No Less Days by Amanda Stevens

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Amanda G. Stevens latest book, No Less Days, is both riveting and dissapointing. The novel has much untapped potential, and could have been so much better than it is. It feels like the author stopped short of all she has to offer. No Less Days tells the story of David Galloway – a 167 year old man who lost his ability to die in his thirties. Oh, he has had more than one opportunity, but each injury – no matter how serious – remedies itself after a brief amount of time. David leads a simple life. He owns and operates a bookstore in a small, isolated town whose residents live mostly in the past. David hates fire, loves books and his pet turtle, and questions many facets of his existence. He has only one true friend – his sole employee Tiana – and keeps mostly to himself. David follows nearly the same routine every day, and asks God why he is still alive every night. Then…everything changes. During a typical day at work Tiana tells David about a viral video she just saw in which a popular celeb named Zachary Wilson attempted to walk a tightrope at a great height and fell to his death – only to appear alive soon after. David doesn’t believe it at first, but curiosity soon probes him to examine the facts for himself. He too watches the video, and cannot believe his eyes. In a flash of comprehension he dares to ask the question: “Are there others like me?” After a brief inner battle with himself, he travels by car to Nevada in hopes of discovering whether the man is a fraud or genuine. He discovers that the latter is true, and he and Zachary become fast friends. Zachary introduces David to three other ‘longevites’, and the group quickly forms a bond. Little does David know that these new friendships will lead to danger, adventure, and perhaps the hardest decision of his life. Overall, the plot is engaging because it holds the attention from cover to cover. However, there are some continuity errors. At times the plot meanders in multiple directions without a clear objective, and some of the reasoning behind the characters’ longevity feels forced and simplistic. (spoiler) For instance, the only reason these five people are still alive is because they all had a fatal injury/health condition in the same era and were treated by the same doctor who discovered a magical healing serum in a body of water. In contrast, David’s role in the story begins and ends well because the beginning is enticing and the conclusion open-ended. In spite of this, it would seem that Stevens tried to include too many sub-plots that tend to clash with David’s purpose at times throughout the story. However, the moral questions asked in this novel are very creative, and it has much potential as a Christian film. These facts round out to an average score for Stevens in this section.

Character Development (2 points)

David is the best character in the story because he has a steady but powerful character arc that drives the plot. Tiana is also an above average character because she is a non-typical female lead and adds humor and life to a slow-to-develop story. Zachary is a good start, but not quite there. He has a developed personality and his character is consistent, but left unfinished. The other longevites drop abruptly into the story and are also left unfinished. These facts earn Stevens an average score in this section. We here at BOR believe that these character and plot errors could have been remedied through breaking up the vast amount of plot content into a series. For example, this could be a three to five book series that contains a book for each longevite. In this way, the reader would come full circle in knowing each of the characters equally, and the publisher would likely see greater revenue as a result. This idea may still be in the cards for this author, but if it is not, this book could be made into a TV series that applied the suggestions listed above.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Stevens earns half a point in creativity and half a point in originality for crafting a book that contains fresh plot ideas and a well-constructed conclusion. This author’s strength is that she is not afraid to ask and answer the hard questions in life. Additionally, Stevens is obviously committed to changing the world of Christian fiction by daring to be different. I commend this author for her big ideas, and believe that she shows much promise for the future – with a little guidance, she could create an entirely new genre. This is why we believe that a Christian filmmaker should work with Stevens to bring this novel to the big screen in the form of a TV series that has a season or several episodes for each character. To conclude, well done Ms. Stevens, I believe that you are capable of more than you think.:)

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

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Two Weeks by Karen Kingsbury

Image result for two weeks karen kingsbury

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Karen Kingsbury’s newest novel in the acclaimed Baxter family series, titled Two Weeks, is coming out in early April next year. The novel tells the story of Ashley and Landon’s son Cole, and a young woman named Elise. Cole is just starting his senior year in high school, and has big plans to be a pre-med major at Liberty University by the next school year. Elise is a hurting young woman who has just moved to the area and is staying with her eccentric aunt and alcoholic uncle. Cole has a stable family life, good friends, and a strong faith in Christ. Elise has never known her father, and her mother has worked full-time – sometimes at multiple jobs – for as long as she can remember, leaving her little time to spend with Elise.
Elise’s dream is to be an artist – a dream her mother disapproves of. She doesn’t see how God could love her after the bad choices she has recently made. Cole has never been interested in dating and wants to wait to start a relationship towards the end of his college years. That changes on the first day of school. He finds himself drawn to Elise and her difficulties – a fact that soon leads him to more involvement than he bargained for. Elise soon spills her secrets to him – she just left an abusive relationship and thinks she could be pregnant – and both of them are left floundering. Cole seeks God for wisdom, while Elise retreats deeper inside herself. In the end, God orchestrates a divine plan that involves healing many hearts, and leading some back to Him. First, there are many positives to this novel. I was impressed at Kingsbury’s obvious growth as an author and at her apparent spiritual growth, which was reflected throughout the story. Her examples of God’s perfect plan for each person’s life are relatable and encouraging to the reader. Additionally, her characters’ commitment to prayer is the central theme of the novel. (spoiler) I also liked that Cole and Elise do not end up married. In comparison, the only flaws here are minor. First, the Baxter family theme is a bit repetitive at this point. Second, at times the novel lapses into the information-dump style of writing. However, these flaws are inconsistent at best, and do not majorly affect the plot. Therefore, Kingsbury earns an almost perfect score in this section.

Character Development (3 points)

Kingsbury’s commitment to character development is upheld in this novel. Cole and Elise’s characters are shaped by their past experiences, and both are realistic and have a clear purpose in the story. The secondary characters are also quite good because they add continuity and depth to the plot. Furthermore, Kingsbury does a good job of connecting her characters together without being cheesy or predictable. One special note here is that the characters are used to present the Biblical view of the unborn in a non-preachy and down-to-earth manner. The unexpected plot twist with one of the minor characters is also quite good. Additionally, the flaws here are few – a bit of melodrama and a few too many people with the same personality. Needless to say, Kingsbury earns just shy of a perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

In conclusion, Kingsbury earns a full point in originality for writing a novel unlike any I have read from her before. She avoided most of her usual pitfalls and turned out a poignant and faith-based read that is sure to inspire many readers. For this reason, I feel that this novel could either be a part of the Baxter Family TV Series already in progress, or a standalone film. As a film, it could promote the Biblical view on life before birth as a drama/coming of age storyline. The casting would have to be on point, for the characters drive the plot. Good production quality is also a given, not to mention good continuity. In the hands of a proven or budding filmmaker, this could be a pro-life film to rival the famous October Baby. Great job Mrs. Kingsbury! I was pleasantly surprised by what Two Weeks has to offer.

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

Her Fear by Shelley Shepard Gray

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Shelley Shepard Gray’s newest romantic suspense novel, titled Her Fear, is a confusing tale to behold. While on one hand it has several creative ideas, on the other hand there are many plot holes and more than one unresolved sub-plot. Furthermore, the novel seems to take an eerily casual look at death. Her Fear tells the story of Sadie Detweiler, a young, pregnant Amish girl who has just been banished from her hometown by her family. Sadie’s family believed the lies of her boyfriend, – a straw-man character – and turned her out on her ear for getting pregnant out of wedlock. Sadie is forced to move in with her eccentric relatives, the Stauffers. Soon after moving in with them, she notices the tense atmosphere among the family members, but can’t put her finger on the source. Her uncle and his father (Stephen and Willis) seem to clash on almost every decision, while her cousins Esther and Monroe are as changeable as they are sympathetic to her plight. Shortly after Sadie’s arrival, Willis’ wife dies under suspicious circumstances. Verba’s death makes the authorities suspicious, and gives a certain EMT a reason to visit the Stauffer’s place again. You guessed it, he likes Sadie and of course he was picked to give the place a once over. Noah cares for nothing but Sadie’s welfare, even though her condition comes as a surprise to him. Throughout the novel he defends her position and pursues her affections. Noah’s pseudo-investigation leads him to a surprising conclusion, which has life-threatening affects on Sadie and her cousin Esther. The plot limps along to a thrown-together conclusion that is bound to leave the reader scratching their head, and barely scrapes by with an average plot score because of the attempts therein to stand out from other Amish tales. (spoiler) The strangest part about the conclusion, to put it in the words of a fellow critic, is that it “shrugs over the poisoning deaths of four other people” by giving no realistic consequences to those responsible, or resolving this part of the novel in any discernible way.

Character Development (1 point)

Likewise, the character development in this novel needs serious work. Gray earns one point for crafting some better-than-usual secondary characters. However, there is much work to be done. I can think of no better way to describe these characters but to quote the words of a fellow book critic, who said: “The father (Sadie’s) is villainous, the hero (Noah) is saintly, the uncle (Stephen) is cartoonishly ineffective”. Sadie’s father is a villian simply for the sake of being so, Noah is too perfect to be a real person, and Stephen reminds me of Edith from Downton Abbey. In short, Gray’s characters are her weakest area. 

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, the novel earns a full point in originality for being one of the most unique Amish tales I have ever read. Whether this is a good or bad thing is debatable. However, I feel that with some rewriting, this novel has the potential to make an interesting Christian suspense film. The Amish characters could remain because it would be interesting to see the secrets of cultist communities such as these exposed. However, the romantic side has to go. If Sadie must be pregnant, then at least let the break between her and her parents be realistic and not a “shunning”. If Noah is a character in the film, then he could remain as an EMT – an extra in the film. However, I would recommend that Christian filmmakers look at better options before considering this plotline. 

Wish List Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Who I Am With You by Robin Lee Hatcher

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Who I Am With You is a novel with much untapped potential. I believe that Hatcher meant well in writing this story, however, many readers will wonder what her point was. This novel tells the intersecting stories of Jessica and Ridley, along with a side story about one of Jessica’s predecessors. Jessica is an expectant young widow who lost her husband and only child in a car accident. She feels guilty about the death of her husband, because their last conversation was an angry one. Jessica questions God’s reasoning in allowing her daughter to die, and struggles against the feeling that her husband deserved to die because of his affair. In the midst of her spiritual and emotional turmoil, a single man hiding from the press moves in next door. Ridley has been falsely accused of ratting out a political candidate he was working for, and is hiding from the press for this reason. He figured that his parents house in a small town would be the perfect place to hide. However, his expectations for a quite season to recuperate from national turmoil change almost as soon as he arrives. Ridley soon has a dog, a love interest, and a new church family. He fights (halfheartedly) against his feelings for Jessica, but eventually gives in. Its surprising how quickly Jessica can fall in love when her husband isn’t even a year in the grave, and its even more amazing how easily a guy can fall in love when he and his dog hang out at his widowed neighbor’s house all the time. (spoiler) But anyway, as you’ve already guessed, they end up in a relationship. Yet this is not before an attempt is made at climax (spoiler) when his “past love” shows up, which causes Jessica to go into labor. Ho-hum. While there are some good elements to the main story, such as a small plot twist towards the end with a secondary female character, there is not much wow factor here. I appreciate that Hatcher tried to insert real life struggles and experiences into a romance plot, but she contradicted herself by brushing her own good intentions aside with a cheesy conclusion and overdone romantic elements. On the other hand, the paradox of this novel is that the side story about Jessica’s predecessor is much better and more meaningful than the main tale. This led me to wonder why Hatcher did not choose this as a main plot in the first place. Therefore, the plot receives a less than average score because a meaningful story was covered up with a meaningless one. 

Character Development (2 points)

In comparison, Hatcher’s characters are her strong point, as evidenced by her average score in this section. Jessica has an interesting backstory, relatable emotions, and realistic weaknesses. However, her character is made very vanilla through the use of third person writing, and her purpose in the story is unclear. Ridley has potential, but too much attention is given to his physical characteristics, and not enough to true character development. He has his good moments, but overall it is hard to determine why he is a necessary character. Additionally, the secondary characters – with the exception of Jessica’s mom – are forgettable and even corny at times. That being said, Jessica’s mom is likely the best and most sensible character. On page 152 she gives Jessica some kind and sound advice regarding this hasty relationship – which is completely ignored – and continually encourages Jessica to grow in her walk with Christ (this is an example of Hatcher’s contradiction). Therefore, Jessica and her mother save this section from being below average, however, Hatcher has work to do in future novels. Additionally, Jessica’s predecessor is a great character, as is his wife, however, it is hard to get to know them through choppy storytelling. Therefore, Hatcher receives an average score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

Finally, Hatcher earns a half point in creativity for inserting a plot twist into the story, and for crafting a good side story. Unfortunately, I have seen this general storyline many times before, so originality is absent. Despite these flaws, I feel that a talented screenwriter could turn this into an interesting Christian film/miniseries. First, they would need to get rid of the main story and focus on the side story. The novel should become a Christian TV miniseries that focuses on Andrew’s life, rocky marriage, and how he let God heal his broken relationships. This type of plot needs a diverse set of strong secondary characters to help it along, so everyone in this role needs to be rewritten. The book title could be retained, but the movie’s purpose could be changed to show who the characters are with Jesus, rather than who they are on her own or with another love interest. This is because all Christians need to be secure in their relationship with Christ before they can experience healed relationships. Finally, while this review may offend some, please know that I tried hard to find the good in this novel. However, as a critic I must also be honest. I think you have much potential as a writer, Ms. Hatcher, and can do great things for Christ! Thank you for sharing your novel with the team at BOR. 

