Category Archives: Audiobook Reviews

Audiobook Review: Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke

Title: Secrets She Kept
Author: Cathy Gohlke
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrators: Morgan Hallett and Suzy Jackson
Published: September 2015
Genre: Historical Romance, Christian Fiction
Length: 13 hours, 34 minutes. Unabridged.

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

All her life, Hannah Sterling longed for a close relationship with her estranged mother. Following Lieselotte’s death, Hannah determines to unlock the secrets of her mother’s mysterious past and is shocked to discover a grandfather living in Germany.

Thirty years earlier, Lieselotte’s father is quickly ascending the ranks of the Nazi party, and a proper marriage for his daughter could help advance his career. Lieselotte is in love—but her beloved Lukas is far from an ideal match, as he secretly works against the Reich. Yet Lieselotte never imagined how far her father would go to ensure her cooperation.

Both Hannah’s and Lieselotte’s stories unfold as Hannah travels to Germany to meet her grandfather, who is hiding wartimes secrets of his own. Longing for connection, yet shaken by all she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family’s tragic past and how their legacy will shape her future.

My Thoughts on the Book:

I had the pleasure recently of listening to the audiobook edition of Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke. This book has won a Christy Award and an INSPY Award, and this audio edition was a finalist for an Audie Award. Some impressive accolades, yes?

My impression? There’s vivid storytelling here, alongside close attention to historical detail, and the overall emotional impact is powerful. I loved the dual first person storylines and timelines, particularly the way the stories meshed and played off of each other. Hannah’s quest to understand her family’s past made an interesting modern-day frame for the story of her mother Lieselotte’s experiences during World War II. Questions are asked and secrets are gradually revealed to both Hannah and the reader throughout the course of the book in such a way as to deepen the emotional impact. Thematically, characters wrestle with issues surrounding forgiveness, and I thought the appearances by Corrie Ten Boom within the plot were a lovely touch, helping to drive home the book’s message in memorable terms.

Much as I admired and enjoyed reading this book, there was one aspect of the ending that bugged me. [Will try to be vague here so as not to spoil anything…] When all the secrets were revealed, I found myself skeptical that one character’s perceptions of another could have been so skewed in the way they were… despite the explanations given… and I didn’t really get why those misconceptions couldn’t have been corrected earlier. [Anyone else who’s read it feel the same way? Or am I maybe overthinking this?]

Anyway, while I can’t say this was my number one ranked read of the year, or my favorite title from this author (loved Saving Amelie so much!), I can say that this is an excellent book, well worth the read, particularly for anyone with an interest in World War II era stories.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

The narrators for the audio edition did a great job conveying the story in an engaging and dynamic way. And yes, I did say “narrators” plural. There are two narrators for this story, one for each time period and its first person viewpoint character. That is to say, Suzy Jackson tells Lieselotte’s portions of the story set during World War II, while Morgan Hallett relates Hannah Sterling’s more modern-day rediscovery of the past. I felt this arrangement worked fabulously for this story. The two narrators have distinctly different voices and styles, which seemed well matched with the personality of the main character they each portrayed. As an added benefit, when returning to the audiobook after a break in listening, it was easy to tell within a brief soundbyte which time period and which character’s world we’re visiting, simply by recognizing the voice of the narrator. Overall, a great listening experience, and highly recommended.

Thank you to Recorded Books for providing a complimentary copy of the audiobook for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Audiobook | On Goodreads | Author’s Site | Discussion Guide

Audiobook Review: Miranda Warning by Heather Day Gilbert

Title: Miranda Warning
Author: Heather Day Gilbert
Narrator: Becky Doughty
Publisher: Self Published
Published: Audio – December 2015, Print – May 2014
Series: A Murder in the Mountains
Genre: Mystery
Length: 8 hours, 33 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Child of the Appalachian mountains, Tess Spencer has experienced more than her share of heartache. The Glock-wielding, knife-carrying housewife knows how to survive whatever life throws at her.

But when an anonymous warning note shows up in her best friend Miranda’s mailbox—a note written in a dead woman’s handwriting—Tess quickly discovers that ghosts are alive and well in Buckneck, West Virginia. Hot on a cold trail, she must use limited clues and her keen insight into human nature to unmask the killer…or the next victim might be Tess herself.

Tinged with the supernatural and overshadowed by the mountains’ lush, protective presence, this twisting psychological mystery is the first in A Murder in the Mountains series.

