Where Shadows Meet by Colleen Coble

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Colleen Coble brings a dramatic suspense plot to life in this new title. Where Shadows Meet has a mostly engaging plot-line with a well-done plot twist for the conclusion. The struggle of suspense plots is always crafting a believable villain. Coble does an admirable job here by concealing the villain’s identity until nearly the last moment. However, the biggest fault I found with the villain was that while they had reason to be the way that they were, the explanation behind their twisted actions was revealed in an information dump at the end, rather than developing gradually throughout the tale. However, the biggest strength here was most definitely the plot and storyline quality. This is what saved the book from being below average. Hannah Schwartz is your average young Amish woman. She is engaged to an kind young man whose lack of wow factor is remedied by his standing in the community. And anyway, the bishop approves of the match, and what he says is law. Her family loves her, she has good friends…and yet, Hannah envies the ways of the English (average Americans). When her parents are brutally killed by a serial murderer who is known by their infamous red symbol, Hannah flees everything she knows and runs away to marry her secret lover, an enigma named Reece. However, the English life holds nothing but sorrow for Hannah, for the kind and supportive man she married transforms quickly into a controlling madman who hates children and won’t even consider the idea of parenthood. Hannah’s eventual pregnancy sends Reece over the edge, and he pushes her down the stairs in an effort to rid himself of the child within her. Hannah survives the fall and Reece tells her their unborn child has died. Hannah runs again, this time to a new life as an author and quilt-maker. Five years pass, and she finally begins to believe in her freedom…then comes the dreaded phone call. Reece knows where she is and how to contact her. Will she ever escape his grasp and learn the identity of her parent’s killer? Will she receive the child her heart longs for? To answer these questions, read the book!;)

Coble is obviously a talented writer whose specialty is suspense, however, I felt like she was holding back in this plot-line. There are so many books by wannabe famous authors in the suspense genre that Coble must rise above with superior skill. Some may feel my rating harsh, but I simply believe that Coble can give her audience more. Yet, I will say that this book has the potential to revolutionize the Amish theme in Christian film. Therefore, I would like to see it brought to life on the big screen by someone wishing to breathe fresh air into the Amish genre.

Character Development (1.5 points)

It is my opinion that the character development in this novel has room for improvement. Hannah is mostly well-developed, and Reece is not entirely a straw-man abusive husband character, however, it is hard to get to know these characters when the book is written in third person. First person is the way to go in virtually every genre, and this would have improved the novel dramatically. By telling the story in first-person, it would have transformed into a character-driven plot. The readers would have been able to relate to and root for Hannah, and likewise hate and abhor the villain(s). Lastly, the secondary characters are believable, but still, they could have been better. Thus, I think that this is the main area in which Coble could improve.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

Finally, I am giving Coble a half point for originality because she did something with the Amish theme that no one has done before. Instead of idolizing their way of living, she pointed out both it’s strengths and weaknesses and used it as the focal point of a suspense plot. This is commendable in many ways, but mostly because the Amish fiction corner is overcrowded and musty with too many similar plot-lines. It is for this reason that Coble has the potential to go far; she clearly has the ability to take an overused plot theme and turn it into something original. Therefore, I recommend this book as a worthwhile read and think that it could go far on the big screen. On the whole, good job Mrs. Coble, we are excited to see what you create next!

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

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The Accidental Guardian by Mary Connealy

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Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The Accidental Guardian has slightly above average plot and storyline quality and a poignant message for readers. In this new novel, Mary Connealy strives for originality by taking the western romance plot (e.g. Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly) and giving the characters a solid and relatable backstory. While some aspects of the plot are predictable, others are not. In fact, I found this to be the theme of the entire novel. Trace Riley has made the best of the hand life has dealt him. He has his own land, a herd of Longhorns, plans for a house and barn, and a few good hired hands. Trace cools his anger against injustice in the world by regularly patrolling the wagon train trail near his homestead as a kind of self-appointed U.S. Marshal. One day as he and his stallion take their usual trip down the trail, he happens upon two young women and two young children fleeing from a wagon train massacre. Deborah (Deb) and Gwen Harkness left behind their patriarchal roots by agreeing to travel west with a family in need of nannies for their children while on the trail. Gwen uses her mothering talents to do the majority of caring for the children’s basic needs, and Deb helps with cooking, cleaning, laundry, you name it. Deb harbors bitterness in her heart against her patriarchal father who always took full credit for the work she did. You see, back home their father ran the local newspaper…in name only. Deb collected the news stories, wrote, printed, and sold the newspapers; while her father hung out with the leading men and collected the money she made. Deb is determined that she and Gwen will not be forced into servitude at the hands of men again. However, when they are forced to spend the winter at Trace’s, she will find herself serving willingly…and falling in love. Even though Connealy tries to be different in this plot, at the same time she uses much of the same old Hallmark-ish content. I think that Connealy is really trying to be original, and to her credit, I wonder what else could possibly be done different with the western romance plot. It has been done so often that it is hard to take it seriously.

Character Development (2 points)

Connealy does pretty well in the area of character development. Deb is the best character because she has clear strengths and weaknesses, not to mention a developed personality. Trace is pretty good because his past has defined his present, however, Connealy seems to prize his physical attributes more highly than developing his personality. Gwen is the weakest character because she is barely developed past being the good little homemaker. In spite of this, I enjoyed the interaction between the characters, and think that one of Connealy’s stronger points is dialogue. It is for this reason that I think this film has potential to be a romantic comedy film.

Creativity and Originality (.5 point)

Finally, I am giving Connealy a half point in creativity for developing one of the female characters well and for giving her characters good backstories. I think that Connealy has written better books than this one in the past and believe she can do so again. Furthermore, this novel could easily be translated to the big screen, and because the plot is bendable, it could easily be transformed in the hands of a talented screenwriter. I mentioned that it could be a good comedy film because there are some truly funny moments, including but not limited to Trace’s fear of changing diapers. But I don’t want to give everything away….so, I will sum up this review by saying that this book is worth a read if you want a basic love story and a few laughs. I look forward to Connealy’s next work and hope that she will score more points for originality next time.

Wish List Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

 

Looking Into You by Chris Fabry

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 (3 points)

Looking Into You has great plot and storyline quality. Of course, we’ve come to expect no less from Fabry’s exceptional writing style. The novel brings to an end the unfinished story of his unique Treha chracter who we met in Every Waking Moment. While at first glance this book may seem to be a typical sequel, it is not because it expounds on the qualities of the original novel by telling another part of the story, rather than simply regurgitating the same concepts. In the book, Treha will finally discover the piece of her life that has always been missing, and Paige Redwine will find healing for a choice she made long ago that changed the course of her life. The novel opens with the news that because of Treha’s success in the local junior college, and her improved mental and physical health state, she has been accepted to a faith-based college hours away from her current home with Miriam and Charlie Howard. Miriam is reluctant to let her go off on her own, but knows that she needs to learn how to live a healthy, independent life. When she realizes this fact, Miriam drops Treha off at the college and leaves her in the capable(?) hands of advisors and school counselors. Treha quickly finds that college is not what she expected, and that friends are not always who they appear to be. Paige Redwine is an established college professor who has hit an eternal writer’s block on her long-anticipated doctoral dissertation about mothers and daughters. She is also struggling to be open and honest in her on again/off again relationship with a man who is willing to help her face the shadows of her past. In the midst of her inner turmoil, Paige’s fragile grip on sanity is badly shaken when her long-lost daughter shows up as a student in her writing class, and her father’s declining health takes a turn for the worst. Paige must figure out how to reveal her true identity to her daughter at the right moment, and how to work through her broken relationship with her parents. As circumstances begin to make both women question their purpose, each will have to turn to the One who loves the most. This plot, as with many of Fabry’s books, has great potential to be a Christian film. Yet, because of some predictable plot elements, it falls just short of a perfect score. However, this is a powerful pro-life tale that is definitely worth a read, and consideration by future filmmakers.

Character Development (3.5 points)

Fabry’s strong suit has always been character development, and this novel is no different. The only thing keeping him from a perfect score in this area is the use of recycled characters. However, this is simply my opinion and not necessarily a bad thing. Treha is the strongest character because she changes in response to life circumstances. Paige is also well-developed and relatable, furthermore, her backstory and present circumstances interact well to create the bulk of the plot-line. The only other negative element to point out here is that some of the secondary characters could have used just a hair more development. Yet, in comparison to many other authors, there are few who are better than Fabry at crafting well-rounded characters.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Fabry does a good job with this novel by adding creative and original characteristics to a sequel. This fact earned him an almost perfect score in the area of creativity and originality. My favorite thing about the novel is the unique and poignant look it takes at the pro-life argument. The pro-life message is not shoved down the throat, rather, it is gently weaved into the fibers of the story to create an inarguable point that cannot be ignored. What would life be like if a loved one had never existed? His message is clear, all life is precious and only God has the authority to create it and take it away. In conclusion, great job Mr. Fabry, this is another one for the record books.

Wish List rating: 8 out of 10 points

Shadows of Hope by Georgiana Daniels

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

First off, I want to commend Daniels for taking on a difficult topic that many would shy away from. Shadows of Hope paints a realistic picture of what happens to a marriage when one partner has an affair and both partners have unresolved issues. Marissa is unhappy in her marriage, a marriage that has been broken by miscarriage and infertility. She has run from the truth for years by throwing herself into her work at the crisis pregnancy center she runs with her lifelong friend, Tristan. Tristan is a counselor at the center and Marissa often finds herself pouring out her personal sorrows to his listening ear. Colin, a biology professor, is also unhappy with he and Marissa’s marriage, and like Marissa, has never fully healed from the pain of their infertility. He has run from the truth by having a secret affair with one of his students, Kaitlyn. Now Colin is under observation at the school and is waiting for the board to decide if he is eligible for tenure. He decides it’s time to wash away his sins by quickly ending his affair with Kaitlyn before the truth comes out. There’s just one problem. Kaitlyn just found out she is pregnant. Kaitlyn is, or was, a dedicated student with a steady job at a local coffee shop. To her credit, she does not know that Colin is married, but she has still sinned by having marital relations in secret with someone who is not her husband. When Colin refuses to answer her texts, she ends up at the crisis pregnancy center where Marissa works. Marissa, not knowing who she is, treats her like any other client. When Colin finally finds out that Kaitlyn is pregnant, he begs her to let him be involved in their child’s life because he has always wanted a child. Throughout the novel Colin continually refuses to accept the lasting hurt towards others that his choices have caused, and Marissa fights against facing the brokenness of their situation. Will Marissa and Colin’s marriage survive this storm? While it has good qualities, I found the plot to be rushed at times and inconclusive. The story seems like it could have been further developed, however, this could happen in movie form.

Character Development (2 points)

The main characters are mostly well-developed and relatable. However, the supporting characters are not fully developed, but still lend considerable support to the plot. Character development is not the novel’s strong point, but the characters are still developed enough to drive the plot. Daniels crafts relatable characters by pointing out their mutual personal problems. Marissa has an unhealthy emotional dependence on Tristan, and Colin has a sinful relationship with Kaitlyn. It takes Marissa a little too long to begin making the right decisions, and Colin never seems to accept his part in breaking their relationship. While Colin’s character is realistic, his part of the story is left unfinished. In comparison, the reader is left with hope when Daniels does a good job of concluding Kaitlyn and Marissa’s stories. Therefore, Daniels earns an average score in this area, however, she has a lot of potential and I am excited to see what she does next!

