The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

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

Character Development (2 points)

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

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

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

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

Interview With Jaime Jo Wright, Christian Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright (September 2020)

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Release date: September 1, 2020

Author: Jaime Jo Wright

Plot summary: The old circus train depot will either be torn down or preserved for historical importance, and its future rests on real estate project manager Chandler Faulk’s shoulders. As she dives deep into the depot’s history, she’s also balancing a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and the pressures of single motherhood. When she discovers clues to the unsolved murders of the past, Chandler is pulled into a story far darker and more haunting than even an abandoned train depot could portend.

2019 Box Office Revolution Book Awards

Every year, many Christian books are released, and writers of the same show off their creative talents. Across the many genres, these novels are judged based on the presence or absence of plot continuity and exceptional storytelling skills, above average character development, and whether or not a novel correctly addresses an issue or issues that relate to current American Christian culture. These novels are separated into roughly three groups of authors and their respective works of art: the exceptional, the potentially great, and those chosen by the votes of our readers. Likewise, winning titles are listed according to their genre. At Box Office Revolution, we believe it is our prerogative to annually recognize the entertainment creators who have the ability to bring revolution to Christian entertainment.

Staff Choice Winning Books of 2019

Thriller of the Year: The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Rachelle and Ted Dekker and The Line Between by Tosca Lee are tied for first place.

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Fantasy of the Year: Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse (#2 in the Ravenwood Saga)

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Biblical Fiction of the Year: The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr

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Historical/Coming of Age of the Year: All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

Suspense of the Year: The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

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Staff Choice Honorable Mentions of 2019

Drama: The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels

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Historical: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

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Romance: Courting Mr. Emerson by Melody Carlson

Courting Mr. Emerson  -     By: Melody Carlson

Biopic/Romance: My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt

My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Lost Love  -     By: Amanda Barratt

Reader’s Choice Book of the Year: The Line Between by Tosca Lee

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Staff Choice Authors of the Year: Rachelle Dekker, Tosca Lee, Morgan L. Busse, Patrick W. Carr, Susie Finkbeiner, and Jaime Jo Wright.

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Rachelle Dekker
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Tosca Lee

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Morgan L. Busse
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Patrick W. Carr
Susie Finkbeiner
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Jaime Jo Wright

Staff Choice Honorably Mentioned Authors of the Year: Erin Bartels, Susan Meissner, Melody Carlson, Amanda Barratt

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Erin Bartels
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Susan Meissner
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Melody Carlson
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Amanda Barratt

Congratulations to all the authors mentioned in this post on their wins and honorable mentions! Thank you all for being committed to producing high quality Christian entertainment and for glorifying God with the gifts He has given you!

Echoes Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright

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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)

Wright’s latest novel is an excellent example of how to weave life lessons into an intriguing story that would make a great Christian suspense series. The first few chapters of Echoes Among the Stones make it seem like a typical murder mystery, but as the story unfolds it becomes clear that there is much more to this book than meets the eye. When Aggie Dunkirk loses her realty job and is left floundering, she receives a letter from her grandmother, Mumsie, saying that she has broken her hip and needs help. As thoughts of her mother’s recent death crowd her mind, Aggie reluctantly makes the journey back to her hometown of Mill Creek, only to find upon her arrival that Mumsie has neither broken her hip, nor does she appear to be in poor health. Aggie is angry with her at first, but her anger turns to concern when she discovers a skeleton lying in Mumsie’s back yard. The local police brush off the incident as ‘kids’ pulling a prank, but she isn’t so sure. At her new job restoring Mill Creek’s flooded cemetery, Aggie observes more unusual occurrences and begins to wonder if something or someone is targeting Mumsie. Imogene Grayson is a young woman living during the aftermath of World War 2 who has just experienced the violent, completely unexpected murder of her younger sister Hazel. With the war barely over and her brothers just home from the same, Imogene is left grasping for sanity. She vows that she will bring Hazel’s killer to justice, and begins to take great lengths to fulfill this mental declaration – but resolving the same will prove to be nigh on impossible. To find out what happens to these women, read the book! Echoes Among the Stones has a very detailed plotline that holds the attention from cover to cover. There are no lull periods as even the slower-paced scenes are full of meaningful dialogue – one of the novel’s biggest strengths. (spoiler) Another big strength is the fact that the killer is a surprise, and they are not the only one at fault. In comparison, the novel contains a few weaknesses. First, the ending feels a bit rushed as the climactic question asked throughout the novel is answered in an old video on someone’s cellphone, and there are a few moments of sensual thought processes on Aggie’s behalf that we could do without. Lastly, Imogene’s mental murder reenactments are extremely raw and may not sit well with younger readers. In spite of this, this storyline has plenty of potential to be a Christian series, thus earning it an above average score.

