “The craft has gotten better in the sense that there are authors that have been writing for a long time, much longer than me, and so the story-telling has improved. Of course, the availability of self-publishing has pushed the needle to the other end of the spectrum. There are some very skilled self-published authors out there, but there’s also a lot of low quality work. This isn’t just Christian Fiction, this is ABA as well. The real problem here is that the market is being pushed towards cheaper product and people aren’t willing to pay for a decent book. I had a reader flame me on a review because my publisher had set the price of my kindle book at $5.99. So a venti-mocha-caramel-latte candy-bar-in-a-cup that won’t last more than thirty minutes is worth more than a book that took a year to write and produce through seven rounds of editing and polishing. This is the mentality we’re up against.”

BOR: Is working with Christian publishing companies any better or worse than working with ‘secular’ publishing companies?

PC: “I don’t know. I’ve only worked with Christian companies and only one of those. That’s such a limited amount of experience that I wouldn’t even begin to conjecture an answer.”

BOR: What are your future plans for new novels? Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?

PC: “I’m in grad school right now, so nothing will be coming for the next year or two. In the meantime, I’m hoping the publishing world starts to sort itself out, but the prospects are grim. People read less and less each year. Writing is difficult enough and the commitment in time and energy is hard to justify if you can make as much taking a part time job as you can putting out another book. We’ll just have to wait and see. I have some wonderful ideas, but there are so many amazing things to see and learn and do here in God’s creation and time is such a precious commodity.

Thank you for your time Mr. Carr! We appreciate your insight and honesty.

Interview with Bryan Litfin, Christian Author

Bryan Litfin

Box Office Revolution: What inspired you to first write Christian books?

Bryan Litfin: “I think a lot of my fellow writers will understand what I mean when I say, ‘I couldn’t help but write.’ It’s not like I woke up one day and decided to do it. There was no single aha! moment. As a writer, you find you have a fire in your belly and it inevitably moves you to action. It’s like a woman who is pregnant: she can’t help but give birth, because that baby is in there and it has to get out! Books are like a writer’s babies—they demand to be born. My move into formal Christian publishing began with my non-fiction books about the ancient church. This is my area of academic expertise, and I wanted to share this important part of church history with everyday Christians. Writing fiction was the natural next step for me. Why not tell a story that illuminates the historical period that I know so
well? I find the era of the ancient church fascinating, and I believe others will, too. I wrote The Conqueror to show some of the exciting plot-lines that could arise in this momentous historical period.”
 

BOR: What do you feel is your underlying philosophy of writing?

BL: “For me, the most important principle of my writing is to write in such a way that God is glorified. As a Christian writer, that is my first and foremost aim. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t sometimes depict evil or ungodly things. I have to show sin in order to show how God triumphs over it. Yet the overall purpose of my writing (unlike a secular author) is to honor God and convey themes that will elevate His name and advance the Christian worldview. Second, my goal in fiction writing is to entertain the reader with great stories. That is why I prioritize ‘storytelling’ over ‘writing.’ Sometimes, you encounter writers who are in love with their own prose, and you can tell by how often they use fancy language. They seem to care more about their own literary prowess than getting their readers engrossed in a great tale. While I do want, of course, to use good English, my goal isn’t to win literary prizes. I try to write scenes that are straightforward, vivid, and
easy to imagine. I favor verbal clarity over verbal cleverness. (That probably comes from the teacher in me.) My goal isn’t for a reader to say, “Wow, what an elegant paragraph Litfin just wrote,” but rather, “Gosh, I can’t put this book down!” Forget about me; forget about your surroundings. Just get lost in the story.

BOR: What do you think is the hardest part of writing a good Christian book?

BL: “The hardest thing for a Christian book to achieve is to be pious without being pious. What? Here’s what I mean. The good connotations of ‘pious’ are to be upright, clean, mature, and God-honoring. That should be a main goal in a Christian book. The negative connotations of ‘pious’ include things like legalism, hypocrisy, super-spirituality, and a holier-than-thou attitude. Obviously, you want to avoid those things in a novel. The trick is to create narratives that convey themes which honor the Lord and depict his grace and truth, yet don’t come across as preachy or fake. It’s a fine line to walk as an author. If you fall off on either side, you become cheesy, trite, pedantic, or bossy. Nobody wants to read a book like that! Unfortunately, because of these difficulties, too many Christian authors avoid deep theology and spirituality altogether. At best, they might include some vague “God-talk.” But I think a good Christian novel should truly engage with matters of the soul.”

BOR: What do you think we need to see more of in Christian novels?

BL: “Today’s Christian fiction landscape is divided into very fixed categories. Readers know what they like, and they buy it again and again. Only rarely do they branch out. This means that publishers are nervous about saying yes to stories that are different. I’d like to see them offer more novels that break the mold and become memorable as something other than just the latest entry in Christian genre fiction. The trick is getting people to buy those boundary-stretching books. In today’s competitive marketplace,
publishers are reluctant to take risks (which is understandable, because it’s real money they are risking). So, it’s up to the readers to buy novels outside their normal reading area and show the publishers that there’s a market for innovative new titles!”

BOR: What do you think needs to be improved about Christian books as a whole?

