Freedom’s Ring / by Heidi Chiavaroli. 5.29.2018

Tyndale House ISBN 9781496423122

Adult Rating: 5

A ring declaring “victory belongs to the strong” helps two women enduring emotional trauma in Freedom’s Ring.

Anaya “Annie” David was a runner in the Boston Marathon the year it was bombed. Her rescuer places a ring in her hands and promises to find her. Two years later, Annie still has the ring but no information about the man who helped her. Nightmares plague her and guilt over injuries sustained by her niece at the bombing drives Annie away from her sister and her family. Reestablishing and forging relationships will require strength beyond what Annie can give.

Just prior to the Revolutionary War, Liberty Caldwell finds herself in Boston with the undesirable job of housekeeper for a British captain and lieutenant while she waits for news of her only living relative, her brother James. After the captain attacks her, Liberty steals some money from the captain and a ring from the lieutenant and runs away. The road she has to travel will require much strength, more than she alone can give.

Heidi Chiavaroli’s writing flows between past and present without any hitches. The dual plots force the characters to change, offering them a chance to either grow and overcome or wallow in defeat. Brief, intense scenes–the bombing and the rape–are not gratuitous. The point of both is to show how the characters choose to handle what has been done to them. The tension resulting from romance drama, a family mystery, and drama resulting from family relationship issues pushes the story along quickly. The dialogue is well-written, also keeping the story moving and spotlighting the characters’ personalities.

The theme of strength coming from the Lord weaves its way into Liberty’s and Annie’s lives. “I needed something more real. Something bigger than myself. Something–someone–stronger than me.” (p. 331) “I wasn’t strong. I was weak. The anchor, the horn…God was strong.” (p. 332)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Troubled Waters / by Susan May Warren. (Montana Rescue, 4) 5.28.2018

Revell ISBN 978800727468

Adult Rating: 4

Bestselling author Susan May Warren presents another installment in her Montana Rescue series, a contemporary romance series with elements of suspense, adventure, and happily-ever-after endings–but only after major challenges are resolved.

In Troubled Waters, Ian Shaw and Sierra Rose have fought their attraction to one another. Their journey to a happy ending has been disrupted by misunderstandings, secrets, and singular focus on (some would say obsession with) a niece’s disappearance. As long as Ian’s niece Esme is missing, that is his primary focus, causing him to have no room for anyone else in his life. When Sierra solves the mystery of Esme’s disappearance but promises Esme to keep it a secret from Ian, it causes difficulties in their being together.

Sierra uses Ian’s yacht for a PEAK Rescue fundraising excursion for his friends. Things go amiss, causing the yacht to capsize in the Caribbean, and all its passengers to be scattered. Ian and Sierra are washed up on an empty shore. Will they find their way back home, and to rebuilding a relationship with one another?

Susan May Warren returns with another adrenalin-packed adventure/contemporary romance. Characters from earlier books return and their stories continue. Warren includes a faith element that is present but not preachy, romance that is evident but clean, flawed characters the reader will relate to, and thrilling adventure that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

Recommended for public libraries and church libraries. The next book in the series, Storm Front, was released in May 2018 (and will be reviewed in the next issue of CLJ).

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJWild Montana Skies (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016), Rescue Me (Jan/Feb/Mar 2017), and Matter of Trust (Jul/Aug/Sep 2017).

 

The Memory Weaver: A Novel / by Jane Kirkpatrick. 4.27.2018

Revell ISBN 9780800722326

Adult Rating: 5

At the tender age of 13, Eliza Spalding Warren loses her mother, but the troubles that haunt and shape her life precede her mother’s death, tracing back to the time she was held hostage by the Cayuse Indians. Her memories of that traumatic experience often take her away from the present. They color her relationships with her father, her sisters, and her husband Andrew Warren. They are also the driving force behind her incessant need to control the lives of those closest to her. Though she is grown now, she longs for her mother’s wisdom and gentle presence to help her navigate the ups and downs of marriage and life.

When life events force her to go back to the place of her childhood trauma, Eliza discovers that memories are not always the most reliable accounts of the truth. When Eliza is given her mother’s diary, she further discovers that many of her preconceived notions are wrong. Will facing the past and the words of her mother help Eliza find freedom to truly live in the present, free from the fear and failures of the past?

In The Memory Weaver, Jane Kirkpatrick merges her love of history and the questions it leaves unanswered to bring to life the heart and soul of the pioneer woman. Her gift of storytelling paints vivid imagery that take one back to the untamed lands of yesterday, while her poignant words linger in the heart with lasting lessons of life, love, and truth. Eliza’s story is skillfully woven together with her mother’s through strategically placed diary entries that often show the parallels of the two women’s struggles, while also showing how a child’s perspective of a parent is not always accurate. The lesson that most stands out in Eliza’s journey is best summed up by the following: “every day is a day that starts a new life, that requires knitting and going back to pick up lost stitches” (p. 262). Ultimately, the past, present, and future are interwoven in the threads of life and sometimes one must go back to move forward, whole and free.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Pearl Spence Novels / Susie Finkbeiner. 4.26.2018