My Thoughts on the Audiobook:

I first reviewed this book back in August 2014 and loved its setting, its characters, and the way the story unfolds with glimpses into multiple viewpoints and time periods revealing key pieces of the mystery a bit at a time. But that was back before there was an audio edition. The more recent release of the audiobook through Audible, combined with the offer of a review copy, provided just the excuse I needed to re-read this lovely mystery.

Since I’ve already gushed about the contents of the book, I’ll refer you back to my earlier review for my thoughts on plot and characters, and focus here on my reaction to the narration. (That kind of seems like a fitting focus for today anyway, since June is audiobook month!)

The narrator, Becky Doughty, did a fabulous job with this audiobook. She tells the story in a casual and relaxed manner, just as I imagine Tess (the first-person narrator) would, with just the right amount of humor, sarcasm, emotion, and excitement coming through in her voice at any given moment. Each character has his or her own voice in dialogue with careful attention paid to gender, age, accent, and emotion. I was particularly impressed by the scene segments shared from Rose’s perspective. The inflections, tone, and accent used give these scenes a feel all their own, making it easy to follow whose story is being told even without the visible scene breaks you’d have as a guide in the written book.

I tend not to re-read very many books, since there are so many out there yet to be read a first time, but I’m glad I took the time to try this one in audiobook format. The story was just as good the second time around, and Becky Doughty’s performance is not to be missed!

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

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

Audiobook Review: Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

Title: Against the Tide
Author: Elizabeth Camden
Narrator: Barbara Rosenblat
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Print Publisher: Bethany House
Audio Length: 11 hours, 29 minutes; Unabridged
Publication Date: October 2012
Genre(s): Historical Romance, Inspirational Fiction

About the Book (from print publisher, Bethany House):

After a childhood rampant with uncertainty, Lydia Pallas has carved out a perfect life for herself. She spends her days within sight of the bustling Boston Harbor, where her skill with languages has landed her an enviable position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.

Lydia’s talents bring her to the attention of Alexander Banebridge, a mysterious man in need of a translator. Driven by a campaign to end the opium trade, Bane is coolly analytical and relentless in his quest. He cannot afford to fall for Lydia and must fight the bittersweet love growing between them.

When Bane’s enemies gain the upper hand, he is forced to turn to Lydia for help. Determined to prove her worth, Lydia soon discovers that carrying out Bane’s mission will test her wits and her courage to the very limits.

When forces conspire against them from without and within, can their love survive?

Thoughts on the Story:

Against the Tide initially caught my attention because of all the recognition and awards it received. This book won a RITA Award, a Christy Award, AND a Daphne de Maurier Award. Talk about some impressive credentials! Then I saw that the audio edition was narrated by an incredibly popular multi-award-winning narrator, and I knew this was an audiobook I couldn’t pass up.

So, now that I’ve read it, do I think the story lives up to its reputation? Yes, most definitely.

Both lead characters are wonderfully complex, and the storyline is compelling and thought provoking. Plus, if I can borrow what Lydia says of Bane (page 173):

“Everyone ought to have a brilliant, glorious rascal in their life just once, right?”

At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Bane. Could this “rascal” be trusted? Why did the admiral call him dangerous? Was he really a worthy hero? I’m guessing if I’d read The Lady of Bolton Hill first, in which Bane also appears, I might have understood him better from the outset. (At this point, I have not yet read The Lady of Bolton Hill and only recently learned of the connection. Anyone who has read it want to weigh in here?) As it was, I got to know him, and like him, a little at a time, just as Lydia does. Which was a lot of fun. J

The romance is sweet, the suspense page-turning, and the historical aspects engaging. There’s an Author’s Note at the end detailing some of the factual historical information included, and I’ve got to say, the history surrounding medications like Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup was pretty shocking. It makes me appreciate some of the regulations in place now all the more.

Possibly one of the most interesting aspects of this book was the discussion on law vs morals. I’ll let Bane and Lydia speak for themselves in this quoted passage (from Chapter 10, page 97):

Lydia’s jaw dropped. “Is this kind of thing legal?”

“Cleaning offices? Of course it is.”

“But you are suggesting looking at records on people’s desks, in their files.”

He pierced her with that blue gaze, assessing her. “Lydia, sometimes there is a difference between things that are legal and things that are moral. I’m looking for smugglers, that’s all. Most of the opium in the market is being brought in by a smuggler working in the Boston Custom House. Trying to find him is a worthy goal.”

