Monthly Archives: December 2015

Book Review: Spy of Richmond by Jocelyn Green

Title: Spy of Richmond
Author: Jocelyn Green
Published: March 2015
Publisher: River North
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Heroines Behind the Lines

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

When living a lie is the right thing to do.

The Confederate capital in the height of the Civil War: no place for a Union loyalist. But just the place for a spy.

Her father a slaveholder, her suitor a Confederate officer, and she an abolitionist, Sophie Kent must walk a tightrope of deception in her efforts to end slavery. As suspicion in Richmond rises, Sophie’s espionage becomes more and more dangerous. If her courage will carry her through, what will be lost along the way—her true love, her father, her life?

My Thoughts:

Spy of Richmond combines historical fact from the Civil War era with an engaging plot and well-crafted fictional characters, alongside some not-so-fictional characters. While I haven’t read other titles in the Heroines Behind the Lines series yet, this book has made me eager to do so.

The characters are complex, multi-faceted individuals with competing interests and loyalties, living through a challenging time period. This results in some interesting dilemmas, and keeps the plot moving along and the pages turning.

Historical details of setting, circumstance, and societal issues pique the reader’s curiosity to learn more about the time period, and lend the book a feeling of authenticity. I found the details of prison conditions especially vivid and compelling.

Besides being a well written book in general, the little details made it stand out for me. For example, when there was a misunderstanding between characters that created an obstacle to their relationship, they discussed it and dealt with it according to their personalities, rather than artificially letting the situation drag on. I found that refreshing. I also loved the following passage (from Chapter 8, page 91) about two secondary characters. Abraham’s line sounds like just the kind of thing my husband (also a blacksmith) might say, and I love the multiple layers of emotion evoked in the passage:

“Bella stared at the empty chair across from her, and could barely remember what it felt like to have it occupied by her husband. To have his strong hands ease the tension from her neck and shoulders while he told her about his day at the blacksmith shop. ‘I bent more iron to my will today,’ he would say, chest puffed up, just to make her laugh. The house barely felt like home without him in it.”

Thank you to the author for providing a free copy of this book. I very much enjoyed leading the discussion of Spy of Richmond for the ACFW Book Club’s October discussion, and would highly recommend it for use by other book clubs. I was not expected to write a review, but am happy to do so, considering how much I enjoyed reading it.

Book Review: The Sunken Realm by Serena Chase

Title: The Sunken Realm
Author: Serena Chase
Published: September 2015, Candent Gate
Series: Eyes of E’veria, Book 4
Genre: YA Fantasy, Christian Fiction

If you saw the series of “E’veria Week” posts I shared back in June, you know I’m a big fan of Serena Chase’s Eyes of E’veria series, and that I’ve been waiting in eager anticipation for my chance to read this book. Today, I’m pleased to share my review.

About the Book (from Goodreads):

She is an outcast among knights.

Her reputation in ruins, her knighthood revoked, and her future bleak, Erielle de Gladiel would have welcomed death as her due. Captured by pirates, she was beaten, whipped, branded a thief—and worse—and then set adrift to die. She did not expect—or even want—to be rescued. Especially not by the dashing blasted pirate now calling himself her husband.

He is the King of Pirates.

His oath satisfied and his Legacy secured, Cazien vows vengeance on all who harmed Erielle. But before he can hunt them down, a strange visitor appears with an urgent message—a message that aligns with prophecy Erielle has written in her sleep: The Seahorse Pirates must reach Nirista before the famed Tournament of the Twelve . . . or hundreds of stolen children will die.

Together, they are relentless.

With the fate of many resting upon them, Cazien and Erielle sail to Nirista. Once there, they are forced to follow separate paths to achieve their aims. Treacheries are uncovered and allies are gained, but in the shadows, a hidden foe plots a grievous betrayal that could shatter not only their hope, but the Seahorse Legacy itself.

The epic conclusion of this series-within-a series, The Sunken Realm sweeps Erielle and Cazien along a pulse-pounding voyage to discover all they are meant to become, together. Giving subtle nods to several fairy tales, including an unexpected twist to the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, this romantic YA pirate adventure is the final novel in the Eyes of E’veria series . . . but the Seahorse Pirates and their friends in E’veria may yet have stories to tell.

My Thoughts:

Such a great series! This final installment in the Eyes of E’veria series is packed full of action, adventure, romance, witty banter, and a unique blend of clever piratey justice.

I loved being reunited with the charming Cazien and spunky Erielle to see their heroic quest through to its conclusion. With unexpected plot twists, vivid description, a hearty portion of danger and suspense, and some swoon-worthy romantic bits, this tale was delightfully fun to read.

But what really impressed me about this book and this series as a whole is that it’s not just a fun read. There are also powerful truths, beautifully expressed, and interwoven into the fabric of the tale. About God’s love for us, about love as a choice, about redemption, and more.

This is a story worth remembering and worth reading again. And I very much look forward to reading future books by this author, whether to revisit E’veria and Eachan Isle or to embark on a whole new reading adventure.

Thank you to the author for providing a complimentary electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, December 2015

Three for the Books, December 2015

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. This month I’m featuring Christmas themed books. Do you have any favorite Christmas-y reads? Any you’ve been wanting to read? Please mention them in the comments!

