Tag Archives: Brilliance Audio

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: Distortion by Terri Blackstock

Title: Distortion
Author: Terri Blackstock
Narrator: Nan Gurley
Published: March 2014 by Zondervan and Brilliance Audio
Genre: Suspense, Christian fiction.
Series: Moonlighters, Book 2
Duration: 8 hours, 48 minutes. Unabridged.

About the Book (from Publisher, Zondervan):

A husband’s lies can have deadly consequences.

When Juliet Cole’s husband of fifteen years is murdered before her eyes, she thinks it was a random shooting. Devastated and traumatized, she answers hours of questioning, then returns home to break the tragic news to her sons. But a threatening voicemail escalates this from a random shooting to a planned, deliberate attack.

Juliet realizes that she and her children are in danger too—unless she meets the killers’ demands. But as she and her sisters untangle the clues, her husband’s dark secrets come to light. The more she learns, the more her life is dismantled. Was her husband an innocent victim or a hardened criminal?

My Thoughts on the Story:

It was a pleasure to re-immerse myself into the world of private investigative “moonlighters” Juliet, Cathy, and Holly in this second book in Terri Blackstock’s Moonlighters series. This book reveals more about each sister’s unique personality, while immersing the trio in yet another mystery, with potentially life-or-death stakes. The sisters and their PI friend Michael make a great team, and it’s neat to see how much we learn about them each through their interactions in this story.

The author did a great job drawing me into the characters’ world and making me feel for them. Juliet in particular is going through a lot in this book. Not only has she lost her husband and father of her children, she’s also being forced to face the possibility that his character and their relationship weren’t quite what she thought they were. Consequently, the book takes on something of a mournful tone to match her mood. It’s not really a light read, but it is an emotionally gripping one.

The mystery element is suspenseful and at times quite exciting. It kept me turning the pages. Okay, not literally, since I had the audio edition, but you get what I mean, right? Did not want to hit that pause button. :)

At one point, the villains’ reasoning for escalating the situation didn’t make logical sense to me. Either I missed something or the characters did. But that instance aside, I was impressed with the story’s development. Plot twists came unexpectedly, but on thinking back, the clues were there, hiding in plain sight. Nicely done. I also liked the way Juliet’s faith colored her reactions within the story, particularly at the end.

You don’t have to have read Book 1 in order to understand and enjoy Book 2, but I’d recommend starting with Book 1 anyway (see my review). Why? The books in this series feature many of the same characters, and if you enjoy one, you’ll probably want to read the others too. And since they do take place in a particular chronological sequence, it kinda makes more sense to read them that way. 😉

Speaking of which, I remain curious to see how certain threads from Books 1 and 2 will be resolved in Book 3. And what kind of mess this family of moonlighting PIs will find themselves facing in the next installment.

My Thoughts on the Audio Edition:

The narrator who read this audiobook (Nan Gurley) is not the same one who read the earlier book in this series (Gabrielle De Cuir). I’m happy to report that I did not find the change jarring or unpleasant. The narrator for this audiobook did a great job with the reading, and I think her style and vocal quality were similar enough to what I remember of the earlier narrator’s performance that the change did not feel out of place. She did a great job reflecting the characters’ emotions, which made the story feel very true to life and gave an added sense of urgency at times. Character voices were differentiated enough that I could easily keep track of who was talking when, within a scene. Overall, a great choice for listening.

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

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

Find the Audiobook: Audible | ChristianBook.com | christianaudio

Audiobook Review: Spring Brides by Rachel Hauck, Lenora Worth, and Meg Moseley

Title: Spring Brides
Authors: Rachel Hauck, Lenora Worth, and Meg Moseley
Narrators: Julie Lyles Carr, Christy Ragland, and Amber Quick
Published: March 2015 by Zondervan (print) and Brilliance Audio (audio)
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian fiction, Novella Collection
Series: A Year of Weddings
Duration: 8 hours, 41 minutes, unabridged

“Happily ever after begins today. The honor of your presence is requested at three spring weddings….” (from the book’s description)

The Spring Brides collection features a re-release of three of the twelve novellas in Zondervan’s A Year of Weddings series – A March Bride, An April Bride, and A May Bride. Being a fan of contemporary Christian romance, I’m enjoying the opportunity that this series offers to sample shorter pieces by a variety of authors in the genre. I previously reviewed the audio edition of the Winter Brides collection, and am pleased to have the opportunity to review this one as well. Since each novella stands independently from others in this series, there’s no need to read them in any particular order. Nevertheless, it has been fun to read them during seasonally appropriate weather, so be sure to check this one out and be on the lookout for the Summer Brides collection, coming in May.