Wish List Rating: 4 out of 10 points

Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Mark of the Raven (The Ravenwood Saga Book #1) by [Busse, Morgan L.]

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Mark of the Raven is one of the most creative novels I have read in some time. Morgan L. Busse has crafted an exciting and engaging storyline that is character-driven and has much potential to be a fantasy TV series. The novel tells the intersecting stories of Selene and Damien. Selene is the heir to House Ravenwood, a fact that comes with more bad than good. Selene has inherited her mother’s ability to dream walk – to take the form of a raven (hence their family title) and enter the dreams of others at night, discover their fears, and manipulate these fears for their advantage. At first Selene is open to this ability because she feels it is her duty as the heir to uphold her family’s traditions. However, her willingness fades when she learns the ultimate goal of many dream walking missions is to kill the subject. Torn between duty and disgust at the darker side of her gift, Selene feels helpless to change her fate. Damien has experienced multiple tragedies in his young life. The death of his father and younger brother shook him internally, and he has never been the same since. Damien’s family has been gifted with the ability to control water – to create water walls that protect their village from invading naval forces. When Damien is called upon to use his gift for the first time on a mass scale, he is thrilled with the victory caused by his gift…until he sees the people he has unintentionally killed by protecting his village. When a meeting of the Great Houses draws Damien and Selene onto the same ground, Selene is intrigued by Damien’s devotion to the Light, as it is so different from her family’s commitment to the Dark Lady. Damien is attracted to Selene’s quiet strength, but feels helpless to rescue her burdens. Will Selene be forced to kill to uphold her family heritage? Will Damien overcome his tender heart and trust that the Light will help him make wise choices when using his gift? To answer these questions, read the book!:) Busse’s obvious strength is her storylines, a fact that is reflected in this novel. I could find little wrong with this plot, and aside from a few editing errors and a hint of choppiness here and there, this is a nearly perfect storyline that puts many fantasy novels to shame.

Character Development (3 points)

In comparison, the characters in this novel are as strong as the plot. Selene is a multi-dimensional character who is well-developed and realistic. Her spiritual journey is relatable and downright poignant. In fact, Busse’s creatively subtle insertion of the Gospel message into this novel is the hallmark of the story. Damien is an equally good character, which is surprising when one considers his abrupt insertion into the plot. My only complaint regarding the characters are that he and Selene needed to be written in first person. The secondary characters are well-thought-out and intriguing, and are left unfinished for future novels in the series. Yet, a little more effort was needed here. Thankfully, the good outweighs the minor bad here.:)

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Lastly, Busse is also strong in the area of creativity and originality. She earns a full point in creativity for crafting a fantasy world and above average characters. Furthermore, Busse earns a half point in originality for crafting a storyline that could easily go straight to the big screen, and for inserting a Biblical worldview subtly but masterfully into the plot structure. Mark of the Raven, and hopefully the future novels in the saga, will make an excellent TV series. The plot is perfect as is; no alteration is needed by a screenwriter. They should instead spend their time on building on the character foundation Busse has laid, and honing the dialogue to attract both young, semi-young, and older audiences. To conclude, great job Ms. Busse. It is nice to see that there are still fantasy authors out there who care about quality Christian content!:) I look forward to reading and reviewing your next Ravenwood novel!

Wish List Rating: 8 out of 10 points

A Bodyguard for Christmas by Carol J. Post

Bodyguard for Christmas (Love Inspired Suspense) by [Post, Carol J.]

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Carol J. Post’s newest novel, A Bodyguard for Christmas, is better than I expected it to be. Post’s dedication to a strong storyline and her fairly good characters earn her an average score in this overcrowded genre. Thankfully, the Christmas elements in this novel are few and far between, and do not really affect the plot at all. A Bodyguard for Christmas tells the intersecting stories of Colton Gale and Jasmine McNeal. Colton Gale, a young widower with a young son, has recently been threatened by an unknown source. He arrives home one day to find his house broken into, his guard dog tranquilized, someone attempting to kidnap his son, and the babysitter tied up in a closet. This traumatic situation leads him to the decision to hire a bodyguard for his son. The bodyguard ends up being his next-door neighbor…Jasmine. Jasmine has a past darkened with traumatic situations, whether it be bad memories from her military career, personal trauma from her dysfunctional family, or her fear of being taken unawares. This past has plagued her with nightmares, a fact she keeps bottled up and tries to deal with alone. When she meets Colton’s young son, something long buried in her comes to life, love. Unfortunately, this assignment gives her no time for self-care, as the criminal begins to make attempts on Colton’s life. Will Jasmine bring the suspect down? Will Colton overcome his need for control and trust in God? While this plot ends on some predictable notes, it is saved by a great plot twist in the last fourth of the novel. The novel’s biggest weakness is the information-dump chapters at the beginning. This writing style leaves little room for the imagination, and gives the reader too much unnecessary information. Yet, Post’s strength is her storylines, which is why I feel that this book would make a great TV series. 

Character Development (2 points)

In comparison, Post’s characters are average. Although Jasmine has a great backstory and realistic struggles, and Colton has a relatable personality, at times the characters feel like pawns in a bigger picture. They do things because, and feel things because they need to. Great attention is given to develop Jasmine, Colton, and Colton’s son, but the secondary characters are one-dimensional and need refining. However, I commend Post’s attempt to give her characters deep backstories and craft a relevant suspense novel, and think that she has a lot of potential for the future. 

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Post earns a full point in creativity for crafting an engaging storyline and creating original characters. With a little refining, she could go far in the writing world. This is why I believe this novel, and the others featuring these characters, could make a great TV series. It would be so easy to make the first two seasons about the other books, and conclude on a high note with this book made into a whole season. What could be better for marketing than to end on Christmas? To conclude, nice job Ms. Post! I think you show much promise for the future.:)

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Lights on the Mountain by Cheryl Anne Tuggle

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We were provided with a review copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.


Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Cheryl Anne Tuggle’s newest novel, Lights on the Mountain, is one of the most complicated books I have ever read. It is reminiscent of a Bradley Dorsey film – there is so much potential, but that potential gets lost somewhere along the way. The novel tells the story of Jess Hazel, a man who has lived a simple, yet eventful life. As a young man, he experienced loss when his parents died in a car accident, and joy when he met his true love, Gracie. He and Gracie married, and Jess experienced difficulty again when she was diagnosed with endometriosis – a condition that makes conceiving a child difficult. After long years of waiting, Gracie becomes pregnant around the same time that a mysterious young girl called Tsura enters their lives. Tsura seems almost otherwordly to Jess, and he is troubled when he gazes into her wise and deep eyes. Tsura has visions of the future of people’s lives, often without warning. These visions are always accurate in the end, sometimes to her regret. Gracie loves Tsura as her own, and begins to raise her in the Orthodox faith of her heritage. Jess doesn’t care much for religion, but finds himself more interested than ever when things begin to go wrong with Gracie. (spoiler) After two long weeks of waiting for their overdue child, Jess wakes up to find a still and gray Gracie lying on the sofa. However, it is evident that his child is still alive. (spoiler) Gracie’s death leaves Jess more confused and broken than ever, and causes him to question everything in his life. Will Jess turn to the One who loves him completely? Will he decide what to do with Tsura? As previously mentioned, the above plot shows that this novel had much potential. However, this description is what I was able to piece together from Tuggle’s meandering and wordy writing style. Unfortunately, the first half of the novel is very slow to develop, and while the second half is interesting, I feel that many may not make it that far. My main complaints are that the novel does not hold the attention and the plot is hard to follow. This is a niche writing style that not everyone will enjoy. Additionally, the random sprinkling of language at varying degrees is offensive and the opposite of relevant – it seems to be the author’s attempt at sensationalism. For these reasons, Tuggle earns an average score in this section, and I feel that this is a generous assessment. 

Character Development (1.5 points)

In contrast, the character development is below average because the characters are partially developed. Jess is the best character and had the most potential. This is because of his interesting and original backstory, along with his realistic thought processes and emotions. Gracie too had potential, however, her abrupt end was frustrating, especially since she appeared almost halfway through the novel and left in the final third. Tsura is equally intriguing and unusual. It is unclear what direction the author hoped to take with this character, sometimes she seems to be an angel, other times someone with a mental disorder, and still others someone with the gift of prophecy. However, her frequently mentioned ‘Gypsy’ heritage, and the unusual indications therein will leave the reader quite confused. (spoiler) It is even more baffling that Tuggle leaves this character in a monastery. Additionally, the secondary characters, with the exception of the farrier, are one-dimensional and forgettable. Tuggle has some work to do in this section, yet, she does have potential.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

Finally, this novel is not so much creative as it is odd. However, Tuggle earns a half point in originality for creating unique characters and a fresh take on a romance novel. It is almost as if Tuggle wishes to write fantasy, but is afraid to. In fact, this novel would have been much better if it were in the fantasy genre. This would explain Tsura’s ‘gifts’ and Gracie’s existence. Furthermore, it would give Jess a purpose outside of his journey of self-discovery. For this reason, I think that with a little re-writing, a screenwriter could transform this unique novel into a film, and place it in the genre it should have been in originally. The characters can be helped along with the right cast, and the plot has plenty of potential. Furthermore, as this novel has mostly good reviews, a film based on the story would probably be supported financially by fans. To conclude, nice job Ms. Tuggle, I think that with some honing, you have the potential to create a new genre with your writing style!

Wish List Rating: 4 out of 10 points

In Times Gone By by Tracie Peterson

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Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

In this final installment of Tracie Peterson’s Golden Gates Secrets series, the characters from both previous novels converge together into one big happy family. There are also some new characters, perhaps better referred to as villains. Judith, Camri, and Kenzie have all seen various life and relationship changes since the first novel, and it seems that both Judith and Camri’s futures are secure. Now, all that remains is for Kenzie to find true love and leave her past behind. A recent earthquake has rocked the community (no pun intended) and caused all sorts of problems. Looting in the streets has led to overenthusiastic police officers shooting potential looters on sight, and the scores of wounded citizens are overwhelming local medical staff. In between helping victims of the earth quake, Kenzie struggles to conceal her true feelings. She feels somewhat left out of her circle of friends because both of them are engaged – Camri to Patrick and Judith to Caleb – and are planning a double wedding. Plus, her inner turmoil over a certain young doctor (Micah Fisher) paired with her confusion regarding her former fiance (Arthur Morgan), have culminated to create emotional turmoil and the need for serious soul-searching. The sudden appearance of said fiance makes matters all the worse, for he claims his family lied to him and this is the reason he missed the wedding. Arthur is both aggressive and desperate in his demands that she finish what they began, and refuses stop pleading. Kenzie no longer loves him, and realizes that maybe she never did, but is afraid to declare her love for Micah because of what happened with Arthur. Meanwhile, one of Judith’s relatives, a teenage girl named Victoria, has recently suffered the death of her family. However, she is not worried about this fact, because she hated them anyway. What she really despises is the fact that Judith is to inherit their grandmother’s money, and that she is now Judith’s ward. Victoria tests Judith’s patience from the moment she arrives, and tries to separate her and Caleb. Thankfully, Caleb is immune to these attempts on his love life. Judith is left alone with her impossible ward when Caleb travels to Arthur’s home town to discover the truth of his claims. While he is gone, Micah suddenly disappears, leaving Kenzie confused and concerned for his well-being. Will Micah return? Will Judith figure out what to do with her cousin? Will Kenzie choose faith over fear? Will Victoria succeed in ruining Judith? To answer all these questions, read the book!;) While this plot-line is engaging in a everyday sort of way, it is also somewhat choppy at times. Peterson’s classic humor and usual romance elements are present, and both are fine in their own way. My main complaint is that this novel is predictable and commonplace. Peterson is an experienced and talented author, but she set a high bar for herself in this series with an impressive first installment, and has since failed to reach it again. This is arguably the weakest novel of the series, yet, it still earns an average score for storyline simply because it holds the attention from cover to cover.

Character Development (2 points)

In the same vein, Peterson’s characters are mostly well-developed and each have a distinct personality. Camri, Judith, and Kenzie are the best characters, and their backstories drive the plot. Caleb is also quite good, and Patrick adds humor and life to the novel. However, while his Irish heritage was correctly implemented in the first novel, it is now been reduced to being somewhat corny. For instance, his overly apparent Irish brogue is tiresome and makes him stand out too much from the other characters. I have nothing against the Irish; I believe all people were created equal in the sight of God. Rather, I feel that Peterson is unfairly distinguishing him from his acquaintances. Perhaps this is not intended, but the result is the same. Additionally, Micah is a one-dimensional character – he is good for the sake of being good. Still, Peterson rounds out with an average score in this section because her characters have as much good as bad. 