Character Development (3.5 points)

Similarly, the character development in this novel is very well done. Aggie and Mumsie’s character arcs make a great parallel because they have very similar, if not the same personalities and tendencies, and have made similar choices throughout their lives. The comparison between an older and younger woman who have similar struggles is a much needed message for our times – neither older nor younger people are better than one another. Furthermore, the minor characters add humor and vitality to the story – which is much needed because of the rather morbid subject matter. The twist with the antagonist adds a lot to the conclusion as well. In comparison, there are a two weaknesses in this section as well. First, although Collin’s character is saved from being entirely stereotypical by his above average dialogue, he continually leans towards the fairy-tale hero/good guy role (he’s a British guy named Colin Collin, I mean, come on). Any-who, the other weakness is the fact that Glen’s character is somewhat shoehorned into the plot – we needed to know more about him as a person outside of his father’s looming shadow. In summary, the weaknesses here do not have a major impact on the story as a whole, therefore, Wright earns a nearly perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

In conclusion, Wright earns a half point in creativity for writing a suspense story with many meaningful and humorous moments, and a half point in originality for her effort to focus the reader’s attention on Who holds our lives together in the midst of life’s most difficult and dark moments – an aspect that can be seen all throughout the story. As such, BOSs (Box Office Sass) thinks that this would make a great Christian suspense series. Some aspects of the novel would need to be toned down a bit to be palatable on-screen, and Wright would have to be a part of the writing process to ensure that the integrity of her story is upheld, but it can be done. We here at BOR long for the day when Christian movie-makers will start looking for movie ideas in the right place – exceptional Christian novels.

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Jaime Jo Wright’s latest novel is a triumph. It has been a long time since I have read such a well-constructed suspense plot. Wright balances all aspects of the plot very well, for it holds the attention from cover to cover. While the novel isn’t perfect, it appears that Wright has put her best foot forward, which is all we ask of anyone. The Curse of Misty Wayfair tells the stories of Thea and Heidi. Heidi decides to head back to her hometown – Pleasant Valley – after she receives a mysterious letter in the mail from her mother. Upon returning home, Heidi finds her sister unchanged and informed her mother’s dementia has worsened. A visit to her mother leaves her with more questions than when she came, and when she returns to her sister’s home on the scene of a break-in, she becomes even more confused. The red words scrawled on her mirror cause her to start asking questions…which will lead to answers she didn’t expect. Thea is a simple woman who has just traveled to Pleasant Valley (of the past) to take memorial photographs of a recently deceased young woman – Mary Coyle – for her family’s benefit. When she is invited to attend the young woman’s funeral, she reluctantly accepts. While there, Thea hears many strange rumors about the Coyle family, and is unsure as to who is telling the truth and who is gossiping. (spoiler) Thea decides to stay in Pleasant Valley, but regrets this decision when she comes face to face with a community superstition. This experience causes Thea to start asking questions…which will lead to answers she has always feared, but somehow suspected. On the whole, Wright has crafted a consistent and well-constructed storyline that puts many suspense novels to shame. While there are a few small errors, such as a few moments of sensationalism and a slightly abrupt ending to the story, these do not overshadow the many good aspects of this novel. As a result, Wright earns a nearly perfect score in this section.

Character Development (3 points)

In comparison, Wright’s characters are quite original and drive the plot. Her greatest strength is that she takes the time to establish all of characters before jumping right into the plot. Thea and Heidi have well-established character arcs that go in an unexpected direction – as it should be. The Coyles are also very realistic and add much to the story. Additionally, the author’s honest portrayal of small town secrets is refreshing and could come as a breath of fresh air to her readers. One minor error to note here is that sometimes it is hard to connect with the characters on an emotional level. However, this could be remedied on the big screen. Therefore, Wright earns an above average score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Wright earns a full point in originality for crafting a unique and memorable suspense story that would make a great film. She also earns a half an x-factor point in creativity for adding an interesting plot twist to the end of her tale. For these reasons, I believe that a talented group of filmmakers could craft this novel into an interesting Christian miniseries. The screenwriter wouldn’t need to alter the plot at all, and would only need to make small changes to some of the characters. Therefore, Wright earns nearly a perfect score in this section as well, and a well done from us here at BOR. This novel is worth a read and deserves to become a film.

Wish List Rating: 8 out of 10 points