Category Archives: Book Reviews

Audiobook Review: Always Watching by Lynette Eason

Title: Always Watching
Author: Lynette Eason
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Tantor Audio
Narrator: Rachel Dulude
Published: February 2016
Series: Elite Guardians, Book 1
Genre: Christian fiction, Romantic Suspense
Length: 8 hours, 31 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Intensity. Skill. Tenacity. The bodyguards of Elite Guardians Agency have it all.

When it becomes clear that popular psychiatrist and radio personality Wade Savage has a stalker, his father secretly hires Elite Guardians to protect his son. But when Wade’s bodyguard is attacked and nearly killed, agency owner Olivia Edwards must step in and fill the gap.

Olivia’s skills are about to be tested to the limit as Wade’s stalker moves from leaving innocent gifts at his door to threatening those closest to him–including Olivia. But in her mind, even more dangerous than the threats to her life is the hold her handsome client has on her heart.

My Thoughts on the Book:

Always Watching by Lynette Eason is among the best romantic suspense novels I’ve read in a while. I particularly enjoyed the premise of this series based around a group of female bodyguards. And I’m happy to report that Olivia and the other bodyguards in her agency are in fact pretty awesome people, both professionally and personally. The romance between Olivia and Wade was fun and believably done. But I think my favorite part is seeing Olivia and Amy (Wade’s preteen daughter) face down their fears to do what needs to be done. The stalker’s attacks keep the level of suspense significant, and the author does a good job keeping readers guessing at who the culprit could be. I guessed some aspects of the ending and was completely surprised by others. I also appreciated the inspirational message. I’m definitely looking forward to reading future installments in the Elite Guardians series.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Rachel Dulude’s reading of this audiobook is excellent. The character voices, both male and female, are believable and unique. I was particularly impressed by the narrator’s rendition of the voices of a couple of preteen girls, and of one of the bodyguards who had an accent. The bulk of the story is told in a crisp matter-of-fact way, but when characters are talking and when things get emotional, the narrator puts you right there in the characters’ heads. Very well done. If audiobooks are your thing, this is definitely one worth listening to.

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

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

Book Review: Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

Title: Thief of Glory
Author: Sigmund Brouwer
Published: August 2014 by WaterBrook Press
Genre: Historical Fiction

About the Book (publisher’s description):

A boy coming of age in a time of war…the love that inspires him to survive.

For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, the life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942 after the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, and he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about a woman he barely knows—his frail, troubled mother.

Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap for his mother. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.

When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God’s light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.

My Thoughts on the Book:

This book made quite an impression on me. There were tears. Lots of them, at several different points. In fact, at one point, my comment to my husband about the book (because of those tears) was something like, “Enough already!” But the truth was, I couldn’t stop reading and didn’t want to, because the storytelling was just so good.

This story has a very literary vibe to it, and a writing style that had me smiling again and again at little details, perfectly placed. For example, who would’ve thought an explanation of the properties of rebar and concrete belonged at the start of a schoolyard brawl, but I couldn’t help but admire how well the incongruity worked. And certain scenes have really stuck with me in vivid detail.

As much as I enjoyed reading the book, I did have my reservations about how the story ended, specifically the twist revealed late in the book (which I won’t spoil for you). I’ll just say that a certain decision by the main character really bothered me, and leave it at that.

The faith element in this one felt pretty minimalist. I really only recall explicitly Christian elements in a handful of scenes, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this book would appeal to general market readers as well.

Thief of Glory gets my recommendation, particularly for discussion groups and those looking for a literary read with a distinctive voice. However, anyone particularly squeamish, may find some scenes… challenging. I am glad I read this book, and feel like I learned a lot from it, both about the history of that time and place, and about memorable storytelling.

Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah for providing a paperback copy of this book free of charge.

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

Book Review: Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke

Title: Saving Amelie
Author: Cathy Gohlke
Published: May 2014 by Tyndale House
Genre: Historical Fiction

About the Book (publisher’s description):

Increasingly wary of her father’s genetic research, Rachel Kramer has determined that this trip with him to Germany—in the summer of 1939—will be her last. But a cryptic letter from her estranged friend, begging Rachel for help, changes everything. Married to SS officer Gerhardt Schlick, Kristine sees the dark tides turning and fears her husband views their daughter, Amelie, deaf since birth, as a blight on his Aryan bloodline.