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Peterson earns a half point in creativity and a half point in originality for creating an intriguing plotline and building upon her past experience in the romance genre to create a lineup of diverse characters. While this series was not perfect in book form, I feel that it could be greatly improved upon as a TV series. Each book has enough content for an entire season, and the screenwriter would have only minimal work to perform in making the series better than it currently is. For instance, they should think of the characters and storyline as a base that they can build upon. To conclude, nice job Ms. Peterson, I think that you are continually evolving as an author, and that you have the potential to write even better than you do!

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Everything She Didn’t Say by Jane Kirkpatrick

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Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Jane Kirkpatrick’s newest novel, Everything She Didn’t Say, is very creative in that it seeks to fill in the missing pieces of a real woman’s life with fiction. The book is solidly based on actual events, and is much more like an autobiography than a work of fiction. Carrie Adelle Strahorn was a nineteenth century pioneer who traveled with her husband from the Midwest to the unsettled, somewhat wild lands of Wyoming. Her memoir, Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage, is the basis for the story, and it seems that Kirkpatrick adheres to the original information. Carrie, or Dell as Robert Stahorn (her husband) likes to call her, is her husband’s second love. He was first in love with her best friend, who happened to share her name, but that woman died before they could be married. It is not explained as to why he decided to marry Dell, but anyway, they marry and move out West. Dell’s husband is a publicist for the Union Pacific Railroad, and usually gets Dell to do much of his work for him – editing, correcting mistakes, and restructuring and adding content. Dell soon learns that she is to have no home of her own, as much of her married life will be spent in hotel rooms, boarding houses, and other much less desirable living spaces. Dell struggles with infertility, and her desire to have children is exacerbated by her lonely life. Despite Dell’s many blessings – an independent life, control over her future, the support of her family, and the absence of responsibility that comes with having a family – she longs for all she does not have. While all of these facts about Carrie Strahorn’s life are relevant and could be used to craft a great story based on sound historical evidence, this does not happen for Kirkpatrick. The plot meanders all over the radar with no real direction or point, and little effort is made to engage the audience in the story. Furthermore, the plot structure is redundant and, in a word, boring. However, Kirkpatrick still earns an average score in this section for her attempt to bring real historical facts to life for readers. 

Character Development (1 point)

Kirkpatrick’s character development is her weakest area. Dell has potential as a character, which saves this section from a zero rating, but is not good enough. It is impossible to relate to her plight through the use of third person, because she seems to have no depth or emotion whatsoever. 
This type of novel must be written in first person. It is the only way to hold the reader’s attention, and is necessary if one expects readers to engage in their story! Robert has everything he needs to be a good character, but is hardly given a chance to develop in any way. Dell’s family members are virtually indistinguishable, and add little to the story. Lastly, the remaining secondary characters are forgettable and add nothing to the tale. Kirkpatrick has plenty of room for improvement in this section, leaving her with a less than average score. 

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

In spite of this, Kirkpatrick earns an average score in this section – a full point in creativity – for attempting to ‘fill in the blanks’ so to speak, of a real person’s life. This is a very creative idea, and would translate well onto the big screen. There is much work to be done, of course, but a screenwriter could easily transform this plot by creating a first person tale told from Dell and Robert’s intersecting perspectives. In this instance, the screenwriter would also have to ‘fill in the blanks’ for Kirkpatrick by adding new content that builds the story into something interesting and engaging. For example, the secondary characters need further development and a place in the story, and other elements, such as humor, should be added. In fact, I think this novel would make a great historical comedy, with some serious moments (we’re looking at you Kendrick brothers). To conclude, nice try Ms. Kirkpatrick, I think that you have a lot of potential as an author! 

Wish List Rating: 4 out of 10 points

The Making of Mrs. Hale by Carolyn Miller

The Making of Mrs. Hale

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

In this third installment of her Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope Series, Carolyn Miller goes deeper than romance to deal with real issues that occur every day. While the novel is not perfect, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found, and think that Miller will continue to improve in the future. Julia Hale is alone, destitute, and responsible for a three month old baby boy named Charles. They are both starving to death, and Julia is sick. Julia wonders where her absent husband could have gone, and why he has not returned home. His extended absence has forced her onto the streets, and it is only out of concern for little Charles that she considers asking for help. Julia intends to leave Charles on the doorstep of a trusted friend, but they catch up with her and she ends up staying in their home. These friends convince her to attempt reconciliation with her estranged mother and brother, who have not forgiven her for eloping with the enigma known as Thomas Hale. Julia soon finds herself back under her mother’s thumb and  brother’s influence, and more afraid for her future than ever. Shortly after she arrives at her family home, Thomas suddenly appears one night! Their reunion is joyous, but on the morrow, they are discovered by her mother, whose reaction is slightly manic. Thomas eventually tells a somewhat unbelievable tale to explain his long absence…before disappearing again. He longs to tell Julia the truth, yet fears her reaction. After all, his father was never sympathetic when he fell, so why should she be? Julia doesn’t know who to believe, and the strained relations with her mother and brother increase her anxiety. When she is shot at while taking a carriage ride, Julia begins to seek answers. Thomas is willing to give them, yet wary of the outcome. Will the truth set them all free? Will Julia and Thomas’ rocky relationship find solid ground in Christ? To answer these questions, read the book!;) On the whole, The Making of Mrs. Hale has a well-crafted plot that contains just enough action to keep the reader guessing. The ending is mostly unpredictable, and the storyline is very creative. It is obvious that storylines are Miller’s strength. However, the story is a bit choppy at times, which keeps Miller from a perfect score. Yet, this plot is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, and shows much potential for the future.

Character Development (3 points)

Likewise, Miller’s characters show much promise, and are mostly well done. Julia and Thomas are the best characters because their present is explained through the subtle insertion of their backstories. Thomas is a realistic example of someone who has been hurt by the church, and both he and Julia are good examples of someone who grew up in a dysfunctional family system. This factor explains their hasty decisions and dislike of tradition, and create depth in an otherwise commonplace fictional setting. Furthermore, these issues are very relevant to our times, and are mostly well-addressed. However, Julia’s mother is a bit of a straw-man, and would have been more realistic if she too had a backstory. Additionally, Julia’s brother wavers between realistic and irrelevant. Therefore, with a little honing, this section will be perfect. 

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Miller earns a full point in originality for putting a fresh spin on the overused Regency romance plot, and for admitting that everything was not all hunky dory for people living in this era. By including relevant issues that are portrayed in a mostly accurate light, Miller made her novel stand out from an overcrowded genre, and will attract the attention of those who would not otherwise read books like hers. For this reason, I feel that this book would make an excellent two-part TV event that could be featured as a miniseries on a Christian streaming service. People love romance films and series from this era, and it would likely do well. In fact, this book might be better as a movie. To conclude, good job Ms. Miller! Thank you for sharing your book with us, I enjoyed getting to know you as an author!

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Lynn Austin has caught her second wind in this second installment of her Waves of Mercy series. Reminiscent of great novels like her own A Proper Pursuit, this plotline brings back warm, familiar memories of stories gone by, and builds upon the foundation she has set for herself as an author. In the first novel of the series, Waves of Mercy, I was afraid her talent was waning. However, I am pleased to say that Austin is back and better than ever. Legacy of Mercy tells the continued story of Anna (Anneke), Geesje, and Derk, along with some new characters that add much to the story. Anna has returned home from visiting her fiery and deeply spiritual grandmother – whose existence she has only just become aware of – and returned to a busy social schedule full of meaningless obligations and events. Now that she has discovered the true meaning of life, to love, serve, and worship her loving Savior, everything else seems inconsequential. Anna feels uneasy about her impending wedding to William, a young man from a rich family whose fortune will save her parents from bankruptcy, and is unsure if this action is worth the cost. However, she resolves herself to marry him despite the whispers of her conscience – for her parents sake. In the mean time, she has hired the Pinkerton detectives to search for records of her deceased mother’s life. (spoiler) This decision, however, soon opens a Pandora’s box of painful information and buried memories, and may cost her everything she knows. Geesje feels like she has been parted forever from a granddaughter she only just met, because she has no idea when or if Anna will return from her wealthy surroundings. She is not left alone for long, for almost at that very moment someone shows up at her door to request that she take in a needy young woman who has recently emigrated from the Netherlands. Geesje agrees to do it, mostly because she remembers her own experience as a young woman in a new land. Cornelia, her new companion, is in poor health, reclusive, and equally angry and sad. Her controlling grandfather seems to dictate her every move, and shows his granddaughter no compassion or love. (spoiler) Geesje tries to get through to him and unintentionally makes matters worse by uncovering Cornelia’s long-buried past. Meanwhile, Derk is secretly in love with Anna and doesn’t know what to do because she is engaged. He feels unworthy of her love because he is but a seminary student, and she a wealthy woman with powerful social connections. All of these people are, in some way, hurting personally or for others, and must allow God to direct their steps in order to find healing and help. Will Anna marry William? Will Cornelia let someone help her? Will Geesje get through to her grandfather? Will Derk declare his love? To answer all these questions, read the book!;) The plot and storyline quality of this novel is phenomenal. There are no major errors, and the story is very engaging and poignant. Austin covers many difficult topics with God-given wisdom and discernment, and displays a deep understanding of people who are hurt by the church. The only flaw I could find was that the ending of the novel is a bit predictable. However, this experienced author has proven that her star-studded career is not ending anytime soon. 

Character Development (4 points)

As per usual, Austin’s characters are flawless. Those in this novel seem to have been developed with special care, as each character has extremely relevant flashbacks and real emotions. Austin avoids the information dump style of writing by giving even the secondary characters first person flashbacks. Additionally, her unique style of first person keeps the reader in the know without being overly wordy. Anna, Geesje, and Derk are all perfect. Furthermore, Cornelia is masterfully crafted. In short, this story will touch the lives of many people. Austin earns a well done from this author for adapting her trusty writing style to reach younger generations and hurting people. 

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Legacy of Mercy is a rare sequel that is better than the prequel. Where Waves of Mercy was wordy at times and a bit too depressing, this novel jumps on to the scene with a good mix of laugh-and-cry moments that will touch the hearts of many readers. For this reason, Austin’s newest novel earns a full point for creativity, and a half of an x-factor point in originality for building upon the character models and plot devices found in A Proper Pursuit. This is why I believe this book series would make a great Christian TV series. Step aside WCTH, here’s a real historical romance that will minister to real people and influence the culture for the better! If more Christian authors would write like Austin, we would soon see a blessed change. 

Wish List Rating: 9 out of 10 points

Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Connilyn Cossette’s sequel to A Light on the Hill is well-written, with a character-driven plot that drives home several important life lessons. Shelter of the Most High is engaging, consistent, and has just enough historical detail to make it believable. Cossette weaves fact with fiction to create a novel that many readers will love, and could make a great movie. The novel tells the story of Sofea and Eitan, two people who have been hurt by their pasts. Sofea grew up on a island and spent much of her time with her cousin Prezi. The two girls often turned to the comforting embrace of the ocean to escape the wrath of Sofea’s father; to shut out reality and for just a moment be children. One day while Sofea and Prezi and diving for lobsters, they are suddenly captured by pirates. When they return to the beach for their clothing, they discover that the pirates have killed everyone in their village, leaving behind only carnage and burning huts. Sofea tries to protect Prezi from the cruelty they experience on-board ship, but in the end it is Prezi who saves both their lives. Both girls wash ashore and are found by a band of men who live in Kedesh – a city of refuge for murderers. The girls quickly find a home with Moriyah (the main character in the previous novel) and begin to learn her Hebrew ways. After being taught to worship and serve many gods, Sofea is not sure if she believes in only one God, but is willing to serve Him in return for Eitan. Eitan has shackled himself to being a Nazarite. He believes that living this way is adequate penance for his past, and the only way to set his mother free. When he meets Sofea and observes the wholehearted way in which she embraces life and others, he dares to believe that God has forgiven him for his sin. However, a plot against them both will cause him to question everything he believes in, and force Sofea to make a decision about Yahweh. Will they survive? Will they turn to the only One who can make them whole again? To answer this question, read the book! Overall, the plot is well-written and holds the attention from cover to cover. What seems to be a calm story in the beginning escalates towards the end with an unexpected and well-crafted plot twist that really sells the conclusion. I could find no significant fault with this plot, which makes it prime movie material. Cossette’s obvious strength is her storylines.

