Christian fiction, Christian historical, cover design, historical christian fiction, Historical Fiction, historical romance

Book & Cover Review of "Betrayal" by Robin Lee Hatcher

Special thanks to Zondervan and author Robin Lee Hatcher for providing me with not only the second title, “Betrayal”, in her Where the Heart Lives series, but also book one too! The first book, “Belonging”, sucked me in so deeply that I think I read through both books within three nights’ time. (Yes, they are that good!)

And the even better news is that they provided me with a second copy of each to give out to a lucky reader!! Comment on this post for a chance to have both of these great books mailed to YOU. 🙂

9780310411857Book Review

In the first book of the ‘Where the Heart Lies’ series we are introduced to a set of three siblings who, upon the death of their mother and knowing their father is a rarely present drunkard, have been sent out on an orphan train to find new homes. Unfortunately, all three were placed in different families and towns along the route. The first book is about the middle child, the eldest daughter. This second book is about Hugh Brennan — who unfortunately didn’t get far enough away from the influence of their father. As the eldest, and only boy, Hugh was kept by the first available family needing a worker, and later was retrieved by their father. With his father drinking up most of his money and rarely a steady home to stay in, Hugh ends up in prison for a short term for something his father actually did. This story starts once he is released. Determined to better himself, he has become a drifter in search of reuniting with his lost sisters.

Along the way he happens upon a widow named Julia Grace. Julia’s late husband was so abusive she does not ever want to marry again. However, with her late husband’s brother doing all he can to take her late-husband’s ranch from her, she may have to. Having been a bit of a ‘street rat’ thanks to his father’s influence, Hugh is surprised when he finds ranch life appealing, and the widow too.

This book is a sweet romance, featuring two main characters with pasts they would both rather forget. I feel it will appeal to both men and women who enjoy American historicals from the late 19th century – though slightly more to women.

Book Cover Review

The romantic cover photo of a fashion-model-level handsome drifter/cowboy in a small town depot setting will definitely appeal to women more than men, but it is very well done. Since Hugh is actually a city boy instead of a farm-raised cowboy his clean cut looks and the whiteness of his shirt ‘might’ be explainable? This cover follows well the ‘look’ of the series set by the first cover, so that even though it features a young man instead of a woman, it is obviously part of the Where the Heart lives series. Robin Lee Hatcher’s name is prominently displayed in the same manner, the color scheme is within the same pallet, and the handling of the one word title is also in keeping with the style of the series. I do wonder why the designer chose to use all lower-case letters for the titles, but they have called it out enough that you aren’t left wondering if it is indeed the title or not. Well done! It will reach the right readers, and matches the tone and story well.

Book Description

It’s the turn of the twentieth century and drifter Hugh Brennan is a man well acquainted with betrayal. Hugh finds himself drawn to the attractive widow, Julia, yet when he looks into her eyes, he recognizes the same hurt that haunts him.

Julia Grace has little reason to trust men, but she’s going to have to trust someone if she’s to keep her ranch from the clutches of her dead husband’s half-brother. Is it possible God had a hand in bringing Hugh to her door?

The latest historical romance from award-winning author Robin Lee Hatcher and the second book in the Where the Heart Lives series, Betrayal will take you to the high desert of western Wyoming, through the crags of the Rocky Mountains, and into the hearts of two seekers learning to trust God’s love no matter the circumstances.

Robin Lee Hatcher

Robin Lee Hatcher is the bestselling author of over sixty-five books. Her well-drawn characters and heartwarming stories of faith, courage, and love have earned her both critical acclaim and the devotion of readers. Her numerous awards include the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, two RITA Awards for Best Inspirational Romance, Romantic Times Career Achievement Awards for Americana Romance and for Inspirational Fiction, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award. Robin currently resides in Idaho.
For more information, visit www.robinleehatcher.com.
Write to Zondervan authors or their estates in care of Zondervan. Your mail will be forwarded as soon as possible, but please note that the author might not be able to respond personally. Email zauthor@zondervan.com or send postal mail to:
Robin Lee Hatcher
c/o Zondervan
ATTN: Author Care
5300 Patterson SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49530

