Tag Archives: Recorded Books

Audiobook Review: Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar

PhotoWithTessaAfsharLast week was a busy week for me, including a road trip with coworkers to Philadelphia in the midst of unseasonably snowy weather to attend this year’s Public Library Association conference. It was a fabulous experience, including interesting continuing education sessions, excellent speakers, and the chance to browse a wonderland of booths set up by publishers and library related vendors. I picked up a half dozen advance reader copies of titles from some of my favorite authors and publishers, but the most pleasant surprise of the trip was discovering that author Tessa Afshar would be signing books at the Tyndale House booth! Of course, I had to meet her and tell her how much I love her books. Including this one, that I’d previously read, but had not yet posted my review. :)

Title: Bread of Angels
Author: Tessa Afshar
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Rendah Heywood
Published: June/July 2017
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Length: 9 hours, 30 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Purple. The foundation of an influential trade in a Roman world dominated by men. One woman rises up to take the reins of success in an incredible journey of courage, grit, and friendship. And along the way, she changes the world.

But before she was Lydia, the seller of purple, she was simply a merchant’s daughter who loved three things: her father, her ancestral home, and making dye. Then unbearable betrayal robs her of nearly everything.

With only her father’s secret formulas left, Lydia flees to Philippi and struggles to establish her business on her own. Determination and serendipitous acquaintances—along with her father’s precious dye—help her become one of the city’s preeminent merchants. But fear lingers in every shadow, until Lydia meets the apostle Paul and hears his message of hope, becoming his first European convert. Still, Lydia can’t outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide, she must either stand firm and trust in her fledgling faith or succumb to the fear that has ruled her life.

My Thoughts on the Book:

One of the things I love about reading well written Biblical fiction is the cultural perspective and context it can give on its time period and surroundings. This novel does that for the early church in Philippi. I loved witnessing the purple dyeing process in vivid detail, and learning relevant bits and pieces about taxes, citizenship, law, and doing business in the Roman Empire. Some fascinating stuff in the context of a compelling story. The book features Lydia as a strong and principled female character, fighting for success in a male dominated world. Great start already, right?

I will forewarn you, there is some preaching in this book. But I think that’s to be expected in a story based around Acts 16, which features a visit by the Apostle Paul. And, quite frankly, I found it refreshing to find a clear presentation of the gospel in a work of Christian fiction. So often, I think authors are afraid of being deemed “preachy” and shy away too much from addressing important topics. Not so here, and I think the story is all the better for it.

This story’s not a romance, per se, but I did appreciate the romantic bits thrown in. Sort of the icing on the cake. I also enjoyed a cameo appearance by characters from the author’s earlier book, Land of Silence, another lovely read worth checking out if you haven’t already. Overall, Bread of Angels is a fascinating historical tale, built around a Biblical framework, that I feel is well worth reading.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

The narrator of this audiobook, Rendah Heywood, employs a very pleasant reading voice, with a mild accent that works quite well with this story. Given that the story is primarily told from Lydia’s viewpoint, there’s not a whole lot of distinction required between character voices, and yet, the narrator does distinguish clearly enough that there’s never any confusion regarding who’s who. I am quite happy to have selected the audio edition, and would recommend it to others.

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library. I was not expected to write a review, but wanted to share how much I enjoyed the book. And I have since received a signed copy of the print edition from the publisher and author, much to my delight.

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

Audiobook Review: A Matter of Trust by Susan May Warren

Title: A Matter of Trust
Author: Susan May Warren
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Cynthia Farrell
Published: July 2017
Series: Montana Rescue, Book 3
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian Fiction
Length: 10 hours, 22 minutes. Unabridged.

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

It’s those we love who have the power to hurt us most . . .

Champion backcountry snowboarder Gage Watson has left the limelight behind after the death of one of his fans. After being sued for negligence and stripped of his sponsorships, he’s remade his life as a ski patrol in Montana’s rugged mountains, as well as serving on the PEAK Rescue team. But he can’t seem to find his footing–or forget the woman who betrayed him.

Senator and former attorney Ella Blair spends much of her time in the public eye as one of the youngest senators in the country. But she has a secret–one that cost Gage his career. More than anything, she wants to atone for her betrayal of him in the courtroom and find a way to help him put his career back on track.

When Ella’s brother goes missing on one of Glacier National Park’s most dangerous peaks, Gage and his team are called in for the rescue. But Gage isn’t so sure he wants to help the woman who destroyed his life. More, when she insists on joining the search, he’ll have to keep her safe while finding her reckless brother–a recipe for disaster when a snowstorm hits the mountain.

