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Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl Series: Chloe Miller

From what I understand, the second character in Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl series is Chloe Miller. This part of the series outlines an important part of Chloe’s life, during which she will make many decisions that affect her future. The series deals with subjects such as identity, a person’s worldview, the need for stability, adolescent struggles, bullying, loneliness, artistic interests, the discovery of true worship, and more. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the main character, Chloe Miller. Chloe is the younger sister of Josh Miller (who ends up marrying Caitlin O’Connor, another main character in this series). Chloe is full of questions, including ones about life, identity, family, and relationships. However, the question that trumps all of these is her journey to discover if God really exists. Chloe is a deeply artistic soul who loves to express herself in tangible ways. She enjoys being different, and is the definition of a nonconformist. She tries to do everything opposite of the preppy, “perfect” girls in her high school. However, she will never admit that the bullying of those who love to mock her  unique ways…..gets to her. Through twists and turns, spurred on by the universal need to be loved unconditionally and to have a purpose; Chloe eventually becomes a Christian. And, as is typical for her; decides to go all out in proving her love for her Savior. Chloe channels her passion for the arts into forming an all girl band, one that will break Christian stereotypes and seek to bring about unity among believers. Throughout the remainder of the series Chloe will learn that fame and fortune comes at a cost, and that even the best relationships take work. She will learn that in order to correctly balance family, school, music, friends, and romantic relationships, she must be in tune with the Voice of Truth; Jesus Christ. This series is a great way for both older and younger teen girls to learn valuable lessons about life and love. Throughout the series Carlson includes many real life circumstances; without sugarcoating the consequences. Carlson is an inspiration to those seeking to write Christian fiction for teens, and should be applauded for her effort to make a difference in the lives of Christian youth. The Chloe Miller series would make an excellent part two in a Christian miniseries based on Carlson’s collection of Diary of a Teenage Girl novels. However, the writer/director/producer would have to be careful to not model it too closely after a modern day TV show.

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The Code of the West Series by Stephen Bly

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Stephen Bly was the greatest author of faith-based Western fiction that we here at Box Office Revolution have ever had the privilege to review. His novels always promoted Biblical principles and highlighted the importance of involving God and seeking His guidance in any and every situation. The Code of West series is perhaps his best book series, second only to The Legend of Stuart Brannon series. The series tells the tale of a man named Tapadera Andrews, and his love interest, Aimee “Pepper” Paige. The series deals with subjects such as redemption, escaped prisoners, the pursuit of righteousness, imperfect people, love, hope, marriage, family, tragedy, recovery, grief, loss, joy, and what life was like for Western settlers. The opening chapters of the first novel, It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own, introduce the reader to the main character, a enigma of a man known as Tapadera Andrews. Tapadera, or Tap, as he likes to be called, has just escaped from prison and is trying to stay out. However, trouble seems to follow him wherever he goes. Shortly after his escape from prison, the skilled gunslinger faces an unexpected ambush by Indians. During the chaos he meets a man named Zachariah Hatcher…witnesses him receive a fatal wound during the fighting, and learns more than he ever expected during the last hours of the man’s life. Tap learns that Zachariah was on his way to meet his pen-pal-turned-true-love, a prim and proper woman named Suzanne. He also learns that the man had just purchased a ranch. After Zachariah’s death, Tap forms an elaborate scheme in which he will impersonate Zachariah, therefore reaping the benefits of the dead man’s life. Tap figures that, in this way, he will gain a wife, a home, and the means to make a profit, and a new identity…all for free! Pepper Paige is a seasoned dance hall girl who seeks something more out of life. She is tired of being treated like material goods by men, and is desperate to escape her current situation. One day her opportunity comes in the form of a woman fatally wounded in a stagecoach accident…..named Suzanne. Following her death, Pepper decides to assume the dead woman’s identity, and go in her place to meet Suzanne’s pen-pal-turned-true-love…Zechariah Hatcher. Pepper figures that, in this way, she have a fresh start as an honest woman, gain a roof over her head, and the security of a healthy relationship. Tap and Pepper are two people seeking freedom from their respective pasts through impersonation; two people who are lonely and long for something more in life. When their paths finally cross, the impossible situations they find themselves in….will soon become a regular thing. The next three novels tell the tales of Pepper and Tap’s journey of healing from their past, their budding romance, and eventual marriage. The last two novels give a humorous depiction of Tap and Peppers unique family life. This series would make a great Christian miniseries in the comedy/drama genre. I would like to see someone like the Kendrick brothers or the Smallbone brothers take on a unique project like this and make it their own. The Smallbone brothers in particular have the artistic skill and creativity to pull off a Western themed production. The Kendrick brothers would have to think outside the box for something like this. Because we love Stephen Bly’s books so much, I decided to include a rare honor that I do not bestow on many book series…..the dream cast.

