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Melody Carlson’s Mental Health Masterpiece: Finding Alice

Image result for finding alice melody carlson

As previously mentioned on this blog, Melody Carlson is a superb author of teen and adult fiction. Many have been drawn to the gentle way that she weaves the Gospel story into her novels. She believes that Christians have just as many issues as the next person, and that, at times, some hurt others with their exclusivity. Carlson is a rare author who dares to admit that the church body has flaws. In her novel, Finding Alice, she shows how the church body can hurt a person or persons by not being willing to help them, by putting their convenience and traditionalism above someone else’s needs. For this reason, and others like it, Finding Alice is Carlson’s best novel. The plot and plot twists are performed flawlessly and hold the attention of the reader. Carlson’s brave undertaking of this difficult subject matter make this novel worth a read and definitely worth promoting. Not many people would be willing to write about this topic in a real-life context, nor would they make the effort to portray it in an accurate light.  Finding Alice deals with subjects such as mental illness, schizophrenia, family traits, life choices, the consequences that come along with these, the exclusivity of small churches, estranged family relationships. loneliness, fear, friendship, brotherly love, and the healing power of God’s love for us. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the main character, Alice Laxton. Alice is a senior in college, she is a brilliant student, confounding her professors with her knowledge and ability to learn new concepts. Alice has a normal life, or so she believes. However, little does she know that there is a dark secret from her estranged family’s past, one that they would all like to forget. You see, Alice’s grandmother had schizophrenia. Being an early case, no one knew how to treat her properly, so, they locked her away…..and she eventually died alone, lost in her own mind. Alice lives in a typical college housing facility, alone, and in total control of her life; she is independent and free. One day Alice meets a new friend, her name is Amelia. Amelia claims to be Alice’s guardian angel, and tells her that she is here to keep her safe from the outside world. Alice wonders how she got into the apartment, Amelia brushes this aside and begins teaching Alice all sorts of new things. Alice shouldn’t eat the food in her home, it’s not safe. She shouldn’t even drink the water, its probably poisonous. Alice listens to Amelia, and, slowly, she begins to fall into the hands of her own mind. Some time later, Alice’s mother discovers how far gone her daughter has become. She is shocked to discover Alice’s condition, and makes the decision to bring her home to nurse her back to health. Alice soon discovers, with the help of Amelia, that nowhere is safe, not even her own home. Her mother, goaded on by friends from her cultist church who believe Alice is possessed by an evil spirit, makes the decision to send Alice to an institution. For months Alice lurks in a drug-induced haze that she believes to be Wonderland, but somewhere in the back of her mind she knows she should escape this place of darkness. Eventually an opportunity arrives, and she is finally free from her prison of medication. Sadly, she realizes that she is now on the streets, alone and afraid…..and still in a prison in her mind. Alice makes new friends, real ones, that Amelia doesn’t like, and discovers that the streets are much more accommodating than Wonderland. Eventually she finds a sick, abandoned kitten and names him Cheshire. Her friends tell her of a woman named Faye who takes in sick cats from the streets, so she takes him there. Little does she know that Faye also takes in people in need, and loves them unconditionally, just like Jesus. Will Alice escape the prison in her mind? Will she find healing through God’s love? To answer these questions, read the book!;) Finding Alice would make an excellent Christian drama film, but in the wrong hands it could be disastrous. I believe the best course of action for Christian novels such as these would be to include the author in the film-making to ensure that a quality story-line would be upheld.

An Introduction to Melody Carlson

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Melody Carlson is a accomplished Christian author of nearly hundreds of novels, their genres ranging from fiction for adults, teen girls, and even children. She, much like Angela Hunt, is an author willing to take on challenging subjects and portray them in a poignant and meaningful way. Her somewhat raw look at life’s ups and downs is what drew readers of all ages to her addicting style. Many of her novels will forever hold life lessons for those trying to make it through the years of change and discovery. However, certain aspects in some of her novels keep her from being the best author of teen fiction, such as her view that it is okay to consume alcohol in certain situations. Unfortunately, Carlson’s motto seems to be that as long as you don’t get drunk, its okay to enjoy yourself on occasion. While everyone is free to make their own decisions, it is unacceptable for someone who claims to be a Christian author to be spreading this message. Therefore, if she would change this one aspect of her novels, I would recommend all of her novels to you, rather than a select group. Many of Carlson’s readers would argue that, at times, her gritty and eye-opening look at the modern world of high-school and relationships is needed and appreciated. I would have to agree with them in most cases, because it is rare to find an author that is willing to speak the plain truth when it comes to life choices, and the consequences that come with them. Some of Carlson’s best works include Finding Alice, The Diary of a Teenage Girl Series, Just Another Girl, and The 86 Bloomberg Place Series. All of these are excellent reads and most certainly worth your time, whether you are a teen or a young adult. In the very near future I will be reviewing the works listed above, and hope that all you avid readers enjoy discovering the tales that lie within!

