Audiobook Review: Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason

Title: Chasing Secrets
Author: Lynette Eason
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Tantor Audio
Narrator: Rachel Dulude
Published: August 2017
Series: Elite Guardians, Book 4
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Christian fiction
Length: 8 hours, 23 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan may be in South Carolina, but when a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, her life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she’s made a career out of taking care of others. But after an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her—and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he’s not about to let Haley fight this battle alone.

In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories—and the depths of the heart—Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley’s past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won’t quit.

My Thoughts on the Book:

This fourth book makes for a strong conclusion to a fabulous series. If you haven’t read any of the books in the Elite Guardians series yet, you’re missing out. This is one of the best suspense series I’ve read recently. Haley and her fellow bodyguards make fascinating lead characters, the suspense is well-paced and intense, and the romance is icing on the cake.

It was particularly interesting to learn more about Haley’s background in this book, given that readers learned of the secrets buried in her past, right alongside Haley herself. Her empathy and help for the struggling kids in the story makes for a lovely touch, and it’s especially poignant given her own history.

Romance, character development, and suspense are all strong elements here. And I must say, I’m pleased to have gotten to know these characters. In fact, I’d love to hang out with them again sometime.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Rachel Dulude’s narration brings these characters to life. Their joys, fears, hurts, and dilemmas. But especially their accents. Wow. I’ve been impressed by the narrator’s performance of Haley’s Irish accent throughout this series of audiobooks, but in this book, featuring multiple characters with Irish accents, I was blown away by the way the narrator could distinguish among the characters’ voices. It was truly lovely listening to her reading – the emotion, the pacing, the voices, and especially the accents. I highly recommend the audio edition.

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, January 2018

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the January 2018 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 January selection is The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman. 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. January’s selection is Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman.

For January, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate AND The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman. 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 January is Amish Girl’s Christmas by Samantha Price. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

My Daughter’s Legacy by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould (Harvest House, July 2017, Historical Romance)

Egypt’s Sister: A Novel of Cleopatra by Angela Hunt (Bethany House, July 2017, Historical Fiction)

Abiding Mercy by Ruth Reid (Thomas Nelson, July 2017, Amish Romantic Suspense)


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

Audiobook Review: The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron

Title: The Ringmaster’s Wife
Author: Kristy Cambron
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Narrator: Amy Rubinate
Published: June 2016
Series: Jazz Age Entertainers Series, Book 1
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction
Length: 9 hours 54 minutes. Unabridged.

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

An ounce of courage. A leap of faith. Together, they propel two young women to chase a new life—one that’s reimagined from what they might have become.

In turn-of-the-century America, a young girl dreams of a world that stretches beyond the confines of a quiet life on the family farm. With little more than her wit and a cigar box of treasures, Mable steps away from all she knows, seeking the limitless marvels of the Chicago World’s Fair. There, a chance encounter triggers her destiny—a life with a famed showman by the name of John Ringling.

A quarter of a century later, Lady Rosamund Easling boards a ship to America as a last adventure before her arranged marriage. There, the twenties are roaring, and the rich and famous gather at opulent, Gatsby-esque parties. The Jazz Age has arrived, and with it, the golden era of the American circus, whose queen is none other than the enigmatic Mable Ringling.

When Rosamund’s path crosses with Mable’s and the Ringlings’ glittering world, she makes the life-altering decision to leave behind a comfortable future of estates and propriety, choosing instead the nomadic life of a trick rider in the Ringling Brothers’ circus.

A novel that is at once captivating, deeply poignant, and swirling with exquisite historical details of a bygone world, The Ringmaster’s Wife will escort readers into the center ring, with its bright lights, exotic animals, and a dazzling performance that can only be described as the Greatest Show on Earth!

My Thoughts on the Book:

This is a book to savor. It is beautifully written with lovely turns of phrase and vivid multisensory historical detail. The novel tells not one love story, but multiple interwoven stories, and the telling is all the richer for it. Mabel and John Ringling’s story is beautiful, as told, if a bit bittersweet. And Rosamund and Colin’s story, feels both realistic and emotionally charged. The characters are complex and sympathetic, and I love how each character has his or her own story to work through, as well as their shared moments where stories intersect. There are definitely some suspenseful moments, but those elements take a back seat to the character development and the romance.

