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!

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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.



Bite Size Book Reviews

I have some kindle freebies in this week’s list!   (Correct as of this article. Check the price before ordering)

It’s an even more eclectic collection than usual, with settings in first century Rome, 1880 New York City, turn-of-the-21st-century Egypt, and pre-civil war Missouri as well as modern American settings.  Audiobook, kindle and paperback!


chasing the lion1. Chasing the Lion, audiobook by Nancy Kimball

**This reader is one of the best I have ever heard. The audio version is a finalist in the 2015 Audiobook Publisher’s Association Audio awards in the Inspy/Faith-Based Fiction category**

The Christianity in this book is a primary theme.  It’s set in 35AD, when Christianity was serious business. The romance was developed gradually and naturally. Again, faith played a pivotal role in all of the book’s relationships. The violence was horrific at times, but it was appropriate to the setting of the book, as were the attitudes toward slavery and (very minor) descriptions of sexual behaviors.

This was a long audiobook – 15 hours! – but definitely worth listening to.


edge of light2. The Edge of Light, kindle, by Ann Shorey

This was an interesting antebellum novel set in Missouri, among slaveholding middle-class tradesmen. We often see slavery associated with wealthy landowners, so this was a fresh and insightful portrayal of the culture. The heroine is a believable character, and I liked the way her understanding of slavery and humanity changed near the end of the book. That was a skillful transition.




hazardous duty3. Hazardous Duty, audiobook by Christy Barritt

FREE and buy the audio version for $1.99

The first in a series about a crime scene cleaner, this book was fun and entertaining. The heroine’s attitudes about her career, education, and life-in-general seem natural. I enjoyed her persistence as she tried to participate in the investigation of the crime but was repeatedly ignored or thwarted. The mystery was solved at the end of the story, but the relationships left me looking forward to the rest of the Squeaky Clean series.



gentleman of her dreams4. Gentleman of Her Dreams, kindle by Jen Turano


This sweet little novella is a companion novel to “A Change of Fortune” from the “Ladies of Distinction” series. It’s a fun, silly short story, full of entertaining incidents, misunderstandings and conversation between the hero and heroine. The hero returned from overseas to find his old friend is as engaging and willful as she was when he left two years ago. It’s an intriguing introduction to the full-length novels in this series!



woman of fortune5. A Woman of Fortune, kindle by Kellie Coates Gilbert

This novel was different from anything I have read lately. The main characters are a husband and wife who share genuine affection; even when we realize that the husband is a criminal and has put his wife in a terrible situation, we have no doubt that he loves her and his children. The reader regrets his crimes but hopes for a happy ending for the family. The character of the younger son who steps up to be a strong help to his mother is particularly appealing.



laughter of dead kings6. The Laughter of Dead Kings, paperback by Elizabeth Peters

This is the final book in the Vicki Bliss series. That makes me sad, in a way, but I am glad the author got it all wrapped up before she died. Her real name was Barbara Mertz, and she held a PhD in Egyptology, so the two Vicki Bliss books set in Egypt seem to have more creative plots. Vicki hasn’t changed significantly from the first book. Her relationship with the hero is stabilized, and she has learned to respect her boss – finally! – but her character never developed any depth. This novel would be hard to enjoy as a stand-alone book, because it doesn’t give much background about the characters. It has fun links to the Amelia Peabody series by the same author, but if you ARE familiar with that series, there is no mystery. Overall, the ending of the Vicki Bliss series was satisfactory. I will miss Ms. Peters. Her books have been a blessing to me for 25 years. Note – this book is not written by a Christian author and the characters are not Christians. There is no description of sexual behavior, but you know it’s happened. The language is not terrible, but neither is it perfectly clean.