Audiobook Review: If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock

Title: If I’m Found
Author: Terri Blackstock
Publisher: Zondervan
Narrator: Kate Rudd
Published: March 2017
Series: If I Run, Book 2
Genre: Suspense, Christian fiction
Length: Unabridged. 7 hours, 45 minutes.

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

In this riveting sequel to the USA TODAY bestseller If I Run, evil lurks, drawing Casey out of the shadows . . . but there is light shining in the darkness.

Casey Cox is still on the run, fleeing prosecution for a murder she didn’t commit. Dylan Roberts—her most relentless pursuer—is still on her trail, but his secret emails insist he knows the truth and wants to help her. He’s let her escape before when he had her in his grasp, but trust doesn’t come easily.

As Casey works to collect evidence about the real murderers, she stumbles on another unbearable injustice: an abused child and a suicidal man who’s also been falsely accused. Casey risks her own safety to right this wrong and protect the little girl from her tormenters. But doing so is risky and may result in her capture—and if she’s captured, she has no doubt she’ll be murdered before she ever steps foot in a jail cell.

My Thoughts on the Book:

The scenario Casey faces in this series is huge and overwhelming, and yet, she’s battling her impossible odds and helping others too, even at risk to herself. I find that beautiful and inspiring. And even if her choices at times stretch credulity a bit (there was one point in this book where I wanted to shout at her that there was a better option she hadn’t considered), they do seem to fit her, and I can’t fault her for them.

Casey’s faith journey is a gradual one and doesn’t feel forced. That’s probably my favorite part of this series so far. I haven’t even seen the full story unfold yet, but I love where it seems to be going and the way it’s woven into the fabric of her day to day existence.

The multiple first person present tense viewpoint used here is refreshingly different and yet, paradoxically, feels familiar and comfortable, particularly in audiobook format. Speaking of audio format, the narrator for this one is fabulous. Her reading of each character is friendly and personable, and overall, well suited to that character. But I was particularly impressed by her rendition of the slurred speech of one particular character.

In summary, this is shaping up to be among my favorite series in quite a while, one that I would highly recommend. I can’t wait for Book 3! And the audio edition is definitely the way to go. At least it is if you’re the type to savor a good audio performance.

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library. I was not expected to write a review, but wanted to share how much I enjoyed listening to the book.

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection: November 2017

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the November 2017 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 November selection is Beyond Justice by Cara Putman. 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.

By the Book is an in-person book discussion club that has introduced an online Facebook-based discussion option. To join in online, like the By the Book Facebook page, and be sure to check back there periodically for any discussion that may not have made it into your news feed. November’s selection is A Time to Stand by Robert Whitlow.

For November, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Life After by Katie Ganshert AND Masquerade by Nancy Moser. 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 Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title per month. The selection for November is Northkill by Bob Hostetler and J.M. Hochstetler. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

Light of Dawn by Vannetta Chapman (Harvest House, July 2017, Speculative Fiction)

The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck (Zondervan, July 2017, Historical Romance)

Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh (Tyndale House, July 2017, Contemporary Romance)


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

Audiobook Review: The Raven by Mike Nappa

Title: The Raven
Author: Mike Nappa
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Romy Nordlinger
Published: September 2016
Series: Coffey & Hill, Book 2
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Christian Fiction
Length: 12 hours, 16 minutes. Unabridged.

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

As part of his street performance, a deception specialist who goes by the name The Raven picks his audience’s pockets while they watch. It’s harmless fun–until he decides to keep the wallet of a prominent politician, hoping for a few extra bucks. When he finds compromising photos of the councilman and his “personal assistants,” The Raven hatches a plan to blackmail the man. However, he quickly finds himself in over his head with the Ukrainian Mafia and mired in a life-threatening plot code-named “Nevermore.”

Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill must scramble to sort out the clues to rescue The Raven from a wild card bent on revenge.

