Book Review: A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner

Title: A Trail of Crumbs
Author: Susie Finkbeiner
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Published: March 2017
Series: Pearl Spence, Book 2
Genre: Historical Fiction

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

“I believed it would have been a sin to stay inside when God had sent us such fine weather. According to Pastor Ezra Anderson, sin was the reason we’d got in the dusty mess we were in. The way I saw it, that day was God’s way of letting us know He wasn’t mad at us anymore. Just maybe He’d seen fit to forgive us.”

Pearl Spence has been through more in her young life than most folks could handle. But through it all, her family has been by her side. They may not be perfect, but they love her and they all love each other, come what may. That’s one thing Pearl no longer questions.

But the end of her beautiful day signals the beginning of the end of her secure life.

Now her family is fleeing their Oklahoma wasteland. Pearl isn’t sure she’ll ever see home or happiness again. Are there any crumbs powerful enough to guide her back to the dependable life she once knew?

The strong narrative voice of Finkbeiner’s young protagonist from A Cup of Dust returns in this gritty yet hopeful sequel, sure to please her many fans.

My Thoughts:

Pearl Spence is an adorable young heroine with a distinctive voice, and a fascinating story to tell. Her tale began in A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl, and continues with A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression. She’s a little older and wiser in this book, but with the same healthy dose of spunk and unexpected insights.

Pearl’s situation improves in some ways over the course of this novel, but at the same time, she’s put through the emotional wringer on several fronts. I feel for her and want more for this character. That’s why I can’t wait to continue reading her tale in A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era.

Once again, author Susie Finkbeiner has incorporated vivid historical details, and both primary and secondary characters with character to spare. Highly recommended to fans of historical fiction and coming of age stories with a literary flair.

I purchased the electronic edition of this book, and was not expected to write a review, but I wanted to share my thoughts on it.

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, March 2018

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the March 2018 edition of the Christian Fiction Book Club Connection. Thanks for stopping by! Whether you’re a pastor or ministry leader thinking of forming a book discussion group at your church, a current member of a book club, or simply a fan of Christian fiction hoping to connect with other readers, you’re in the right place. Please consider subscribing to my blog so you won’t miss future posts.

Today I’m providing information on Christian fiction discussions scheduled to take place around the web this month. I’m also featuring a handful of recently released Christian fiction titles for which a discussion guide is available, either included in the book itself or on the author’s or publisher’s web site.

Online Discussions Coming Up This Month

The ACFW Book Club‘s March selection is Life on the Porcelain Edge by C.E. Hilbert. You can subscribe to the group’s e-mail list now, by following the instructions on their Web site, to be sure not to miss any announcements or discussion questions.

By the Book is an in-person book discussion club that has introduced an online Facebook-based discussion option. To join in online, like the By the Book Facebook page, and be sure to check back there periodically for any discussion that may not have made it into your news feed. March’s selection is The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright.

For March, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Ring of Secrets by Roseanna M. White AND My Heart Remembers by Kim Vogel Sawyer. Grab your copies and head on over to the discussion forum to check in with others who are in the midst of reading these books.

The Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title per month. The selection for March is Gabriel’s Bride by Amy Lillard. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander (Zondervan, August 2017, Historical Fiction)

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton (WaterBrook, August 2017, Historical Romance)

The Promise of a Letter by Kathleen Fuller (Thomas Nelson, August 2017, Amish Romance)

The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman (Tyndale House, August 2017, Historical Romance)


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

Audiobook Review: Gathering the Threads by Cindy Woodsmall

Title: Gathering the Threads
Author: Cindy Woodsmall
Print Publisher: WaterBrook
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Stina Nielsen
Published: August 2017
Series: The Amish of Summer Grove, Book 3
Genre: Amish Fiction
Length: 12 hours, 31 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Finally back in the Old Order Amish world she loves, will Ariana’s new perspectives draw her family closer together—or completely rip them apart?

