The Jesus Experience: Journey Deeper into the Heart of God / by Bill Myers. 7.27.2017

Shiloh Run Press ISBN 9781630589899

Adult Rating: 5

Award-winning author Bill Myers shares his personal journey of how he falls deeply in love with God. The transformation of his walk with God does not happen overnight. After becoming overworked from all of the numerous projects he is doing in trying to please God, Myers comes to realize that he is emulating Martha from the Bible story of Martha and Mary. This is a turning point in his mindset and attitude regarding God and leads to his developing an intimate friendship with God. Meyers discusses three Scriptures that have had a major impact on his relationship with Jesus Christ and are the key elements of his deep, unwavering joy for God.

The Jesus Experience: Journey Deeper into the Heart of God offers practical ways for both recent converts and long-time believers in Jesus Christ to avoid the pitfall of allowing works of service to become the priority in their lives, instead of spending time with God and enjoying His company. The book is written in an easy-to-understand style, and Myers recounts his story with candor, insight, and humor. The anecdotes, personal testimony, Bible verses and passages, inspirational examples of God’s unfailing love, and challenging chapter questions to reflect on at the end of the book makes this an inspiring story for readers to explore their own relationship with God.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

Circle C Stepping Stones series / by Susan K. Marlow. 7.26.2017

Andi Saddles Up / by Susan K. Marlow. (Circle C Stepping Stones, 1)

Kregel ISBN 9780825444302

Andi Under the Big Top / by Susan K. Marlow. (Circle C Stepping Stones, 2)

Kregel ISBN 9780825444319

INT Grades 3-5 Rating: 3

Prolific children’s author Susan Marlow kicks off a new historical fiction series set in the Wild West in the late 1800s.

In Andi Saddles Up, nine-year-old Andi Carter wants to learn to do a trick on her palomino Taffy, but her older brother Chad doesn’t want her to do it. She disobeys her brother and injures herself, preventing her from riding for a month. Andi meets a new friend, Sadie, and they are caught up in a boundary quarrel between Andi’s brother and Sadie’s father. Will their friendship endure despite the fight between their families?

In Andi Under the Big Top, the circus comes to town and nine-year-old Andi can’t wait to see it, especially the bareback rider. She meets a young boy–Henry–selling concessions under the big top. When he tells her that he ran away from home to join the circus, she thinks he has the perfect life! But she learns his life with the circus is not as pleasant as she thinks. Problems develop when Andi wants to help him return home.

Marlow has written three historical fiction series for girls: Circle C Beginnings (ages 6-9), Circle C Stepping Stones (ages 7-10), Circle C Adventures (ages 9-13). She also has a series for boys: Goldtown Adventures (ages 8-12). The Circle C books follow Andrea “Andi” Carter at different ages and are set in California in the 1880s.

The faith element is light but present, and the books focus more on character than plot development. Marlow does a good job of telling the story and keeping young readers engaged. These would be a good addition to a home school library, a church library, or a school library.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

King’s Blood / by Jill Williamson. (The Kinsman Chronicles, 2) 7.25.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764218316

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Jill Williamson pens another volume in her epic fantasy series for adult readers, filled with political and spiritual intrigue.

In King’s Blood, those who escaped the destruction of the Five Realms live on hundreds of ships, seeking a new home. They encounter giants and serpents, while their leaders face assassination attempts and coups. The people live in spiritual darkness–worshipping multiple gods, believing in superstition, and using dark magic. The king of Armania is dying, and Sar Wilek emerges as the leader of the Armanians. How will the prophecy of the promised Deliverer affect them?

Even longer than book one (by 50 pages, this one has almost 600 pages!), Williamson manages to produce another well-written volume with interesting characters and plot twists. The author carefully juggles multiple points of view by identifying the character at the beginning of each chapter. Although it is a lengthy book, it was originally published as three shorter ebooks: Kingdom at Sea, Maelstrom, and Voices of Blood.

