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

three-for-the-books-september-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

This Road We Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick released this month from Revell. It’s a historical novel set on the Oregon Trail. The book is available in print, electronic, and audio editions.

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

Topping the Charts

Without Warning by Lynnette Eason appears on the September 2016 ECPA Bestsellers list. This romantic suspense is Book 2 in the Elite Guardians series (see my review of Book 1). It’s available from Revell in print and electronic formats, with an audio edition available from Tantor Audio.

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

Cream of the Crop

The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart is winner of the 2016 Christy Award for Book of the Year, as well as the 2016 Carol Award in the Speculative fiction category. It’s published by Thomas Nelson, and available in print and electronic editions.

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

Book Review: Step by Step by Candace Calvert

Title: Step by Step
Author: Candace Calvert
Publisher: Tyndale House
Published: February 2016
Series: Crisis Team, Book 2
Genre: Christian fiction, Contemporary Romance

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

Three years after a tragic accident left her a widow, ER nurse Taylor Cabot is determined to move on, checking off one item after another on her survival list. Her relationship with a handsome plastic surgeon even gives her hope for the last point—“fall in love again.” At least until crisis chaplain Seth Donovan steps back into her life, reawakening unanswered questions about her husband’s death.

While in San Diego to train community volunteers, Seth hopes to learn why Taylor is backing away from the crisis team and from their friendship. But nothing prepares him for the feelings that arise when he sees Taylor again . . . and sees her moving on with another man.

When a community crisis hits home and puts lives at risk, emotions run high and buried truths are unearthed. Will hope make the survival list?

My Thoughts:

Last year I wrote an enthusiastic review of By Your Side, and because I loved that book so much, I sought out of this next book in the Crisis Team series. Let’s just say I was not disappointed in the least. Step by Step has less emphasis on suspense than the last one did, and more focus on the friendship to romance angle. But in the areas I liked best about the last one, this book delivers. Its inspirational message isn’t preachy, but makes you stop and think about control versus trust, and there are some wonderfully emotional parts to the story that really tug on the reader’s heartstrings. Having met both Seth and Taylor in the previous book, I was happy to spend time with them again, and see where things might go. They make quite a likeable pair, and it was a delight to see them learning to move on…together. :) I get the feeling the author does her research, and I appreciated learning a bit about the work of crisis volunteers as well as about grief, how differently people deal with it, and the value of skilled listening. The sub-plot with Sloane (and Marty) raised my curiosity about her past and future, so I’m very much looking forward to continuing to read this series when Maybe It’s You releases early in 2017.

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

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, September 2016

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the September 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 September selection is The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks. 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 September, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer AND Secrets She Kept (see my review of the audiobook here) by Cathy Gohlke. 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. No September discussion title has been selected, and messages sent to members indicate the group may be discontinuing soon.

The Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title and one Christian fiction title per month. A message in the discussion forum this month noted the group is seeking a moderator for the monthly Christian fiction read and has put this discussion on hold in the interim. The Amish fiction selection for September is Her Brother’s Keeper by Beth Wiseman. 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 September is The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. The discussion is planned for September 21, 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

Deep Shadows by Vanetta Chapman (July 2016, Harvest House, Speculative Fiction)

The Courtship Basket by Amy Clipston (July 2016, Zondervan, Amish Romance)

Magnolia Moonlight by Mary Ellis (August 2016, Harvest House, Mystery/Suspense)

A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears (August 2016, Bethany House, Historical Romance)


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

Book Review: Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin

Title: Through Waters Deep
Author: Sarah Sundin
Publisher: Revell
Published: August 2015
Series: Waves of Freedom, Book 1
Genre: Historical Romance

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

War is coming. Can love carry them through the rough waters that lie ahead?

It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Handsome and outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. On shore, Jim encounters Mary Stirling, a childhood friend who is now an astute and beautiful Boston Navy Yard secretary.

When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is discovered, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges–and dangers–await them.

My Thoughts:

I read Through Waters Deep in order to participate in the ACFW Book Club’s monthly discussion, and the story and characters captured my imagination. There’s a lot to this book, including sweet romance, a mystery to keep both reader and heroine guessing, a glimpse into U.S. Naval history and shipbuilding around the time of WWII, and a riveting conclusion complete with danger and heroics.

Jim and Mary are easy characters to like. They moved in the same social circle for a long time, though they were eclipsed by more extroverted people in their circle and didn’t know each other well until they wound up in a different time and place, surrounded by different people. There are romantic sparks, but each leading character believes them to be one-sided. Sigh. They both have a lot to learn about pride, humility, and acting boldly for the glory of God, when the situation calls for it. And it was a pleasure to watch them learn and grow, and embrace change.

The mystery thread was an interesting one, in which Mary attempts to help the FBI identify a saboteur. There are plenty of clues and competing theories to consider over the course of the book. I did correctly guess the saboteur by about the halfway point in the book, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment at all. As I got closer to the end, I devoured the book with an urgency to see how it would all end up.

