All posts by Karen Collier

About Karen Collier

Karen Collier is an author and reviewer of Inspirational / Inspy / Christian fiction. A librarian too. Her twitter handle is @karencollier and her blog features book reviews and discussion questions, plus tips for book groups at karencollier.com.

Audiobook Review: Fraying at the Edge by Cindy Woodsmall

Title: Fraying at the Edge
Author: Cindy Woodsmall
Print Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Stina Nielsen
Published: August 2016
Series: The Amish of Summer Grove, Book 2
Genre: Amish Fiction
Length: 12 hours, 6 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Family, community, faith, and love. These “quilt blocks” sewn together made Ariana’s beautiful life. When they are pulled to pieces, will anything familiar remain?

The Old Order Amish life Ariana Brenneman loved vanished virtually overnight with the discovery that she was switched at birth twenty years ago. Now she’s immersed in the Englischer world, getting to know her mother and under the authority of her biological father, an atheist intellectual with resolute plans to expand Ariana’s worldview. Only Quill Schlabach, a childhood friend living Englisch, can steady the tilting ground between Ariana’s two worlds, but can she trust him after so many betrayals?

 At the same time, Skylar Nash is forced to choose rehab or spend several months with her true relatives, the large Brenneman family and their seemingly backward life—no electricity, no technology, no fun. What the young woman can’t leave behind is her addiction to illegal prescription drugs and a deep emptiness from the belief that she doesn’t belong in either family.

New ties are binding Ariana and Skylar to the lives they were meant to have. Can they find the wisdom and strength they’ll need to follow God’s threads into unexpected futures?

My Thoughts on the Book:

If you read my review of the first book in The Amish of Summer Grove series, you know that Amish fiction isn’t my usual cup of tea, but that I particularly enjoyed the start of this series. Enough that I had to know what would happen next. Well, the story of the switched-at-birth Ariana and Skylar, and their friends and families, continues with Fraying at the Edge, and in my opinion, it does not disappoint.

This is a satisfying middle-of-the-series read, picking up where the previous book left off, shaking up our characters’ lives in new ways, and answering some questions, while leaving others to be addressed in a future book. Ariana and Skylar both grow and change for the better over the course of this story, but their futures remain unresolved. And I for one, cannot wait for the next book…though I guess I’ll have to.

I found this story very thought provoking. In particular, I was fascinated by the closer look it takes at what the Amish believe and why, as compared to the “Englisch” world I’m more familiar with. The story also takes something of an oblique look at nature vs. nurture as we see similarities and differences between the girls and their biological and non-biological families. And it was interesting to see each girl react to challenges to her belief system.

I would recommend this book to fans of Amish fiction, as well as to book groups and to anyone who enjoys a good thought-provoking read.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

This audiobook was recorded by the same narrator who read the first book in the series, and I’m happy to report that this encore performance is just as well done as the earlier one. The narrator does a great job at giving different voices to the various characters within dialog and expressing their emotions in her reading.

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

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, July 2017

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the July 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 July selection is Home at Last 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.

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. July’s selection is Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley.

For July, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green AND Playing By Heart by Anne Mateer. 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 July is Katie’s Choice by Amy Lillard. 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 this summer is An Anthology: 365 Readings by George MacDonald. The discussion is planned for August 17, 2017.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

The Beloved Hope Chest by Amy Clipston (Zondervan, May 2017, Amish Romance)

Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson (Tyndale House, May 2017, Historical Fiction)

The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan (Harvest House, May 2017, Mystery)

Fatal Mistake by Susan Sleeman (FaithWords, May 2017, Romantic Suspense)

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

Audiobook Review: Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall

Title: Ties That Bind
Author: Cindy Woodsmall
Print Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Stina Nielsen
Published: September 2015
Series: Amish of Summer Grove, Book 1
Genre: Amish Fiction
Length: 11 hours, 55 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Ariana’s comfortable Old Order Amish world is about to unravel. Will holding tightly to the cords of family keep them together—or simply tear them apart?

Twenty-year-old Ariana Brenneman loves her family and the Old Ways. She has two aspirations: open a café in historic Summer Grove to help support her family’s ever-expanding brood and to keep any other Amish from being lured into the Englisch life by Quill Schlabach.

Five years ago Quill, along with her dear friend Frieda, ran off together, and Ariana still carries the wounds of that betrayal. When she unexpectedly encounters him, she soon realizes he has plans to help someone else she loves leave the Amish.

Despite how things look, Quill’s goal has always been to protect Ariana from anything that may hurt her, including the reasons he left. After returning to Summer Grove on another matter, he unearths secrets about Ariana and her family that she is unaware of. His love and loyalty to her beckons him to try to win her trust and help her find a way to buy the café—because when she learns the truth that connects her and a stranger named Skylar Nash, Quill knows it may upend her life forever.

