Monthly Archives: March 2017

Audiobook Review: The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore

Title: The Undoing of Saint Silvanus
Author: Beth Moore
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Shannon McManus
Published: September 2016
Genre: Contemporary Mystery. Christian fiction.
Length: 12 hours, 24 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Only God knew why Jillian Slater agreed to return to New Orleans on the news that her father had finally drunk himself to death. It’s not like they were close. She hadn’t seen him—or her grandmother, the ice queen—in almost 20 years. But when Adella Atwater, the manager of her grandmother’s apartment house, called and said Jillian’s expenses would be paid if she’d fly in for the burial, a free trip to New Orleans was too intriguing to resist.

What Adella didn’t tell her was that the apartment house wasn’t a house at all and, whatever it was, bore the dead weight of a long and painful history. As soon as Jillian meets the odd assortment of renters and realizes that her grandmother had no idea she was coming, she hatches a plan to escape. But the investigation into her father’s death quickly unfolds and Jillian is drawn into the lives of the colorful collection of saints and sinners who pass through Saint Silvanus. She soon discovers there is more at stake than she ever imagined. Who is behind the baffling messages and the strange relics left on the steps? Is it possible that her family is actually cursed? Or is it just this crazy old house that holds them all under its spell?

Jillian walks into a web of spiritual and personal danger borne out of her family’s broken history, and despite Adella’s wiliest efforts, only God himself can orchestrate the undoing of all that is going on at Saint Silvanus.

My Thoughts on the Book:

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus made my Top Ten List for 2016, with its fascinating local flavor, colorful similes, entertaining characters, and thought provoking themes. It’s a mystery, complete with murder investigation, but it reads more like a work of general fiction, being so much more focused on the characters and their relationships. There’s some romance in the mix as well, though that aspect takes a backseat to other relationships in the story.

The overall book has a gritty and real feel to it, grappling as it does with some challenging situations, and presenting complex and misunderstood characters and relationships. Some of the main characters weren’t so much likeable at first as sympathetic. In fact, I thought Olivia and Jillian were downright prickly at the outset. But they drew me into the story, because of all they were going through, and because of my curiosity to see where the story was headed. And yes, they grew on me quickly, as I got to know them better.

The secondary characters, especially Adella, kept things interesting with their quirky personalities and witty sayings. In fact, some of my favorite parts of this story were the surprising turns of phrase, unexpected comparisons, and vividly idiosyncratic descriptions used in the story, most frequently from Adella’s viewpoint. Here’s just one quick example from Chapter 5: “Over the next solid hour, Olivia spilled more beans than Adella could have shoveled back into a ten-gallon can.”

This novel would make a great choice for book discussion groups. It made me laugh. It made me tear up. And it made me stop and think about brokenness, relationships, and grace.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

The narrator, Shannon McManus, did a great job with this audiobook. Sometimes matter of fact, sometimes wry, the reading has character to match that of the text. From male to female voices, young to old, each character was portrayed with uniquely distinctive variations in voice well suited to their personalities and other characteristics. I highly recommend the audio edition to those who enjoy listening to their books.

I borrowed an electronic copy of this audiobook from my local library and received a free print copy from the publisher as part of a Goodreads giveaway. What a pleasant surprise! I was not expected to write a review, but I wanted to share my thoughts.

Quick Links: About the Book | Audio Sample | Author’s Site | Narrator’s Site

Featured Reads: Three for the Books, March 2017

Three for the Books,March 2017

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 and provide links to where you can browse additional newly released, best selling, and award winning titles. For my featured reads, I’m also including links to some fabulous reviews by fellow bloggers, so you can check out what others are saying. 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

Doctor’s Dilemma by Richard L Mabry  is a new medical suspense novella that released this month from Amazon. It’s available in print and electronic editions.

Featured Review: Carrie of the Reading Is My Superpower blog says, “Doctor’s Dilemma by Dr. Richard Mabry is the perfect choice for an evening in or a weekend read. High tension and riveting suspense reel you in, and the intrigue surrounding the medical group keeps you guessing.” Check out her full review of Doctor’s Dilemma here.

