Monthly Archives: May 2016

Audiobook Review: The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

Title: The Prayer Box
Author: Lisa Wingate
Narrator: Xe Sands
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Audio Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Genre: Christian Women’s Fiction

Book Description (from the Tyndale House Web site):

When Iola Anne Poole, an old-timer on Hatteras Island, passes away in her bed at ninety-one, the struggling young mother in her rental cottage, Tandi Jo Reese, finds herself charged with the task of cleaning out Iola’s rambling Victorian house.

Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola’s walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year, spanning from Iola’s youth to her last days. Hidden in the boxes is the story of a lifetime, written on random bits of paper—the hopes and wishes, fears and thoughts of an unassuming but complex woman passing through the seasons of an extraordinary, unsung life filled with journeys of faith, observations on love, and one final lesson that could change everything for Tandi.

My Thoughts:

The Prayer Box is a lovely novel, delving into the lives of two women, one recently deceased, and another struggling to pick up the pieces of her own life and make a fresh start. As those two women’s lives intersect through the prayer boxes Tandi discovers when cleaning out Iola’s house after her death, Tandi learns some valuable lessons about life and love, and how significantly one life focused on service can impact others.

I found this to be an unusually introspective novel, delving deeply into the thoughts and feelings of Iola (through her letters) and Tandi (the main viewpoint character). It set a leisurely, sometimes meandering pace that allowed the reader time to get to know the characters well and care about them.

I enjoyed the beautifully crafted, often poetic language of this story, as well as the metaphors employed. My favorites were Iola as a lighthouse helping to “point the way” and “guide many ships” (page 174) and Jesus as “the white berry that removes the stain” (page 368).

Overall, a great choice for those who enjoy Women’s fiction.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

I thoroughly enjoyed the audio edition and would highly recommend it. The narrator, Xe Sands gave a wistful and emotional performance that was well suited to the introspective nature of the story. There was a soothing musical quality to her voice that was a perfect complement to some of the more poetic passages in particular. Lisa Wingate is quite a wordsmith and Xe Sands’ narration was the icing on the cake.

Book Review: Light of the Last by Chuck Black

9781601425065Title: Light of the Last
Author: Chuck Black
Publisher: Multnomah
Published: February 2016
Series: Wars of the Realm, Book 3
Genre: Christian Speculative Fiction, YA

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

To Fight What Others Can’t You Must See What Others Don’t

After an accident left him temporarily blind, Drew Carter didn’t just regain his sight. He now sees what others can’t imagine–an entire spiritual realm of mighty beings at war.

Forget the gift, Drew just wants his life back. Part of that involves Sydney Carlyle, a woman he is inexplicably drawn to. When he’s offered the chance to become a CIA agent, it seems the way to redeem his past. The only problem–his visions of the supernatural realm are increasing in frequency.

It’s up to the warrior angel Validus and his hand-picked team of heavenly agents to protect the unbelieving Drew. Validus now knows that the young man is at the epicenter of a global spiritual war, and the angels must use a millennia of battle experience to keep Drew alive, for the Fallen want him dead.

Surrounded by spiritual warriors and targeted by demons, Drew’s faced with an impossible decision that will forever alter the destiny of America…and his own soul.

My Thoughts:

Light of the Last is another action-packed read from author Chuck Black. It follows Cloak of the Light and Rise of the Fallen, as third in the Wars of the Realm series. For those unfamiliar with the series, I’d describe this novel as part political thriller, part super-hero story, and part speculative fiction exploring spiritual warfare. Incidentally, if you haven’t already, you’ll want to start this series with its first installment, so consider checking out the links above to my reviews of the earlier books.

The key viewpoint characters in this novel are Drew Carter who was featured in Cloak of the Light, and Validus the warrior angel featured in Rise of the Fallen who is tasked with protecting Drew. Both characters feel larger than life with their superhuman abilities and unwavering dedication to the goals for which they’re fighting. Supporting characters like Ben, Sydney, Reed, Ross, Jake, Validus’s angelic team, and Ben’s team of tech geeks fill their roles well and keep the plot moving ever forward.

Speaking of the plot, it’s full of twists and turns. From spy training to missions, to reconnecting with significant characters out of earlier books, to questioning reality, to facing down an utterly terrifying threat on a national scale, Drew and Validus, and their human and angelic teams are constantly on the move. The pace follows a quick clip, and while description is very precisely detailed in some parts (particularly fight scenes) there are other parts of the plot that get summarily told to fast-track the reader to the next exciting part. Not necessarily a bad thing, but also not the style I’m accustomed to reading, so it kind of jumped out at me.

There was one unexpected plot twist in Chapter 24 that made me consider not finishing the book. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, so let’s just say that I’m unusually squeamish when it comes to plotlines involving biological threats, and I tend to avoid them whenever possible. But I didn’t see this one coming until I was already so deeply committed to finding out how the story ends that I couldn’t bring myself to give up on it. Thankfully, despite a few pretty intense scenes, I managed not to freak out…too badly.