Dream Cast for a select list of characters from The Code of the West series. 

Tapadera Andrews: Joel Smallbone

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Pepper Paige: Moriah Peters

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Lorenzo (a complex friend of Tapadera’s): Kevin Sorbo or John Schneider

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Selena (a dance hall girl): Bianca Santos

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Stack Lowery: T.C. Stallings

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Rocky (a dance hall girl): Jodi-Lynn Thomas 

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Jim Parrack as any of Tap’s long term rivals found in the series:

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Angelita should be played by someone who looks like Bethel Green:

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and has the personality of Rachel Eggleston: 

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That’s all for now folks!

 

 

 

Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl Series: Caitlin O’Connor

Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl series is perhaps her most popular collection of books to date. This series was a big hit with teen readers and young adults, and continues to stand as an example to other writers of how to appeal to a younger age group. The series covers the lives of four different girls, Caitlin, Chloe, Kim, and Maya. This large series deals with subjects such as self-discovery, divorce, teen pregnancy, peer pressure, life struggles, death, tragedy, recovery, redemption, friendship, sisterhood, and more. Carlson manages to cover most of the issues that teens see every day, while at the same time portraying them in a realistic and poignant way. As a young teen I greatly enjoyed reading this series and learned some important life lessons from the characters’ fictional mistakes and bad life choices. I would recommend this series to any Christian teen girl who is trying to make her way in life and navigate the challenges areas of faith, love, and friendship. The first part of the series introduces the reader to a young teen girl named Caitlin O’Connor.

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Caitlin lives an empty life, searching for things that will make her happy, all the while unaware that the only being capable of filling the void inside is Jesus Christ. She struggles with a difficult home life, tumultuous relationships with friends, the desire to be loved, and the deep need for meaning and purpose. As Caitlin bridges the gap between girlhood and womanhood, she will find that Jesus is the answer for this difficult world. Throughout the series Caitlin becomes a Christian, struggles with many different life challenges, and learns many life lessons the hard way. She learns how to shine the light of Jesus’ love in some of the darkest places, and strives to remain pure of heart, mind, and body in a world full of temptation and distraction. This series, and the ones following, could make an interesting Christian miniseries, as the characters are well-developed and portrayed as imperfect people trying to follow Jesus and listen to his voice. In the right hands, this type of production could be revolutionary in the lives of teens and young adults.

Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry

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Almost Heaven is one of Chris Fabry’s older novels that is well-loved by avid followers of his work. As with many of his novels, the story told in Almost Heaven set in Fabry’s fictional town of Dogwood, West Virginia. The novel deals with subjects such as the supernatural, angels, God’s divine wisdom, hurting people, coping mechanisms, isolation, forgiveness, and healing. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the two characters, a man named Billy Allman, and an angel called Malachi. From his youth Billy has loved making music, but the instrument he loves playing the most is the mandolin. Billy was what people would call the outcast during his school years, and because of this, he often turned to his music to forget the hurtful words and actions that he faced each day. Had it not been for the keen ear of a caring teacher, Billy’s musical talent would have remained unnoticed. This recognition naturally leads him down the path of fame and fortune, however, a major and unexpected turn of events will change Billy’s life forever. Malachi is an angel whom God has assigned to observe Billy Allman’s life. He has observed Billy for many years, and likes to think he knows him very well. However, during a life-changing part of Billy’s life, God temporarily relieves Malachi of his position, therefore causing him to miss a key part of his charge’s life. Upon his return Malachi spends nearly the remainder of the novel trying to discover what led Billy to his current state of disrepair. You see, Billy has thrown himself into running a radio station in his hometown that plays gospel music nearly 24/7. He has no concern for his personal health, and his motive for this heavy workload appears to be pain. Will Malachi discover what happened to Billy? Will Billy turn to God for healing from his painful past? To answer these questions, read the book!;) In my opinion, Almost Heaven is a bit slow to develop and does not hold the attention as well as Fabry’s other novels. While the plot is quite creative and well-thought-out, I think that the characters could have been even deeper. It has been my observation that Fabry usually puts his best effort forward in a novel, which is why this novel was slightly disappointing. However, it is still superior to many other Christian fiction books and is worth a read. Almost Heaven could make an interesting Christian standalone film, however, the filmmaker would have to take care to avoid letting scenes drag on for too long, as is the case on several counts in the novel.

Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers

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Bridge to Haven is one of Francine Rivers’ newest novels, and while it had mixed reviews among Christian bloggers, I think that it is up to her usual standards. Some berated Rivers for the rather graphic content she included in this novel, saying that it did not deserve the Christian genre, while others praised her for bringing a difficult topic into the light and exposing the raw pain that is involved. The topic that I am speaking of is sexual abuse and sin. I do think that Rivers could have been more cautious with some of the content that she included, but, on the other hand, if Christians continue to be silent on this issue, nothing will change. I have always appreciated the raw honesty that Rivers reflects in her writing, and this is perhaps her most edgy novel yet. So, if you do not wish to read a novel on this topic, don’t. If, however, you wish to be exposed to an interesting side of the argument, read the novel with an open mind. Set in the 1950’s, the opening chapters of Bridge to Haven introduce the reader to a young woman named Abra who has a scarred past. Abra was found as an abandoned newborn by a pastor named Ezekiel Freeman. Ezekiel took Abra into his home and raised her as his own daughter. Abra had it all, a church home, the love of a family, and a bright future. Yet, she chose her career over these gifts and acted on her dream to be an actress by going to Hollywood. However, she learns that the price she must pay to make it big is her innocence. Abra listens to and trusts a man whose only desire is to take everything she has to give. He claims that he loves her and will never leave her, yet, she soon discovers that he has told many girls the same lie. With his “help”, she is successful, to a point. However, the “payment” that he requires is not worth the benefits of a successful acting career. Abra learns this lesson too late, and begins to willingly fall prey to men’s lustful desires. One thing leads to another, and Abra soon finds herself broken, wounded, and at the end of her rope. Will she discover that the love and forgiveness she has been searching for all her life can be found in God alone? Will Abra escape the clutches of the world and run into the arms of Jesus? To answer these questions, read the book!;) I would definitely recommend this novel to no one younger than sixteen, as the subject matter is quite heavy and the content gritty. However, this would make a landmark Christian film, if done in the right way. The novel would definitely need some editing before hitting the big screen, but I believe that it has a lot of potential that a filmmaker could build on. If you are an aspiring filmmaker looking to take on a difficult subject that will make or break your career, look no further than this novel.

Return to the Canadian West Series by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