Hot Off the Presses

The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson was released recently from Revell, and features a cross-country RV Christmas adventure. This contemporary Christmas novel is available in hardcover and ebook editions.

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

Topping the Charts

An Amish Christmas Gift by Amy Clipston, Ruth Reid, and Kelly Irvin appears near the top of the ECPA Best Sellers list for December. Published by Thomas Nelson, this collection includes three Amish novellas. It’s available in paperback, ebook, and audio editions.

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

Cream of the Crop

The novella, I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Sarah Sundin was a finalist for the 2015 Carol Awards. It appears in the Christmas novella collection Where Treetops Glisten by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin, which is published by WaterBrook Multnomah and available in print and electronic editions.

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

Audiobook Review: Falling Like Snowflakes by Denise Hunter

Title: Falling Like Snowflakes
Author: Denise Hunter
Series: Summer Harbor, Book 1
Print Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Audio Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Narrator: Julie Lyles Carr
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian fiction
Published: September 2015
Length: 7 hrs, 42 minutes, Unabridged

Anyone ready for some Christmas themed reading? I just finished reading a novel that takes place during the Christmas season on a Christmas tree farm. And it’s so good, I’d recommend you read it now. Or, really, any time of year. :)

Book Description (from the publisher’s site):

Eden Martelli is too busy fleeing the clutches of danger to realize she’s running straight into the arms of a new love.

Speeding north through rural Maine, Eden Martelli wonders how her life came to this—on the run with her mute five-year-old son dozing fitfully in the passenger seat. When a breakdown leaves them stranded in Summer Harbor, Eden has no choice but to stay put through Christmas . . . even though they have no place to lay their heads.

Beau Callahan is a habitual problem solver—for other people anyway. He left the sheriff’s department to take over his family’s Christmas tree farm, but he’s still haunted by the loss of his parents and struggling to handle his first Christmas alone.

When Eden shows up looking for work just as Beau’s feisty aunt gets out of the hospital, Beau thinks he’s finally caught a break. Eden is competent and dedicated—if a little guarded—and a knockout to boot. But, as he soon finds out, she also comes with a boatload of secrets.

Eden has been through too much to trust her heart to another man, but Beau is impossible to resist, and the feeling seems to be mutual. As Christmas Eve approaches, Eden’s past catches up to her.

Beau will go to the ends of the earth to keep her safe. But who’s going to protect his heart from a woman who can’t seem to trust again?

My Thoughts:

Falling Like Snowflakes is a sweet contemporary romance with substance. Some of its best features are the loveable characters, the sense of community and family, and the characters’ growth and healing over the course of the story.

On top of all that, there’s a suspense thread woven in that serves to raise the stakes and makes for some page turning plot twists near the end of the book. Even so, I’d call this more romance than romantic suspense, since it’s the romance that really drives the story. Eve and Beau definitely have some great chemistry, and it’s fun watching them come to terms with that over the course of the book.

Fans of sweet contemporary romance won’t want to miss this one. And I, for one, am already on the lookout for Books 2 and 3 in the Summer Harbor series. I look forward to spending more time getting to know the Callahan family and seeing how the love stories already hinted at in this book will play out in future installments.

The audio edition of Falling Like Snowflakes is narrated by Julie Lyles Carr who does an admirable job of clearly and consistently enunciating the text. Just be aware, the reading doesn’t distinguish between character voices. It’s more a straightforward reading like you might find in a non-fiction audiobook. While I might have preferred a more elaborate and emotionally charged performance, this reading did get the job done, allowing me to “read” the book with hands and eyes free.

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, December 2015

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the December 2015 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. Then I’ll wrap up the post with a discussion question I’d like you to chime in on.

Online Discussions Coming Up This Month

The ACFW Book Club will be doing something a little different for the month of December. Rather than choose a book for discussion at this busy time of year, the group is arranging for authors to offer giveaways on the discussion list. 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 December, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing The Christmas Shoppe by Melody Carlson AND The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson. 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 and one Christian fiction title per month. The selections for December are Love Finds You on Christmas Morning by Debby Mayne and Trish Perry AND The Christmas Cradle by Charlotte Hubbard. 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 December is The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. December’s discussion will cover the first fourteen chapters, saving the remainder for January.

The Cherished Book Club, 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

Anna’s Healing by Vanetta Chapman (October 2015, Harvest House, Amish Romance)

The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson (November 2015, Thomas Nelson, YA Fairytale Retelling)

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (November 2015, Thomas Nelson, Contemporary)

A Refuge at Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky (October 2015, WaterBrook Multnomah, Historical Romance)

Let’s Chat!

Last month I asked what book related topics others might like to discuss. Thank you to my friend Beckie from By the Book for offering a great idea for a discussion starter. Here’s what she had to say:

“I’d like a discussion about fun, book related events for book clubs. My book club has been meeting 13 years and it is a struggle to keep things fresh. In the past we have hosted authors, had author calls and gone on book field trips. I’d love to hear how others are making book club exciting.”

What a great suggestion! So are my fellow readers ready to brainstorm? What are some fun book club activities you’d like to try (or that your club has already tried)?