In the Shadow of Croft Towers by Abigail Wilson

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

In the Shadow of Croft Towers by Abigail Wilson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Coming to Croft Towers to be a companion to a Mrs. Chalcroft, Sybil Delafield brings along internal questions about her veiled background. But it seems most everyone at the Towers has something to hide, including Mrs. Chalcroft’s godson, Mr. Sinclair. With private messages Sybil must deliver for Mrs. Chalcroft, Mr. Sinclair’s double life, and unexplained murders cropping up, Sybil is drawn deeper into a web of secrets…In the Shadow of Croft Towers, a novel by author Abigail Wilson.

A Gothic Regency romance with mystery and danger? Yes, please! I’ll admit it took some time for me to get into this story, but I became more engrossed as the web of secrets here became more intricate. The intrigue carries through right to the end of the novel.

Now, I didn’t quite take to the heroine. I would’ve liked to see more compelling flashes of quickness or fire from her, but she seems so nervous, bumbling, and naïve much of the time, stammering and getting cut off, with romantic feelings bubbling for one man and then the next, even within a few minutes.

As for some of the climactic moments in the last chapters, the characters are too quick to take a crucial piece of information as absolute fact, by word of a villain’s mouth, without concrete proof or receiving confirmation from another source. Also, though it’s pretty common in mysteries, I’ve never been a fan of villain monologues toward the finish. The more a villain puts into coherent words in the eleventh hour, the more it feels like an info-dump to wrap up everything the good guys couldn’t or wouldn’t otherwise figure out before the book is over.

Nevertheless, this novel has much for fans of clean historical romance to enjoy.

 

Convergence by Ginny L. Yttrup

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

Convergence by Ginny L. Yttrup

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

They’ve robbed me of myself. There is no shame in the realization. The fear is not unfounded. If only it were.
But how long will I allow those who’ve staged these attacks to rule me?

Years ago, psychologist Denilyn Rossi struck a chord across the nation with her bestselling book about bullying. But fear is taking over her personal life, on account of a brutal attack in her past and the possibility that the man who once stalked her might be back in Convergence by author Ginny L. Yttrup.

I really liked or loved various aspects of this novel. It doesn’t shy away from tough issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, divorce, living with the phantom of fear, and the cost of brushing aside your instincts. The plot has good mental twists, and what I appreciate most about the book is that it isn’t a “whimpering damsel in distress” tale. Yes, Deni has her struggles and weaknesses, like any human being, but when it’s time for her to stand up, she stands up.

However, for a suspense novel, I found this one to be slow, and I had to push through parts where I started to lose interest. A number of scenes are given to descriptions of little mundane activities and a lot of contemplation and ambling through internal questions, some of which may not be necessary. After a great turning point when I thought the story’s pace would pick up, it stretched into a long, sometimes evasive wait before the climax, with Deni’s faith reflections becoming redundant, as if trying to explain a message that was already clear.

The book also has a recurring little issue of missing quotation marks, which jars the reading at times.

Nevertheless, for the overall story, I’d recommend this novel to fellow fans of ChristFic suspense.

 

Book Blurbs: Do You Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em?

FYI: I’m sharing my take both as a reader and an author, mostly with fiction books in mind.

As a bibliophile, I sometimes read, or merely skim, a description/blurb for a book by an author I’ve never read before. But if I’ve enjoyed an author’s work in the past, or if I already know that a book’s genre or subject appeals to me, I’ll commonly read only the book blurb’s first couple of lines, or I’ll skip reading the blurb altogether. (Granted, many times I’ll go back and read the blurb after I’ve read the book and I’m ready to review it.)

Why skip book blurbs beforehand? Well, on various occasions, I’ve found that…

1. Book blurbs can be a little misleading or inaccurate.

It can happen when the blurb writer didn’t actually read the book. Or when the blurb writer is adding commentary or taking a little license with the story’s details to sell the book. Or when someone wrote the blurb before the book’s final draft and didn’t update the blurb to match the revisions.

2. A book blurb may include story details that aren’t in the story.

Many to most times, authors know more about their stories and characters than they write into their manuscripts. Sometimes when authors are writing blurbs, they include some of that additional info without considering or remembering that those extra details don’t appear in their books. Or they mistakenly give the blurb writers those extra details to work with.

When I read a book blurb beforehand, I (like countless other readers) may naturally incorporate those blurb details into the story and start thinking the book said something it didn’t say. If any extra details I picked up in the blurb are clarifying or “helping” the story along as I read, then the story doesn’t stand on its own quite as well without the blurb’s help. That’s a problem.

