Book Reviews, Fiction

The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers | Book Review

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers returns to her romance roots with this unexpected and redemptive love story, a probing tale that reminds us that mercy can shape even the most broken among us into an imperfect yet stunning masterpiece.

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want―money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist―an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship―and both their lives―forever.

While I really did want to love Francine River’s latest, like I have so many of her other books, this one fell flat for me. I was intrigued by the idea and the characters, but there were a few other things that made it hard for me to love this one.

I thought there were some unnecessary stereotypes with some of the characters and I also wanted her friends to be a bit more than they were. Some were one dimensional and with others, their actions were a bit confusing. Not that characters need to be the perfect person, but their actions didn’t bring anything to the storyline, so their actions felt out of place. Also, there were some events in Grace’s life early on that were glossed over, but I thought needed more.

I also thought it was longer than necessary. I’m all about redemption with characters, but this was a lot more forced-preachy than her previous books and for me, that took away from the story.

I appreciated having a character you don’t often see and the role different art plays within communities, but overall I didn’t connect with this novel like I have with other reads.

(Thank you to Tyndale for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

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Bookish Radness

The History of the Book Cover | CBA Edition

Oh the book cover! Put out any book cover and you’ll get all kinds of different opinions. In the CBA market, there’s been shifts, changes, movements and it continues to vary between genres as well. There’s been some funny covers, some cringeworthy (my reaction to most trends of the 90s), some encouraging and some inspiring.

Today, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at a some of the changes over the years of the different genres. I’ll sprinkle some of my thoughts throughout, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about it! Do you have a preference? What changes do you see happening that you’d like more of or less of? So, please don’t be shy and let the discussions begin 🙂

I’m kicking off with a classic (and favorite), not only because it’s been out for a really long time, but I feel like it’s one book cover that has seen many changes. Here’s Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love.

I personally have a soft spot for 2001 cover, but I also like the 2005 (which is the current one) cover as well. That 90s cover though…;)

I rarely read Amish fiction, but since this is a staple in the CBA market, I thought it was worth including.

I tend to see many Amish novels that have the same vibe as this Lewis’ example. The staple outfits and country-ish backgrounds, so the reader will know immediately it’s Amish fiction. I think that’s why I like Petersheim’s covers so much (and probably because I love her stories too. Seriously, READ The Outcast). They show the story is connected to Amish roots, but I think set themselves apart.

Lynn Austin is not only one of my favorite and go-to authors, she’s been a staple in Christian fiction for a while. She was even recently inducted into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. She is also one of the authors who I see such a variety of design with her books. Here’s some of her popular historical and biblical works:

Confession: I’m not too much of a fan of the new edition of Fire By Night. I really like the original one, but that might be more due to the fact it’s one of my all-time favorite books and it holds a soft spot in my heart, so I see no need to change it ;).

Now onto the contemporary stuff. One of my earliest introductions to any type of Christian Fiction was the lovely Robin Jones Gunn’s Glenbrook Series. So let’s look at these shall we?
Weren’t the 90s fabulous? I had the 1999 version and this series is a good example of moving toward the use of models in recent years. What do you think?

Here’s a few other things I’ve noticed in the current trends (this is by no means a massive comprehensive account, since I haven’t investigated every genre or cover, but I still did catch some themes : )

  • Fantasy covers: Even with models, you don’t often see their face. This genre also has quite a bit of variety.
  • General Fiction: I’ve noticed this genre doesn’t use models as often. If it does, we usually don’t see their face. At all.
  • Historical Fiction: I would say a significant chunk of books use models on the covers. Sometimes, there’s models off in the distance too.
  • Contemporary Suspense and Romance: I would say 92.9% of the time there’s models.

Have you noticed any common trends with specific genres? Do you agree?

I’ll close with a few of my favorite recent or upcoming releases:

Now that I’ve probably talked way more about book covers than y’all cared to read, I’d love to know what you think and where you see things going! Do you have a preference?

(Thank you Goodreads for having all the cover editions available for our viewing pleasure!)

Bookish Radness

My Top 8 All-Time Favorite Fiction Reads

Do I dare even tackle such a list? Now before you think there’s really only eight favorites on my list, I just have to say this is me we’re chatting about! But here’s a start of some novels that have held a place in my heart for at least 10 years. You know it’s solid if it’s remained on the list for at least a decade.

Mark of the Lion Series | Francine Rivers: If you ask me for a book recommendation, this will always be the first series I recommend. Looking for a biography of the 13th President? Read Mark of the Lion. Oh, you want a story about London society after 1912? I think the story of Marcus and Hadassah is just what you need. Just kidding, I’d give you a legit recommendation, but I don’t think I can put into words how amazing this series is. If I ever meet Francine Rivers, I’m just going to hug and thank her for this book. I’ve probably read it 10 times and I only see that number increasing through the years.

Just know it’s a three book series. I did not know this and when the first book ended, I texted my friend who recommended it asking why she would think to suggest a book that just RIPPED OUT MY SOUL. Yep, my reaction was equivalent to all caps plus a bag of chips and toss in some fireworks.

I own a hard copy and the kindle version so I can read it at anytime. I also read it two weeks after I read it for the first time because it’s just that amazing. If I could only have one series the rest of my life, this would be it. (I need to confess, I only read this about 5 years ago, but I’ve read it 10+ times, so I still added it to the list.)