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Janette Oke has recently returned to the world of Christian fiction and has been penning new novels with the assistance of her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan. In her newest series, Return to the Canadian West, she employs her usual writing style, along with a few new techniques that might interest younger readers. Some have said that Oke’s writing is almost too clean to be interesting, but I think that there is a place for innocent novels such as these in the Christian book world. At the very least one must admit that every one of the books in this series are way better than Hallmark’s depiction of her novels. Hallmark has twisted and ruined so many aspects of both Oke’s original Canadian West series and this new series that it is impossible for me to untangle their web of mistakes. In short, the famous When Calls the Heart TV series is a mockery of Oke’s novels and should not be taken as an accurate depiction of her stories. Any-who, before I get carried away…….So far Oke and Logan have penned three novels in this new series, and time will tell if they plan to create more. I would recommend this series to someone interested in inspirational/romantic fiction. The first book, titled Where Courage Calls, introduces the reader to a young woman named Elizabeth Thatcher. Elizabeth, or Beth, as she likes to be called, is a wealthy young woman who seeks a higher calling than the comfortable, luxurious life that Providence has granted her family. Beth feels that her calling is to be a teacher, and, despite her family’s protest, accepts a humble teaching position in a small mining town called Coal Valley. Initially she finds the people of Coal Valley to be a bit standoffish and suspicious, but she eventually finds a friend and a mentor in her landlady, Molly McFarland. This friendship leads her to become friends with a disabled miner named Frank Russo. Slowly Beth begins to embrace her new home and finds solace in her new friends……and in the attentions of a handsome Mountie named Jarrick. The second novel, titled Where Trust Lies, informs the reader that Beth has finished her first year of teaching in Coal Valley and is returning home to spend some time with her family. Beth arrived at this decision through much trepidation; she feels guilty for leaving behind the people of Coal Valley that have become so close to her heart. However, upon her return home she finds herself grateful for the opportunity to rest and recuperate. Unfortunately, this relaxation is short-lived, for Beth’s mother has planned a long and luxurious vacation that includes the entire family. Beth agrees to go out of obligation and the chance to reconnect with her sisters. She soon finds herself aboard a steamship full of people touring some of the most beautiful parts of the world. While the vacation is mostly enjoyable for Beth and her family, there is a deceiver in the mix. Through trial and temptation Beth will come to discover her true place in the world, an learn a valuable lesson about trust. The third and most recent novel is titled Where Hope Prevails, this novel falls into the typical plot of an inspirational novel: woman returns to small town to find that not only has everything changed, but that she has been virtually replaced. As you may have guessed, Beth returns home from her harrowing vacation to find that Coal Valley has hired another teacher; a man with no interest in God or her methods of teaching. They quickly form a rivalry, and through the experience Beth must learn that her real enemy is not any one person, but the devil, who will try anything to distract her from the voice of Jesus. As this is the main plot point, the matter of Beth’s wedding to Jarrick takes a backseat; this is something that may be disappointing to some readers. The authors attempt to add a plot twist at the end, and their effort is appreciated, as it adds a lot to the novel. However, this novel departs the furthest from Janette Oke’s usual above-par novels and leaves much to be desired. It seems rather fruitless to mention that this book series would make a good TV miniseries, as others have already tried and failed to produce such a creation. Yet, we here at Box Office Revolution can only hope that someone will redeem the horrors of Hallmark.

Egypt’s Sister by Angela Elwell Hunt

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Egypt’s Sister is the latest release by our beloved author, Angela E. Hunt. In this novel, Hunt departs from her usual style by writing a novel in the historical genre. Set in the years before Christ’s birth, the novel tells the tale of Cleopatra, the famed queen of Egypt. I was surprised to find that the beginning of the story was rather slow to develop and did not hold the attention as well as Hunt’s past novels, however, she made up for this by returning to her usual writing style later in the novel. As a whole Egypt’s Sister was a tad overloaded with historical fact, this made the book seem more like a documentary than a story. However, one has to appreciate the time and dedication that she put into writing this book. While this is certainly not Hunt’s best novel, I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to readers interested in historical fiction. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the main character, a young Jewish girl named Chava. Chava’s mother died when she was young, and she is growing up under the tutelage of her scholarly father. She has the privilege of being the companion and best friend to one of Egypt’s young princesses, a curious girl named Urbi. Chava and Urbi spend many hours playing, observing, and discussing life’s complexities. One day Chava hears directly from God that her destiny is to be a sister/friend to Urbi until the day of her death. Chava’s father does not initially believe her claim, mostly because he has never heard the voice of God. Nevertheless, Chava continues to follow God’s calling by remaining a true friend to Urbi. As the two grow into young women, they both begin to realize their place in the world. For Urbi, it would appear that her destiny is to marry well and become Queen of Egypt. For Chava, it is to follow the calling that God has placed upon her life, to love Urbi as a sister, unconditionally. Following the death of her father, Urbi is convinced to marry her younger brother and take on the name Cleopatra, so that she might take her place as Queen of Egypt. Chava finds that the Queen has little time for her childhood friend anymore, and that she begins to make decisions of her own accord. For a time, the two remain friends, but when a jealous Cleopatra asks her to choose between the gods of Egypt and the One True God, Chava chooses the One True God. This decision causes Cleopatra to throw Chava and her family in prison. Alone inside her prison cell, Chava questions God’s will and His purpose for her life. Through various circumstances, she is sold into slavery and eventually decides to become a midwife, with the hope of buying her freedom. Will Chava learn to forgive Cleopatra for her rash decision? Will she trust in God’s infallible plan for her life? To answer these questions, read the book! Egypt’s Sister could make an interesting Christian historical film, however, the filmmakers would have to ensure that their main focus is character development. Without character development, the film would be no more than a documentary.

