Category Archives: Book Reviews

Audiobook Review: High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

Title: High as the Heavens
Author: Kate Breslin
Print Publisher: Bethany House
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Renee Ertl
Published: June 2017
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 12 hours, 41 minutes. Unabridged.

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

A British nurse in WWI German-occupied Brussels, Evelyn Marche spends her days at the hospital and her nights working at a café . . . or so it seems. Eve’s most carefully guarded secret is that she also spends her nights carrying out dangerous missions as a spy for a Belgian resistance group.

When a plane crashes as she’s en route to a rendezvous, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to recognize the badly injured pilot as British RFC Captain Simon Forrester. She risks her life to conceal him from the Germans, but as the secrets between them grow and the danger mounts, can they still hope to make it out of Belgium alive?

My Thoughts on the Book:

This is a story historical romance fans will love. It is set in German-occupied Brussels during World War I and incorporates vivid cultural and historical details. It’s particularly cool that its characters are based loosely on actual historical figures (see the author’s note in the book for details).

The plot features espionage, danger, and intrigue alongside the emotional joys and uncertainties of a chance at reclaiming lost love. The characters, while at times larger than life, are struggling with relatable issues like guilt, mistrust, and fear.

Despite the promising premise, the start of the story dragged a bit for me, under the weight of a little more exposition early on than I would have liked. Fortunately, I stuck with it, because once the action and romance kicked up a notch, I was hooked.

The character development was well done and the action and romance plotlines brought readers along to a satisfying conclusion. Recommended to adult fans of historical romance and suspense. Because of the difficult things Eve and other characters have to go through in the story, I’d recommend parents preview the book to determine if they feel it’s appropriate for their teenage readers.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

The wide range of Nationalities represented in this book could have lent itself well to voicing characters with a variety of different accents. While the narrator did not take full advantage of this opportunity, she did distinguish between character voices, to the extent that I was never in doubt about which character was speaking. The reading was clear and pleasant listening, with emotions well reflected in the performance. Overall, the audio edition makes for an enjoyable listening experience.

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

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

Book Review: The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

Title: The Mountain Between Us
Author: Charles Martin
Publisher: Broadway Books
Published: June 2010
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba. An atmospheric, suspenseful and gripping story of two people finding love while fighting to survive.

When a blizzard strands them in Salt Lake City, two strangers agree to charter a plane together, hoping to return home; Ben Payne is a gifted surgeon returning from a conference, and Ashley Knox, a magazine writer, is en route to her wedding. But when unthinkable tragedy strikes, the pair find themselves stranded in Utah’s most remote wilderness in the dead of winter, badly injured and miles from civilization. Without food or shelter, and only Ben’s mountain climbing gear to protect themselves, Ashley and Ben’s chances for survival look bleak, but their reliance on each other sparks an immediate connection, which soon evolves into something more.

Days in the mountains become weeks, as their hope for rescue dwindles. How will they make it out of the wilderness and if they do, how will this experience change them forever? Heart-wrenching and unputdownable, The Mountain Between Us will reaffirm your belief in the power of love to sustain us.

My Thoughts:

This book made me cry. I’m not talking a dab-at-the-eyes, misty-eyed kind of cry. I’m talking an ugly, tears-rolling-down-for-probably-far-too-long-given-these-aren’t-real-people, tissues-piling-up kind of cry. And not for the reasons you’d probably think from the book blurb either.

An unexpected twist in the last few chapters totally blindsided me and I loved this book sooo much, precisely because of that. Because it all made so much sense and I had to rethink everything, and how had I not seen that coming?!?

Obviously, I won’t spoil it for you, because, how could I do that to you? I mean, really. I can’t. But if you haven’t already read this book, you need to. Pronto. I hear the movie’s coming out soon (part of why I read this book when I did), and you know it can’t possibly be as good as the book, but you know you’re gonna want to see it anyway, so you’ll probably want to read the book first, so the movie won’t spoil it for you.

Right? Or am I the only one who thinks this way? 😉

This one’s a must for those who like survival type TV shows, unexpected plot twists that make you rethink everything and then realize it makes total sense, beautiful literary turns of phrase, and a subtle but resonant message. Okay, maybe that’s way too specific. Just read it, okay? You’ll be glad you did. Um, but maybe stock up on tissues first?

