Fiction

Review of “Where We Belong” by Lynn Austin

Book Review

“Where We Belong” is a Victorian era adventure story. It features quite a bit of time-hopping within the two sisters’ lifetimes – but what lifetimes! Through their eyes we witness the hurdles in place for women of their time – in education, in exotic travel … and yes, in romance too.

I would say that Christian women are definitely the target audience for this particular novel, and if you also happen to have a love of archeology … or just Indiana Jones movies, then you would also likely enjoy the journeys of these two sisters. Set primarily in Chicago, this novel also paints a portrait of life in the windy city before, during and after the great Chicago fire.

This is a clean book, it contains nothing inappropriate for young adult readers – however, I don’t feel it is one they would be drawn to particularly.  [At the beginning of the story the sisters are already middle-aged.]

I’m rating this one 4 out of 5 relics.


Cover Review

This cover is beautiful. Your gaze is automatically drawn to both the period costumes of the young ladies … and the Egyptian skyline they are staring at beyond them. It accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. You are immediately sucked into an Egyptian travel adventure, and you know that it is a historical.

Having the author’s name more prominent than the book’s title is also a smart move. I loved the cover art, but I will admit that what sold me on buying the book was the name of the author. I had previously read several of Lynn’s novels, including “Until We Reach Home” and “While We are Far Apart” in digital format and loved them both. I knew it would be well written, and worth supporting the author.

The only reason I am not giving the cover a full 5 out of 5 relics is that the cover does it’s job – but to get a full 5 out of 5 from me it would have to stand out from the crowd just a little more – to be stuck in my memory more permanently. Though I love this cover, and it is doing it’s job, I likely won’t remember if I’ve already read this one in a few years without reading the back cover blurb. [Yes – I have picked up books I’ve already read on more than one occasion!]

I’m rating this cover 4.75 relics out of 5.

Please note: I purchased this book with my own funds. This was not a copy I was given for review.

Fiction

Review of “The Pirate Bride” by author Kathleen Y’barbo

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Book Review

“The Pirate Bride” is the second novel to release in a new, multi-author series – The Daughters of the Mayflower – being published by Barbour Publishing. Release date is April 1, 2018. For me, the main female character, Maribel Cordoba, is a mixture of the plucky, inquisitive Anne from Anne of Green Gables and the more determined, [and let’s face it, pirate-fixated] Elizabeth Swan from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series. I happen to love both of those story-lines, so Maribel was rather a fun character.

This book is very clean, and is not at all preachy. For these reasons I believe both a Young Adult reader and the average Christian fiction reader would enjoy it. I also believe it is  aimed at a female reader more than at a male reader. Though there is some high-seas drama involving cannon ball fire etc. the motivation to follow the story through until the end is primarily via the point of view of the female lead. And … as the title’s inclusion of the word ‘bride’ gives away – it is a bit of a romance. Not that there isn’t any adventure too …

I’m rating this one 4 out of 5 anchors.


Cover Review

The trend of the closely cropped main character filling the cover space has grown on me. I used to be a little bothered by it to be completely honest. After much examination I think it’s tied closely to the fact that I’m of a certain age … and cutting off people’s heads in photos was a big no-no when cameras still required the use of film. [And my ten-year-old just wandered into the room and asked me why they were showing the lady’s back? ha ha] But it’s 2018 … and now that this trend has been around a few years to grow on me I find this style to be artistically expressive.

I am free to picture the rest of the character on the cover – much the same as I do the other characters when I’m reading the novel itself. The beautiful blue color of her dress against the elegant white lace, and white text is both eye-catching and effective. I would be drawn to this novel if I spotted it on the shelf or saw it for sale in my favorite online store. The only negative I still harbor is that without the text I would have no idea it involved pirates. I feel like there is room in the skyline for at least the faintest hint of a ship’s mast on the horizon? It could be extremely subtle, but right now … on first glance, I only know it’s a historical due to the style of the dress.

I’m rating this cover 4.5 anchors out of 5.

Please note: I received this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

 

Fiction

Book & Cover Review of "The Carousel Painter" by Judith Miller

Book Review

This was a delightful Christian historical novel, featuring a fast-paced mystery and a little romance. The plot definitely kept you turning the pages!  I additionally love that the characters were given very unique personalities – filled with character flaws we could all relate to. This novels main character, Carrington Brouwer, is a young woman seeking to be loved for who she is, flaws and all.