A March Bride by Rachel Hauck, narrated by Julie Lyles Carr

Susanna Truitt (Once Upon a Prince) is three weeks from royalty. She’ll soon marry King Nathaniel II of Brighton Kingdom. But when the government insists she renounce her American citizenship before the wedding, coupled with the lack of involvement by family and friends, Susanna’s heart begins to doubt whether this marriage is God’s plan for her.” (publisher’s description)

It was nice to reconnect with Susanna and Nathaniel from Rachel Hauck’s earlier book, Once Upon a Prince. The scope of this story felt well suited to its length, and it seemed a plausible extension to the earlier one. In fact, I rather liked the real-world feel to it where Susanna starts having second thoughts about her fairy tale. I also enjoyed the earthly analogy to a spiritual concept regarding citizenship. Bits of backstory from the earlier book are sprinkled here and there to refresh the reader’s memory or bring you up to speed if you haven’t read the earlier book, so this story can stand alone if necessary (though, if you ask me, there’s no reason not to read them both!)

The narration of A March Bride was clearly and precisely read in a pleasant voice. Unfortunately, it suffered a bit in comparison to the narration of Once Upon a Prince, which featured a distinctly southern accent for Susanna and a classy British accent for Nathaniel. I found myself missing those accents because the characters’ voices became a part of who they were, in my mind at least. Nevertheless, I did still enjoy listening to the novella.

An April Bride by Lenora Worth, narrated by Christy Ragland

Bride-to-be Stella Carson cannot wait another day to marry soldier Marshall Henderson. But when Marshall returns home to Louisiana, it becomes clear to them both that he is not the man he used to be. With only weeks until the wedding, Stella and Marshall must choose between a marriage built on the past and faith in long-ago love or a very different future than the one Stella imagined.” (publisher’s description)

I liked the concept behind this one and I found the ending pleasantly sweet and romantic, even if the timing was a little convenient for total plausibility. But the middle of the story turned out to be a little angsty for my taste. It felt like no matter what happened or what the characters were talking about, the characters’ thoughts and conversations kept circling back to the same dilemma with little forward (or backward) progress until nearly the end. There were some scenes I particularly liked – their carefree trip to the zoo comes to mind – but on the whole, this story wasn’t one of my favorites.

The narration got the job done in a clear and matter-of-fact style. Like the narration for the other novellas in this series, it’s a straight reading that doesn’t differentiate between characters’ voices.

A May Bride by Meg Moseley, narrated by Amber Quick

Ellie Martin, a country girl living in Atlanta, has dreamed of a traditional wedding all her life, but she’s missing a key ingredient to her plans for the future: a groom. Then Ellie meets Gray Whitby – at a wedding of all places. But when Ellie jeopardizes her own future for the sake of her sister, Gray feels like he’ll always be second to Ellie’s family. Can Ellie and Gray find their own way together amidst the demands and perceptions of others, or will their romance end before it has truly begun?” (publisher’s description)

Taking narration and storyline as a whole, I think this is my favorite of the three novellas in the spring collection…which is pretty cool, since I too am a May bride.  :)  I thought the characters and their relationship were well developed, and I loved the concept of a “guerilla wedding.” I also appreciated the growth of the characters over the course of the story, as well as the emphasis on grace.

The narrator did a great job reflecting the emotions of the characters and situations over the course of the reading, which made for a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.

Thank you to Brilliance Audio and Zondervan for providing me with a review copy of this audiobook.

Audiobook Review: Truth Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock

Title: Truth Stained Lies
Author: Terri Blackstock
Series: Moonlighters, Book 1
Print Publisher: Zondervan
Audio Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Narrator: Gabrielle De Cuir
Genre(s): mystery, suspense, Christian fiction
Published: 2013

Book Description (from publishers Zondervan and Brilliance Audio):

When truth doesn’t make sense, will lies prevail? Cathy Cramer is a former lawyer and investigative blogger who writes commentary on high-profile homicides. When she finds a threatening note warning her that she’s about to experience the same kind of judgment and speculation that she dishes out in her blog, Cathy writes it off as mischief . . . until her brother’s wife is murdered and all the “facts” point to him. The killer has staged the crime to make the truth too far-fetched to believe. Working to solve the murder and clear her brother’s name, Cathy and her two sisters, Holly and Juliet, moonlight as part-time private investigators. Juliet, a stay-at-home mom of two boys, and Holly, a scattered ne’er-do-well who drives a taxi, put aside their fear to hunt down the real killer. Stakes rise when their brother’s grieving five-year-old son is kidnapped. As police focus on the wrong set of clues, the three sisters and their battered detective friend are the only hope for solving this bizarre crime, saving the child, and freeing their brother.