Character Development (3 points)

Eitan and Sofea are well-developed through the use of first person. This writing style helped the reader to connect to their struggles and joys, and made both more believable on the whole. Both have extremely relevant and realistic backstories, and Cossette demonstrates a keen understanding of real people through her character development. Eitan has a realistic struggle with guilt and the burden of his past, while Sofea’s struggle to believe in a God who cares about her is raw and poignant. (spoiler) Furthermore, the villian character is masterfully crafted, especially since Cossette misdirected the reader’s attention onto the wrong suspect in the beginning. The only flaw I found was with Prezi. Prezi is a good character, but has only minimal involvement in the plot. (spoiler) However, as I suspect the next book will be about her and Tal, perhaps we will get a chance to know her better. On the whole, Cossette’s characters are just shy of perfect and show great promise for the future.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Cossette earns a full point in originality for fulfilling our Biblical fiction dream for someone to write about Kedesh and it’s inhabitants. Shelter of the Most High contains mystery, intrigue, and an exciting tone that will peak the interest of younger audiences. Furthermore, I applaud her for proving that edgy content is not necessary to craft a good romance novel. For these reasons, I believe that this book series would make a great TV series. The character development is above par and the filmmakers have plenty of creativity to work with overall. Books such as this leave no excuse for filmmakers who are dragging their feet on discovering the quality content they already have in many Christian books. In conclusion, great job Ms. Cossette! I was pleasantly surprised by your novel and am grateful to you for sharing it with us!

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points

When the Heart Sings by Liz Tolsma

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Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Liz Tolsma, known for writing historical fiction, crafts an engaging and raw tale in this new novel, When the Heart Sings. While the novel is not perfect, it has a lot of potential and I believe it would make a great Christian historical drama film. Tolsma tells the story of four people, Nadia, Teodor, Elfriede, and Erich. Nadia and Teodor are Polish Christians who face the daily horror of persecution at the hands of the Nazis, and daily heartbreak because of Nadia’s inability to carry a child to full term. Only days after their most recent loss, Nadia and Teodor are captured by German soldiers, placed in a cattle car with hundreds of other Poles, and shipped away from their home and everyone they know. When the train stops at a station, the wife of one of the Nazi officers, Elfriede, feels compassion for Nadia and tells her husband that she wants her for a servant. Nadia is torn from her beloved and taken to Elfriede’s and Erich’s home. Teodor is taken to a Nazi work camp and suffers unspeakable torture and inhumanity. Only Nadia’s songs and the hope of seeing her again keeps him going. Nadia soon learns that Elfriede’s home is anything but happy. Elfriede is a lonely woman with a rich family and the mindset of a spoiled child. Elfriede and Erich, much like Teodor and Nadia, are also unable to carry a child to term. This fact is the root of Erich’s anger – towards others and a God he claims is nonexistent. Despite her husband’s physical and emotional abuse towards her and others, Elfriede believes the best about him, even when her beliefs are clearly not true. As Nadia heals, she and Elfriede develop a relationship and Elfriede comes to see that Poles and Jews are just as human as anyone else…especially when a dying mother and her Jewish baby end up on the front lawn. Nadia names the baby Dominick and decides to keep him…much to Erich’s chagrin. As Erich becomes angrier and Elfriede comforts herself with oblivion, Nadia’s fear turns to survival – for herself, her husband, and her adopted son. Will Nadia and Teodor survive Erich and the Nazi regime? Will Elfriede see the truth and turn to the One who loves her completely? On the whole, this plot is well-crafted and holds the attention. There is great attention given to historical accuracy, and the Tolsma is obviously passionate about her topic. The only flaws to point out here are small; the story is a bit slow at times, and there are some moments of wordiness. Otherwise, this is a great plot that shows a lot of potential for the future.

Character Development (2 points)

Nadia and Teodor are very well crafted characters. They are very relatable and both avoid the ‘perfect’ mold often found in persecution plots. Elfriede is mostly well-developed, but it is hard to get to know her through the use of third person. Furthermore, her story seems pushed to the side throughout the novel, and seems a bit thrown together towards the end. Erich is an average character, and the reader is given no real reason for his behavior. Erich should have been developed through the use of flashbacks, perhaps given some family background of violence for his current state of mind.  Thus, he is, unfortunately a straw-man and the weakest character. Overall, Tolsma should have mixed third and first person in this novel, rather than using only third person. Since Nadia and Elfriede drive the plot, more attention should have been given to their backstories and present lives. Therefore, Tolsma earns an average score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Tolsma earns a full point for originality because this plot is strikingly different from typical WWII stories. There is plenty of material for a screenwriter to work with here, and I feel that this book would have been better as a film in the first place. The screenwriter could easily insert a plot twist or two, deepen the characters through the existing dialogue, and add flashbacks for, at the very least, Erich’s character. Tolsma should definitely be involved in the screenwriting to ensure that historical accuracy is upheld, and that the plot is not changed for the worse. To conclude, good job Ms. Tolsma, you show much promise as a writer and I look forward to reading the next book in this series!:)

Wish List Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Love in a Broken Vessel by Mesu Andrews

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Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Love in a Broken Vessel is Mesu Andrews’ unique take on the Biblical story of Hosea. The novel has been around for several years, and is well-loved by fans of Biblical fiction. Andrews’ talent for telling a raw story with an important lesson really shines in this novel, and although her plot is imperfect, the flaws are few and far between. Gomer is a woman with a hard exterior who is actually quite fragile on the inside. She has been a prostitute since a young age, and knows no other way to survive. Her view of the followers of Yahweh is cynical…to say the least. From Gomer’s perspective, the religious leaders demand much and do little. While this is mostly true, this reason for avoiding God’s love is simply a cover-up for her deeper issues. Hosea is a passionate prophet of God who has lived a somewhat sheltered life under the tutelage of the old prophet Jonah. When God calls him to marry a prostitute and have children with that same woman, he questions God’s sanity…but soon recognizes His divine plan when the prostitute in question turns out to be a childhood friend. Gomer is trying to entice a customer on the temple grounds when she spots Hosea and his homely friend the “fish prophet”. Her shock is quickly forgotten when she witnesses a horrific scene play out before her eyes. Gomer’s response to this scene earns her the worst beating of her life, and when she opens her eyes again, there are two people speaking. The physician is saying she may not survive, and Hosea is asking for her hand in marriage. Gomer quickly learns that Hosea intends to see his promises through, and is not sure how to respond. She soon finds that life in the prophet’s camp is not what she expected, and that most women in the camp are not exactly open and friendly. Gomer continually retreats to the safety of what she knows, and Hosea keeps chasing after her. Will Gomer surrender to the One who loves her completely? Will Hosea trust in God’s seemingly crazy plan? To answer these questions, read the book! Overall, this novel is very well-written and holds the attention from cover to cover. The only flaws are a few continuity errors, and the somewhat predictable conclusion.

Character Development (4 points)

Andrews characters are, as always, masterfully done in this novel. Gomer is real, raw, and the reader can connect to her emotionally. Hosea is imperfectly perfect, and has realistic personal and spiritual struggles. Furthermore, the secondary characters are very effective, and there is a great little plot twist towards the end of the novel with one of these. Authors of Biblical fiction who are trying to improve their character development should look no further than Mesu Andrews for inspiration. Although at the time she was somewhat of a new author, her talent was clear. For these reasons, Andrews earns a perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Andrews earns a full point in creativity for crafting a novel about Hosea that was distinctly different than the famous Redeeming Love. These two novels are written for two different audiences, and yet, they complement one another beautifully. Unfortunately, when compared to Andrews’ other novels, there is not much original content here. However, this is still one of the best books I have ever had the privilege to read. It is for this reason, and others, that I believe Love In a Broken Vessel would make an excellent Christian series. The character development is perfect as is, the plot would need only minuscule alteration, and the creativity is on point (no pun intended). If a filmmaker feels so inclined, I must insist that Andrews be a big part of the filmmaking process, especially when it comes to casting. After all, they’re her characters. To conclude, great job Ms. Andrews! You continue to be an inspiration to writers of Biblical fiction everywhere!

Wish List Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

A Baby for the Minister by Laurel Blount

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Laurel Blount’s new novel is a down-to-earth tale about real people and real life struggles. As previously mentioned, she is a new face in the writing world, and this is her second work to date. While the story is predictable and a bit silly at times, Blount shows a lot of potential as a writer. A Baby for the Minister tells the story of two people – Natalie and Jacob – whose lives intersect at a God-ordained point in time. Jacob is a busy young minister who always finds the time to help those in need. Unfortunately, his extravagant generosity and complete disregard for social norms often gets him into trouble. On the other hand, the recipients of his kind actions could not be more grateful for his unconventional approach to being a minister. His real problem is learning to say no, and this time he couldn’t say no when a friend asked him to perform a wedding in place of the sick man who was supposed to do it. There’s only one problem, when Jacob goes to tell the groom that its time to get the show on the road…he discovers that the man in question has escaped out the window. There is nothing to do but tell the bride what has happened, and when she opens the door, he notices an important detail that no one bothered to mention…the bride is eight months pregnant. Natalie takes the news of her fiance’s departure with resignation, and endures another lecture from his grandmother, Cora, when she finds out what happened. Realizing Natalie has nowhere to go and no money, Cora reluctantly allows her to stay out at the family farm until her renegade grandson can be located. Natalie asks Jacob to drive her there, which he does, and they arrive at a run-down house sitting on equally dilapidated property. Natalie is grateful for a roof over her head and freedom from church gossip, but all Jacob can see are all the repairs that need to be done and all her needs. In typical fashion, he quickly sets out to meet these needs, much to Natalie’s chagrin. When his generosity begins to thaw Natalie’s understandably cold attitude towards the church, and put him in hot water with the contemptuous church board, will they both survive the aftermath? To find out what happens, read the book!:) While this novel’s plotline is very simple, the message is necessary and poignant. I also thought that Blount did a great job on both Natalie and Jacob’s backstories. (spoiler) However, the eventual romance between Jacob and Natalie was rushed, and seems to defeat the entire purpose of their realistic backstories. Therefore, Blount earns an average score in this section.

Character Development (2.5 points)

Blount’s strengths are her characters and her natural sense of humor. Natalie and Jacob are well-developed and down-to-earth, and both display realistic thoughts and emotions. I also think that Blount did a good job at crafting their personalities. Furthermore, her sense of humor gives life and vitality to an otherwise simple tale. However, it is hard to truly get to know Natalie and Jacob through the third person perspective. Using third person creates a void that is often filled by the information-dump style of writing, and unfortunately, we see some of this technique in A Baby for the Minister. This kind of story demands first person, and if Blount had done this, her score would have been perfect in this section. However, for someone who is just starting out in the writing world, her protagonists and secondary characters are a good first effort, and show a lot of potential for the future.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

Finally, I applaud Blount for her attempt to portray the pro-life argument in an everyday setting, and award her a half point in creativity for this reason. Yet, I wonder if she could have been a bit more original in her storytelling. The woman-in-need-falls-in-love-with-rescuer plotline is overused and simplistic at best, and could drive away those looking for something more out of the Christian romance genre. However, I think that these issues could be easily fixed on the big screen. For one thing, the screenwriter would already have good characters to work with, all they would have to do is a bit of rewriting on the plot. In the right hands, and with a unconventional cast, this could make a great Christian drama/comedy film or series. To wrap things up, good job Ms. Blount, I think that you have the potential to do great things in the future!

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Miriam by Mesu Andrews

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Miriam is one of Mesu Andrews classic novels, written in the early days of her career. Andrews nearly flawless storyline and masterful character development make for a rare novel that is worth re-reading. This novel tells the story of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, and the son of her heart, Eleazar. Miriam never married because no man’s love could live up to the perfect love of her El-Shaddai. She has filled her days by being a healer; by caring for the physical needs of her fellow Israelite slaves. Her family has always revered her as a prophetess of sorts, and the Egyptians respect her parents because of their unusually long lives. In short, she has a good life when compared to most slaves, and not much has changed of the eighty-plus years of her existence. However, that will soon change. When her long-lost brother Moses returns from Midian claiming that Yahweh has called him to lead the Israelites out of Israel, she and all the other slaves are suspicious…until he performs miracles that only God could have orchestrated. Everyone quickly turns to Moses as leader and prophet…and Miriam is left confused as to the purpose of her life…and more than a bit jealous. She struggles to feel the presence of God as she used to, and is angry that God did not choose her to lead. Eleazar is personal bodyguard and close friend to the Egyptian Prince Ram, and is not sure if he believes in a God who allows so much suffering to occur in the world. He desperately tries to fill a God-sized void by trying to control his circumstances and by being overprotective of his loved ones. In spite of Eleazar’s secret pledge to never marry, God blessed him with a young, strong-willed wife…and he has no idea what to do with her. Will Miriam overcome her jealously and accept Yahweh’s plans? Will Eleazar trust in the One who holds all his tomorrows? To answer these questions, read the book! (spoiler) The only issue I had with the plot was Miriam’s eventual marriage, which seems silly and unnecessary, however, this is but a small flaw. I could go on and on about how great this plot is, but it is sufficient to say that this is a unique, well-done story that should definitely be made into a Christian film.