Williamson does an excellent job of world building. Inspired by the corrupt kings of Israel, Williamson’s series is more appropriate for adults and teens over sixteen. The book includes a list of the key players and an author’s note; supplemental material is available on her website. The Kinsman Chronicles contains elements that foreshadow The Blood of Kings trilogy (for example, blood voicing which is similar to telepathic powers and only given to those in the royal bloodline).

Recommended for high school libraries, as well as adult fiction collections in public libraries. The third book, King’s War, will complete this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJKing’s Folly (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016).

Moving Target / by Lynette Eason. (Elite Guardians, 3) 7.24.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800723248

Adult Rating: 4

Bestselling author Lynette Eason continues her romantic suspense series featuring a female-owned agency of female bodyguards.

In Moving Target, Maddy McKay, a former FBI agent and now a bodyguard for Elite Guardians Protection Agency, and Detective Quinn Holcombe are ambushed and kidnapped by someone seeking revenge from their past. But from whose past and which case?

When they awaken in a concrete room, they are unable to remember exactly what happened. Now the kidnapper wants to exact his revenge through a deadly hunting game on a remote island. Can they escape with their lives? Can they find out who is hunting them? Is it tied to a current case Quinn is investigating?

As always, Eason is an excellent storyteller, weaving plot twists along with her development of complex characters. Violence in the story is appropriate but not too graphic. The book starts off with the ambush and grabs the reader’s attention, keeping it until the very end.

The clean romance develops at a realistic pace, and faith elements are present but not overpowering. Though attracted to one another, Maddy and Quinn have yet to affirm their feelings for one another. In addition, both have family issues preventing them from moving forward in a relationship. They work together to escape their situation, unravel the mystery, catch the killer, begin rebuild family relationships, and plan a future.

Some characters from previous Elite Guardian books make an appearance, to the delight of the reader. The Elite Guardian series are unique in that each cover features a woman carrying a gun. Chasing Secrets (book 4) is due Summer 2017.

Eason’s newest series will interest fans of DiAnn Mills, Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Irene Hannon. Recommended for adult collections in public libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Always Watching (Mar/Apr/May/Jun 2016); Without Warning (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016).

A Lady in Disguise: A Novel / by Sandra Byrd. (Daughters of Hampshire, 3) 7.12.2017

Howard Books ISBN 9781476717937

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Sandra Byrd pens a third novel in her Victorian England historical suspense series.

In A Lady in Disguise, a young Englishwoman works as a costume designer in London’s theater district. When Gillian Young inherits Winton Park, a family estate, following her father’s death, she also inherits questions about the circumstances surrounding his death.

In the course of seeking answers, she meets two young men who show an interest in her: her new neighbor Viscount Thomas Lockwood, and Frances Collingsworth, son of the local inspector. Is their interest genuine? Did her father leave behind evidence that identifies his killer? Who can she trust when she tries to find it? How does her experience in costumes help her disguise herself to find answers she seeks?

Layers upon layers are revealed about her father’s life until she realizes her parents were very different from what she believed. She comes across young girls in the theater district working in almost slave-like conditions and helps them. But not everyone is in support of that charitable effort. Who is trying to stop her from helping the girls and solving the mystery about her father’s death?

Written in first-person narration, Byrd’s book is filled with mystery, romance, and plot twists–all the elements of a Gothic novel. A Lady in Disguise grabs the reader’s attention until its conclusion. The faith element is light, and the historical detail regarding human trafficking, the early days of the Salvation Army, and life in London’s theater district is exceptional.

Recommended for school and public libraries. Fans of Brontë and Victoria Holt will especially enjoy this series. Byrd gives a nod to Little Women with quotes sprinkled throughout.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJMist of Midnight (May/Jun 2015); Bride of a Distant Isle (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016).

In 27 days / by Alison Gervais. 7.11.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780310759058

YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 5

Archer killed himself. Even though Hadley barely knew him, she can’t shake the sense of loss. Feeling guilty, she attends his funeral and meets his family–and Death. Death offers Hadley a deal: she could go back in time 27 days to convince Archer not to commit suicide, but if she fails, he will be lost forever and it would be her fault.