After months away in the Englisch world, Ariana Brenneman is overjoyed to be in the Old Order Amish home where she was raised. Yet her excitement is mixed with an unexpected apprehension as she reconciles all she’s learned from her biological parents with the uncompromising teachings of her Plain community. Although her childhood friend, ex-Amish Quill Schlabach, hopes to help her navigate her new role amongst her people, Ariana’s Daed doesn’t understand why his sweet daughter is suddenly questioning his authority. What will happen if she sows seeds of unrest and rebellion in the entire family? 

Meanwhile, Skylar Nash has finally found her place among the large Brenneman family, but Ariana’s arrival threatens to unravel Skylar’s new identity—and her sobriety. Both Ariana and Skylar must discover the true cords that bind a family and community together and grasp tight the One who holds their authentic identities close to His heart.

Gathering the Threads is the third and final novel in The Amish of Summer Grove series.

My Thoughts on the Book:

Amish fiction is not my typical go-to reading choice. But this series is one that I’ve listened to with fascination. It’s one that I’d recommend both to fans of Amish fiction and to those readers of Christian fiction who aren’t normally into this subgenre. I’ve eagerly awaited Gathering the Threads ever since I listened to Ties that Bind and Fraying at the Edge, and I think this last book is also the best book in the series. But be aware, they really do need to be read in order, so no skipping ahead! 😉

As Ariana returns to her Amish roots, she sees her family and community with new eyes and new thoughts. She struggles to find a way to reconcile the new with the old, and figure out what she truly believes about her faith, family, and very identity. Her dilemmas feel all too real, and I feel for her, as her decisions bring her into conflict with the people she loves.

What I found most fascinating about this last book was the clear eyed look at some of the areas where Amish teachings can diverge from those of related faiths, and some of the problems that can arise. Overall, this is a very thought provoking series, and one that I think would make for fabulous discussion within a book group.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

I’ve listened to this whole series in audio format, and I’m so happy I did. Stina Nielsen does a wonderful job throughout the series of giving voice to the varied characters and their emotions. I particularly love the consistency from book to book. It has felt very much like revisiting old friends from one book to the next.

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library. I 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

Audiobook Review: The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

Title: The Austen Escape
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Narrator: Emily Sutton-Smith
Published: November 2017
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Length: 8 hours, 38 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Falling into the past will change their futures forever.

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues—particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings arise, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

My Thoughts on the Book:

The idea of an Austen escape, as described in this book, sounds absolutely fabulous. Dress up in period dresses, do period activities, and make believe you’re in Jane Austen’s novels? Does this place or one like it actually exist? I have no idea. But I love the idea of it, and would love to participate, if given the chance.

The characters in this book feel real, and relatable, and vulnerable. And I’m about as much smitten with them as I was by the characters in Reay’s first novel, Dear Mr. Knightley. In fact this book, reminds me a great deal of the things I loved about that first book. Bravo!

The introduction to various relevant Austen characters at the beginning of the book had me a bit nervous that perhaps I would need to brush up on my Austen trivia to keep up with all the names. Or at least take notes on the introductions, since in audio format I wouldn’t be able to easily refer to that cheat sheet later. But no, as I continued reading, I discovered that I needn’t have worried. Everything you really need to remember about specific Austen characters to follow this story is made clear at relevant points within the context of this book itself. Whew!

I consider this book a must read for any fan of Jane Austen’s novels. And really anyone who occasionally enjoys dressing up and playing make believe. Also, for anyone who enjoys a good romance in general.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

The lovely British (and American) accents employed by the narrator of the audio edition are icing on the cake to an already beautifully written text. The narrator’s reading is pleasant, comfortable, and emotionally engaging. I highly recommend the book, and most especially the audiobook.

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

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Romantic Reads on my To-Be-Read List

Happy (Almost) Valentine’s Day to my reader friends! To help celebrate the romantic nature of the upcoming holiday, I’ve rounded up a list of some of the romantic stories I’ve been wanting to read. A few of these are being released this month, while others have been patiently waiting on my to be read list for a while. So… which should I read next? Decisions, decisions!