I think this book would be an excellent choice for a book discussion group. It comes complete with an eight question discussion guide, covering this and other thought provoking topics that could make for a fascinating group discussion. Whether you’re looking for a book to discuss or just a good read, if you enjoy history, romance, and suspense in a thought-provoking book with complex characters, then this book would be a great choice. Highly recommended.

Thoughts on the Audio Edition:

I consider myself a fan of Barbara Rosenblat’s work, and I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one. This prolific and popular narrator has been recognized with 6 Audie Awards and 40 Earphone Awards, among other honors which include being named one of AudioFile’s “Golden Voices” and a “Voice of the 20th Century.” Her skill with accents and her impressive vocal range made the voices of individual characters realistic and immediately recognizable. And her portrayal of the characters’ emotions brought them to life in a vivid and compelling way. It was a pleasure to hear this award winning Inspirational story paired with a narrator of Barbara Rosenblat’s caliber. Whether you already love audiobooks or are interested in giving them a try, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Audiobook Review: The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

Title: The Prayer Box
Author: Lisa Wingate
Narrator: Xe Sands
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Audio Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Genre: Christian Women’s Fiction

Book Description (from the Tyndale House Web site):

When Iola Anne Poole, an old-timer on Hatteras Island, passes away in her bed at ninety-one, the struggling young mother in her rental cottage, Tandi Jo Reese, finds herself charged with the task of cleaning out Iola’s rambling Victorian house.

Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola’s walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year, spanning from Iola’s youth to her last days. Hidden in the boxes is the story of a lifetime, written on random bits of paper—the hopes and wishes, fears and thoughts of an unassuming but complex woman passing through the seasons of an extraordinary, unsung life filled with journeys of faith, observations on love, and one final lesson that could change everything for Tandi.

My Thoughts:

The Prayer Box is a lovely novel, delving into the lives of two women, one recently deceased, and another struggling to pick up the pieces of her own life and make a fresh start. As those two women’s lives intersect through the prayer boxes Tandi discovers when cleaning out Iola’s house after her death, Tandi learns some valuable lessons about life and love, and how significantly one life focused on service can impact others.

I found this to be an unusually introspective novel, delving deeply into the thoughts and feelings of Iola (through her letters) and Tandi (the main viewpoint character). It set a leisurely, sometimes meandering pace that allowed the reader time to get to know the characters well and care about them.

I enjoyed the beautifully crafted, often poetic language of this story, as well as the metaphors employed. My favorites were Iola as a lighthouse helping to “point the way” and “guide many ships” (page 174) and Jesus as “the white berry that removes the stain” (page 368).

Overall, a great choice for those who enjoy Women’s fiction.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

I thoroughly enjoyed the audio edition and would highly recommend it. The narrator, Xe Sands gave a wistful and emotional performance that was well suited to the introspective nature of the story. There was a soothing musical quality to her voice that was a perfect complement to some of the more poetic passages in particular. Lisa Wingate is quite a wordsmith and Xe Sands’ narration was the icing on the cake.

Audiobook Review: Come to Me Alive by Leah Atwood

Title: Come to Me Alive
Author: Leah Atwood
Narrator: Pamela Almand
Print Publisher: Falling Leaf Press (October 2014)
Audio Publisher: Self Published (July 2015)
Series: Come to Me, Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian Fiction
Length: 7 hours, 9 minutes, Unabridged

About the Book: (from the description on Audible)

Bryce Landry, country music’s hottest star, has it all, or so everyone on the outside thinks. They can’t see his struggle to discover himself, to find his place in unfamiliar territories, both as a dad and as a Christian. He takes a month off and escapes to the small town of Oden Bridge, Louisiana, where his daughter lives with his grandparents.

Sophie Thatcher has never been a risk taker, but she has no complaints and never thought her life lacked until her boyfriend of three years breaks off their relationship. Only then, does she begin to question what she’s missed by always playing it safe. Meeting Bryce is a call to action. She can let fear rule or trust in faith, which means taking the biggest risk of her life.

As the weeks and months pass, they discover finding each other was easy, but holding on will be a different story.

My Thoughts on the Book:

Come to Me Alive is a sweet, contemporary Christian romance between a school teacher and a formerly “bad boy” country music star. The story focuses primarily on their developing relationship from a cleverly amusing cute meet involving an attacking duck, through some relational rough patches, right on to a satisfying ending. Secondary plot threads involve dealing with challenges balancing career, faith, and fatherhood, as well as reconnecting with estranged family.

