The Staff and the Sword Series by Patrick W. Carr, Series Review (UPDATED)

Image result for the staff and the sword series patrick carr

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

The Staff and the Sword Series

The Staff and the Sword is a powerfully written book series that, at the time of it’s release, shook the fantasy genre at it’s core. In this series, Patrick Carr deviated from the typical pitfalls and tropes used in many fantasy novels by crafting relatable, deep characters and an engaging storyline. While each novel in the series contains both strengths and weaknesses, the series rounds out with a strong score, and would make a great Christian animated series. Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses in each novel.

A Cast of Stones (4 out of 4 points)

The opening novel of the series, A Cast of Stones, introduces the reader to a broken young man named Errol Stone who lives in the poor village of Callowford. Errol hides from past trauma by getting drunk as often as possible. He has little care for those around him, and has given himself entirely over to his addiction. One day an important messenger arrives in Callowford with a package that needs to be delivered to a nearby churchman. Errol realizes that he is out of money with which to buy ale, so he volunteers to make the harrowing journey. Little does Errol know that this decision will greatly alter his future. Unlike the other novels in this series, this one contains no errors.

Major strengths of this novel include the engaging and consistent storyline, the well-structured plot, and the character depth. Additionally, Errol is one of the best developed protagonists I have seen in some time. His struggles and learning experiences are perfectly crafted and align very well with his character’s purpose. It would take some time to cover all the positives in this novel, so perhaps the best way to sum it up is by saying the following. Fantasy authors who are looking to craft a story that real people can relate to should use A Cast of Stones as an all-purpose reference guide. For these reasons and more, the first book in this series earns a perfect overall score.

The Hero’s Lot (3.5 out of 4 points)

The second novel in the series, The Hero’s Lot, contains similar strengths, but has some flaws. Major strengths of this novel include it’s realistic portrayal of legalistic church corruption and it’s theme of living under The Holy Spirit’s direction. Major weaknesses of the novel include some choppy chapter transitions and abrupt character introductions. This being said, it would have been helpful to add an additional book in-between this and the final novel. Doing this would have allowed Carr the creative space he needed to flesh out some key characters’ backstories (and the content in The Book) and to better establish how the interactions between different cultures in Illustra influence the storyline. If the entire additional book was set in Merachi, for instance, then a lot of plot holes could be filled in. For the strengths and errors listed, The Hero’s Lot stops just short of a perfect score.

A Draw of Kings (2 out of 4 points)

The final book in The Staff and the Sword series – A Draw of Kings – is the weakest novel, but still has plenty of strong content to work with. Major strengths of the novel include the lessons learned by the main characters and the original ending that isn’t overly predictable. Major weaknesses include Liam’s unfinished character arc (his character desperately needed some realistic flaws, no one is perfect), the overwhelming number of sub-plots, and the plot gaps (i.e. the disappearing barrier) that could have been remedied by adding another novel to the overall count. Thus, this novel earns an average score for not reaching it’s full potential.

Conclusion

Finally, Carr earns a half an x factor point for originality for crafting an excellent Christian fantasy series, and for coloring outside the lines with his incredible protagonist. Additionally, the BOR team believes this book series would make an excellent multi-season Christian animated series made for a teenage audience. Maybe Angel Studios will pick up this project next..;)

Wish List Series Rating: 10 out of 12 points

Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin

Image result for legacy of mercy lynn austin

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, Anna’s grandmother, 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. 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. Geesje struggles to reach the hurting young woman, and wonders if her cause is hopeless. 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 only a seminary student and cannot give her the wealthy lifestyle she is used to. All of these people are, in some way, hurting. They must each allow God to direct their steps in order to find healing and help. 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 well 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

Image result for shelter of the most high connilyn cossette

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. The main flaws to mention here are some cheesy romantic elements that mature somewhat as the novel continues, and the author’s sometimes too vivid descriptions. While these flaws keep the storyline from perfection, 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 mostly above average and adds a new twist to the historical romance theme. In comparison, Prezi is arguably the weakest character. She has little involvement in the plot and needed more depth and meaning. Additionally, the minor characters are a mixture of good and average, therefore, they needed further development or omission from the story. On the whole, Cossette’s characters 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 stands out from other Biblical fiction novels because of it’s fearless, honest look at raw topics. For this reason, I believe that this book series would make a great TV series. The character development is above average and the filmmakers have plenty of creativity to work with in the storyline. Once again, we hope that Christian filmmakers will recognize the quality content they already have in many Christian books instead of producing more filler content.

