Monthly Archives: August 2015

Book Review: Trial by Twelve by Heather Day Gilbert

Title: Trial by Twelve
Author: Heather Day Gilbert
Published: May 2015
Genre: Mystery, Christian Fiction
Series: A Murder in the Mountains, Book 2

About the Book (from Goodreads):

Tess Spencer loves her low-key job at the Crystal Mountain Spa, which allows her plenty of down-time with her one-year old daughter and lawyer husband, Thomas. But when a pool installation turns up eight skeletons in the spa’s back yard, Tess becomes entangled in a sleuthing job destined to go awry.

As the investigation gets underway, someone dumps a fresh body near the excavated burial site, confirming unspeakable fears. A serial killer has returned to Buckneck, West Virginia…a skilled hunter with a unique taste in prey.

When Tess agrees to help the cunning Detective Tucker gather clues from the inside, she discovers the posh spa hides more than dead bodies. Even as she sifts through layers of deceit, Tess realizes too late that the killer’s sights have zeroed in on her.

Unpredictable psychological mystery replete with memorable characters, Trial by Twelve is Book Two in A Murder in the Mountains series.

My Thoughts on the Book:

Mystery lovers and fans of Christian fiction take note, Trial by Twelve is one story not to be missed. This second installment in Heather Day Gilbert’s A Murder in the Mountains series delivers a classic amateur sleuthing mystery, populated by fascinating characters in a vivid setting. There’s even a fun Nancy Drew reference, comparing Tess, Charlotte, and Rosemary to amateur sleuth Nancy Drew and her sidekicks George and Bess.

In my review of Miranda Warning (the first title in this series), I already mentioned how much I like the strong and spunky Tess Spencer as heroine, with her dry sense of humor and down-to-earth relatability. But it bears repeating, because this book features that same charming and witty Tess confronting a brand new mystery. Her present tense first person telling has a very personable quality to it, making the reader feel like a friend. And her interactions with her adorable daughter, friends, in-laws, and of course her handsome hubby provide just the right counterpoint to the tension (and danger!!!) accompanying the mystery she’s investigating.

With the discovery of a number of old skeletons and a collection of creepy letters presumed to have been written by the killer, there’s plenty to draw the reader into the mystery. There’s one letter included at the beginning of each of the early chapters, complete with hints that could lead to the identity of the killer. But with plenty of plausible suspects in close proximity, I was kept guessing right along with Tess. And while I did suspect the actual killer, I also suspected about half the people Tess came into contact with, so I can’t really claim to have solved this one. LOL!

I enjoyed reading this mystery from beginning to end, and look forward to accompanying Tess and her friends and family on future sleuthing escapades.

Thank you to the author for providing an advance reader copy free of charge for reviewing.

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

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

Three for the Books, August 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

Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin releases this month from Revell. This historical romance, set during World War II is the first book in the Waves of Freedom series.

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

Topping the Charts

The romantic suspense novel, Taken by Dee Henderson appears on both the ECPA Christian Fiction Best Sellers list and the CBA Fiction Best Sellers list for August 2015. It released in April 2015 from Bethany House with print and electronic editions. There’s also an audio edition available from Brilliance Audio that’s narrated by Adam Verner.

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

Cream of the Crop

Iscariot by Tosca Lee won the 2014 ECPA Christian Book Award in Fiction. This Biblical fiction book was published in February 2013 by Howard Books, and is also available in audio format from Simon & Schuster Audio, narrated by Jason Culp.

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

Audiobook Review: Like a Flower in Bloom by Siri Mitchell

Title: Like a Flower in Bloom
Author: Siri Mitchell
Narrator: Elizabeth Sastre
Published: January 2015 by Bethany House (print) and Recorded Books (audio)
Genre: Historical Romance, Inspirational Fiction
Duration: 10 hours, 28 minutes. Unabridged.

About the Book (from the Publisher):

He Stole the Work She Loved. Will She Let Him Steal Her Heart as Well?

It’s all her uncle’s fault. For years Charlotte Withersby has been free to pursue her love of plants and flowers by assisting her botanist father. But now that she’s reached the old age of twenty-two, an intrusive uncle has convinced her father that Charlotte’s future–the only proper future for a woman–is to be a wife and mother, not a scholar.

Her father is so dependent on her assistance that Charlotte believes he’ll soon change his mind…and then Edward Trimble shows up. A long-time botany correspondent in the South Pacific, Trimble arrives ready to step in as assistant so that Charlotte can step out into proper society–a world that baffles her with its unwritten rules, inexplicable expectations, and confounding fashion.

Things aren’t perfectly smooth between Trimble and her father, so Charlotte hatches a last gasp plan. She’ll pretend such an interest in marriage that the thought of losing her will make her father welcome her back. Only things go quickly awry, and she realizes that the one man who recognizes her intelligence is also the person she’s most angry with: Edward Trimble, her supposed rival. Suddenly juggling more suitors than she knows what to do with, Charlotte is caught in a trap of her own making. Will she have no choice but to leave her beloved flowers behind?

My Thoughts on the Story:

Like a Flower in Bloom is a lively and entertaining historical romance that points out the absurdities in certain expectations of Victorian society, while drawing attention to the challenges women faced in pursuing and being recognized for scientific inquiry during that time period.

The heroine, Charlotte Withersby, is a little sheltered and a little clueless when it comes to the proper way to behave in polite society. Which makes her attempts to fit in long enough to find a proper husband (or at least appear to be searching for one) both a little awkward and utterly hilarious.

The first-person viewpoint from which Charlotte tells her story displays her naivety perfectly against the socially polished “fine young fellow” hired to usurp her position as her father’s assistant in his scientific endeavors. But the usurper, Mr. Trimble turns out to be an entertaining character in his own right, and the banter between them makes for some of the best parts of the book.

I also found myself fascinated by the glimpse into the intersection of Victorian society and the study of botany, and I absolutely loved the details of Charlotte’s various “rambles.” Reading about them made me want to go on a ramble of my own, and maybe pay a little extra attention to the flora I encounter along the way. :)

Highly recommended for fans of humorous historical romance.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Elizabeth Sastre’s lovely British accent gave this audiobook just the right Victorian flavor. And her characters, both male and female, felt genuine and distinct. Her delivery of the humorous bits was spot on to maximize the funny. A real treat for audiobook listeners.

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

Quick Links: Author’s Web SiteGoodreads | Audible | christianaudio

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, August 2015

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the August 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. Please consider subscribing to my blog so you won’t miss future posts.

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

Online Discussions Coming Up This Month

The ACFW Book Club‘s August selection is A Promise to Protect by Patricia Bradley, with discussion scheduled for August 24-29, 2015. 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.

The Cherished Book Club hosts discussion on their Facebook group, with weekly questions about a monthly Christian fiction or non-fiction read. This group is on break for the month of August.

For August, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer AND Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter. 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 A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer for its August discussion.

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 August, participants will be discussing The Preacher’s Bride at Jamie’s blog beginning August 25th (discussion details here and here).

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 August is The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis. Discussion is scheduled to begin on August 19th.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

Midnight on the Mississippi by Mary Ellis (August, Harvest House, Mystery)

Not By Sight by Kate Breslin (August, Bethany House, Historical Romance)

Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin (August, Revell, Historical Romantic Suspense)

Let’s Chat!

What have you been reading lately? Any particular favorites that you’d recommend? Any that you’re really looking forward to reading this summer or fall? Please share!