My Thoughts:

Truth Stained Lies is a fascinating novel that starts out with the feel of a mystery, and develops features of suspense and a hint of romance as the plot thickens.  This is the first in the Moonlighters series of books by Terri Blackstock.  Distortion is second in the series, with Twisted Innocence releasing this month.

Besides featuring its own mystery to solve, this book does a fabulous job of introducing the interesting and (relatively) large cast of characters that populate the series as a whole.  At various times, it delves into the points of view of each of the three sisters in turn, as well as several other significant characters.  Within this first book, the author introduces us to the family dynamics as well as to each of the individual characters and their challenges.  The more I read about them, the more I want to read.  And while this story ends on a satisfying note, it also left me wanting to know more.  I’m definitely curious to find out what might be in store for these characters as the series continues.  Some romance perhaps?  More danger and intrigue?

I appreciated the strong Christian themes found in this book, which touched on grace & forgiveness.  It didn’t come across as preachy at all, maybe because none of the characters really have it all together.  No one is preaching at anyone else.  They’ve all got a Christian background, but they’re facing their own struggles and doubts, and they turn to each other for advice and help in their weaker moments. Judgment, forgiveness, family ties, uncertain futures, and painful pasts – these characters are dealing with a lot, all while moonlighting as private investigators.  Overall, it makes for a fascinating story, which I’m pleased to recommend.

Specific to the Audiobook:

I sought out this audiobook in particular not just because this was a series I wanted to read in order, but also because this title was an Audie Award finalist in the Inspirational Fiction category for 2014.  Quite the honor!  I held high hopes for an exceptional reading by this audiobook’s narrator, and I was not disappointed.

The audio edition of Truth Stained Lies was not just a reading.  It was a performance.  Narrator Gabrielle De Cuir did a great job showcasing the emotions of the characters and bringing the dialogue to life.  Each character’s voice reflected his or her unique personality and emotional state, even to the extent of going beyond what I might have picked up on in a strictly text-based reading.  I confess, at one point, I did wonder if the level of angst reflected in one character’s voice was a bit more than necessary, but overall, I loved the performance.  The reader’s interpretation throughout this audiobook was most definitely vivid and delightfully performed.  She didn’t pull any punches when it came to reading for emotional impact, and that made for an impressive listening experience that I would be happy to recommend.

Thank you to Zondervan and Brilliance Audio for providing me with a review copy of this audiobook.

Audiobook Review: Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund

Title: Unending Devotion
Author: Jody Hedlund
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Print Publisher: Bethany House
Audio Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Series: Michigan Brides, Book 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Published: 2012

About the Book (from the Publisher):

Michigan, 1883. In Her Darkest Hours, Is He the Man She Needs?

Lily Young longs to find her lost sister or will die trying. Heedless of any danger, she searches logging camps and towns, posing as a photographer’s assistant. And then she arrives in Harrison, Michigan–and the sights of Connell McCormick.

Connell is determined to increase the fortune of his lumber-baron father and figures as long as he’s living an upright life, that’s what matters. But when Lily arrives in town she upends his world, forcing him to confront the truth that dangerous men have gained too much power while good men turn a blind eye.

Vexing but persuasive, Lily soon secures Connell’s help, drawing them ever closer to each other. Will standing for what’s right cost them both everything?

Thoughts on the Story:

I enjoyed this book.  A lot.  I’m glad I read it and I’m going to tell you what I loved about it.  But first, I need to get a little rant off my chest.  So here goes….

I liked Lily, honestly I did, but it drove me crazy the way she ignored offers of help and instead went off on well-meaning but foolhardy and poorly planned rescue attempts by herself.  I’m reminded of the kind of advice I have to give my 3- and 6-year old kids on occasion: Just because the window didn’t break the last time you threw something at it doesn’t mean you can keep throwing things at it and expect it never to break.  So yes, Lily, someone needs to do something quickly, but if you get yourself captured or killed in the process, then you’ll be in no position to accomplish anything for anyone.  Yes, I realize you’ve rescued other girls before and you feel passionately about this.  But that doesn’t make you invincible or negate the need to think things through ahead of time.