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points

When the Heart Sings by Liz Tolsma

Image result for when the heart sings liz tolsma

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 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. 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 flaws here do not outweigh the strengths, but they include the fact that the story is a bit slow at times, and there are some moments of wordiness. Otherwise, this is a good plot that shows potential for the future.

Character Development (2 points)

Nadia and Teodor are mostly 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 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.

Wish List Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Love in a Broken Vessel by Mesu Andrews

Image result for love in a broken vessel

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

Miriam by Mesu Andrews

Image result for miriam mesu andrews

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)

Miriam is one of Mesu Andrews classic novels, written in the early days of her career. Andrews high quality storyline and masterful character development make for an enjoyable read that I would recommend to others. 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 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. Will Miriam overcome her jealously and accept Yahweh’s plans? To answer this question, read the book! (spoiler) The main issue I had with the plot was Miriam’s eventual marriage, which seems silly and unnecessary. Additionally, Eleazar and his wife have a bit of a rocky storyline that needed further development – or their own novel. Despite the flaws, this is a unique, well-done story that should definitely be made into a Christian film. Therefore, Andrews earns an above average score in this section. 

Character Development (3 points)

As previously mentioned, the character development in Miriam is above par and contains many strengths. First, I appreciated that all the characters were the correct Biblical age. In most portrayals of the story of Moses, he is either young or middle-aged. People forget that he, Miriam, and Aaron were all elderly when their journey out of Egypt began. Secondly, Miriam is a strong character because she has a unique, fully developed personality, along with strengths, weaknesses, and a clearly defined spiritual gift. Third, Moses is a good, imperfect character who struggles with his calling to be a leader because it does not come naturally. Finally, the relationship between Aaron and his wife is well-done and realistic. In comparison, Eleazar is a good idea because he struggles to submit to God and surrender his need for control. However, he is two-dimensional and needs depth and flashbacks to be well-developed. Additionally, the minor characters are not always well-integrated into the story. Because the strengths of the novel outweigh the weaknesses, Andrews earns an above average score in this section as well.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Andrews has always had a certain talent for inserting creative and original elements into her novels, and this one is no different. She earns a half point in creativity for her creative characters, and a half 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. Finally, I must insist that Andrews work directly with the screenwriter on the screenplay. Readers, this is a Biblical fiction novel that you can recommend to friends and family.

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points

Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

Image result for hidden among the stars melanie dobson

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?  To answer these questions, read the book! Overall, Dobson handles a complex and detailed plotline quite well and crafts an engaging story. Unfortunately, there is the presence of a love triangle between Annika, Luzia, and Max. While it is done in a better way than most, this fact keeps Dobson from a perfect score in this section.

Character Development (3 points)

Dobson’s strength is her characters, because they drive the plot. Callie, Annika, Luzia, and Max all have distinctive personalities, and virtually 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  plot twist at the end of the story. The combination of these characters and the intriguing plot makes for one a unique and enjoyable read.

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 good 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!

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points 

Things I Never Told You by Beth Vogt

Image result for things i never told you beth vogt

 

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

The Hunter and the Valley of Death by Brennan McPherson

Image result for the hunter and the valley of death

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

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

Image result for the edge of over there by shawn smucker

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

Image result for burden of proof diann mills

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)

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 (2 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 pretty much a strawman. Overall, Mills has produced mostly 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: 6 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. Hers 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. 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?  To answer this question, 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 (2 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.