Hadley is tossed back in time as Death promised, and she is prepared to do anything to save Archer’s life–if only he wanted to be saved. Hadley’s borderline-stalking behavior sets Archer on edge. He doesn’t want to be friends with the most popular girl in school. She was probably faking kindness anyway. Hadley is at a loss. If he won’t let her help, how can she save him?

Death left out one detail. Hadley’s life is in danger. The more she pushes Archer toward hope and life, the more Havoc tries to substitute her life for Archer’s. Is Hadley willing to give up her life if it means Archer can keep his, or would she rather break her contract with Death and let her new friend die?

Race time with Hadley as she tries to force a relationship with the school misfit. Watty Award-winning author Alison Gervais will keep readers guessing whether Hadley can complete her mission before time runs out. Hadley and Archer’s relationship is one-of-a-kind as their banter and Hadley’s pesky intrusions develop into deep conversations and deeper feelings. Facing bullies, worst fears, and family drama, readers will experience through Hadley how much dedication it takes to be friends with someone who has PTSD and depression.

In 27 Days is an extremely well-written story. Readers will be forced to stop and think if they would follow in Hadley’s footsteps to save a stranger’s life. They will giggle while watching this rich girl literally work her way into a poor boy’s heart and home. Even his family will fall in love before he will.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

For Love & Honor / by Jody Hedlund. 7.10.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780310749301

YA     Grades 9-12     Rating: 5

Award-winning historical fiction author Jody Hedlund presents the third book in her trio of related medieval young adult novels. For Love & Honor gives a nod to Beauty and the Beast.

In For Love & Honor, Lady Sabine is a young noblewoman. Although she is beautiful and wealthy, she has a physical flaw that could prevent her from making a good marriage as well as endanger her life due to 14th century superstitions.

Meanwhile, Sir Bennet is called home to rescue his family from financial ruin. His brother has incurred a debt that cannot be easily repaid. The only recourse is to marry a wealthy noblewoman, but Bennet doesn’t want to marry just for that.

Sabine travels to Bennet’s home, thinking she is purchasing some valuable art and unaware that her grandmother has her own plan. When Bennet’s home is attacked while Lady Sabine is there, they are forced to trust one another. Will they build a relationship based on love and honor? What will happen when Sabine’s blemish is revealed and she is called a witch?

Written from a dual viewpoint, the book employs two different fonts. Hedlund excels at showing how others judge by external appearances while God judges by the inward beauty. The spiritual element is evident but not heavy-handed.

Filled with descriptive narrative and endearing characters, For Love & Honor is an entertaining read–except for the necessary violence in the fighting scenes and Sabine’s imprisonment. Its believable plot has enough twists to keep the reader engaged. Fans of Lisa Bergren’s River of Time series, Dina Sleiman’s Valiant Hearts series, and Melanie Dickerson’s medieval young adult books will also enjoy Hedlund’s medieval stories. Recommended for teen collections in public libraries and school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Related Titles Reviewed by CLJ An Uncertain Choice ( Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015); A Daring Sacrifice (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016).

Shadow of the Mountain: Exodus / by Cliff Graham. (Shadow of the mountain; 1) 7.7.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764214752

Adult Rating: 4

Shadow of the Mountain: Exodus is a fictional story centered around the biblical character of Caleb. Eighty-five-year-old Caleb is the leader of the Hebrew army. On the eve of battle, stormy weather has delayed the army, and Caleb’s nephew uses this opportunity to encourage his uncle to share details about his life as a young man in Egypt. The story moves between the present and the past with Caleb not only fulfilling his military duties but also relating his experiences in Egypt to his nephew.

Caleb’s narrative begins with him leaving his Kenazzite family and traveling to Egypt where he works mainly as a stone carver. A spur-of-the-moment decision made by Caleb changes the focus of his life from artist to warrior. After undergoing a grueling course of physical training, Caleb becomes a highly skilled and renowned soldier in the Egyptian army. Caleb is entrenched in the Egyptian’s idolatrous way of life until Moses and Aaron ask Pharaoh to release the Hebrew people from slavery. When Pharaoh refuses, God uses Moses and Aaron to bring down ten plagues upon the Egyptian people. Experiencing firsthand the devastating plagues and seeing the omnipotence of the Hebrew God have a profound effect on Caleb.