Okay, done ranting.  Now I can move on to the things I loved about this book.  Because I really did enjoy reading it.  Despite my occasional irritation with the heroine.  😉

The Northern Michigan lumber camps of the time period were vividly described right down to the last frosty detail.  The historical information included was pretty fascinating.  And the fact that the bad guy in this story and some of his actions were based on a real life person and real life circumstances was more than a little disturbing.  The storyline definitely makes an impression!

Lily’s selfless determination to help others in need was admirable.  And I found her love for her sister as demonstrated by the lengths she went to in searching for her touching.  I thought Connell was a great match for her, helping to temper her impulsiveness, even as she spurred him on to action rather than complacency.  At heart, he was a good guy, and very likeable.  And I was glad to see his character growth over time.

This story has its tragic moments, and some of the issues dealt with were challenging to read about.  But I absolutely loved the advice Connell’s mother, Mrs. McCormick, gave Lily, which I think makes a great take-away lesson.  Here’s just a snippet of their conversation from Chapter 25 (and as an aside, I wish I could share this snippet of the audiobook recording instead of just transcribing the text. As it is, you’ll just have to imagine a lilting brogue in Mrs. McCormick’s voice for the first and third lines here, okay?):

“As long as man lives and breathes there will always be sin in this world and consequently injustice.”

“But that doesn’t mean we should give up, sit back, and do nothing.”

“You’re right.  Nor can we fight against everything.  We must instead discover where God wants to use us.”

So true.  And I love the balanced and well-articulated way that idea is expressed.

Between the romance, the suspense, and the weighty issues dealt with, this book kept my attention riveted from beginning to end.  I’m glad I took the time to read… or technically (since I bought the audio edition), listen to it.

Thoughts on the Audio Performance:

I thought the narration was well done with a clear and articulate reading, and I would encourage audiobook readers to seek out the audio edition.  Despite a large cast of characters, narrator Julia Whelan manages to differentiate their voices well.  I particularly enjoyed the Old World brogue incorporated into the voices of Mr. and Mrs. McCormick.  Throughout the novel, each character’s voice was uniquely hers or his, yet consistent from scene to scene.  In many cases, the voice selected was so well matched to the character’s personality that the voice became inseparable from the character in my mind.  Quite the performance!

Have you read or listened to this book?  What did you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section here, or over on the Bookshelves and Windows blog, where the first of the #HedlundChallenge2015 discussions is taking place today.  (And if you want to learn more about the challenge and consider reading along, check out what Jamie and Cassie had to say about it in their inaugural posts.  It looks like next month’s read will be Rebellious Heart over on the Books and Beverages blog.)

Audiobook Review: Winter Brides by Denise Hunter, Deborah Raney, and Betsy St. Amant

Title:  Winter Brides
Authors:  Denise Hunter (A December Bride), Deborah Raney (A January Bride), and Betsy St. Amant (A February Bride)
Narrators:  Julie Carr (A December Bride), Christy Ragland (A January Bride), and Amber Quick (A February Bride)
Audio Publisher:  Brilliance Audio
Print Publisher:  Zondervan
Genre(s):  Contemporary Romance, Christian Fiction
Published:  2014

About the Collection (from the Publisher):

Happily ever after begins today. The honor of your presence is requested at three winter weddings…

My Thoughts on the Collection:

Winter Brides is a fun collection of short and sweet contemporary Christian romances. Each of the three novellas included in this collection was first published individually in print and audio editions as part of Zondervan’s A Year of Weddings series, so if you’ve already read A December Bride, A January Bride, or A February Bride, then parts of this collection will be very familiar to you.  I had not previously read any of the individual titles myself, but I’d heard some lovely things about them, so I was excited at the opportunity to read and review the audio edition of this book.  And yes, the collection turned out to be just as much fun as I’d hoped.

If you enjoy reading contemporary romance, this book is for you. Each story brings something uniquely enjoyable to the mix. While the shorter length of the novella format doesn’t lend itself to the complex plots and characterizations typically found in longer novels, I thought each of the authors did a great job giving readers a fully fleshed out story in a short and sweet package. In fact, if you’re looking for some light reading to fill the gaps in the midst of this busy holiday season, or an audiobook to pass the hours on a long car ride, this book could be just the thing!