My Thoughts on the Book:

This is Book 3 in the Montana Rescue series, a series which I’m enjoying a great deal. I particularly love how each book gives backstory and layered dimension, not just to the hero and heroine of that story, but also to secondary characters who will be making more prominent appearances in future stories. For this reason, this is definitely a series you’ll want to read in order, even if you could probably read any individual title as a standalone without confusion. Check out my review of Wild Montana Skies and its prequel novella If Ever I Would Leave You for a starting point.

In A Matter of Trust, Ella and Gage have a past history that makes them seem unlikely candidates for romance. And yet, the development and progression of their relationship as they work together in a dangerous and difficult situation, feels quite natural. And the lessons about trust they learn and apply to their lives in the process give their story deeper meaning than just a fun romance. Speaking of fun… the snowboarding theme is fun too. I haven’t been skiing in years, and have never been snowboarding, but I enjoyed the vivid and scenic descriptions throughout Ella and Gage’s adventure. Meanwhile, Ty meets Brette, Pete and Jess have some misunderstandings cleared up and secrets revealed, and Ian and Sierra share some important story moments. Precursors of things to come? Let’s just say I can’t wait for the next amazing read in this series.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

I enjoyed Cynthia Farrell’s narration in Rescue Me (Book 2 of this series), so I was happy to hear more from this narrator in this title. The character voices and accents are excellent, and the story is told with feeling. The pacing and enunciation is also well done. I’m looking forward to another excellent performance in Troubled Waters the next audiobook in this series.

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

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

Audiobook Review: 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: 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

Audiobook Review: Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar

Title: Land of Silence
Author: Tessa Afshar
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Suzy Jackson
Published: May 2016
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Length: 10 hours, 56 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Before Christ called her daughter . . .

Before she stole healing by touching the hem of his garment . . .

Elianna is a young girl crushed by guilt. After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father’s textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for. As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.

No physician can cure her. No end is in sight. Until she hears whispers of a man whose mere touch can heal. After so many years of suffering and disappointment, is it possible that one man could redeem the wounds of body . . . and soul?

My Thoughts on the Book:

Land of Silence is a beautifully written and emotionally gripping story, told from the perspective of the only woman Jesus called “daughter” in the New Testament. Since few details are known about this woman, besides the health condition from which she was healed, the story Tessa Afshar shares is, of necessity, fictionalized. But what a story! I cried with Elianna over her losses and disappointments, and I longed for her to find peace and healing, both physically and emotionally. Her backstory and motivations were fleshed out in a way that I related to on a deeply emotional level and that fit perfectly with what is known of her true story. Vividly specific cultural and historical details were the icing on the cake, putting me right back there in Biblical times to imagine the joy of one woman’s life-changing encounter with Jesus. I would highly recommend this story in general, but particularly to fans of Biblical fiction.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Suzy Jackson’s portrayal of Elianna beautifully captures this young woman’s essence – her longing, her disappointments, and her hope. The full array of character voices are well done, including Ethan’s and those of secondary characters, but it’s the emotional connection with Elianna this reading fosters that will leave a lasting impression.

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

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

Audiobook Review: Sea Rose Lane by Irene Hannon

Title: Sea Rose Lane
Author: Irene Hannon
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Therese Plummer
Published: June 2016
Series: Hope Harbor, Book 2
Genre: Christian fiction, Contemporary Romance
Length: 10 hours, 20 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Two people starting over . . . in a town known for second chances

After a devastating layoff, attorney Eric Nash heads back to Hope Harbor–only to discover that his childhood home is being transformed into a bed and breakfast. Instead of plotting his next career move in peace, he’s constantly distracted by noise, chaos–and BJ Stevens, the attractive but prickly blonde architect who’s invaded the house with her motley crew. As for BJ, her client’s son might be handsome, but after a disastrous romance, dating isn’t high on her agenda. Yet when they join forces to help Hope Harbor seniors, might they also find healing, hope, and a new beginning themselves?

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

My Thoughts on the Book:

Fans of Irene Hannon’s Hope Harbor (see my review of the first book in this series) will be delighted to return to this small seaside town for another fun contemporary romance with emotional and spiritual depth. The romance between Eric and BJ is sweet, with some whimsical interruptions by local wildlife – namely harbor seal Casper and seagulls Floyd and Gladys. The lead characters are sympathetic and relatable, as they work through past hurts and challenging decisions. And I appreciate the roles faith and community play in both the main plot and several subplots.

Sea Rose Lane could easily be read as a stand-alone, but those who have read Hope Harbor will enjoy spotting a number of striking parallels in plot and theme between the two stories, as well as familiar people and locations. The lead characters (and seagulls) from the last book make cameo appearances in this one. And Charley, with his seaside taco stand and incredible intuition, takes on an even bigger role than last time.

