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Best Christian book covers of 2011

Today I saw a friend on FaceBook post the announcement for the ECPA’s (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) list of final nominees for the best book covers of 2011. If you’d like to see their full report check out this press release http://www.ecpanews.org/rush/pr31.html . I noticed something interesting about the covers they chose.  The first, being that the three covers they chose as winners for the best covers by small publishers are stronger covers than those by the ones chosen as winners for mid-sized publishers, and possibly two out of three of the larger publishers.  Why are these smaller publishers pulling off covers that are equal to or better designed than the larger publishing houses?

Which leaves me wondering two things: a) Did the larger houses not submit covers for consideration? And, b) Did it matter more to the smaller publishing houses to be in such a contest and therefore they had more submissions to choose from?

I plan to investigate! I’ll also try to include a post in late December or January on my favorite covers for 2011. (Details yet to be determined.)

I’d enjoy your comments on the ECPA nominees if you’d care to share them?

Christian fiction

Book & Cover Review of "Love Amid the Ashes" by Mesu Andrews

Love Amid the Ashes: A Novel
Book Review
Love Amid the Ashes is a debut novel written by Mesu Andrews. I have always been drawn to the passages regarding Job in the bible and this novel adds new dimension to those passages of pain, loss, and spiritual strength in the face of dire adversity. My family has had its share of hard times over the last five years … but nothing compared to what Job experienced. I have always wondered how he endured such pain and suffering and maintained any sanity, much less how he managed to profess his love and trust for God’s greater plan for his life amidst the chaos, the painful sores, and with his closest friends openly doubting his good character. (Obviously, Job did something wrong to earn God’s wrath, right?)

But as we all know … bad things do happen to good people, and good things also happen to those who are wicked. Much of this story is told through the eyes of a female character named Dinah. A woman whose past is just as misunderstood as Job, which allows her to assist him in his time of need. His very lengthy, and horrifying time of need.

Mesu Andrews has done a great job weaving several character stories into one strong tale about faith and love amidst hardship. One we could all learn and find encouragement from.


Book Cover Review
I am often drawn to books by their covers and this book was no exception. The piercing eyes of the woman on the top portion of the cover are haunting and sad. They draw you in even before you read the novel’s title. You know from the title that this is likely a love story … and with a man appearing at the bottom of the cover you assume he is likely the love interest? The backgrounds of both portions of the cover suggest desert land, but the lower portion is completely dead and very hot with a stormy horizon. The upper portion actually has blue sky and some green vegetation – so obviously a little better circumstances. I will say that those details didn’t stand out at first, but after reading the novel I found them to be very prophetic.

I also love the use of pattern tile in the border around the title. Ornate fabrics play a part in the romance between Job and his wife and what befalls them. The ornate tiles help to echo a sense of sturdy elegance that they had come to take for granted after many years together. But it all comes tumbling down. Yet as we all know, what God has torn apart … he can also rebuild!

* This book was provided to me for review by the publisher (Revell) under no guarantee of a good review. A Press Release provided by Revell is below.



How Could Job Explain to His Wife That The Life They Once Knew Was Gone?
“No, not my children! El Shaddai, Al-Uzza, by the gods, not my babies!”
“Come, wife,” said Job with a sudden and unexplained calm. “Only one God can help us.”
Drawing characters directly from the Bible and others from historical texts, Mesu Andrews, author of Love Amid the Ashes (ISBN: 978-0-8007-3407-7, March 2011, $14.99) weaves new threads into Job’s story, creating a novel that breathes new life into an ancient tale of suffering and redemption. Andrews began her research at Multnomah University and expanded her studies to include rabbinic traditions, giving readers of Love Amid the Ashes a unique understanding of Hebrew customs during Biblical times.
Most imagine Job sitting on the ash heap, his life in shambles. But how did he get there? What was Job’s life like before tragedy struck? What did he think as his world came crashing down around him? And what was life like after God restored his wealth, health, and family?
Andrews tells the story through the eyes of the women in Job’s life. Drawing together the account of Job with those of Esau’s tribe and Jacob’s daughter Dinah, Love Amid the Ashes breathes life, romance, and passion into the classic biblical story of suffering and steadfast faith.
“Mesu Andrews has skillfully brought the Old Testament story of Job to life in Love Amid the Ashes. You will be moved to tears as the characters reflect the mysterious role suffering plays in our faith. If you enjoy a story that includes a powerful plot, romantic passion, and biblical truth, read this book!” says Carol Kent, speaker and author of Between a Rock and a Grace Place
Mesu Andrews is an active speaker who has devoted herself to passionate and intense study of Scripture. Harnessing her deep understanding and love for God’s Word, Andrews brings the biblical world alive for her readers in this debut novel. She lives in Washington.
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.
For more information, visit
www.RevellBooks.com
.