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

Topping the Charts

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander appears on the ECPA bestsellers list for March. This historical romance concludes the author’s Belmont Mansion series and is available from Bethany House in print and electronic formats, or from Recorded Books in audio.

Featured Review: Beth reviewed this novel at Faithfully Bookish, saying, “Music lover or not, A Note Yet Unsung will capture your heart, reader friends because the story is about much more than the wonderful music! Reconstruction Era Nashville, as well as the struggles and triumphs of her residents, is brought to life once again by talented storyteller and bonafide southern belle, Tamera Alexander.” Click to read more of this review of A Note Yet Unsung.

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

Cream of the Crop

Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt won both a Christy and a Carol Award in 2016. This contemporary romance novel is available from publisher Howard Books in print and electronic editions.

Featured Review: Over at the By the Book blog, Beckie wrote, “If you are looking for a feel good romance with some spiritual depth, then Crazy Little Thing Called Love is a perfect choice.”  You can find her full review here.

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

Audiobook Review: Without Warning by Lynette Eason

Title: Without Warning
Author: Lynette Eason
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Tantor Audio
Narrator: Rachel Dulude
Published: August 2016
Series: Elite Guardians, Book 2
Genre: Christian Fiction, Romantic Suspense, Contemporary.
Length: 8 hours, 52 minutes. Unabridged.

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

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

Katie Singleton, a partner with the Elite Guardians Protection Agency, stumbles upon her next assignment quite by accident. Spotting blue lights at a familiar restaurant, she stops to investigate, only to discover that owner Daniel Matthews has become the target of someone who will go to any lengths to put him out of business.

Daniel might be concerned, but he’s not convinced that a bodyguard–and a female one at that–is necessary. A new attack and his niece’s urgings are enough to make him reconsider. He and Katie must figure out who’s behind the intimidation and threats–before a would-be killer strikes again.

My Thoughts on the Book:

I recently enjoyed listening to Lynette Eason’s novel Always Watching so much that I was quick to track down a copy of the second book in this series – also in audiobook format. Without Warning did a great job maintaining the tone and style of its predecessor, while keeping the story fresh, engaging, and suspenseful. I said it in my last review, but I’ll say it again. I love the premise of this series, based around a group of female bodyguards. It was great to get to know Katie better. She’s a strong and capable woman, yet she’s okay with relying on the people around her when she needs to. And her struggle with making peace with her past and her family situation had me rooting for her all the way through the story. Daniel made a great hero too, plenty capable himself, yet comfortable enough in his own skin to not be bothered by his niece wanting to hire a bodyguard for him. Speaking of the niece, she’s quite mature for her age, kind of the opposite of the teenage character found in Book 1. In fact, maybe a little too precocious at times? Or maybe not…? I kept going back and forth on that. Either way, both she and Katie are forced to face their fears before this book is over, and it was great to see how they handled that. Overall, this is quite a suspenseful and action-packed novel, with elements of mystery and sweet romance. Once again, I guessed part of the outcome, but not all of it. I’m hopeful that by Book 3 I may be able to figure it all out ahead of the characters… or maybe the author will keep me guessing. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing what these elite bodyguards will be up to next in Moving Target. :)

Specific to the Audio Edition:

This audiobook was read by Rachel Dulude, the same narrator as for the prior title in the series. Hooray! (I say that both because the narrator is good in general, and because I appreciate it when character voices are consistent through the series.) Once again, there’s a good variation in voices to help the listener keep straight who’s talking when, and a couple of the more challenging voices (a teenager and a character with an accent) are handled particularly well. Audiobook listeners who enjoy a suspenseful faith-based tale will want to track down the audio editions from this series.

I borrowed a copy of this audiobook from my local public library. I was not expected to write a review.

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, March 2017

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the March 2017 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 March selection is The Things We Knew by Catherine West. 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. March’s selection is Still Life by Dani Pettrey.

For March, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen AND The Icecutter’s Daughter by Tracie Peterson. 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 March is The Keeper by Suzanne Woods Fisher. 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 March is That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis. The discussion is planned for March 16, 2017.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House, January 2017, Historical Romance)

The Saboteur by Susan Page Davis (Tea Tin Press, January 2017, Romantic Suspense)

The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller (Kregel Publications, February 2017, Regency Romance)

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