My Thoughts on the Book:

For a mysterious thrill ride of shifting allegiances, with devious plots to be undone, look no further than The Raven. I enjoyed reading this novel even more than I did its predecessor, Annabel Lee. Either book could be read as a standalone, but I recommend starting Mike Nappa’s Coffey and Hill series at the beginning if you haven’t already, as the characters grow and develop from one book to the next.

Recurring characters Trudi and Samuel continue to work through their personal issues, while they team up to solve another case. I felt these characters were more sympathetic than in the last book, maybe because they weren’t as hard on each other? Anyway, I do like the direction they seem to be headed, and hope to meet them again in a future installment of this series.

The lead character for this book, besides Trudi and Samuel, is The Raven, a street magician calling himself a deception specialist, whose attempt to blackmail someone lands him in a heap of trouble and smack dab in the thick of something bigger than he would’ve imagined. He’s not your typical lead for a Christian fiction novel, but his cool-headed and somewhat sarcastic analysis of even the most traumatic situations can be quite entertaining. And despite his many flaws, he also manages to be quite sympathetic, and I won’t give details away, but I like where the storyline takes his character arc by the end of the book.

Highly recommended if you enjoy a good mystery, and don’t mind witnessing some violence along the way.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Romy Nordlinger’s excellent narration does justice to the story, with character voices and storytelling that immerse the reader into the thick of what’s happening. Whether she’s portraying a thug with an accent, or the sarcastically laid back analysis of The Raven, her narration fits just right, and is fun to listen to.

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library via Hoopla. I was not expected to write a review, but wanted to share how much I enjoyed the book.

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

Book Review: Maybe It’s You by Candace Calvert

Title: Maybe It’s You
Author: Candace Calvert
Publisher: Tyndale House
Published: February 2017
Series: Crisis Team, Book 3
Genre: Christian Fiction, Contemporary Romance

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

ER nurse Sloane Ferrell escaped her risky past—new name, zip code, job, and a fresh start. She’s finally safe, if she avoids a paper trail and doesn’t let people get too close. Like the hospital’s too-smooth marketing man with his relentless campaign to plaster one “lucky” employee’s face on freeway billboards.

Micah Prescott’s goal is to improve the Hope hospital image, but his role as a volunteer crisis responder is closer to his heart. The selfless work helps fill a void in his life left by family tragedy. So does a tentative new relationship with the compassionate, beautiful, and elusive Sloane Ferrell.

Then a string of brutal crimes makes headlines, summons responders . . . and exposes disturbing details of Sloane’s past.

Can hope spring from crisis?

My Thoughts:

Candace Calvert has delivered another fabulous read in her Crisis Team series. Fans of medical drama, contemporary romance, and suspense will enjoy seeing a very different side to Sloane Ferrell than we encountered in an earlier book in this series. Yes, this book can be read as a standalone, but it’s even better within the series. While the spiritual takeaways are not preachy or overwhelming, they do play a significant, and at times surprising role in the story, which I enjoyed seeing. And of course, I loved seeing the development of the relationship between Sloane and Micah. Their relationship has a sweet quality to it, and progressed in what felt like a very realistic way. I was definitely rooting for them throughout the book. Highly recommended.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary electronic copy of the book via NetGalley for review purposes.

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

Audiobook Review: High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

Title: High as the Heavens
Author: Kate Breslin
Print Publisher: Bethany House
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Renee Ertl
Published: June 2017
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 12 hours, 41 minutes. Unabridged.

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

A British nurse in WWI German-occupied Brussels, Evelyn Marche spends her days at the hospital and her nights working at a café . . . or so it seems. Eve’s most carefully guarded secret is that she also spends her nights carrying out dangerous missions as a spy for a Belgian resistance group.

When a plane crashes as she’s en route to a rendezvous, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to recognize the badly injured pilot as British RFC Captain Simon Forrester. She risks her life to conceal him from the Germans, but as the secrets between them grow and the danger mounts, can they still hope to make it out of Belgium alive?

My Thoughts on the Book:

This is a story historical romance fans will love. It is set in German-occupied Brussels during World War I and incorporates vivid cultural and historical details. It’s particularly cool that its characters are based loosely on actual historical figures (see the author’s note in the book for details).