I borrowed an electronic copy of this book from my local library. I was not expected to write a review.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Audiobook Review: The Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson

Title: The Sky Beneath My Feet
Author: Lisa Samson
Print Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Rebecca Gallagher
Published: March 2013
Genre: Contemporary, Literary
Length: 9 hours, 48 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Being married to a saint isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Beth’s husband won’t be joining the family on vacation at the beach this year. He’s not even joining them in the house. Instead, Rick has holed up alone in the backyard shed. Nobody knows exactly what he’s up to. Maybe he’s immersing himself in prayer. Maybe he’s lost his mind. Maybe he’s even the modern-day prophet or the saint the neighborhood artist imagines him to be. But while “St. Rick” waits for an epiphany, Beth will have to figure out what to do with herself and their teenage sons, possibly for the rest of her life.

What happens next is both uproarious and bittersweet: a peace march turns violent, her son is caught with drugs, and she embarks on an ambitious road trip that turns into something nearly surreal. Will Beth rediscover the idealistic woman she used to be, once upon a time? Can her marriage survive Rick’s backyard vigil? Will anything ever be the same? And should it be?

Truthful, comic, heartbreaking, and magical in the very best sense of the word, The Sky Beneath My Feet gently tears the veil off our egos and expectations to reveal the throbbing, redemptive, and achingly beautiful life beyond and within us.

My Thoughts on the Book:

I have great admiration for the skill and literary techniques that went into the writing of this story. The subtlety of storytelling and the beautiful use of language on display are truly impressive. At the same time, certain aspects of the main character’s beliefs and attitudes rubbed me the wrong way. I couldn’t stop reading, and yet, at times I really wanted to.

The thing that bugged me most was the story’s internal symbolism surrounding the “Jesus fish” and Beth’s attitude toward it and, by extension, all things conservatively Christian. At times it felt like the characters and plot were poking fun of people with beliefs different and more traditionally conservative than their own. As if sincere expressions of conservative religious conviction somehow equate with being dogmatic, judgmental, and out of touch with reality. It’s entirely possible that I misread the story’s intent with this use of symbolism, but that was the vibe I got from it, and I didn’t much like it.

Regardless, I can’t deny that this story touched me emotionally and made me think long and hard. I particularly enjoyed the symbolism centered on the sky, and how that played out in the end. There’s also some good bits about connecting with God on an individual level. As for the parts I didn’t like, sometimes it seems that the books we don’t necessarily “get” or completely agree with can lead to some of the best discussions. I’ve got to say, at this point, I’d love to hear what others thought of this book and compare notes on what was its intended message.

I’ll confess, I almost didn’t review this book. It’s been a while since it was published, so it wasn’t really a timely thing to review and I had such mixed feelings about it I wasn’t sure what to say at first. But in the end, I found that like it or not, I couldn’t just ignore it. Know what I mean?

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Rebecca Gallagher does a good job reading this first-person present tense story. She infuses appropriate levels of emotion (including wit and sarcasm) naturally into the text, and varies the voices enough to keep different characters distinct in their dialogue. I encourage interested readers to give the audio edition a try.

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library via Hoopla, and I was not expected to write a review.

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

Book Review: Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund

Title: Undaunted Hope
Author: Jody Hedlund
Publisher: Bethany House
Published: January 2016
Series: Beacons of Hope, Book 3
Genre: Historical Romance

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

1871, Eagle Harbor, Michigan. In a Town Mired in Darkness, She May Shine the Light They Need.

Running from the mistakes of her past, Tessa Taylor heads to the uppermost reaches of Michigan, planning to serve as the new teacher to the children of miners. She quickly learns the town had requested a male teacher, but Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since it’s too late to replace her. Tessa can’t help but thank him and say she is in his debt.

Determined to make herself irreplaceable once spring thaw arrives, Tessa throws herself into her work, and soon two students have decided Miss Taylor is the right match for their grieving father. At the same time, charming assistant lightkeeper Alex Bjorklund makes his interest known, surprising Tessa, who has never had men fight for her hand before. But not all is well as she feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

My Thoughts:

I’ve enjoyed all the titles I’ve read in this romantic series centered around lighthouses and their keepers. This one is no exception. In fact, this one features particularly great banter between Tessa and Alex. And yet, I’ve got some catching up to do. Somehow, I’ve fallen 2 books behind in the series! Which means all the more fun still ahead for me. :)

Tessa and Alex’s story took me a bit longer to get through than some of the earlier ones in this series that I simply couldn’t put down. In part, I blame my busier schedule with a full time job, kids, and commute. But, even in the time I had with the book, I don’t think I got quite as drawn into the story as I did the earlier ones. I think it may have had to do with the love triangle, and the immature behavior it brought out in the hero and his brother. That aspect annoyed me and detracted from what I thought was an otherwise excellent story.

