Audiobook Review: Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

Title: Against the Tide
Author: Elizabeth Camden
Narrator: Barbara Rosenblat
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Print Publisher: Bethany House
Audio Length: 11 hours, 29 minutes; Unabridged
Publication Date: October 2012
Genre(s): Historical Romance, Inspirational Fiction

About the Book (from print publisher, Bethany House):

After a childhood rampant with uncertainty, Lydia Pallas has carved out a perfect life for herself. She spends her days within sight of the bustling Boston Harbor, where her skill with languages has landed her an enviable position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.

Lydia’s talents bring her to the attention of Alexander Banebridge, a mysterious man in need of a translator. Driven by a campaign to end the opium trade, Bane is coolly analytical and relentless in his quest. He cannot afford to fall for Lydia and must fight the bittersweet love growing between them.

When Bane’s enemies gain the upper hand, he is forced to turn to Lydia for help. Determined to prove her worth, Lydia soon discovers that carrying out Bane’s mission will test her wits and her courage to the very limits.

When forces conspire against them from without and within, can their love survive?

Thoughts on the Story:

Against the Tide initially caught my attention because of all the recognition and awards it received. This book won a RITA Award, a Christy Award, AND a Daphne de Maurier Award. Talk about some impressive credentials! Then I saw that the audio edition was narrated by an incredibly popular multi-award-winning narrator, and I knew this was an audiobook I couldn’t pass up.

So, now that I’ve read it, do I think the story lives up to its reputation? Yes, most definitely.

Both lead characters are wonderfully complex, and the storyline is compelling and thought provoking. Plus, if I can borrow what Lydia says of Bane (page 173):

“Everyone ought to have a brilliant, glorious rascal in their life just once, right?”

At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Bane. Could this “rascal” be trusted? Why did the admiral call him dangerous? Was he really a worthy hero? I’m guessing if I’d read The Lady of Bolton Hill first, in which Bane also appears, I might have understood him better from the outset. (At this point, I have not yet read The Lady of Bolton Hill and only recently learned of the connection. Anyone who has read it want to weigh in here?) As it was, I got to know him, and like him, a little at a time, just as Lydia does. Which was a lot of fun. J

The romance is sweet, the suspense page-turning, and the historical aspects engaging. There’s an Author’s Note at the end detailing some of the factual historical information included, and I’ve got to say, the history surrounding medications like Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup was pretty shocking. It makes me appreciate some of the regulations in place now all the more.

Possibly one of the most interesting aspects of this book was the discussion on law vs morals. I’ll let Bane and Lydia speak for themselves in this quoted passage (from Chapter 10, page 97):

Lydia’s jaw dropped. “Is this kind of thing legal?”

“Cleaning offices? Of course it is.”

“But you are suggesting looking at records on people’s desks, in their files.”

He pierced her with that blue gaze, assessing her. “Lydia, sometimes there is a difference between things that are legal and things that are moral. I’m looking for smugglers, that’s all. Most of the opium in the market is being brought in by a smuggler working in the Boston Custom House. Trying to find him is a worthy goal.”

I think this book would be an excellent choice for a book discussion group. It comes complete with an eight question discussion guide, covering this and other thought provoking topics that could make for a fascinating group discussion. Whether you’re looking for a book to discuss or just a good read, if you enjoy history, romance, and suspense in a thought-provoking book with complex characters, then this book would be a great choice. Highly recommended.

Thoughts on the Audio Edition:

I consider myself a fan of Barbara Rosenblat’s work, and I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one. This prolific and popular narrator has been recognized with 6 Audie Awards and 40 Earphone Awards, among other honors which include being named one of AudioFile’s “Golden Voices” and a “Voice of the 20th Century.” Her skill with accents and her impressive vocal range made the voices of individual characters realistic and immediately recognizable. And her portrayal of the characters’ emotions brought them to life in a vivid and compelling way. It was a pleasure to hear this award winning Inspirational story paired with a narrator of Barbara Rosenblat’s caliber. Whether you already love audiobooks or are interested in giving them a try, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, June 2016

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the June 2016 edition of the Christian Fiction Book Club Connection. Thanks for stopping by! Whether you’re a pastor or ministry leader thinking of forming a book discussion group at your church, a current member of a book club, or simply a fan of Christian fiction hoping to connect with other readers, you’re in the right place. Please consider subscribing to my blog so you won’t miss future posts.