There were a few mix-ups important to the plot that could have been cleared up if characters had just talked honestly with each other. While this sort of thing can come across as contrived, in this case I felt the characters’ motivations for their actions (or inactions) were plausible (if a bit frustrating).

The first kiss scene has some unique and entertaining elements to it (that I won’t spoil, as much as I might want to), and the book ends on a fabulously romantic note, that has the perfect resonance for wrapping up the book. Overall, very well written and engaging. And I’ve begun to grow attached to some of the secondary characters to the point where I’m looking forward to seeing them get their own happily-ever-afters in future books within the series.

Thank you to the author for providing a free copy of this book. I was not expected to write a review, but am happy to do so.

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

Audiobook Review: Always Watching by Lynette Eason

Title: Always Watching
Author: Lynette Eason
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Tantor Audio
Narrator: Rachel Dulude
Published: February 2016
Series: Elite Guardians, Book 1
Genre: Christian fiction, Romantic Suspense
Length: 8 hours, 31 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Intensity. Skill. Tenacity. The bodyguards of Elite Guardians Agency have it all.

When it becomes clear that popular psychiatrist and radio personality Wade Savage has a stalker, his father secretly hires Elite Guardians to protect his son. But when Wade’s bodyguard is attacked and nearly killed, agency owner Olivia Edwards must step in and fill the gap.

Olivia’s skills are about to be tested to the limit as Wade’s stalker moves from leaving innocent gifts at his door to threatening those closest to him–including Olivia. But in her mind, even more dangerous than the threats to her life is the hold her handsome client has on her heart.

My Thoughts on the Book:

Always Watching by Lynette Eason is among the best romantic suspense novels I’ve read in a while. I particularly enjoyed the premise of this series based around a group of female bodyguards. And I’m happy to report that Olivia and the other bodyguards in her agency are in fact pretty awesome people, both professionally and personally. The romance between Olivia and Wade was fun and believably done. But I think my favorite part is seeing Olivia and Amy (Wade’s preteen daughter) face down their fears to do what needs to be done. The stalker’s attacks keep the level of suspense significant, and the author does a good job keeping readers guessing at who the culprit could be. I guessed some aspects of the ending and was completely surprised by others. I also appreciated the inspirational message. I’m definitely looking forward to reading future installments in the Elite Guardians series.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Rachel Dulude’s reading of this audiobook is excellent. The character voices, both male and female, are believable and unique. I was particularly impressed by the narrator’s rendition of the voices of a couple of preteen girls, and of one of the bodyguards who had an accent. The bulk of the story is told in a crisp matter-of-fact way, but when characters are talking and when things get emotional, the narrator puts you right there in the characters’ heads. Very well done. If audiobooks are your thing, this is definitely one worth listening to.

Thank you to Tantor Audio for providing a complimentary copy of this audiobook for review purposes.

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

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

Three for the Books, August 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

The With All My Heart novella collection released this month from Bethany House. It features historical romance novellas from a variety of time periods across America, each originally released as ebooks and now available in print through this collection. Authors include Karen Witemeyer, Jody Hedlund, Melissa Jagears, Jen Turano, and Sarah Loudin Thomas.

Quick Links: About the Book | More New Releases

Topping the Charts

The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker appears first on the August 2016 CBA Bestsellers list in the Fantasy/Sci-Fi category. It is first in the Seer series for Young Adults, for which Book 2 The Calling is also available (and appears on the Best Seller list this month as well), with Book 3 anticipated in January 2017. This series is available from Tyndale House in electronic and print editions, or from Recorded Books in audiobook formats.

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

Cream of the Crop

With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden won the 2015 Carol Award in the Historical Romance category. It’s published by Bethany House, and available in print and electronic editions.

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

Book Review: Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

Title: Thief of Glory
Author: Sigmund Brouwer
Published: August 2014 by WaterBrook Press
Genre: Historical Fiction

About the Book (publisher’s description):

A boy coming of age in a time of war…the love that inspires him to survive.

For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, the life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942 after the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, and he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about a woman he barely knows—his frail, troubled mother.

Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap for his mother. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.

When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God’s light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.

My Thoughts on the Book:

This book made quite an impression on me. There were tears. Lots of them, at several different points. In fact, at one point, my comment to my husband about the book (because of those tears) was something like, “Enough already!” But the truth was, I couldn’t stop reading and didn’t want to, because the storytelling was just so good.

This story has a very literary vibe to it, and a writing style that had me smiling again and again at little details, perfectly placed. For example, who would’ve thought an explanation of the properties of rebar and concrete belonged at the start of a schoolyard brawl, but I couldn’t help but admire how well the incongruity worked. And certain scenes have really stuck with me in vivid detail.

As much as I enjoyed reading the book, I did have my reservations about how the story ended, specifically the twist revealed late in the book (which I won’t spoil for you). I’ll just say that a certain decision by the main character really bothered me, and leave it at that.

The faith element in this one felt pretty minimalist. I really only recall explicitly Christian elements in a handful of scenes, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this book would appeal to general market readers as well.

