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.

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

Book Review: Forest Child by Heather Day Gilbert

Since today is International Viking Day, and the title I’m reviewing this week seemed a particularly good thematic fit, I’m posting this week’s blog post a day earlier than normal. Happy International Viking Day!

Title: Forest Child
Author: Heather Day Gilbert
Publisher: WoodHaven Press
Published: October 2016
Series: Vikings of the New World Saga, Book 2
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

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

Viking warrior. Dauntless leader. Protective mother.

Determined to rise above her rank as the illegitimate “forest child” of Eirik the Red, Freydis launches a second voyage to Vinland to solidify her power and to demand the respect she deserves. She will return home with enough plunder to force her brother, Leif, to sell her the family farm in Greenland.

But nothing can prepare her for the horrors she must confront in Vinland…and nothing can stand in her way when her family is threatened.

In her race to outrun the truths that might destroy her, Freydis ultimately collides with the only enemy she cannot silence—her own heart.

Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. This immersive tale is Book Two in the bestselling Vikings of the New World Saga.

My Thoughts:

It was a long wait between the release of the first and second books in Heather Day Gilbert’s Vikings of the New World Saga, and then it was a while more before I could make the time to squeeze that second book into my reading schedule. But now that I have read it, I can say that Forest Child is so worth the wait.

If you have read and enjoyed God’s Daughter, then you’ll definitely want to find out what’s going on with Freydis, a colorful secondary character in that tale, who takes center stage in Forest Child. If you haven’t, then I have one word for you:

Vikings.

Yep. These two historical novels are based upon The Saga of the Greenlanders about the Vikings’ exploration of North America. I would recommend starting with God’s Daughter and reading the whole series through at once, though Forest Child could be read as a stand-alone, if you really want to.

Freydis, the lead character in Forest Child, is a strong woman who doesn’t trust easily, and who alienates a lot of people. But with her as the first person viewpoint, the readers know her motivations for the things she does, and we can empathize with her feelings and her reasons, even as we cringe at many of the decisions she makes along the way. And with the story told in the present tense, there’s an unusual level of immediacy, naturally drawing the reader in to experience the story’s vivid descriptions and historical details as if it were all happening right now.

Themes of marriage, motherhood, and family ties give this story many layers, but for much of the plotline, I wasn’t sure where the Christian element would fit in. We don’t start out with a strong Christian character like we did in God’s Daughter. But looking back on it now, I can see how the twists and turns in Freydis’s journey were leading her to a point where she could come to an important realization and make some much needed changes in her life. That’s where the Christian element fits in, and in my opinion, this kind of redemptive story is very much worth telling and worth reading.

Highly recommended. Particularly for those fascinated by Viking history, as I am.

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

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, May 2017

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the May 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 May selection is The Memory of You 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. May’s selection is If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock.

For May, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter AND The Loyal Heart by Shelley Shepard Gray. 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 May is Herb of Grace by Adina Senft. 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 From the Library of C. S. Lewis: Selections from Writers Who Influenced His Spiritual Journey by James Stuart Bell & Anthony P. Dawson. The discussion is planned for May 18, 2017.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

The Memory of You by Catherine West (Thomas Nelson, May 2017, General Fiction)

A Stolen Heart by Amanda Cabot (Revell, May 2017, Historical Romance)

When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin (Revell, May 2017, Historical Romance)


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

Book Review: The End Begins by Sara Davison

Title: The End Begins
Author: Sara Davison
Publisher: Ashberry Lane
Published: September 2015
Series: The Seven Trilogy, Book 1
Genre: Christian Fiction, Speculative, Romance

About the Book: (from the back of the book)

When your beliefs are at war, does love stand a chance?

Bookstore owner Meryn O’Reilly and Army Captain Jesse Christensen are on opposite sides of a battle. After a series of terrorist attacks in 2053, martial law has been declared in Canada and the military has taken over. When a radical Christian group claims responsibility, Jesse and his platoon are sent to Meryn’s city to keep an eye on the Christians and ensure they are not stepping outside the confines of the law.

