Monthly Archives: April 2015

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.

Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, April 2015

Three for the Books, April 2015

The monthly “Three for the Books” post is where I feature new (Hot Off the Presses), best selling (Topping the Charts), and award winning (Cream of the Crop) Christian fiction books. I select one title to feature in each category, as well as providing links to where you can browse additional newly released, best selling, and award winning titles. Have you read any of these featured titles? Any others you’d like to give a shout-out? Comments are always welcome!

Hot Off the Presses

The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton releases April 2015 from WaterBrook Multnomah. It’s a historical romance, first in a new series, from an award-winning author.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More New Releases

Topping the Charts

Visible Threat by Janice Cantore appears on the April 2015 CBA Best Sellers list. This suspense is Book 2 in a series starting with Critical Pursuit.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Best Sellers

Cream of the Crop

Anomaly by Krista McGee won the 2014 INSPY Award in the Speculative Fiction category. It’s the first installment of a popular YA Dystopian series.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Award Winners

Book Review: Rise of the Fallen by Chuck Black

Title: Rise of the Fallen
Author: Chuck Black
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
Release Date: February 2015
Genre: Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Series: Wars of the Realm, Book 2

For months now, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this, the second book in Chuck Black’s Wars of the Realm series. I assumed it would continue Drew Carter’s story from where the first book, Cloak of the Light, left off. (You can find my review of that book on the Edgy Inspirational Romance blog, if you’re interested.) I was already thoroughly invested in those characters – Drew, Sydney, and Ben in particular – and in their plight, and wanted to know what came next.

And I still want to know. Because Book 2 doesn’t really address that. [Feel free to imagine Karen pulling her hair out right about now, in anticipation of a lengthy wait before Book 3. Just kidding…mostly.]

Honestly, this book was not what I was expecting. Let me hasten to clarify, I don’t mean that in a negative way, because I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story too, and I think that what comes next in the series will have even more impact, for having had the extra groundwork laid in this book. I just had to wrap my mind around the shift in perspective and scope of this book before really digging in to enjoy it. But enjoy it, I did.

This book interweaves two main storylines, both told from the perspective of Validus, an angel we first met in Book 1 through his interactions with Drew Carter. Throughout this book, there’s a “Present Day” storyline in which we see the same timeframe of Book 1 retold from Validus’s perspective, first as he serves as Primus Commander for the angelic forces in North America and later as he fights to protect Drew. Interwoven with this retelling are a series of chapters exploring spiritual warfare throughout Biblical history as experienced by Validus and his fellow angels.

I enjoyed getting to know Validus better and getting a “behind the scenes” glimpse into what might have been going on in the spiritual realm during important moments in Biblical history like Noah’s flood, the Tower of Babel, and Jesus’ birth and crucifixion. The Reader’s Guide in the back was great for delineating which aspects of the story were drawn from Biblical accounts and which were more speculative.

With its emphasis on action, adventure, and heroics, this is a story I would expect to have great appeal for teen boys in particular, as well as anyone enjoying a fast-paced and exciting story. Battle scenes were described blow by blow to the point I could almost have been watching the story play out on the big screen (and yes, I would love to see this series made into a movie). There were quite a few scenes in this book that got my adrenaline going and gave me no choice but to keep turning pages!

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

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Web Site | Video Clip About the Series
Find This Book: Goodreads | Amazon

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, April 2015

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the April 2015 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!

This month’s post includes a featured book that I think is well suited to discussion, as well as links to upcoming online discussions. Then I’ll wrap up the post with a discussion question I’d like YOU to chime in on.

Featured Read

Title: Cloak of the Light
Author: Chuck Black
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
Publication Date: March 2014
Genre: Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Series: Wars of the Realm #1

The publisher’s description asks, “What if…there was a world beyond our vision, a world just fingertips beyond our reach? What if…our world wasn’t beyond their influence?” I reviewed this book over at the Edgy Inspirational Romance blog a while ago, and just finished reading book 2 in the series (Rise of the Fallen) this past week (review coming soon). For today, I just wanted to mention this series for the book groups because I think it raises some interesting questions about spiritual warfare that could make for an interesting discussion. There’s also a Reader’s Guide that addresses issues raised in the book from a Biblical viewpoint. While I haven’t found discussion questions specifically tailored for this book, I do think there’s plenty to talk about.

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

Online Discussions

The ACFW Book Club‘s April selection is Hawk (Quiet Professionals #2) by Ronie Kendig, with discussion scheduled to begin April 25th. 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.

For April, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing With Every Letter (Wings of the Nightingale #1) by Sarah Sundin AND With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden. 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 Christian Romance Goodreads group is reading The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron for its April discussion.

For fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, Jamie of the Books and Beverages blog hosts a monthly Inklings discussion series. Sometimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction, the title for the month of April is The Two Towers (Lord of the Rings #2) by J.R.R. Tolkien. Discussion is scheduled to begin on April 15.

The #HedlundChallenge2015 features discussion of one of author Jody Hedlund’s historical fiction novels each month. The discussion is hosted in alternating months by Jamie of Books and Beverages and Cassie of Bookshelves and Windows. For April, participants will be discussing Captured by Love (Michigan Brides #3) at Jamie’s blog beginning April 28th (discussion details here and here).

Let’s Chat!

One of my favorite aspects of participating in a book group is the incentive to try out a book I might never have read otherwise. It’s particularly nice when that book turns out to be a gem, and maybe introduces me to a new favorite author. But the beauty of trying new authors/genres/titles with a group is that even if I don’t care for the book, there’s still the discussion to look forward to and the opportunity to see what others saw in it!

Is there a book or an author you first read through participation in a book group that became a new favorite? Or expanded your reading horizons, perhaps by introducing you to a new genre or style of writing? Or maybe one that you didn’t like so well, but still enjoyed the discussion? Please tell us about it!  :)