Creativity & Originality (2 points)

The novel’s plot is very original and creative. In fact, I have never seen anyone write such an honest perspective on affairs and dual relationships in a ministry setting before. It is because of this that the strongest area of the novel is creativity and originality. Daniels writes in a refreshingly blunt manner that does not sugarcoat the reality of brokenness or condemn its existence. Therefore, the novel it is definitely worth a read because it poses convicting questions about relationships. Finally, I think that Daniels has some great ideas and am interested in reading her future novels. Furthermore, I think that the novel has the potential to be an eye-opening Christian film that would challenge a lot of people in the ministry world.

Wish List Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

The Staff and the Sword Series by Patrick W. Carr

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Plot and Storyline Quality (4 points)

Patrick Carr is a new face in the writing world whose powerfully written stories have shaken the fantasy genre at it’s very core. It is my opinion that this series is the best in the fantasy genre since C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. I would even dare to say that Carr’s plot lines are better than many of Lewis’. At the risk of unveiling the mysteries of each novel to those who do not yet know them well, for the purpose of this review I will only include content from the first novel.:) The opening novel of the series introduces the reader to a broken young man named Errol Stone who lives in the poor village of Callowford. Errol hides from his traumatizing past by remaining intoxicated for as long and as often as is humanly possible. He has little care for those around him, and has given himself entirely over to his addiction. One day when Errol wakes with his latest hangover, his muddled mind manages to decipher that an important messenger has just arrived with a package that needs to be delivered by way of a difficult path to a nearby churchman. Errol realizes that he is out of money with which to buy ale, and based on his dependence on the substance, decides to brave the journey for the sake of payment. Along the way he is nearly killed by a mysterious archer, and only manages to escape by swimming the final distance to his destination, which ruins the package he was supposed to deliver. When he does arrive at his destination, the priest, Martin, and his assistant Luis salvage what they can from the package, attend to his wounds and allow him to stay overnight. While he is there, Errol discovers that Martin is more than a churchman, and that Luis is not just a servant, but a reader, someone who is able to interpret the future from casting lots. Errol picks up a lot out of curiosity and can read what it says. Luis recognizes something unique in Errol and invites him to join them on a return journey to the village in the morning. On the first day of the journey someone almost succeeds in killing all three men when they realize the food in the package was poisoned. One thing leads to another, and Errol soon finds himself swept along on a wild journey that teaches him things he never realized he needed to know. As things become more and more perilous, Errol will have to face his addiction in order to survive, and will discover that his life’s purpose is not at all what he imagined. This description of the plot does not even come close to unveiling it’s many hidden treasures, therefore, Carr receives a perfect score in plot and story-line quality.

Character Development (4 points)

Likewise, character development in this novel is nearly without compare. Carr has the rare talent of keeping track of many characters without sacrificing their overall development. Everyone in the story has an important role to play, and as the story unfolds, many of them do not play the role that the reader (no pun intended) would expect. Errol is one of the best developed main characters I have seen in some time. His struggles and learning experiences are perfectly crafted to mold him into his character’s purpose. Furthermore, I think that Carr did an admirable job of modeling the corruption of the medieval Catholic church in his fantasy world by pointing out how they often gave into evil to receive worldly rewards. I could go on about Carr’s talent in this area for some time, but it is sufficient enough to say that he earns a perfect score in this area as well.

Creativity & Originality (2 points)

Finally, Carr earns a point for creativity and originality, and an x-factor point for being the best in his genre. It is obvious from the beginning that Carr put his heart and soul into writing this series, because his passion molds the direction of the plot. Because of this exceptional plot, character, and story-line development, I think that Carr’s series has the potential to become the Christian version of the acclaimed Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. There is ample content in each novel to make a two or more hour long epic film. Therefore, I think that a filmmaker looking to use this series to make movies should make one for each book, for even then, each movie would be at least two hours long. In conclusion, I was pleasantly surprised by this series and found myself quickly becoming a fan of Carr’s novels. Let us hope that someone will realize the potential found in exceptional content such as this.

Wish List Rating: 10 out of 10 points

In Places Hidden by Tracie Peterson

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Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

In this newest novel, Tracie Peterson departs slightly from her usual style of writing by adding an air of mystery and suspense. Two people, Camri Coulter and Patrick Murdock are tied together by a common fact, they are both seeking answers to the sudden disappearance Camri’s brother Caleb. When Camri learns the news of his disappearance, she leaves her aged, ailing parents at home to hopefully relieve their fears and locate her brother. On her way there she meets two women who have both suffered a loss, one by being left at the altar, and one by the death of a loved one. Together the three women band together, get temporary jobs at the same factory, and seek truth in a world of deception. Camri soon learns that in San Francisco, the only way to find accuracy is to blend in and become one with the chaos. Yet, the more she finds out about the circumstances surrounding Caleb’s disappearance, the less she wants to know. Patrick Murdock is at first skeptical of Camri’s intentions in coming to the city, but soon learns that what really bothers him is his suppressed attraction to her. Patrick has lived the hard life of growing up as an Irish immigrant in the slums and feels that a relationship between them is impossible because of Camri’s social status back home. Furthermore, he is also troubled by the fact that his beloved and deeply spiritual sister Ophelia is in the final stages of tuberculosis, the same disease that took their mother. Her impending death weighs heavy on his mind and spurs on his desire to settle matters regarding Caleb’s disappearance. He is determined to find Caleb because he feels that he owes him a debt of honor for proving his innocence in a recent murder case involving the death of his father. When working separately becomes fruitless, Camri and Patrick must combine efforts to discover the truth. Patrick manages to land a job as a bouncer with the very man who likely kidnapped and or killed Caleb, and Camri is also able to find a way to ascertain inside information. Will Patrick forgive God for taking his family home to heaven? Will Camri find Caleb before it is too late? The plot and story line quality in this novel are a step up from Peterson’s recent titles because the plot is engaging and the story line meaningful. The romantic elements are surprisingly not cheesy because Peterson attempts to develop a relationship between Camri and Patrick and does not entirely fall into the whirlwind romance trap. However, there is still room for improvement in this area because the ending of the novel is predictable and rushed. Yet, as far as plot quality goes, this is the best novel she has written since her acclaimed Heirs of Montana series.

Character Development (2 points)

Likewise, I was pleasantly surprised at the effort Peterson made in the area of character development. Camri and Patrick are portrayed as imperfect people who are loved by a perfect God. They both have strong opinions and well-rounded worldviews, and both struggle with weaknesses. Camri tends to speak her mind whether the situation calls for it or not, and Patrick often judges a person’s character before learning all the facts. While the main characters are very well developed, I felt that the supporting characters were shadows of what they could have been. Camri’s friends Judith and Kenzie have clearly defined personalities and interests, yet Peterson did not go all the way and make them seem like real people. As far as character development goes, Peterson never has gained the talent of making the reader forget that they are reading a book. While many of her stories are engaging and enjoyable, they are still just stories. Therefore, I think that character development is still the biggest area in which she could improve.

Creativity and Originality (1 point)

Lastly, Peterson earns a point for creativity and originality. This book has distinctly different plot features and themes than any of her other novels, and is a great start to her new series. Even though she is still writing only novels in the romance genre, she is trying to be more creative, and that’s all we ask. When one is trying to be different, the best place to start is with what they already know. Furthermore, I think that there is ample content within In Places Hidden to fuel a Christian film. As this is the first book in a series, it is likely that the series as a whole would make a good Christian/inspirational miniseries, with each book being one or two episodes. In conclusion, I hope that this novel is a sign of great things to come for Peterson, and look forward to reviewing the next novel in the series.

  Wish List Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews

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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 and Storyline Quality (4 points)

Isaiah’s Daughter is Mesu Andrews’ latest novel and is sure to be a well-loved book by fans for ages to come. The novel tells the tale of three people, the prophet Isaiah, an orphaned girl named Ishma (who later becomes Hephzibah), and Hezekiah, the future king of Israel. Five year old Ishma’s most recent memories are of destruction and violence. After witnessing the murder of her parents, she and her friend Yaira are taken captive, only to be released by God himself. They find themselves in the home of the prophet Isaiah, who treats them as members of his family. Ishma is scared of the world and has not spoken since her parent’s death. However, and chance encounter with Prince Hezekiah will loose her tongue and decide her destiny. Prince Hezekiah is growing up in a broken home, he has witnessed the rages of his father King Ahaz and the abuse he heaps on his mother the Queen. Not to mention the fact that he has just been subjected to watching his older brother Bocheru being sacrificed to Molech. Hezekiah has laid motionless on a pallet ever since….until one day a chance encounter with a fellow suffering child, Ishma, will begin the road to healing his wounded mind. Isaiah is tasked with tutoring and raising Hezekiah and Ishma to follow the ways of the Lord, something he finds difficult at times. However, his unshakable faith that God will do what he promises sees him through both difficult and unusual circumstances. As the story continues, Andrews weaves together the broken pasts of Ishma and Hezekiah and shows how these experiences mold them into the adults they become. Hezekiah and Ishma will discover that while trusting God is not always easy, He is always faithful. Andrews has weaved a flawless and beautiful story in this new novel, earning her a perfect score and a well done from this writer! The plot is perfectly written and the story-line compelling and addicting.

Character Development (4 points)

Andrews has always had strong characters in her novels, and this one is no different. Ishma and Hezekiah are portrayed as flawed people who struggle with weaknesses, yet who also have God-given gifts that they use for his glory. I especially liked how she built them into adults through the broken pieces of their youth. While some novels that cover a lot of time neglect to develop the characters and leave plot holes, this one does the opposite. The vast amount of time covered in the novel is done so tastefully and in an epic style. When reading this book, the reader will find themselves lost in the story and they just might forget that they are reading fiction. While Andrews novels are often written far apart from one another, the wait is worth it. In short, her characters are flawlessly flawless, not to mention realistic and relatable.

Creativity and Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Andrews earns nearly the maximum number of points in this section for creativity and originality. While the stories of Hezekiah and Hephzibah have been successfully interpreted by other authors of Christian fiction in the past (e.g. Lynn Austin); Andrews brings fresh meaning and poignancy to the tale. The novel is well researched and she is creative in her implementation of historical fact by weaving these into her tale subtly. Furthermore, her novel is in no way similar to other Biblical fiction about these two Biblical characters. Thus, she also earns a half point for original content. All of these reasons lead me to one conclusion, this novel should hit the big screen ASAP. This novel has ample content for a Christian miniseries, however, it would also make a good Biblical epic film in the right hands. Something else to note here is the need for exceptional casting. The novel is character-driven and anything less than the best in the area of casting would be a disaster. Lastly, it is time for writers like Andrews to be discovered and given the credit that their humble hearts likely don’t desire, but deserve.

Wish List Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

High Treason by DiAnn Mills

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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. Plus, this post will introduce our new method of reviewing Christian novels that is based on our ten-point review scale.