 

Christian fiction

Book & Cover Review of "Cooking the Books" by Bonnie S. Calhoun

Book Review

Although I was a little surprised that this story is not about the embezzlement of funds … (that’s what is usually meant by ‘cooking the books’ in the mafia movies, right?) the title still fits, as there is definitely cooking, and more than one book directly involved in this mystery. Full of unique characters, and plenty of drama, this book sucked me in by chapter two. There are so many options on who it is that might be harassing (and possibly plotting to harm) the main character that it keeps you reading to the very last page. One after another the potential villains’ plots unravel, but along the way the crazy antics of her relatives and friends remind me a little of the over-the-top craziness of characters from Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series.  Though Bonnie’s female character, Sloane Templeton, may perhaps be even worse than Stephanie at handling a gun … at least in the beginning.

“Cooking the Books” does tackle a little bit of faith – in regards to learning  to depend and trust on God and not on yourself alone – but its done in a manner that I feel even non-Christians would enjoy this book.  Note: there is a bit of blood, guns etc. in this novel, as well as flashbacks regarding abusive relationships that might not be for everyone. However, if you are a fan of Law and Order or the like, it’s not any worse than that level.

Book Cover Review

This is a very modern book cover design, which fits since this is a story set in modern times. The city skyline and modern font help to ground the book as an urban mystery … and the bits of tech font, and computer code allude to the elements of the mystery that appear to come from a skilled hacker. (Luckily, the main female character has skills and connections of her own!) I worry that some of the text may be a little too close in color to the background behind it and might not be readable on some screens. Also, I would like to have seen the skillet with the book in it at a slightly larger size, just enough so that the handle would have appeared to go off the page to the left and we could assume someone was holding it instead of it appearing to float in mid-air as it does now. Overall, I believe it is an effective cover. Just a few easy tweaks and it would be even better.

Note: I received a digital copy for review so I have not seen the back cover design and therefore can’t comment on it. This title will be available from Abingdon in April of 2012. 

The following interview was conducted by me for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Interview with Bonnie Calhoun

Bonnie Calhoun is indeed one very busy lady. As she phrases it on her amazon.com author bio,“… sleep is sorely over-rated.” As a member of her blog alliance, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, I can testify personally that she has responded (unexpectedly) to an email from me to request a book for review in the wee hours of the morning – so I know she isn’t just saying that! Bonnie also publishes the Christian Fiction Online magazine, is the director of ACFW’s Northeast zone, teaches workshops on blogging and website construction at more than one writing conference, runs her own clothing design store, and still manages to teach a bible study and a weekly Sunday school class for teens.

Bonnie, I confess that I get a headache even trying to imagine juggling the many roles mentioned in your bio. How do you stay organized enough to tackle so many things?
Spreadsheets! I love Excel spreadsheets! And I think part of the penchant for organization comes from the fact that I am an “ENTJ” on the Myer-Briggs Personality test. I love it when a good plan comes together!

You have been supporting other writers for some time, in many different ways, was this always with the intent of building a platform to support your own writing, or is that a happy bonus?
It’s a happy bonus! Sometimes I find such easy ways to help people, and I can’t just waste those opportunities. The Lord gave me a great gift of organization and design, and that translates into being able to see the big picture. So anything that is furthering the Lord’s Kingdom is right on my work list.

What’s your secret to staying up late (chocolate, coffee …)?
ROFLOL…that one’s easy…work. I have a certain amount that I need to get done every day, or risk falling behind. So I stay up till I’m satisfied with the day’s progress. For example…I’m writing this interview at 2:30 AM…

Your characters in “Cooking the Books” are so zany and full of unique quirks. Are they based on real people, or what gave you the inspiration for some of their unique traits?
They are a conglomeration of relatives and people I know. We all have zany characters in our lives. All you need to do is meld a few of them together to create a really fun personality. And if you have a single person that is uber-zany, so much the better…*snort-giggle*…just don’t name the character after them.

