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Bite-size Book Reviews

With the exception of Susan Baganz’s “Pesto and Potholes” – so suitable for the start of the Green Bay Packers season! – it’s all audiobook reviews this week. I get a lot of housework and sewing and quilting done while I listen to audiobooks!

 

Pesto and Potholes by Susan M. Baganz

Pesto and Potholes, paperback by Susan M. Baganz

This is a delightful, gentle romance sprinkled with silliness.  The heroine is recovering from serious physical and emotional trauma, trying to restart life in a new city. She connects with the hero and friends at her new church and starts to heal, but she experiences setbacks and has to recover, a little stronger each time.  I was especially impressed by the realistic community. The friends and families of the main characters interact naturally under various circumstances, including the potentially-problematic operation of a family business. Ms. Baganz writes in a pleasant rhythm, pacing the story well.

 

Poseidon's Arrow by Clive and Dirk Cussler - audiobook reviews by Cathe Swanson

 

Poseidon’s Arrow, audiobook by Clive and Dirk Cussler, read by Scott Brick

I’m starting to worry about Dirk Pitt. He’s not getting any younger, but he’s still out there saving the world. This is an interesting and creative story featuring the rare earth minerals, Chinese villains, and an amazing piece of technology that only needs one more thing to make it work. Will Dirk and his children find it before the bad guys?

 

 

 

 

Organized Grime by Christy Barritt - audiobook reviews by Cathe Swanson

Organized Grime, audiobook by Christy Barritt, read by Angela Goethals

This is the third in the Squeaky Clean Mysteries. The heroine is a crime scene cleaner with aspirations to a career in criminal forensics. She is a new Christian, and Ms. Barritt does a good job of portraying the changes in her emotional life and relationships. The hero is a sensible man with a generous heart. His unexpected involvement in the plot was a neat touch. This humorous story has many layers and a complex plot that kept me guessing until the very satisfying end.

 

 

 

Seagrass Pier by Colleen Coble - audiobook reviews by Cathe Swanson

Seagrass Pier, audiobook by Colleen Coble, read by Devon O’Day

This book has an unusual heroine – a recent heart transplant patient who is having flashbacks, “remembering” the experiences and emotions of the murdered donor. I was wondering how those spiritual issues would fit into a Christian novel, but Ms. Coble handled it well. The woman’s family and support network are all interesting characters who contribute to the story as a whole; her mother’s early-onset dementia is a poignant undercurrent through the plot. I was concerned for the four-year-old child… her father dies, her mother has a heart transplant and her grandmother has severe dementia. Then the hero (a stranger) recognizes the child and demands to be given time alone with her. Poor kid. Otherwise, it was a very satisfactory and complex story. One of the author’s best!

 

Last Ditch by Ngaio Marsh - audiobook reviews by Cathe SwansonLast Ditch, audiobook by Ngaio Marsh, read by Nadia May

Another classic detective novel from one of the Golden Age masters. This book is set later than the others; the protagonist is Alleyn’s son, Ricky. He becomes involved with a colorful family and the ensuing police investigation when one of them is killed. Dad shows up to solve the case and save Ricky from certain death.  As always, Ms. Marsh’s settings and characters are portrayed vividly.

 

 

Look for more audiobook reviews as summer approaches and I listen while I garden!

Disclosure:   I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. 

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Bite-size Book Reviews

These were all new, first-time reads for me, from some of my favorite authors. It was a nice variety of styles and time periods.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Random Acts of Murder by Christy BarrittRandom Acts of Murder, audiobook by Christy Barritt, read by Sandy Rustin

This book is the first in a new series. The heroine is appealing, with her good intentions, insecurities and quirky personality.  She fled the scene of a murder and now she’s being framed for it. The hero is an old high school classmate, all grown up and in charge of the murder investigation.  Ms. Barritt does a good job of pacing the mystery and concealing the identity of the killer.  I would have liked to see more about the heroine’s spiritual and physical conditions, but it is a light-hearted story with lots of other action.  The supporting characters seem interesting; I hope they are developed further in the rest of the series.

 

Snow on the Tulips by Liz TolsmaSnow on the Tulips, audiobook by Liz Tolsma, read by Susan Denaker

Ms. Tolsma has created a vivid portrait of a small Dutch village and its residents near the end of WWII. This is an intense, suspenseful story as much as a romance. The aggression of the Nazi troops was frightening and sad.  A fascinating theme was the relationships of the two sisters near the end of the story. They were both scared and heartbroken, begging their men to not leave them. One man would not fight or resist the enemy, and the other was active in the resistance movement.  The plights of the women, however, were the same.