I thought the author did a great job introducing the reader to her characters and showing just how they fall in love a bit at a time. It felt very true to life. Maybe even a little too much so, in that the conflicts standing between them and a happy ending weren’t all that evident until much later in the book. The smooth sailing early on gave me pause, but I am glad I stuck with the book because the story becomes deeper and more meaningful as it goes on.

There were plenty of descriptive details throughout, to show the reader exactly what’s happening at any given time. I’ll admit, there were a few instances where I thought the description may have gone a bit overboard, delving into nitty-gritty minutiae like the process of writing a check and what shape that check was, but nit-picking aside I’d rather have too clear a picture than too vague. The hero’s newness to his Christian faith offered plenty of opportunity to showcase some of the ways that faith can change lives. Overall, this is a fun and leisurely read for anyone who enjoys the process of falling in love. And really, who doesn’t? :)

I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook edition, which has been honored with a nomination for one of this year’s Audie awards. The narrator and those involved in production went above and beyond the call of duty. The audio includes a recording of the song that plays a big role in the story. In fact, I’m told that song was arranged and produced specifically for the audiobook. How cool is that, right? At another point, when a character quotes a literary classic in Middle English, the narrator does a convincing job with the accent/pronunciation, all while staying within that character’s voice. Oh, and while children’s voices tend to challenge narrators, the little girl’s voice in this story has a sweet and innocent quality to it that seems quite natural to the character. Overall, an excellent narration that I’d highly recommend to any audiobook fans who enjoy this genre.

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

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

Audiobook Review: On This Foundation by Lynn Austin

Title: On This Foundation
Author: Lynn Austin
Print Publisher: Bethany House
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Suzanne Toren
Published: October 2015
Series: The Restoration Chronicles, Book 3
Genre: Biblical fiction, Christian fiction
Length: 14 hours, 7 minutes

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

Stone by Stone, the Wall Will Rise Once More Around God’s City

When news reaches him that Jerusalem’s wall is shattered and its gates burned with fire, a distraught Nehemiah seeks God’s guidance in fasting and prayer. Granted an unexpected leave from his duty as cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes, Nehemiah sets out for Jerusalem to rebuild the city wall–never anticipating all the dangers that await him on his arrival.

The leaders of the surrounding nations become his fierce enemies, plotting to assassinate him and stop the wall’s reconstruction forever. A drought, meanwhile, has left the country impoverished, with many families resorting to selling their children as bondservants just to keep from starving.

Capturing the rebuilding of the wall through the eyes of a number of characters, On This Foundation is the powerful conclusion to The Restoration Chronicles. This exploration of faith in the midst of oppression offers hope that, in spite of appearances, the gracious hand of God is upon those who believe.

My Thoughts on the Book:

This book, and in fact the whole Restoration Chronicles series, is a fabulous example of Biblical fiction at its finest. If you haven’t read the other titles in this series yet, you may want to check out my reviews of Return to Me and Keepers of the Covenant as well.

On This Foundation tells the story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall in the time of Nehemiah. As with the first two books in the series, this one focuses on a handful of viewpoints – some prominent historical characters and some purely fictional – that bring the story home on a very personal and emotional level, while presenting a balanced look at social and political issues of the day. Along the way the characters face problems and learn timeless lessons that are just as applicable today as they were all those centuries ago.

A favorite quote from the book is a bit of advice Nehemiah offers those working on rebuilding the wall, despite threat of imminent attacks: “The way to replace fear with faith is to pray.” (Disc 8, Track 2, or Page 270) I know I could stand to remind myself of that bit of wisdom every now and then.

While Nehemiah’s story was central to the plot, and he was presented with an interesting backstory, challenges, and flaws to overcome, I felt it was some of the other characters that were most engaging and likeable. Chana, Malkijah, Nava, and Shimon each had a fascinating and unique perspective to share, with challenges of their own, and the overall story was so much deeper and richer because of that. I was particularly impressed by the way the author was able to present both sides of a divisive social issue (the rich vs the poor) through her choice of characters. And I was pleased with the way those issues were resolved without anyone being cast as the Bad Guy.

Historical details and vivid descriptions bring the Biblical account to life in what feels an almost immersive experience. I enjoyed delving into the nitty-gritty details of the work involved in rebuilding the wall as well as feeding the laborers and travelling from the surrounding areas to volunteer. The dangers of attackers, the crushing weight of the stones, and the potential for scorpion stings and other hazards puts the project in a whole new light.