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl / Susie Finkbeiner. (Pearl Spence Novels, 1)

Kregel Publications ISBN 9780825443886

A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression / Susie Finkbeiner. (Pearl Spence Novels, 2)

Kregel Publications ISBN 9780825444463

Adult Rating: 5

In 1934, dust is a constant for the citizens of Red River, Oklahoma, including ten-year-old Pearl Spence; however, she and her family have it better than most. Her daddy is the town Sheriff, meaning he gets paid every month and they do not have to bear the shame of relying on the government aid trucks. They also enjoy the comforts of a real home, not a sharecropper’s cabin. Life is not perfect. Some days Pearl tires of watching her big sister Beanie whose mind does not work the same as other folks’. Pearl also struggles with the injustices of her world, like a man who hurts his family or That Woman no one ever acknowledges. Life is hard, but Pearl has her family and fairy tales to help her rise above the dust seeping into every corner of life.

Her peaceful existence, however, is threatened when a strange drifter jumps off a passing train. Who is this Eddie with the hard, mean eyes and how does he know so much about Pearl? In A Cup of Dust, Pearl stumbles on a mystery that threatens to unravel all she holds dear.

In A Trail of Crumbs, Pearl feels life has returned to some semblance of normal, though she “didn’t make believe anymore” (p. 15). However, tragedy rears its ugly head again; this time, she does not know if her family can find their way back from it in one piece.

Susie Finkbeiner’s “Pearl Spence Novels” are a rich delight to the mind and heart. Experiencing life during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression through the eyes of Pearl lends a fresh, poignant look at some of the darker times in American history. The author’s skillful use of Pearl’s point of view also serves to dull some of the sharpness of the more weighty, gruesome circumstances of the plot. Readers cannot help but fall in love with Pearl’s courageous heart and innocent, yet perceptive understanding of life and the people around her. In the first book, she learns an important lesson that kindness and meanness both have the power to “break a heart”; the difference, however is that kindness softens the heart, while meanness “just made the heart want to be hard” (p. 25). These contrasting truths echo throughout this coming of age journey wrought with trials and loss but anchored in the surety of love, belonging, and never-ending hope.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Beyond the Silence / by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse. 4.25.2018

Bethany House ISBN 9780764214103

Adult Rating: 4

Twenty-one-year-old Lillian Porter is ready to break free of the prison her grandfather has constructed for her behind the safe walls of his wealthy home. For years, she has allowed it, hoping he would break free from his grief over the death of his wife and daughter, but the time has come for her to make her life count and follow her mother’s dreams of heading out west. Her chance to do both comes when she takes a position in Angels Camp, California as a nanny to a young boy who has not spoken since his mother’s death.

Almost as soon as she steps off the stagecoach, she hears dark accusations about her new employer and is warned to take the first stage back to the safety of home. However, Woodward Colton, the sincere and conscientious man employing her, does not measure up to the ugly rumors attached to his name, nor does his account of what happened to his wife. She instantly loses her heart to her young charge and settles into her new life, but danger is lurking and more accusations are hurled. Will the truth come to light before it is too late to save herself and those she has come to love?

In Beyond the Silence, Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse weave an engaging tale of suspense, healing, and love. The main characters quickly pull readers in: Lillian with her desire for purpose and meaning in life, Woody with his broken heart, and little Jimmy with his silent cries. Told in the alternating voices of the main characters as well as the antagonist, this story goes beyond a typical romance novel and paints a picture of the contrasting outcomes of family tragedy and grief. One is seen through Lillian’s grandfather whose grief ultimately drives away the only family he has, another through the bitterness and evil acts of the antagonist. Still another, and the one desired, is seen through Woody who allows God’s healing and forgiveness to save him, opening the door to another chance at love.

Justina McBride, CLJ

The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy / by Kim Vogel Sawyer. 4.24.2018

When Mercy Rains / by Kim Vogel Sawyer. (The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy, 1)

WaterBrook Press ISBN 9780307731319

When Grace Sings / by Kim Vogel Sawyer. (The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy, 2)

WaterBrook Press ISBN 9780307731333

When Love Returns / by Kim Vogel Sawyer. (The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy, 3)

WaterBrook Press ISBN 9780307731357

Adult Rating: 5

The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy tells the stories of a woman living with a secret and two young girls that have been denied the truth.

In When Mercy Rains, Suzanne Zimmerman has stayed away from her family for 20 years. Since Suzanne is a nurse, her brother is asking for her assistance with their mother due to an accident. Nobody knew she was pregnant when her mother sent her away at 17, not even her boyfriend at the time, Paul. Suzanne is conflicted on returning home with her daughter, Alexa, who doesn’t even know the story of her birth. What will happen when the truth comes out about the daughter nobody knows about, the daughter she was supposed to give away?