Today I’m providing information on Christian fiction discussions scheduled to take place around the web this month. I’m also featuring a handful of recently released Christian fiction titles for which a discussion guide is available, either included in the book itself or on the author’s or publisher’s web site.

Online Discussions Coming Up This Month

The ACFW Book Club‘s June selection is Sit, Stay Love by Dana Mentink. You can subscribe to the group’s e-mail list now, by following the instructions on their Web site, to be sure not to miss any announcements or discussion questions.

For June, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd AND Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden. Grab your copies and head on over to the discussion forum to check in with others who are in the midst of reading these books.

The Christian Book Lovers’ Hideaway group’s monthly discussions can be found on their Goodreads discussion page. Their June fiction selection is Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano.

The Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title and one Christian fiction title per month. The selections for June are Heart in Hand by Barbara Cameron AND Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Jamie of the Books and Beverages blog hosts a monthly Inklings discussion series for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Sometimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction, the title for the month of June is The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis. Discussion is scheduled for June 15, 2016.

The Christian Fiction Book Club, and the Fans of Christian Romance Goodreads group are taking breaks from discussion for the time being.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

A Flight of Arrows by Lori Benton (April 2016, WaterBrook, Historical)

Code 13 by Don Brown (April 2016, Zondervan, Suspense)

An Unbroken Heart by Kathleen Fuller (March 2016, Thomas Nelson, Amish Romance)

Song of Silence by Cynthia Ruchti (April 2016, Abingdon, Contemporary Women’s Fiction)

Behold the Man by Bodie and Brock Thoene (March 2016, Zondervan, Historical)

Change of Heart by Courtney Walsh (March 2016, Tyndale House, Contemporary Romance)


So, friends, what have you been reading lately? Any titles you’d recommend for book club discussions?

Audiobook Review: The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

Title: The Prayer Box
Author: Lisa Wingate
Narrator: Xe Sands
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Audio Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Genre: Christian Women’s Fiction

Book Description (from the Tyndale House Web site):

When Iola Anne Poole, an old-timer on Hatteras Island, passes away in her bed at ninety-one, the struggling young mother in her rental cottage, Tandi Jo Reese, finds herself charged with the task of cleaning out Iola’s rambling Victorian house.

Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola’s walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year, spanning from Iola’s youth to her last days. Hidden in the boxes is the story of a lifetime, written on random bits of paper—the hopes and wishes, fears and thoughts of an unassuming but complex woman passing through the seasons of an extraordinary, unsung life filled with journeys of faith, observations on love, and one final lesson that could change everything for Tandi.

My Thoughts:

The Prayer Box is a lovely novel, delving into the lives of two women, one recently deceased, and another struggling to pick up the pieces of her own life and make a fresh start. As those two women’s lives intersect through the prayer boxes Tandi discovers when cleaning out Iola’s house after her death, Tandi learns some valuable lessons about life and love, and how significantly one life focused on service can impact others.

I found this to be an unusually introspective novel, delving deeply into the thoughts and feelings of Iola (through her letters) and Tandi (the main viewpoint character). It set a leisurely, sometimes meandering pace that allowed the reader time to get to know the characters well and care about them.

I enjoyed the beautifully crafted, often poetic language of this story, as well as the metaphors employed. My favorites were Iola as a lighthouse helping to “point the way” and “guide many ships” (page 174) and Jesus as “the white berry that removes the stain” (page 368).

Overall, a great choice for those who enjoy Women’s fiction.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

I thoroughly enjoyed the audio edition and would highly recommend it. The narrator, Xe Sands gave a wistful and emotional performance that was well suited to the introspective nature of the story. There was a soothing musical quality to her voice that was a perfect complement to some of the more poetic passages in particular. Lisa Wingate is quite a wordsmith and Xe Sands’ narration was the icing on the cake.

Book Review: Light of the Last by Chuck Black

9781601425065Title: Light of the Last
Author: Chuck Black
Publisher: Multnomah
Published: February 2016
Series: Wars of the Realm, Book 3
Genre: Christian Speculative Fiction, YA

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

To Fight What Others Can’t You Must See What Others Don’t

After an accident left him temporarily blind, Drew Carter didn’t just regain his sight. He now sees what others can’t imagine–an entire spiritual realm of mighty beings at war.

