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24 July 2014

Review: Done Being Friends by Trisha Grace

It had potential ...

I’m always a fan of friends to lovers plots (this is Christian romance, so I mean ‘lover’ strictly in the Victorian sense), so I was keen to read Done Being Friends. Zac and Faith have been friends since they were children, each with feelings for the other, feelings they have each kept secret for fear of ruining their friendship. In Done Being Friends, a series of events along with the interference of Zac's best friend, Dylan, force them to address their feelings.

I liked both Faith and Zac, which is always a good start in a romance novel. They are both the children of rich and privileged upbringings, but are pretty normal despite that. Zac now runs his family construction business, while Faith spends her time on short-term missionary trips. I also enjoyed the suspense subplot that came into play in the second half of the novel.

However, there were a number of writing issues. There’s a view that few novels benefit from a prologue, and this one proves the rule. I get the impression it was meant to show how protective Zac felt towards Faith, but he came across as possessive and arrogant. And it was unnecessary backstory, as it was covered perfectly well in a single sentence in the first chapter.

The writing was an issue throughout the novel. There were a lot of typos (he had his hand on her "bareback"), creative dialogue tags (her father stated, her mother voiced), and too many adverbs, as well as commas in the wrong places, run-on sentences, and some sentences which were almost unintelligible ("I took a couple of paper from Jessica's house"). The book description says this is the reedited and revamped version, but it's still not ready to be on sale, at least in my opinion.

I was also concerned by a couple of aspects of the plot for a novel I was told was a Christian romance, although this wasn't obvious in the story apart from a few mentions of Faith's missionary trips. First (and don't read this if you don't like spoilers), Faith and Zac share a bed many times during the course of the story. It's implied they are merely sleeping together (rather than, you know, Sleeping Together), but that's not made clear. And while I see Faith has a Christian faith, I never had the same assurance about Zac. Specifically, he says to Faith at one point, "You've always told me how good God is". You mean Zac doesn't know for himself?

Overall, while I liked the characters and enjoyed the story, I can't actually think of anyone I'd recommend Done Being Friends to. People who would enjoy the Christian aspect wouldn't like the "sleeping together" or the lack of clarity around Zac's beliefs, and readers of general market romance wouldn't like the Christian aspect (although some would like the chaste storyline). Overall, it's only okay.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

23 July 2014

ACRBA Review: Better than a Superhero by Belinda Francis

 21st - 25th  June 2014

is introducing

Better Than A Superhero
(Wombat books 1 May 2014)


Belinda Francis
Illustrated by Kayleen West

About the Book

Who is better than a superhero? Find out about Jesus as you explore what he did and who he was. And most importantly how Jesus really can be your best friend!

About the Authors

Belinda Francis

Award winning journalist turned children's author Belinda Francis worked in newspapers, magazines and electronic media for ten years in South Africa before she and her family immigrated to Queensland.

Shortly after arriving in Australia, her elder son was diagnosed with ASD and she devoted the next few years to his early intervention, which with God's guidance, has paid off miraculously. Her second son, who had been born ten weeks prematurely, is now healthy and strong – evidence of yet another miracle. She and her family recently celebrated the arrival of their third child, a much-prayed for daughter.

While raising her children, Belinda wrote Better than a Superhero, her first published book, and threw herself into the local church and community. She runs the Sunday school program at her church campus.

Belinda is passionate about raising children up in God's kingdom and excited about the ministry opportunities the book will undoubtedly open up.

Kayleen West

An award winning artist, her work hangs in private and corporate collections in France, United States, Italy, and the Australian Embassy in Ireland and in government collections in Australia.
Although an initial childhood dream was to write and illustrate for children, Kayleen was encouraged to venture into a career of an exhibiting fine artist and later a graphic designer.

Returning to her original passion in 2009, Kayleen is now a published children's Author and Illustrator working on her third children's book and writes Christian content for magazines and blogs.

Kayleen is the author and illustrator of Without Me? (Wombat Books, 2013) and the illustrator of Better than a Superhero (Even Before Publishing, 2014).

For more information:  

My Review

I have a son, and as a preschooler, he had definite ambitions to be a superhero (these days, I think he's planning to specialise in demolition, but that's another story). Anyway, I'm sure many parents and children will relate to this sweet story about how Jesus is the best superhero of all—in fact, Jesus is even better than a superhero, and the young narrator tells us how.