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

High Treason is DiAnn Mills’ latest novel and the final installment in the FBI Task Force series. While Mills has always written intriguing novels, this one took a different, positive turn. The novel tells the story of two people, Kord Davidson and Monica Alden. Kord works for the FBI and has recently been involved in a murder case that is connected with his friend, Saudi Prince Omar. Prince Omar came to the States to negotiate business dealings, and was met with the murder of one of his bodyguards, who was a close friend and comrade of Kord’s. Kord, angered by his friend’s murder and anxious to catch his killer, agrees to be part of the operation that will track down the hostile. Kord questions God’s reasoning in allowing tragedies to occur, and isn’t sure what religion to believe. He figures that his saving of other’s lives will be good enough for God in the end. Little does he know that his organized world is about to be disrupted by his new partner, a no-nonsense blonde who works for the CIA. Monica is working undercover at a local coffee shop when she is called away to work on the same murder case. Monica, a Christian, feels guilty about concealing her true identity from the friends she makes across the country, but knows that secrecy is the key to being a good agent. Upon meeting Kord, Monica is determined to remain indifferent to him because he reminds her of a past broken relationship that still haunts her dreams. However, both Kord and Monica will find that even the best laid plans will go awry. It is my opinion that Mills has made significant improvement in the area of plot and story line quality. Furthermore, unlike some of her earlier novels, this one is character-driven and has just enough action to keep things interesting.

Character Development (2 points)

In the past I have mentioned that if Mills spent a little more time on character development, her novels would be great. In High Treason, Mills does this by building a character-driven plot that is mostly unpredictable and holds the attention. One of the biggest positives to point out here is that Kord is not a straw-man agnostic, and Monica is not a perfect Christian stereotype. Rather, both of them are flawed and human, with real-life needs and weaknesses. In contrast, I feel that this novel could have been improved by a change from third person to first. However, this is a small flaw that does not disrupt the heart of the plot. Therefore, I think that Mills did a great job in this area.

Creativity & Originality (2 points)

Mills has also improved in the area of creativity and originality. While this novel contains some similar content to other crime/suspense novels, it is also stands out from its genre in some ways. Unlike many other crime/suspense novels, this novel focuses more on the lives and goings on of the people involved in the case. Rather than filling pages with corny action scenes, there is just enough action; not too much, not too little. Finally, I think that High Treason, and the other novels in the series, have ample potential to be a Christian miniseries. There is plenty of content for a writer/director to work with, and I think that they could play around with the three plot-lines to create a connection between the three novels. We here at Box Office Revolution continue to wait for the day when Christian movie-makers will look no further than Christian novels to find the quality content they need.

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points

Judah’s Wife by Angela Elwell Hunt

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Judah’s Wife is the latest release by one of our most beloved authors, Angela Hunt. Hunt continues her Silent Years series with this second installment and also continues to write her perception of the lives of God’s people who lived during Biblical times. This novel tells the story of the courageous Maccabees, a people who were faithful to God, no matter the cost. As with many of Hunt’s novels, this story is told from the alternating perspectives of a husband and wife. In this case, the husband and wife are Judah and Leah Maccabees. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to Leah, a young, unmarried girl whose whole life has been spent making cheese and watching her father abuse her mother. If not for an encounter with one Judah Maccabees, who defends her honor against a young ruffian, she would never know how women are supposed to be treated by men. Her eventual marriage to Judah will change her life forever.  Early on in their marriage Leah is suspicious of her husband, but as time goes on she comes to view him as the man of God that he is. Judah has grown up in a loving family and is oblivious to Leah’s suspicion at first. However, one day when he returns from fighting Israel’s enemies, he is forced to give Leah an ultimatum, trust him, or kill him in order to avenge past injustice. Leah decides to trust him and prays for a purpose. Through heartbreak, loss, and grief, she finds one in traveling with her husband and the army of Israel, and in telling the stories of their conquests to eager children and passersby. To find out what the Maccabees trust in God’s plan does for Israel, read the book!;) Hunt does an excellent job of telling the Maccabees role in the history of Israel and entices the readers interest throughout this novel. As always, she has very well developed characters and a strong plot that is backed up by historical fact. These factors alone make the novel a great candidate for the big screen. I would like to see someone make a Christian drama film with this novel, for it has the potential to be great.

The Offering by Angela E. Hunt

The Offering is one of Angela Hunt’s many unique and inspiring novels that is well-loved by readers everywhere. Personally, I think that Hunt did a great job of tackling a controversial subject and making it more palatable and personal for her audience. The topic I am speaking of is surrogacy; this is a topic that has spurred many arguments over the years. Some believe that surrogacy is unnatural and immoral, while others see it as a great alternative for those who cannot have children. Regardless of what you believe about this subject, in this novel Hunt bravely delves into the world of surrogacy by sharing the journey from the birth mother’s perspective. Amanda is an average American woman. She is married to her true love, Gideon, and together they have a young daughter named Marilee who is a gifted musician. Amanda works at the family business, an ethnic grocery store, and Gideon works for the military and is often sent on lengthy and dangerous missions across the globe. Even though they both work, Amanda and Gideon are struggling to meet their financial needs. Between paying for Marilee’s expensive specialty school and all the usual bills, Amanda and Gideon can’t seem to catch a break. Amanda has been searching for a higher paying job but has had no luck thus far, until one day….when a fellow military wife visits the store and tells Amanda of the financial benefits of being a surrogate for a wealthy family. Amanda is intrigued by the idea and although Gideon initially opposes it, he eventually approves and they pursue this new opportunity. Amanda is matched with a wealthy couple from France and together they begin the process of surrogacy. It doesn’t take long before Amanda is pregnant and making much-needed cash. Everything seems to be going according to plan….until tragedy will shake Amanda to her core. What seemed like a great money-making idea will dredge up a tragic event from her childhood and force her to see her failures and blind spots. What happens to Amanda and her family? To answer this question, read the book! I think that The Offering could make a great Christian film that displays the strengths and weaknesses of surrogacy, along with the lasting psychological effect that tragedy has on a child, and the importance of family. There is probably not enough content here for a miniseries, so a prospective filmmaker should stick with a standalone film in this case. I am excited to see if Hunt’s books will finally be recognized for their potential!

The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

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The Masterpiece is Francine Rivers latest work of art and one of her best novels. I debated as to whether or not this novel was better than Redeeming Love, but decided that the latter still won out as her best. This new novel tells the tale of two hurting people, one has buried his past with the hopes of escaping the darkness of his life, and the other has picked up the broken pieces of her life and is trying to move forward. This is not your typical romance novel (I’ve come to expect as much from Rivers), nor is it your typical prodigal son tale either. It meets somewhere in the middle and adds many intriguing elements to become one of the most unique tales on the market today. I predict that this novel will be a big hit with Rivers’ fans and with those who are new to her writing style. The Masterpiece deals with subjects such as childhood trauma and abuse, absent parents, street culture, gangs, romantic relationships, mentors, death, grief, bitterness, pain, evil, near-death experiences, single parenthood, broken lives, and the healing power of God’s love and forgiveness. Roman Velasco is a wealthy and successful artist who appears to have it all together….at least…in the eyes of the public. To those who know him better, he is a dark and brooding soul who is angry at God, mad at the world, and afraid to voice the events of his past. The first thing to know about Roman is that he used to be Bobby Ray Dean, a person that he has left behind in pursuit of new opportunities. Bobby Ray Dean grew up in a single parent home with an absent father, his mother was a prostitute who overdosed one night and left him alone in the world, a fact that was concealed from him for a time. Bobby escaped from every foster home he was placed in until one day he learned the truth, which sent him into a downward spiral that led to gang membership and his notoriety as a talented graffiti artist. This path led him to a special program for troubled boys at a ranch that is a far cry from his city upbringing. Against his will, he forms healthy relationships for the first time, and gains a desperately needed mentor. His new mentor, Jasper, appears to be an eccentric tutor at first glance, but is actually tough as nails and unyielding in his faith in God. When Bobby leaves the ranch and becomes Roman Velasco, Jasper still keeps up with him and continually tries to point him in the right direction(s). Enter Grace Moore. When Roman meets Grace, he is a well-established artist who has the arrogance and foul temperament to prove it. He hires Grace from a temp agency to manage his files and correspondence, but she soon finds out that the job description involves managing his tattered life. Grace’s trusting nature has been bent and broken from her life experiences, but her newfound caution will prove necessary when interacting with her colorful boss. Grace Moore witnessed her mother’s murder at the hands of her abusive father and his following suicide while hiding in a dark closet. She was but seven years old. Grace was sent to live with her aunt, who could give everything but love. As a young adult, one broken relationship led to another, and she now has a five-month old son. A near-death experience will test Grace’s endurance and Roman’s belief that God does not exist. Will Roman turn to the only one that can heal his scars? Will Grace stand firm in the face of temptation? To answer these questions, read the book!:) I think that this novel would make a GREAT Christian film. I would like to see the Smallbone brothers take this on, as it has the gritty, daredevil themes that they previously employed in their film Priceless. Furthermore, I think that they could do a great job at applying the themes in this novel to real-world events. Finally, regardless of who decides to make this book into a film, I think that they should leave the viewer with a question at the end, rather than tying up all the loose ends like the book did. Please, please, please, I beseech the movie-making world, someone recognize Francine Rivers’ books for the great potential that they have!

The Refiner’s Fire Series by Lynn Austin: A Light to My Path

A Light to My Path (Refiner's Fire, #3)

A Light to My Path is the third and final installment in Lynn Austin’s landmark Refiner’s Fire Series. Where in the previous novels Austin showed the perspective of two women involved in the Confederate and Union sides of the Civil War, in this novel she tells the story from the perspective of a man and a woman who are bound in the abominable trade of slavery. The novel deals with subjects such as slavery, discrimination, cruelty, adultery, the Civil war, the results of this same war, freedom, captivity, bravery, hope, grief, pain, joy, and more. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the two main characters, Grady and Anna. Anna was born into slavery, yet she always tries to find the joy in life. Grady was born out of wedlock as a result of the pleasure the master finds in Grady’s mother, who is a slave. As a child Anna was spared from working in the fields when Missy Claire, whose parents own the plantation, took a fancy to her personality. Anna is called Kitty by the white people who live in the big house, and is trained to be house slave. On the whole, Anna does not hate the white race, but also does not enjoy her life of servitude. Grady spent his childhood playing with young Caroline (a character in Candle in the Darkness), and is technically not a slave…until his own father, the plantation owner, sells him into slavery. This act leads Grady to his hatred of and bitterness against the white race. Grady is forced to serve a cruel slave trader until Providence smiles upon him and he is gambled away to a kind master. When his new master begins to court Anna’s mistress, Missy Claire, Anna and Grady meet. Grady notices right off the bat that Anna’s mistress treats her like a pet; an animal that can be trained to serve. This fact enrages him…and yet…he is drawn to Anna’s gentle nature. Following the marriage of their owners, Kitty and Grady fall in love. However, they will find that the upcoming war will set the stage for the rebuilding of their broken lives. This is my favorite novel of the series, and I think that if a filmmaker had to pick between the three books, they could make a standalone film out of this novel only. However, I still think that the three books together could make a compelling Christian miniseries. We here at Box Office Revolution continue to long for the day when filmmakers will recognize novels such as these for the potential that they have to be great.