Ties That Bind is the first novel in the Amish of Summer Grove series.

My Thoughts on the Book:

I don’t read a lot of Amish fiction. It’s not that I dislike it, or anything, but there are other genres I tend to gravitate toward first. That said, I loved this story and these characters, and I’m looking forward to reading more from this series.

Ariana is a sweet and likeable young Amish girl, and I found myself rooting for her to achieve her dreams, even as complications arose to throw those dreams into disarray and cause her to question her own identity, purpose, and family ties.

Skylar is a young woman with a lot of hidden pain, and while her story seems only to have started in this book, I am very curious to see how her life might be changed within a future book in this series.

Quill is a particularly interesting character, and one whose perspective I can appreciate on a number of issues, particularly his perspective on faith. I will be very curious to see what the future holds for him. Hopefully something good!

This book has a number of romantic threads running throughout, and I’m curious to see if I’m right about who’s going to wind up with whom. But at the same time, I liked the fact that the story takes a broader perspective than many romances, looking at a variety of relationships within and outside families. It raises many thought provoking questions on issues of identity, religion and more, leading me to wonder how I would respond if I found myself in a situation similar to the ones these characters are facing.

This novel’s ending leaves me more than ready to find out what will happen with these characters in the next book. Thankfully Fraying at the Edge is already available. I just need to track down a copy.

Overall, it’s a book/audiobook I would gladly recommend, but don’t go into it expecting to read just one! This story reaches a comfortable stopping point, but there are a lot of unanswered questions remaining to be addressed.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Stina Nielsen does a great job narrating the audio edition of Ties That Bind. With quite a few viewpoint characters, this story must have been quite a challenge to narrate, but she makes it seem effortless! Male and female voices are well done and distinct, and characters’ emotions are clearly portrayed in the reading. I am very happy to see that the next book in the series has been recorded by the same narrator.

I listened to a copy of the audiobook that was borrowed from my local library.

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

Christian Fiction Audiobooks, New for Summer 2017

I love Christian fiction! But you knew that, right?

And I love audiobooks. Big surprise? 😉

So with “June is Audiobook Month” rapidly coming to a close, I want to take a moment to feature some of the fabulous new Christian fiction audiobooks scheduled to release this summer. Without further ado, here are the twelve titles I’m most excited about listening to, chosen from among dozens of upcoming new titles.

June Releases

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin
Read by Renee Ertl
Historical Romance from Oasis Audio
Also available in print from Bethany House

God Bless the Broken Road by Jennifer Dornbrush
Read by Lauren Ezzo
A novelization of the upcoming movie by the same name
Also available in print from Howard Books

Love Story by Karen Kingsbury
Read by January LaVoy and Kirby Heyborne
The Baxter Family, Book 1
Romance from Simon and Schuster Audio
Also available in print from Howard Books

July Releases

The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck
Read by Windy Lanzl
Romance from Brilliance Audio
Also available in print from Zondervan

Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh
Read by Matilda Novak
Romance from Blackstone Audio
Also available in print from Tyndale House

August Releases

Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar
Read by Rendah Heywood
Biblical Fiction / Historical Romance from Recorded Books
Also available in print from Tyndale House

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason
Read by Rachel Dulude
Elite Guardians, Book 4
Romantic Suspense from Tantor Media
Also available in print from Revell

Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon
Read by Therese Plummer
Hope Harbor, Book 3
Romance from Recorded Books
Also available in print from Revell

Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson
Read by Johanna Parker
Evie Blackwell Cold Case, Book 2
Suspense / Thriller from Recorded Books
Also available in print from Bethany House

True to You by Becky Wade
Read by Stephanie Cozart
Bradford Sisters Romance, Book 1
Contemporary Romance from Recorded Books
Also available in print from Bethany House

Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren
Read by Cynthia Farrell
Montana Rescue, Book 1
Contemporary Romance from Recorded Books
Also available in print from Revell

Gathering the Threads by Cindy Woodsmall
Read by Stina Nielsen
Amish of Summer Grove, Book 3
Amish Fiction from Recorded Books
Also available in print from WaterBrook


So those are my top picks for summer listening. Which books and audiobooks are you most looking forward to?

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, June 2017

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the June 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 June selection is A Changed Agent by Tracey J. Lyons. 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 those celebrating June is Audiobook Month with me, this title is available in audio format from Brilliance Audio.

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. June’s selection is Yankee in Atlanta by Jocelyn Green.