Highly recommended to fans of literary fiction, romance, and those with a historical interest in the circus. I’ve enjoyed this author’s earlier books and I’m very much looking forward to reading the sister book to this one, The Illusionist’s Apprentice.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

The narrator’s pleasant reading of this audiobook does justice to a beautifully written story. Accents, character voices, and emotions are all handled well, resulting in an enjoyable listening experience.

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 Audiobook | Audio Sample | Author’s Site | Narrator’s Site

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Looking Forward To In 2018

Merry (slightly belated) Christmas to my blogging friends! :)

I’ve already discussed some of my favorite reads from 2017, so today I’m following the Top Ten Tuesday topic and taking a look ahead to the books coming in early 2018 that I’m most looking forward to.

Under a Cloudless Sky by Chris Fabry
Standalone Novel
General Fiction from Tyndale House
Releasing January 2018

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz
Standalone Novel
Historical Fiction from Revell
Releasing January 2018

Until We Find Home by Cathy Gohlke
Standalone Novel
Historical Fiction from Tyndale House
Releasing January 2018

Troubled Waters by Susan May Warren
Montana Rescue, Book 4
Contemporary Romance from Revell
Audio from Recorded Books
Releasing January 2018 (Audio in August)

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano
Supper Club, Book 1
Contemporary Christian Fiction from Tyndale House
Audio from Oasis Audio
Releasing February 2018

The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers
Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House
Audio from Recorded Books
Releasing February 2018

If I Live by Terri Blackstock
If I Run, Book 3
Contemporary Romantic Suspense from Zondervan
Audio from Brilliance Audio
Releasing March 2018

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert
Standalone Novel
Contemporary Christian Fiction from WaterBrook
Releasing April 2018

Send Down the Rain by Charles Martin
Standalone Novel
General Fiction from Thomas Nelson
Audio from Brilliance Audio
Releasing May 2018

No Less Days by Amanda G Stevens
Standalone Novel
Speculative Fiction from Shiloh Run Press
Releasing May 2018

So those are ten of the books I can’t wait to read in the coming year. I’d love to hear which books appear on your most anticipated list here in the comments. Or, to see what books other bloggers are looking forward to reading, check out this week’s Top Ten Tuesday posts over at the Broke and the Bookish.

Book Review: The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

Title: The Christmas Blessing
Author: Melody Carlson
Publisher: Revell
Published: September 2017
Genre: Historical, Christmas Fiction

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

She’s determined to give her baby a better life. Could a Christmas miracle make it possible?

Not long after she receives the news in 1944 that her baby’s father was shot down in the South Pacific, Amelia Richards loses hope. Jobless and broke, she has nowhere to turn for help but her infant’s paternal grandparents. The only problem is, they don’t know that she–or their grandson–exists.

When Amelia discovers the family is wealthy and influential, dare she disclose the truth of her relationship with their son? Or could the celebration of the arrival of another unexpected baby nearly two thousand years ago be the answer to her dilemma?

My Thoughts:

This novella makes a lovely Christmas time diversion, and it’s a perfect length for this busy time of year. Enough story and substance to draw you in and give a dose of Christmas cheer, without the length to prove too much distraction for too long. The characters and their dilemmas were interesting and well developed for a book of this length. I found I cared very much how the story would end for them, and was fully invested from cover to cover.

I appreciated, even reveled in, the joyful outcomes by the end of the book. But when I looked back on how the characters got there, I found that the storyteller in me was a bit disappointed. I would have liked to see Amelia and her in-laws working toward a better solution to their dilemma, rather than settling on a miserable outcome, and relying on a surprise twist that’s completely outside their control to fix everything. That said, I am glad the surprise twist was there. I know that might sound like a contradiction, but with everything she’s facing in this book, Amelia really needs her happy ending!