Misery Loves Company by Rene Gutteridge

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Rene Gutteridge is known to us as one of the most creative authors of Christian fiction on the market today. She is most certainly not afraid to tackle both unusual and unexpected subjects and transform them into above average novels. Misery Loves Company is one of her more recent novels in the suspense genre, and while it is not her best book, it is mostly up to her usual standards. It is my opinion that she could have done a better job on the ending, as it was somewhat typical. However, the end of the novel does not diminish the overall heart of the story. Misery Loves Company deals with subjects such as grief, loss, anger, bitterness, secrets, truth, the pursuit of peace, reconciliation, and healing. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the main character, a blogger and struggling writer named Juliet Belleno. Juliet, or Jules as she likes to be called, recently suffered the sudden, tragic death of her husband Jason. Shortly following his death she retreated from the world and currently lives an isolated life within the walls of her home. The only people she has consistent contact with are her alcoholic father and her late husband’s friend Chris. Jules finds purpose and stability in posting a monthly book review on the latest releases by her favorite author, Patrick Reagan. However, little does she know how this habit will affect both herself, and others. One day, shortly after posting her monthly review, Jules takes a routine trip to the grocery store. An ordinary day becomes extraordinary when she runs into Patrick Reagan, the creator of her favorite novels. They talk and even go out to dinner, then, the unthinkable happens…..she wakes up in a strange home, on a strange bed, in the dark…..alone. Jules discovers that she has been kidnapped by her idol, and that he has been spying on her life for quite some time. Juliet’s father discovers her disappearance and convinces Chris to search for his daughter. Both Chris and Jules quickly discover that Patrick is an unstable man driven by grief regarding the death of his wife. Patrick believes that Jules needs his help to become a great writer, and goes to extreme lengths to prove his theory. Through a captor/captive relationship, and deep soul-searching, Jules and Patrick find that through their shared grief, they can find healing. The story does have a few unexpected twists that make the novel better as a whole. To find out what these are….read the book!;) Unfortunately, the conclusion of this book is somewhat predictable, it is almost like the author did not know where to end the story. Furthermore, it appears as though Gutteridge spent plenty of time developing the Patrick character and not enough on the Juliet character. If she had developed each character with the same dedication as she did Patrick, this would be a landmark novel. Even so, Misery Loves Company has plenty of content that a Christian filmmaker could build off of to create a great film. That being said, this novel is yet another book that would make a great Christian movie….in the right hands.

The Legend of Stuart Brannon Series by Stephen Bly

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Stephen Bly’s all around best book series is The Legend of Stuart Brannon. The spirit of this series is one of grit, poignancy, and humor; perhaps the style that drew readers to Bly’s works in the first place. The series has seven books that catalog the life of Bly’s famous Stuart Brannon character, they cover his past, present, and future. As with most of his novels, Bly uses his gift for writing to make each scene come alive in this book series. Stephen Bly had a way of subtly including important faith and character lessons into his stories, without being pushy or overbearing. In this series, he tells how one man’s life choices affect both himself and others, and how one can become wiser by learning from their mistakes. The first novel, Hard Winter at Broken Arrow Crossing, introduces the reader to a gruff, yet gentlemanly cowboy named Stuart Brannon. Stuart has recently suffered the loss of his wife and son who died in childbirth, not to mention the failure of his beloved Arizona ranch. Driven by grief, Stuart wanders out into the great unknown and becomes lost in a blizzard. Finally he finds somewhere to rest out of the cold. However, the dwelling is already occupied by an elderly, wounded prospector who thinks he is dying. Stuart tends to the man and he slowly begins to regain health. Together they wait out the winter and try to survive the elements. Little do they both know that the bitter winter will bring with it an abused, pregnant girl with nowhere to hide from her captors, and a family of starry-eyed gold seekers who became lost in the winter storms. Stuart finds himself snowed in with a ragtag group of people who all need his help. And if this isn’t enough, he becomes entangled in a rescue effort involving a kidnapped child. Hard Winter at Broken Arrow Crossing introduces characters that are included in all of the following books, and sets the stage for plot structure and content found in later novels. If you are interested in a Western series that has endless adventures and great characters, then read this one! The Legend of Stuart Brannon would make a great Christian miniseries, as it is a story with enough content to justify multiple episodes, and one that has a better beginning and conclusion than most Christian films. Someday filmmakers will recognize the gold mine of potential found in Christian novels, but for now, we are left to dream of the possibilities.

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