Once courted by Schlick, Rachel knows he’s as dangerous as the swastikas that hang like ebony spiders from every government building in Berlin. She fears her father’s files may hold answers about Hitler’s plans for others, like Amelie, whom the regime deems “unworthy of life.” She risks searching his classified documents only to uncover shocking secrets about her own history and a family she’s never known.

Now hunted by the SS, Rachel turns to Jason Young—a driven, disarming American journalist and unlikely ally—who connects her to the resistance and to controversial theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Forced into hiding, Rachel’s every ideal is challenged as she and Jason walk a knife’s edge, risking their lives—and asking others to do the same—for those they barely know but come to love.

My Thoughts on the Book:

Saving Amelie is a powerful look at how individuals are impacted and their characters are shaped by the circumstances they face and the people they encounter. It also explores God’s grace, and His provision through people willing to serve Him by helping others, even at risk to themselves.

This book takes place in Germany against the backdrop of World War II, and brings to light details of the eugenics movement of the time period, as well as the plight of the physically handicapped under that regime.

The Amelie of the title is a young girl, deaf since birth, whose need to escape the country propels the story forward. But it’s Rachel, a privileged American woman visiting Germany with her father, whose life and whose character changes most dramatically over the course of the story.

“She did not believe in God – had been raised to view such belief as a crutch for the weak. And she, a member of the elite, was not weak. But for the first time in her life she wished she did believe. She knew she was weak, and she needed help.” (page 96)

And that’s just the beginning of Rachel’s faith journey. I was impressed with the gradual and subtle way such deeply meaningful changes could be presented. But it’s not just about Amelie and Rachel. Over the course of the story, Rachel, Jason, Lea, Amelie, and a whole cast of other complex and interesting characters lend their points of view to the telling of this emotionally moving tale.

I was particularly impressed by the historical details included throughout this story, some of which I was previously unfamiliar with. I have to say that after “meeting” the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer through his fictionalized appearances in this story, I am curious to learn more about his life and writings.

I highly recommend this book to book discussion clubs and individuals looking for a thought-provoking, faith based story. The characters and historical detail in this one make for a fascinating read.

Thank you to Tyndale House for providing a paperback copy free of charge.

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.

Book Review: Light of the Last by Chuck Black

9781601425065Title: Light of the Last
Author: Chuck Black
Publisher: Multnomah
Published: February 2016
Series: Wars of the Realm, Book 3
Genre: Christian Speculative Fiction, YA

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

To Fight What Others Can’t You Must See What Others Don’t

After an accident left him temporarily blind, Drew Carter didn’t just regain his sight. He now sees what others can’t imagine–an entire spiritual realm of mighty beings at war.

Forget the gift, Drew just wants his life back. Part of that involves Sydney Carlyle, a woman he is inexplicably drawn to. When he’s offered the chance to become a CIA agent, it seems the way to redeem his past. The only problem–his visions of the supernatural realm are increasing in frequency.

It’s up to the warrior angel Validus and his hand-picked team of heavenly agents to protect the unbelieving Drew. Validus now knows that the young man is at the epicenter of a global spiritual war, and the angels must use a millennia of battle experience to keep Drew alive, for the Fallen want him dead.

Surrounded by spiritual warriors and targeted by demons, Drew’s faced with an impossible decision that will forever alter the destiny of America…and his own soul.

My Thoughts:

Light of the Last is another action-packed read from author Chuck Black. It follows Cloak of the Light and Rise of the Fallen, as third in the Wars of the Realm series. For those unfamiliar with the series, I’d describe this novel as part political thriller, part super-hero story, and part speculative fiction exploring spiritual warfare. Incidentally, if you haven’t already, you’ll want to start this series with its first installment, so consider checking out the links above to my reviews of the earlier books.

The key viewpoint characters in this novel are Drew Carter who was featured in Cloak of the Light, and Validus the warrior angel featured in Rise of the Fallen who is tasked with protecting Drew. Both characters feel larger than life with their superhuman abilities and unwavering dedication to the goals for which they’re fighting. Supporting characters like Ben, Sydney, Reed, Ross, Jake, Validus’s angelic team, and Ben’s team of tech geeks fill their roles well and keep the plot moving ever forward.