Due to the death of both her parents she becomes dependent on the offered charity of one of her father’s previous painting students and her wealthy family.  After moving from Paris to Ohio she discovers her presence is largely unwanted by the female head of the household.  She struggles to fit in, and to find worth after such a drastic change in her family life and her circumstances.

Although she does develop an earthly love interest during the plot, the overarching need to trust and be loved by her heavenly father is what helps see the main character through many trials in this great book. I also loved the factoids about the creation of the beautiful carousel animals.  The daily operations of a carousel factory were not something I knew a lot about before reading this book, but it was obvious that Judith Miller had done her homework (as usual) and the factory setting seemed to come alive with realism. A wonderful story.

Cover Review

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This cover is quite beautiful. If I had spotted it in the book store it would have captured my attention.  The red striping and a decorative scroll pattern mimics the carvings on carousel animals. They are used well throughout the cover and even help to capture attention on the spine. I like that although the carousel horse on the cover is quite beautiful, the focus is blurred so that the female behind it is the true focus of the photo.  Hair style and dress on the female in the photo seem appropriate for the historical setting of the novel, but her dress is not overtly colorful or fancy and the focus is decidedly on her expression.  She appears happy, mysterious … and a little proud of her work as she stares at the painted pony in the foreground.

I was a little unsure about the back cover carousel photo at first.  Because the title is regarding a carousel painter it seemed odd to show a carousel in such fast motion that you couldn’t really even see the animals, much less their paint job.  However, when you read the teaser text beneath it you realize that it’s a subtle statement about how what seems to be a perfect job for this novel’s main character – turns out to have a lot of confusing ups and downs. (She is the first woman to work at the factory, and both the workmen and their female relatives are upset about it.)  I’m glad that this photo of the carousel in motion was not the chosen style for the front cover, but feel it was a good choice for the back cover, in order to give readers a hint that the main character’s life won’t be calm and pretty throughout …

Fiction

Book & Cover Review: "Though Waters Roar" by Lynn Austin

Book Review

“As I said before, Grandma Bebe never did tell a story in a straight line like the chapters in a book. Following the thread of her sagas was like chasing a startled rabbit through the woods –– you never knew when it was going to turn and head in a new direction.”

This novel’s main character, Harriet, spends the majority of the story reflecting from a jail cell on meandering, rabbit-trail conversations she’s had throughout her life with her mother and grandmother (the latter of whom she feels will be particularly disappointed by her reasons for being incarcerated).  As she states later in the book, Harriet comes from a long line of heroines that have fought for various causes.  She harbors the desire to be a heroine herself, but feels like all the battles have been won by the generations before her.

Covering the topics of slavery, the underground railroad, the civil war, alcoholism, depression, prohibition, women’s suffrage … and more, this book spans four generations of women and the struggles they faced in their society and in their marriages. Masterfully woven into their lives is the analogy of water.  The beauty of a waterfall reflects the “swept away” feeling of a young couple from two very different lives caught up in love.  Unfortunately, the destructive force of water breaking apart a dam – long beaten against by too much rain … seems to greatly match the turmoil within the civil war veteran husband.  Beautifully done!

Along the way, the three generations of women before her have found peace with their circumstances by trusting God to lead them in the right way to help others, and to face their own fears whenever bucking the system became necessary.  Harriet has the desire to follow in their footsteps, but does she have the right motivation? And will Tommy O’Reilly help to change her mind about men?  (I won’t spoil the fun of finding out on your own.)

This is a wonderfully written book, and one I would highly recommend to others!

Cover Review

I love the photo chosen for the cover.  The young lady has a natural beauty, but is not dressed in fine clothes.  There is a hint of a smile, but the look could also be disguising struggle or deep pain – a little mystery.  The only thing I might possibly change would be to somehow carry the dark blue tones from the waterfall scene below or the blue spine into the sepia tone photo.  This would help to make the photo and water scene slightly more unified, and assist in carrying the water theme into the lives of these women.  I would do the same with the sepia water scene on the back.  Just a little of the dark blue tone in the shadows to tie things together, but overall the photo chosen is appropriate and her mysteriously guarded look draws you in.  Well done.