This series is highly recommended for fans of Biblical fiction and anyone curious to experience the genre.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

It’s been nearly a year since I listened to the audiobook edition of Return to Me (first in this series, written and narrated by the same author and narrator), but as I dove into this novel, I was reminded of just how much I enjoyed listening to the earlier one. Suzanne Toren’s reading gives the text a dignified feel that seems quite appropriate to the genre. There’s a musicality and comfortable cadence to her voice that I enjoy, which is a very good thing, considering each audiobook clocks in at over 14 hours’ listening time! The narrator also has an impressive level of comfort with unfamiliar words, phrases, and names that might have tripped me up, had I been reading the text. Overall, a great listening experience.

Thank you to Recorded Books for providing a complimentary copy of the audiobook for review purposes.

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

Audiobook Review: Hope Harbor by Irene Hannon

Title: Hope Harbor
Author: Irene Hannon
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Therese Plummer
Published: July 2015
Series: Hope Harbor, Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian Fiction
Length: Unabridged, 9 hrs, 42 minutes

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

Come home to Hope Harbor–where hearts heal . . . and love blooms.

Tracy Campbell never wanted to leave Hope Harbor, Oregon, or the idyllic three-generation cranberry farm where she grew up. But life–and love–altered her plans. Now she’s home again–with a floundering farm to run . . . a tragic secret . . . and a wounded heart. Romance is not on her agenda. Nor is it on Michael Hunter’s. The visitor from Chicago has daunting secrets and devastating regrets of his own. But when Tracy recruits him to help with a project that is close to her heart, winds of change begin to sweep through Hope Harbor, bringing healing, hope, and love to countless lives–including their own.

My Thoughts on the Book:

Some of my favorite contemporary romances aren’t just romances. Irene Hannon’s Hope Harbor is not only a sweet romance between a widow and a widower who never expected to find love again. It’s also a story of overcoming regrets, reconciling with estranged family, and recognizing divine providence in the little things that can make a big difference in our lives. Colorful secondary characters and engaging subplots interweave with the main plotline to add layers and texture to this beautifully told story.

The characters’ interactions and the story itself have a very small-town feel appropriate for its setting. I thoroughly enjoyed descriptions of life on a cranberry farm complete with honeybees and hard labor, as well as visits to the beach, Charley’s taco stand, and church functions.

Food plays something of a central role in the story. There were cookies shared between unlikely friends, cinnamon buns offered in apology, lots of trips for everyone’s favorite fish tacos, and a family recipe for cranberry nut cake that plays a yummy role in the story’s conclusion. After all this talk of food, I want to try some of it. Anyone have any favorite recipes for fish tacos or cranberry nut cake to share?

The main characters Tracy and Michael each harbor regrets related to the death of a spouse. Neither expects to find romance again. The way they work through their regrets and arrive at a place where they’re ready to consider another relationship forms the backbone of the story. And the chemistry between them is evident, even if their romantic moments tend to get interrupted by a comically persistent seagull named Floyd.

Meanwhile, there’s also the story of a charitable organization in need of revamping, a reclusive landlady who regrets becoming estranged from her son, and a teen girl and her family trying to come to terms with an unplanned pregnancy. The secondary characters and plot threads impact each other and the main characters’ story in meaningful ways, contributing to the interconnected small-town feel of the story overall.

Fans of Irene Hannon’s will enjoy her believable portrayal of characters’ emotions as well as the growth of both primary and secondary characters throughout the story, but should be aware that this one doesn’t proceed at quite the thrilling pace of her romantic suspense novels. I highly recommend it, in particular to fans of small-town contemporary romance.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Therese Plummer’s voice and narration style are well suited to this small-town romance. Her narration proceeds at a natural pace, blending into the background to give the story center stage. Character voices are well-done, reflecting the emotions of characters within each scene, and giving voice to multiple male and female voices, including that of a teen girl, which I thought was particularly notable for its feeling of authenticity.

Thank you to Recorded Books for providing a complimentary copy of this audiobook for review purposes.

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

Audiobook Review: How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck

Title: How to Catch a Prince
Author: Rachel Hauck
Series: Royal Wedding, Book 3
Print Publisher: Zondervan
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Eleni Pappageorge
Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance
Published: February 2015
Length: 11 hours and 26 minutes, Unabridged

Book Description (from the publisher):

Behind him, beside him, before him, the synchronized cathedral bells began to ring out.

