Book Recommendation - the Holly Novels

So, I think I've discovered that I'm a bit of a "book snob". As an avid reader for many years, I've obtained a certain taste for good writing. And let's face it, not all published authors are good writers. And my tastes differ from most other people, I find, and therefore I become even more of a "snob". I discovered this by joining a Facebook group called "Avid Readers of Christian Fiction". I figure that pretty well applies to me, so I joined it. I've seen a lot of recommendations for various books/authors, and so I find them at the library and try them out.... and am disappointed, by and large. Not that the books weren't good.... but they were too "heavy" or the characters weren't likeable or well developed. There was always something missing. Until I picked up the books by C.C. Warrens. I'd not heard of this author before this group, and was reluctant to try based on the other experiences.... but I kept seeing her name pop up. One of the first posts that came up in that group after I joined was someone looking for books about foster care. Since I need 12 hours a year of continuing education to continue being a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate - basically a voice in court for a child in "the system"), I perked up at that question and looked at the recommendations. Several of them didn't mention foster care at all in the book's description, so I discounted those. I had a couple that I opted to look up at a later date. The "Holly" novels by C.C. Warrens was also listed. Though these books take place after Holly has aged out of the system (and therefore can't be used as CE), it still piqued my interest since it was listed as Christian suspense and that is my genre of choice. I finally succumbed to the pressure to check it out when the first book went on sale for $0.99. At an author takeover event a couple weeks later, I won book 2 - and when the author started looking for "Street Team" members, I decided it was time to start reading. Oh. My. Goodness. These books were amazing! This author had the perfect mix of things. Well developed, quirky and likeable (or hateable as necessary) characters, on the edge of your seat action and suspense, laugh out loud humor, human struggles and an excellent story line.
These books center on the life of a girl named Holly. We don't know her last name - and only know her first name because it was on a bracelet that she had when she was found 18 years ago, but Holly doesn't remember the first 10 years of her life. There are many parts of the past 18 years that she wishes she didn't remember as well. Life has taught her to avoid staying in one place, stay off the radar completely and don't form any relationships. She breaks the most important of these rules when Jace, a girl in her apartment complex, befriends her and won't let her not respond. In book 1, Criss Cross, when she is attacked in a park after a photography session, she ends up having to file a police report and ends up not being able to stay under the radar, either. A series of events following make her need continual protection from the police and she struggles to remember what she knows about the killer whose face she saw before she lost her memories. Book 2, Cross Fire, continues the relational aspects of Holly's story as she learns to depend on her new friends and actually begins to exhibit some trust. One of the most intense scenes of trust building had me ugly crying as Holly experienced some healing. The villain in this book was completely unexpected, and though Holly's life is once again in danger, it's because of one who cares about her. Book 3, Crossed Off, offers an exceptional ending to this series and Holly faces off with the person who is responsible for her phobias and night terrors. It is intensely emotional and had me crying through the last 3rd of the book, but that only goes to show how well the characters are developed in this series that had me so emotionally attached. One thing I loved about this series is that it's unapologetically Christian, but it is not at all preachy. Holly found God at the age of 15 when He literally saved her life, and though she is a Christian, she is also very human. She struggles with forgiveness and trust, but she knows that she is never alone. The books are written in first person format from Holly's point of view, so we see the struggles in her thought life. She writes in her journal daily things that she is thankful to God for. We also see the Christian elements in occasional conversation, but by and large, everything we see and hear is very true to life. This conversation was one of my favorites, and it was brought up simply because Holly wanted to change the subject - away from having to answer something personal about herself:

So, after reading the books, I contacted the author for some Q&A. Here is some bonus material for my blog - extra trivia:
1. The author uses a pen name. Her initials are C.C. and her husband's name is Warren, so she uses the name C.C. Warrens as a pen name. Her husband, Warren, is actually a character in her book. and as a result, she also shows up in her own book. I found this to be a fun little detail. Warren plays with Holly's friend Jace in a wheelchair basketball and sled hockey league. The real Warren really does play wheelchair basketball and sled hockey, as well as wheelchair softball and wheelchair lacrosse. In the books he owns a restaurant and his wife has done paintings for the wall. Here are the paintings C.C. has actually painted that are currently hanging in their restaurant.

That verse is Holly's favorite verse. She references it often and it gives her peace when she finds herself in sticky situations.... which tend to happen often.
2. In Criss Cross, as Holly is searching for childhood memories, we meet the man who had been her childhood best friend. His character was based on a cat that C.C. had as a teenager. Her cat had quite the personality!
3. In Criss Cross, Holly's friend Jace went on a blind date. That date had an odd fascination with feet. This character is based on someone C.C. actually met in Walmart, who held her shoe for ransom because he wanted to touch her feet! Word to the wise - never be weird around an author. You may find your nuances show up in print some day!
4. As a person who suffered abuse herself growing  up, C.C. is able to write about these tough issues with realism and grace - and isn't afraid to tackle them. Side note - I LOVE the fact that she brings about much of Holly's healing through men who are not, by and large, romantically inclined towards her. Though the author credits her husband with helping her heal, I love the fact that there is not much romance (just some between some side characters) in this series. I don't mind realistic romance in books, but I enjoy books where it really isn't much of a factor.
5. C.C. indicated that writing this series was actually therapeutic for her and brought some healing to those broken places in her past. I asked if she'd heard from others who had experienced similar abuse to see how the books were received by those who could better relate. She'd heard from one who appreciated Holly's strength and another who indicated it brought healing to here life. Therefore, I would recommend to someone who has experienced this!
6. The author's note at the end of book 3 really brought things home for me. While I've not experienced the same abuses that Holly has seen, her abuser (Collin) has told her many things that I've heard as well - from the father of lies - "you're not good enough", "no one really cares about you", etc. So, that helped me to relate to Holly and her insecurities. C.C. indicates in that note that we all have our own personal Collin. From the author: My personal "Collin" is depression, something I have struggled with since I was a child. When Holly's in the hospital and she talks about moments of hope-gulping despair that left her crying, that's a very personal experience for me. And I have spent my entire life fighting to see the glimmers of hope all around us (like Holly does with her journal entries) because if I didn't, I knew I wouldn't live much longer.
Now I use that story to help others who are struggling with similar situations. That is the hope in my darkness.
 I found that to be a beautiful comparison, and something that is very relatable.
7. While this series is complete, C.C. is thankfully not done with these characters. While there was some closure in the story lines, I really want to see what else happens with Holly and her friends. Right now, works in progress are "Imperfect Justice" and "Injustice for All", which will have snippets of Holly in them. I'm super excited for them and release dates are hopefully for later this year. Fingers crossed!


  1. A wonderful review of the series. These books deserve a much bigger readership.


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