Rene Gutteridge: Greetings from the Flipside

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Rene Gutteridge is a widely read author of Christian fiction who enjoys employing eccentric charm and unexpected plot lines into her writing. She is certainly one of the most, if not the most, unique Christian authors out there today, and is well-loved by both her readers and those who work with her in film-making. Yes, we here at Box Office Revolution are happy to say that Rene Gutteridge is interested in making Christian films based on her books. What a concept! Gutteridge is what you would call a sentimental comedian of sorts, as most of her novels are either in the comedy or romance genre, or a little of both! She is not afraid to try and employ the unexpected into her novels and her life, and we appreciate that she is using her artistic side to influence Christian film-making for the better. Greetings From the Flipside is a perfect read for someone who is interested in getting to know Gutteridge’s books, as it will define her style and draw an innocent reader in to the slightly absurd comic happenings that make her novels all that they are. This novel deals with subjects such as the mind, life, death, the afterlife, broken hearts, broken trust, renewed purpose, coma patients, miraculous occurrences, and God’s will for our individual lives. The opening chapters of Greetings From the Flipside introduce the reader to the main character, a woman named Hope Landon. Hope has it all, a job that she loves, the perfect fiance, and an exciting future ahead of her. However, her perfect world comes crashing down when her fiance leaves her at the altar. Confused, hurt, and brokenhearted, Hope disappears from society to recover from her broken heart. When she returns, she discovers that everyone has forgotten her and assumed that she committed suicide as a result of her jilting. In short, everyone thinks she is dead. Hope retreats to New York City, only to find that her troubles are the same no matter where she is. She finds a new job and a new purpose, but something is not quite right, she just can’t figure out what. Hope will have to learn to distinguish fantasy from reality, and remember what really happened after she was left at the altar. She will also learn that everything is not as it appears. The novel ends with a major plot twist and a completely unexpected conclusion, to discover what happens, read the book!;) This novel would make an excellent comedy/romance film in the hands of the right writer/director/producer. In fact, I am surprised that Gutteridge has not championed this book to be made into a film yet.

Angela Elwell Hunt: The Fairlawn Series Book 3

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Angela E. Hunt’s Fairlawn Series has been called pedestrian and commonplace by some, and while this may be at least partially true, I choose to believe that Hunt meant to portray the importance of life lessons through this series. There is a time for landmark novels, and a time for simple plots with a poignant message. Keeping in the eccentrically charming spirit of the other two novels, the final book brings a poignant end to the story of Jennifer Graham. Titled She’s In A Better Place, this novel deals with subjects such as loss, grief, death, broken relationships, broken trust, redemption, reconciliation, the hope of an eternity with Jesus, life lessons, life struggles, and learning to be content, no matter what. The opening chapters tell the reader that Jennifer Graham still struggles to keep up with the daily demands of her busy life as a single mother and sole breadwinner, but bring encouragement by alluding that she has learned to trust God’s plan for her life. Jennifer has at last come to the end of her degree program at mortuary school, and is studying for her final exam. The daily demands of being a mother are wearing at times, and she relies heavily on her close friend and mentor, the elderly Gerald, for support. However, she is shocked to learn that her rock does, in fact, have weaknesses. Gerald, the focus of the novel, reluctantly informs Jennifer that he has been diagnosed with a fatal illness, and will not live much longer. Jennifer is crushed and feels confused as to why God would allow this to happen. She learns of his broken relationship with an estranged daughter he refuses to discuss, and feels that they should reconcile before his death. Jennifer begins searching for his daughter, but is unaware that this search will bring both joy and heartache for everyone involved. She will learn that the last chapter of a person’s life reveals how everything they have done has molded them into the person that they are. Through Gerald’s imminent death Jennifer is forced to take her own relationships more seriously, especially her blossoming romance with a certain handsome attorney. The novel’s ending is surprisingly not predictable, and leaves the reader to imagine what happened to the characters. To find out firsthand, read the book!;) As I have said before, this series would make a good standalone film or Christian miniseries, in the hands of the right person/persons. In conclusion, we here at Box Office Revolution continue to petition aspiring Christian filmmakers to look no further than Christian fiction for inspiration.