Character Development (4 points)

As previously mentioned, the character development in Miriam is flawless. First, I appreciated that all the characters were the correct Biblical age. This may seem silly, but I have noticed that in most portrayals of the story of Moses, he is either young or middle-aged. People forget that he, Miriam, and Aaron were no spring chickens. In today’s society they would be considered elderly. Secondly, Miriam is a strong character because she has a unique, fully developed personality, along with strengths, weaknesses, and a clearly defined spiritual gift. Moses is a good, imperfect character who struggles with his calling to be a leader because it does not come naturally. The relationship between Aaron and his wife is well-done and realistic, and Eleazar is a very good character who struggles to submit to God’s infallible plan and surrender his need for control. Finally, there is a subtle plot twist with a secondary character towards the end of the novel that is important for the conclusion. In short, there are not enough good things to say about this novel, and no negatives whatsoever.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Andrews has always had a certain talent for inserting creative and original elements into her novels, however, this one is particularly exceptional. She earns a full point in creativity for her excellent characters and detailed storyline, and a half of an x-factor point in originality for her unique portrayal of the story of Moses. To date, I have not read a better portrayal of this Biblical hero, therefore, this should most certainly be made into a Christian film. A new face in the Christian filmmaking world would do well with this story, for all the key elements are already there. I must insist that Ms. Andrews be in charge of the screenwriting, and that she be involved in all aspects of the filmmaking, from casting to editing. To wrap things up, excellent job Ms. Andrews! This is arguably your best novel, and is on the book hall of fame as far as I am concerned!

Wish List Rating: 9 out of 10 points

Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

Melanie Dobson’s new novel, a historical romance set during World War 2, tells a story that is both captivating and gripping. Dobson is known for saying that she would never write fiction, but I am sure many people are glad she does. As seen in this novel, Dobson has a lot of potential as a writer, and is more creative than many in her genre. Yet, there were a few areas in which I felt she could improve. Hidden Among the Stars is a time-slip tale of people in the past and present who are connected through one object, an original edition of Bambi. Callie Randall and her sister own and operate a small bookstore, and for the most part, their life is ordinary. When Callie’s sister gives her Bambi as an early birthday gift, she finds herself looking through it one night when she can’t sleep, and finds a cryptic list of valuables written between the lines of the story. Callie decides to find out what the list means, and quickly discovers that the author of the list lived in Austria towards the end of the second world war. As one discovery leads to another, Callie discovers that the list is a connection between three people from the past, Annika Knopf, Max Dornbach, and Luzia Weiss. Max’s family owns the Schloss Schwansee estate, a castle in the Alps that overlooks the picturesque Lake Hallstatt. As the Dornbachs live in Vienna and only visit their country property in the summer, they have a resident caretaker. Annika is the caretaker’s daughter and has known Max since childhood. Annika secretly loves Max, but has never told him this, especially since he is in love with the accomplished Luzia. Luzia’s true love is music. As more and more Jews are persecuted and executed, Luzia fears for her life. When it is discovered that Max’s mother also has a Jewish heritage, his father divorces her and abandons them. Max asks Annika to help him hide his Jewish friends’ valuables deep in the woods…and then to hide Luzia. Will Annika overcome her jealousy of Luzia and recognize her need? Will Luzia survive the Nazis wrath? Will Max escape the authorities? And how are all these people connected to Callie? To answer these questions, read the book! Overall, Dobson handles a complex and detailed plotline very well, and crafts an engaging story that is sure to be well loved by all who read it. Unfortunately, there is the presence of a love triangle between Annika, Luzia, and Max. While it is done in the best way possible, this fact keeps Dobson from a perfect score in this section.

Character Development (4 points)

Dobson’s strength is her characters, because they drive the plot. Callie, Annika, Luzia, and Max all have distinctive personalities, and none fall into the typical character molds for this type of novel. I also appreciated that Dobson’s characters grew through their experiences – (spoiler) Luzia through tragedy and degradation, Annika through a life-altering decision, and Callie through rejection and loneliness. While the novel has many characters, each one is used to their fullest potential, and there is a nice little plot twist at the end of the story. The combination of these characters and the great plot makes for one of the best historical novels I have had the pleasure of reading.

Creativity & Originality (1 points)

Finally, Dobson  earns a full point in creativity for her attention to historical detail and commitment to character development. For these reasons, I feel that this book would make an excellent Christian TV series. A screenwriter could easily divide up this novel into six or seven episodes, enough for about two seasons. However, someone will have to recognize it for the potential it has, or this will not happen. I have said it before and I will say it again, Christian filmmakers, look no further than Christian books for content! Great job Ms. Dobson! I for one am glad you decided to write fiction after all!

Wish List Rating: 8 out of 10 points 

Things I Never Told You by Beth Vogt

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Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Beth Vogt, a popular author of both fiction and non-fiction, wrote a new work of fiction this year titled Things I Never Told You. The novel introduces the reader to the Thatcher sisters, Johanna, Jillian, Payton, and Pepper. As it is the beginning of a series, I am sure that Vogt will write a book focused on each sister, or something similar. This first novel focuses mainly on Payton, with a prominent sub-plot about Jillian. Things I Never Told You asks the hard questions about two of life’s most difficult experiences, the unexpected death of a loved one, and a cancer diagnosis. Payton has a good life on the surface – a supportive family, a successful small business, and a  close friend who is also her business partner. However, when her parents ask her to be the featured speaker for an event at her former high school that honors the life of her late sister Pepper…her mental and physical health take a nosedive. Payton starts having vivid dreams about Pepper that find their roots in real-life occurrences. The suppressed secrets and pain she carries surrounding Pepper’s sudden death rear their ugly heads, and she soon finds herself sleep-deprived and on the verge of a mental breakdown. In the midst of Payton’s personal crisis, Jillian announces to the family that she has breast cancer. This tragic news only expedites Payton’s downward spiral, and she soon finds herself breaking up with her boyfriend, losing momentum at work, fighting more than usual with Johanna, and isolating herself from everyone. As she continues to lose sleep and begins to have panic attacks in response to triggers –  including the sudden appearance of a high school friend who was there the night Pepper died –  Payton realizes that she will have to face her demons once and for all. Will she finally confess the secret that has haunted her for years? Will she find freedom and healing? To answer these questions, read the book!;) Overall, Vogt did a great job with this plot. She uses flashbacks very effectively, and shines a raw and realistic light on grief, family dysfunction, and broken relationships. Plus, there is a excellent plot twist towards the end of the novel. The only issue here is a minor one; I felt that Jillian’s story was a bit rushed and had some missing pieces. I wonder if it would have been better for Vogt to create a separate novel just about her, and make this one solely about Payton. However, Jillian’s perspective kept Johanna from being a straw-man, so she does serve a necessary purpose.

Character Development (3 points)

Vogt has crafted very real and relatable characters in this novel. Her everyday style of writing is unique and makes the reader feel like they are in the story. If I had to compare Vogt to a writer, it would be Karen Kingsbury, for what both women lack in plot, they make up for in character development. Each member of the Thatcher family is well-crafted and nearly perfect. Vogt’s realistic portrayal of the pairing-off that often occurs in a family with twins was vital to the plot, and she certainly did not mince words about the reality of family dysfunction. Therefore, the only things holding her back from a perfect score are the underdeveloped secondary characters, and a tendency towards the information-dump style of writing.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Vogt earns a full point in originality for two reasons. She did not dramatize/sensationalize cancer, but rather portrayed it as a difficult part of life, not something that should hold you back from enjoying it. She portrayed broken relationships between siblings and suppressed memories better than nearly any author I have seen thus far. With a little honing, Vogt will be a force to be reckoned with in the writing world. For this reason, and others, I feel that this novel would make an excellent Christian film. The screenwriter would only have to do a little editing and honing, no adding. The character development is there, the plot is pretty much there, and the flashbacks and other movie-friendly elements are there. Why wouldn’t someone make this into a film? Great job Ms. Vogt! I look forward to reading the rest of this series!

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points

Jerusalem’s Queen by Angela Hunt

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Angela Hunt is back with Jerusalem’s Queen, the third installment in her The Silent Years series. Like the other books in the series, this new one is obviously well-researched and contains an abundance of historical facts. However, I wonder if this novel has a bit too much fact…and not enough fiction. Jerusalem’s Queen begins where Judah’s Wife left off, but quickly changes to a unique story of it’s own. Salome Alexandra is a lonely little girl with a scholar’s mind who has just lost her father and older sister Ketura in a tragic accident. Salome was always closer to her father than her mother, while Ketura was her mother’s pet. Now that her father has tragically died, Salome feels alone in the world. Just when things seem like they cannot possibly get worse, a rider arrives at their home announcing that a wealthy distant relative, who also happens to be the high priest, has accepted Salome and her mother as members of his household. When they arrive, they are shocked to find luxuries and comforts beyond anything they have ever known. Salome is given a Egyptian handmaid who quickly becomes her best friend and confidante. As she grows older, Salome quickly learns that a woman with an able mind and inquisitive spirit is frowned upon by the patriarchal society she lives in, and that her future… husband, friends, and social status…are to be determined by the high priest. After many years of waiting, he finally betroths her to one of his sons….who is many years her junior. Salome questions his judgement, but as one thing leads to another, she will find that HaShem has a divine plan in even the most unusual circumstances. On the whole, Hunt crafts an engaging and interesting story that displays God’s divine plan in the good and bad times of life. However, I have two negative observations regarding the plot and storyline quality. First, on several occasions the characters engage in dialogue that sounds more like a Biblical history/Torah lesson than casual interaction. Secondly, the first half of the book is fast-paced, while the second half is a bit too slow at times. Therefore, Hunt earns a just above average rating in this section for some plot inconsistency and moments of excessively academic dialogue.

Character Development (3 points)

In comparison, Hunt has always had strong character development, and this novel is no exceptional. Salome is masterfully crafted through the use of first person, and the reader is able to relate to her struggles and triumphs. Her handmaid, Kissa is also well-crafted and her parts in the story give meaning and depth to an otherwise basic tale. Furthermore, the secondary characters, such as Honi the rainmaker, add much to the plot.. Additionally, I appreciated Hunt’s accurate portrayal of dysfunctional family systems in this novel. The only flaw to point out here is that at times it is hard to keep up with all of the characters in this story. While they all have their purpose in the end, the reader will likely lose track of a few during some parts of the tale. However, this does not have a significantly negative impact on the character development, so Hunt earns an almost perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Hunt earns a full point in originality for writing about a Biblical character that no one has written about before, and for using her life to create an above average work of fiction. Hunt also earns a half point in creativity for bringing to light how Salome Alexandra’s life was a part of paving the way for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Therefore, I feel that this book series would make an excellent Christian miniseries. All three women are in the line of Christ, so it would be easy for a screenwriter to subtly link their stories together for the sake of continuity. To conclude, good job Ms. Hunt! We here at BOR can’t wait to see what you do next!

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

By the Waters of Babylon by Mesu Andrews

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Plot & Storyline Quality (4 points)

Mesu Andrews’ latest work and first novella, titled By the Waters of Babylon, is a captivating read that teaches the reader several important life lessons. Andrews’ stark commitment to Biblical accuracy drives the plot, and instead of leaving out the harsh truths of the era, she portrays them in the most palatable way possible. Merari is living a nightmare. She can no longer sell her hand-crafted harps in the marketplace, and because of this, she cannot buy enough food to nourish her young son and sister. Each day she returns from another fruitless effort to make money, only to be met by harsh words and insults from her sister. As she watches what her cousin Jeremiah prophesied come to life, she feels helpless to protect her son…and herself…from the horrors they face every day. Following a tragic set of events, Merari falls ill and slips into unconsciousness. When she awakes as the sole captive of a Scythian prince…she knows her life has changed forever. On the whole, this plot is masterfully done. Andrews handles this harsh topic tastefully and once again shows how God gives grace along with consequence. She seems to take a cue from pioneers such as Francine Rivers by combining gritty reality with the timeless message of God’s omniscience and unfailing love. For these reasons, Andrews earns a perfect score in this section and a “well done!” from the team here at Box Office Revolution.

Character Development (4 points)

Merari is the ideal female lead in a Biblical fiction plot because she is a beautiful blend of relatable humanity that only Andrews could have crafted. Her personal struggles are very realistic, and her strengths are well-crafted because they develop through her decision to let God use her weaknesses. Idan is also a strong character because he is not portrayed as a straw-man pagan, but rather as a person equal to Merari in need of God. Furthermore, the secondary characters are strong and effective. The only flaw to point out here is the presence of some unnecessary romance elements, however, even these are better than they could be. The good in this novel by far outweighs the flaws, and because of this, Andrews earns a perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, this plot is very original and creative, earning Andrews a full point for creativity and a half of an x-factor point in originality. Andrews did something no one has done before-she tastefully portrayed God’s judgement on Israel in a way that could alter readers’ view of God for the better. I for one, was very impressed with By the Waters of Babylon and highly recommend it to both those who love Biblical fiction and those who do not! For these and many other reasons, I think that this would make a great Bible film that could revolutionize the entire genre. Excellent job Ms. Andrews! I can’t wait to read Of Fire and Lions! 

Wish List Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

The Hunter and the Valley of Death by Brennan McPherson

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Brennan McPherson, a new face in the writing world, has recently released a new novella titled The Hunter and the Valley of Death. This creative novel tells a parable of sorts about a man called the Hunter who is trying to destroy death so that his true Love will not stay dead as a result of her terminal illness. Set in a fantasy world, the novel tells the story of how God destroyed death so that we could live with Him forever. The only negative elements to point out are a bit of sensationalism and the predictability of the ending. However, in spite of the simplicity, the message of the tale is powerful and effective. This fact earns McPherson just short of a perfect score in this section.