Tessa’s challenge to bring education to the kids and to the miners despite numerous obstacles, the need to set things right in the coal mining town with the cruel and controlling boss, as well as the main characters’ past hurts and fears to be overcome contribute to the story’s appeal and keep it interesting. But the relationship between Tessa and Alex is the crowning jewel of the story. They seem so well matched, and I love their witty repartee.

Fans of historical romance with suspense interwoven will want to read this story for sure. And yes, I’m looking forward to checking out the next two books in this series… when time allows.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for review purposes.

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

Audiobook Review: From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden

Title: From This Moment
Author: Elizabeth Camden
Print Publisher: Bethany House
Audio Publisher: Tantor Audio
Narrator: Justine Eyre
Published: June 2016
Genre(s): Historical Romance, Christian Fiction.
Length: 9 hours, 56 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Stella West’s artistic talent made her the toast of London, but when her beloved sister dies under mysterious circumstances she abandons everything and heads for Boston. With single-minded determination she fights to pierce the ring of secrecy surrounding her sister’s death. Upon meeting Romulus White, a publisher with connections into every important power circle in the city, she quickly realizes he could be a valuable ally in navigating Boston society.

Romulus has been pursuing Stella for years to create art for his magazine. Her luminous illustrations are the missing piece he needs to propel his magazine to the forefront of the industry, and he will stop at nothing to get her on board.

Sparks fly the instant they join forces, but Romulus is unsettled by the unwelcome attraction he feels toward Stella, fearing she might be the one woman who could disrupt his hard-won independence. He may have finally met his match in Stella, but is helping her solve the mystery of her sister’s death worth the risk to his publishing empire?

My Thoughts on the Book:

Romance, history, suspense, and mystery – what’s not to love? I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Camden’s novels, and From This Moment delivers on the features I’ve come to look for. We’ve got a strong heroine with a goal, an intriguing hero with whom to team up, and a plotline filled with suspense and danger. Oh, and romance, of course. :)

Stella and Romulus are believably flawed characters, and clash with each other in a big way at times, which can make for some fascinating moments. They both learn some valuable lessons and change over the course of the story. Meanwhile, Clyde and Evelyn’s subplot brings a great deal of substance to the book, as they work to repair a broken relationship. And the historical context of the Boston subway’s construction makes for a vivid backdrop, with intriguing details that made me curious to learn more. And I think my favorite part of the story is how the ending plays out, but I don’t want to spoil that for you!

Specific to the Audio Edition:

I have mixed feelings about the audio performance for this book. I liked the characters’ voices – how they were differentiated, and how the voices fit the characters. I also appreciated the emotion portrayed in Justine Eyre’s performance, which I found to be spot on. What I found distracting, was a persistent quirk in the reading style, most noticeable in some of the narrative portions in between character dialogue. There seemed to be an extra vowel sound attached to the end of the last word of each sentence as if for added emphasis. I still enjoyed listening to the book, and while I wouldn’t go out of my way to seek out this narrator’s work, I also wouldn’t let it stop me from listening to a book I was interesting in.

The book itself I highly recommend. The audiobook I recommend with the caveat that you’d do well to sample a brief passage before purchasing. Actually, I think that’s a good idea before purchasing any audiobook, as the things that bother one person may go completely unnoticed by another, and vice versa.

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 story.

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

Book Review: Life After by Katie Ganshert

Title: Life After
Author: Katie Ganshert
Publisher: WaterBrook
Published: April 2017
Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction

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

It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake. 

In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.

My Thoughts:

Katie Ganshert has a way of incorporating weighty topics into her novels without weighing down the story or the reader. She makes you think and feel, intersperses fun and light moments amidst the challenges, and ultimately ends on a hopeful note. At least that’s what I’ve observed in the three stories of hers that I’ve read so far. That’s A Broken Kind of Beautiful, The Art of Losing Yourself, and now this one if you’re counting. Frankly, I love that combination of elements in a story.