Forget the gift, Drew just wants his life back. Part of that involves Sydney Carlyle, a woman he is inexplicably drawn to. When he’s offered the chance to become a CIA agent, it seems the way to redeem his past. The only problem–his visions of the supernatural realm are increasing in frequency.

It’s up to the warrior angel Validus and his hand-picked team of heavenly agents to protect the unbelieving Drew. Validus now knows that the young man is at the epicenter of a global spiritual war, and the angels must use a millennia of battle experience to keep Drew alive, for the Fallen want him dead.

Surrounded by spiritual warriors and targeted by demons, Drew’s faced with an impossible decision that will forever alter the destiny of America…and his own soul.

My Thoughts:

Light of the Last is another action-packed read from author Chuck Black. It follows Cloak of the Light and Rise of the Fallen, as third in the Wars of the Realm series. For those unfamiliar with the series, I’d describe this novel as part political thriller, part super-hero story, and part speculative fiction exploring spiritual warfare. Incidentally, if you haven’t already, you’ll want to start this series with its first installment, so consider checking out the links above to my reviews of the earlier books.

The key viewpoint characters in this novel are Drew Carter who was featured in Cloak of the Light, and Validus the warrior angel featured in Rise of the Fallen who is tasked with protecting Drew. Both characters feel larger than life with their superhuman abilities and unwavering dedication to the goals for which they’re fighting. Supporting characters like Ben, Sydney, Reed, Ross, Jake, Validus’s angelic team, and Ben’s team of tech geeks fill their roles well and keep the plot moving ever forward.

Speaking of the plot, it’s full of twists and turns. From spy training to missions, to reconnecting with significant characters out of earlier books, to questioning reality, to facing down an utterly terrifying threat on a national scale, Drew and Validus, and their human and angelic teams are constantly on the move. The pace follows a quick clip, and while description is very precisely detailed in some parts (particularly fight scenes) there are other parts of the plot that get summarily told to fast-track the reader to the next exciting part. Not necessarily a bad thing, but also not the style I’m accustomed to reading, so it kind of jumped out at me.

There was one unexpected plot twist in Chapter 24 that made me consider not finishing the book. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, so let’s just say that I’m unusually squeamish when it comes to plotlines involving biological threats, and I tend to avoid them whenever possible. But I didn’t see this one coming until I was already so deeply committed to finding out how the story ends that I couldn’t bring myself to give up on it. Thankfully, despite a few pretty intense scenes, I managed not to freak out…too badly.

One of my favorite parts of this story was the technology Ben develops at NexTech. So, so, so cool. Especially the glasses, and the tech-lined jacket, and the AI, and – okay – pretty much all of it. It’s probably a good thing that this stuff doesn’t really exist yet, because I’m already a little too immersed in my smart phone…. 😉

This story emphasizes the power of prayer and looks at what it means to trust and to follow God. It also explores one fascinating view of what could be going on in the spiritual realm. I appreciate the effort the author put into creating a reader’s guide to delineate which elements of his take on spiritual warfare are drawn from the Bible and which are guesswork and/or invention, much as an author of historical fiction might point out where historical liberties were taken for the sake of the story.

Anyway… if you enjoy books full of action, intrigue, and super-human fight scenes, this may very well be one you’ll love. Just be sure to start with Book 1, Cloak of the Light. I’ll be curious to see if there are any more titles in this series or perhaps a spin-off series yet to come. The ending seems to leave an opening for that possibility.

Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah for providing a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes via the Blogging for Books program.

Quick Links: About the Book | About the Series | Author’s Site

Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, May 2016

Three for the Books, May 2016

The monthly “Three for the Books” post is where I feature new (Hot Off the Presses), best selling (Topping the Charts), and award winning (Cream of the Crop) Christian fiction books. I select one title to feature in each category, as well as providing links to where you can browse additional newly released, best selling, and award winning titles. Have you read any of these featured titles? Any others you’d like to give a shout-out? Comments are always welcome!