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Additionally, the back cover copy has done it’s job.  It’s a great teaser – leading you into speculation regarding the main characters reasons for being in prison – as well as opening the floor to her reflection of the lives of the women before her.  Intriguing, yet doesn’t overly give the whole storyline away.  Makes you want to crack it open and read!

Fiction

Book & Cover Review of "A Measure of Mercy; Home to Blessing Series #1" by Lauraine Snelling

Ever turn on your TV about 15 minutes too late to catch the beginning of what seems to be a great movie?  This book is very much like that.  You get the impression that Astrid Bjorklund was once more “spirited” and impulsive in her past … mostly through references regarding a smaller cousin, Inga, who keeps getting herself and another cousin into trouble – including a broken arm.  However, the Astrid of this book is very controlled and comes across as much older than the age of 18.

Astrid has unexplained feelings for a gentleman who has just returned to Blessing after being away for two years.  Not enough of the previous book is recapped for us to understand why Joshua feels the way he does for Astrid, or why Astrid seems to feel that way in return.  Just as the relationship starts to even seem like it could be a “relationship” Astrid leaves for medical training in Chicago and no declarations of care have ever been exchanged between the two.  So … Joshua hasn’t really even dated her or spent much time with her, but starts building a house with marrying her in mind?  And Astrid thinks about him a lot, but doesn’t really know anything about him or whether he really cares for her?

The real story of this book is not the relationship – which falls a little flat – but rather the struggle Astrid wages against continuing her medical studies despite a frustration with God that he would allow good people to die despite all their efforts and prayers.  After the death of two patients, a young man and a newborn, Astrid is angry with God and has an irrational fear of putting her hands inside someone to do surgery or delivery for fear they will die too. The realism of these observations, and the spiritual struggle they bring to a young medical student are heartfelt and well covered by Snelling in this novel.  She is too scared of letting down her family and community to back out of continuing her medical training in Chicago, but continues to be terrified even after her arrival.  Her years of experience and training kick in on multiple occasions and God grants her experiences in Chicago that verify that she will also save lives when He wills it to happen. Including a young boy who becomes her first experience with double amputation.  Astrid’s strong heart shines through when she steps in to find Benny a home among friends in Blessing rather than leaving him on the streets of Chicago to struggle.

The additional turmoil Astrid experiences over deciding whether she is meant to spend time doing mission work in Africa, before returning to Blessing, adds even more emotional tension to this story.  There is some satisfaction when she decides to take God’s lead, one day at a time, with the first step being to attend the missionary training.  But the copy on the back cover had eluded that we would find out in this very book if she would regret making that choice?  Apparently that was just a summary of the entire book and we won’t really find that out until book two (or maybe three?)

What can we tell by the book’s cover?

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Well, the knotted blonde hair and blue eyes do hint at a possible
Norweigen background, but not blatantly.  The two-story white house,
wheat fields and the style of her dress (with the high collar) elude
that this is probably a historical book in a rural community.  Although
this cover is of an appealing design, it doesn’t help you to understand
anything about Astrid.  I would have recommended that she at least have
a stethescope or medical bag in her hands … or show a scene with her
caring for a patient, rather than staring across a wheat field.  This
cover is beautiful, but possibly a little too generic to the genre to
stand out?

The copy on the back cover is misleading.  The romance is not as
clear cut as the back eludes … and disappears before the end of the
book, (not to be discussed again until the next book I assume?) And
I’ve already mentioned that the decision regarding Africa happens at the very end of the book.

Overall, this book is very well written, but is not a stand alone
piece.  Although marketed as Book #1 of a series – it is a continuation
of another Blessing series that needs to be read first to thoroughly
understand several of it’s main characters.  I think this cover’s copy
should have been less of a synopsis of the whole book and more of a
teaser to get the reader to pick it up off the shelf.  Too much of the
plot is given away by the back cover copy, and some of the questions it
brings to mind aren’t answered in this book.

***Note: I was given this book to review by Bethany House. If you are a publisher and would like an honest review of one of your latest publications, please contact me at suzanne@suzannewesley.com for addressing.