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. Furthermore, I feel that The Hope of Azure Springs could be a good Christian romantic suspense film. The screenwriter would need to bring the mystery theme to the forefront and downplay the romantic elements, but it can be done. Overall, this novel stands out from other books of it’s caliber and is a good first effort.

Wish List Rating: 5 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 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. 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. Her act of disobedience haunts her night and day, and she doesn’t know how to escape her dark thoughts. Emma Mullet 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. As these three women face increasing crises, they will have to break down their walls to find a way forward. 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 raw way that Byler-Younts writes is both refreshing and a bit sensational. However, her style could use a little honing, for not everything that is here said should be. Furthermore, the story is a bit choppy and rushed. All in all, The Solace of Water rounds out to an average score.

Character Development (2 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 and too many mentally distracting sequences. 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. Therefore, Byler-Younts earns an average score here as well.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Byler-Younts earns a full point in creativity for spearheading the absurdity of most Amish fiction by creating IMPERFECT Amish characters. Furthermore, she points 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 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.

Wish List rating: 5 out of 10 points

What Blooms From Dust by James Markert

Image result for what blooms from dust james markert

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

 

Image result for the house at saltwater point colleen coble

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

Out of the Ashes by Kimberley Woodhouse & Tracie Peterson

Image result for out of ashes tracie peterson

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

Image result for the darkwater saga patrick carrImage result for the darkwater saga patrick carrImage result for the darkwater saga patrick carr

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 everyday 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 a daily life with 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 fiance. In the midst of all this, Willet’s seemingly commonplace life is 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 will change his life forever. Willet soon finds himself in the service of the Vigil, a group of gifted individuals who seek to vanquish the evil in their world. (spoiler) He will find the Vigil to be a hard and somewhat prideful master, and survival…almost impossible. To find out what happens to Willet, his fiance, and everyone else, read the books!:) Carr stands out as a master in the fantasy genre for many reasons. However, this is mostly due to the fact that his raw talent in The Staff and Sword series has matured with time instead of growing stagnant.

Character Development (4 points)

Carr has improved this new series by switching from third person to first with his characters. This switch to first person is 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 breaks all female character molds in the fantasy genre. 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 in creativity, and a rarely bestowed full x-factor point in originality 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 well. The x-factor point is awarded for crafting another story worthy of the big screen that could revolutionize the fantasy genre in film. 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 sharing your books with us, and for taking the time to write fiction that truly makes a difference.

Wish List Rating: 10 out of 10 points

Where Shadows Meet by Colleen Coble

Image result for where shadows meet by colleen coble

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.

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Accidental Guardian by Mary Connealy

Image result for accidental guardian mary connealy

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 an original character who we first 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 that is located only 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 Treha needs to learn how to live a healthy, independent life. 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 continually hit a 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 will be shaken in two ways. 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 both a read and consideration by future filmmakers.

Character Development (3.5 points)

Fabry’s strongest 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 great job with this novel by adding creative and original characteristics to a cast of known characters. This fact earned him an almost perfect score in the area of creativity and originality for crafting what is perhaps the best ever Christian sequel to date. 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 one’s 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

Image result for shadows of hope georgiana daniels

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

 

In Places Hidden by Tracie Peterson

Image result for in places hidden tracie peterson

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

Image result for isaiah's daughter mesu andrews

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, Mesu Andrews’ latest 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 decide her destiny. Prince Hezekiah is growing up in a broken home, he has witnessed the rages of his father King Ahaz and his marital abuse. Not to mention the fact that he has just been subjected to watching his older brother Bocheru being sacrificed to Molech. One day, a chance encounter with a fellow suffering child – Ishma – will begin the road to healing. 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. The main issues here are some continuity errors, and the need for a bit more editing, especially where sub-plots are concerned. Therefore, while the storyline is not the strength of the novel, Andrews rounds out with an average score all the same.

Character Development (3 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 main errors here are the presence of a few too many minor characters, and likewise, the need for a bit more editing. However, these characters have a lot going for them, so Andrews earns above an average score in this section.

