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, February 2018

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the February 2018 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 February selection is Stars in the Grass by Ann Stewart. 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. February’s selection is Missing Isaac by Valerie Luesse.

For February, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron AND Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer. 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 February is The Amish Widow by Katie Fisher. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli (Tyndale House, August 2017, Historical Romance)

Silvia’s Rose by Jerry S. Eicher (Harvest House, August 2017, Amish Romance)

The Return by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Revell, August 2017, Amish Fiction)

Portrait of Vengeance by Carrie Stuart Parks (Thomas Nelson, August 2017, Suspense)


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

Audiobook Review: Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

Title: Rescue Me
Author: Susan May Warren
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Cynthia Farrell
Published: January 2017
Series: Montana Rescue, Book 2
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian Fiction
Length: 11 hours, 37 minutes. Unabridged.

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

When Deputy Sam Brooks commits to something, nothing can sway him–not just on the job but in his private life. He’s the one who stuck around to take care of his mother after his father’s accidental death. And he’s the one–perhaps the only one–who believes Sierra Rose is the perfect girl for him. Safe, practical, and organized, she’s nothing like her hippie, impulsive, bleeding-heart sister, Willow.

Willow, however, has been in love with Sam Brooks for as long as she can remember. But she wants her sister to have a happy ending. Besides, Willow has other things to focus on–namely, nabbing the job of her dreams. Best thing for her to do is to purge Sam from her heart.

Neither can predict the events that will bring them together in a fight for their lives in the forbidding wilderness of Glacier National Park. Stranded, injured, and with the winter weather closing in, Sam and Willow will have to work together to save a crew of terrified teenagers. As they fight to survive, they might just discover a new hope for love.

My Thoughts on the Book:

After falling as hard as I did for Ben, Kacey, Ian, and Sierra in Wild Montana Skies, I was a little skeptical whether I would feel quite the same way about Sam and Willow in this next book in the series. I needn’t have worried. Sam and Willow did a fabulous job of stepping into the roles of hero and heroine, and sweeping me away into their story. They’re both complex and likeable characters with a lot to lose, and a lot to learn over the course of an unexpectedly intense wilderness adventure.

Meanwhile, the author wove in bits and pieces of other characters’ stories, building on the intricate tapestry already begun in the first book of this series. We get to know Ian, Sierra, Pete, Jess, and other characters better, even as we follow Sam and Willow to a well-deserved happily ever after. I highly recommend this series, and I can’t wait to read the next book, and the next.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

The performance by Cynthia Farrell is excellent. Her reading is emotionally expressive, with varied voices for the different characters. Most impressive was that she sang several of the country western songs that appeared in the story, and sang them well. Bonus points for going above and beyond the call of duty on that front! I recommend this audiobook to the audio listeners out there. I hope to continue listening to the audio editions of future titles in this series, particularly if they’ll be read by the same narrator. Next up: A Matter of Trust. And yes, I’ve already tracked down the audio edition. :)

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library, and was not expected to write a review, but I wanted to share how much I enjoyed the book.

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

Book Review: The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

Title: The Lacemaker
Author: Laura Frantz
Publisher: Revell
Published: January 2018
Genre: Historical Romance, Christian Fiction

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

It is the eve of a new age of freedom in the colonies. But can a proper English lady dare hope for her own independence?

Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson has nearly everything a lady of her position could want. Daughter of the British lieutenant governor of the Virginia Colony and a darling of fine society in a rugged land, she is anticipating an advantageous marriage. That her betrothed is a rake and love is lacking is of little consequence–or so she tells herself.

Though her own life seems in order, colonial Williamsburg is a powder keg on the verge of exploding, and her fiancé’s cousin Noble Rynallt carries the flame of revolution in his heart. Those with connections to the British nobility are suspected as spies, and Liberty soon finds herself left with a terrible choice. Will she stay true to her English roots? Or side with Noble and the radical revolutionaries?

My Thoughts:

Karen in front of the Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg. The Lacemaker is displaying on her cell phone.

Karen in front of the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg. The Lacemaker is displaying on her cell phone.

I was fortunate enough to receive an advance reader copy of this book shortly before my family and I left for vacation at colonial Williamsburg (Yay!), so I brought the book and its characters along with us. There was something irresistibly cool about visiting and learning the history surrounding many of the places mentioned in this book in the same week that I was reading the story.

Having these characters in mind that I felt a connection with, made me appreciate the history I was learning all the more. And learning the history of the time and place from tour guides and reenactors confirmed a number of details from the story and brought home just how much research must have gone into the writing of this book.