Hot Off the Presses

Medical Judgment by Richard L. Mabry, M.D. releases this month from Abingdon Press. This medical thriller is available in electronic and print editions.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More New Releases

Topping the Charts

Behold the Man by Bodie and Brock Thoene appears on the May CBA Bestsellers list in the historical fiction category. It is third in the Jerusalem Chronicles series, following When Jesus Wept and Take This Cup. It’s available from Zondervan in electronic, print and audio editions.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Best Sellers

Cream of the Crop

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke won the 2015 INSPY Award in the General fiction category. It’s a historical novel set during World War II and published by Tyndale House. Available in print and electronic editions.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Award Winners

Audiobook Review: Come to Me Alive by Leah Atwood

Title: Come to Me Alive
Author: Leah Atwood
Narrator: Pamela Almand
Print Publisher: Falling Leaf Press (October 2014)
Audio Publisher: Self Published (July 2015)
Series: Come to Me, Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian Fiction
Length: 7 hours, 9 minutes, Unabridged

About the Book: (from the description on Audible)

Bryce Landry, country music’s hottest star, has it all, or so everyone on the outside thinks. They can’t see his struggle to discover himself, to find his place in unfamiliar territories, both as a dad and as a Christian. He takes a month off and escapes to the small town of Oden Bridge, Louisiana, where his daughter lives with his grandparents.

Sophie Thatcher has never been a risk taker, but she has no complaints and never thought her life lacked until her boyfriend of three years breaks off their relationship. Only then, does she begin to question what she’s missed by always playing it safe. Meeting Bryce is a call to action. She can let fear rule or trust in faith, which means taking the biggest risk of her life.

As the weeks and months pass, they discover finding each other was easy, but holding on will be a different story.

My Thoughts on the Book:

Come to Me Alive is a sweet, contemporary Christian romance between a school teacher and a formerly “bad boy” country music star. The story focuses primarily on their developing relationship from a cleverly amusing cute meet involving an attacking duck, through some relational rough patches, right on to a satisfying ending. Secondary plot threads involve dealing with challenges balancing career, faith, and fatherhood, as well as reconnecting with estranged family.

I thought the author did a great job introducing the reader to her characters and showing just how they fall in love a bit at a time. It felt very true to life. Maybe even a little too much so, in that the conflicts standing between them and a happy ending weren’t all that evident until much later in the book. The smooth sailing early on gave me pause, but I am glad I stuck with the book because the story becomes deeper and more meaningful as it goes on.

There were plenty of descriptive details throughout, to show the reader exactly what’s happening at any given time. I’ll admit, there were a few instances where I thought the description may have gone a bit overboard, delving into nitty-gritty minutiae like the process of writing a check and what shape that check was, but nit-picking aside I’d rather have too clear a picture than too vague. The hero’s newness to his Christian faith offered plenty of opportunity to showcase some of the ways that faith can change lives. Overall, this is a fun and leisurely read for anyone who enjoys the process of falling in love. And really, who doesn’t? :)

I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook edition, which has been honored with a nomination for one of this year’s Audie awards. The narrator and those involved in production went above and beyond the call of duty. The audio includes a recording of the song that plays a big role in the story. In fact, I’m told that song was arranged and produced specifically for the audiobook. How cool is that, right? At another point, when a character quotes a literary classic in Middle English, the narrator does a convincing job with the accent/pronunciation, all while staying within that character’s voice. Oh, and while children’s voices tend to challenge narrators, the little girl’s voice in this story has a sweet and innocent quality to it that seems quite natural to the character. Overall, an excellent narration that I’d highly recommend to any audiobook fans who enjoy this genre.

Thank you to the narrator for providing a complimentary copy of the audiobook for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Audiobook | About the Series | Author’s Site | Narrator’s Site

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, May 2016

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the May 2016 edition of the Christian Fiction Book Club Connection. Thanks for stopping by! Whether you’re a pastor or ministry leader thinking of forming a book discussion group at your church, a current member of a book club, or simply a fan of Christian fiction hoping to connect with other readers, you’re in the right place. Please consider subscribing to my blog so you won’t miss future posts.

Today I’m providing information on Christian fiction discussions scheduled to take place around the web this month. I’m also featuring a handful of recently released Christian fiction titles for which a discussion guide is available, either included in the book itself or on the author’s or publisher’s web site.

Online Discussions Coming Up This Month

The ACFW Book Club‘s May selection is Fatal Reunion by Jessica R. Patch. You can subscribe to the group’s e-mail list now, by following the instructions on their Web site, to be sure not to miss any announcements or discussion questions.