3. Book blurbs tell me more than I want to know about a story before I read it.

It could be an important detail or two about events in the book. But now and then, even vague blurbs give away a key concept or the moral of the story when I’d rather discover that “ah-ha” moment or crucial connection for myself.

This kind-of goes hand in hand with Number 2, but sometimes a blurb will even state a story’s central message with more clarity or power than the author conveyed it in the story itself. If the power of the book blurb is “helping” my reading along, I may or may not realize what the actual story is missing. And if the author doesn’t realize it, that’s a problem.

Even so, I as an author know that book blurbs are necessary, since not all readers prefer to skim or skip them. Therefore, yes, I write blurbs for my books, and I strive to write them well.

I believe, as with any kind of good writing, much of good blurb writing is more of an art than a science, and I don’t claim to have mastered it. Nevertheless, a few tips I’d give to fellow authors about book blurbs would be:

1. Remember, this is a book blurb, not a book report. A blurb is a form of sales copy, meant to grab a reader’s interest. It shouldn’t sound like an essay you’d write for school. If you find yourself using dry, technical phrasing like “This book is about… The three main characters are…”—STOP. Go read some blurbs for books in your genre from well-known publishers. Leave your book reporting hat aside and get into creative writing mode.

2. Be concise. You’ve got a few seconds to catch a reader’s interest. You don’t want to lose it by being long-winded, random, or hard to understand in a quick read-through. Be brief, be intentional about every word, and as much as possible, keep your words to three syllables or less. Break your blurb into paragraphs, and keep them short. You only need enough info to intrigue readers here, not to give them an in-depth explanation about what happens in your book.

3. Don’t be gushy. Your book blurb isn’t the place to show just how much you adore your characters (“Tall, muscular, brilliant, stealthy, fearless Luke will stop at nothing to save the nation from destruction—as he alone can!”) or to guarantee how people will feel about the read. (“If you enjoy mind-bending thrillers, then you’ll absolutely love this novel!”)

Readers can tell when you’re (too?) impressed with your book. You can’t foretell or promise how they’ll feel about it, nor can you “make” them be impressed with it too, especially when they haven’t read it yet. You don’t have to gush to be interesting.

4. Your blurb should be a description of your story, not an addendum to it. Whether or not readers choose to read or revisit the blurb for their own reasons, your story should be able to stand on its own without any help from the blurb. Double-check to make sure the blurb doesn’t have details or messages you neglected to include or fully develop in the story itself, or facts that you didn’t mention in your opening or closing Author’s Note (if your book has one.)

If your blurb makes you question whether you developed something well enough in your story, take another look at your story and see if you need to clarify or strengthen it before you publish it.

5. When in doubt, ask for constructive criticism from readers and/or writers. There’s nothing wrong with asking for private feedback about your book blurb before you make it public.

6. After feedback and revisions, make sure your blurb is proofread. That’s right—careful proofreading isn’t only for what’s inside your book. Readers may not even venture to see what’s inside if your blurb makes a sloppy impression.

So, fellow readers! Are you more of a blurb-skimmer or skipper like me, or are book blurbs a must-read for you?
Fellow authors who write your own book blurbs: do you see blurb writing as a necessary evil or a satisfying challenge?

 

The White City by Grace Hitchcock

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

The White City by Grace Hitchcock

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“Miss Wylde, you have shocked me to my very core. Imagine a gentlewoman going into danger for the sake of justice.”

Winnifred Wylde is at the World’s Fair in 1893 Chicago when she witnesses a kidnapping. Her father, Inspector Wylde, allows her to investigate undercover as secretary to the man they suspect of guilt: H. H. Holmes. But Winnifred must have her pistol with her at all times and submit to the protection of a bodyguard, Detective Jude Thorpe, in The White City by author Grace Hitchcock.

I first want to point out that I think this is a well-written novel overall. I was drawn by the excellent book cover—its spot-on use of black and white with a touch of gold and how the mysterious tone nails its theme of Historical Stories of American Crime.

However, the book cover seems to have a darker and more serious weight to it than the story does. The read turned out to feel more like a light, sometimes melodramatic romance with some mystery/suspense woven in. But the suspenseful side of the plot is fairly slow until the end, and Winnifred’s forgetfulness about some key issues at critical moments seems a bit contrived.

There wasn’t anything unpredictable or challenging for me in the romance, and I’m usually turned off when there’s a lot of emphasis and repetition about the characters’ great physical looks. I’ll admit I’m also not a fan of love triangles most of the time, when it’s like the heroine’s romantic feelings and ideas are fluttering around from one direction to the other.

Still, I can see the appeal in the novel for other fans of historical ChristFic romance. And I’m yet intrigued by the “true crime” concept of this multiple-author series, so I may go on to read the next book when it releases.

___________

The True Colors Series