Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Until Next Time….

As you may have noticed, I’ve been taking a bit of a sabbatical from my blogging lately. Between a full time job and full time commitment to family, it can be a challenge to fit everything else in. So, after four and a half years of regular weekly blogging, I gave myself permission to skip blogging for a while, and rethink the goals and focus of my blog. As it turns out, I’m enjoying the freedom from my self-imposed deadlines. Who knew?

So for now, I’m taking a step back from blogging. I may pop in occasionally to say hi and share my literary thoughts, but it will probably be some time before I start blogging regularly again. In the meantime, thanks for hanging out and reading with me the last few years. Please feel free to keep in touch through email or Facebook.

And I look forward to blogging again, when the time is right.

God bless,

What Makes a Good Audiobook Great?


A few years ago, I wrote a blog post called The Joy of Audiobooks, in which I outlined some of the reasons I love audiobooks so much, and why you might too. I thought about revisiting the topic for audiobook month this year too, but when I re-read my earlier post, so much of it still applied, I figured there was no need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, I’ve been giving thought to another topic:

What makes a great audiobook? And conversely, what makes an audiobook not so great? I’ll be sharing my opinions on the topic today, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it too.

The Content

I’ve been known to claim I’d happily listen to certain favorite narrators read the phone book. And to an extent, I would. But really, if I’m being honest, I’d much rather listen to them read something I’m actually interested in. Especially if it’s something that lends itself well to the audio format.

Let’s face it. The phone book is meant to be searched as needed, not read linearly. The content makes a huge difference in the reader’s enjoyment. That’s why reference books with complex charts that readers may need to refer back to and graphic novels that rely heavily on images to communicate meaning probably won’t make for great listening experiences.

But that’s okay. Print formats have a place on our shelves too, right? 😉

The Narrator’s Voice

In my reviews, I tend to talk a lot about characters’ voices, but the narrator’s own voice generally comes through in the bits of exposition scattered amongst the lines of dialogue.

A particularly raspy or shrill or otherwise distracting voice can ruin an otherwise good audiobook. Some vocal habits like trailing off in volume at the ends of sentences, overemphasizing the ends of words, frequent mispronunciations, and extraneous noises like loud breathing outside of character, can adversely impact a reader’s enjoyment.

On the other hand, a pleasant and natural sounding voice can blend itself into the background, allowing the story space to shine.

Characters’ Voices

The characters’ voices a narrator creates for an audio production can make or break the audiobook. While I’ve heard there are readers out there who prefer an audiobook read matter-of-factly and without the use of distinctive voices for different characters, I tend to think that approach takes much of the fun out of the format. Personally, I love it when a narrator makes good use of differences in character voices.

Emphasis on good use. Too unique or nasal or whiny and a character’s voice can quickly become annoying. Similarly, too much exaggerated effort in creating a character of the opposite gender, can lead to some eye-rolling moments for the reader.

But on the other hand, one of the worst performances I’ve had the dubious honor of listening to was one where the narrator made absolutely no effort to distinguish voices or to pause between speakers. This made it harder for me to connect with the characters, but even more problematically, I found myself getting lost in conversations, unsure when one character stopped speaking and the next began.

In short, when it comes to character voices, moderation is a good thing. Variations in voices within a range comfortable for the narrator can translate to a fabulous listening experience for the reader.

Pacing and Enunciation

Pauses between paragraphs or lines of dialogue, and especially between scenes and chapters can be important to the reader’s understanding of the audiobook. Likewise, a narrator reading excessively fast or slow can result in a frustrating listening experience.

At the same time, judicious use of variations in pacing, such as speeding up the reading during a high-intensity moment in a thriller, or slowing to savor a romantic or otherwise emotional moment for the characters, can heighten the reader’s connection to the story.

As for enunciation, clarity is king. If I can’t understand what’s being read, or even if it requires too much concentration to catch all the words, it’s going to impact my enjoyment of the story.

Continuity Within a Series

I realize contracts and rights negotiations and timing and … life … can get in the way of keeping the same narrator throughout a series. But (for the people out there who decide these things) please, pretty please try?

