28 Jan 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Cover Changes, the Good and the Bad

Another TTT post, hosted by the Artsy Reader Girl blog. Today I'm looking at book covers. 

Covers can be the first thing that attracts readers to a book. When its sitting on the shelf in a bookshop, or like me, when you're trawling through Amazon. New editions of books often come out with new covers or sometimes the author decides to change just the cover for whatever reason. Yet not all cover changes are, in my opinion, equal.

Changes I didn't Like 

 First off, Joyce DiPastena's Medieval Poiteven Hearts series has been recovered and reformatted. I may by in the minority for preferring the old cover on the left. I just think the girl on the new one looks like a Barbie doll.

Not judging the book or its content since I have not read it yet, I just don't care for this cover change.


Second, the books of a YA Fantasy series I read years ago. In fact, aside from the Chronicles of Narnia these were really my itroduction to Christian Fiction. I really preferred the older covers of this trilogy rather than the most recent  (shown in the second row) created with the author went independent.
Old Covers 

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The cover change for the first book (below) isn't too bad, but for the second one, again, the model looks too perfect, and the third one is too abstract for my liking. 




Also, can I say I sort of preferred the original covers of some of the Books in Tamara Leigh's Age of Faith Series? Or would that be heresy.


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Great Changes

Honestly, though its not all negative. There have been some excellent cover changes.

I loved it when my friend Venessa Knizley changed the covers of her Medieval series: although the hand drawn ones (left) were good, I think they give the wrong impression. Hand drawn says YA or Children's Fiction.


Beneath Outstretched Arms (Walk With Me #1)41754189. sx318


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Also, Deanna Julie Dodson's Chastelayne Trilogy were much improved when they came out on Kindle a few years ago.  Except perhaps,the cover of the first book.

Paperback Covers (from the 90s) 



Kindle Editions (2011)



 And honestly, I think Christian Fiction covers have improved generally in the last decade or so. Here are some of my favourites for titles coming out this year. 


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Join me for another Top Ten Tuesday post soon.

24 Jan 2020

The Bridge to Belle Island by Julie Klassen: Review

400 Pages, December 3rd 2019, Bethany House 
Print, Ebook and Audio 

After a humiliating mistake, lawyer Benjamin Booker resolves to never again trust a beautiful woman. When an old friend is killed, the senior partner isn't satisfied with Bow Street's efforts and asks Benjamin to investigate. Eager to leave London for a while, Benjamin agrees. Evidence takes him to a remote island on the Thames, a world unto itself, shrouded in mist and mystery. Soon he finds himself falling for the main suspect—a woman who claims not to have left the island in ten years. But should he trust her?

On Belle Island, Isabelle feels safe and leads a productive life, but fear keeps her trapped there. When Mr. Booker arrives with news of her trustee's murder in London, Isabelle is stunned. She has not left the island, yet she has a recurring dream about the man's death. Or is it a memory? She had been furious with him, but she never intended...this.

When a second person dies, and evidence shockingly points to her, Isabelle doesn't know who to trust: the attractive lawyer or the admirer and friends who assemble on the island, each with grudges against the victim. Can she even trust her own mind? While they search for the truth, secrets come to light and danger comes calling.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


I've been an ardent Julie Klassen fan for several years, and this book didn't disappoint. It sort of marks a return to some of her previous, standalone titles after the Ivy Hill series. In fact, it reminded me in some way of her previous titles, The Tutor's Daughter and The Girl in the Gatehouse.

Klassen is known for her unusual Regency stories, with mystery subplots and detailed settings. Which often explore little known aspects of 19th century history, culture and society. The Bridge to Belle Island is very much cast in this mould: its set in a tiny Island in the river Thames. Although fictional, there are hundreds of such islands in reality.

Isabelle and Benjamin were both well-drawn characters. Though suspicious of each other at first, I think their emotional problems and connections with family draw them together. Benjamin suffers from crippling vertigo, and Isabelle suffers from panic attacks if she tries to leave Belle Island. Bought on by memories of what happened to her family and rumors of a curse.

Both are sympathetically portrayed, however. I think I also appreciated the fact that the hero and heroine of this story were rather older than they usually are in stories of this kind. Too many romances write off older characters, and whilst they're still under 40 I liked this little twist on convention, and I honestly found it made the characters a little more relatable.
There was also an interesting cast of supporting characters, although I found Rose her fiance a little on the stale side.