Creativity and Originality (1 point)

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: 6 out of 10 points

High Treason by DiAnn Mills

Image result for high treason diann mills

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

Image result for judah's wife angela hunt

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. Through heartbreak, loss, and grief, Leah finds a purpose 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

Image result for the masterpiece by francine rivers

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

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 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.  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 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).When Roman meets Grace, he is a well-established artist. 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 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. 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

Image result for double helix sigmund brouwer review

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

Image result for unveiled francine riversImage result for unashamed francine riversImage result for unshaken francine riversImage result for unspoken francine riversImage result for unafraid francine rivers

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

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

The Leper by Sigmund Brouwer

Image result for the leper sigmund brouwer

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

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

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

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

And the Shofar Blew by Francine Rivers

image

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

Leota’s Garden by Francine Rivers

Image result for leota's garden francine rivers

Plot & Storyline Quality (4 points)

Leota’s Garden is Francine Rivers’ best novel because it has both real-world application and well-crafted moral arguments that do not try to entice the reader to one side or another. The novel weaves together the Biblical principles of forgiveness, unconditional love, and reconciliation together to form a beautiful story about how God can bring beauty from any circumstance in our lives. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the main character, Leota Reinhardt. Leota is a lonely, elderly widow who cannot see God’s purpose in her life. She has lived alone ever since the death of her husband, and her family is highly dysfunctional. She exists inside her small house, living off of monthly Social Security checks and hoping that someday she and her daughter Eleanor can be reconciled. On many occasions she considers hastening her path towards death, but every time the Lord gives her a reason to keep living. Leota longs for God to bring someone her way to ease her pain and give her purpose. Corban Solsek is a prideful, arrogant university student attending an elite school with only the smartest students. He feels that he knows everything he needs to know about life and that no one should tell him otherwise. Corban is working on a term project about nursing homes. He sees no reason why the elderly shouldn’t be out of sight, out of mind, and cared for by unattached individuals who could care less if they live or die. This sounds bad, but he is truly ignorant in the fact that he is wrong….about many things. When Providence causes Corban and Leota’s paths to cross, both of their lives will be forever changed. Overall, this novel has an excellent, creative storyline with great continuity and an engaging structure. The plot does not drag along, as one might expect from the topic at hand, rather, the reader is presented with many social scenarios that may cause them to search their own hearts. For these and other reasons, Rivers receives a perfect score in this section.

Character Development (3.5 points)

The two protagonists dominate much of the novel, but the minor characters have meaningful contributions that make for a well-rounded read. Rivers does an excellent job of weaving together the lives of four seemingly dissimilar individuals, and shows how God can work together all things together for good. Each character has a realistic journey that reflects the many different paths people take before they realize their need for a Savior. Additionally, Rivers embarks on a new kind of depth and rawness with this cast that reflects personal maturity. The only real flaw to point out here is that Eleanor comes off as a bit of a strawman. However, we are given realistic reasons for her behavior, and her actions are believable in the context of American families. Additionally, sometimes Annie seems a bit too perfect. However, her good qualities may be unintentionally emphasized when compared to her slightly crazed family members. Therefore, Rivers earns just shy of a perfect score in this section for these, her best characters to date.

Creativity & Originality (2 points)

Finally, Rivers earns a full point in originality for portraying multiple social issues without being preachy or overbearing. She makes every effort to leave the door open for the reader’s own conclusions, which is greatly appreciated by us here at BOR – this is how people should be treated. Rivers also earns a rarely awarded x-factor point in creativity for crafting a novel that stands apart from its genre as something we would actually recommend to non-Christians. Additionally, we here at BOR feel that this novel would make an excellent Christian epic film. However, a Christian filmmaker could go multiple directions with the novel, they could make it an epic about Leota’s life, and downplay the subplots of the other characters, or they could make it a drama film that included equal input from all the main characters. In conclusion, this novel is a must read for any Christian fiction lover, and an excellent source of quality content for any prospective filmmaker.

