Fiction

Book Review of “The Shenandoah Road” by Lynne Basham Tagawa

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Book Review

Set in 18th Century Colonial America, “The Shenandoah Road” is an enjoyable story centered primarily around a young couple who marry at first more due to an agreeable arrangement than out of love. The husband is a widower with a young daughter in need of a mother-figure. The new wife has spent more time lost in thought about books and botany than she has about almost anything domestic or theological. (I won’t spoil anything further in regards to how the arrangement for them to marry is made. You’ll just have to read it for yourself.)

This book is a little more overt with Christian themes, especially areas featuring details pulled from sermons by George Whitefield, so I would primarily recommend it to Christian readers. Some of the religious topics covered are a little deeper, so I would also say adult readers would be its best fit within the Christian market. I found this dip into the past to be a refreshing step into one couple’s journey, both on The Great Wagon Road and on the journey to deeper faith, and into deeper relationship with one another.

If you enjoy stories of faith growth and wagon trains … you’ll enjoy this one.

I’m rating this book 4 well-traveled wagon wheel ruts out of 5.


Cover Review

I always want to be gracious when I analyze anyone’s cover design. Because I design covers myself, I know how much time and effort often goes into their creation. On first glance my opinion of this cover was that it was peaceful, which is good … but I also felt it had a self-published feel. The background photo has been stylized slightly to be a little golden and hazy, which is what helps to give it the peaceful feeling, but by the photograph alone I am not certain what genre of book I am picking up. It could be a Western if I get close enough to see the hat on the horse’s rider? However, the style of the font used for the title doesn’t appear to back up that it is a Western. The font choice seems more fitting for either a historical or possibly a romance novel.

I also would have adjusted the spacing between letters in the title to appear more professional (this is called kerning in designer lingo) – particularly between the last four letters in the word Shenandoah.

I don’t think this is an unattractive cover, I just think it may not be super effective at attracting readers on its own. Therefore the author will have to work even harder on promotional copy and other advertising methods to attract the right readers. This cover will primarily attract readers who already know what the Shenandoah Road is and have existing awareness of the Great Awakening.

I’m rating this cover 2.5 well-traveled wagon ruts out of 5.

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

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.

 

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

Book & Cover Review of "Full Steam Ahead" by Karen Witemayer

Back Cover of book "Full Steam Ahead"Front Cover of "Full Steam Ahead"
 5 Star Rating

Book Review

“Full Steam Ahead” is the perfect book for those who love heroes and heroines that don’t necessarily fit the mold. Nicole Renard is deeply devoted to her father, but their relationship is strained due to one problem totally out of her control – she’s not male. Smart as a whip, and full of spunk, this heroine will capture your heart from the first page.

At the beginning of this story, Nicole has returned home because her father is deathly ill … and his business competitors know it. Attempts are made by his competitors to end her father’s business legacy, and Nicole is desperate to find a husband to give her father a male heir, and help hide what she thinks is her father’s greatest treasure – the Lafitte Dagger. (Yes, there is pirate lore in here too; a unique twist!)

During her adventurous journey to find a spouse among her father’s business partners, she bumps into a very unlikely spousal candidate – Darius Thornton. Darius is a man whose life has become totally obsessed with one thing – improving steamship boiler safety. His explosive experiments, and driven focus, have the entire town talking. Everyone avoids even being near his home except for a couple of loyal house staff members.

These two characters, on the surface, do not seem made for one another at all.  However, once Nicole begins applying her keen mind to Darius’s boiler experiments … he can’t help noticing Nicole is more than a pretty exterior; something her father has failed to do.

I would say that this story is written more with female readers in mind, but anyone interested in the history of US steamboats would enjoy this journey back to that era of travel.

5 Star Rating

Cover Review

I will state for the record, that Bethany House covers tend to be among my favorites. Their design and photography teams manage to capture the buyer’s attention, as well as the heart of the author’s story on a very consistent basis.

The expression of the female model, her body-language of arms folded about her mid-drift, her fly-away hair, and the blast of steam coming from the boiler the male model appears to be working on, all combine into one intriguing and rather fun cover. You know from the moment you look at this cover model, that this young woman is determined, and more than a little spunky.

On the front cover, we only catch a glimpse of the chin of our hero’s face, but he does look rather hunky. You already wonder what he’s up to with all of that steam?

The beautiful embellishment around the title is enhanced by a subtle embossing over both the title and the author name on this cover. I also love that they used the same steamy look behind the title and embellishment to help the title stand out from the background of the model’s vibrant green dress.

The spine features the same photo as the cover, only we do get to see the hero’s entire face (still hunky). The spunky theme is also cleverly carried into the back cover design, where our heroine model appears to be giving her hero an “I told you that wouldn’t work” speech, with one hand on her hip and the other pointing a finger in a commanding way. The hero has his arms slouched, palms up, as though conceding she is correct, or admitting he didn’t know something. I love that I can guess what their conversation is, and what they personalities are like by their body language. So often a cover is only a face staring into the distance.

This cover definitely draws you into the characters and into the story from first glance. Well done!

*This book was provided by the publisher for review under no guarantee of a positive review.

 

 

 

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Book & Cover Review of "A Noble Groom" by Jody Hedlund

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Book Review
“A Noble Groom” is a new twist on the ‘mail order bride’ story type. Set in 1880 in Forestville, Michigan our heroine is a new widow who isn’t very eager to enter into what would be her second arranged marriage. Her first husband was abusive and a gambler. Annalisa is expecting their second child, and will likely lose her farm if she doesn’t get a new husband.
Annalisa’s farm is part of a  community consisting entirely of immigrants from Germany that are working together to make it through homesteading newly broken American ground together. As a community they decide to write to their families back in Germany to get her a husband. Annalisa is fearful that a new husband may be even worse than her last … but has long ago given up on her girlhood dreams of marrying for love.
While she waits for her prospective cousin/groom to arrive from the Old Country a young man named Carl arrives offering to help. He claims to have been a school teacher, and he knows very little about farming – but his charming and gentle ways give Annalisa new hope that all men aren’t like her former husband. But do her feelings lie deeper than that for this man? And is he really a former teacher? The story is worth the read to find out!
Cover Review
It’s obvious by the outfit Carl Richards arrives wearing that he is NOT a farmer. The community chooses to believe his lie that he is a schoolteacher, but … his clothes look a little more refined than even that profession. However, Carl has a letter from a well respected family member and they choose to take him into their community on faith. This cover design helps to accentuate just how much Carl doesn’t fit in when he arrives. This pampered son of a nobleman learns quickly what he must to survive (and hide) among this immigrant community.
The stormy sky in the background was a nice choice to reflect the tension and turmoil of this young man’s situation. The hint of barn and handmade plow next to the well-dressed and freshly shaven young man on this cover seem incongruent … because they ARE. Readers of historical romance will be drawn to the heroic stance and good looks of this prospective groom. Once again, the photo has taken center stage in this books design, but I believe it is successful and the title and author information are well-handled. I at first questioned the choice of bright green for the title text, but it has grown on me. It clashes a little with the other colors in the photo, but this helps it to stand out and get noticed.
*This book was provided by the publisher for review under no guarantee of a positive review.