I’ll admit, the pictures would’ve been a bit cooler if I’d had a paperback copy to hold up instead of the digital copy on my phone, but I couldn’t resist taking a picture with the book in Williamsburg anyway. You’ll just have to take my word for it that the book is displaying on the screen, even if you can’t really see it.

Karen displays The Lacemaker inside the Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg.

Karen displays The Lacemaker inside the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg.

Both Liberty and Noble are loveable and inspiring characters. Liberty is a strong and independent woman who, nevertheless can accept help when needed. And Noble is a selfless and generous gentleman, devoted to his cause and to helping those in need, regardless of political affiliation. Their romance is sweet, and the accompanying political and spy stories are exciting, and a certain self-sacrificial gesture at a pivotal moment is heartbreakingly beautiful.

Overall, a must read for anyone interested in this time and place in history who enjoys a good romance. And if you have the opportunity to visit Colonial Williamsburg in person, I would highly recommend that too. :)

Thank you to Revell for providing a complimentary electronic advance reader copy of the book through NetGalley for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Audiobook Review: Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason

Title: Chasing Secrets
Author: Lynette Eason
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Tantor Audio
Narrator: Rachel Dulude
Published: August 2017
Series: Elite Guardians, Book 4
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Christian fiction
Length: 8 hours, 23 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan may be in South Carolina, but when a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, her life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she’s made a career out of taking care of others. But after an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her—and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he’s not about to let Haley fight this battle alone.

In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories—and the depths of the heart—Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley’s past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won’t quit.

My Thoughts on the Book:

This fourth book makes for a strong conclusion to a fabulous series. If you haven’t read any of the books in the Elite Guardians series yet, you’re missing out. This is one of the best suspense series I’ve read recently. Haley and her fellow bodyguards make fascinating lead characters, the suspense is well-paced and intense, and the romance is icing on the cake.

It was particularly interesting to learn more about Haley’s background in this book, given that readers learned of the secrets buried in her past, right alongside Haley herself. Her empathy and help for the struggling kids in the story makes for a lovely touch, and it’s especially poignant given her own history.

Romance, character development, and suspense are all strong elements here. And I must say, I’m pleased to have gotten to know these characters. In fact, I’d love to hang out with them again sometime.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Rachel Dulude’s narration brings these characters to life. Their joys, fears, hurts, and dilemmas. But especially their accents. Wow. I’ve been impressed by the narrator’s performance of Haley’s Irish accent throughout this series of audiobooks, but in this book, featuring multiple characters with Irish accents, I was blown away by the way the narrator could distinguish among the characters’ voices. It was truly lovely listening to her reading – the emotion, the pacing, the voices, and especially the accents. I highly recommend the audio edition.

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library via Hoopla. I was not expected to write a review, but wanted to share how much I enjoyed the book.

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, January 2018

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the January 2018 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 January selection is The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman. 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. January’s selection is Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman.

For January, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate AND The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman. 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 January is Amish Girl’s Christmas by Samantha Price. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

My Daughter’s Legacy by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould (Harvest House, July 2017, Historical Romance)

Egypt’s Sister: A Novel of Cleopatra by Angela Hunt (Bethany House, July 2017, Historical Fiction)

Abiding Mercy by Ruth Reid (Thomas Nelson, July 2017, Amish Romantic Suspense)


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

Audiobook Review: The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron

Title: The Ringmaster’s Wife
Author: Kristy Cambron
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Narrator: Amy Rubinate
Published: June 2016
Series: Jazz Age Entertainers Series, Book 1
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction
Length: 9 hours 54 minutes. Unabridged.

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

An ounce of courage. A leap of faith. Together, they propel two young women to chase a new life—one that’s reimagined from what they might have become.

In turn-of-the-century America, a young girl dreams of a world that stretches beyond the confines of a quiet life on the family farm. With little more than her wit and a cigar box of treasures, Mable steps away from all she knows, seeking the limitless marvels of the Chicago World’s Fair. There, a chance encounter triggers her destiny—a life with a famed showman by the name of John Ringling.

A quarter of a century later, Lady Rosamund Easling boards a ship to America as a last adventure before her arranged marriage. There, the twenties are roaring, and the rich and famous gather at opulent, Gatsby-esque parties. The Jazz Age has arrived, and with it, the golden era of the American circus, whose queen is none other than the enigmatic Mable Ringling.

When Rosamund’s path crosses with Mable’s and the Ringlings’ glittering world, she makes the life-altering decision to leave behind a comfortable future of estates and propriety, choosing instead the nomadic life of a trick rider in the Ringling Brothers’ circus.