Chris Fabry: Every Waking Moment

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Chris Fabry has written many excellent Christian novels, and has many faithful readers that continue to look forward to each new novel he produces. Perhaps his best novel is titled Every Waking Moment; this book has always been my favorite by him, as it takes a unique look at life and the consequences of what happens when someone makes the decision to value material things above human life. Every Waking Moment deals with subjects such as medical experimentation, pharmaceutical companies, power, prestige, defeat, secrets, lies, consequences, pain, anger, forgiveness, truth, reconciliation, and the healing power of God’s unfailing love. The opening chapters of Every Waking Moment introduce the reader to the main character, a young woman named Treha Langsam. Treha has suffered all her life from a brain disorder that could have been prevented; in spite of this fact, she has managed to live a full, if somewhat simple, life. Her disorder has isolated her from society, and, with no family to call her own, she lives alone. Treha works and nearly lives at the Desert Gardens Retirement Home, finding fulfillment through serving the elderly during the last chapter in their lives. For as long as Treha can remember she has been able to feel little to no emotion, and lives in the comfort of routine and familiarity. She does not clearly remember her past, and is content with things remaining the same for as long as she lives. However, little does she know that her life of routine will be broken, and soon. The director of the retirement home, Miriam Howard, is one of the few people who have recognized Treha as more than just another employee. Miriam has witnessed on multiple occasions the gift that Providence has bestowed upon Treha, the ability to reach people who are lost in the confusing world of dementia. Somehow she is able to touch them in a way that improves their quality of life. Maybe its because of her own struggle, or maybe she has a depth of understanding not granted to everyone. In the midst of the everyday, a documentary team looking for their big break discovers Treha’s abilities and are eager to record her interaction with the elderly. Miriam agrees to their request, much to the chagrin of her superior, and sends Treha on a journey of sorts, that will bring her out of the dark shadows of the past and into the light of the present. What will Treha discover about her past? Will those who were instrumental in harming her be brought to justice? Most importantly, will Treha choose to run to Jesus, The Healer that she needs? To answer these questions, read the book!;) Every Waking Moment would make an excellent Christian drama film, if made by the right people. As the director/writer/producer would already have a plot that needs no alteration, they would instead need to focus on casting the characters appropriately. The starring role of the film would need to be filled by someone who can portray a person afflicted with a disability in a respectful and accurate way, and at the same time bring depth and meaning the the character itself. This person would need to portray to the audience that the main character is not just someone who is disabled, but a person with needs and emotions, just like all of humanity. If done correctly, Every Waking Moment as a film could change how people look at Christian movies for the better.

Tim Downs: Wonders Never Cease

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Tim Downs is one of the most eccentrically brilliant authors I have ever had the privilege of reviewing. One can certainly not fault him for original content, as he provides several subjects never before seen in the world of Christian fiction. While Downs is known for his famous Bug Man series, Wonders Never Cease has always been, in my opinion, his best novel. In writing Wonders Never Cease Downs departs from his usual practice of crime/thriller plots, and instead focuses on everyday occurrences….with a twist. Set in the cutthroat world of Hollywood, this novel deals with subjects such as desperation, deceit, get-rich-quick schemes, failure, miraculous occurrences, angelic appearances, mistakes, successes, and learning experiences. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the two main characters, Olivia Hayden, and Kemp McAvoy. Olivia is an aging film star looking for her next big break. When her agent informs her of a new acting opportunity, she jumps at the chance, thinking that she will star as the beautiful, young female character. However, she is devastated to learn that she has been cast as….the mother-in-law. Driven by anger and pride, she makes the decision to drive her car too fast down a busy interstate, and ends up being part of a serious accident. This choice leaves her in a medically induced coma in the hospital for an extended period of time. Kemp McAvoy is a down-on-his-luck middle American trying to get rich as quickly as possible. Against his girlfriend’s advice, he creates an elaborate scheme that will be sure to grant him the cash he so desires. Kemp plans to appear as an angel to Olivia in a staged vision, an act that will surely grant him fame and fortune. However, the less-than-reputable people he becomes involved with and the consequences of impersonating an angel are sneaking up on him….fast. In the midst of it all, Kemp’s girlfriend has a young daughter who claims to have seen an angel. Will Olivia recover? Does Kemp survive his self-inflicted ordeal? Has an angel really appeared to a young girl? To answer these questions, read the book!;) In order for this book to be made in to a film, it would have to be written by an expert who has proven themselves in the past, and is willing to stay true to original content. There is really nothing that one could add to this novel, it has it all. It a rare writer that can pull off a well-structured plot, plot twists, and audience appeal, but Downs brings it all to the table. Ideally I would like to see this novel made into an action/comedy type of film. If done correctly, Wonders Never Cease could make a landmark Christian film.