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin’s latest novel, titled Where we Belong, is a historical romance that tells the tale of the lives of two sisters and their struggle to stand out in a culture that favored men over women. The novel discusses subjects such as life struggles, love, Christianity, world religions, evolution, theology, world travel, wealthy families, death, grief, tragedy, natural disasters, troubled teens, poor families, and much more. The opening chapters of the book introduce the reader to the two main characters, Rebecca, who likes to be called Becky, and Flora Hawes. Becky and Flora are partners in crime, so to speak, wherever Becky goes, Flora follows eagerly. Becky has always been fascinated with world cultures and world travel, while Flora enjoys both the experience of travel and the quiet tranquility of staying at home. The sisters lost their mother at a young age, and have since been raised by their patient and caring father, who also happens to be wealthy. After a misadventure in their hometown, Becky and Flora convince their father to take them on a trip to France. Their experiences there will only fuel their desire to see the world. However, this desire is brought to a screeching halt when, on the journey home from France, their father falls for the desperate, destitute widow named Mrs. Worthington. Becky sees right through her false pleasantries in the beginning, but Flora is inclined to give her a chance….much to Becky’s dismay. It is not long before the widow takes over nearly every aspect of their lives…at least, that’s how Becky sees it. From suitors who care more about money than love to endless etiquette lessons, Becky feels stifled and enslaved to the widow’s demands. She longs to travel the world, but is held back by commitments at home. It takes the death of their beloved father, and her new fiance’s sudden desperation to marry sooner than planned, for Flora to agree to Becky’s urging to tour the Middle East. The trip proves to be an eye-opening experience in many ways, and the outcome will determine the future of Flora’s love life and the realization of Becky’s dreams. From here the book, in my opinion, spirals downward as it tries to cover a huge portion of the sister’s lives, including the backstories and current lives of two young people who are impacted by the sister’s influence, another international trip that the sisters take with these same young people, the perils therein, and more. Herein lies the main issue that I have with this book; the sheer vastness of the content that Austin tries to cover in one novel. This story should have been divided into a book and a sequel, or even a trilogy, for there is ample content to support either option. I found the weak points of this novel to be unusual for Austin as a writer. In the past she has always taken the time to develop the characters and the heart of the story, even if some plot elements had to be sacrificed. However, in this novel she sacrificed the heart of the story for the sake of covering content and tying up every loose end. At the very least, she could have left some endings to the imagination, but no, every story was brought to a close. Nevertheless, this novel would make a great Christian miniseries, as it would give the writer the opportunity to split up the content and make each plot point more meaningful. This may seem astonishing to some, but it is my opinion that this book would have been better portrayed on the big screen in the first place. Therefore, even though this is not Austin’s best book, it can still be a great Christian miniseries or film series. Maybe a filmmaker will recognize this and other novels for the potential they have….or maybe not…

Double Helix by Sigmund Brouwer

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Double Helix is likely the most controversial novel I have ever chosen to add to the wish list. It is both a brilliant work of art and a puzzling entanglement of fact and sensationalism. Brouwer is obviously a talented author who is not afraid to let his passion shine through his writing. For example, this novel attacks the immoral and inhumane side of genetic research, and strives to make the reader believe in the author’s cause. Brouwer does not care what other people think of his opinions on genetics, instead he plows fearlessly forward through a dark tale about what is done in the name of genetic research. This novel’s biggest flaw is that Brouwer becomes so caught up in his action-packed tale that he nearly forgets to give the reader hope. Thankfully, even though it is rushed, he ends the wild ride in a sweet moment shared between two people who have seen it all and survived. Therefore, through much deliberation, I have concluded that this novel could make an excellent pro-life mini series that could be featured on an on-demand streaming site. For example, those who have read this novel know that the main character is a man with a colorful past who cares about justice for the oppressed. His chance encounter with three escapees of a genetics laboratory will force him to either condone or fight against the inhumanity of their situation. His eventual love interest is a woman whose husband has just committed suicide after being exposed to the horrors of “The Institute”. She is left confused and hurt, and eventually finds a way to deal with her grief through pursuing those who contributed to his death. Throughout the duration of the story both of these characters find themselves making pro-life decisions by giving shelter to children without a home, protecting these same children from their oppressors, and literally facing down death to save the lives of these and other children who are being exploited in the name of science. It would take an extremely talented screenwriter to see past the darkness of this story to find the light, but I firmly believe that it can be done. As previously mentioned, Double Helix would best be translated to the big screen through a mini series that focused on the three main pro-life points of the story that are outlined above. Granted, the novel would take dedicated editing, and the gritty action scenes would need significant toning down before the real writing could even begin….but….it is possible. We here at Box Office Revolution would like to see someone recognize psychological suspense/thriller novels for the potential that they have, and translate that potential onto the big screen in a way that brings glory to God.

 

The Lineage of Grace Series by Francine Rivers

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In this series of novellas, Francine Rivers delights readers with her perception of the stories of five important women in the line of Christ. While this series is not as groundbreaking as some of her other novels, it is poignantly different than many novels in the Biblical fiction genre. Rivers has never been afraid to make her characters flawed and human, and this series is no exception. I particularly liked that in the novella about Mary the mother of Christ she did not make Mary out to be holy and perfect. Rather, Rivers painted her as a human character who loved God with all her heart, but who also became impatient in waiting for His plans for Jesus’ life on earth to be fulfilled. The series points out the strengths and weaknesses of each woman, and shows how God can use anyone for His divine purposes. In Unveiled, Rivers tells the story of Tamar, and woman who suffered much at the hands of Judah and his sons. Tamar is forced to marry Judah’s firstborn, a man she does not love, while she is still a teenager. Her inability to to produce an heir makes her the subject of ridicule at the hands of Judah’s tempestuous wife. When her first husband is struck down by God for his insolence, Judah gives her his second son. This second husband proves to be more crafty than the first, but no less repellent. When God strikes down her second husband for his disobedience, Judah refuses to obey God’s law and give her his final son. As Tamar waits on Judah to act, she grows impatient and righteously angry. In Unashamed, Rivers tells the story of how God used an unlikely source, a female prostitute named Rahab, to further the lineage of Christ. Rahab aids Joshua’s spies by hiding them from their pursuers, an act that saves not only her life and that of her family from God’s judgement, but also grants her freedom from slavery. Rahab goes on to bear a son named Boaz, who is known for marrying Ruth and continuing the line of Christ. In Unshaken, Rivers tells the story of how God brought beauty from the ashes of Ruth’s life and blessed her abundantly for her service to Him. Ruth has just suffered the death of her husband Mahlon, and shares her mother-in-law Naomi’s grief over the death of her own husband, and that of her sister Orpah, who mourns Naomi’s other son Chilion. In despair, Naomi decides to return to her homeland, and invites her daughters-in-law to join her. While both sisters initially join Naomi, only Ruth commits to the entire journey. In Israel Ruth is cruelly oppressed by locals because of her Moabite heritage, yet, she finds joy in God’s provision of her basic needs. Ruth will go on to marry the wealthy kinsman redeemer Boaz and bear a son named Obed, who continues the line of Christ. In Unspoken, Rivers tells the tale of how Bathsheba and David receive the consequences for their decision to commit adultery one dark night. Rivers holds both parties responsible, instead of painting Bathsheba as innocent, as some authors have done. In the novel, Bathsheba suffers the loss of her firstborn son as a result of God’s judgement. Yet, she is blessed with other children after she and David repent of their sin. God chooses Bathsheba to bear David’s successor, Solomon, who continues the lineage of Christ. In Unafraid, Rivers tells the well-known story of how a humble woman named Mary submitted to God’s will for her life, a decision that altered the destiny of humankind. In this retelling, Mary is depicted as a simple woman who follows God with her whole heart and is faithful to her husband. Mary trusts God’s plan, yet often becomes impatient as Jesus grows up, each year hoping that Jesus will declare his sovereignty and that God will save His people through his only Son. Mary must learn throughout her life that God knows best and that when she submits to His will, she will be blessed abundantly. This series is definitely worth a read and would make an excellent Christian miniseries. The characters in the novels are well-developed, and it is my opinion that the screenwriters’ job would be easy with this series, as Rivers is very descriptive in her writing, and has already included additional dialogue for smaller character roles. I look forward to the day when filmmakers will recognize Rivers’ novels and bring them to the big screen.

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

 

Who doesn’t love a great C. S. Lewis novel?  The Screwtape Letters is one of his most beloved novels outside of the Chronicles of Narnia.  It’s also one of the most unique novels of its time, so why haven’t we seen a movie made about it yet?  Here’s hoping one day we do!

 

The Screwtape Letters tells the story of Wormwood and Screwtape, two demons who are charged with tempting humans to do various things that will either prevent their salvation or hinder their work for God.  Wormwood is tasked with preventing the salvation of one individual in World War II era England, and his uncle demon Screwtape writes him letters throughout to advise him on this work.  Though the letters are only from Screwtape’s point of view, it makes for a very interesting and entertaining read.

 

Granted, this would be a very unique movie and would require some creative license on the part of the screenwriters.  Nobody wants to see a demon writing letters the whole time, after all.  What if this potential film portrayed the human characters in their everyday settings as the invisible characters (demons and angels) looked on.  The letters between from Screwtape to Wormwood could be voiceover as the human characters go about their lives.  Furthermore, the message of this plot is very profound and needs to be told in the context of a film.

 

One potential issue with this idea is that a lot of dialogue between the humans would have to be invented and extrapolated from the original novel.  Content beyond the letter writing would have included, and it would be best if the spiritual elements were not portrayed as creepy or bizarre like too many movies do.  However, I believe it is definitely possible to bring this story to the big screen because this is a story that many Christians need to see.  Maybe one day, after The Silver Chair is finally made, Douglas Gresham will allow a screenwriter to take a stab at The Screwtape Letters 😉

The Refiner’s Fire Series by Lynn Austin: Fire by Night

Fire by Night (Refiner's Fire, #2)

Lynn Austin’s talent as a writer shines in this second installment of the Refiner’s Fire series. The book is aptly titled Fire by Night, and can be considered as a historical epic, as it weaves true events together with fiction to create an engaging read. The novel deals with subjects such as the civil war, socialites, average Americans, respect, conflict, grief, perseverance, nurses, soldiers, turmoil, and how two people’s lives can be intertwined by Providence to influence the world for the better. The opening chapters of Fire by Night introduce the reader to the two main characters, a wealthy young socialite named Julia, and a young woman from a rural community named Phoebe. Julia is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Her parents want her to marry well and raise a family, and while Julia does not want to hurt them, she has dreams of her own. Julia wants to be a nurse, something unheard of in women of her social standing. Her family is completely against this dream, and tries all the harder to persuade Julia otherwise. Eventually Julia strikes out on her own and, through a few well-placed alterations of the truth, becomes a nurse. She finds that caring for wounded soldiers is both fulfilling and exhausting, but in the end, Julia is certain that nursing is what God has called her to do. There’s just one problem, Julia is unintentionally falling in love with a cantankerous doctor who does not return her affections…or does he? Similar to Julia, Phoebe is also faced with a difficult decision. All of Phoebe’s brothers are going off to war, and, being a tomboy herself, she feels that she should be allowed to go. Her strong will at last drives her to a decision, she will disguise herself as a man and join the ranks of those fighting for freedom. The disguise proves effective, and it does not take long for Phoebe to earn her place among her comrades. However, Phoebe will soon learn that concealing her identity is nearly impossible, especially when one finds themselves on the firing end of a rifle…..Will Phoebe be discovered? Will Julia be able to come to terms with her true feelings…and continue to fulfill her calling? To answer these questions, read the book! This book would make an excellent part two of an Inspirational/Christian miniseries. However, as the characters in this novel are unrelated to those in the first, it could also make an excellent standalone historical epic film. Maybe Christian filmmakers will discover this series……and maybe they will continue to make simplistic films with little meaning……I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The Leper by Sigmund Brouwer

