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.

 

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

Front cover for 'A Noble Groom' 210471_99_bkc
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.
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Book & Cover Review of "a Love Surrendered" by Julie Lessman

Book Cover for 'a Love Surrendered' by Julie Lessman

Book Review

A Love Surrendered is Book three in a series started in 2010 by Julie Lessman. It had been so long since I had read book one that I had forgotten I had read it until I was well into the book. (Though once I did figure that out I realized that the cover was designed similarly, and I had recognized the author’s name when asked to review it by the publisher.) The book tackles some very tough topics for a Christian novel to handle, the biggest being sensuality. I don’t consider myself a prude, but even I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of sensuality in this novel. Beyond the attraction felt and resisted by the unmarried hero and heroine, there are several married couples – most of whom are the parents or brothers and sisters of the hero and have been featured in the earlier two books – and all seem to be trying to get pregnant or use their sensuality to manipulate their spouse in some fashion at some point in the book. I get that sensuality was a major theme being tackled in the book, but with so many couples it was a little much even for me. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it as suitable reading for teenagers.

However, the book is very well written and the characters are enjoyable. Additional insight is given to being a single person during the prohibition era.  I do feel you would want to read books one and two to get the best amount of enjoyment from the series. The number of characters was a little hard to keep track of since I hadn’t read book two and book one was read too long ago. If I’d read them back to back I feel it would have been easier to keep track of the many characters.

I would only recommend this book  to readers who aren’t overly sensitive to reading sensual situations. It will likely appeal more to female readers, though the issue is tackled from the male perspective in a few cases during the book.

Book Cover Review

They’ve done a great job at keeping the covers similar, but I will say the first book I read had a model on the cover with a bright blue dress on rather than this muted rose tone on the current cover. The blue color help to add some vibrancy to the cover and make it stand out on the shelf. The rose dress just it isn’t as eye-catching. I also have the same complaint about this cover as I had about the first one. Without reading the copy I have no idea that this is a historical novel. The textured brown backdrop, the clothing and the hair style really don’t give away what time period this novel is set in.

I didn’t mention it previously, but I also dislike that the title area is left of center and runs slightly off the page. This was done consistently on all three books, but I feel it would have been more balanced to center it on this particular design. I’m not sure the covers for this series are doing as good a job as they could have to draw in new readers for this author.

* Available October 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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 …