One of my favorite audio series was mostly read by one narrator who did a fabulous job of both British and southern accents across genders. I was spoiled, and I fell in love with the characters. And then my heart was broken when a short story featuring the same characters was released by a different audio publisher with a different narrator who didn’t attempt their accents at all. It felt like I was meeting brand new people rather than visiting with old friends.

That was when it hit home just how much difference it can make for the character voices and reading style to be consistent from one book to the next within a series. Just listening to the voices in one book can bring back memories of the characters as read in an earlier book months or years ago and help tie the stories together.

So, yeah, sometimes it works to bring back the same narrator, and sometimes things get in the way of that, but whenever possible… pretty please?

That Special Something

So far, we’ve discussed content, the narrator’s voice, characters’ voices, pacing and enunciation, and continuity within a series as factors in making an audiobook great. But not everything can be that simply explained.

Sometimes, there’s just that special something that takes a good audiobook and makes it great. Could be a spot on accent. Could be an excellent use of music or sound effects. Or maybe it’s when the narrator verbally acts out stage directions like laughter, tears, singing, or slurred speech. You know, actually chuckling, rather than just reading “He laughed.”

Maybe, a narrator’s emotional connection to what he or she is reading shows through in the final production and draws the reader in. Or maybe multiple readers worked together to create a seamless theatrical production.

Sometimes it’s easy to point to one or two, or ten features of an audiobook that come together to make for a fabulous read. Other times, it’s not so easy to explain why the total experience is greater than the sum of its parts. Either way, I love discovering and listening to a great audiobook.

June is Audiobook Month, 2018


Because I #LoveAudiobooks, I’ll be celebrating “June is Audiobook Month” pretty much all month long on my blog, starting with today’s post. For today, I’m featuring some favorite recent listens, what I’m reading now, and a few of the titles on my to-be-read list. I’ll also refer you on to more “June is Audiobook Month” themed festivities you may want to check out elsewhere on the web.

With a 45 minute commute each way to and from work, and with plenty of other opportunities for listening (while doing laundry or dishes, while working out, etc.) when traditional reading just isn’t practical, I find I tend to read more audiobooks than print books lately. And I love every minute of it.

A few of my favorite recent listens include:

I’m currently enjoying:

  • The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel

And eagerly anticipating (on my to be read list):

  • Where Hope Begins by Catherine West
  • Send Down the Rain by Charles Martin
  • Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson (Audie Award winner in Inspirational Fiction)

I’m always on the lookout for more great reads to add to my to-be-read list, so please share in the comments if you’ve been listening to any great books lately!

To keep the Audiobook Month festivities going, check out the following sites:

  • The Audio Publishers Association blog tour will be featuring audiobook themed posts and giveaways all month long.
  • There will also be free weekly giveaways at throughout the month of June, including Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck (June 8th… It’s one of my favorite audiobooks).
  • The Sync summer audiobook program offers free weekly audiobook downloads aimed at teens 13+ all summer long. I’m especially intrigued to see that The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey has a giveaway scheduled for June 28 – July 4. (Check out this review by one of my favorite bloggers, to see why I’m excited to read it.)

Thanks so much for stopping by to celebrate audiobook month with me! I hope to see you again next week for more audiobook themed fun. :)

Book Review: One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg

Title: One Enchanted Christmas
Author: Melissa Tagg
Publisher: Independently Published
Published: December 2015
Series: Enchanted Christmas Collection, #1
Genre: Romance, Christian Fiction, Christmas
Length: Novella

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

Last December, mystery author Maren Grant had the most perfect night of her life. On a glimmering winter evening, she got to watch the photo shoot for her very first book and ended up on a magical date with the cover model himself – Colin Renwycke.

Fast forward one year. This December, with a looming deadline, restless spirit and her creative spark long since gone, Maren is desperate to get unstuck. And she can’t get Colin out of her head…or his year-old open invitation to spend a couple weeks writing at his family’s farm.