Cliff Graham has created a backstory of Caleb’s life in Egypt with realistic depictions of ancient Egyptian life. The story dramatizes fiction with biblical history. This gritty and suspenseful story encompasses tragedy, heartache, idolatry, unwavering faith, God’s love and sovereignty, joy, determination, revenge, and salvation. There are graphic descriptions of brutal military training, violent battles, and terrifying plagues. A glossary of terms is at the beginning of the book.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

Stoner’s Boy: A Seckatary Hawkins Mystery / by Robert F. Schulkers. 7.6.2017

University Press of Kentucky ISBN 9780813167916

INT Grades 4-6 Rating: 4

In the early 1920s, Robert F. Schulkers created a series of 41 adventure stories built around the “Fair and Square Club.” The stories were first published in the Sunday edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper, then later syndicated in over 100 newspapers. Stoner’s Boy was originally published in 1921, and is the very first book in the series. This 2016 edition of Stoner’s Boy features an introduction by the author’s grandson Randy Schulkers, who explains that the riverbank boys exemplify “simple values of honesty, patriotism, loyalty to friends and family, and faith in God.”

The Fair and Square Club is located near the shore of a fictional Kentucky river, where the boys meet in a restored houseboat. At any one time, there are about a dozen boy members of the club. The club recorder is Seckatary Hawkins. His spelling is sometimes lacking (hence his misspelled title).

In this first book in the series, the club members are confronted with the shenanigans of a mysterious stranger, known as “Stoner’s Boy.” He secretly comes and goes, sneaking around the clubhouse and causing mischief in the ranks of the club. At one time, Stoner’s Boy even tries to set their clubhouse on fire. The club members are thrown into disarray, and must decide how to catch this interloper or at least protect their members from harm.

Each chapter in the book contains the journal entries penned by Hawkins. There is no meeting on Sunday, since the boys are at church or Sunday School. Each chapter concludes with some proposed action for the club members, and the line, “Which we did.”

Stoner’s Boy is a fun, wholesome adventure. The plot is quite tame by modern standards; no one uses drugs or even smokes, and none of the boys are seriously injured. Occasionally, the boys in the club start minor scuffles, which end quickly—usually with handshakes all around, or even a sing-along around the club organ. (Yes, the boys actually have an organ in their clubhouse.)

The adventures of the Fair and Square Club illustrate the values of friendship, loyalty, and forgiveness.

Chris Lawson, Bassocantor.com

Contagious Disciple-Making / by David L. Watson and Paul D. Watson. 7.5.2017

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780529112200

Adult Rating: 4

Contagious Disciple-Making focuses on how to plant and grow churches in remote and difficult-to-reach areas. The father-and-son team of David and Paul Watson have started a multitude of churches and baptized a plethora of people in Africa, India, Central and South America, and the United States using the principles and strategies of their Disciple-Making Movement. The Watsons advocate evangelizing families and communities, rather than individuals. One of the main points made in the book is that trying to win people to a particular denomination or congregation is thought to be a hindrance for making disciples of Jesus Christ.

The book starts with a brief introduction, and the main portion is split into two parts. The introduction describes the motivation behind the launching of the Watsons’ Disciple-Making Movement. Part 1 explains the way of thinking required for a disciple-maker. There are nine viewpoints covered in the book, such as presenting the gospel without Western cultural influence, the importance of being obedient out of love for God, and understanding the difference between making disciples and making converts. Part 2 covers the essential components to be a disciple-maker and to start a Disciple-Making Movement. There are nine elements, such as an unwavering commitment to prayer, approaches to leadership development, and characteristics of mentoring relationships.

Biblical citations, passages of Scripture, paraphrasing of Bible verses, and personal experiences are included throughout the book to support the Watsons in their recommended way for disciple-making to succeed. The afterword is written by David Watson and is a testament to the unexpected results of the Disciple-Making Movement. In the appendix is a list of Scripture passages from both the Old and New Testament, which is for personal study about the creation of the world, the fall of man and its effect on humanity, and the redemption of mankind.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