Monthly Archives: November 2014

Karen #ThanksPublishers

My family's 2013 Thanksgiving Feast

This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for all the usual things – family, friends, finances, food, health, etc. but with my blog focusing on books, I wasn’t planning on posting about any of that.  In fact, I wasn’t really planning on posting about Thanksgiving at all (aside from a brief mention in Tuesday’s post about upcoming Christian fiction book discussions).  But then I got an email from NetGalley that inspired me to write this post.  In that email, they thanked me (and 210,000 other members) for using NetGalley to find, request, and access advance reader copies of books for reading, reviewing, and recommending.  They also suggested:

“You can pass the Thanksgiving goodwill along by thanking publishers who use digital galleys. Post a thank you message on our Facebook page, or on Twitter using #thankspublishers. We’ll collect and share each “thank you” on your behalf.”

What a great idea!

But I didn’t want to stop there.  I wanted to thank not just those publishers who use digital galleys (I really do love the convenience of digital galleys!), but also those who supply print books and audiobooks for review.  Not to mention the publicists, authors, and other individuals who play a role in providing ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) to bloggers like me.

Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  You probably have no idea how much I appreciate you, so I’m gonna go ahead and spell it out.  Okay?

As an aspiring author of Christian fiction, having access to complimentary Advance Reader Copies of the latest Christian fiction books being published does two amazing things for me.

  1. It gives me something to blog about so I can begin connecting with the readers who may someday read my books.
  2. I get to read a steady stream of great examples from which I can continue to learn and hone my own writing.

Not to mention, the librarian side of me delights at the opportunity to continue playing a role in connecting readers with great books, even though I’m not currently working in a library!


Now I’m going to go out on a limb and give (alphabetical) shout outs to the publishers of Christian fiction whose books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing so far.  Sincere apologies if I leave anyone out by mistake.  I considered foregoing the list altogether to avoid the possibility of an unintended slight, but felt my readers might like to learn more about some of the publishers on this list, so… here goes!

Thank you, one and all!

While this note is primarily addressed to publishers, I would be remiss if I neglected to thank my blog’s readers as well.  I love reading your comments and connecting on social media.  Thank you SO MUCH for making this blog worthwhile!

Book Discussions in Christian Fiction, December 2014

Book Discussions in Christian FictionHappy early Thanksgiving!  It’s getting to be the holiday season, so several of the book clubs I typically follow will be taking a break for the (busy) month of December.  But there are still a few book groups holding online discussions about Christian fiction titles in the coming month.  If you think you might have the time to join in, here are some of the upcoming titles, including a couple with a fun Christmas theme.

ACFW Book Club

  • No discussion scheduled for December.  January selection TBA.

Inklings Discussion Series on Books and Beverages

Christian Fiction Devourers (GoodReads Group)

Fans of Christian Romance (GoodReads Group)

Audiobook Review: The Proposal by Angela Hunt

Title: The Proposal
Author: Angela Hunt
Narrator: Nora Funaro
Audio Publisher: Angela Hunt Communications
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Genre(s): romantic suspense, medical thriller, Christian fiction
Publication: 1996 (original print edition), 2014 (audio edition)

Book Description (from

The Proposal is a pulse-pounding thriller about a rarely discussed women’s medical issue from one of America’s most prolific novelists.

It begins with a foolish error. While attending a writers’ conference in Washington, D.C., Theodora Russell gets a call from an editor who wants to discuss her book proposal. During their meeting, however, Theo quickly discovers that the editor actually wanted to meet with Theodore Russell and talk about his book proposal.

Before Theodora can correct the misunderstanding, she becomes intrigued by Theodore’s proposal. It’s for a book that links breast cancer with first-pregnancy abortions. Determined to do a very different treatment of the topic, Theo researches the link—only to wind up running for her life.

My Thoughts on the Audiobook:

Angela Hunt’s The Proposal discusses abortion and breast cancer, two emotionally charged subjects, and does it in the context of a gripping romantic suspense novel.  It follows the main character, Theodora Russell, as she uncovers information regarding an alleged link between abortion and breast cancer for the book she wants to write, and in the process gets herself into hot water with the law and with powerful men backed by thugs.

Because of the premise of the novel and the prominent role medical research plays in it, I couldn’t help but ask the question… is there actually a link between abortion and breast cancer?  After doing some preliminary research (okay, a Google search and reading a few of the top results), I remain skeptical.  I’m not convinced there is a link and I’m not convinced there isn’t.