Drew Renwycke never planned to come home and take over the Renwycke family farm. But he’s spent too many years watching his siblings unravel, including his brother, Colin, after one terrible family mistake. If moving to Maple Valley, Iowa, renovating an old farmhouse and switching careers is what it takes to put the Renwycke family back together, he’ll do it.

But his simple plan upends when a scrappy author lands on his doorstep. And she just might be the key to coaxing his brother home. But what if he wants her all to himself? Drew will have to choose between his Christmas wish and the enchantment of a holiday romance that just might be the happy ending they all long for.

My Thoughts:

This is such a fun and light-hearted story, perfect for the Christmas season! And there’s a sequel that just released this year that I’m excited to read too – One Enchanted Eve.

Short as this novella is, the characters feel remarkably three dimensional. We spend time in both Drew’s and Maren’s heads, getting to know their thoughts, fears, hopes, and dreams. But what makes this novella unusual and extra-fun are the bits of entertaining commentary interjected periodically by the author/narrator. A few brief examples:

“Um, no, guys. He liked her. That’s why he said she could stay. But go ahead, Drew. Tell yourself whatever you want.” (Chapter 4)

“Oh, this is good. Let’s backtrack…” (Chapter 5)

I love the friendly, casual voice used in this commentary. And the humor incorporated as we’re whisked from one scene to another on our way to a meaningful conclusion.

This novella stands on its own just fine, but from what I’ve heard, if you’ve read Melissa Tagg’s Walker Family series, the setting and some of the characters in this one will be familiar. I’ve been meaning to read that series…thinking it may be time to bump it up my TBR list.

I purchased this ebook, and was not expected to write a review, but I wanted to. :)

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

Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, October 2016

Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, October 2016

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

A Time to Rise by Nadine Brandes released this month from Gilead Publishing. It’s the conclusion of the dystopian Out of Time series. Since this is a series you’ll want to read in order, you may want to start by checking out my review of the first book, A Time to Die. These novels are available in print and electronic editions.

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

Topping the Charts

Priceless by Joel and Luke Smallbone of the band for King & Country appears on the October 2016 ECPA Bestsellers list. This is a novelization of the movie with the same name that just started playing in theaters on October 14th. The book is available from Worthy Publishing in print and electronic formats, with an audio edition available from christianaudio.

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

Cream of the Crop

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund is winner of the 2016 ECPA Book Award for Fiction, as well as the Christy Award in the Historical Romance category. It is historical biographical fiction published by WaterBrook Multnomah, and is available in print and electronic editions.

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

Audiobook Review: An Open Heart by Harry Kraus

Title: An Open Heart
Author: Harry Kraus
Print Publisher: David C Cook
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Narrator: Tim Gregory
Published: June 2013
Genre: Christian fiction, suspense
Length: 11 hours, 18 minutes. Unabridged.

About the Book: (from the publisher’s description on Amazon)

Their Messages—From Beyond the Grave—Might Destroy Him

They hover between life and death, their hearts stopped on the surgery table. And the messages Dr. Jace Rawlings’ open-heart surgery patients bring back from beyond the grave cannot be ignored. For they predict the deaths of people around him, and point a finger of suspicion straight at him.

It thrusts Jace into a firestorm of controversy and danger. A maelstrom blown by the darker winds of political intrigue and spiritual warfare. And the forces working against him will do anything to stop him from uncovering a truth they will kill to hide. He’d come to Kenya to establish a heart-surgery program for the poor. But what he will find in that place where he grew up will put everything at risk–his marriage, his career . . . his life.

My Thoughts on the Book:

I first heard about this book while I was in the midst of writing the first draft of my own novel about a missionary and a doctor that’s set partly in Kenya. Because I was struck by the similarities in setting and characters, I really wanted to read this one, but forced myself to wait until I’d finished writing the first draft of my own. And having read it at last, I’m glad I did take the time to read it, and particularly that I was able to listen to the audiobook edition, which is fabulous.

There’s a lot going on in this story. There’s medical drama including interesting details of a number of surgical cases in America and in Kenya. There’s the suspense surrounding who’s out to get our lead character and why… and what part a (rather creepy) witch doctor might play in that. There’s a mystery to unravel surrounding the events of one particular night that our lead character doesn’t remember following a head trauma. There’s an inspirational thread involving lost faith regained. And there are believable characters struggling through their hurts and fears.