The plot features espionage, danger, and intrigue alongside the emotional joys and uncertainties of a chance at reclaiming lost love. The characters, while at times larger than life, are struggling with relatable issues like guilt, mistrust, and fear.

Despite the promising premise, the start of the story dragged a bit for me, under the weight of a little more exposition early on than I would have liked. Fortunately, I stuck with it, because once the action and romance kicked up a notch, I was hooked.

The character development was well done and the action and romance plotlines brought readers along to a satisfying conclusion. Recommended to adult fans of historical romance and suspense. Because of the difficult things Eve and other characters have to go through in the story, I’d recommend parents preview the book to determine if they feel it’s appropriate for their teenage readers.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

The wide range of Nationalities represented in this book could have lent itself well to voicing characters with a variety of different accents. While the narrator did not take full advantage of this opportunity, she did distinguish between character voices, to the extent that I was never in doubt about which character was speaking. The reading was clear and pleasant listening, with emotions well reflected in the performance. Overall, the audio edition makes for an enjoyable listening experience.

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library via Hoopla. I was not expected to write a review, but I wanted to share.

Quick Links: About the Audiobook | Audio Sample | Author’s Site

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection: October 2017

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the October 2017 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 October selection is Home by Ginny Yttrup. 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.

By the Book is an in-person book discussion club that has introduced an online Facebook-based discussion option. To join in online, like the By the Book Facebook page, and be sure to check back there periodically for any discussion that may not have made it into your news feed. October’s selection is Gathering the Threads by Cindy Woodsmall.

For October, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Shine Like the Dawn by Carrie Turansky AND Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley. 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 Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title per month. The selection for October is Anna’s Healing by Vannetta Chapman. 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 current title is An Anthology: 365 Readings by George MacDonald.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter (Thomas Nelson, June 2017, Contemporary Romance)

Ascension of Larks by Rachel Linden (Thomas Nelson, June 2017, Contemporary Romance)

A Letter from Lancaster County by Kate Lloyd (Harvest House, July 2017, Amish Romance)


 

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

Book Review: The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

Title: The Mountain Between Us
Author: Charles Martin
Publisher: Broadway Books
Published: June 2010
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba. An atmospheric, suspenseful and gripping story of two people finding love while fighting to survive.

When a blizzard strands them in Salt Lake City, two strangers agree to charter a plane together, hoping to return home; Ben Payne is a gifted surgeon returning from a conference, and Ashley Knox, a magazine writer, is en route to her wedding. But when unthinkable tragedy strikes, the pair find themselves stranded in Utah’s most remote wilderness in the dead of winter, badly injured and miles from civilization. Without food or shelter, and only Ben’s mountain climbing gear to protect themselves, Ashley and Ben’s chances for survival look bleak, but their reliance on each other sparks an immediate connection, which soon evolves into something more.

Days in the mountains become weeks, as their hope for rescue dwindles. How will they make it out of the wilderness and if they do, how will this experience change them forever? Heart-wrenching and unputdownable, The Mountain Between Us will reaffirm your belief in the power of love to sustain us.

My Thoughts:

This book made me cry. I’m not talking a dab-at-the-eyes, misty-eyed kind of cry. I’m talking an ugly, tears-rolling-down-for-probably-far-too-long-given-these-aren’t-real-people, tissues-piling-up kind of cry. And not for the reasons you’d probably think from the book blurb either.

An unexpected twist in the last few chapters totally blindsided me and I loved this book sooo much, precisely because of that. Because it all made so much sense and I had to rethink everything, and how had I not seen that coming?!?

Obviously, I won’t spoil it for you, because, how could I do that to you? I mean, really. I can’t. But if you haven’t already read this book, you need to. Pronto. I hear the movie’s coming out soon (part of why I read this book when I did), and you know it can’t possibly be as good as the book, but you know you’re gonna want to see it anyway, so you’ll probably want to read the book first, so the movie won’t spoil it for you.