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

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Christian Fiction of 2017

top_ten_tuesday

There have been so many amazing books this year, it’s been hard to keep up. In fact, I’m a bit later than I meant to be in posting this, because I wanted to squeeze in just one or two more books before making a final decision on my favorites for the year. Despite the delay, here is my Top Ten Tuesday post, with books listed in alphabetical order by author. I think my librarian roots must be showing….

Anyway, to see what other bloggers consider the best reads of 2017, check out the links over at the Broke and the Bookish blog. But before you go, I’d love to hear about your favorite books this year. Please consider sharing in the comments.

Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar
Biblical Fiction from Tyndale House
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock
Contemporary Suspense from Zondervan
If I Run, Book 2
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin
Historical Fiction from Bethany House
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Maybe It’s You by Candace Calvert
Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Moving Target by Lynette Eason
Contemporary Romantic Suspense from Revell
Elite Guardians, Book 3
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason
Contemporary Romantic Suspense from Revell
Elite Guardians, Book 4
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner
Historical Fiction from Kregel Publications
Pearl Spence, Book 2
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Life After by Katie Ganshert
Contemporary Fiction from WaterBrook Multnomah
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Rescue Me by Susan May Warren
Contemporary Romance from Revell
Montana Rescue, Book 2
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Gathering the Threads by Cindy Woodsmall
Contemporary Amish Fiction
The Amish of Summer Grove, Book 3
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Book Review: Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren

Title: Wild Montana Skies
Author: Susan May Warren
Publisher: Revell
Published: October 2016
Series: Montana Rescue, Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance

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

The last thing Search and Rescue helicopter pilot Kacey Fairing needs upon returning home to Mercy Falls, Montana, is to run into her mistakes. After a devastating crash during her recent military tour in Afghanistan, she is emotionally broken but ready to start putting her life back together. She just wants to reconnect with her teenage daughter and spend the summer working as the new lead pilot of PEAK Rescue in Glacier National Park.

But her mistakes aren’t so easily forgotten. Because Ben King is also back in town.

Country music star Ben King abandoned his past when he moved to Nashville thirteen years ago to start his career. He hoped to heal his broken heart, caused by losing the woman he loved. But when his father is injured, Ben is called home to help manage PEAK Rescue during his recovery. He doesn’t realize his father has ulterior motives until his old flame, Kacey, walks into his house and back into his heart.

Now, with Mercy Falls in a state of emergency due to flash floods, Kacey and Ben will have to work together to save lives. But when secrets are uncovered and old hurts rise to the surface, will they walk away again? Or can they find a different ending to their country love song?

My Thoughts:

Susan May Warren is one name that comes up time and time again in blog posts, recommendations, award lists and discussions about Christian fiction. But somehow, this is the first novel I’ve read of hers. Shhh, don’t tell anyone…. 😉

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting this author in person and hearing her speak at a Christian fiction writer’s conference, and I’ve been reading a nonfiction book she’s written about fiction writing called The Story Equation. And finally, now I can say I have read one of her novels. And found that, yes, it lived up to what I’d been hoping it would be. So you can imagine I’ll be playing some serious catch-up to make up for lost time in reading her other books, particularly the others already published in this series. Next up, Rescue Me.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, about this book. The people and relationships have a depth and emotional resonance that’s a hallmark of good fiction. The kind of story you can get lost in for hours at a time. The setting sounds lovely, and the community welcoming, the kind of place I’d want to visit in real life… preferably not during flooding or other natural disasters though, if I can help it.

Ben and Kacey make great leads for this story. They each have their own issues and complicated backstories, but they’re clearly better together. It was fun to watch them working through it all and toward their happy ending.

The secondary characters are intriguing as well, with unexpected depth. Some of my favorite scenes involved Sierra and Ian’s relationship. I’m very much looking forward to reading more about these and other secondary characters within the PEAK Search and Rescue Team in other books in this series.

