Monthly Archives: April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three for the Books, April 2016, small

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

Hot Off the Presses

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

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

Topping the Charts

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

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

Cream of the Crop

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

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

Audiobook Review: On This Foundation by Lynn Austin

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts on the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specific to the Audio Edition:

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

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

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, April 2016

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the April 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 April selection is A Spy’s Devotion by Melanie Dickerson. 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 April, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton AND The Colonel’s Lady by Laura Frantz. 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 April fiction selections are Outlaw by Ted Dekker AND The Trouble with Patience by Maggie Brendan.

The Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title and one Christian fiction title per month. The selections for April are An Empty Cup by Sarah Price AND Doctor in Petticoats by Mary Connealy. 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 April is Perelandra by C.S. Lewis. Discussion is scheduled for April 20, 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

If I Run by Terri Blackstock (February 2016, Zondervan, Suspense)

From Bags to Riches by Sandra D Bricker (March 2016, Abingdon, Contemporary)

The Restoration by Wanda E Brunstetter (February 2016, Shiloh Run Press, Amish)

Joshua’s Mission by Vanetta Chapman (February 2016, Harvest House, Amish)

An Amish Market: Four Novellas by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, Kelly Irvin, and Vanetta Chapman (February 2016, Thomas Nelson, Amish)

Kissed by a Cowboy by Debra Clopton (February 2016, Thomas Nelson, Contemporary Romance)

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