One, two, three . . .

Then she said it first. The words his heart burst to share. “I love you, Stephen. You are my true prince.”

An American heiress and a crown prince seem destined to be together. Will the devastation of war keep them apart forever?

American heiress Corina Del Rey caught her prince once. But the tragedy of war kept her too long in a fog of grief. Now she’s shifting her life forward, reigniting her career as a journalist. Still, nothing can relieve her of the secret and the love she carries in her soul.

Prince Stephen of Brighton is one of the world’s most eligible bachelors and a star rugby player, trying to make sense of his life. His days in Afghanistan with the Royal Air Command will mark him forever. And he can’t seem to shake their dark shadow.

But when his brother, King Nathaniel, confronts him with a document the prince thought long buried and forgotten, Stephen is forced to face the pain of his past and the love he left behind.

With a little heavenly help, Prince Stephen and Corina embark on a journey of truth. But when the secrets are revealed, can they overcome and find love again?

My Thoughts on the Story:

After having enjoyed the audio editions of Once Upon a Prince and Princess Ever After as much as I did, I wasn’t about to miss out on listening to How to Catch a Prince, the third book in Rachel Hauck’s Royal Wedding series. I’m pleased to say, it lived up to my expectations, and I’m happy to recommend it.

Like the others in this series, How to Catch a Prince has a fairytale feel to it and features a romance plotline revolving around the fictional country of Brighton and its monarchy. But in keeping with what I’ve loved about this series so far, the story, characters, and themes in this installment were unique from those that came before.

This installment features Prince Stephen, a hero we’ve met before, and American heiress Corina Del Rey. Unlike in the earlier books, this romantic couple has a past, one with a lot of emotional baggage that has to be dealt with before they can find their happily ever after. And the theme centers on what it means to love well.

I found the main characters likeable, engaging, and well suited to each other. And the secondary characters were vividly portrayed. Gigi, Adelaide, Brill, and Clive Boston each added something special to the story with their unique personalities and quirks. And the Madeline and Hyacinth show with its hashtag, #HowToCatchAPrince was highly entertaining.

Overall, a fun read with a worthwhile message.

My Thoughts on the Narration:

Eleni Pappageorge ranks among my all-time favorite audiobook narrators. She has an amazing variety of vocal qualities she can employ to give each character a unique voice that is perfectly suited to his or her character. And I love how she injects feeling into her readings through intonation and varied pacing in dialogue and narration. Both British and southern accents are well done and varied from character to character. Let’s just say, if in doubt, the audio edition is the way to go. I could listen to these stories again and again.

Thank you to Oasis Audio for providing an electronic copy of this audiobook for review purposes.

Audiobook Review: Falling Like Snowflakes by Denise Hunter

Title: Falling Like Snowflakes
Author: Denise Hunter
Series: Summer Harbor, Book 1
Print Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Audio Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Narrator: Julie Lyles Carr
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian fiction
Published: September 2015
Length: 7 hrs, 42 minutes, Unabridged

Anyone ready for some Christmas themed reading? I just finished reading a novel that takes place during the Christmas season on a Christmas tree farm. And it’s so good, I’d recommend you read it now. Or, really, any time of year. :)

Book Description (from the publisher’s site):

Eden Martelli is too busy fleeing the clutches of danger to realize she’s running straight into the arms of a new love.

Speeding north through rural Maine, Eden Martelli wonders how her life came to this—on the run with her mute five-year-old son dozing fitfully in the passenger seat. When a breakdown leaves them stranded in Summer Harbor, Eden has no choice but to stay put through Christmas . . . even though they have no place to lay their heads.

Beau Callahan is a habitual problem solver—for other people anyway. He left the sheriff’s department to take over his family’s Christmas tree farm, but he’s still haunted by the loss of his parents and struggling to handle his first Christmas alone.

When Eden shows up looking for work just as Beau’s feisty aunt gets out of the hospital, Beau thinks he’s finally caught a break. Eden is competent and dedicated—if a little guarded—and a knockout to boot. But, as he soon finds out, she also comes with a boatload of secrets.

Eden has been through too much to trust her heart to another man, but Beau is impossible to resist, and the feeling seems to be mutual. As Christmas Eve approaches, Eden’s past catches up to her.

Beau will go to the ends of the earth to keep her safe. But who’s going to protect his heart from a woman who can’t seem to trust again?