For June, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing The Things We Knew by Catherine West AND Newton and Polly by Jody Hedlund. Newton and Polly is available in audio format from Blackstone Audio. 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 June is The Silent Order by Melanie Dobson. 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 this summer is An Anthology: 365 Readings by George MacDonald. The discussion is planned for August 17, 2017.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

Deep Extraction by DiAnn Mills (Tyndale House, April 2017, Romantic Suspense)

Sunset in Old Savannah by Mary Ellis (Harvest House, April 2017, Mystery)

What the Bishop Saw by Vannetta Chapman (Harvest House, May 2017, Amish Romance)

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

Audiobook Review: Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa

In case you didn’t already know, June is Audiobook Month! In case you’re thinking of celebrating by listening to an audiobook, here’s one worth considering.

Title: Annabel Lee
Author: Mike Nappa
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Romy Nordlinger
Published: Print: March 2016; Audio: August 2016
Series: Coffey & Hill, Book 1
Genre: Christian fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Length: Unabridged. 10 hrs, 36 mins

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

Fourteen miles east of Peachtree, Alabama, a secret is hidden. The secret’s name is Annabel Lee.

She doesn’t know why her enigmatic uncle has stowed her deep underground in a military-style bunker. He’s left her with a few German words, a barely controlled guard dog, and a single command: “Don’t open that door for anybody, you got it? Not even me.”

Miles away in Atlanta, private investigator Trudi Coffey is visited by a mysterious older man calling himself Dr. Smith. He’s been trailing a man for a decade–a man she met through her ex-partner Samuel Hill–and the trail has led him to her office. The last thing Trudi wants to do is to contact Samuel. But it will take both of them to unravel this mystery–before it’s too late.

My Thoughts on the Book:

Mike Nappa’s Annabel Lee strikes me as an unusual novel with uniquely interesting characters. Its plot is quite suspenseful, with ever-present danger and an intriguing mystery to be solved. But be aware, it can also be quite violent at times, so if you’re especially squeamish about blood, consider yourself warned.

In my opinion, Annabel Lee, the Mute, and Dog pretty much stole the show from the series’ lead characters Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill. Annabel’s uniquely child-like yet mature voice and way of looking at the world combined with Mute’s and Dog’s unique lack of voice (yet interesting personalities nonetheless) kept me turning the pages more than anything else. Well, okay, there was also that nagging curiosity about WHY Annabel was in this situation in the first place. And whether everything would turn out okay in the end.

Trudi and Samuel have more than their fair share of baggage as ex-spouses and ex-business-partners, which I presume they’ll continue working through in future installments of this series. I am interested to see where the author will take their relationship in the future, but I have to admit to being a bit annoyed by some of their more petty moments and occasional tactical blunders in this book. I’m hoping to see them get their act a bit more together in The Raven. Which, by the way, has what sounds like another intriguing storyline.

The Christian thread in Annabel Lee seems subtle and well thought out, with a lot of the deeper story coming to fruition within the Epilogue.

Overall, a delightfully unusual offering in this market, and one that I would recommend to fans of mystery and suspense.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

The narrator, Romy Nordlinger, does a fabulous job portraying the voice of a young girl, complete with accent, as well as voicing a variety of male and female characters with nuance and emotion. If you can get a copy of the audiobook, listening will be a treat.

My copy of the audiobook was borrowed from my local library.

Quick Links: Audio Sample | Audible | Author’s Site | Narrator’s Site

June is Audiobook Month, 2017

In celebration of June is Audiobook Month and because I #LoveAudiobooks, I’m featuring audiobooks on my blog, pretty much all month long. In fact, I’m so excited about celebrating audiobooks, I even put together this display at the local library where I do my librarian-ing.

june_is_audiobook_month

The audiobooks are already disappearing. Pretty cool, huh?

Anyway, I thought I’d kick off the month by drawing attention to some of the things happening online this audiobook month, including:

And please, don’t forget to check back here for more audiobook fun, including reviews of some Christian fiction audiobooks I particularly enjoyed, as well as my list of the upcoming audiobooks I’m most looking forward to this summer.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Are you an audiobook listener too? Know of any must-check-out audio-themed events or promos going on this month?

Happy listening!

