Monthly Archives: July 2018

Audiobook Review: Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

Title: Where Hope Begins
Author: Catherine West
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Narrator: Suzie Althens
Published: May 2018
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Length: 10 hours, 37 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Sometimes we’re allowed to glimpse the beauty within the brokenness . . .

Savannah Barrington has always found solace at her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, and it’s the place that she runs to when her husband of over twenty years leaves her. Though her world is shaken, and the future uncertain, she finds hope through an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, and a man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove to Savannah that she is worthy of love.

But soon Savannah is given a challenge she can’t run away from: Forgiving the unforgivable. Amidst the ancient gardens and musty bookstores of the small town she’s sought refuge in, she must reconcile with the grief that haunts her, the God pursuing her, and the wounds of the past that might be healed after all.

Where Hope Begins is the story of grace in the midst of brokenness, pointing us to the miracles that await when we look beyond our own expectations.

My Thoughts on the Book:

Catherine West’s latest book is aptly titled. Savannah’s life has taken a drastic turn off course, and she’s not sure what, if anything she can do about it. But over the course of the story, she finds her hope, and her emotional journey makes for a great read. This is excellent women’s fiction featuring complex characters and relationships. The story doesn’t shy away from grittier topics like marital problems, but it keeps a Christian worldview throughout, and will appeal to fans of edgier Christian fiction. It’s an emotionally powerful read, and well worth reading.

My one disappointment in an otherwise excellent story, was with one minor character who I thought was more stereotypical caricature than character. Savannah’s sister-in-law Janice plays a key role at one particular point in the story, but I felt like she was created with that one role in mind, as a sort of judgmental straw-man to be knocked down. I would’ve liked to see her drawn with a little more depth, because she felt really out of place in a story with otherwise great characterization.

Overall, the story is beautifully written, and takes the reader to some really challenging and thought provoking places. It would make for a fabulous book discussion group selection.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Narrator Suzie Althens does a wonderful job bringing Savannah and her family and friends to life in this story. Her voice is pleasant, with just the right degree of emotion incorporated to heighten the drama. I would highly recommend the audio edition of this story.

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

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

Audiobook Review: The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel

Title: The Heart Between Us
Author: Lindsay Harrel
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Narrator: Emily Sutton-Smith
Published: March 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian fiction
Length: 8 hours, 53 minutes. Unabridged.

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

Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide and living with her parents in her small Minnesota hometown, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.

My Thoughts on the Book:

The Heart Between Us has so much going on between its pages that it’s hard to know where to begin. There’s an exploration of family and sisterhood, and of forgiveness. There are fears holding characters back from truly living, and an epic journey (both physical and emotional) for them each to understand their own fears and what to do about them. A look at what it means to be strong, and where true strength comes from. There’s a bucket list and international travel galore – enough to prompt wanderlust in the most homebody-ish of readers. There’s sweet romance included, that’s great fun to read, but on a scale that doesn’t take over the story, which focuses more on the individual characters’ journeys.

I’m glad I read this book. I found myself relating to Crystal and Megan on a pretty deep level, and found that the book’s themes – faith, family, and trusting God with your fears – hit home for me. This is one of those books that prompts thought and reflection, and could make a great selection for a book discussion group.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

Emily Sutton-Smith’s reading brings out the sisters’ distinct personalities and quirks through subtle differences in their speaking style. She also does good work with the accents of some secondary characters. The pacing and enunciation is clear and unobtrusive, making this a fun and easy listening experience. Highly recommended.

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

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, July 2018

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the July 2018 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.

Online Discussions Coming Up This Month

The ACFW Book Club‘s July selection is With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley MacKall. 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.

By the Book is an in-person book discussion club that has introduced an online Facebook-based discussion option. To join in online, like the By the Book Facebook page, and be sure to check back there periodically for any discussion that may not have made it into your news feed. July’s selection is The Hideaway by Lauren K Denton.

For July, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar AND The Innkeeper’s Daughter by Michelle Griep. 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 Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title per month. The selection for July is Joshua’s Mission by Vannetta Chapman. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

Firefly Cove by Davis Bunn (Kensington, December 2017, Contemporary Romance)

A Daring Escape by Tricia Goyer (Harvest House, January 2018, Historical Romance)

Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt (Bethany House, January 2018, Historical Romance)

So, friends, what have you been reading lately? Any titles you’d recommend for book club discussions?