Since we’re talking about the audio edition in particular, I’ll confess to being a little surprised that the narrators didn’t give each character his or her own unique voice. Given the wide range of characters in terms of age, gender, and other traits, this struck me as a missed opportunity to make the audio edition really stand out. However, I’ll also say that I didn’t miss that feature as much as I thought I might. The narrators’ clear and pleasant reading styles worked well with the strengths of the stories themselves to keep me hanging on every word.

About A December Bride by Denise Hunter:

When Layla O’Reilly and Seth Murphy make their engagement public, she knows it’s only to convince a major client that she’s high-society enough to work for his agency. Seth has secretly loved Layla for years, but she’s never given him the time of day. For Layla, this romantic illusion is the chance to save her career. And for Seth, it’s the chance to finally win her heart.

My Thoughts on A December Bride:

I imagine fans of Denise Hunter’s Chapel Springs Romance series will find the setting and some of the characters in this novella familiar from the novels in that series. However as someone who hasn’t read that series yet, I can tell you that this lovely little novella stands on its own two feet just fine.

This is the story of two friends, Seth and Layla, who kind of had a thing for each other once upon a time but never actually dated because Seth’s best friend Jake asked Layla out first… only to break her heart. Trouble is, Layla blames Seth in part for introducing Jake to the woman who came between them. Circumstances conspire to give Seth a chance to change her mind about him and possibly win her heart.

The premise works really well for a novella. There’s enough history in their backstory to make the story’s outcome and timing plausible and enough built in conflict to keep things interesting. I liked the characters, especially Seth, and was totally rooting for him to win Layla over. The author included some really sweet romantic moments and wrapped the story up with a conclusion that brought a smile to my face.

In the audio edition, Julie Carr’s narration does a great job capturing the characters’ emotions, and keeping the reader engaged with the story.

About A January Bride by Deborah Raney:

Novelist Madeleine Houser arranges a temporary office in a local bed and breakfast to escape the distracting renovations at her sister’s house. Although she’s never laid eyes on the inn’s owner, an unlikely friendship blossoms between them as they leave daily notes for each other, and before long, Maddie finds herself falling for her mysterious host — a man likely many years her senior — and a man she’s never even met.

My Thoughts on A January Bride:

This one was such a cute story! I was highly amused by the way one detail after another reinforced Maddie’s and Art’s erroneous assumptions about each other, right up until the point they finally met face to face. What a surprise they’re in for, and the fact that the reader sees it coming a mile away makes it all the more enjoyable. I don’t know how Ginny managed to keep quiet about the misunderstanding as long as she did, but as a reader, I kept wanting to nudge Maddie and Art toward the truth, because it was so easy to see they were perfect for each other.  I had a lot of fun reading this one, and particularly enjoyed the bit about the photo Maddie used to represent her book’s hero.  (You’ll understand when you read it.)

Christy Ragland’s clear voice and careful enunciation made for a very pleasant listening experience and did a good job showcasing the merits of the text itself.

About A February Bride by Betsy St. Amant:

History repeats itself when Allie Andrews escapes the church on her wedding day — wearing the same dress passed down for generations of women in her family, all women with histories of failed marriages. Allie loves Marcus but fears she’s destined to repeat her family’s mistakes. When thrown unexpectedly together for a wedding months later, Allie and Marcus discover their own story might be far from over.

My Thoughts on A February Bride:

I loved the theme of restoration running throughout this sweet novella.  Allie restores old furniture and Marcus restores classic cars, but can their relationship be restored after she leaves him at the altar?  Readers of romance can probably guess the answer to that question, but the fun is in following their journey.  Imagine the awkwardness of being maid of honor in a wedding where the brother of the bride is the man you almost married.  The showers, the planning, the rehearsal… somehow they keep running into each other, and the tension is palpable.  I enjoyed seeing Allie’s faith journey and how it tied into the romantic relationship and I absolutely loved the role the dress played in the story.  One small detail of the ending stretched believability a bit in the interest of a cute wrap-up, but I did enjoy that wrap-up, so I can’t complain.

The narrator paired with this story, Amber Quick, seemed to be a good match, with a pleasant reading style, rich in emotion, that made it easy to get swept up in the story.

Many thanks to Zondervan and Brilliance Audio for the opportunity to review this audiobook.