My Thoughts:

Falling Like Snowflakes is a sweet contemporary romance with substance. Some of its best features are the loveable characters, the sense of community and family, and the characters’ growth and healing over the course of the story.

On top of all that, there’s a suspense thread woven in that serves to raise the stakes and makes for some page turning plot twists near the end of the book. Even so, I’d call this more romance than romantic suspense, since it’s the romance that really drives the story. Eve and Beau definitely have some great chemistry, and it’s fun watching them come to terms with that over the course of the book.

Fans of sweet contemporary romance won’t want to miss this one. And I, for one, am already on the lookout for Books 2 and 3 in the Summer Harbor series. I look forward to spending more time getting to know the Callahan family and seeing how the love stories already hinted at in this book will play out in future installments.

The audio edition of Falling Like Snowflakes is narrated by Julie Lyles Carr who does an admirable job of clearly and consistently enunciating the text. Just be aware, the reading doesn’t distinguish between character voices. It’s more a straightforward reading like you might find in a non-fiction audiobook. While I might have preferred a more elaborate and emotionally charged performance, this reading did get the job done, allowing me to “read” the book with hands and eyes free.

Thank you to Brilliance Audio for providing a copy of this audiobook for review purposes.

Audiobook Review: Return to Me by Lynn Austin

Title: Return to Me
Author: Lynn Austin
Narrator: Suzanne Toren
Published: October 2013. Bethany House (print), Recorded Books (audio)
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Series: The Restoration Chronicles, Book 1
Duration: 15 hours, 8 minutes. Unabridged.

About the Book (From Publisher Bethany House):

After decades of exile, the prophesies are coming true–King Cyrus has declared the Jews may return to Jerusalem. Iddo, a priest, is sure this is a sign of God’s renewed favor. For too long they’ve remained in Babylon, and many, including Iddo’s sons, are losing the faith that sets them apart. And so only a few choose to leave everything to return–return to their home and their God.

Nothing about their journey to the Promised Land is easy. As hardships mount, even the faithful, like Iddo’s beloved wife, Dinah, question the sacrifice of following God’s leading. Zechariah, Iddo’s oldest grandson, feels torn between his grandfather’s ancient beliefs and the family they left behind. But one life-changing encounter with the Holy One gives him insight that will change Zechariah–and history–forever.

Bringing the Old Testament to vibrant life, Return to Me tells the compelling story of two men living by faith in the midst of doubt, the women who love them, and the faithful remnant struggling to rebuild their lives in obedience to the God who beckons them home.

My Thoughts on the Story:

Biblical fiction is at its best when it adds new life and understanding to Biblical stories by filling in cultural context and imagining details and characters that could have been. Lynn Austin’s Return to Me does that for the story of the first wave of God’s people returning from exile in Babylon to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

The story is epic, spanning multiple decades, and featuring a large cast of characters, several viewpoints, and a variety of interrelated subplots. There was Iddo, determined to do God’s will and rebuild the temple, and his wife Dinah, who wasn’t so sure about being uprooted from what had become their home and leaving much of their family behind in Babylon. Then there was Zechariah, a young man of thirteen still growing into his faith as they depart Babylon, and his childhood friend Yael, who is drawn to astrology and the pagan practices of the people of Babylon. All interesting characters facing realistic challenges, that seemed at times surprisingly applicable to modern day life and faith.

This quote by Yael (page 394) particularly resonated with me, probably because I’m in a season of child-rearing myself:

“Yes, I understand. You’ve found joy because you’re doing God’s work. And I’m trying to tell you that I’ve found joy too because if we obey God, then our lives do have meaning, even if all He asks us to do is cook lentils and raise children.”

One of my favorite aspects of the story is the way the events (both good and bad) happening in individual lives and within families parallel what’s happening on a larger scale with God and his people, and lead to the characters coming to realizations about God that deepen their faith. I thought those details were beautifully orchestrated, and really brought home the point of the story in a meaningful and memorable way.

I highly recommend this book to fans of historical and Biblical fiction, and to anyone curious to learn more about Old Testament times and cultural context.

My Thoughts on the Audio:

Suzanne Toren’s voice gives this story a dignified feel, perfect for Biblical fiction. Her reading is articulate and clear. It reflects the emotions of the characters as well as their individual attributes. Despite the sheer length of the book (464 pages in paperback), the time seemed to fly by while listening, leaving me eager to read the next book in the series, on finishing this one.