The slow burning romance story is not central to this novel, which is fleshed out with the central mystery, as well as intriguing details about the legal system, medicine and traditional crafts in in 19th century rural Berkshire. The struggles and concerns of people living on a small island river island also seemed credible: flooding and storms would be a much bigger deal for them than those on the mainland. There's also a hint of smuggling, which wasn't just relegated to Cornwall.

Although its appears simplistic, the central mystery ends up having enough twists, turns and suspects and motives aplenty worthy of an Agatha Christie novel. The inspirational elements were also well handled: not too preachy but certainly there.

Overall, The Bridge to Belle Island was a wonderful and impeccable researched Regency novel, well on form for this established author in the genre. The only slip ups I noticed were a couple of uses of the term 'candy' and 'dessert'. These are only minor things though, and didn't detract from the story.

Recommended for all Regency and Historical Fiction fans. This would also be a great introduction to Mrs Klassen's work for new readers.

Grateful thanks to the publisher and their representative, including Anne Rogers for sending me a copy of this novel. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

22 Jan 2020

A Pursuit of Home by Kristi Ann Hunter Review

Haven Manor #3 
Bethany House, 380 Pages, 5th November 2019 
Print, Ebook and Audio 


 Jessamine Beauchene has spent most of her life in hiding and always on the move in an effort to leave her past far behind her. But when she learns the family she thought long dead just might be alive and in danger, she knows her secrets can only stay buried for so long.

Derek Thornbury loves the past, which has led him to become an expert in history and artifacts. He knows Jess has never liked him, but when she requests his help deciphering an old family diary, he can't resist the urge to help solve the puzzle.

As Jess and Derek race to find the hidden artifact before her family's enemies, they learn as much about each other as they do about the past. But can their search to set history right lead to a future together?

 My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

I think this novel might have been my favourite in the Haven Manor Trilogy. I think its because it takes the action outside the fictional Haven Manor, in an exciting adventure across Regency England, and beyond when Jess (Jessamine) the female protaganist has to face her colourful past.

Jess was a major character in the last 2 books in this series, the French cook cum bodyguard with a mysterious past and unconventional ways. Except she's not French. In this novel her story unfolds, including her background, with the danger and intrigue that she has always lived in the midst of.

Honestly, Jess was never a character I knew what to make of. I neither loved nor hated her. This is her story, and she emerges as a fascinating character who hides her vulnerability and grief about her past behind her tough and aloof personality.

Derek Thornbury is probably what today would be called a nerd. I man whose interest in a relatively obscure subject has become his life's great passion. Honestly, I just love nerdy characters, and Derek's passion for art and history are infectious.

Jess, initially only intends to use him for her own purposes, but there is a spark between them. They are thrown together on a cross country journey, which leads to witty repartee aplenty, as well as some interesting and mad escapades (including ingenious disguises). Since this is a romance, its inevitable the protagonists will fall in love, but I think this was well portrayed and developed.

Although a little complicated and perhaps over-ambitious in places, A Pursuit of Home was great fun overall. An atypical regency with some atypical characters. I did enjoy how different subjects and details were used in this story, from the landscape to details about technology, art and snippets of other languages. There are also hints of political intrigue and mystery. All of these apparently disparate threads are woven together well.

My only complaints were several Americanisms, and some modern intrusions in the characters speech. (The word 'okay' as I recall, is not recorded until the 1840s came from American slang- what on earth is a high born European woman doing using it 30 years earlier?). I did feel there was one aspect that was a little inconsistent in this story.

I don't remember Jess being especially religious in the previous books. She seemed indifferent, if not slightly hostile. Yet here she's a lot more open than she was before, even remembering previous, and not mentioned experiences.
I felt that contradicted some of what the reader had previously been told about her character, but its not a major issue.

I requested an ARC of this title for review. I was not required to write a positive one, and all opinions expressed are my own.

17 Jan 2020

First Line Friday: The Heart of the Rebellion by Sian Ann Bessey

Its my first FLF post of 2020. The group hosted by Hoarding Books

Today I am featuring a book that was published late last year, but I've only just started reading it. Its set in Wales at the turn of the 15th century, when the country was on the verge of rebelling against the new King of England. There really was a rebellion in Wales in the early 1400s, against King Henry IV of England, and it was led by a Welsh National hero by the name of Owen Glendower, or as my Welsh friends would tell me to spell it Owain Glyndwr.