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof
Historical Romance, Independently Published
August 2016
Winner of the 2017 INSPY Award, Christy Award, and Carol Award

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron
Split-Time Romance from Thomas Nelson
February 2018

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden
Empire State, Book 1
Historical Romance from Bethany House
October 2017

Told You So by Kristen Heitzmann
Told You, Book 1
Contemporary Romance, Independently Published
November 2015

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

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

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

True to You by Becky Wade
Bradford Sisters Romance, Book 1
Contemporary Romance from Bethany House
May 2017

Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh
Paper Hearts, Book 1
Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House
January 2015

The Mail Order Brides Collection  by Kathleen Y’Baro, Megan Besing, Noelle Marchand, Donna Schlachter, Michelle Schocklee, Sherri Shackelford, Ann Shorey, Liz Tolsma, and Jennifer Uhlarik.
9 Historical Stories of Marriage That Precedes Love from Barbour Books
February 2018

Are there any romances you’ve particularly enjoyed or have been wanting to read? Please share in the comments. Or to check out more Romance themed Top Ten Tuesday posts from other bloggers around the Web, check out the linkup at That Artsy Reader Girl.

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, February 2018

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the February 2018 edition of the Christian Fiction Book Club Connection. Thanks for stopping by! Whether you’re a pastor or ministry leader thinking of forming a book discussion group at your church, a current member of a book club, or simply a fan of Christian fiction hoping to connect with other readers, you’re in the right place. Please consider subscribing to my blog so you won’t miss future posts.

Today I’m providing information on Christian fiction discussions scheduled to take place around the web this month. I’m also featuring a handful of recently released Christian fiction titles for which a discussion guide is available, either included in the book itself or on the author’s or publisher’s web site.

Online Discussions Coming Up This Month

The ACFW Book Club‘s February selection is Stars in the Grass by Ann Stewart. You can subscribe to the group’s e-mail list now, by following the instructions on their Web site, to be sure not to miss any announcements or discussion questions.

By the Book is an in-person book discussion club that has introduced an online Facebook-based discussion option. To join in online, like the By the Book Facebook page, and be sure to check back there periodically for any discussion that may not have made it into your news feed. February’s selection is Missing Isaac by Valerie Luesse.

For February, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron AND Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer. Grab your copies and head on over to the discussion forum to check in with others who are in the midst of reading these books.

The Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title per month. The selection for February is The Amish Widow by Katie Fisher. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

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

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

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

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


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

Audiobook Review: Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts on the Book:

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

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

Specific to the Audio Edition:

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

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

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

Book Review: The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Audiobook Review: Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts on the Book:

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

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

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

Specific to the Audio Edition:

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

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

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, January 2018

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the January 2018 edition of the Christian Fiction Book Club Connection. Thanks for stopping by! Whether you’re a pastor or ministry leader thinking of forming a book discussion group at your church, a current member of a book club, or simply a fan of Christian fiction hoping to connect with other readers, you’re in the right place. Please consider subscribing to my blog so you won’t miss future posts.

Today I’m providing information on Christian fiction discussions scheduled to take place around the web this month. I’m also featuring a handful of recently released Christian fiction titles for which a discussion guide is available, either included in the book itself or on the author’s or publisher’s web site.

Online Discussions Coming Up This Month

The ACFW Book Club‘s January selection is The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman. You can subscribe to the group’s e-mail list now, by following the instructions on their Web site, to be sure not to miss any announcements or discussion questions.

By the Book is an in-person book discussion club that has introduced an online Facebook-based discussion option. To join in online, like the By the Book Facebook page, and be sure to check back there periodically for any discussion that may not have made it into your news feed. January’s selection is Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman.

For January, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate AND The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman. Grab your copies and head on over to the discussion forum to check in with others who are in the midst of reading these books.

The Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title per month. The selection for January is Amish Girl’s Christmas by Samantha Price. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

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

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

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


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