Fiery and quick-tempered, Meryn chafes under the curfew and other restrictions to her freedom. Jesse is equally amused, intrigued, and terrified by her spirit. She could find herself in prison if she shows defiance to the wrong soldier, namely Lieutenant Gallagher.

Jesse watches out for Meryn when possible, although she wants nothing to do with him. His worst fears are realized when she commits a crime he cannot protect her from. Now they both face an uncertain future and the very real threat of losing everything, including their lives. With time running out, Jesse works feverishly to convince the authorities to show leniency to Meryn. And to convince her that love can overcome any barrier that lies between them.

My Thoughts:

The End Begins is first in Sara Davison’s The Seven Trilogy, and it’s one of those stories that doesn’t really fit neatly into any one category. It has elements of romance, suspense, and political thriller, but it also has significant speculative elements, and is set in a dystopian future (2053) Canada. The storyline raises some very interesting religious and ethical questions, and makes the reader pause to think about what could happen in real life, given certain political pressures and government responses.

On the romance front, there’s a fair amount of coincidence (or God’s nudges?) involved early on in repeated meetings, and at first I didn’t fully get why they were so drawn to each other, given how little they seemed to have in common. As the story progressed however, and Jesse and Meryn opened up to each other, the emotional aspects totally clicked and I felt the pull. You know that emotional connection to the characters that makes you need to finish the story and see how it ends? That’s how I felt about this one.

There is one place at the end of Chapter 29 where the hero does something in an emotional moment that I really wish the author had left out of the story. It does a great job showing his emotional reaction to what he’s going through, but I think it also weakens his character and makes him less of a hero, and I felt it wasn’t really necessary to the plot or his character development. So, yeah, I went on to enjoy the rest of the story by ripping that page out (okay, not literally; I am a librarian) and pretending it never happened.

On a side note, I loved Meryn’s book store and enjoyed the idea of a resurgence of print books due to continuing technological changes and challenges. Very clever.

Fans of Amanda G Stevens’ Haven Seekers series (see my review of Seek and Hide) will likely take a particular interest in this series. The two series feature similar political situations resulting in persecution of Christians, though the characters and direction each series takes differ.

This book includes some really thought-provoking discussion questions in the back, and I think its content would lend itself to a fabulous book group discussion.

I received a free copy of this book, without any expectation that I would write a review. However, since I make a habit of blogging reviews, I decided to write one anyway. :)

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Featured Reads: Three for the Books, April 2017

Three for the Books, April 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

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti is a new contemporary release this month from Abingdon Press. It’s available in print and electronic editions.

Featured Review: Jen at the Mother of Three blog says, “Ruchti doesn’t shy away from tackling the hard stuff of life and never fails to weave gospel grace into her stories.” Check out her full review of A Fragile Hope here.

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

Topping the Charts

If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock appears on the ECPA bestsellers list for April. This suspense novel is second in a series that’s told in the first person (following If I Run), and is available from Zondervan in print, electronic, and audio formats.

Featured Review: The blogger at Fiction Aficionado reviewed this novel, saying, “Really and truly, if you love suspense, this series should be on your ‘must read’ list. I’ll be counting down the months, weeks, and days until the final book releases!” Click to read more of this review of If I’m Found here.

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

Cream of the Crop

Dauntless by Dina L Sleiman won the Carol Award in the YA category for 2016. This reimagining of the Robin Hood legend is available from Bethany House in print and electronic editions.

Featured Review: Over at the Straight Off the Page blog, Marisa wrote, “Sleiman created a world of both magic and reality within the confines of medieval England that brings readers into the hearts of teenagers and the world of adults. With a gripping tangle of faith, friendships, romance, and survival, Dauntless should be on everyone’s to-be-read list regardless of the reader’s age.”  You can find her full review of Dauntless here.

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