Christian fiction

Book & Cover Review of "the Thorn" by Beverly Lewis

The Thorn (The Rose Trilogy, Book 1)
Book Review
The Thorn by Beverly Lewis, is book one of a much anticipated new Amish fiction trilogy, entitled the Rose Trilogy. Releasing today, September 7th, The Thorn is expected to rise quickly into the best seller list due to the author’s reputation is the top name in Amish fiction. And, after reading an advanced reader copy sent to me for review by Bethany House, I can see why!  Beverly Lewis continues to keep the Amish fiction genre fresh by interweaving complex character problems into a seemingly simple/plain cultural background.

What I found most intriguing about book one is that, unlike ‘the Shunning‘, her first Amish fiction novel – which has sold over one million copies – ‘the Thorn‘ actually tackles the issue of what would happen if someone who has left the Amish order for the life of the English wants to return to it?  Especially if they are married to an Englisher and have a child?

In previous Amish fiction I had read, it was always assumed that the person who left to be English would be shunned by even their closest family members, and therefore there was no opportunity to return.  This book certainly handles that in a different light, and is worth reading for that aspect alone.

However, one of the other main plots in this book deals with an Amish girl who is torn between caring for two very different men. The choice between living English or living Amish is there for her … but Rose has seen what that choice did to her sister Hen’s life, and she knows that her sister is struggling to live in the gap in between the two lifestyles.

Is that even possible? This book is the first book of a trilogy that seems to tackle that topic head on. If you love Amish fiction, this book is a ‘must read’.  There are enough twists to keep you reading, but overall it is a peaceful read, full of details about living Amish and the peaceful simplicity of a faith filled with tradition and the importance of family.

Book Cover Review
It’s a little harder to give a review on the cover this time.  The advanced reader copy only gives me a glimpse of the front cover, however, it appears to be a very typical cover for a piece of Amish fiction.  The large image of the young woman, sporting Amish dress and head coverings will certainly draw any readers who are already Amish fiction readers, or anyone who has always been curious about the Amish.  Beverly Lewis is perhaps the best known Amish fiction writer there is – so the choice to show her name even larger than the title of the book itself is no surprise. Very little of the background is showing, but it appears to be an open field of either tall grasses or wheat beneath a cloudy blue sky.  An antique treatment has been applied to the background – helping to give the novel the look of an instant classic.

The only negative I will state about this cover is the fact that it is instantly forgettable – there is nothing about it that will stand out in a reader’s memory.  If you were unable to remember the title of the book there is nothing on the cover that will make it stand out from any other piece of Amish fiction. If there had been a way to work a thorn photo, or a thorn-like embellishment into the cover … I think that would have made the cover more customized, and possibly more memorable, even if handled in a subtle way.

* Advanced Reader Copy received for review from Bethany House Publishers.

Christian fiction

Book & Cover Review of "This Fine Life" by Eva Marie Everson

This Fine Life: A Novel

Book Review

Author Eva Marie Everson has found her niche’ in the Christian southern fiction genre.  Although in every respect a story of it’s own, the southern flair present in her earlier book Things Left Unspoken has been further polished and refined in This Fine Life. This Fine Life is a charming accounting of how one encounter with a young man named Thayne Scott, an employee at her father’s manufacturing company, forever alters the life of a young woman named Mariette Puttnam. 

Mariette is at a cross-roads.  Mama and others in her life believe that now that her boarding school days are behind her she should settle in and concentrate on finding a husband.  On the other hand, there is the lure of college and doing more with her life; her father’s wish.  Faced with the option of making one parent happy while disappointing the other – in steps Thayne … The attraction to Thayne proves stronger than the opposition of her family – so she neither marries well, nor attends college – equally disappointing both parents.

There are two things I loved about this book, one being that Mariette’s parents could have done the over-the-top drama of disowning their daughter for not only seeing a boy they didn’t approve of, but marrying him with no support from them.  Instead her parents buck up and support their daughter and her husband in every way they can that is not a complete hand out.  This depiction of parental love is more accurate than most novels I have read recently and I found it very endearing.  The second thing I loved was that this is eventually a story about a young couple who are not only mismatched economically, but mismatched in their spiritual walk.  Mariette’s faith is not very deep, but her husband’s is and he decides to join the ministry.