Speaking of the plot, it’s full of twists and turns. From spy training to missions, to reconnecting with significant characters out of earlier books, to questioning reality, to facing down an utterly terrifying threat on a national scale, Drew and Validus, and their human and angelic teams are constantly on the move. The pace follows a quick clip, and while description is very precisely detailed in some parts (particularly fight scenes) there are other parts of the plot that get summarily told to fast-track the reader to the next exciting part. Not necessarily a bad thing, but also not the style I’m accustomed to reading, so it kind of jumped out at me.

There was one unexpected plot twist in Chapter 24 that made me consider not finishing the book. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, so let’s just say that I’m unusually squeamish when it comes to plotlines involving biological threats, and I tend to avoid them whenever possible. But I didn’t see this one coming until I was already so deeply committed to finding out how the story ends that I couldn’t bring myself to give up on it. Thankfully, despite a few pretty intense scenes, I managed not to freak out…too badly.

One of my favorite parts of this story was the technology Ben develops at NexTech. So, so, so cool. Especially the glasses, and the tech-lined jacket, and the AI, and – okay – pretty much all of it. It’s probably a good thing that this stuff doesn’t really exist yet, because I’m already a little too immersed in my smart phone…. 😉

This story emphasizes the power of prayer and looks at what it means to trust and to follow God. It also explores one fascinating view of what could be going on in the spiritual realm. I appreciate the effort the author put into creating a reader’s guide to delineate which elements of his take on spiritual warfare are drawn from the Bible and which are guesswork and/or invention, much as an author of historical fiction might point out where historical liberties were taken for the sake of the story.

Anyway… if you enjoy books full of action, intrigue, and super-human fight scenes, this may very well be one you’ll love. Just be sure to start with Book 1, Cloak of the Light. I’ll be curious to see if there are any more titles in this series or perhaps a spin-off series yet to come. The ending seems to leave an opening for that possibility.

Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah for providing a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes via the Blogging for Books program.

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

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

Book Review: Oath of the Brotherhood by C.E. Laureano

Title: Oath of the Brotherhood
Author: C.E. Laureano
Publisher: Tyndale, TH1NK
Published: May 2014
Series: The Song of Seare, Book 1
Genre(s): Fantasy, Christian Fiction

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

In a kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man’s worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword, Conor Mac Nir is a scholar, a musician, and a follower of the forbidden Balian faith: problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.

When Conor is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom, he never expects to fall in love with the rival king’s sister, Aine. Nor does he suspect his gift with the harp (and Aine’s ability to heal) touches on the realm of magic. Then his clan begins a campaign to eliminate all Balians from the isle of Seare, putting his newfound home in peril and entangling him in a plot for control of the island that has been unfolding since long before his birth.

Only by committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he’s meant to play in Seare’s future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything—even the woman he loves—to follow the path his God has laid before him?

My Thoughts:

Oath of the Brotherhood is the first book in C.E. Laureano’s The Song of Seare fantasy trilogy. Featuring relatable characters, dire circumstances to challenge those characters, and a vividly described storyworld with a mediaeval Celtic feel, this book does a great job drawing readers in to the series.

Conor and Aine make likeable leads. Clearly their hearts are in the right place, but we get to see a lot of character growth over the course of this book, and I look forward to seeing where the rest of the series will take them. Romance readers will enjoy the way Conor and Aine are drawn together even when separated by circumstance, and adventure fans will appreciate the story’s suspenseful backdrop of good vs. evil magic and of clan warfare.

Both Conor and Aine grapple with waiting for God’s timing (He’s referred to as Comdiu in this allegory), and preparing themselves to use their talents when called to do so. A large portion of this book is devoted to exploring Conor’s training with the Fíréin brotherhood in music and military skills, which sounds like it could be boring, but which I actually found to be quite fascinating.

I thought the Celtic-sounding names for people and places were a nice touch, lending authenticity to the storyworld. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover the glossary and pronunciation guide at the back of the book until I had finished reading it. Oops! Never would’ve guessed “Eoghan” sounds like “OH-in” or that “bean-sidhe” sounds like “BAN-shee,” although those pronunciations do make so much more sense than what I was saying in my head. LOL! I’ll be sure to consult the glossary as I read the next book so I can get those names right.

For anyone else just starting to read this series, you’ll be happy to know that you won’t have to wait for Books 2 and 3. Beneath the Forsaken City and The Sword and the Song are both available now, so you’ll be able to read the trilogy in its entirety with nary a pause between books if you wish.

Thank you to Tyndale House for providing a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

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