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Reads of 2017 (The Second Half)

Back in January I blogged about my top 10 most anticipated new releases for the first half of the year. Now I’m following that post up with my top 10 most anticipated reads scheduled to release this July through December. That also happens to be the Top Ten Tuesday topic over at the Broke and the Bookish, so be sure to hop over there and check out what upcoming books other bloggers are excited about too. And, as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on which books you’re most excited about right here in the comments.

top_10_tuesday_anticipated_reads

Light of Dawn by Vanetta Chapman
The Remnant, Book 3
Futuristic Suspense from Harvest House
Releasing July 2017

Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh
Standalone Novel
Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House
Releasing July 2017

A Matter of Trust by Susan May Warren
Montana Rescue, Book 3
Contemporary Romance from Bethany House
Releasing July 2017

The Two of Us by Victoria Bylin
Standalone Novel
Contemporary Romance from Bethany House
Releasing August 2017

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason
Elite Guardians, Book 4
Romantic Suspense from Revell
Releasing August 2017

Rule of Law by Randy Singer
Standalone Novel
Military and Legal Suspense from Tyndale House
Releasing September 2017

Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews
Standalone Novel
Biblical Fiction from WaterBrook Press
Releasing October 2017

Perennials by Julie Cantrell
Standalone Novel
Women’s Fiction from Thomas Nelson
Releasing November 2017

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay
Standalone Novel
Women’s Fiction from Thomas Nelson
Releasing November 2017

The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas
Standalone Novel
Historical Book Club Fiction from Bethany House
Releasing November 2017

Audiobook Review: Moving Target by Lynette Eason

Title: Moving Target
Author: Lynette Eason
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Tantor Audio
Narrator: Rachel Dulude
Published: January 2017
Series: Elite Guardians, Book 3
Genre: Suspense
Length: 8 hours, 19 minutes. Unabridged.

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

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

When Maddy McKay and Quinn Holcombe don’t show up for Quinn’s birthday party, his friends know that something is very wrong. Their search turns up little beyond evidence that Quinn and Maddy have vanished. And it soon becomes apparent that they did not leave of their own accord.

Maddy awakens in a cement room with no idea where she is. But it’s not long before she realizes she’s in the clutches of a madman who exacts revenge through games–hunting games. His prey of choice? Humans. Now Maddy and Quinn must run for their lives and outwit their killer when their game begins.

Because if they don’t win this game . . . they die.

My Thoughts on the Book:

The Elite Guardians series is sooo good! If you haven’t read Always Watching and Without Warning yet, check out my reviews. Each book can be read independently, but I recommend reading them in order for continuity from one storyline to the next. Best of all, each book in the series is as unique as its lead characters, so you won’t get bored or feel like you’re reading variations on the same book repeatedly.

Moving Target is Book 3 in the series and I found it as fresh and enjoyable as I did Books 1 and 2, in its own unique way. I found the villain and the whole “game” scenario, particularly creepy. Maddy and Quinn face a cunning adversary, who packs the book full of action and suspense. Meanwhile, our hero and heroine are working through issues of their own and coming to grips with what the nature of their relationship actually is and what they want it to be. I liked the fact that both hero and heroine in this story were professionals and treated each other accordingly, even as they watched each other’s backs and protected and supported one another. They make a really great team on multiple levels!

It was nice to meet up with the other ladies of the Elite Guardians agency again, even if they played a smaller role than in earlier books. I’m very much looking forward to reading Haley’s story next in Chasing Secrets.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Narrator Rachel Dulude is very good at what she does, and I appreciate the consistency she brings from one book to the next in this series. I’ve already said so many great things about her narration of the earlier two books, I feel like no matter what I say, I’ll be repeating myself. So can I just use the word “excellent” and leave it at that? Those readers who enjoy a good and suspenseful audiobook will not be disappointed.

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

Quick Links: About the Book | About the Series | Audio Sample (Audible) | Author’s Site | Narrator’s Site

Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, May 2017

Three for the Books, May 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

True to You by Becky Wade is kicking off a new contemporary romance series this month. It’s available in print and electronic editions from Bethany House and in audio edition from Recorded Books.

Featured Review: Rachel at the Smiling Book Reviews blog says, “This is a light-hearted, funny, but also deeply emotional story with some swoony romance and a twist that made me gasp!  You’ll want to read this book!” Check out her full review of True to You here.

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

Topping the Charts

A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner appears on the CBA Historical Fiction Bestsellers list for May. This sequel to A Cup of Dust is available from Kregel Publications in print and electronic formats.

Featured Review: Jamie at Books and Beverages reviewed this novel, saying, “I enjoyed her debut, but this one had me even more fully engaged. With an authentic child’s point of view (y’all she had me cracking up sometimes!), Finkbeiner brought to light important issues through her young voice.” Click to read more of this review of A Trail of Crumbs here.

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

Cream of the Crop

The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks won the INSPY Award in the Mystery / Thriller category for 2016. This book follows A Cry From the Dust in the Gwen Marcey series, and is available from Thomas Nelson in print and electronic editions.

Featured Review: Beckie at By the Book wrote of this book’s heroine, “In Gwen, Parks has created the ideal character — smart, gutsy, flawed and vulnerable. This one merits a highly recommended read from me.”  You can find her full review of The Bones Will Speak here.

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