BL: “Older Christian books from a few decades ago were more ‘meaty’ when it came to the Scriptures. They really dug into the Word and expected readers to track along and engage at a deep level. Now, the common wisdom is, ‘Today’s readers don’t want so much Bible.’ However, I don’t think that’s true. People just want it to be done well. They obviously don’t want to be blasted with a Bible verse shotgun or have the author drag them into theological minutiae. Instead, they want a skillful writer to exemplify wisdom and show them the meaning of God’s Word. Christian books, ironically, need more Bible in them. The Scriptures are inspired and inerrant, and they can transform lives by the power of the Spirit. We need more of that! (By the way, this same principle applies to today’s churches and preaching, too.)”
 

BOR: How do you feel about Christian novel writing as being a collaborative effort rather than a ‘lone ranger’ creation?
BL: “People often imagine an author as someone like Ernest Hemingway: a solitary hermit plunking away at his little black typewriter in an exotic location. Then, after much laborious wordsmithing, the almost-divine writer submits his nearly-perfect manuscript to the publishing house. All the publisher has to do is slap two pretty covers on it, and off
the book goes to become a bestseller. Nothing could be further from the truth! An author is only as good as his or her editor. Both of them must have a working relationship built on trust and mutual respect. The writer and editor should not view each other as adversaries. The editor isn’t trying to hack away at the author’s sublime manuscript like a devious piranha biting away chunks of living flesh. Rather, the editor is a skilled artisan who wants the same thing as the author: to produce the best possible
book for public consumption. We should think of a book manuscript in medical terms instead of adversarial ones. Sometimes the best thing for the human body is an excision, or maybe even an amputation—not enjoyable, but healthy in the long run! So too, manuscripts need good doctoring so they can achieve maximum vim and vigor. Beyond the author/editor relationship, a writer today also needs to trust the team of marketing and sales people who know how to get the book in front of buyers, readers,
and media influencers. I have been thoroughly impressed with the editorial and marketing folks that I have been working with at Revell for The Conqueror. I feel like a partner in a shared project—certainly not a lone ranger!”
 

BOR: How have Christian books improved during the time you’ve been involved in writing?
BL: “In general, Christian writers today are less insulated from secular publishers. It used to be that Christian publishing was a separate fish tank with its own unique ecosystem, very distinct from the life and currents of the ocean. And because of that isolation, its water tended to stagnate.
Today, however, the waters are thoroughly intermingled. In fact, the big New York publishing houses now own many Christian houses as a subsidiary unit. This has raised the quality of the product because the bar of expectation is set higher. Christian writers have benefited from learning the craft of their secular counterparts. Christian publishing houses have learned the best practices in design, sales, marketing, and profitable business models. Today’s Christian books no longer emerge from a cheesy and insulated religious subculture. They are products that can stand on their own two feet alongside the best of what the secular world offers.

BOR: Is working with Christian publishing companies any better or worse than working with ‘secular’ publishing companies?
BL: “I can see pros and cons of each. Working with secular companies could open up doors for an author’s writing to reach more people, including many unbelievers. As for me, I like working with Christian companies because I consider my writing as a ministry, not a business venture. I like partnering with organizations whose goal is to advance the gospel or to send good Christian content into the church and the world. However, the truth is, the lines are often blurred between secular and Christian companies. More often that not, a Christian bookseller these days is owned by a secular
publishing corporation.

 

BOR: What are your future plans for new novels?  Can you tease any specific upcoming projects?
BL: “Definitely! I have some great things in store for the Constantine’s Empire trilogy. The three novels will span about eighteen years. The first book, The Conqueror, takes place in the early fourth century AD, which was a pivotal period in church history. So many important events happened in that time frame as Emperor Constantine came to power in the Roman Empire and put an end to Christian persecution. The first book tells the story of a young, strong Germanic warrior who joins the Roman army as a special forces operative under Constantine and is sent ahead to Rome to
spy on a false emperor. There he meets the Christian daughter of a senator, and they work together to help Constantine defeat his wicked enemy. The novel climaxes at the famous Battle of the Milvian Bridge, where Constantine fought in the power of the Cross instead of by Jupiter and the gods. These two central characters continue the saga into the second and third books. The plot events include more great battles by land and sea; the establishment of the canon of Scripture; the underground worship of the catacombs; the founding of St. Peter’s Basilica; the search for the ancient bones of St. Peter; the Council of Nicaea and the formulation of the Nicene Creed which describes the Trinity; and the discovery of the True Cross and the Tomb of Christ in Jerusalem by Empress Helena. I hope my readers enjoy the adventure!”

BOR: Thank you for your time Bryan! We greatly appreciate your openness and honesty in answering our questions and look forward to reading and reviewing your new novel!

Secrets in the Mist by Morgan L. Busse (August 2021)

(image coming soon)

Release date: August 2021

Author: Morgan L. Busse

Plot summary: Morgan L. Busse is currently writing her newest steampunk series, titled Skyworld: In a world covered in a deadly mist that forces humanity to live in the sky, Cass escapes the purges and survives by her wits until she stumbles onto the airship Daedalus and finds a job as a diver. As a diver, she explores the ruined cities within the mist, searching for treasure and family heirlooms for the rich. But everything changes when a young man hires her to find the very thing that will turn their world upside down: a way to eradicate the mist.

For more information, see Morgan’s original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/CCn175rA6lb/).

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 to try and 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 dump 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 here 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 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 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

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 (status unknown)

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Status currently unknown

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.

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Our immediate reaction

Don’t Give Up (status unknown)

Status currently unknown

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.