While the words are good, what really makes a picture book stand out is the quality of the illustrations, and these are simply beautiful (and I'd say that even if I didn't know the illustrator). I especially like the friendly and welcoming Jesus.

Better than a Superhero is a hardcover book and should stand up to many readings. A lovely book for young children.

Thanks to Even Before Publishing for providing a free book for review. You can find out more about author Belinda Francis at her website, and more about illustrator Kayleen West at her website.

22 July 2014

Review: Runaway by Renne Donne

Runaway by Renee Donne
Imprint: Romance
Release Date: July 29, 2014

After Marianne discovers her bankrupt stepfather sold her into marriage to the highest bidder, she flees Philadelphia and heads west to start a new life.

Unfortunately for her danger follows.  First, a stage coach accident leaves her stranded in the middle of nowhere – with an injured driver. And henchmen, hired by her spurned would-be husband, are hot on her trail, threatening to return her to Philadelphia and the man who is determined to own her.

Just when things seem hopeless, Marianne is rescued by a handsome, cowboy who offers temporary refuge.  Knowing she can’t refuse, yet wary of his intentions, Marianne finds herself drawn to this quiet, enigmatic hero. But is he someone she can trust?

My Review

Marianne Fhinnerty runs away to Texas after discovering her step-father has betrothed her to sixty-year-old Maxwell Halsted. She is rescued from a stagecoach accident by the handsome Aaron Smith, but it soon becomes apparent that trouble has followed her …

Runaway is an enjoyable first novel. It was shorter than the books I usually read, barely longer than a novella. The short length meant there wasn’t a lot of scope for character development, particularly with regard to Aaron. This was a weakness, as I never felt I understood his motives, and without that he was almost too good to be true. Marianne was a better character, but she too would have benefited from more fleshing out.

The writing was solid, although there were a few typos, and the faith elements were subtle and well-presented. Renee Donne shows potential as an author.

Thanks to Anaiah Press for providing a free ebook for review.

Author Bio:
Renee Donne is a native Floridian with a penchant for writing books with a western theme. In her head she's a world traveler and an amateur chef. In real life, she's a hometown girl with an affinity for fine wine and good friends. Her favorite place to write is sitting on her veranda, overlooking the beach.

Author Links:


Buy Links:

21 July 2014

Author Interview: Renne Donne

Today I'd like to welcome debut author Renne Donne to Iola's Christian Reads. I'll be reviewing her first novel, Runaway, tomorrow. Welcome, Renne!

First, please you tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I‘m from St. Petersburg, Florida. I love to go for long walks on the beach, relax with friends and like to “escape” into a good book or movie. I enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes/dishes on my friends. I have a little chihuahua rescue dog, that is my constant companion when I am home.

It’s said that authors should write the kind of book they like to read. What is your favourite genre? Who are your favourite authors?

I guess my favorite genre would be romantic suspense, but I also like historical romance, YA and speculative fiction. If it draws me in, I like to read it. Some of my favorite authors are Janette Oke, Dee Henderson and Frank Peretti.

What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it? Why/why not?

Unspoken, a romantic suspense by Dee Henderson. Yes, I would recommend it, I have not read anything by her that I would not recommend. She creates strong, believable characters that are easy to identify with and this book is no different.

I enjoyed Unspoken as well, although I will admit to preferring her True Heroes series.

What kind of books do you write? Where and when are they set?

All of my writing is faith-based. The main characters are either strong christians or are finding their faith. Runaway, due to be released July 29th, is a historical romance, set in the old west. I also have a YA that is scheduled for release through Anaiah Press this fall, and am currently working on a romantic suspense.

Tell us about your latest book. Who will enjoy it?

I hope anyone who likes historical romance will enjoy reading Runaway. It has everything, danger, excitement and hero who comes to the aid of a lady in distress.

What was your motivation for writing Runaway?

I have always loved westerns, and once I started developing Marianne as a character, there had to be a hero cowboy out there somewhere for her.

Where did the characters and story come from? What were your influences?

I guess I have been influenced by other historical romances and westerns. Marianne came first, and I wanted a valid reason for her to leave a life of comfort and head out west on her own; Halsted seemed the perfect villain to give her that reason. Aaron was easy to pen as the cowboy to save her.

Who is your favourite character and why? Do you have anything in common with him/her?