For May, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson AND The Air We Breathe by Christa Parrish. Grab your copies and head on over to the discussion forum to check in with others who are in the midst of reading these books.

The Christian Book Lovers’ Hideaway group’s monthly discussions can be found on their Goodreads discussion page. Their May fiction selection is Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck.

The Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title and one Christian fiction title per month. The selections for May are If I Run by Terri Blackstock AND The Forgotten Recipe by Amy Clipston. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Jamie of the Books and Beverages blog hosts a monthly Inklings discussion series for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Sometimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction, the title for the month of May is The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. Discussion is scheduled for May 18, 2016.

The Christian Fiction Book Club, and the Fans of Christian Romance Goodreads group are taking breaks from discussion for the time being.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

Miriam by Mesu Andrews (March 2016, WaterBrook, Historical)

Burning Proof by Janice Cantore (March 2016, Tyndale House, Romantic Suspense)

A Heart Once Broken by Jerry S. Eicher (March 2016, Harvest House, Amish Romance)

A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund (March 2016, Zondervan, Historical YA)

The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter (March 2016, Thomas Nelson, Contemporary Romance)


So, friends, what have you been reading lately? Any titles you’d recommend for book club discussions?

Book Review: Oath of the Brotherhood by C.E. Laureano

Title: Oath of the Brotherhood
Author: C.E. Laureano
Publisher: Tyndale, TH1NK
Published: May 2014
Series: The Song of Seare, Book 1
Genre(s): Fantasy, Christian Fiction

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

In a kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man’s worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword, Conor Mac Nir is a scholar, a musician, and a follower of the forbidden Balian faith: problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.

When Conor is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom, he never expects to fall in love with the rival king’s sister, Aine. Nor does he suspect his gift with the harp (and Aine’s ability to heal) touches on the realm of magic. Then his clan begins a campaign to eliminate all Balians from the isle of Seare, putting his newfound home in peril and entangling him in a plot for control of the island that has been unfolding since long before his birth.

Only by committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he’s meant to play in Seare’s future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything—even the woman he loves—to follow the path his God has laid before him?

My Thoughts:

Oath of the Brotherhood is the first book in C.E. Laureano’s The Song of Seare fantasy trilogy. Featuring relatable characters, dire circumstances to challenge those characters, and a vividly described storyworld with a mediaeval Celtic feel, this book does a great job drawing readers in to the series.

Conor and Aine make likeable leads. Clearly their hearts are in the right place, but we get to see a lot of character growth over the course of this book, and I look forward to seeing where the rest of the series will take them. Romance readers will enjoy the way Conor and Aine are drawn together even when separated by circumstance, and adventure fans will appreciate the story’s suspenseful backdrop of good vs. evil magic and of clan warfare.

Both Conor and Aine grapple with waiting for God’s timing (He’s referred to as Comdiu in this allegory), and preparing themselves to use their talents when called to do so. A large portion of this book is devoted to exploring Conor’s training with the Fíréin brotherhood in music and military skills, which sounds like it could be boring, but which I actually found to be quite fascinating.

I thought the Celtic-sounding names for people and places were a nice touch, lending authenticity to the storyworld. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover the glossary and pronunciation guide at the back of the book until I had finished reading it. Oops! Never would’ve guessed “Eoghan” sounds like “OH-in” or that “bean-sidhe” sounds like “BAN-shee,” although those pronunciations do make so much more sense than what I was saying in my head. LOL! I’ll be sure to consult the glossary as I read the next book so I can get those names right.

For anyone else just starting to read this series, you’ll be happy to know that you won’t have to wait for Books 2 and 3. Beneath the Forsaken City and The Sword and the Song are both available now, so you’ll be able to read the trilogy in its entirety with nary a pause between books if you wish.

Thank you to Tyndale House for providing a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | About the Series | Author’s Site

Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, April 2016

Three for the Books, April 2016, small

The monthly “Three for the Books” post is where I feature new (Hot Off the Presses), best selling (Topping the Charts), and award winning (Cream of the Crop) Christian fiction books. I select one title to feature in each category, as well as providing links to where you can browse additional newly released, best selling, and award winning titles. Have you read any of these featured titles? Any others you’d like to give a shout-out? Comments are always welcome!