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Sigmund Brouwer is a talented author who has written many books for varying age groups that cover a wide variety of topics. At times he writes meaningful and thought-provoking fiction, while at other times it seems that he is trying too hard to appeal to the sensationalism of society. It is the opinion of this writer that Brouwer should write fewer books, as it is better to have a few landmark novels, than a large quantity of crowd-pleasing tales. However, all opinions aside, Brouwer has made a permanent, positive mark in the word of teen fiction, and has tried harder than many authors to reach this age group. In The Leper, Brouwer demonstrates his amazing ability to craft a timeless tale containing lessons for every generation out of a singular painting by Ron DiCianni. Set in 19th century England, the novel deals with subjects such as veterans, disease, the church, hypocrisy, pride, humility, estranged families, solitude, compassion, hope, and sacrifice. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the main character, a man named Nathaniel who is returning from his military post in India. Nathaniel feels that he has to sever contact with his wife and children, and create a story to explain this decision instead of telling the truth. His shame is so great that he feels the truth would crush those that he loves. Nathaniel has leprosy, which he contracted while on duty in India. He arranges for ninety percent of his salary to be sent to his wife and children and locks himself away in self-inflicted solitude. Nathaniel’s despair becomes so great that one night he finds himself standing on the edge of a dock in preparation to end his life. A cry in the dark will distract him from these dark thoughts, and change his life forever. He discovers an abandoned baby girl tangled in some discarded fish netting on the shoreline. The child will renew his purpose for living, and give him light in his dark moments. However, Nathaniel eventually realizes that seclusion is no life for a growing child, and decides to turn her over to the care of the local church, where his brother happens to be the clergyman. The exchange does not go as planned, and Nathaniel soon realizes that his brother cares more about avoiding exposure to leprosy than the well-being of others. Will Nathaniel survive his disease? Will Nathaniel’s brother see past outward appearances and look beyond his selfishness? What will happen to the child? To answer these questions, read the book! I think that, in the right hands, this novel could be built upon to make an excellent Christian drama film. This is because it is based on Biblical principles and has ample characters and varied content that a filmmaker could use to create a more complex plotline. Finally, as with all other novels in this column, we here at Box Office Revolution long and hope for the day that exceptional Christian novels such as these will be brought to the big screen.

The Refiner’s Fire Series by Lynn Austin: Candle in the Darkness

Candle in the Darkness (Refiner's Fire, #1)

Lynn Austin has always been a talented Christian author, but in the Refiner’s Fire series her talent and passion really shines, captivating the reader and attaching them to her novels forever. All dramatic descriptions aside, this series is likely her best, matched only by her Chronicles of the Kings series. In this trilogy, Austin takes a gritty and honest look at slavery, and includes enough historical content to make the tales believable. The first novel, titled a Candle in the Darkness, deals with subjects such as slave owners, upper class white families in the civil war era, abolitionists, political pressure, duty, honor, war, grief, total surrender to God’s will, broken families, broken relationships, maltreatment of individuals, and more. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to Caroline Fletcher, a shy and somewhat awkward young girl who is meeting the expectations of her family by taking classes at a prestigious school for white Southern girls with rich families who usually own slaves. Caroline has never been very good at making friends her own age, instead preferring the company of her family’s slaves. She finds comfort in and learns Biblical truths from a elderly man named Eli who lives in her family’s slave quarters. His friendship helps her through school and other childhood milestones. Caroline is continually torn between family duty and her own beliefs throughout her entire life. As a child, she witnesses the heart-wrenching pain of her nursemaid, Tessie, when her father sells Tessie’s son Grady to new owners. She cannot help but feel that selling and mistreating individuals is wrong, but does not know how to help the situation. Caroline’s cousin Jonathan is the only person with whom she can speak openly about slavery. By the time Caroline becomes a woman, she is able to see flaws on both sides of the argument about slavery. Her comrades in Philadelphia preach abolition, but seem to personally know few, if any, people of African descent. Her relatives in the South are entirely for slavery, and refuse to hear anyone else’s opinion on the matter. These factors, among others, lead to the Civil war. During this time, Caroline will find that she must fight to put God before those that she loves. Her entire world will be torn apart, and she must decide to follow God no matter the cost, or follow the crowd. To find out what happens to Caroline, read the book! I think that the Refiner’s Fire series would be a prime candidate for a Christian miniseries, as it has the depth and heart to be as good or better than the famous Anne of Green Gables miniseries. Ah, someday Christian filmmakers will recognize the potential found in Christian novels such as these.

And the Shofar Blew by Francine Rivers

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And the Shofar Blew is a thought-provoking novel by Francine Rivers that is built around the framework of the Christian church. The novel examines just how easy it is for a pastor to lead his members astray in the pursuit of growth. It also takes a convicting look at how the actions of the church members can affect an entire community in a negative way. Jesus said that His followers should be the light of the world; they should be doing everything they can to influence the world for the better, not join the crowd. This book takes a look at what happens when Christians follow only the good feelings and never get to the heart of the matter. In spite of it’s many good qualities and Biblically-based content, I found the first one-third of the book to be less than engaging. However, I was impressed by the way Rivers’ built on the simple beginning and formed flawed characters at every turn. The novel deals with subjects such as the church body, pastors, generational sin, family patterns, every person’s inner need for parental approval, spiritual blindness, selfishness, pain, grief, struggle, death, life, and the healing power of God’s never-ending love for us. The opening chapters of And the Shofar Blew introduce the reader to one of the three main characters, an older man named Samuel Mason. Samuel is weary of spirit, yet his mind is full of ideas. He and two other men are watching a church that they helped to build and nurture slip from their hands. Their original pastor has become consumed with his health problems, and can no longer shepherd their small flock at Centerville Christian Church. Unfortunately, the congregation numbers have been on the decline for some time, and Samuel feels that if they do not act fast, the church will close it’s doors and never reopen. After discussing his plans with the other elders, Samuel begins to look for a new pastor. He finds an excellent prospect in a young man named Paul Hudson. Paul is everything that any small church would want in a new pastor, he has it all, a popular TV preacher for a father, a flawless resume, and the perfect little family. There’s just one problem, and it is one that will not be apparent until much after he is hired; Paul feels that he will never be enough for his father. While this feeling is justified to some extent, Paul must learn to find his worth in Christ alone, which is easier said than done. Samuel hires Paul as the church’s new pastor, and at first, everything goes well. The congregation grows and becomes more diverse, Paul’s sermons are Biblically sound and convicting, and his sweet, musically-talented wife Eunice and adorable son Timmy do much to brighten up the drab walls of Centerville Christian. However, it is not long before Paul allows his work to take first place in his life. He forgets all about Eunice and Timmy, and begins to do whatever he feels is best for the church….even if that means driving away those who could have helped him to see the light. Samuel Mason tries to offer words of wisdom, but is brushed off by Paul at every turn. Meanwhile, Eunice bears the burden of Paul’s insults and careless behavior. Yet, she is not perfect either, and almost allows temptation to lead to sin in her weakness. However, unlike her husband, she runs into the arms of her Savior before it is too late. Will Paul recognize his faults before it is too late? Will he ask God for forgiveness and begin to repair broken relationships before he loses all that he holds dear? To answer these questions, read the book! I think that this novel could make an excellent drama film that portrays the inner workings of the church, including the skeletons in the closet. I would like to see someone make a movie that is at least similar to this plot, but, like always, we await the glorious day when filmmakers will use the content they already have to truly make a difference.

Leota’s Garden by Francine Rivers

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Leota’s Garden is yet another masterpiece by Francine Rivers, who is a truly gifted writer. The novel weaves together the Biblical principles of forgiveness, unconditional love, and reconciliation together to form a beautiful story about how God can bring beauty from any circumstance in our lives. It also teaches the valuable lessons that God can be found even in the mundane activities of daily life, and that He cares about everything that we experience. Rivers has characters of all generations in this novel, thus making it appealing to adults and teens alike. This is personally one of the most creative novels I have ever read; there is something about the way Rivers writes that paints a beautiful picture of God’s love and sovereignty in every story she creates. I am proud to say that she remains my favorite author to date….not that I’m biased or anything….;) The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the main character, Leota Reinhardt. Leota is a sad and lonely old woman who cannot see God’s purpose in her life at the moment. Her husband died and has left her alone for some years now, her family is, for the most part, selfish and broken, and her neighborhood is full of seemingly suspicious characters. She exists inside her small house, living off of monthly Social Security checks and hoping that someday she and her daughter Eleanor can be reconciled. On many occasions she considers hastening her path towards death, but every time the Lord gives her a reason to keep living. Leota longs for God to bring someone her way to ease her pain and give her purpose. She will discover that God will bring many people into the remainder of her life, but the first one is not at all what she expected. Corban Solsek is a prideful, arrogant university student attending an elite school with only the smartest students. He feels that he knows everything he needs to know about life and that no one should tell him otherwise. Corban is working on a term project about nursing homes. He sees no reason why the elderly shouldn’t be out of sight, out of mind, and cared for by unattached individuals who could care less if they live or die. This sounds bad, but he is truly ignorant in the fact that he is wrong….about many things. Corban has it all, an apartment, a girlfriend to share it with, and no boundaries in any area. His professor is less than impressed with his ideas and assigns him to volunteer for a service that assists the elderly with things such as grocery shopping, driving, and the like. Corban is assigned to Leota Reinhardt….and his perspective will be changed forever. These two characters dominate much of the novel, but Leota’s daughter Eleanor and granddaughter Annie also have recognizable input. Rivers does an excellent job of weaving together the lives of four seemingly dissimilar individuals, and shows how God can work together all things, even the most dire circumstances, for good. To find out how, read the book! A Christian filmmaker could go multiple directions with the novel, they could make it an epic about Leota’s life, and downplay the subplots of the other characters, or they could make it a drama film similar to Do You Believe?, but with hopefully better editing and quality control efforts. In conclusion, this novel is a must read for any Christian fiction lover, and an excellent source of quality content for any prospective filmmaker.