My favorite character is Aaron. If I were a damsel in distress, I would like to meet an Aaron.

What motivated you to start writing? When did you seriously start writing? How long did it take before you signed your first publishing contract?

When I was in high school, my English teacher sent some poems that I had written, for an assignment, to a local newspaper and they were published. I realized that I really like writing and have been writing ever since. I had several good story ideas and started some, finishing a couple. I still have some unfinished manuscripts that I might go back over. I wrote and reworked Runaway numerous times, and it is the first book that I felt like I could submit to a publisher or agent.

What made you choose to write for the Christian market?

It is who I am. While I hope that my books will succeed in the secular market as well, I cannot write the kind of books that readily sell in that market.

What do you see as the main differences between fiction written for the Christian market compared with the general market?

With Christian fiction you can count on reading a good story, without the sex and foul language, or excessive violence that is found in most secular fiction. I have found Christian books to not only be inspiring, but to also have the kind of characters that I can identify with.

What made you choose Anaiah Press as your publisher?

I can identify with their goals, and I felt that the direction I want my writing career to go fits perfectly with what they are doing.

What kind of support does your publisher give you? What are you expected to do yourself?

I am assigned an editor to work with, to develop my story. I work with the editor on developmental and content edits and also review the line edits and proof the galleys. Anaiah Press provides the cover art as well as the marketing materials associated with the release and publication of my book. Anaiah Press also assigns a publicist to help with the pre-publication promotion, book a blog tour for me during my release, and also help connect me to further promotional opportunities.

What is the hardest part of getting a book written, edited and published?

There are so many things involved, it depends on what aspect you are looking at. Writers block can be a big issue, when you know you need to write but can’t seem to get into it. Then when your manuscript is accepted by a publisher and the editing begins, you see your work picked apart. It is hard to not take it personally when scenes are revised or removed, etc. but you realize that it really is in the best interest of the book - the changes only improve upon your story.

Thanks for visiting, Renne, and best wishes for the release of Runaway.

After Marianne discovers her bankrupt stepfather sold her into marriage to the highest bidder, she flees Philadelphia and heads west to start a new life.

Unfortunately for her danger follows.  First, a stage coach accident leaves her stranded in the middle of nowhere – with an injured driver. And henchmen, hired by her spurned would-be husband, are hot on her trail, threatening to return her to Philadelphia and the man who is determined to own her.

Just when things seem hopeless, Marianne is rescued by a handsome, cowboy who offers temporary refuge. Knowing she can’t refuse, yet wary of his intentions, Marianne finds herself drawn to this quiet, enigmatic hero. But is he someone she can trust?

Author Links:


Buy Links:

18 July 2014

Review: One Perfect Spring by Irene Hannon

I prefer her romantic suspense...

Keith Watson is the workaholic assistant to David McMillan, owner of a large construction company and funder of the McMillan Charitable Foundation. Keith is assessing applications for funding assistance when he finds a letter from a child with an unusual request: she wants him to find the baby boy the neighbour lady gave up for adoption twenty-plus years ago.

Keith is reluctant to waste his time on such a matter, until he meets the child, Haley Summers, and her mother, Claire. He’s attracted to Claire, but she has loved one man who gave up his family to chase his career, and she sees the same ambition in Keith. But she needs help around the house, and he keeps showing up and offering to help …

I’m a big fan of Irene Hannon’s romantic suspense novels, but this is the first of her pure romance’s I’ve read. While One Perfect Spring is a solid romance, I have to say I prefer her romantic suspense novels. They’ve got that extra ‘zing’ factor that, for me, lifts them beyond the ordinary. It wasn’t that One Perfect Spring wasn’t good—it was—I just didn’t enjoy it as much.

My main problem was Haley. There’s a saying in TV that you should never act with pets or children, and while pets are usually winners in fiction, children are more hit-and-miss. Haley is supposed to be eleven, but a lot of her conversation and attitudes make her seem much younger. This, to my mind, detracted from the romance.

I also thought there was too much emphasis on Dr Chandler (the neighbour who was searching for her adopted child), and David MacMillan and his family problems. Yes, it all added to the story, but this took up valuable space where there should have been a suspense subplot (*wink*).

Overall, this was a solid romance (well, double romance), just not Hannon’s best.

Thanks to Revell and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Irene Hannon at her website.