I think my favorite part was the setting, which is vividly described in specific and authentic detail. Frequent readers of Christian fiction may have noticed that settings outside of the United States are fairly uncommon in the genre. With that in mind, I applaud the author’s choice to take a chance on a more exotic setting. It was interesting to consider the economics of saving lives and the difficult choices made in a country with limited resources. And in some ways, the setting became almost a character in its own right, as the local culture and customs had such an impact on the plot and characters.

Overall, a fascinating book, and if you’re an audiobook fan, I highly recommend Tim Gregory’s reading of it. His voice fits the main character well, and he uses variations in tone and inflection to portray the other characters of both genders well too. I was particularly impressed by his accurate (to the best of my knowledge anyway) pronunciation of foreign words and his portrayal of believable Kenyan accents. There are some very emotional scenes in this book, and the reading revealed just the right degree of emotion in those scenes to complement the written word and immerse the reader in the story.

I accessed this audiobook by checking it out from my library’s electronic collection via Hoopla.

Quick Links: About the Audiobook | Author’s Site

Book Review: The Methuselah Project by Rick Barry

Title: The Methuselah Project
Author: Rick Barry
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Published: September 2015
Genre: Speculative, Romantic Suspense, Christian Fiction

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

Nazi scientists started many experiments. One never ended.

Roger Greene is a war hero. Raised in an orphanage, the only birthright he knows is the feeling that he was born to fly. Flying against the Axis Powers in World War II is everything he always dreamed–until the day he’s shot down and lands in the hands of the enemy.

When Allied bombs destroy both his prison and the mad genius experimenting on POWs, Roger survives. Within hours, his wounds miraculously heal, thanks to those experiments. The Methuselah Project is a success–but this ace is still not free. Seventy years later, Roger hasn’t aged a day, but he has nearly gone insane. This isn’t Captain America–just a lousy existence only made passable by a newfound faith. The Bible provides the only reliable anchor for Roger’s sanity and his soul. When he finally escapes, there’s no angelic promise or personal prophecy of deliverance, just confusion. It’s 2015–and the world has become an unrecognizable place.

Katherine Mueller–crack shot, genius, and real Southern Belle–offers to help him find his way home. Can he convince her of the truth of his crazy story? Can he continue to trust her when he finds out she works for the very organization he’s trying to flee?

Thrown right into pulse-pounding action from the first page, readers will find themselves transported back in time to a believable, full-colored past, and then catapulted into the present once more. The historical back-and-forth adds a constantly moving element of suspense to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

My Thoughts:

This is a fascinating story, unusual enough to defy categorization. Part romantic suspense, part speculative fiction, part contemporary, part historical. Perhaps the best way to describe it is simply to say that it’s a real page-turner. From the first moments in the cockpit of a World War II fighter plane, I was hooked and ready to be swept along for the ride. And what a ride it is. At turns humorous, shocking, thought-provoking, tender, and thrilling, this story of a WWII era prisoner finally escaping to modern day America without having aged a day, is one I’m happy to recommend.

The premise is intriguing and thought-provoking. How would you handle being locked up in a jail cell for decades without aging, even as the world passes you by? Historical details are vivid and well-placed, from descriptions of dogfighting to period lingo. Characters leap off the page, particularly Roger with his wry sense of humor and WWII-era outlook on life clashing with modern-day realities. Thematically, the book looks at the power of prayer and the way someone’s convictions can get them through difficult parts of their own life as well as positively impacting others.

There’s a great discussion guide for this book available on the publisher’s Web site. I participated in the ACFW Book Club discussion of this book, and found the discussion based on these questions quite thought-provoking and enjoyable. I would recommend it for book clubs as well as anyone who’s up for an adventure a little outside of the ordinary.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, September 2016


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

This Road We Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick released this month from Revell. It’s a historical novel set on the Oregon Trail. The book is available in print, electronic, and audio editions.