An Irish Christmas by Melody Carlson

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Melody Carlson has written several Christmas novels over the years, and unfortunately, most have fallen into the typical feel-good category that popular demand insists upon. In short, I would not recommend most of her Christmas novels unless you want to read a book with a simple, romance-based plot and a happy ending. Unlike some of her other Christmas novels, An Irish Christmas attempts to create flawed, real characters that have realistic lifestyles, and succeeds in some ways. While I do not condone some aspects of the novel, such as Carlson’s continued lighthearted view of alcohol consumption, I am sure that many readers will find this novel interesting. An Irish Christmas deals with subjects such a biological fathers, secrets, lies with good intentions, Ireland, Irish customs, mothers, sons, healing, truth, and the relationship between parent and child. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to a middle-aged woman named Colleen and her adult son Jamie. Twenty years after World War two, Colleen is still holding onto secrets that have been kept hidden for far too long. Her husband’s recent death has taken a toll on the stability of her emotions. Colleen now finds herself lonely and uncertain as to what the future holds. Her relationship with her son Jamie has been a bit strained as of late, and she wonders if he is really happy. Jamie is an artistic young man who has been pursuing his musical career under the alias of attending college. For two years he has kept up appearances, but now things are going awry, and he feels that the only way to find meaning in his life is to join the military. When he announces this plan to his mother, she decides to take Jamie to Ireland for the Christmas season, with the hopes of dissuading him from leaving, and of rebuilding their relationship. While they are they Jamie and his mother will finally discover one another’s secrets. Will the truth tear them apart or draw them together again? To answer this question, read the book!;) While the novel is fine at face value, I feel that Carlson could have included more aspects of the Christian faith in the story. I felt like I was reading an inspirational novel, rather than one in the Christian genre. For this reason, and others like it,  I feel that, as a film, this novel would likely be little better than another installment in Hallmark’s bottomless bin of Christmas movies. Therefore, it would take a talented filmmaker indeed to discover the potential in this novel, and to improve upon the plot to create a worthwhile Christian film. However, I do believe that it is possible, after all, look what the creators of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader film did with a slow-paced book!

The Five Best Christmas Novels to Read With Your Kids!

We here at Box Office Revolution have been privileged to grow up in a home with parents who believed in exposing their kids to quality Christian fiction and non-fiction. I, for one, remember my mother reading flawlessly written tales about the true meaning of Christmas to me each year. So, today I would like to share with you some of our family’s favorite Christmas novels that we read each holiday season! I hope that you and yours enjoy them as much as we have over the years!

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The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg 

The Legend of the Candy Cane features a poignant Christmas tale that has been well-loved by families for generations! Listen as Lori Walburg weaves a legend together with a timeless truth that is sure to impact your family in a positive way. Recommended for families with children aged ten and under.

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The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado & Family

This Crippled Lamb features a fictional tale about the animals who witnessed the birth of the Savior. You should know that once you read this book, you and your kids will fall in love with it and read it every year.:) Enjoy this unique take on the Nativity story and take the opportunity to expose your children to the true meaning of Christmas. Recommended for families with children ages ten and under.

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The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado

The Christmas Candle tells the tale of a small town who regularly receives a heavenly visit from an angel during the Christmas season. This angel blesses a singular candle every year, and the recipient of the candle receives their greatest need. However, little do the citizens know that this Christmas will be different than any other. Enjoy this captivating tale of how God can do abundantly above and beyond all that we could ask, think, or imagine. Recommended for families with kids ages twelve and up.

Alabaster's Song - eBook - By: Max Lucado

Alabaster’s Song by Max Lucado

Alabaster’s Song tells the tale of a young boy who encounters an angel on Christmas Eve. Little does he know that Alabaster will take him on a journey that will change his life forever. Enjoy hearing the Nativity story through the eyes of a young boy who is given the opportunity to witness it firsthand. Recommended for families with children ages ten and under.

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One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham

One Wintry Night captivates readers with the tale of a young boy who becomes lost in the woods and injures his ankle in a fall. He is taken in by a kind woman who tells him the story of Christmas for the first time. Enjoy this vivid description of the Nativity story through the eyes of a child. Recommended for families with children ages 6-10.

 

Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl Series: Maya Stark

The final Diary of a Teenage Girl series by Melody Carlson is about Kim Peterson’s cousin, Maya Stark. I personally found that the Maya Stark series is the most commonplace of the entire series. When compared to the Caitlin O’Connor series and the Kim Peterson series, this one comes up somewhat short. I wonder if Carlson wrote this series because she wanted to create an extension of the Kim Peterson character. I think that these three books would have been better if Maya was a independent character, instead of being tied to old plot-lines, as the teen girl idea can become repetitive. However, this final series is still a good read that I would recommend to most teen readers. The Maya Stark series deals with subjects such as parental drug addiction, loneliness, fear, changes, preferences, life challenges, independence, betrayal, surrender, and how God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. The first novel, aptly titled A Not so Simple Life, introduces the reader to the tumultuous life of a teen girl named Maya Stark. Maya Stark has grown up with a has-been Hollywood star for a mother, who also happens to be a drug addict; not to mention an absent father figure who is always touring and doing concerts. Because of her mother’s unreliability and unstable finances, and her father’s noncommittal role in her life, Maya has learned to make it on her own. Maya’s mother has neglected her schooling, so Maya has been home-schooling on her own. Maya experiences a major life change when her mother is arrested for drug possession, among other charges. She hides in her home for a time, then gives up and decides to go live with her cousin, Kim Peterson, and Kim’s dad, who is also Maya’s uncle. At first she finds it hard to adjust to the Peterson’s lives, as they have many different practices from her own. For one thing, they’re Christians, and for another thing, they do not seem to care about the environment, which is something that is important to Maya. Yet another area of conflict is that Maya is set on being a vegan, and the Peterson’s are the exact opposite of this lifestyle. She finds solace in exploring different career options, even dabbling in modeling for a time. However, she discovers that none of these activities fill the void inside, and begins to be more open to the faith of her relatives. In the remainder of the series, Maya becomes a Christian, makes new friends, comes to an understanding with her father, and strays farther away from her mother after she secretly empties their shared bank account. As relationships progress and life moves forward, will Maya remember what matters most in life? Will she cling to Jesus through all of life’s twists and turns? To answer these questions, read the books!;) This series may or may not be a good addition to the miniseries concept I have mentioned in previous posts. I wonder if the miniseries would even be affected if this series was edited out. I suppose that the writer could at least include this character in scenes from the other series. Nevertheless, we continue to wait for the day when filmmakers will recognize the potential found in select Christian novels.

Francine Rivers: Marta’s Legacy Series Book 2

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Her Mother’s Hope is the second and final installment in Francine River’s Marta’s Legacy series. This novel covers the lives of four people, and does so in a tasteful way. Rivers binds four generations together by pointing our their mutual flaws and their common need for forgiveness. Her Mother’s Hope deals with subjects such as sin, flawed family systems, generational tendencies, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, granddaughters, purity, impurity, life choices, love, joy, hope, healing, and the ties that bind families together. The opening chapters of the book introduce the character to Hildemara’s daughter, Carolyn. Returning readers of the first novel will remember that Hildemara is Marta’s daughter. Carolyn is a lonely little girl who misses her mother. As Hildemara fights tuberculosis from behind a bedroom door, Carolyn wonders why her mother tells her to stay away. Carolyn’s grandmother Marta comes to the rescue by stepping in to care for Carolyn and her older brother Charlie. As Hildemara pushes her daughter away out of love, Carolyn begins to form a close bond with her grandmother. Even when Hildemara recovers, Carolyn still feels that her mother is indifferent to her existence. Eventually Carolyn stops seeking her mother’s affection, and with both parents working long days, this is not hard to do. Eventually her vulnerability leads her into the hands of a neighbor with less than pure intentions. As he draws her into his lair, she discovers that she does not want to play his games. However, it is too late, and the damage done will last a lifetime. As Carolyn grows up, she feels distant from her peers, and focuses instead on her studies. Her relationship with her mother does not improve, and Carolyn decides to take her perfect GPA to her grandmother’s favorite college. At first she is entirely committed to her studies, and lets nothing sway her resolve. Then….she gets a new roommate. Cher is the complete opposite of Carolyn; she embraces the hippie lifestyle with gusto. Soon Carolyn sees the attractiveness of a carefree lifestyle, and her grades begin to slip. Eventually she is drinking and doing drugs with no care as to the side effects. Much to her parents chagrin, she drops out of college and moves into a communal drug house. Cher’s eventual suicide is the turning point in Carolyn’s life. When Cher dies, Carolyn is in despair. She wanders the streets in search of meaning, and finds it one night on the beach. Following a hookup with a lonely veteran, she meets her Maker on the seashore and discovers what love really is. Carolyn returns home to her parents, who make sure that she leaves her hippie ways behind and gets a job. However, when Carolyn discovers she is pregnant, she is fired. Her parents pack her away to a family friend, where she delivers her daughter, May Flower Dawn. Carolyn reluctantly decides to let her mother care for Dawn during her long work days, and Dawn is raised by Hildemara while Carolyn works to become a realtor. By the time she reaches her goal, Dawn has grown to love her grandmother as a child loves her mother. Carolyn tries to regain her love, but finds that some bridges are very hard to build. Following Carolyn’s marriage to a childhood friend named Mitch, the novel shifts from Carolyn’s perspective to Dawn’s. Dawn is a spoiled girl who is looking for love in all the wrong places. Controlled by her grandmother’s selfish desires, she unintentionally reopens her mother’s old wounds. Will Carolyn and Dawn ever be reconciled? Will Hildemara see the part she has played in their rift? Most importantly, will all three run into the arms of the One who loves them most? To answer this question, read the book! I have considered the idea that this novel could make a two part film series, however, I always return to the fact that the content of both books combined would make a wonderful Christian epic film. Maybe someday someone will recognize the potential found in certain Christian novels….or maybe not…

Francine Rivers: Marta’s Legacy Series Book 1

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Her Mother’s Hope is the first book in the short, two-part series by Francine Rivers, which is titled Marta’s Legacy. The novel is set in early 1900’s Switzerland; the main character’s homeland. This is but one in a long line of excellent novels by Rivers. Where some reviewers have criticized her, I applaud her for being culturally authentic in the novel by weaving in parts of the German and French languages. This factor adds a unique flavor to the novel; somehow it brings a depth that would not otherwise be there if the book was solely written in the English language. Her Mother’s Hope deals with subjects such as abusive fathers, family tension, World War 1, immigration, escape, death, grief, loss, bitterness, stubbornness, generational sin, and much more. The opening chapters of the book introduce the reader to the main character, Marta Schneider. Marta has grown up under the heavy hand of her abusive father, and the feeble will of her sickly mother. Her mother loves her, but she loves her younger sister, Elise, much more. Elise is pampered and treated as an equal because of her beauty, while Marta is treated harshly. For a time, Marta finds fulfillment in working for a French family who treat her as an equal, but her world comes crashing down when she finds out that her sister is pregnant as a result of rape. Elise finds that she cannot live with the horror of what has happened to her, and, lost in grief, takes her own life. Shortly after this Marta’s frail mother dies of consumption…and a broken heart. When her older brother Hermann decides to escape these troubles by going to war, Marta is left alone with her drunken father. He plans to make money by having her follow his will. Marta’s hatred for her father drives her to flee her broken home. She soon falls in love and marries a young Swiss man named Niclas Berhard. As they try to find a place to settle down, Niclas’s German tongue rouses suspicion during times of war and unrest. Niclas wants Marta to come with him to the wilderness of Canada, but she refuses and opens a boarding house. For a time, this brings much needed funds, but eventually Marta has to move with her husband and newborn son to the place she hates. In Canada a second child is born to Marta, a sickly little girl whom she names Hildamara Rose. Marta hardens her heart against the child, thinking she will die. However, Hildamara lives and exceeds her expectations. In spite of this, Marta refuses to show affection to her eldest daughter, and pretends to love her other children more. All throughout Hildamara’s childhood Marta treats her in the same manner, therefore becoming like the man she still hates, her father. Will Marta see the error of her ways and begin to rebuild broken relationships? Will she let her broken past rule her more promising present? To answer these questions, read the book! Her Mother’s Hope, combined with the sequel, would make an excellent Christian drama film. In fact, a truly talented creator could tailor the film to be an epic, as the story follows someone’s whole life. We here at Box Office Revolution continue to long for the day when Christian filmmakers will recognize the untapped potential found in superior works of Christian fiction such as these.