A novel that is at once captivating, deeply poignant, and swirling with exquisite historical details of a bygone world, The Ringmaster’s Wife will escort readers into the center ring, with its bright lights, exotic animals, and a dazzling performance that can only be described as the Greatest Show on Earth!

My Thoughts on the Book:

This is a book to savor. It is beautifully written with lovely turns of phrase and vivid multisensory historical detail. The novel tells not one love story, but multiple interwoven stories, and the telling is all the richer for it. Mabel and John Ringling’s story is beautiful, as told, if a bit bittersweet. And Rosamund and Colin’s story, feels both realistic and emotionally charged. The characters are complex and sympathetic, and I love how each character has his or her own story to work through, as well as their shared moments where stories intersect. There are definitely some suspenseful moments, but those elements take a back seat to the character development and the romance.

Highly recommended to fans of literary fiction, romance, and those with a historical interest in the circus. I’ve enjoyed this author’s earlier books and I’m very much looking forward to reading the sister book to this one, The Illusionist’s Apprentice.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

The narrator’s pleasant reading of this audiobook does justice to a beautifully written story. Accents, character voices, and emotions are all handled well, resulting in an enjoyable listening experience.

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library via Hoopla. I was not expected to write a review, but wanted to share how much I enjoyed the book.

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Looking Forward To In 2018

Merry (slightly belated) Christmas to my blogging friends! :)

I’ve already discussed some of my favorite reads from 2017, so today I’m following the Top Ten Tuesday topic and taking a look ahead to the books coming in early 2018 that I’m most looking forward to.

Under a Cloudless Sky by Chris Fabry
Standalone Novel
General Fiction from Tyndale House
Releasing January 2018

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz
Standalone Novel
Historical Fiction from Revell
Releasing January 2018

Until We Find Home by Cathy Gohlke
Standalone Novel
Historical Fiction from Tyndale House
Releasing January 2018

Troubled Waters by Susan May Warren
Montana Rescue, Book 4
Contemporary Romance from Revell
Audio from Recorded Books
Releasing January 2018 (Audio in August)

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano
Supper Club, Book 1
Contemporary Christian Fiction from Tyndale House
Audio from Oasis Audio
Releasing February 2018

The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers
Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House
Audio from Recorded Books
Releasing February 2018

If I Live by Terri Blackstock
If I Run, Book 3
Contemporary Romantic Suspense from Zondervan
Audio from Brilliance Audio
Releasing March 2018

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert
Standalone Novel
Contemporary Christian Fiction from WaterBrook
Releasing April 2018

Send Down the Rain by Charles Martin
Standalone Novel
General Fiction from Thomas Nelson
Audio from Brilliance Audio
Releasing May 2018

No Less Days by Amanda G Stevens
Standalone Novel
Speculative Fiction from Shiloh Run Press
Releasing May 2018

So those are ten of the books I can’t wait to read in the coming year. I’d love to hear which books appear on your most anticipated list here in the comments. Or, to see what books other bloggers are looking forward to reading, check out this week’s Top Ten Tuesday posts over at the Broke and the Bookish.

Book Review: The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

Title: The Christmas Blessing
Author: Melody Carlson
Publisher: Revell
Published: September 2017
Genre: Historical, Christmas Fiction

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

She’s determined to give her baby a better life. Could a Christmas miracle make it possible?

Not long after she receives the news in 1944 that her baby’s father was shot down in the South Pacific, Amelia Richards loses hope. Jobless and broke, she has nowhere to turn for help but her infant’s paternal grandparents. The only problem is, they don’t know that she–or their grandson–exists.

When Amelia discovers the family is wealthy and influential, dare she disclose the truth of her relationship with their son? Or could the celebration of the arrival of another unexpected baby nearly two thousand years ago be the answer to her dilemma?

My Thoughts:

This novella makes a lovely Christmas time diversion, and it’s a perfect length for this busy time of year. Enough story and substance to draw you in and give a dose of Christmas cheer, without the length to prove too much distraction for too long. The characters and their dilemmas were interesting and well developed for a book of this length. I found I cared very much how the story would end for them, and was fully invested from cover to cover.

I appreciated, even reveled in, the joyful outcomes by the end of the book. But when I looked back on how the characters got there, I found that the storyteller in me was a bit disappointed. I would have liked to see Amelia and her in-laws working toward a better solution to their dilemma, rather than settling on a miserable outcome, and relying on a surprise twist that’s completely outside their control to fix everything. That said, I am glad the surprise twist was there. I know that might sound like a contradiction, but with everything she’s facing in this book, Amelia really needs her happy ending!

