Category Archives: Book Reviews

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

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

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

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

Audiobook Review: If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock

Title: If I’m Found
Author: Terri Blackstock
Publisher: Zondervan
Narrator: Kate Rudd
Published: March 2017
Series: If I Run, Book 2
Genre: Suspense, Christian fiction
Length: Unabridged. 7 hours, 45 minutes.

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

In this riveting sequel to the USA TODAY bestseller If I Run, evil lurks, drawing Casey out of the shadows . . . but there is light shining in the darkness.

Casey Cox is still on the run, fleeing prosecution for a murder she didn’t commit. Dylan Roberts—her most relentless pursuer—is still on her trail, but his secret emails insist he knows the truth and wants to help her. He’s let her escape before when he had her in his grasp, but trust doesn’t come easily.

As Casey works to collect evidence about the real murderers, she stumbles on another unbearable injustice: an abused child and a suicidal man who’s also been falsely accused. Casey risks her own safety to right this wrong and protect the little girl from her tormenters. But doing so is risky and may result in her capture—and if she’s captured, she has no doubt she’ll be murdered before she ever steps foot in a jail cell.

My Thoughts on the Book:

The scenario Casey faces in this series is huge and overwhelming, and yet, she’s battling her impossible odds and helping others too, even at risk to herself. I find that beautiful and inspiring. And even if her choices at times stretch credulity a bit (there was one point in this book where I wanted to shout at her that there was a better option she hadn’t considered), they do seem to fit her, and I can’t fault her for them.

Casey’s faith journey is a gradual one and doesn’t feel forced. That’s probably my favorite part of this series so far. I haven’t even seen the full story unfold yet, but I love where it seems to be going and the way it’s woven into the fabric of her day to day existence.

The multiple first person present tense viewpoint used here is refreshingly different and yet, paradoxically, feels familiar and comfortable, particularly in audiobook format. Speaking of audio format, the narrator for this one is fabulous. Her reading of each character is friendly and personable, and overall, well suited to that character. But I was particularly impressed by her rendition of the slurred speech of one particular character.

In summary, this is shaping up to be among my favorite series in quite a while, one that I would highly recommend. I can’t wait for Book 3! And the audio edition is definitely the way to go. At least it is if you’re the type to savor a good audio performance.

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

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

Audiobook Review: The Raven by Mike Nappa

Title: The Raven
Author: Mike Nappa
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Romy Nordlinger
Published: September 2016
Series: Coffey & Hill, Book 2
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Christian Fiction
Length: 12 hours, 16 minutes. Unabridged.

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

As part of his street performance, a deception specialist who goes by the name The Raven picks his audience’s pockets while they watch. It’s harmless fun–until he decides to keep the wallet of a prominent politician, hoping for a few extra bucks. When he finds compromising photos of the councilman and his “personal assistants,” The Raven hatches a plan to blackmail the man. However, he quickly finds himself in over his head with the Ukrainian Mafia and mired in a life-threatening plot code-named “Nevermore.”

Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill must scramble to sort out the clues to rescue The Raven from a wild card bent on revenge.

My Thoughts on the Book:

For a mysterious thrill ride of shifting allegiances, with devious plots to be undone, look no further than The Raven. I enjoyed reading this novel even more than I did its predecessor, Annabel Lee. Either book could be read as a standalone, but I recommend starting Mike Nappa’s Coffey and Hill series at the beginning if you haven’t already, as the characters grow and develop from one book to the next.

Recurring characters Trudi and Samuel continue to work through their personal issues, while they team up to solve another case. I felt these characters were more sympathetic than in the last book, maybe because they weren’t as hard on each other? Anyway, I do like the direction they seem to be headed, and hope to meet them again in a future installment of this series.

The lead character for this book, besides Trudi and Samuel, is The Raven, a street magician calling himself a deception specialist, whose attempt to blackmail someone lands him in a heap of trouble and smack dab in the thick of something bigger than he would’ve imagined. He’s not your typical lead for a Christian fiction novel, but his cool-headed and somewhat sarcastic analysis of even the most traumatic situations can be quite entertaining. And despite his many flaws, he also manages to be quite sympathetic, and I won’t give details away, but I like where the storyline takes his character arc by the end of the book.

Highly recommended if you enjoy a good mystery, and don’t mind witnessing some violence along the way.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Romy Nordlinger’s excellent narration does justice to the story, with character voices and storytelling that immerse the reader into the thick of what’s happening. Whether she’s portraying a thug with an accent, or the sarcastically laid back analysis of The Raven, her narration fits just right, and is fun to listen to.

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

Book Review: Maybe It’s You by Candace Calvert

Title: Maybe It’s You
Author: Candace Calvert
Publisher: Tyndale House
Published: February 2017
Series: Crisis Team, Book 3
Genre: Christian Fiction, Contemporary Romance

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

ER nurse Sloane Ferrell escaped her risky past—new name, zip code, job, and a fresh start. She’s finally safe, if she avoids a paper trail and doesn’t let people get too close. Like the hospital’s too-smooth marketing man with his relentless campaign to plaster one “lucky” employee’s face on freeway billboards.

Micah Prescott’s goal is to improve the Hope hospital image, but his role as a volunteer crisis responder is closer to his heart. The selfless work helps fill a void in his life left by family tragedy. So does a tentative new relationship with the compassionate, beautiful, and elusive Sloane Ferrell.

Then a string of brutal crimes makes headlines, summons responders . . . and exposes disturbing details of Sloane’s past.

Can hope spring from crisis?

My Thoughts:

Candace Calvert has delivered another fabulous read in her Crisis Team series. Fans of medical drama, contemporary romance, and suspense will enjoy seeing a very different side to Sloane Ferrell than we encountered in an earlier book in this series. Yes, this book can be read as a standalone, but it’s even better within the series. While the spiritual takeaways are not preachy or overwhelming, they do play a significant, and at times surprising role in the story, which I enjoyed seeing. And of course, I loved seeing the development of the relationship between Sloane and Micah. Their relationship has a sweet quality to it, and progressed in what felt like a very realistic way. I was definitely rooting for them throughout the book. Highly recommended.

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

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

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