Character Development (4 points)

In comparison, McPherson is obviously quite talented in the area of character development. His characters are realistically flawed and drive the plot, as it should be. While their purpose is predictable, their story is a necessary reminder of magnitude of our sin, and the power of Christ’s forgiveness. The Hunter is the strongest character because he grows spiritually in response to his experiences. His true Love is also a good character because she is a reminder of the blessings God showers on those who trust Him completely. I also think that McPherson did a good job of portraying, through his God character, how Jesus came down to our level and humbled Himself so that we might be saved. These facts earn McPherson a perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Lastly, the novel is very creative…but a bit far-fetched at times. Yet, it is quite original, for no one has ever based a fantasy world on a single Biblical passage and pulled it off. Therefore, McPherson earns a half point for creativity and a half of an x-factor point for doing something no one has done before…and doing it well. In spite of the simplicity of the story as a whole, I think that a screenwriter could play around with this content and add a couple of plot twists to make it more movie-friendly. Most audiences like fantasy movies, and I think a lot of people could be reached by this fantastical portrayal of salvation. To conclude, good job Mr. McPherson! We look forward to your future books with interest and high hopes!

Wish List Rating: 8 out of 10 points

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren

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Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Keturah marks the beginning of Lisa T. Bergren’s new The Sugar Baron’s Daughters series, and while it has promise, it also has room for improvement. Firstly, Bergren is obviously quite capable of crafting a well-researched and historically accurate novel, and she has a noticeable talent for crafting characters with good backstories. However, I felt that at times the plot could have taken some different turns, and wonder if it was necessary for the two main characters to fall in love in this novel. Why not wait until later in the series? This would give them time to establish a real relationship.  The opening chapters of Keturah introduce us to both the Banning sisters, Keturah, Verity, and Selah, and to Gray Covington, a neighbor and friend who happens to be a eligible bachelor…with no money. Keturah was recently widowed…which was both a curse and blessing, for although she is free from her husband’s abuse, his words and actions live on in her mind. On top of this, her father has just died and left her in charge of both family estate and Tabletop, his failing sugar plantation in the West Indies. Keturah has no idea how to run such a business, but is determined to learn. No man will ever take advantage of her again, she decides, it is best to avoid their company as much as possible. Based on this reasoning, Keturah decides to journey to the Indies and stay there for a few years in an attempt to restore Tabletop to it’s former glory. Her sisters, completely ignorant of the inhumane conditions overseas, agree to join her. Gray Covington has assumed the role of managing his father’s plantation in the West Indies, and, reinforced by Keturah’s decision to travel to the same, decides to also make the journey. Gray, who has loved Keturah since childhood, felt helpless as he watched her suffer through an unhappy and abusive marriage, but now that her husband is dead, he feels that he has a second chance to win her heart. However, despite his best attempts, he is coldly denied even friendship…at first. When Keturah and her sisters arrive in the Indies, they are appalled at the brutality inflicted upon their fellow human beings, and Keturah quickly discovers that nothing is as she expected…and that she does, in fact, need help from others. As one tragedy leads to another, will the Banning sisters survive the island? Will Keturah learn to love again? To answer these questions, read the book! On the whole, this plot is engaging and well-crafted. However, some of the interactions between Gray and Keturah are on the brink of suggestive, and the villian character is a bit of a straw-man. For these two reasons, Bergren receives an average score in this section.

Character Development (3 points)

On a positive note, Bergren’s strength is her characters. Keturah is very well-developed and relatable. Her experiences are an accurate depiction of the harsh reality that is abusive relationships, and her struggle to trust again and forgive God is realistic. This makes her the best character in the novel. Gray is also a good character, but sometimes his part in the story feels rushed. It is as if he is being held back from reaching his full potential. As previously mentioned, it is my opinion that this could have been remedied by not forcing Keturah and Gray to fall in love all in one book. A gradual romance would have been a great improvement, for even though Gray and Keturah grew up together, their adult selves are quite changed from who they were as children. Finally, the secondary characters are simply average. If Bergren changes a few things, her score in this section could be perfect.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

While there are some creative and original aspects in this plot, there are also many predictable moments and overused plot devices found throughout. Therefore, I am giving Bergren a half point in originality for creating a strong heroine and portraying the horrors of slavery accurately. On the whole, this is a good read, and there are many who will enjoy it. I feel that with a few changes, this book could be the start of a great historical Christian miniseries. The screenwriter would need to downplay the romance and bring the secondary characters closer to the story, but it can be done. To conclude, good job Ms. Bergren, I believe that you have the potential to do great things with this new series!

Wish List Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

River to Redemption by Ann H. Gabhart

River to Redemption - By: Ann H. Gabhart

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Ann Gabhart’s new novel River to Redemption is a captivating read with an inspiring central theme. I found it refreshing that the novel is awash with passages of Scripture and real-life applications of the same. While the novel isn’t perfect, it is obvious that Gabhart has the potential to go far. Adria Starr has just lost her parents and little brother the cholera epidemic of the 1830’s. She has nowhere to go and no hope for her future…until she is found by a man named Louis. Louis and his fellow slave Matilda have been caring for those affected by the sickness, and believe that God has kept them from getting sick for this purpose. Louis finds the sick and buries the dead, and Matilda tries her best to nurse the sick back to health. Thanks to Matilda’s loving care, Adria survives the illness and is taken in by the former schoolteacher’s wife, Ruth. Ruth has barely been able to accept the reality of her husband’s death when she agrees to care for the orphaned Adria. She deals with her grief by not dealing with it at all, she buries her emotions and focuses on providing for Adria’s needs…without becoming too attached to her. After all, she tells herself, I’m not her real mother. Ruth provides for herself and Adria by assuming her late husband’s position as the local schoolteacher, and by selling baked goods on the side. Fast-forward to the present, and Adria is a young woman caught between accepting a marriage proposal and living a life that goes against all of society’s expectations. Adria has always felt that the slave trade is unjust and should be stopped, but doesn’t know what to do about it. The more she learns about her suitor, the more she is inclined to avoid marrying the first man who asks and settling down…for good. When an opportunity to make Louis a free man arises, she jumps at the challenge. However, trying to free one slave from bondage will lead her to others in need. Is Adria up to the task of living an dangerous and unpredictable life? Is the cost of becoming an abolitionist worth the reward? To answer these questions, read the book! Gabhart crafted an engaging and meaningful storyline in this novel, and there are very few flaws. First, I felt that the novel’s ending was too predictable, and that Ruth’s eventual romance is unnecessary. Secondly, while the first half of the novel is a bit pedestrian, the second half is a bit rushed. However, these errors are small and easily overlooked. On a positive note, I like that Gabhart based this fictional tale of off real facts. Louis was a real person who made a difference in his hometown. The town in the novel is based off of this town, as are the people. Therefore, Gabhart earns an average score in this area because her strengths and flaws are present in equal amounts.

Character Development (3.5 points)

Gabhart’s strength is character development. She earns just shy of a perfect score in this section for creating well-rounded and relatable characters who are based off of real people. Adria is a strong protagonist whose passion and determination drive the plot. Ruth is a strong character because of her imperfections. Furthermore, her life struggles are neither overdramatic nor understated. Will is mostly well-crafted, however, because he enters the scene almost halfway through the novel, I feel that his character is a bit underdeveloped. Carlton is a bit of a straw man, but thankfully his scenes are few and far between. As previously stated, I feel that Ruth’s romance should have been left to chance and not forced to occur. In addition, sometimes it feels like Adria’s character is too perfect, while other times she is very down-to-earth. On the whole, with a few tweaks, Gabhart’s characters will be perfect.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 point)

Lastly, Gabhart earns a full point for originality and a half of an x-factor point for her creative use of real life occurrences. It is always better for an author or screenwriter to start with what they know to be true, before weaving in what could have happened. Gabhart did an admirable job here, and I believe that River to Redemption would make an excellent Christian drama film. In the right hands, this tasteful portrayal of social issues could reach people who would not otherwise be open to different viewpoints. I recommend that Gabhart should be included in the screenwriting process so that her characters would be accurately portrayed on the big screen. Finally, thank you for sharing a great read with us Ms. Gabhart! We expect great things from your career!

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

 

The Edge of Over There by Shawn Smucker

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

 

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Shawn Smucker has at last written the much-anticipated sequel to The Day the Angels Fell. In this new novel, aptly titled The Edge of Over There, Smucker enthralls readers with the conclusion to his tale of Abra and the reappearing Tree of Life. True to form, this novel, like the first, is a mix of the everyday, the mystical, and Smucker’s vivid imagination. The story holds the attention, and is intriguing…if a bit far-fetched. Personally, I found the novel to be quite dark at times, and while the spiritual elements are mostly well-crafted, I wonder if a more liberal serving of this topic was an order. The opening chapters of the novel pick up where Abra’s story left off in the last novel, and introduce a few new characters, Amos and his children Leo and Ruby. Amos is desperate to keep his dying daughter from leaving this world, so desperate, in fact, that he is willing to go to any means necessary to ensure her recovery. When Ruby’s doctor tells him that there is a way for Ruby to live, he is all ears. The doctor warns him that her life will come at the cost of neither of them returning to the physical world…ever. Yet, in his desperation, he throws caution to the wind and hastens to follow her detailed instructions. Leo, who was hiding in the closet throughout the whole conversation, follows his father and sister to a cemetery, only to witness their dissapearance through one of the tombs. Meanwhile, Abra feels the burden of her responsibility to kill the latest Tree of Life and ‘save the world’. Eventually, Abra, Leo, and an enigma named Beatrice join up in the quest stop mankind from becoming immortal. However, each member has their own agenda, which could put the purpose of their mission in jeopardy. On the whole, Smucker creates a mostly original storyline in this novel. I also thought that the ending was quite good when compared to the rest of the novel. However, the overused quest concept is present, and there are some plot holes.

Character Development (1.5 points)

Samuel and Leo are Smucker’s strongest characters because they are imperfect and relatable. Unfortunately, Abra is only partially developed. It also seems like the non-human characters exist simply because. There is no strong argument for or against their existence, and no real reasoning given for where they came from or why they are necessary. Furthermore, there are many cheesy elements throughout the first half of the novel, along with too much information about the evil side and not enough about the good. In short, Smucker’s antagonists are more believable than his protagonists. Therefore, Smucker leaves room for improvement in the area of character development.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, I could find nothing original about this novel. Yet, Smucker earns a half point for creativity because he expounded upon the concepts introduced in the first novel. The biggest issue here is that the Tree of Life debate has been around for some time, and Smucker’s interpretation is not anything new. There is no reason for people to continue creating sensational novels using the Tree of Life concept. This type of ridiculous speculation falls under the same category as people who search for the Ark of the Covenant. If God wanted us to find and have access to either of these things, we would! To conclude, in spite of this novel’s many flaws, I think that a talented Christian screenwriter could use some of Smucker’s characters, and the historical backdrop, to create an interesting fantasy miniseries that would appeal to youth and young adults. Think Voyage of the Dawn Treader, with a different storyline.

Wish List Rating: 4 out of 10 points 

Burden of Proof by DiAnn Mills

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

 

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

DiAnn Mills’ new novel is a breath of fresh air in the romantic suspense genre. In Burden of Proof, she takes a step forward from past novels by deepening the complexity of her storyline and adding a couple of unexpected, yet well-crafted plot twists. Mills has always had great potential as a writer, but in this novel she really shines. Burden of Proof tells the story of April Ramos and Jason Snyder, two people who are drawn together by a tragic web of intersecting circumstances in Jason’s hometown. April Ramos, a special agent in the FBI, has always struggled with letting her personal feelings enter a case, and tonight was no different. After failing to talk a former businessman out of committing suicide, April feels guilty and depressed. However, she has no time to dwell on this perceived failure, because she’s about to be thrown into the middle of a small-town feud. When an frazzled woman hands her a crying baby in a coffee shop and doesn’t return, April prepares to call the authorities, only to be escorted out of the building at gunpoint by a man claiming to be the child’s father….Jason Snyder. Jason Snyder has just been accused of murdering his good friend Russell, a deed he did not do, and has been searching for his daughter Isabella, who was recently kidnapped. When he finds her in April’s arms, and learns she is an FBI agent, he sees an opportunity to clear his name. Jason decides to tell April his story, and hope for the best. At first April finds his story incredulous, and is less than cooperative…but as evidence starts turning up, she begins to see the truth in his words. When April and Jason reach his hometown and she begins investigating, she finds that solving the case is nearly impossible as her plans are continually thwarted by the town’s sinister sheriff. Will April solve the case before anything else happens? To answer this question, read the book!;) Small-town corruption is very accurately portrayed in this story. Furthermore, the plot holds the attention from beginning to end, and the outcome is mostly unpredictable. There are some predictable elements, but not enough to mar the plot quality. Finally, I only have two flaws to point out. First, the story is a tiny bit choppy at times, and second, sometimes it seems like April is able to go against FBI procedure without having to face consequences. However, on the whole Mills’ has created an enticing story that is well worth a read.