I borrowed this eBook from my local library via Hoopla. I was not expected to write a review, but wanted to share my thoughts.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Christian Fiction of 2017

top_ten_tuesday

There have been so many amazing books this year, it’s been hard to keep up. In fact, I’m a bit later than I meant to be in posting this, because I wanted to squeeze in just one or two more books before making a final decision on my favorites for the year. Despite the delay, here is my Top Ten Tuesday post, with books listed in alphabetical order by author. I think my librarian roots must be showing….

Anyway, to see what other bloggers consider the best reads of 2017, check out the links over at the Broke and the Bookish blog. But before you go, I’d love to hear about your favorite books this year. Please consider sharing in the comments.

Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar
Biblical Fiction from Tyndale House
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock
Contemporary Suspense from Zondervan
If I Run, Book 2
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin
Historical Fiction from Bethany House
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Maybe It’s You by Candace Calvert
Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Moving Target by Lynette Eason
Contemporary Romantic Suspense from Revell
Elite Guardians, Book 3
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason
Contemporary Romantic Suspense from Revell
Elite Guardians, Book 4
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner
Historical Fiction from Kregel Publications
Pearl Spence, Book 2
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Life After by Katie Ganshert
Contemporary Fiction from WaterBrook Multnomah
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Rescue Me by Susan May Warren
Contemporary Romance from Revell
Montana Rescue, Book 2
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Gathering the Threads by Cindy Woodsmall
Contemporary Amish Fiction
The Amish of Summer Grove, Book 3
Quick Links: My Review | Goodreads | Author’s Site

Book Review: Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren

Title: Wild Montana Skies
Author: Susan May Warren
Publisher: Revell
Published: October 2016
Series: Montana Rescue, Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance

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

The last thing Search and Rescue helicopter pilot Kacey Fairing needs upon returning home to Mercy Falls, Montana, is to run into her mistakes. After a devastating crash during her recent military tour in Afghanistan, she is emotionally broken but ready to start putting her life back together. She just wants to reconnect with her teenage daughter and spend the summer working as the new lead pilot of PEAK Rescue in Glacier National Park.

But her mistakes aren’t so easily forgotten. Because Ben King is also back in town.

Country music star Ben King abandoned his past when he moved to Nashville thirteen years ago to start his career. He hoped to heal his broken heart, caused by losing the woman he loved. But when his father is injured, Ben is called home to help manage PEAK Rescue during his recovery. He doesn’t realize his father has ulterior motives until his old flame, Kacey, walks into his house and back into his heart.

Now, with Mercy Falls in a state of emergency due to flash floods, Kacey and Ben will have to work together to save lives. But when secrets are uncovered and old hurts rise to the surface, will they walk away again? Or can they find a different ending to their country love song?

My Thoughts:

Susan May Warren is one name that comes up time and time again in blog posts, recommendations, award lists and discussions about Christian fiction. But somehow, this is the first novel I’ve read of hers. Shhh, don’t tell anyone…. 😉

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting this author in person and hearing her speak at a Christian fiction writer’s conference, and I’ve been reading a nonfiction book she’s written about fiction writing called The Story Equation. And finally, now I can say I have read one of her novels. And found that, yes, it lived up to what I’d been hoping it would be. So you can imagine I’ll be playing some serious catch-up to make up for lost time in reading her other books, particularly the others already published in this series. Next up, Rescue Me.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, about this book. The people and relationships have a depth and emotional resonance that’s a hallmark of good fiction. The kind of story you can get lost in for hours at a time. The setting sounds lovely, and the community welcoming, the kind of place I’d want to visit in real life… preferably not during flooding or other natural disasters though, if I can help it.

Ben and Kacey make great leads for this story. They each have their own issues and complicated backstories, but they’re clearly better together. It was fun to watch them working through it all and toward their happy ending.

The secondary characters are intriguing as well, with unexpected depth. Some of my favorite scenes involved Sierra and Ian’s relationship. I’m very much looking forward to reading more about these and other secondary characters within the PEAK Search and Rescue Team in other books in this series.

In fact, when I read this book, I didn’t realize there was a novella preceding it in the series that’s about Ian and Sierra, earlier in their relationship. I went back and read that one immediately. So good! And it fleshes out the backstory for Ian and Sierra beyond what you get in this novel. So I’d recommend reading that novella, called If Ever I Would Leave You, first thing and then immediately diving into Wild Montana Skies and the rest of the series.

Thank you to the publisher for providing the complimentary copy of Wild Montana Skies that I won in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway! Reading and reviewing it has been a joy.

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