One of the topics woven into your story revolves around the idea of tendencies for women of different generations in the same family to be drawn to the same type of man. What drew you to this topic?
All of my stories will have the “bones” of an issue that many women deal with. I know many dysfunctional families that if you look back at their generations…their mom made the same mistakes, and so did their grandmas, in choosing unwisely. This is the time where we need to pray to break these cycles. And I am going to try and portray women who learn to overcome.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career (so far)?
That is a totally easy question! Holding my first novel in my hands. (The box of author copies came this week. Holding them makes it all real in a tangible way that I can’t describe…but other published authors understand.

Who is your writing support system?
My agent, Terry Burns and his Client group, my crit group, the Penwrights, My ACFW Northeast Loop, my editor, Ramona Richards, and several other people as they have time…but most all of us are writers, and we’re all…writing. ☺

What writers do you feel have influenced your own writing style the most?
Jerry Jenkins, Brandilyn Collins, Robert Liparulo, and Janet Evanovich…in that order.

Any parting words?
Yes…a great quote from my agent Terry Burns that I love to share on a regular basis, “Publishing isn’t a selection process. It’s a survival process.”

Thanks for sharing with us, Bonnie, and congratulations on making it on the cover of Publisher’s Weekly with your upcoming book!

Non-Fiction

Book & Cover Review of "Thin Places: A Memoir" by Mary E DeMuth

Cover Review

What I love most about this cover is that I learned that this is a real photo of the author, taken by her biological father – whose love she has ached for since his death when she was in fifth grade – and not just a photo of another child posed to be representative (not that there is anything wrong with that!)

I additionally found out that there had been another little girl standing next to her in the original photo which has been removed impressively by the cover artist – no traces left behind that I can see.

Adding the blue tints to the sepia-toned photo reminded me strikingly of the filmography of “Schindlar’s List”. I haven’t seen that movie in years, but I am still haunted by what the director chose to highlight with color in an otherwise black and white film. The image of the colorful coat on the body of the little Jewish girl at the death camp is one I will never forget …

I think this similarity in photo treatment alone was a visual clue of the direction Mary’s memoir would take when I opened it to read. The smiling little girl appearing on both covers is surrounded by muted blues, hinting of the sadness to be survived in the pages ahead. The only design element I question is the use of the thin blue rectangle on both the front and back cover as a sort of frame. I think the overall cover design is strong without it on either the back or front cover and it could have been left off and the design still would have felt complete. A minor detail though in the grand scheme of things.

I also like the chosen font for the title, and the fact that it is used throughout the book in the chapter headings. The font is readable, yet irregular enough to carry the feeling that the author hand-wrote it onto the cover. A nice touch for such a personal memoir.

Book Review

I have read two of Mary’s fiction novels prior to reading this memoir – “Daisy Chain” and “A Slow Burn,” from the Defiance Texas Trilogy. While reading those novels I had surmised that Mary had either lived through some harsh experiences herself, or closely interviewed people who had … because she wrote with such strikingly real first-person emotional detail about tough topics such as: physical and emotional abuse, drug addiction, parental neglect, and spiritual longing. After reading this memoir I know that a good portion of that realism comes from the fact that Mary lived it herself.

In many ways I found it a relief to know that children who grow up with many of those things in their lives can still find their way to God, and make their way out of the typically repeat cycle of abuse and or drugs. However, it is painfully obvious that Mary is aware that the scars of her past still haunt her, the abuse at age 5 still affects her family life, and her self-image today.

There is such refreshing honesty in this memoir. This is a book that I hope will find its way into the hands of anyone who is hurting – who needs to know that God is with them during the worst of times – when they feel unloved, unwanted or even abused. Even if we haven’t lived through the exact circumstances that Mary has, this book encourages every reader to look back on their life and see where God has revealed his presence during their own ‘thin places’ – where heaven and the physical world collide.

* This book was provided to me by the author to review. If you have a title that has been released in the last 12 months and would like a book & cover review – please e-mail me.