Character Development (3 points)

April and Jason are both well-developed and relatable characters who evolve through their experiences. Yet, first person could have developed their characters even more. In addition, I feel that the eventual romance between them, while downplayed, is unnecessary. On a positive note, I appreciate Mills’ attempt to include more diverse characters, for many Christian romance novels use only white people or portray other races as a stereotype. Mills does neither and her diverse list of characters is refreshing. The only other flaw to point out is that Willis (the sheriff), is at the same time a straw-man and a realistic villain. Overall, Mills has produced strong characters who drive the plot and make the story all that it is.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Mills earns a half point in originality by portraying all ethnic groups as equal and important, and a half point in creativity for crafting a great storyline that was obviously well researched. She has obviously grown through experience, and the passion that was once a bit misguided is maturing into something admirable. There is no going back from here. This is why I believe this book could make an excellent Christian miniseries. With a good screenwriter (perhaps Ms. Mills!), and a great casting job, this suspense story could reach a lot of people who would not otherwise seek out Christian films/series. To conclude, well done Ms. Mills! Your books have the potential to make a huge difference in the world of Christian filmmaking!

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham

The Hope of Azure Springs - By: Rachel Fordham

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

 

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Rachel Fordham, a newcomer in the world of Christian fiction, has written and is soon to release her debut novel, The Hope of Azure Springs. Fordham’s writing style is strikingly similar to well-known authors like Janette Oke and Lori Wick. In a world of sleazy and sensational romance tales, her story is sweet and displays the beauty in the everyday. The Hope of Azure Springs is a poignant tale about two people facing similar life struggles who are drawn together by circumstances beyond their control. Em has been through a lot in her short life, yet she has persevered in spite of her circumstances. Despite the fact that she has just been shot during the robbery of her guardian’s house, Em’s one desire in life remains…to find her sister Lucy. Seven years ago the girls were separated during the unfair and questionable practices of the famed orphan trains, and Em feels guilty for failing to keep the promise she made her dying mother, to watch over Lucy. She has lived a life of survival with a man who she neither knew nor cared for, and now he is dead. While recovering from her wounds at the home of a friendly local family, she begins to open up a bit and form relationships, which makes her fear failing again. Will she finally open up to someone about her past hurts and sorrows? Or will she continue to bury it deep down and keep surviving? Caleb is the sheriff of Azure Springs, a responsibility he pushes himself to fulfill. Caleb is his parents only remaining child, as his older brothers were killed in the recent Civil war. Ever since the days of their deaths he has felt guilty that he was too young to die with them, and has tried to remedy this perceived sin by protecting the town he calls home. When he meets Em, he is determined to get justice for her, finally receive his parents’ pride, and clear his conscience. As he gets to know her, he recognizes her as a wildflower among the showy girls he knows, and sees the love and concern for others she tries so hard to hide. As the mysteries surrounding her injury become more complex, will he be able to solve the case, and forgive himself? To answer these questions, read the book!;) Fordham’s storyline is engaging, yet mostly predictable. I feel like she could have gone further with the mystery idea, for in the end it feels incomplete. Overall she needs to mature a bit as an author, but this is a great first effort!

Character Development (3 points)

Em and Caleb are realistic and relatable, but at times it feels as though one is reading their diary, not getting to know them as a person. First person was the name of the game here, not third; this would have greatly increased the reader’s ability to rejoice in the characters joys and sympathize with their sorrows. Em and Caleb have great backstories, but the tie-ins to their present condition could use a little work. Again, first person could have made this happen. Finally, it was observed by myself and other reviewers that Fordham narrowly missed creating a love triangle between Caleb, Eliza, and Em. Next time she should avoid it altogether. All in all, for never having written a book before, Fordham does an admirable job here. With a few tweaks here and there, I expect great things from her future!

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Fordham earns a half point for creativity and a half point for originality in this section because she added an air of mystery and intrigue to the overcrowded romance genre. Her effort to be different is noticed and applauded by this reviewer. Furthermore, I feel that The Hope of Azure Springs could be a great Christian film. The screenwriter would need to bring the mystery theme to the forefront and downplay the romantic elements, but it can be done. Overall, The Hope of Azure Springs stands out from other books of it’s caliber and is a great first effort. Well done Ms. Fordham! We look forward to your career with high hopes!

Wish List Rating: 6 out of 10 points

The Solace of Water by Elizabeth Byler-Younts

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

 

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Elizabeth Byler-Younts, a fairly new face in the world of Christian fiction, has just written a breakaway novel that departs from the themes of her previous books. This new book, titled The Solace of Water, is rather daring and raw compared to her previous style. In this novel Byler-Younts takes on several challenging topics, these include segregation in the northern states, family dysfunction, trauma, alcoholism, unforgiveness, and hidden sin in the church. All of these are complex singularly, but all together they are almost impossible to portray. Byler-Younts does an admirable job of tying all of these issues together to create a unique storyline, however, it could use a little fine-tuning. The Solace of Water tells the story of three people, Delilah Evans, her daughter Sparrow, and Emma Mullet. Delilah Evans leaves her son Carver’s grave, and a part of her heart behind when her husband decides to move their hurting family back to his hometown of Sinking Creek, Pennsylvania. Not only is Delilah leaving behind all that is familiar, but she is being separated from her son forever. She decides to hide from this reality by lashing out at the last person who saw Carver alive…Sparrow. Sparrow blames herself for the traumatic death of her little brother Carver. You see, she was messing around with a boy instead of watching him when he died. Her act of disobedience haunts her night and day, and she doesn’t know how to escape her dark thoughts. Sparrow holds the hurt inside, but it only increases in response to her mother’s hurtful words and purposeful alienation. One day she flees the house and runs into a member of the local Amish community…Emma Mullet. Emma is tired of her life, tired of the secrets, the constant lies, and the pain. She’s tired of hiding her husband’s dirty secret. He’s an alcoholic tasked with the responsibility of brewing the communities’ Communion wine. The problem is, this responsibility only created a new opportunity to get a fix. Emma slips alcohol into his coffee during the day, and he imbibes further at night. But Emma is hiding a secret of her own, one that only her sister knows. To make matters worse, Emma notices their only child, Johnny, slipping into similar sinful habits and doesn’t know how to stop him. These three characters are drawn together through shared pain and secrets that lead to a dramatic climax that makes the novel. To find out what happens to Delilah, Sparrow, and Emma, read the book!;) Dysfunctional family systems are accurately portrayed in this novel, and the darkness of secret sin is not whitewashed, rather, the rawness of the passionate way that Byler-Younts writes is refreshing. However, her raw style could use a little honing, for not everything that is said should be. Furthermore, the story is a bit choppy and rushed. All in all, The Solace of Water rounds out to an above average effort that is nothing to be ashamed of; I expect great things from her future career!

Character Development (3 points)

Delilah, Sparrow, and Emma are mostly well developed through the use of first person. They are also relatable and realistic. In addition, the secondary characters have a clear purpose throughout the story. The reader is able to feel the emotions and struggles of each character and sympathize with each of their choices and reactions. The main flaw to point out here is that their plights are a bit overdramatic at times and the characters are left unfinished. In addition, I personally feel that the story contained too little hope. It took a bit too long to point all the suffering back to Christ. While the story ends well, there is little hope given in the in-between. Yet, with a few tweaks, this section could be perfect. I expect great things from Byler-Yount’s future characters! There is no going back from here.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Byler-Younts earns a half of an x-factor point in creativity by spearheading the absurdity of most Amish fiction by creating blessedly IMPERFECT Amish characters. This is a revolutionary concept and one that will take her far. Furthermore, she inserts a healthy dose of originality by pointing out how the tight confines of religion often lead to secret sin. The important truth that forcing someone to believe in God leads to a desire to rebel against anything to do with Him is clearly stated and well-portrayed. Therefore, I believe that this novel has plenty of potential to be a revolutionary Christian film in the hands of a skilled creator. In the hands of someone like the writers of Priceless and talented director Ben Smallbone, this above-average novel could be a life-changing film. These filmmakers have already proven that they can handle a gritty topic tastefully, so they would be my first choice. In summary, good job Elizabeth Byler-Younts! I am expect great things from your future novels!

Wish List rating: 7 out of 10 points

What Blooms From Dust by James Markert

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

To start things off, What Blooms From Dust is one of the most unique novels I have ever read. True to form, Markert combines elements from the historical and speculative genres to create another thought-provoking novel that is worth a read. While his type of writing is not my favorite, I found myself becoming caught up in the lives of his characters…becoming…lost in the story. This is something that only a person who truly loves to read will understand. In short, Markert stands out from his genre simply by being himself. In the opening chapters of the novel, the reader is introduced to a man named Jeremiah Goodbye. Jeremiah has just escaped from prison thanks to the hand of Providence that directed a tornado to take out the side of the jail. He was in the electric chair when the tornado hit, and had already been given the first jolt. However, Jeremiah lived and is now unsure of how to proceed. The jolt of electricity seems to have freed him from the recurring nightmare he has had since childhood, along with many dark memories of the past. However, without these ever-present companions, he feels blank. So, the Coin-Flip Killer lets the flip of a coin decide for him. Should he go home, or start a new life elsewhere (no pun intended)? The coin says to go home, so he does….back to Nowhere. Along the way home Jeremiah saves an autistic boy and his typewriter companion from being sold to a suspicious character named Boo, and it doesn’t take long for the boy to latch on to him as a father figure. Upon his arrival home Jeremiah is met with distrust and death threats from his twin brother Josiah. After flipping his trusty coin, Jeremiah shoots Josiah in the foot and settles down to stay awhile. Nowhere is in the middle of the Dust Bowl, and the endless dust is starting to not only wound the town’s morale, but muddle their minds. When Jeremiah returns, Ellen, Josiah’s wife and Jeremiah’s childhood sweetheart, is confronted with all sorts of emotions and memories she thought were long-buried. She is faced with her lifelong question, to whom does her heart belong? Jeremiah is also faced with questions, is he really a murderer, and how are his nightmares and lifelong ability read people so thoroughly, to see their past and present in such a clear light, related? Both of these characters, and the townspeople, must answer many painful questions if they are to survive the Dust Bowl. What Blooms From Dust has a strong and engaging story line, and the plot is nearly perfect. The only flaw to point out here is the confusing ending. The author initially ends the plot very well, and then goes on to inform the reader of the future happenings of each character. This is an unnecessary action that keeps the novel from scoring higher on the Wish List scale.

Character Development (3 points)

In comparison, the character development is equally strong. Markert crafts engaging and relatable characters who are very imperfect and yet find common ground in being so. Jeremiah is well crafted as a broken man haunted by unanswered questions surrounding his mental struggles. (Spoiler) I especially liked that Markert pointed out to the reader how Jeremiah’s mother’s choices affected his entire life. Ellen is also a great character because she grows through her realization of how her past choices have influenced her present condition. In summary, Markert does a great job of developing the main and secondary characters to create a plot that is sure to delight fans and new readers alike. The only flaw to point out here is his use of third person. If he had used first person, this area of the novel would have been flawless.

Creativity and Originality (1 point)

Finally, the novel earns a full point for creativity and originality. If this novel is anything, it is creative. One could safely say that the entire novel is driven by Markert’s vivid imagination. the only thing holding him back from an x-factor point is his predictable ending. In conclusion, unlike many other novels, this one has many strengths and only two weaknesses. The plot and storyline quality is above average, as is the character development, and Markert is certainly not suffering in the area of creativity. What does this novel lack? A good ending. This brings me to another baffling revelation. The good ending is already in the story. All Markert had to do was shed the last six pages of the manuscript and this book would have been perfect. We don’t need to know what happens in the future lives of all the characters, that takes away the thrill of using one’s imagination to complete the novel. This is the biggest and virtually the only flaw to point out in the novel, however, this could easily be remedied on the big screen. A Christian filmmaker can and should use this novel to create a great Christian movie. The film would have to have a strong cast and a flair for the unusual, but it can be done. Markert would be the best choice for the screenwriter because he has experience in the area, and hey, it’s his story! All in all, a job well done, we look forward to Markert’s next novel with anticipation!