In fact, when I read this book, I didn’t realize there was a novella preceding it in the series that’s about Ian and Sierra, earlier in their relationship. I went back and read that one immediately. So good! And it fleshes out the backstory for Ian and Sierra beyond what you get in this novel. So I’d recommend reading that novella, called If Ever I Would Leave You, first thing and then immediately diving into Wild Montana Skies and the rest of the series.

Thank you to the publisher for providing the complimentary copy of Wild Montana Skies that I won in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway! Reading and reviewing it has been a joy.

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

Christmas 2017’s Must Reads

With Thanksgiving over, it seems Christmas will be right around the corner. I’ve already taken family photos and ordered Christmas cards, and actually accomplished a fair amount of Christmas shopping. Yay! So, with some of my to-do list knocked out, my thoughts are turning to the stories I want to read this Christmas season. There are five Christmas themed new releases I’m excited about so far.

    

The Beloved Christmas Quilt by Wanda Brunstetter

Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander

The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

One Enchanted Noel by Melissa Tagg

Twelve Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep

Which Christmas titles are you most looking forward to this holiday season?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Thankful For

top_ten_tuesday_thankful

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, my thoughts are turning to turkey and gravy, and family, and stuffing, and mashed potatoes… and some of the things I’m thankful for… and pumpkin pie. In no particular order. And, since this week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic at The Broke and the Bookish is “Top Ten Books I’m Thankful For,” that’s what I’ve decided to blog about. I’d love to hear what books you’re thankful for too.

The Bible.  If you know my reading habits and my beliefs, this one kind of goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. No other book can ever be as life changing or important to me as this one. The overarching story of the Bible is a beautiful tale of God’s love for mankind and his plan of grace and redemption. It amazes me how, after reading it for years, I still glean something new with each reading.

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron.  I won an autographed copy of this novel in a Goodreads giveaway. And reading it introduced me to an author who quickly became one of my favorites. Then I got to meet her in person at a writing conference and discovered what a sweet and thoughtful person she is. The book itself is both meaningful and beautifully written, and I highly recommend reading it.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  The summer between second and third grade, the children’s librarian at my local library recommended I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I loved it so much then, and I love it (and the rest of the titles in the series) even more now that I can better appreciate its allegorical elements.

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa TerKeurst.  This inspirational nonfiction book reassured me that letting go of busywork is okay, even a good thing, when it makes room for more meaningful activities. It sounds kind of obvious, but it was something I really needed to hear at the time, and still do every now and then.

The Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems.  I first heard of this series in a Library conference session where the speaker discussed fun book related activities to do with kids, such as using elephant and pig masks or puppets along with these books. My kids and I love the humor and the fun of reading and acting out these characters’ antics. In fact, these books have played a part in some of our family’s most enjoyable reading experiences.

The Haven Seekers Series by Amanda G. Stevens.  This series exemplifies what I would like to see more of in Christian fiction. A thought provoking premise, realistically flawed characters, and Christian themes that are neither preachy nor superficial. You’ll want to start reading with Seek and Hide, the first title in the series, but I think it’s the fourth and final one that’s my favorite, called Far and Near.

The Story Equation by Susan May Warren.  Susie and fellow author Rachel Hauck presented and demonstrated the story building concepts from this book at a writing conference I attended before this book had become a book. I was fascinated by what I heard, but had to miss half their talk in order to keep my appointment to pitch my novel to an agent. So you can imagine I was thrilled to find this book a few years later and fill in the missing pieces. I’m in the midst of reading it now, and already planning to read it through again.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert and Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry. These were the books that first introduced me to two of my favorite authors. Both use beautiful language to tell the kind of meaty and discussable story that I find fascinating, and that can be perfect for a book discussion group.

To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer. This book holds a special place in my heart because the heroine is a librarian like me, and the hero is a blacksmith like my husband. It was also my first taste of this author’s humorous writing style. It’s been way too long since I’ve read this one though, so I’m thinking I may need to revisit these characters again soon.

So those are a few of the titles that came to mind, when thinking of books I’m thankful for. Which books would you put on your list?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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