Right? Or am I the only one who thinks this way? 😉

This one’s a must for those who like survival type TV shows, unexpected plot twists that make you rethink everything and then realize it makes total sense, beautiful literary turns of phrase, and a subtle but resonant message. Okay, maybe that’s way too specific. Just read it, okay? You’ll be glad you did. Um, but maybe stock up on tissues first?

I borrowed an electronic copy of this book from my local library. I was not expected to write a review.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Audiobook Review: The Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson

Title: The Sky Beneath My Feet
Author: Lisa Samson
Print Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Rebecca Gallagher
Published: March 2013
Genre: Contemporary, Literary
Length: 9 hours, 48 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Being married to a saint isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Beth’s husband won’t be joining the family on vacation at the beach this year. He’s not even joining them in the house. Instead, Rick has holed up alone in the backyard shed. Nobody knows exactly what he’s up to. Maybe he’s immersing himself in prayer. Maybe he’s lost his mind. Maybe he’s even the modern-day prophet or the saint the neighborhood artist imagines him to be. But while “St. Rick” waits for an epiphany, Beth will have to figure out what to do with herself and their teenage sons, possibly for the rest of her life.

What happens next is both uproarious and bittersweet: a peace march turns violent, her son is caught with drugs, and she embarks on an ambitious road trip that turns into something nearly surreal. Will Beth rediscover the idealistic woman she used to be, once upon a time? Can her marriage survive Rick’s backyard vigil? Will anything ever be the same? And should it be?

Truthful, comic, heartbreaking, and magical in the very best sense of the word, The Sky Beneath My Feet gently tears the veil off our egos and expectations to reveal the throbbing, redemptive, and achingly beautiful life beyond and within us.

My Thoughts on the Book:

I have great admiration for the skill and literary techniques that went into the writing of this story. The subtlety of storytelling and the beautiful use of language on display are truly impressive. At the same time, certain aspects of the main character’s beliefs and attitudes rubbed me the wrong way. I couldn’t stop reading, and yet, at times I really wanted to.

The thing that bugged me most was the story’s internal symbolism surrounding the “Jesus fish” and Beth’s attitude toward it and, by extension, all things conservatively Christian. At times it felt like the characters and plot were poking fun of people with beliefs different and more traditionally conservative than their own. As if sincere expressions of conservative religious conviction somehow equate with being dogmatic, judgmental, and out of touch with reality. It’s entirely possible that I misread the story’s intent with this use of symbolism, but that was the vibe I got from it, and I didn’t much like it.

Regardless, I can’t deny that this story touched me emotionally and made me think long and hard. I particularly enjoyed the symbolism centered on the sky, and how that played out in the end. There’s also some good bits about connecting with God on an individual level. As for the parts I didn’t like, sometimes it seems that the books we don’t necessarily “get” or completely agree with can lead to some of the best discussions. I’ve got to say, at this point, I’d love to hear what others thought of this book and compare notes on what was its intended message.

I’ll confess, I almost didn’t review this book. It’s been a while since it was published, so it wasn’t really a timely thing to review and I had such mixed feelings about it I wasn’t sure what to say at first. But in the end, I found that like it or not, I couldn’t just ignore it. Know what I mean?

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Rebecca Gallagher does a good job reading this first-person present tense story. She infuses appropriate levels of emotion (including wit and sarcasm) naturally into the text, and varies the voices enough to keep different characters distinct in their dialogue. I encourage interested readers to give the audio edition a try.

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library via Hoopla, and I was not expected to write a review.

Quick Links: About the Audiobook | Audio Sample | Author’s Site

A Dozen New Christian Fiction Audiobooks, Coming This Fall 2017

I’m always on the lookout for a good audiobook to pass the time on my commute to and from work. I’ve tracked down a dozen new releases, coming this fall that sound like they could be just what I’m looking for.