Speaking of which, after reading Hope Harbor, I made a point of trying fish tacos the next time I found the opportunity, and discovered I really like them! Reading this book brought them back to mind, so writing this review is making me hungry. LOL! Too bad Charley’s taco stand isn’t right around the corner, or I know what I’d be doing for lunch.

This book touches on some thought-provoking issues in a gentle manner that could make for a natural conversation starter. So if anyone’s looking for a book for their discussion group, this one could be a great pick. There’s even a pre-made discussion guide available on the publisher’s Web site.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

After listening to two full-length audiobooks read by Therese Plummer, her vocal inflections are becoming very familiar. I have a feeling that even if I read the upcoming Book 3 (Sandpiper Cove) in print format, I’d still “hear” it in her voice… but I plan to seek out the audiobook edition anyway. Her voice feels very natural to the series. Perhaps it’s the laid-back, casual quality that fits the small-town vibe of the book? Either way, the emotion and the characterization reflected in her reading results in a satisfying listening experience – one I would highly recommend.

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

Quick Links: About the Audiobook | About the Series | Author’s Site | Narrator’s Site | Publisher’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: On This Foundation by Lynn Austin

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts on the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specific to the Audio Edition:

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

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

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

Audiobook Review: Hope Harbor by Irene Hannon

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts on the Book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specific to the Audio Edition:

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

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

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

Audiobook Review: Burning Sky by Lori Benton

Title: Burning Sky
Author: Lori Benton
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Published: August 2013 by WaterBrook Press (print) and April 2015 by Recorded Books (audio)
Genre: Historical Romance, Christian Fiction
Audio Length: 13.75 hours, Unabridged

About the Book (publisher’s description):

Abducted by Mohawk Indians at fourteen and renamed Burning Sky, Willa Obenchain is driven to return to her family’s New York frontier homestead after many years building a life with the People. At the boundary of her father’s property, Willa discovers a wounded Scotsman lying in her path. Feeling obliged to nurse his injuries, the two quickly find much has changed during her twelve-year absence—her childhood home is in disrepair, her missing parents are rumored to be Tories, and the young Richard Waring she once admired is now grown into a man twisted by the horrors of war and claiming ownership of the Obenchain land.

When her Mohawk brother arrives and questions her place in the white world, the cultural divide blurs Willa’s vision. Can she follow Tames-His-Horse back to the People now that she is no longer Burning Sky? And what about Neil MacGregor, the kind and loyal botanist who does not fit into in her plan for a solitary life, yet is now helping her revive her farm? In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, strong feelings against “savages” abound in the nearby village of Shiloh, leaving Willa’s safety unsure.

Willa is a woman caught between two worlds. As tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart, the woman called Burning Sky must find a new courage–the courage to again risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow. Is she brave enough to love again?

My Thoughts on the Book:

Burning Sky came to my attention quite some time ago, when it won not one, but three Christy Awards in the 2014 awards cycle. It won in both the first novel and historical categories, as well as receiving recognition as Book of the Year. Wow! So this one was already on my wish list when I saw that Recorded Books was releasing an audio edition. As you might expect from an audiobook lover like me, I was thrilled to learn about the new edition and I leapt at the chance for a review copy.

This book is well worth the listen! The story lived up to my expectations, with a deep and multifaceted plot, believable characters who have a lot at stake, and immersion in vivid historical details from a fascinating time in American history. Willa / Burning Sky is a strong and compelling heroine, caught between two worlds, facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, but determined to make a life for herself, even after suffering heartbreaking losses. Her character growth and healing make for a great story. And the suspense, mystery, and romance unfolding along the way makes it all the more captivating. This book is a must-read for fans of historical fiction who haven’t already read it.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

The narration of this audiobook by Saskia Maarleveld is excellent. The pacing is just right, narration spoken in a clear and pleasant voice, and the character voices stand out as unique and perfectly suited to the characters. The children’s voices struck me as some of the best I’ve heard among audiobooks read by adult narrators, and Neil MacGregor’s accent is simply wonderful.

Whether this is your first time reading the book, or if you’re considering reading it again, I highly recommend the audio edition.

The copy I received initially had a few tracks out of order, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a brand new and corrected copy of the audiobook on my doorstep a few weeks later. Gotta say, I’m impressed that Recorded Books went to the trouble of sending a replacement without my even having to ask. I think it really shows they care about the quality of their product and stand behind it.

A big thank you to Recorded Books for providing a complimentary copy of this audiobook for review purposes (and for sending a corrected copy). All opinions expressed are mine alone.

Quick Links: About the Book (from the publisher) | Author’s Web Site | Goodreads

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