If this issue is one you feel passionately about or that affects you or a loved one personally, I would recommend doing some additional research of your own and/or consulting a medical professional before A) panicking, or B) telling all your friends, family, and social media contacts about it.  Well researched as this novel may be, bear in mind that it is a work of fiction and that it was originally published in 1996, so it falls to the reader to evaluate where the lines between fact, fiction, and opinion fall, and how additional research studies in the intervening years may have impacted medical thinking on the subject.

That said, this book certainly raises some interesting and controversial questions, which makes for some fascinating reading and sets up the suspenseful elements of the story perfectly.  It could also make for a very interesting discussion if chosen by a book discussion group.

Theo is a woman on a mission, determined to achieve her dream of supporting herself and her daughter through her writing, even as the financial reserves allowing her to pursue that dream are dwindling.  She’s also passionate about doing what she believes to be the right thing, and spreading the word about an under-reported health issue she feels women need to know about.  It’s easy to root for a character like that, even when she makes some foolish decisions that land her in a world of trouble, because you can see the motivation behind those choices.

I thought Dr. Ken Holman was an interesting character in his own right, as well as the perfect romantic interest for Theo.  I enjoyed watching their relationship develop over the course of the story and was highly entertained by the unexpected twist in their relationship near the story’s conclusion.  I won’t spoil it for you.  You’ll just have to read and find out for yourself.

The plot kept the level of suspense high throughout the story as danger mounted, giving the story a brisk pace, despite delving into medical details on the issue Theo’s writing her book about.  If there’d been pages, I’d have been hard pressed to stop turning them.  As it was, I found myself listening to this audiobook any chance I could get – in the car, washing dishes, doing laundry, etc.

Speaking of the audio edition, I felt that narrator Nora Funaro did a great job in her reading of this book.  Her narration style is clear and well-enunciated, with variations in vocal range and speech patterns appropriate for the characters.  I thoroughly enjoyed the listening experience and would not hesitate to recommend this edition to audiobook fans in search of a suspenseful read.

Thank you to narrator Nora Funaro for providing me with a complimentary copy of this audiobook for review purposes.  My review represents my own honest opinion.

Review: The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron


Title: The Butterfly and the Violin
Author: Kristy Cambron
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre(s): Historical Romance, Contemporary Romance, Literary, Inspirational
Published: 2014

Book description (from the back cover):

A mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz – and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile.  Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl – a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover – the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul – who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece.  Together Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting’s subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy of 1942, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna.  In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: the grim camps of Auschwitz and the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

My review:

The Butterfly and the Violin is a beautiful debut novel that resists categorization.  It’s a historical romance and a contemporary romance wrapped into one multilayered yet cohesive story.  But it’s not just a romance (or two) either.  It’s a tale, set partly amidst the horrors of Auschwitz, about how music and other arts can be a means of worship that can help sustain the human spirit even in terrible circumstances.

I felt that the contemporary and historical stories played off each other well.  Both stories revolved around the same question.  What happened to the violinist depicted in a particular painting (one that holds significance for the present day characters)?  A question raised in the historical portion would be addressed in the contemporary portion and vice versa.  At other times, a switch in time and perspective would serve to draw out the suspense and keep the pages turning.  It all flowed together effortlessly for the reader… which I suspect meant a lot of hard work behind the scenes on the author’s part.

The contemporary romance was great fun, and I particularly liked William as a hero.  The contrasts between his outward power and prestige and the glimpses we get of his vulnerability and approachability, were especially endearing.  I’ll also confess that a clever first kiss scene set me to the kind of grinning that doesn’t wipe away easily.  The beauty of including William and Sera’s story in this novel, besides being a good story in and of itself, was that it provided respite from the more emotionally challenging parts of the historical story.  It didn’t lessen the impact of Adele’s and Vladimir’s story; rather it allowed the reader time to come up for air and process what was happening to them before diving back into the thick of things.

One particularly emotional part of the historical story did bring me to tears, a testimony to the closeness I felt with the characters.  And yet, the overall tone of the novel, both the historical and contemporary portions, was one of hope.  That’s quite an accomplishment considering the setting and subject matter.  I wasn’t at all sure how the historical story would end until the very end of the book.  But just like Sera, I felt I had to know what happened to Adele and Vladimir.