Thief of Glory gets my recommendation, particularly for discussion groups and those looking for a literary read with a distinctive voice. However, anyone particularly squeamish, may find some scenes… challenging. I am glad I read this book, and feel like I learned a lot from it, both about the history of that time and place, and about memorable storytelling.

Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah for providing a paperback copy of this book free of charge.

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, August 2016

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the August 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 August selection is Close to Home by Deborah Raney. 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 August, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof AND The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot. 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 August fiction selection is Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt.

The Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title and one Christian fiction title per month. The selections for August are Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney AND The Outcast by Jolina Petersheim. 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 months of July and August is Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien. Discussion is scheduled for August 17, 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

The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson (May 2016, Thomas Nelson, Historical Romance)

The Quieting by Suzanne Woods Fisher (May 2016, Revell, Amish Romance)

Sea Rose Lane by Irene Hannon (June 2016, Revell, Contemporary Romance)

Almost Like Being in Love by Beth K. Vogt (June 2016, Howard Books, Contemporary Romance)


So, friends, what have you been reading lately? Any titles you’d recommend for book club discussions? Did you see that the INSPY Award Winners and Christy Award Winners have been announced? I think many of those books could make excellent choices for discussion!

Audiobook Review: Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke

Title: Secrets She Kept
Author: Cathy Gohlke
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrators: Morgan Hallett and Suzy Jackson
Published: September 2015
Genre: Historical Romance, Christian Fiction
Length: 13 hours, 34 minutes. Unabridged.

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

All her life, Hannah Sterling longed for a close relationship with her estranged mother. Following Lieselotte’s death, Hannah determines to unlock the secrets of her mother’s mysterious past and is shocked to discover a grandfather living in Germany.

Thirty years earlier, Lieselotte’s father is quickly ascending the ranks of the Nazi party, and a proper marriage for his daughter could help advance his career. Lieselotte is in love—but her beloved Lukas is far from an ideal match, as he secretly works against the Reich. Yet Lieselotte never imagined how far her father would go to ensure her cooperation.

Both Hannah’s and Lieselotte’s stories unfold as Hannah travels to Germany to meet her grandfather, who is hiding wartimes secrets of his own. Longing for connection, yet shaken by all she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family’s tragic past and how their legacy will shape her future.

My Thoughts on the Book:

I had the pleasure recently of listening to the audiobook edition of Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke. This book has won a Christy Award and an INSPY Award, and this audio edition was a finalist for an Audie Award. Some impressive accolades, yes?

My impression? There’s vivid storytelling here, alongside close attention to historical detail, and the overall emotional impact is powerful. I loved the dual first person storylines and timelines, particularly the way the stories meshed and played off of each other. Hannah’s quest to understand her family’s past made an interesting modern-day frame for the story of her mother Lieselotte’s experiences during World War II. Questions are asked and secrets are gradually revealed to both Hannah and the reader throughout the course of the book in such a way as to deepen the emotional impact. Thematically, characters wrestle with issues surrounding forgiveness, and I thought the appearances by Corrie Ten Boom within the plot were a lovely touch, helping to drive home the book’s message in memorable terms.

Much as I admired and enjoyed reading this book, there was one aspect of the ending that bugged me. [Will try to be vague here so as not to spoil anything…] When all the secrets were revealed, I found myself skeptical that one character’s perceptions of another could have been so skewed in the way they were… despite the explanations given… and I didn’t really get why those misconceptions couldn’t have been corrected earlier. [Anyone else who’s read it feel the same way? Or am I maybe overthinking this?]

Anyway, while I can’t say this was my number one ranked read of the year, or my favorite title from this author (loved Saving Amelie so much!), I can say that this is an excellent book, well worth the read, particularly for anyone with an interest in World War II era stories.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

The narrators for the audio edition did a great job conveying the story in an engaging and dynamic way. And yes, I did say “narrators” plural. There are two narrators for this story, one for each time period and its first person viewpoint character. That is to say, Suzy Jackson tells Lieselotte’s portions of the story set during World War II, while Morgan Hallett relates Hannah Sterling’s more modern-day rediscovery of the past. I felt this arrangement worked fabulously for this story. The two narrators have distinctly different voices and styles, which seemed well matched with the personality of the main character they each portrayed. As an added benefit, when returning to the audiobook after a break in listening, it was easy to tell within a brief soundbyte which time period and which character’s world we’re visiting, simply by recognizing the voice of the narrator. Overall, a great listening experience, and highly recommended.

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

Quick Links: About the Audiobook | On Goodreads | Author’s Site | Discussion Guide

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

Three for the Books, July 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

Deep Shadows by Vanetta Chapman released this month from Harvest House Publishers. This dystopian novel is first in a new series from this popular author, and is available in electronic and print editions.

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

Topping the Charts

Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson appears first on the July CBA Bestsellers list in the suspense/mystery category. It is first in the new Evie Blackwell Cold Case mystery series. Available from Bethany House Publishers in electronic and print editions, or from Recorded Books in audiobook formats.

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

Cream of the Crop

An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund won the 2016 INSPY Award in the Literature for Young Adults category. It’s a historical romance for young adults, first in its series, and published by Zondervan. Available in print, electronic, and audio editions.

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