One of my favorite parts of this story was the technology Ben develops at NexTech. So, so, so cool. Especially the glasses, and the tech-lined jacket, and the AI, and – okay – pretty much all of it. It’s probably a good thing that this stuff doesn’t really exist yet, because I’m already a little too immersed in my smart phone…. 😉

This story emphasizes the power of prayer and looks at what it means to trust and to follow God. It also explores one fascinating view of what could be going on in the spiritual realm. I appreciate the effort the author put into creating a reader’s guide to delineate which elements of his take on spiritual warfare are drawn from the Bible and which are guesswork and/or invention, much as an author of historical fiction might point out where historical liberties were taken for the sake of the story.

Anyway… if you enjoy books full of action, intrigue, and super-human fight scenes, this may very well be one you’ll love. Just be sure to start with Book 1, Cloak of the Light. I’ll be curious to see if there are any more titles in this series or perhaps a spin-off series yet to come. The ending seems to leave an opening for that possibility.

Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah for providing a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes via the Blogging for Books program.

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

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

Three for the Books, May 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

Medical Judgment by Richard L. Mabry, M.D. releases this month from Abingdon Press. This medical thriller is available in electronic and print editions.

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

Topping the Charts

Behold the Man by Bodie and Brock Thoene appears on the May CBA Bestsellers list in the historical fiction category. It is third in the Jerusalem Chronicles series, following When Jesus Wept and Take This Cup. It’s available from Zondervan in electronic, print and audio editions.

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

Cream of the Crop

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke won the 2015 INSPY Award in the General fiction category. It’s a historical novel set during World War II and published by Tyndale House. Available in print and electronic editions.

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

Audiobook Review: Come to Me Alive by Leah Atwood

Title: Come to Me Alive
Author: Leah Atwood
Narrator: Pamela Almand
Print Publisher: Falling Leaf Press (October 2014)
Audio Publisher: Self Published (July 2015)
Series: Come to Me, Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian Fiction
Length: 7 hours, 9 minutes, Unabridged

About the Book: (from the description on Audible)

Bryce Landry, country music’s hottest star, has it all, or so everyone on the outside thinks. They can’t see his struggle to discover himself, to find his place in unfamiliar territories, both as a dad and as a Christian. He takes a month off and escapes to the small town of Oden Bridge, Louisiana, where his daughter lives with his grandparents.

Sophie Thatcher has never been a risk taker, but she has no complaints and never thought her life lacked until her boyfriend of three years breaks off their relationship. Only then, does she begin to question what she’s missed by always playing it safe. Meeting Bryce is a call to action. She can let fear rule or trust in faith, which means taking the biggest risk of her life.

As the weeks and months pass, they discover finding each other was easy, but holding on will be a different story.

My Thoughts on the Book:

Come to Me Alive is a sweet, contemporary Christian romance between a school teacher and a formerly “bad boy” country music star. The story focuses primarily on their developing relationship from a cleverly amusing cute meet involving an attacking duck, through some relational rough patches, right on to a satisfying ending. Secondary plot threads involve dealing with challenges balancing career, faith, and fatherhood, as well as reconnecting with estranged family.

I thought the author did a great job introducing the reader to her characters and showing just how they fall in love a bit at a time. It felt very true to life. Maybe even a little too much so, in that the conflicts standing between them and a happy ending weren’t all that evident until much later in the book. The smooth sailing early on gave me pause, but I am glad I stuck with the book because the story becomes deeper and more meaningful as it goes on.

There were plenty of descriptive details throughout, to show the reader exactly what’s happening at any given time. I’ll admit, there were a few instances where I thought the description may have gone a bit overboard, delving into nitty-gritty minutiae like the process of writing a check and what shape that check was, but nit-picking aside I’d rather have too clear a picture than too vague. The hero’s newness to his Christian faith offered plenty of opportunity to showcase some of the ways that faith can change lives. Overall, this is a fun and leisurely read for anyone who enjoys the process of falling in love. And really, who doesn’t? :)

I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook edition, which has been honored with a nomination for one of this year’s Audie awards. The narrator and those involved in production went above and beyond the call of duty. The audio includes a recording of the song that plays a big role in the story. In fact, I’m told that song was arranged and produced specifically for the audiobook. How cool is that, right? At another point, when a character quotes a literary classic in Middle English, the narrator does a convincing job with the accent/pronunciation, all while staying within that character’s voice. Oh, and while children’s voices tend to challenge narrators, the little girl’s voice in this story has a sweet and innocent quality to it that seems quite natural to the character. Overall, an excellent narration that I’d highly recommend to any audiobook fans who enjoy this genre.

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

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, May 2016

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the May 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 May selection is Fatal Reunion by Jessica R. Patch. 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 May, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson AND The Air We Breathe by Christa Parrish. 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 May fiction selection is Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck.

The Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title and one Christian fiction title per month. The selections for May are If I Run by Terri Blackstock AND The Forgotten Recipe by Amy Clipston. 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 May is The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. Discussion is scheduled for May 18, 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

Miriam by Mesu Andrews (March 2016, WaterBrook, Historical)

Burning Proof by Janice Cantore (March 2016, Tyndale House, Romantic Suspense)

A Heart Once Broken by Jerry S. Eicher (March 2016, Harvest House, Amish Romance)

A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund (March 2016, Zondervan, Historical YA)

The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter (March 2016, Thomas Nelson, Contemporary Romance)

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