Dracula | Bram Stoker: Vampires? Wha? Let’s just clear things up by saying it is nothing like modern day vampire shenanigans. No, this is a classic that so fantastically demonstrates battling such evil. I’m reminded that in the fight against evil, you will battle dark forces, you will lose people, you will want to quit, but you won’t. The world will be a better place because you didn’t. I haven’t read this one in a few years, but man, what a book! My e-reader friends, it’s free, so no excuses!

Redeeming Love | Francine Rivers: That sneaky, sneaky Rivers lady. Without knowing how it happens, after reading her stories, you’re forever connected to the characters she creates and wish you could meet these people in real life. Redeeming Love was also the first Christian Fiction book I read back when I was in college. I remember my friend Lindsay, from one of my Comm classes during my freshman year (folks, I never remember details, so the fact that I remember the class, the friend and the year should tell you something ;), gave me her copy to borrow and I had the chance to read it over Thanksgiving and I devoured that sucker in about two minutes flat.

Please, read this book if you haven’t yet (which I need to point out that every monthly top seller list Lifeway releases, Redeeming Love is on it. I jest not. And it’s nearly 25 years old. In May, Francine Rivers not only had her latest (which was fantastic, see my review here), but Redeeming Love as well. P.S. IT HAS IT’S OWN WIKIPEDIA PAGE. Need I say more?

The Land I Lost: Adventures of a Boy in Vietnam | Huynh Quang Nhuong: This is one of the first books I vividly remember reading. I read through it so many times, I’ve lost count. Since growing up in Vietnam was so vastly different from growing up in my parent’s house in Orange County, California, I was so fascinated by this man’s life. Every time I read this book I wanted to do one thing: Go on an epic adventure. If my mom ever asks why I’m always fixin to do something crazy, it’s because I grew up on stories like these. It was also my Mama who gave it to me 🙂

Fire By Night | Lynn Austin: Sigh….just thinking about this book makes me want to re-read it. I think I might too. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered Dr. McGrath and Julia, so I think this summer I might change that. Not only do I love Julia’s character (and connect with her), I adore Dr. McGrath. The whole series is enjoyable, but this one shines far greater than the other two. Plus it’s Civil War (and still my favorite Civil War fiction novel), so win with that.

The Giver | Lois Lowry: I’ve talked about this one the blog enough, so I’ll keep it short. Without pain, one would never know the true depth of happiness, beauty and love. Lowry so beautifully captures this. Plus it’s coming out in the movies soon!!

The Harry Potter Series | J.K. Rowling: Duh.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Harper Lee: This was one of those books I actually liked in high school and understood at the age of 16 why it was such an important piece of literature. It’s beautifully written, it’s an amazing story and Atticus Finch is one of the all-time greatest heroes in literature.

You might be wondering about the books I talk about every 27 seconds and why they aren’t on this list. Well, I figured it was a given that anything Narnia/Lewis or Middle Earth/Tolkien related are in their own category of greatest all-time anything. I mean, I have a monthly series about them internet, so of course they are my favorite of favorites. (If you want to join in The Inklings series, check it out here)

Alright, there’s the fiction list! I feel I can breathe a little easier now ;). What do you think? What are some of your favorites to add?

Ponderings

Why it’s Better to Admit the Nerdy Things in Life

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of a nerd. And not just because I read a lot (although, increasing your knowledge isn’t nerdy people…it’s brilliant :). It’s because lots of the things I like and do are well, a bit nerdy. I admit I wasn’t always secure enough to freely admit this, but good thing you grow up and become much more wiser right?

Here’s the thing: in the age of the Internet there’s lots of people who portray a persona of someone they’re not. Trying to look “cool” for a world of strangers. It’s bad enough for our kids to fear being who they really are, but if they look to adults for guidance, they sometimes don’t see a difference. I vote no to that.

You do the world a disservice ignoring this because you’re uniquely you. No one else is. We’re wired certain ways for an amazing and incredible purpose only we can fulfill. That’s why I’ve learned to embrace exactly the way I was made.

So this month’s post is where I gladly admit things about me I know are totally nerdy/quirky/only I do, but still me!

1. I memorized the Gettysburg Address for chuckles because it’s one of my favorite American speeches. It’s so beautiful and profound (if you ask me to recite it in person, I might get stage fright and mess it up though). I also have it hanging on my wall.

2. I may have watched Denzel Washington’s Academy Award acceptance speeches on Youtube recently. And teared up.

3. I only eat Vanilla ice cream. It’s not that I don’t like the other ones. I just don’t mess with the best. Hate away ;).

4. I watch Disney classic cartoons on a regular basis. And still cry. I mean have you seen the part when Mufasa dies?? Good golly, I’m a bawlin mess every time.

5. I have ordered the same exact thing at Del Taco my entire life. I kinda wish I was joking, but alas, I am not. It’s the original #3: Bean and cheese burrito with red sauce, fries and a root beer. If I feel like “mixing” things up, I’ll get a Cherry Coke.

6. I buy costumes for my cat. This past Halloween he was a dinosaur. As you can tell from this picture, he was thrilled.

7. Speaking of my cat, I considered creating his own Instagram account. This still might happen people.

8. If someone offered a class to learn elvish, I’d be all over that in 2.8 seconds flat.

9. I recently needed to write a bio for myself and this is what happened: “She wishes she could go to Hogwarts, live in Narnia and hopes one day Gandalf will show up at her door and invite her on an adventure. She also could never part with Dracula by Bram Stoker, The Giver by Lois Lowry or Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers.” P.S. If you’re wondering what it’s for, check out this awesome new board I’m on here!

Well Internet, there’s a few to kick things off. Hope you enjoyed them! Now, it’s your turn! Please join in and share what makes you – you! I’d love to hear it!