 

Angela Elwell Hunt: The Fairlawn Series Book 2

She Always Wore Red by Angela Hunt

In the same vein as the first novel in Angela Hunt’s Fairlawn Trilogy, the second book, titled She Always Wore Red, continues the story of Jennifer Graham, and expands on her new life in Mt. Dora, Florida. This novel deals with subjects such as change, life choices, surprises, relatives, decisions, ignorance, redemption, trusting in God, personal choices, growth, death, and learning to live in the center of God’s will. The opening chapters of this novel tell the reader that Jennifer has decided to make the mortuary she inherited her permanent business. However, Jennifer is constantly overwhelmed by the duties of mothering her two boys, running a business, and attending mortuary school. She longs for a friend with which to share her joys and struggles, but little does she know that one is right around the corner, and it will not be the friendship she expected. Jennifer meets a young woman named McLane Larson, who has recently moved to Mt. Dora while her husband is overseas. McLane is young, pregnant, and facing difficult choices ahead. Little does Jennifer know that God will use McLane to teach her compassion, forgiveness, and to realize her own underlying racism. Jennifer will learn that she has had a closed view of the world up until now, she has only been seeing things through the eyes of her own race, and had been too focused on her own struggles. Will Jennifer learn to see the world through the eyes of Christ? Will she trust Him with her future? To answer these questions, read the book!;) As previously mentioned in my post regarding the first novel in this series, I believe that the best course of action for a Christian filmmaker would be to combine all three of these novels into one film. The short, simple plots could be easily combined to create one movie, however, Hunt’s trilogy could also be made into a Christian miniseries. Regardless of what a Christian filmmaker decides to make out of this trilogy, we here at Box Office Revolution will be happy if they decide to make it at all!

Chris Fabry: Junebug

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Chris Fabry has written many excellent Christian novels, and is renowned by this blog as one of the greatest authors of Christian fiction on the market today. While Junebug may not be his best novel, it is still worth reading, as it tackles an issue that many people do not often think about. Yet another novel set in Fabry’s fictional town of Dogwood, West Virginia, Junebug deals with subjects such as kidnapping, abandonment, lies, secrets, truth, broken trust, family, hope, home, and how God works everything together for good, even the most dire circumstances. The opening chapters of Junebug introduce us to a young girl and her father who live on the road, in an old RV. Junebug has never questioned her circumstances, no matter how unusual they become, even to the point of living in a Walmart parking lot. However, one day her whole world comes crashing down when she sees her name and picture on a list of missing children. She discovers that her father is not actually her biological father, in fact, he is a kidnapper and a criminal. She receives no conclusive answers from her kidnapper, and decides to strike out on her own. Junebug begins the search for her real family, and discovers many secrets along the way. Will Junebug ever find her real family? Will she escape the hands of her kidnapper? Most importantly, will she run into the arms of her Heavenly Father? To answer these questions, read the book! Junebug is a modern-day depiction of the classic novel Les Miserables, and uses many of the same plot devices and concepts. This would make an interesting Christian drama film, if done in the right way. Even though the plot is somewhat pedestrian, it could be expanded and improved in the hands of the right writer/director/producer. A Christian filmmaker could use this novel as a base for making a Christian version of the classic Les Miserables, or, they could stay true to original content. I think an artistic filmmaker like Jefferson Moore would be good at making a film based on this book, as he has basically done this kind of plot before in his films (i.e. Clancy). Moore is at least average in the production and acting areas, he just needs a plot, so this novel would provide perfect fodder for him to make an above average Christian movie. We here at Box Office Revolution look forward to the day when Christian filmmakers will recognize the potential found in Christian novels.

Angela Elwell Hunt: The Fairlawn Trilogy, Book 1

Image result for doesn't she look natural angela hunt

The Fairlawn Trilogy is one of Angela E. Hunt’s lesser known book series, and was not quite as popular as some of her standalone novels, however, I have always had a soft spot for this series. This trilogy has an eccentric charm and many unique qualities that make it all that it is. The first novel in the series is titled Doesn’t She Look Natural? The opening chapters of this novel introduce the reader to a woman named Jennifer Graham. Jennifer has recently gone through a nasty divorce from her husband, which is further complicated by the fact that they both work in close company for the government. In light of various conflicting circumstances, Jennifer decides to quit her job and move herself and her two sons to her mother’s home while she looks for a new job….far away from her ex-husband. She is confused and dissapointed in how things have turned out, and worried that she will not be able to provide for her sons on her own. However, a twist of fate brings the answer to Jennifer’s worries. She is informed that she has inherited a funeral home in the historic Mt. Dora, Florida. Unsure as to how to take this news, Jennifer makes the decision to travel to Florida with her sons and mother to see what it is like. Once there, she falls in love with the old funeral home, and learns that there are many lessons to be learned from serving the families of loved ones who have passed on. What lessons does Jennifer learn? Will she be able to make a living out of running a funeral home? To answer these questions, read the book!;) While the plot-lines of these three novels are somewhat simple, they draw in readers of all ages in only a way that a good novel can. This trilogy would make a good beginner project for a Christian filmmaker looking to make their mark on the Christian movie world. In light of the simple plots, one could combine all three books into one Christian film, or divide the content to create a short inspirational miniseries. Once again we can see that even with simple novels, there is ample content with which to create films.

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