Wish List rating: 7 out of 10 points

The House at Saltwater Point by Colleen Coble

 

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

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

The House at Saltwater Point is the second book in Coble’s Lavender Tides series. While the first book, The View From Rainshadow Bay, was well-received by most critics, this newer novel has received mixed reviews. In short, opinions about this novel seem to be split right down the middle, some love it, some do not. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle, this novel is neither really good nor really bad. It is simply your average romantic suspense story. Ellie Blackmore and her partner Jason are house flippers based in Lavender Tides, Washington, who enjoy both the work and the fruits of their labors. Ellie and Jason are in the middle of completing a project and purchasing a new house to flip when both their worlds turn upside down. One day while Ellie and Jason are getting ready to leave for a lunch break, Jason and Ellie’s sister Mackenzie (Mac), who happens to be his ex-wife, get into an argument that ends in a conflict between Mac and Ellie. Mac storms out and Ellie is left hurt and confused. Shortly after this conflict Ellie pursues her sister….only to find a large pool of blood on the deck of Mac’s new boat. Mac is nowhere to be found, and Ellie is left to assume the worst. Grayson Bradshaw is a Coast Guard investigator who is looking for notorious terrorist Terek Nasser, the man who killed his best friend. When Grayson discovers a cocaine theft linked to Terek and his men, he pursues it, takes out Terek’s right hand man, and eventually arrives in Lavender Tides to investigate further. His investigation leads him to a connection between Mac’s dissapearance and the cocaine theft. Ellie refuses to believe that her sister was involved in anything illegal, but the facts are looking more and more incriminating. Grayson is also fighting a growing attraction to Ellie, a fact which conflicts with his need to remain emotionally unattached from the case. Is Mac guilty? Can Ellie love a man who suspects her beloved sister? To answer these questions, read the book! The major strength of this plot line is the mostly unpredictable plot twists and turns. However, I observed that there are two major weaknesses. First, the book seems a bit hastily written. And second, the story is a bit rushed and is driven by facts, rather than characters.

Character Development (2 points)

Likewise, because the plot is not character-driven, Ellie and Grayson are difficult to relate to through the use of third person. However, there is a lot of potential here. Ellie and Grayson both have great backstories that Coble uses to influence their present state. Furthermore, Grayson is Coble’s strongest character in this novel because she uses key psychological trauma elements to unfold his part of the story. Jason is also a good character, but he seems incomplete. The only other weakness to point out here is the unnecessary explanations for each character’s existence as they appear in the story. Therefore, character development rounds out to be a slightly above average performance.

Creativity and Originality (1 point)

Lastly, Coble earns a point for creativity because of her well-crafted use of suppressed childhood trauma. This type of creativity is not often seen in the suspense genre, therefore, I commend Coble on her effort in this area. However, she could improve in the area of originality. In comparison, Coble’s strength is crafting a strong storyline with a good ending. Therefore, I think this novel could make an interesting Christian drama/suspense film. I feel that a screenwriter could take the strongest characters; Ellie, Grayson, Mac, and Jason, and create a character driven suspense plot that employs the good psychological elements that Coble has already created. To sum things up, good job Ms. Coble, you have the potential to be a light in the shadows of suspense novels. I am excited to read the next novel in the Lavender Tides series!

 

Wish List Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

A Breath of Hope by Lauraine Snelling

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

A Breath of Hope in the second novel in Lauraine Snelling’s Under Northern Skies series. Returning readers will remember the majority of the characters from the first novel, and will get to know a few new faces. Snelling’s biggest strength in this novel is her careful attention to accurate historical details. Furthermore, her obvious passion for cultural authenticity boosts the quality of the plot. Unfortunately, her biggest weakness is that the story is very tame and slow to develop. In this second part of the series, Snelling continues the story of the Carlson family. Signe and Rune have recently immigrated from Norway with their three sons to live with Rune’s uncle Einar in Minnesota. Signe and family are enjoying the gift God gave them shortly after their arrival in America, their baby daughter Kristen. However, they continue to be puzzled and annoyed by Einar’s reclusive and angry behavior towards everyone he knows and meets. It seems that Einar has an unpleasant reputation with everyone in town, a fact he does not seem to mind. The harder that Signe and Rune try to get him to open up, the harder he pushes away. Meanwhile, back home in Norway, Rune’s sister Nilda and brother Ivar are anticipating their voyage to join their brother in America. Nilda struggles to find a job to hold her over during the waiting period, suffering unwelcome advances from a shady character at one job and criticism from his mother at another. However, she and her brother eventually make their way to Minnesota, a happening that cheers their brother and sister-in-law. However, as Einar retreats further into darkness and lashes out at those around him, the Carlsons begin to fear he will never change. To find out what happens to the Carlsons, read the book! Overall, the plot and storyline quality is the strongest point of the novel, however, I feel that it could have been better.

Character Development (1.5 points)

Snelling definitely has room for improvement in the area of character development. Her strength is dialogue between characters, and her weaknesses are the use of third person and the use of too many secondary characters. The interaction between characters is poignant and realistic, however, at times the “good” characters seem almost too perfect. In comparison, the large pool of secondary characters makes it hard to get to know the main characters. For instance, Signe, Rune, and Einar are fairly well-developed, however, Nilda and Ivar are barely developed beyond their relation to Rune. Granted, it is hard for any author to fully develop four main characters, so it would seem that a reduction of characters is an order. For instance, the Signe and Rune subplot is hardly needed. Instead, I feel that Snelling should have focused on Nilda and Ivar’s journey to America (in first person), and featured Signe, Rune, and family in letters to and from the family members. Therefore, on the whole, character development is slightly below average.

Creativity and Originality (.5 points)

While there is little creativity to speak of in this novel, Snelling wins a half-point in for her use of generational tendencies and for her careful attention to historical and cultural accuracy. Sadly, there is nothing original about this novel, it does not stand out from it’s genre and left much to be desired in character development, along with room for improvement in plot and storyline quality. However, I feel that this flaws could be improved in a Christian historical miniseries. This is because there is ample content, and enough potential for this series to hit the big screen. In the hands of the right screenwriter, this plot could be rearranged to create a character-driven story about the struggles and triumphs of Norwegian immigrants. Lastly, it is my continual hope that Christian filmmakers will recognize the potential in Christian fiction, and use to create content that glorifies God.

Wish List Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

 

Out of the Ashes by Kimberley Woodhouse & Tracie Peterson

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Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Kimberley Woodhouse and Tracie Peterson have banded together to write The Heart of Alaska series, and I must say, their partnership was a great idea. These two authors are better together than either one was alone. Woodhouse brings poignancy, sarcastic humor, and the influence of a strong faith. Peterson brings experience, romance, and a new spiritual depth that I have never seen before. So far they have written two books in the series, the second being fairly new on the market. This new novel, titled Out of the Ashes, is a self-proclaimed reflection of real life occurrences, but more on that later. The opening chapters introduce the readers to a few new characters, brother and sister Collette and Jean-Michel Langelier, and Katherine Demarchis. Jean-Michel is a man wounded both physically and mentally; following the horrific events of combat overseas, and a life-altering battle scar, he returns to his home and is faced with his father’s sudden death. Left alone in the world to care for his younger sister Collette, Jean-Michel feels depressed and abandoned by God. It is enough that God kept he and his true love from being together, he thinks, and now he takes my father away. Jean-Michel hardens his heart against God, even as PTSD causes him to toss and turn through nights haunted with dark dreams. The hand of Providence has just saved Katherine Demarchis from her abusive husband by allowing the drunken wretch to slip on ice to his death. She feels no sorrow at his death, only relief. However, his missing presence is only physical, for she can still hear his voice and feel his abuse. The physical and mental wounds she suffered will only be healed by the Hand of God, but she must choose Him over the dark voices in her head. Katherine’s grandmother, worried for her granddaughter’s sanity, arranges a summer trip to Alaska that she hopes will bring healing and a renewed mind. Furthermore, she secretly beseeches Jean-Michel to join them so that Katherine will be reminded that there are good men in the world. Will Jean-Michel and Katherine allow God to heal their broken lives? Will they choose life because He lives? To answer these questions, read the book! In the foreword both authors speak of how this novel was inspired from personal struggles that each has recently experienced. I believe that these struggles have greatly strengthened the faith of each author, and that they have become better writers and people because of them.

Character Development (3 points)

Tracie Peterson’s strength was always in character development, but when Woodhouse and Peterson work on characters together, the results are even better. This is why character development is this novel’s strength. Each character, whether they be primary or secondary, are well-crafted, believable, and contain a depth never before seen from these authors. Jean-Michel is not a straw-man atheist, and Katherine is not the typical damsel in distress character. Rather, each character, including Collette, is portrayed as a person with strengths, weaknesses, and a common need for a loving Savior. The only flaw to point out here is the use of third person. If the authors had used first person for each character, they would have earned a perfect score in this category. Finally, I enjoyed the characters in this novel more than I thought I would, and think that the authors have done an admirable job in this area.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

Lastly, the weakest area of this novel is creativity and originality. While there were some creative and even a few original elements, there was also a healthy dose of predictability. However, as it is hard to write an unpredictable romance plot, I cannot judge them too harshly. There is really no difference in this novel and a Janette Oke work (she was my first favorite author), for she often uses third person as well. Therefore, I applaud Woodhouse and Peterson on their effort to stand out in an overcrowded genre, and think that this series would make an interesting Christian/inspirational TV show in the historical romance category. At the very least, it could be a better version of a When Calls the Heart style show, because the audience could actually get to know the characters. In short, well done ladies, your strengths shine in this book, and I am excited to read the next installment.

Wish List Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

The Darkwater Saga by Patrick W. Carr

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (4 points)

Patrick Carr has done it again in this new, brilliantly crafted series titled the Darkwater Saga. Carr took the excellent character development and exceptional storyline quality from his previous series and applied it to a more down-to-earth story about a man who is called by his Creator to a purpose he would not have chosen. In the first novel, as always, Carr lays the groundwork for what eventually becomes an invigorating story that holds the attention on every page. For the purpose of this review, I will only include content from the first novel, so as to conceal the secrets found in the mysterious forests of these novels. In the Shock of Night, Carr introduces the reader to a man named Willet Dura. Willet leads a mostly content life, he has a secure position as the king’s reeve, a prestigious engagement to a woman he loves, and just enough action to keep things interesting. His sarcastic attitude towards the lords and ladies of the castle has landed him in more than a few scrapes, however, he seems to enjoy danger. The king has recently elevated him to the title of Lord, so that he might marry Gael, his perfect match. Yet, in spite of these blessings, Willet’s seemingly commonplace life if about to be shaken at its very core. On a day like any other, Willet is on kingdom business when he discovers a murder trail. This trail leads him to the fatally wounded body of a former guard, which in turn leads him to the bedside of a dying churchman who was also part of the murder. Willet sees common traits in the two men’s wounds and begins to wonder. He is not left to wonder long, for attackers are in hot pursuit. Just when the attackers are almost upon them, the dying man grabs Willet’s head and screams a word that he initially assumes is gibberish. However, what happens after this event will change Willet’s life forever. You see, Willet has just been “blessed” with a gift from one of the gifted. This gift allows him to see into people’s minds and hearts when his skin touches theirs; a talent which brings both wisdom and grief. Willet soon finds himself in the service of the Vigil, a group of gifted individuals who seek to vanquish the evil in their world. Willet will find the Vigil to be a hard and somewhat prideful master, and survival….well…almost impossible. To find out what happens to Willet and his true love, read the books!:) Carr is obviously a master at fantasy, and I am very happy to say that instead of becoming commonplace, Carr seems to have only become better in this new series. It is as if the beautifully raw talent in the Staff and Sword has matured with time and become unrivaled in this new series.

Character Development (4 points)

Carr has only improved in this new series by switching from third person to first with his characters. This switch to first person is our dream come true and a revolutionary concept in the fantasy genre. Through the use of first person, Willet is crafted into a complex, relatable character who the readers can root for and get to know. The secondary characters are also well-crafted. Bolt (Willet’s bodyguard), for example, is a character whose personality takes several positive, yet unexpected turns throughout the series. This makes him one of the best secondary characters in a fantasy novel that I have ever seen. Furthermore, Willet’s love interest is well-developed and untypical of the usual position this type of character would play. Therefore, for these and other reasons, Carr earns a perfect score in character development for this series. His fiction truly is character-driven.

Creativity & Originality (2 points)

Once again, Carr earns a point, and a rarely bestowed x-factor point for being the best in his genre. The first point is awarded for crafting another fantasy world that is dissimilar to the last, and for sewing up all the details perfectly. The x-factor point is awarded for crafting another story worthy of the big screen that could revolutionize the fantasy genre in film, and for maturing as an author to become, at this moment, unrivaled. We have thus far been very impressed with what Carr has to offer and await his next story with great anticipation and delight. Finally, thank you Mr. Carr, for being yourself, and for taking the time to write fiction that makes a difference.

Wish List Rating: 10 out of 10 points

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

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 (2 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, a 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. UPDATE: Unfortunately, after further review by our team, we discovered that this plotline contains continuity errors and generally needs more editing. Therefore, the score in this section was lowered to an average rating because the storyline is the weakest part of the novel.

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 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.  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: 7.5 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.

Wish List Rating: 8 out of 10 points

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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UPDATE: The rating for this novel has been changed after further review by our team.

The Masterpiece is Francine Rivers latest work of art. 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 both old fans and new. 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. 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 same grit as 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. Even though this is not Rivers best novel, someone should recognize Francine Rivers’ books for the great potential that they have!

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points

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. Slater Ellis’ 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. 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.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. 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. 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.

Wish List Rating: 10 out of 10 points

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 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.