In this one, there’s grief, there’s guilt, there’s surviving, there’s brokenness, and there’s picking up the pieces. Not necessarily in that order. In some ways it’s about two broken people helping each other put things in perspective and move on. It explores searching for the why behind tragedy, and it explores where comfort can be found. And there’s a tender, subtle, and emotionally satisfying love story in there too, along with a whole host of other relationships among a lifelike cast of characters.

Fans of the author’s earlier books will love this one. And if you haven’t read her earlier books? Please do. Book discussion groups, and readers who appreciate a well-crafted story with complex characters, written in beautiful lyrical language, will especially want to give this one a try.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Book Review: A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner

Title: A Cup of Dust
Author: Susie Finkbeiner
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Published: October 2015
Series: Pearl Spence Novels
Genre: Historical Christian Fiction

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

Where you come from isn’t who you are.

Ten-year-old Pearl Spence is a daydreamer, playing make-believe to escape life in Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl in 1935. The Spences have their share of misfortune, but as the sheriff’s family, they’ve got more than most in this dry, desolate place. They’re who the town turns to when there’s a crisis or a need–and during these desperate times, there are plenty of both, even if half the town stands empty as people have packed up and moved on.

Pearl is proud of her loving, strong family, though she often wearies of tracking down her mentally impaired older sister or wrestling with her grandmother’s unshakable belief in a God who Pearl just isn’t sure she likes.

Then a mysterious man bent on revenge tramps into her town of Red River. Eddie is dangerous and he seems fixated on Pearl. When he reveals why he’s really there and shares a shocking secret involving the whole town, dust won’t be the only thing darkening Pearl’s world.

While the tone is suspenseful and often poignant, the subtle humor of Pearl’s voice keeps A Cup of Dust from becoming heavy-handed. Finkbeiner deftly paints a story of a family unit coming together despite fractures of distress threatening to pull them apart.

My Thoughts:

This tale of the dust bowl made vivid to me a place and time in history I previously knew little about. I read this one what feels like a long time ago and never got around to writing a review. But since I’ve recently been reminded just how much I enjoyed reading it, I’ve gone back over my notes and decided it’s time to share.

This is a young girl’s story, told in her own uniquely quirky voice. Readers are taken on an emotional journey, in turns heartbreaking, terrifying, and humorous, by a character who is somewhat paradoxically both naïve and wise beyond her years.

Our young heroine Pearl makes some great observations every now and then. For example, early in the story (pages 24-25) she notes: “That was when I learned that kindness could break a heart just as sure as meanness. The difference was the kindness made that broken heart softer. Meanness just made the heart want to be hard.”

Pearl’s story touches on some big and discussable themes like love and sacrifice and the true meaning of family. But the aspect that stood out for me was the way the author used different characters’ competing views on the nature of God and His role in their situations. Through these different viewpoints, readers are challenged to consider what we believe and why. This is a story that could foster some great discussion in a book group setting. Highly recommended, particularly to readers up for a literary coming-of-age story with a touch of mystery and suspense.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of the book. I was not required to write a review, but I wanted to.

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

Audiobook Review: If I Run by Terri Blackstock

Title: If I Run
Author: Terri Blackstock
Print Publisher: Zondervan
Audio Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Narrator: Nan Gurley
Published: February 2016
Series: If I Run, Book 1
Genre: Suspense, Christian Fiction
Length: 6 hours, 41 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Casey knows the truth. But it won’t set her free.

Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talking to police; they’ve failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.

But what is the truth? That’s the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren’t adding up.

Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan’s skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn’t guilty, why did she run?

Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices: the girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.

My Thoughts on the Book:

If I Run makes a fabulous kick-off for Terri Blackstock’s suspense series by the same name. The first person point of view draws you in and gets you thinking about the what-ifs behind the premise. What would you do in Casey’s shoes? In Dylan’s? Overall, this story has a great premise, relatable characters, suspenseful action, and high stakes. I especially love how well matched Casey and Dylan are as adversaries… and potentially allies? At first, I wondered what could possibly be Casey’s reason for running, but as the story unfolds, it all makes an unfortunate kind of sense. I’m impressed, and I must read more!

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Nan Gurley’s narration does justice to the characters’ personalities and voices as written. She takes us into the characters’ heads and beautifully portrays the emotions and challenges they’re going through. I look forward to a repeat performance in Book 2, If I’m Found. It’s going on my must-listen list.

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library. 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

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

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