September Releases

Justice Buried by Patricia Bradley
Read by Joell Jacob
Memphis Cold Case, Book 2
Romantic Suspense from Tantor Media
Also available in print from Revell

Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore
Read by Alice Anne English
The Line of Duty, Book 1
Suspense from Blackstone Audio
Also available in print from Tyndale House

With You Always by Jody Hedlund
Read by Susan Hanfield
Orphan Train, Book 1
Historical Romance from Tantor Media
Also available in print from Bethany House

Rule of Law by Randy Singer
Read by Carol Mercer-Meyers
Suspense from Blackstone Audio
Also available in print from Tyndale House

Hometown Girl by Courntey Walsh
Read by Teri Clark Linden
Contemporary Romance from Brilliance Audio
Also available in print from Waterfall Press

November Releases

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden
Read by Morgan Hallett
An Empire State Novel, Book 1
Historical Romance from Recorded Books
Also available in print from Bethany House

Perennials by Julie Cantrell
Read by Brittany Pressley
General Fiction from Blackstone Audio
Also available in print from Thomas Nelson

Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter
Read by Julie Lyles Carr
Blue Ridge Romance, Book 1
Contemporary Romance from Brilliance Audio
Also available in print from Thomas Nelson

In This Moment by Karen Kingsbury
Narrator to be announced
The Baxter Family, Book 2
Contemporary Romance from Simon & Schuster Audio
Also available in print from Howard Books

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay
Read by Emily Sutton-Smith
Contemporary Romance from Brilliance Audio
Also available in print from Thomas Nelson

A Matter of Trust by Susan May Warren
Read by Cynthia Farrell
Montana Rescue, Book 3
Romantic Suspense from Recorded Books
Also available in print from Revell

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer
Read by Stephanie Cozart
Ladies of Harper’s Station, Book 2
Historical Romance from Recorded Books
Also available in print from Bethany House


So, which titles look good to you?

Book Review: Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund

Title: Undaunted Hope
Author: Jody Hedlund
Publisher: Bethany House
Published: January 2016
Series: Beacons of Hope, Book 3
Genre: Historical Romance

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

1871, Eagle Harbor, Michigan. In a Town Mired in Darkness, She May Shine the Light They Need.

Running from the mistakes of her past, Tessa Taylor heads to the uppermost reaches of Michigan, planning to serve as the new teacher to the children of miners. She quickly learns the town had requested a male teacher, but Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since it’s too late to replace her. Tessa can’t help but thank him and say she is in his debt.

Determined to make herself irreplaceable once spring thaw arrives, Tessa throws herself into her work, and soon two students have decided Miss Taylor is the right match for their grieving father. At the same time, charming assistant lightkeeper Alex Bjorklund makes his interest known, surprising Tessa, who has never had men fight for her hand before. But not all is well as she feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

My Thoughts:

I’ve enjoyed all the titles I’ve read in this romantic series centered around lighthouses and their keepers. This one is no exception. In fact, this one features particularly great banter between Tessa and Alex. And yet, I’ve got some catching up to do. Somehow, I’ve fallen 2 books behind in the series! Which means all the more fun still ahead for me. :)

Tessa and Alex’s story took me a bit longer to get through than some of the earlier ones in this series that I simply couldn’t put down. In part, I blame my busier schedule with a full time job, kids, and commute. But, even in the time I had with the book, I don’t think I got quite as drawn into the story as I did the earlier ones. I think it may have had to do with the love triangle, and the immature behavior it brought out in the hero and his brother. That aspect annoyed me and detracted from what I thought was an otherwise excellent story.

Tessa’s challenge to bring education to the kids and to the miners despite numerous obstacles, the need to set things right in the coal mining town with the cruel and controlling boss, as well as the main characters’ past hurts and fears to be overcome contribute to the story’s appeal and keep it interesting. But the relationship between Tessa and Alex is the crowning jewel of the story. They seem so well matched, and I love their witty repartee.

Fans of historical romance with suspense interwoven will want to read this story for sure. And yes, I’m looking forward to checking out the next two books in this series… when time allows.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for review purposes.

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