 

 

A Lady of High Regard by Tracie PetersonA Lady of High Regard, audiobook by Tracie Peterson, read by Barbara Caruso

I liked the natural, dynamic family relationships in this book, and I found the heroine’s balanced behaviors refreshing. In spite of her belief that she was the only one who could save the world, she didn’t always rush headlong into dangers; sometimes she made a decision to be obedient and sensible. I would have liked to see the women from the docks portrayed with a little more intelligence and energy.  The story was a little slow at first, but it picked up momentum and the ending was exciting.

 

 

Buried Secrets by Irene HannonBuried Secrets, audiobook by Irene Hannon, read by Therese Plummer and Jennifer Grace

This is the first in Ms. Hannon’s new Men of Valor series. The romantic relationship is different in that almost as soon as they meet, the hero and heroine admit their attraction to each other and make it clear that they are not interested in a casual dating relationships. They can not become involved while they are working on the mystery, so they agree to wait to start seeing each other until the case is solved. It’s a nice twist on romantic suspense. The villain of the story, who is revealed almost immediately, is very villainous, creative and careful. The plot is revealed steadily. The ending, when the villain attacks the heroine, feels a little contrived, but otherwise it’s a solid story from one of my favorite authors.

 

A Matter of Character by Robin Lee HatcherA Matter of Character, audiobook by Robin Lee Hatcher, read by Kathy Garver

I read and enjoyed the first two books in this series – fluffy fun stuff – and picked up this one to finish the trilogy.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book was excellent! The characters were solid – much more complex than in the previous two books. There were so many interesting layers to the plot and such conflicting goals that it was hard to imagine a happy ending, but of course all the loose threads were gathered up nicely and tied in a bow.

 

 

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Bite-Size Book Reviews

I haven’t published a “weekly” book review since the end of October. Oops. Excuses… NaNoWriMo, followed by Christmas. I read at least 15 books in that time, even if I didn’t get much writing done. The following, except for the Mary Stewart book, are all Christian fiction in a variety of genres.

 

lastlightblackstock

1. Last Light, Paperback, by Terri Blackstock

Last Light is the first book in the Restoration series, about a Y2K-style event happening in the suburbs. That setting made it unusual. It wasn’t in the country, where it’s easier to improvise water, heat, and food, and it wasn’t exactly like Y2K, which was a predicted event. This was a devastating event that happened with no warning. The characters were interesting, with believable responses and relationships for that setting. The mystery seemed like a secondary event, but it was wrapped up neatly at the end. I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

 

grandmothersletters2. Grandmother’s Letters, Kindle, by Rebekah Jones

This is a sweet story with unexpected plot twists. Several story lines run separately for most of the story, gradually connecting near the end. Ms. Jones is good at writing about relationships. The characters are well-defined and interact naturally; the crotchety old man and the children are especially engaging. Although the plot is mostly about a treasure hunt, the resolution to that puzzle is almost anti-climactic after more interesting discoveries along the way.

 

 

withoutatrace3. Without a Trace, Audiobook, by Colleen Coble
This is the first book in the Rock Harbor series. Ms. Coble does a good job of portraying a terrifically-stressed heroine who is dealing with the recent deaths of her husband and son as well as demanding relatives and a career made more complex by her personal situation. There is a particularly effective plot thread in the story that makes the reader anticipate its discovery by the characters. It’s set in the far north, with canine search and rescue teams. What’s not to love about that?

 

 

tarnishedsilver

4. Tarnished Silver, Kindle, by Chautona Havig
Chautona Havig is a writer who can cross genres and styles while still maintaining her own “voice.” Tarnished Silver is a story of two stubborn people who are forced to confront the 25 year old secret they thought they had buried. Their story reminded me of the urgent attitude of the young lovers in Romeo and Juliet. The story is enhanced by a sensitive portrayal of multicultural relationships.

 

 

 

madamwillyoutalk

5. Madam, Will You Talk? paperback, by Mary Stewart

Retro Read! This is an old favorite from Mary Stewart, who has the gift of being able to balance exotic locations, romance, young and old friends and family members in a complex mystery. Her books always have brave heroes, dashing heroines, bad bad guys and tension, usually with violence. This one has a surprising motive and resolution, with a heart-wrenching twist at the end. But don’t worry, they all live happily ever after.

 

 

thesurvivor6. The Survivor, audiobook, by DiAnn Mills

This book is a sequel to “The Chase”, which I loved. I have to admit, I started this book feeling annoyed that the relationship between the hero and heroine from “The Chase” had fallen apart. It is a well-plotted story, keeping me uncertain about the secondary characters. Almost any of them could have been guilty, including the damsel-in-distress. This book is on the edgy side of Christian fiction, with considerable violence and immorality (not in the main characters!) I liked the book very much, as I do all of Ms. Mills’s novels, but I hope the romance sticks this time.