Wish List Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

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

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

Francine Rivers: Marta’s Legacy Series Book 2

Related image

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

Francine Rivers: Marta’s Legacy Series Book 1

Image result for her mother's hope

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

The Canopy by Angela E. Hunt

Image result for the canopy angela hunt

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

The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers

Image result for the scarlet thread by francine rivers

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

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Image result for redeeming love francine rivers

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

Wish List rating: 10 out of 10 points

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

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

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

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

The Code of the West Series by Stephen Bly

Image result for it's your misfortune and none of my own stephen blyImage result for one went to denver and the other went wrong stephen blyImage result for where the deer and the antelope play stephen blyImage result for stay away from that city they call it cheyenne stephen blyImage result for my foot's in the stirrup but my pony won't stand stephen blyImage result for i'm off to montana for to throw the hoolihan stephen bly

Stephen Bly was the greatest author of faith-based Western fiction that we here at Box Office Revolution have ever had the privilege to review. His novels always promoted Biblical principles and highlighted the importance of involving God and seeking His guidance in any and every situation. The Code of West series is perhaps his best book series, second only to The Legend of Stuart Brannon series. The series tells the tale of a man named Tapadera Andrews, and his love interest, Aimee “Pepper” Paige. The series deals with subjects such as redemption, escaped prisoners, the pursuit of righteousness, imperfect people, love, hope, marriage, family, tragedy, recovery, grief, loss, joy, and what life was like for Western settlers. The opening chapters of the first novel, It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own, introduce the reader to the main character, a enigma of a man known as Tapadera Andrews. Tapadera, or Tap, as he likes to be called, has just escaped from prison and is trying to stay out. However, trouble seems to follow him wherever he goes. Shortly after his escape from prison, the skilled gunslinger faces an unexpected ambush by Indians. During the chaos he meets a man named Zachariah Hatcher…witnesses him receive a fatal wound during the fighting, and learns more than he ever expected during the last hours of the man’s life. Tap learns that Zachariah was on his way to meet his pen-pal-turned-true-love, a prim and proper woman named Suzanne. He also learns that the man had just purchased a ranch. After Zachariah’s death, Tap forms an elaborate scheme in which he will impersonate Zachariah, therefore reaping the benefits of the dead man’s life. Tap figures that, in this way, he will gain a wife, a home, and the means to make a profit, and a new identity…all for free! Pepper Paige is a seasoned dance hall girl who seeks something more out of life. She is tired of being treated like material goods by men, and is desperate to escape her current situation. One day her opportunity comes in the form of a woman fatally wounded in a stagecoach accident…..named Suzanne. Following her death, Pepper decides to assume the dead woman’s identity, and go in her place to meet Suzanne’s pen-pal-turned-true-love…Zechariah Hatcher. Pepper figures that, in this way, she have a fresh start as an honest woman, gain a roof over her head, and the security of a healthy relationship. Tap and Pepper are two people seeking freedom from their respective pasts through impersonation; two people who are lonely and long for something more in life. When their paths finally cross, the impossible situations they find themselves in….will soon become a regular thing. The next three novels tell the tales of Pepper and Tap’s journey of healing from their past, their budding romance, and eventual marriage. The last two novels give a humorous depiction of Tap and Peppers unique family life. This series would make a great Christian miniseries in the comedy/drama genre. I would like to see someone like the Kendrick brothers or the Smallbone brothers take on a unique project like this and make it their own. The Smallbone brothers in particular have the artistic skill and creativity to pull off a Western themed production. The Kendrick brothers would have to think outside the box for something like this. However, it can and should be done.

 

 

 

 

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

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

Image result for Becoming Me melody carlsonImage result for It's My Life melody carlsonImage result for who i ammelody carlsonImage result for on my own melody carlsonImage result for i do melody carlson

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

Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry

Image result for almost heaven chris fabry

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

Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers

Image result for bridge to haven francine rivers

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

Egypt’s Sister by Angela Elwell Hunt

Image result for egypt's sister angela hunt

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