The Canopy by Angela E. Hunt

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The Canopy is one of Angela E. Hunt’s golden novels that is timelessly thought-provoking. In this novel she asks the question, do you believe in miracles? She goes on to ask, do you believe that only God can perform miracles in our lives? For the main character of the novel, the answer to this question will determine her future. The Canopy deals with subjects such as the Amazon jungle, terminal diseases, the search for a cure, family ties, friendships, romantic relationships, truth, lies, despair, joy, healing, redemption, and God’s unfailing love. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the main character, a woman named Alexandra (Alex) Pace. Alexandra is a neurologist seeking to discover the cure for a disease that is overtaking her own body. She has told no one of her diagnosis, and is desperate to find a cure before it passes to her daughter. For this reason, she agreed to be part of a team traveling to the Amazon jungle to discover the secret cure….long hidden in the possession of an obscure tribe of natives living deep in the jungle. She first learned of this cure from a British doctor named Michael Kenway. His enthusiasm regarding the possibility of a cure was infectious (no pun intended), and spurred on her decision to make the trip. Alex’s determination to conceal the truth from her daughter is becoming increasingly difficult to implement, mainly because of the caring concern expressed on her behalf by a certain British doctor. As the team travels deeper into the forest, the disease settles into every corner of Alex’s body. She will not be able to hide her diagnosis for much longer. While the disease is trying to take her life, two forces are fighting for the possession of her soul. One brings only darkness, while the other promises life and light for eternity. Weak and sick, Alex is tired of fighting, and begins to lose hope. Only when she witnesses the healing of a member of the fabled tribe are her eyes opened to the truth. Will Alex choose Jesus? Or will she give in to the lies of the enemy? And where does love fit in to all this? To answer these questions, read the book! The Canopy would make a very interesting Christian film in the suspense genre, as it is easily one of the most unique Christian novels on the market today. We here at Box Office Revolution are still waiting for the day when Christian filmmakers will recognize the potential found in brilliant Christian novels such as these.

The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers

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The Scarlet Thread is one of Francine Rivers’ many excellent Christian novels. However, unlike many of her books, in the beginning the story seems to be a bit pedestrian; compared to her more epic tales. Yet, as the reader will soon find, the story has just as much meaning as her other novels, even though the outcome of the story is a bit idealistic. I feel that this story is more relevant in regards to the everyday, for her other novels are usually geared towards the big picture. This novel deals with subjects such as family tension, generational struggles and sin, marital relationships, upper class American families, friendship, betrayal, lies, truth, and the search for meaning and purpose in life. The opening chapters introduce the readers to the two main characters, Sierra and Alex. Sierra is a small-town girl who has lived in the same place her whole life. She met her true love, Alex, in high school, and, despite her family’s disapproval, married him when they both graduated from college. Soon they had two children and a seemingly perfect life, or so Sierra thinks. Sierra would be happy to live in suburbia and follow the same routines for the rest of her life, but Alex does not want to settle for so little. One day he is offered a job with a risky company trying to make their big break. He accepts without consulting Sierra, sells their home, and moves his family to Los Angeles. Sierra is angry with him for these decisions, and begins to become bitter. She does not enjoy the lavish, if somewhat gaudy taste of her rich neighbors, and is hesitant to join in on their country club activities. Eventually Alex tires of her moping, and gives her an ultimatum. Sierra decides that if she can’t beat the crowd, she might as well join them. Time goes on, and as Sierra sinks deeper into a frivolous life of pomp and circumstance, she feels increasingly empty inside. As her world begins to fall apart, Sierra searches for true meaning and purpose in life. Will she run into the arms of the One who loves her completely? To answer this question, read the book!;) The Scarlet Thread would be a good novel for the Kendrick Brothers to bring to the big screen as a drama film, especially since they have produced similar plots to this one before. In conclusion, here’s to hoping that someone will, someday soon, realize the potential found in Christian novels such as these.

Uncharted by Angela E. Hunt

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Uncharted is one of the most unique Christian novels on the market today, as it explores life, death, and the journey to reach the latter in a complex and unusually brilliant way. The novel is easily one of Hunt’s best works to date, and will remain so until she or another Christian author writes something even more brilliant. Uncharted deals with subjects such as secret sins, the past, present, and potential future of the characters, deserted islands, abandonment, murder, friends, enemies, lies, truth, and God’s unfathomable forgiveness for humanity. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the six main characters; old college friends who have reunited by chance at the bidding of a mutual friend who wishes them to participate in a mission trip halfway across the world. The goal of the mission trip is to build a school for poor families on a remote island, but what will actually occur is far from the intended outcome. On the way to the island, their ship wrecks on an alternate remote island. At first it seems that they are experiencing a typical shipwreck situation, but the friends soon discover that the island knows all their secrets. Furthermore, they will learn that all sin is equal in God’s eyes. This hard truth is the driving message of the novel. Will the friends survive the perils of the island’s knowledge? What will happen to them? To answer these questions, read the book!;) This novel would make an excellent Christian film in almost any genre, if done correctly. We here at Box Office Revolution look forward to the day when Christian filmmakers will pull their heads out of the sand and bring Christian novels such as these to the big screen!

Upcoming Christian Novels: Angela E. Hunt’s Latest Project

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Jerusalem’s Queen

Jerusalem’s Queen is the latest upcoming novel by Angela E. Hunt, the novel tells the story of a young woman named Salome Alexandra. “Born in the small village of Modein, a town made famous by the warrior Maccabees, Salome Alexandra knows better than to harbor grand dreams for her future. She pales in comparison to her beautiful older sister, and though she learns to read at an early age, girls are not valued for their intellectual ability. But when her father and sister are killed, John Hyrcanus, a distant relative, invites Salome and her mother to live with his family in Jerusalem, where her thirst for knowledge is noticed and indulged. When her guardian betroths her to a pagan prince, she questions HaShem’s plan. When Hyrcanus finally marries her to a boy half her age, she questions her guardian’s sanity. But though Salome Alexandra spends much of her life as a pawn ordered about by powerful men, she learns that a woman committed to HaShem can change the world.” ~www.angelahuntbooks.com

We look forward to Hunt’s latest novel with anticipation!

 

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

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Redeeming Love is the greatest Christian fiction novel I have ever read. It is Francine River’s self-proclaimed testimony of faith. It is the only book that I have ever read that describes God’s unconditional love for us with such depth and truth. Rivers, as usual, delves straight into the very heart of the story, exposing the raw and gritty elements for all to see, and therefore giving an excellent example of the depth of God’s forgiveness. Redeeming Love deals with subjects such as sin, prostitution, violation, bitterness, anger, hurt, forgiveness, God’s redeeming, unconditional love, the Biblical definition of marriage, the Biblical definition of sex, friendships, healing, and peace. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the main character, a young girl named Sarah. Sarah is the product of an affair between her mother and a married man. Her biological father wishes that she had never been born, and her mother cares more about her own happiness than Sarah’s. For a time, Sarah and her mother are supported by her biological father, but eventually he casts them aside. They slowly sell all that they own in order to survive, until Sarah’s mother is forced to sell herself to willing buyers. She becomes ill and dies, leaving Sarah in the hands of a foolish drunk who cares only about finding money with which to purchase more alcohol. He accidentally sells her into prostitution before he is murdered by Sarah’s new master. Sarah, only eight years of age, quickly learns that her new master desires her complete submission, and seeks to steal all of her innocence. She is his captive for quite some time. When she finally does escape, she accepts the offer to board a ship heading the opposite direction of her captor’s lair. While on board she learns that her passage comes at a cost. Sarah eventually ends up working for a local brothel, and there she comes to be known as the notorious prostitute named Angel. Angel lives a miserable life for many years, until one day….a man named Michael Hosea walks into her chambers. He is not like all the other men who walk through her doors, he only desires conversation. He tries to convince her to marry him and gain a better life. She is afraid to accept for a time, and initially refuses his offer. After a nearly fatal beating by her bodyguard, she accepts Michael’s offer and leaves with him. Michael proves to be a caring and loving husband, nursing her back to health and seeking to draw her out of her shell. Angel resists his love for the longest time, and at first only desires to escape her marriage. Michael keeps bringing her back and reaffirming his love for her. He calls her Amanda instead of Angel, and teaches her to cook and farm their land. She betrays his love by escaping once again with his brother, Paul, and by accepting Paul’s offer to pay his fare in the only currency she knows. However, Michael brings her back again, and tries his hardest to teach her about God’s love. She decides to stay for a while, and eventually becomes friends with their new neighbors. However, the time will come when she will have to make a final decision regarding her beliefs about God, love, and life. What will she decide? To answer this question, read the book!;) This novel would make landmark Christian epic, in the right hands. I am certain that if someone decided to bring this book to the big screen, and if they did their absolute best to remain true to the spirit of the novel; then this would be my favorite Christian film.

Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl Series: Kim Peterson

In this part of Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl Series, she introduces the reader to a new character, a teenage girl named Kim Peterson. This part of the series deals with subjects such as religion, Christianity, death, grief, healing, romantic relationships, conflicting interests, cancer, teen pregnancy, friendships, faith, family tension, cousins, and more. The first novel introduces the reader to Kim Peterson; Kim is a teenage girl of Korean descent who is searching for meaning in her life. Kim’s parents adopted her as a baby, and she has never known her biological family. Kim does not want to be tied down to Christianity, as she believes that it is too good to be true, so she begins to look into the religious practices of her ancestors. Kim experiments with Buddhism, and anything else that gives her temporary meaning. Her father has blackmailed her into writing an advice column for teens in the local newspaper, and she feels a heavy responsibility in truthfully answering the questions that readers submit. When a classmate is killed at school, Kim is flooded with questions about life and death, ones that she cannot answer. This leads Kim to search out the truth; she discovers the Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Kim becomes a Christian and tries to live her life in a way that would honor God. In the second novel, Kim’s newfound faith is put to the test when her mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Kim becomes romantically involved with a boy named Matthew, and he pressures her to give him her innocence. Kim is confused and hurting, and feels that the mountain in front of her is too big to climb. The third novel continues this thought, however, it brings hope, as Kim slowly begins to recover from her mother’s death. However, her dad loses his job and her best friend gives in to her boyfriend’s demands, becoming pregnant as a result. Kim feels that her world is crumbling, and feels powerless to stop it from happening. Eventually she accepts the facts and tries her best to cope. The final novel introduces new plot lines and finishes previous ones, it is, in my opinion, the best book of the series. This part of the Diary of a Teenage Girl series would make a great part three in a Christian miniseries. However, the creator would have to employ some editing, as some of the novels have overly long scenes. The casting would also have to be diverse. This is a concept that not many filmmakers seem to grasp.

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.

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. This newest release begins her new Silent Years Series and has a different flavor than her other novels. 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.