The hero is of this novel was a a cousin of Glyndwr, who comes from an Old Welsh family by the name of Tudur. Ring a bell?

September 1400

King Richard II of England is dead. And after three years in His Majesty’s service, Rhys ap Tudor and his brother Gwilym are finally free to return to their ancestral home in North Wales. Their long- anticipated homecoming is overshadowed, however, by the harsh changes they encounter in their once peaceful land. The new king, Henry IV, rules with an iron fist, and the country is ripe for rebellion. Instantly thrust into the forefront of the conflict, the proud Tudor brothers enter the fight for their freedom.

Lady Catrin Buckley is alert to the unrest swirling around her. As the daughter of an English father and a Welsh mother, she knows too well the trouble her lineage poses. Her own battle, however, is one of the heart: she is to be married to a man she neither knows nor loves. Then an unexpected encounter with the enigmatic Rhys ap Tudor changes everything. Soon, Catrin finds herself swept into a rebellion that could not only change history but also rewrite her own future.


 The First Line: 




 What about you? What are you reading and what's the First Line? 

https://hoardingbooksblog.wordpress.com/category/first-line-fridays/
 

1 Jan 2020

English Lady: Reading Plans and Goals 2020

Happy New Year and New Decade to ya'll! 

I've decided to go out on the limb and write a post which isn't related to one of my groups to reflect and outline my reading plans for this year. 

I wanted to clear my Kindle Backlog last year. In fact, I've been doing that the last 2 years, and progress has been good-ish.


Although I have 129 books on my Christian Fiction To Read list on my Kindle, I have over 200 on the Read list, and I now have none dating from before December 2015. Which means that all the books on there were purchased in the last 4 years. Since I've had Kindle since summer of 2011 surely that counts for- er something?



There are several titles that I've absolutely made it my  Resolution to read this year including To Shine With Honor a novel written by my online friend Scott Amis, and which I've had on my Kindle since late 2016. Also I AM going to read books 2 and 3 in Deborah Kinnard's now sadly out of Print Faith Box Trilogy; and hopefully Defender of Jerusalem, 500 plus page long sequel to Knight of Jerusalem by Helena P. Schrader.



On my physical books, I'd like to finally get around to The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen.

I'd also like to clear the backlog of some of the titles on Netgalley. I mean there aren't that many in the more than 3 months old section now. Only 12 to be exact, but a few might have been on there for years. 


To reduce, or at least keep on top of my To Read List I've been adopting a fairly strict policy of limiting the amount of new books I'm buying.
Now, I won't usually buy it unless its a standalone that I really like the look of part of  a series I've already started or by an author I've read before. Or a title that I read from Netgalley, or listened to as an Audiobook and I now want to own for myself.

Honestly, buying 3 or 4 books in a series because they were on sale, without ever having read anything by the author before and having no idea whether I'll like them now seems like a terrible plan. That's why I've also been ruthless and culled out some of my books. Generally, these were titles from say, the Middle of a series, where I did not have the first or subsequent book and I'd only purchased because they were on sale or free.

Some of these titles I will probably end up reading by Kindle Unlimited, and then buying them again afterwards if I like then. Although Amazon UK seem to have changed the rules with KU and made it so you can't take advantage of the latest offers if you've had a Kindle Unlimited subscription in the last 6 months.

Of course, that doesn't mean I won't read any newer books, because of course several of my favourite authors have new books out this year. The usual suspects: Roseanna M White, Sarah Ladd, and Michelle Griep are among them, but there will be other series to finish, and undoubtedly new books to discover.





I've been on Netgalley voting on the 'Most Anticipated' reads for the year, most of which I will try to get my hands on. Of course, I've also created my Medieval Christian Fiction List on Goodreads for this year.
Its an annual event I've been doing since 2015, and I add titles throughout the year.

I've mad some beautiful buttons to link to the List for this year and last year. Have a click.


https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/131174.Medieval_Christian_Fiction_2019_https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/143057.Medieval_Christian_Fiction_2020_



 Maybe this year I'll go out there and create one for other periods, but this is always a bit of fun. Feel free to vote, but please read the instructions before voting. 

So, these are my plans for the year. Hopefully by summer I'll have made some good progress. What are your goals for the year? Do you have any of the same books as my on your TBR list?

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