Hot Off the Presses

Tainted by Morgan L Busse released this month from Enclave Publishing. It’s the first novel in the new Soul Chronicles steampunk series. Available in electronic and paperback editions.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More New Releases

Topping the Charts

Hope Harbor by Irene Hannon appears on the April CBA Bestsellers list in the romance category. It’s available from Revell in print and electronic editions, with an audio edition available from Recorded Books. Here’s my review of the audio edition.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Best Sellers

Cream of the Crop

Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas won the 2015 INSPY Award in the Debut novel category. It’s a historical romance set in 1950s West Virginia and published by Bethany House. Available in print and electronic editions.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Award Winners

Audiobook Review: On This Foundation by Lynn Austin

Title: On This Foundation
Author: Lynn Austin
Print Publisher: Bethany House
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Suzanne Toren
Published: October 2015
Series: The Restoration Chronicles, Book 3
Genre: Biblical fiction, Christian fiction
Length: 14 hours, 7 minutes

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

Stone by Stone, the Wall Will Rise Once More Around God’s City

When news reaches him that Jerusalem’s wall is shattered and its gates burned with fire, a distraught Nehemiah seeks God’s guidance in fasting and prayer. Granted an unexpected leave from his duty as cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes, Nehemiah sets out for Jerusalem to rebuild the city wall–never anticipating all the dangers that await him on his arrival.

The leaders of the surrounding nations become his fierce enemies, plotting to assassinate him and stop the wall’s reconstruction forever. A drought, meanwhile, has left the country impoverished, with many families resorting to selling their children as bondservants just to keep from starving.

Capturing the rebuilding of the wall through the eyes of a number of characters, On This Foundation is the powerful conclusion to The Restoration Chronicles. This exploration of faith in the midst of oppression offers hope that, in spite of appearances, the gracious hand of God is upon those who believe.

My Thoughts on the Book:

This book, and in fact the whole Restoration Chronicles series, is a fabulous example of Biblical fiction at its finest. If you haven’t read the other titles in this series yet, you may want to check out my reviews of Return to Me and Keepers of the Covenant as well.

On This Foundation tells the story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall in the time of Nehemiah. As with the first two books in the series, this one focuses on a handful of viewpoints – some prominent historical characters and some purely fictional – that bring the story home on a very personal and emotional level, while presenting a balanced look at social and political issues of the day. Along the way the characters face problems and learn timeless lessons that are just as applicable today as they were all those centuries ago.

A favorite quote from the book is a bit of advice Nehemiah offers those working on rebuilding the wall, despite threat of imminent attacks: “The way to replace fear with faith is to pray.” (Disc 8, Track 2, or Page 270) I know I could stand to remind myself of that bit of wisdom every now and then.

While Nehemiah’s story was central to the plot, and he was presented with an interesting backstory, challenges, and flaws to overcome, I felt it was some of the other characters that were most engaging and likeable. Chana, Malkijah, Nava, and Shimon each had a fascinating and unique perspective to share, with challenges of their own, and the overall story was so much deeper and richer because of that. I was particularly impressed by the way the author was able to present both sides of a divisive social issue (the rich vs the poor) through her choice of characters. And I was pleased with the way those issues were resolved without anyone being cast as the Bad Guy.

Historical details and vivid descriptions bring the Biblical account to life in what feels an almost immersive experience. I enjoyed delving into the nitty-gritty details of the work involved in rebuilding the wall as well as feeding the laborers and travelling from the surrounding areas to volunteer. The dangers of attackers, the crushing weight of the stones, and the potential for scorpion stings and other hazards puts the project in a whole new light.

This series is highly recommended for fans of Biblical fiction and anyone curious to experience the genre.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

It’s been nearly a year since I listened to the audiobook edition of Return to Me (first in this series, written and narrated by the same author and narrator), but as I dove into this novel, I was reminded of just how much I enjoyed listening to the earlier one. Suzanne Toren’s reading gives the text a dignified feel that seems quite appropriate to the genre. There’s a musicality and comfortable cadence to her voice that I enjoy, which is a very good thing, considering each audiobook clocks in at over 14 hours’ listening time! The narrator also has an impressive level of comfort with unfamiliar words, phrases, and names that might have tripped me up, had I been reading the text. Overall, a great listening experience.

Thank you to Recorded Books for providing a complimentary copy of the audiobook for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Audiobook | About the Series | Author’s Site