Lynn Austin’s Waves of Mercy

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Waves of Mercy is the latest installment by the renowned Christian author Lynn Austin. While certainly not her best novel, it does bring a new element to Christian fiction that is not usually seen. This novel explores the deep corners of one’s mind, the memories that we cannot explain, nor forget. Keeping with her traditional historical romance genre, Austin attempts to add a few twists and turns to her per-usual plot-line, and partially succeeds. Other reviews of this book disliked the amount of tragedy that one of the main characters experienced, alluding that Austin was a bit melodramatic in this novel. Yet another reviewer commented that he thought this book was similar to another of her books, indicating that she reused a past plotline, except with new characters. I don’t think that Austin was melodramatic in this novel, I think that she provided a realistic depiction of how hard life was for early American settlers. While she could have been a bit more original with her plotline, I appreciated that she was trying to draw in younger audiences by using a slightly different writing style in this book. Waves of Mercy deals with subjects such a hardship, death, tragic occurrences, grief, loss, bitterness, lost souls, secrets, anger, forgiveness, salvation, and adoptive families. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the three main characters, a young woman named Anna Nicholson, an old woman named Geesje de Jonge, and Geesje’s “nephew” Derk Vander Veen. Anna Nicholson is a young woman haunted by nightmares and suppressed memories. For as long as she can remember the same nightmare has haunted her dreams, especially during times of stress and anxiety. When she was a child her parents could explain it away, but now Anna is an adult, and she still suffers at the hands of her own mind. Anna has perfect life on the surface, rich parents, a pampered lifestyle, the perfect fiance, and an upcoming wedding that many girls can only dream of. However, there is a pesky little voice whispering in her ear that all is not right. Anna wonders why she feels so empty and alone, and goes searching for the answer. She finds love and acceptance at what she calls the “castle church”, a place very different from the cold, indifferent walls of her family’s church. However, her fiance does not approve of the Jesus that this church preaches, and forbids her to return if she expects to marry him. Confused and hurt, Anna journeys with her mother to Michigan for a time of rest and regrouping. Geesje de Jonge is an old woman who has seen and been through more in her lifetime that any human being should be expected to endure. Through it all, the mistakes, the wrong choices, and the insurmountable grief, Geesje has managed to hold onto the one thing that is stable in her unstable life, her faith in Jesus Christ. Derk Vander Veen is a young, aspiring minister who has just broken up with his fiance because she disapproved of his chosen profession. He finds comfort and encouragement in the loving arms and endless cookies supplied by his beloved Aunt Geesje. Learning of her own difficult experience with life and love, he encourages Geesje to write down her experiences so that he can read them and learn from her mistakes. Reluctant at first, Geesje begins to write, and finds both release and healing in letting go of the weight of the past. The end of the novel draws these three characters together in an unexpected way, making the novel as a whole more interesting. To find out the exciting conclusion….read the book!;) I think that Waves of Mercy would make a great Christian film in the right hands. With a little editing and some creativity, this novel could go places as a film. Then again, all the books that I have reviewed thus far would be great Christian movies….if someone would recognize them…..:)

An Introduction to Stephen Bly

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1944-2011

Stephen Bly was probably the greatest writer of faith-based Western fiction ever seen before. He mostly wrote in series form; his customary length being six books, with some exceptions. Bly had a talent for creating a lovable character in the first novel, and refining their personality and fictional life throughout the series. This was perhaps modeled after God’s continued refinement of our lives. He had a subtle way of sharing the Gospel through the lives of his characters, one that most would call “not-one-of-those-shove-it-down-your-throat-Christians”. Even though the Lord called Stephen Bly home in 2011, readers of all ages continue to enjoy his gritty, yet humorous take on the lives of Western gunslingers and pioneers. In his lifetime he wrote over one hundred books and stories, including some that he wrote with his wife Janet. His last novel was titled Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot; as he was not able to complete the novel before his death, his wife and three sons finished the novel for him. We here at Box Office Revolution would love to see Christian film-makers create a new genre based on his stories, perhaps Western Comedy? Bly certainly had enough content to justify a new genre, and perhaps bringing his original novels to the big screen would ‘spur’ on other filmmakers to create films inspired by his novels. While all of Bly’s novels are good, our favorites thus far are The Legend of Stuart Brannon series and the Code of the West series. Bly creates relatives for the characters in these two series that are found in later novels. His writing will forever serve as a an example to others of how to write Western, faith-based fiction. As with all the authors mentioned in the column, we eagerly await the day that Stephen Bly’s work will hit the big screen!

Angela Elwell Hunt: The Dangerous Beauty Series Book 3

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The third and final (?) novel in Angela E. Hunt’s Dangerous Beauty series continues her previous decision to bring depth and meaning to Bible characters that the church does not usually bring to the forefront. In this novel, Hunt gives her depiction of the story of Delilah, a woman famous for betraying the famous Biblical judge Samson. In the Bible, Delilah was the second wife of Samson; a woman who appeared to be willing to do anything to get what she wanted, including betraying her own husband. Hunt invites one to look past this famous offense and into the very heart of this woman named Delilah. The novel focuses on two main characters, Samson, and Delilah. Told in first person by these two characters, the story teaches the reader that while neither of these people are perfect, both are loved by a Holy God. In Hunt’s depiction there is no greater penalty for Delilah’s sins than for Samson’s. Throughout the story she reinforces the Biblical truth that all sin is equal in God’s eyes. The opening chapters of this novel introduce the reader to Samson as a young man, and Delilah as a teenage girl. Samson is depicted as a somewhat spoiled and arrogant young man who thinks that he can use his gift from God for his own benefit. While he does care for his nation, he cares more for himself. Against the advice of his parents, Samson marries a spoiled young Philistine woman who will only bring him grief in the end. After the tragic death of his young wife, Samson vents his anger against the Philistines, but finds that it brings him no relief. Alone, still angry, and somewhat humbled, Samson sets off on his own to discover his purpose. Delilah is a fiery teen who grew up in a somewhat tumultuous environment. Her mother was a slave, until she fell in love with a rich Philistine businessman and they married. This gave Delilah’s mother both social standing and a roof over her head. However, Delilah’s stepfather has a bitter son named Achish who is waiting for his father to die in order to claim the inheritance. Delilah does not understand why Achish is always taunting her and seems to appear wherever she goes. The sudden death of her stepfather grants Achish his coveted inheritance…and control over the futures of both Delilah and her mother. Achish sells Delilah’s mother back into slavery, and keeps Delilah as his concubine/slave. Delilah suffers abuse of the worst kind at the hands of Achish, and becomes bitter against God and the world. Eventually she escapes her physical captivity, but is still a prisoner in her own mind. A group of traveling tradesman save her life and find a safe home for her with a widow known as a talented weaver. Delilah discovers that she is pregnant as a result of Achish’s abuse, and is more grateful than ever for her home with the widow. She hardens her heart against love for the child, because it reminds her of her captor. In the novel, Samson and Delilah are depicted as two hurting people looking for the answer to their grief. Initially they find distraction from their pain in their love for one another, but soon learn that this is not enough to heal old scars. The ending of the novel is accurate to the Biblical account…with a twist. To find out what it is….read the book!;) This novel, like the others in the series, would make an excellent Bible film, if done correctly. As I have said before, I believe that Christian authors should be involved in the creation of movies based on their books. Which is why I believe that Hunt would need to be involved in the making of this hypothetical movie. We here at Box Office Revolution continue to wait for that glorious day when Christian movie makers will realize the potential found in Christian novels.

Angela Elwell Hunt: The Dangerous Beauty Series Book 2

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In keeping with the spirit of the first novel in her series, Dangerous Beauty, Angela E. Hunt continues to bring life and new meaning to familiar Bible stories in this second installment. Titled Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty, the name is somewhat confusing…..until one reads the novel itself. In the Bible, Bathsheba was a woman who caught the lustful eye of King David, a woman who was an object of temptation to a man who thought that he was too righteous to fall into sin. Many see Bathsheba as the cause of David’s sin, however, the truth of the matter is the David made the choice to commit adultery, not to mention the fact that he killed her husband to cover his sin. Bathsheba was partly a victim, and partly a participant in this familiar case of adultery found in the Old Testament. Hunt invites the reader to look at this Bible story with new eyes, with eyes that see past the blockade of sin, and into the heart of the characters. Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty deals with subjects such as sin, adultery, secrets, devastation, loss, confession, redemption, God’s unfathomable forgiveness, and how God puts the broken pieces of a person’s life together, creating a beautiful picture of His love. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the two main characters, a young woman named Bathsheba, and a prophet called Nathan. As the story is told from their perspectives, the reader will see how God uses our darkest sins for His glory. Hunt points out how having a dysfunctional family life shaped the habits and influenced the choices of the man Israel knew as King David. She makes the reader see that while he did commit a sin in the eyes of the Lord, any of us are capable of doing the same, so who are we to judge? I especially enjoyed how Hunt brought Bathsheba to light as a real person, not merely a victim or a participant. Hunt’s Bathsheba feels that she is to blame to provoking the king to his sinful choice, because of her beauty. Bathsheba, on the whole, is wiser than the king, but she still made the decision to follow his bidding. If you are interested in a Christian novel about forgiveness, then this one is for you. This novel is another brilliant piece of work from Angela E. Hunt, and deserves to be on the big screen. However, because of the rather sensitive subject matter, I absolutely insist that Hunt would have to be involved in the making of such a film. It can be done, but it must be done right, or not at all. We here at Box Office Revolution have seen too many “stories of the Bible” films with wasted potential.

Angela Elwell Hunt: The Dangerous Beauty Series Book 1

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In her newest series of novels titled Dangerous Beauty, Angela E. Hunt takes up the gauntlet to provide depth and meaning to the stories of women in the Bible. She includes both tales that you would expect, and those that many in the church are afraid to speak aloud. Where others have romanticized, sensationalized, and heavily edited certain stories in the Bible, Hunt speaks out with a refreshing boldness not found in many Christian authors. Esther, Bathsheba, and Delilah were three women whose stories were included in the Bible to teach us important life lessons. So far Hunt has written novels about these three women of the Bible, it is currently unknown as to whether she will continue the Dangerous Beauty series or end it as a trilogy. The first novel in the series is titled Esther: Royal Beauty. This novel tells the story of Esther from a fresh perspective, and what I believe to be a very accurate depiction of what her life really was. Esther was a brave Jewess who answered God’s call when it was not the popular thing to do, nor the safest option. In this novel, Esther is depicted as a real person who made mistakes, as someone who has both strengths and weaknesses. As per usual for Hunt, she combines the perspectives of Esther herself and influential people in her life to create a well-written story that will hold the attention of any reader. I have always found that a good Christian novel is one that you read in one sitting; one that holds the attention for an extended period of time. This series measures up to it’s heritage by bringing fresh content and continuing refreshment in the world of Christian fiction. Many Christian filmmakers have attempted to make movies based on Esther’s story, and every one of them has failed. I would be interested to see a Christian filmmaker think outside the box and use Hunt’s novel to create an Esther character that is a real person, not an subservient, angelic character (The Book of Esther), nor a hollow shell who performs a dramatic act (One Night With the King). It is time for Christian filmmakers to either make a real film about Esther, or stop trying! Hunt’s book provides more than adequate content with which to create a landmark Bible film, so if you want to make another film about Esther, do it right this time and use her book as a master plan.

Melody Carlson’s Mental Health Masterpiece: Finding Alice

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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, the Inn at Shining Waters 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 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.