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

Topping the Charts

Without Warning by Lynnette Eason appears on the September 2016 ECPA Bestsellers list. This romantic suspense is Book 2 in the Elite Guardians series (see my review of Book 1). It’s available from Revell in print and electronic formats, with an audio edition available from Tantor Audio.

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

Cream of the Crop

The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart is winner of the 2016 Christy Award for Book of the Year, as well as the 2016 Carol Award in the Speculative fiction category. It’s published by Thomas Nelson, and available in print and electronic editions.

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

Book Review: Step by Step by Candace Calvert

Title: Step by Step
Author: Candace Calvert
Publisher: Tyndale House
Published: February 2016
Series: Crisis Team, Book 2
Genre: Christian fiction, Contemporary Romance

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

Three years after a tragic accident left her a widow, ER nurse Taylor Cabot is determined to move on, checking off one item after another on her survival list. Her relationship with a handsome plastic surgeon even gives her hope for the last point—“fall in love again.” At least until crisis chaplain Seth Donovan steps back into her life, reawakening unanswered questions about her husband’s death.

While in San Diego to train community volunteers, Seth hopes to learn why Taylor is backing away from the crisis team and from their friendship. But nothing prepares him for the feelings that arise when he sees Taylor again . . . and sees her moving on with another man.

When a community crisis hits home and puts lives at risk, emotions run high and buried truths are unearthed. Will hope make the survival list?

My Thoughts:

Last year I wrote an enthusiastic review of By Your Side, and because I loved that book so much, I sought out of this next book in the Crisis Team series. Let’s just say I was not disappointed in the least. Step by Step has less emphasis on suspense than the last one did, and more focus on the friendship to romance angle. But in the areas I liked best about the last one, this book delivers. Its inspirational message isn’t preachy, but makes you stop and think about control versus trust, and there are some wonderfully emotional parts to the story that really tug on the reader’s heartstrings. Having met both Seth and Taylor in the previous book, I was happy to spend time with them again, and see where things might go. They make quite a likeable pair, and it was a delight to see them learning to move on…together. :) I get the feeling the author does her research, and I appreciated learning a bit about the work of crisis volunteers as well as about grief, how differently people deal with it, and the value of skilled listening. The sub-plot with Sloane (and Marty) raised my curiosity about her past and future, so I’m very much looking forward to continuing to read this series when Maybe It’s You releases early in 2017.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes.

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

Christian Fiction Book Club Connection, July 2016

Book Club Connection

Welcome to the July 2016 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 Always Watching by Lynette Eason. 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 July, the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads is discussing London Tides by Carla Laureano AND Like There’s No Tomorrow by Camille Eide. 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 Christian Book Lovers’ Hideaway group’s monthly discussions can be found on their Goodreads discussion page. Their June – July fiction selection is Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano.

The Fans of Amish Fiction Goodreads group discusses one Amish fiction title and one Christian fiction title per month. The selections for July are The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck AND Fire in the Night by Linda Byler. To join in, visit the group’s online discussion board.

Jamie of the Books and Beverages blog hosts a monthly Inklings discussion series for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Sometimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction, the title for the months of July and August is Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien. Discussion is scheduled for August 17, 2016.

The Christian Fiction Book Club, and the Fans of Christian Romance Goodreads group are taking breaks from discussion for the time being.

Recent Christian Fiction Releases Featuring Discussion Guides

There Will Be Stars by Billy Coffey (May 2016, Thomas Nelson, Literary Fiction)

Faith by Lyn Cote (April 2016, Tyndale House, Historical/Quaker)

What Happened on Beale Street by Mary Ellis (April 2016, Harvest House, Mystery)

A Man of His Word by Kathleen Fuller (April 2016, Thomas Nelson, Amish Romance

Lead Me Home by Amy K Sorrells (May 2016, Tyndale House, Women’s Fiction)

Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin (May 2016, Revell, Historical Romance)

So, friends, what have you been reading lately? Any titles you’d recommend for book club discussions? Did you see that the INSPY Award Winners and Christy Award Winners have been announced? I think many of those books could make excellent choices for discussion!