I had never before thought of the struggles of a pastor in his first year’s of ministry – let alone that of his wife.  And if I had thought about it, I still would have assumed that the wife would share similar spiritual goals with her husband.  It would be too hard not to …

Mariette indeed struggles to find her place in the new life her husband has created for them, slowly building a strong faith of her own – and a deep love for the people of the small community they have become a part of.  The hard-nosed, close-knit characters in this small community were not easily won over, but the winning was worth the effort.

This book provides a great glimpse into the life of a mismatched pair during their first years as husband and wife, and as a ministry team.  Worth reading, and at times entertainingly funny.

Book Cover Review
I think this cover is beautifully done.  A young Mariette stands poised and pondering over her future, while attired as though ready for a southern garden party or other semi-formal event (complete with white gloves and pearls.)  The satiny dress material and upswept hair exude refinement and good breading.  The wallpaper, flowers and furniture that are also in the photo help to define the setting and also enhance the feeling of femininity and class.  The only negative I had with the cover, and this is being a bit picky, is in regards to the color choices used in the title text.  Mainly, I feel the F in Fine should have been white along with the rest of the word to give it unity.  At first glance the letters INE stand out the most because they are starkly white and all of the other letters are a light lemon-yellow hue.  A small detail to be sure, but the only thing I would have changed.  I believe this book’s audience to be largely women and feel this cover would draw them in quite well.  Well done!

Available May 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. A copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher.

Christian fiction, Christian suspense

Book & Cover Review of "Beguiled" by Deeanne Gist, J. Mark Bertrand

Who is framing the dogwalker in historical Charleston, South Carolina’s most elite neighborhood?

 Book Review

This was my first opportunity to read a novel with input from author Mark Bertrand, but I am very familiar with Deanne Gist’s historical romance novels.  The contemporary setting is well-done, yet Deeanne has still been able to interweave bit’s of Charleston’s history into the family background of the heroine dog walker and her clients. This book leaves you wondering, not only who is doing the crimes, but just who is stalking the dog walker from the very first chapter.  I will say that I did have an inkling early on which person it was going to be, but several red herrings were thrown in along the way to make it possible to be wrong …

This book is a great easy read, a page-turner in fact – but not deeply spiritual.  A spiritual element is interwoven, but it is done in a fashion that even those who aren’t very spiritual, or who haven’t often attended a church, could relate to the inner faith struggles of the characters. For this reason, I would say older teens and adults would find this book an interesting read.  There is a romantic element to the story, but it is handled in such a way that I think even boys/men would enjoy this novel – unlike some romance novels that more obviously target a female audience.

This novel is a great easy-to-read suspense novel that will help you get lost into someone else’s life struggles – but will not overly make you reflect on your own spirituality. I found it a great bed-time novel – leaving me wondering about plot twists, instead of my to do list as I turned off the lights for the night. 

Book Cover Review

 The red ornately-fringed curtain and the gilded door frame on the front cover help to establish a feeling of oppulance and old-world charm – very fitting for this novel, which is set in a historical district full of wealthy families. I also like that they have chosen to give the woman pictured the same hair-style described in the novel.  What I do question is the outfit she is wearing?  It might have fit the book better to have her wearing something she actually would have walked dogs in?  Instead of the dog walker she looks more like the home’s owner.

I do like that they used a light colored outfit so that more attention was drawn to her surroundings, but question the style of the outfit itself.  I’m remembering her wearing a lot of outdoorsy clothing and ear buds?  Perhaps she might also have a leash in her hands, or be holding a smaller dog?  This cover will appeal to Deeanne’s romance fans, but if they wanted to grow into a new contemporary suspense audience they might have been better served to show her wearing cut-offs, t-shirt and ear buds with one of the dogs somehow?

Additionally, on the back cover is a beautiful close up of a key.  Although I personally love old keys, and that element does reflect the historical district aspect of the novel – to better portray the suspense and fear surrounding the neighborhood and the main character I would have chosen a door that also had a chain etc., to relay that an old-fashioned key just wasn’t enough protection in this neighborhood anymore?

A beautiful cover, but I’m not sure it is as strong as it could have been to reach out beyond the historical romance readership and into the more typically male suspense readership.

* This book was provided for review by the Bethany House Book Review program.