I admire the author’s skill in bringing the reader into the reality of the story with vivid details and three dimensional characters, developing the reader’s emotional investment with the characters, and yet never letting the story become overwhelmingly sad.  What a truly beautiful first novel!  I’m very much looking forward to Kristy Cambron’s second novel, A Sparrow in Terezin, scheduled for release in April of 2015.

Thank you to the author for providing the free copy of The Butterfly and the Violin that I received in a giveaway associated with the American Christian Fiction Writers’ book club.  This book was October’s book of the month, and it made for a great discussion.  I would highly recommend it to other book discussion groups… and to readers in general.

One of my favorite passages from this novel speaks so eloquently on the topics addressed, that I feel compelled to conclude my review with a quote:

“She told herself that to have something of worth in a world full of chaos was the very definition of beauty.  It felt like a spiritual liberation that couldn’t be silenced.  These prisoners, the ones who painted or wrote poetry or played in the orchestra – they refused to let that spirit die.  And this, she decided, is why the heart creates.

“God plants the talent and it grows, sustained by a spirit-given strength to endure, even in the midst of darkness.  It thrives in the valleys of life and ignores the peaks.  It blooms like a flower when cradled by the warmth of the sun.  It remains in a hidden stairwell in a concentration camp.  It grows, fed in secret, in the heart of every artist.” (Chapter 29, pages 277-8)

Audiobook Review: The Promise by Beth Wiseman

Title: The Promise
Author: Beth Wiseman
Print Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Rebecca Gallagher
Genre(s): Christian fiction, romance, suspense
Published: 2014

Summary (from Oasis Audio’s site):

Mallory’s search for happiness leads her to a faraway place. There she finds heartache, betrayal — and danger.

Mallory Hammond is determined that no one will stand in the way of her goal — to save a life. She had that chance years ago, and she failed to take it, leaving her adrift and in search of the real meaning of her life. Finally, she meets a man online from a volatile corner of the world who offers her the chance to find that purpose. But she will have to leave everyone she loves behind in order to take it.

Tate Webber has loved Mallory for many years. He understands that Mallory will never be happy with him until her deepest heart’s desire is satisfied. When Mallory decides to travel across the world to fulfill her dreams, Tate begs her not to go but tries to give her the space she needs. Mallory embarks on her dangerous journey only to discover how swiftly and easily promises can be broken. And Mallory can only pray that she will make it out alive.

Inspired by actual events, The Promise is a riveting love story that asks the question: how far will we go for love?

My Thoughts on the Story:

Beth Wiseman’s latest book, The Promise, offers a fascinating glimpse into a lifestyle and a culture a world away from what the main character is accustomed to experiencing at home in America.  It’s also a cautionary tale of what can happen when someone is so fixated on a goal, that they’re willing to see and hear only what they want to be true, rather than critically evaluating a situation and considering the advice of those around them who care about them.

This book takes a bold step outside the proverbial box.  It deals openly with potentially controversial subjects and raises some challenging theological questions.  It doesn’t preach, and it doesn’t provide pat answers.  Instead it presents a cast of characters with a variety of different worldviews and opinions and allows them to slog their way through the messes they find themselves in the best they can.

The Promise kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.  The characters felt real and I found myself becoming emotionally invested in their story, which made for some tense moments.  It started with a gut feeling that someone or something wasn’t what they seemed and that things could go south quickly.  And right up to the end, I wasn’t at all sure whether Mallory would survive her (mis)adventure unscathed or not.

Fortunately, by the end of the book, both the romantic and suspense elements wrapped up in a believable and satisfying fashion.  My only regret was that I would have liked to see a bit more spiritual growth on Mallory’s part within the scope of the book, maybe taking another look at the doubts she expressed early on about the faith she was raised in.  But perhaps that’s meant to be a journey for another day… or another book… when her life and immediate wellbeing aren’t hanging in the balance.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and would recommend it for readers interested in a thought provoking read a little outside the norm for its genre.  I’m convinced this is the kind of book that would make for some very interesting and lively discussion in a book group.  Just be aware that it does fall on the edgier side of things as far as Christian fiction goes.

My Thoughts on the Narration:

Rebecca Gallagher’s narration of The Promise was lovely.  I was impressed by the accents she used when reading dialogue by characters of Pakistani background, as well as by the way she differentiated the characters’ voices.  Both male and female voices were handled well, and overall, the reading was both clear and pleasant.  I felt that the narrator’s reading subtly reflected the emotions of the characters in each scene, thereby heightening the listener’s connection with the characters.  I would not hesitate to recommend the audio experience.

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