In When Grace Sings, Alexa Zimmerman has decided to stay in Kansas with her grandmother to open a bed and breakfast. She and her family have learned the story of her birth, but she still wonders if she’ll ever be fully accepted in the Old Order community. Alexa’s cousin, Anna-Grace, is getting married and wants to stay closer to her future husband and to get used to the community. Alexa agrees to have her stay at the bed and breakfast. She knows that Anna-Grace will be a huge help to the business. However, she also feels fear and guilt whenever Anna-Grace is around. She’s afraid that she will be pushed aside because everybody knows her mother’s secret–and feels guilty because Anna-Grace is the only one that doesn’t know.

In When Love Returns, Suzanne has decided to move back to Kansas even though the decision was not an easy one to make. She can’t help that she still has feelings for Paul after all these years. She also senses that he still has feelings for her. They have accepted their past and wonder if they could have a future together. Meanwhile, Suzanne has to accept that Alexa is a grown woman who needs to seek out a truth of her own. This hurts Suzanne because she’s afraid what Alexa might find and that the truth could take her away from her.

Kim Vogel Sawyer has introduced a very sensitive subject for an Old Order Mennonite family. There are so many emotions that this family has to experience. Suzanne’s mother realizes that what she did was wrong, but felt it was her only option at the time. She now has to live with the guilt of missing out on her daughter’s and granddaughter’s life. Suzanne has been hiding a secret for 20 years and afraid that the truth could hurt those she loved the most, including her daughter, Alexa. This family has had to put their trust and faith in God that he will help restore their family’s relationships and place forgiveness in their hearts. When they place it in the Lord’s hands, they realize that their faith and family is strong and they will be able to mend relationships over time.

Recommended for public and school libraries.

Trina Chase, CLJ

The Divide / by Jolina Petersheim. 4.23.2018

Tyndale ISBN 9781496402226

YA (Adult) Grades 7-10 Rating: 3

The Divide, the sequel to Petersheim’s, The Alliance, continues the story of a Montana Mennonite community fighting to hold on to their beliefs after an EMP–an electromagnetic pulse–disrupts their lives. Leora, a Mennonite teenage girl and Moses, an Englischer outsider, struggle with their differences and their feelings for each other.

In The Divide, Leora stands mired in a quandary: should she marry within her group, or should she change her whole way of life and marry for love, which means choosing Moses, the outsider?

Forced to flee to the mountains for safety and refuge from roving bands of looters, Leora and the Mennonites strive to remain true to their teachings and traditions while laboring to keep starvation and invaders at bay. One day Leora–already overwhelmed by her responsibilities as the sole care-giver and protector for her family, her emotions for Moses, and making adult decisions–finds herself holding a weapon. Forced to choose between the Mennonite values of sanctity of life and peace, and protecting her own, Leora must decide if it is ever right to kill.

Aptly titled The Divide, Petersheim reveals the separation and divisions that occur within each character and within individuals: conflicts with moral values, the chasm between reason and faith, and the great divide between what one believes and the realities of life.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Teach Us to Pray / by Gordon T. Smith. 4.20.2018

InterVarsity Press ISBN 9780830845217

Adult Rating: *5

In Teach Us to Pray, Gordon T. Smith elaborates on an aspect of prayer overlooked by a majority of the Christian body. Smith believes the phrase “Thy Kingdom come” is not merely a statement of God’s glorious kingdom establishing itself within His creation, making believers nothing but observers, but an acknowledgement that believers are participants in that coming–and that this kingdom view emerges in the life of a believer through the constant practice of prayer.

Smith believes that many times Christians miss the subtle workings of the living God, giving in to hopeless despair by focusing on all that’s wrong with the world and people around them, and by giving in to a need to be heroes or little messiahs. Only through regular, consistent, persistent, and intentional prayer does the believer become aware of God’s transforming power and grace. When believers shift their focus and open their spiritual eyes, the world becomes viewed through the eyes of the kingdom.

Explaining the three movements in prayer–Thanks, Confession, and Discernment–Smith reveals, not an instructional manual on how to pray, but a change in perspective. He explains how allowing the Spirit freedom to lead the prayer allows for a deep fellowship with God and an opening to knowing the joy of God.

Smith’s minimal use of theological language allows readers to understand quickly the purpose behind Spirit-led prayer. Through every change or new life situation readers will be able to apply the spiritual practices laid out in logical, easy-to-follow sequence. Understanding that intentional prayer is a practice, they will always be learning, and prayer will always be an essential element in their growing relationship with God.

Cicely K. Ben, CLJ

Catching the Wind / by Melanie Dobson. 4.19.2018

Tyndale House ISBN 9781496417282

Adult Rating: *5

Dietmar and Brigitte, young friends in Germany during WWII, make a daring escape from Nazi soldiers in Catching the Wind. Now 77 years later, Dietmar, who changed his name to Daniel Knight following the war, urgently longs to find out what happened to Brigette. He last saw her when they arrived in England, and a couple took her in for the duration of the war. After multiple investigators over his lifetime fail to find Brigitte, Daniel feels perhaps Quenby Vaughn–a young journalist whose articles reflect her passion to dig out stories and help others–can help in his quest. Quenby and Lucas Hough, Daniel’s very handsome solicitor, team up on an impossibly cold case which just happens to coincide with Quenby’s research for an article about a prominent family in WWII England and their possible involvement with Nazis during the war.

Melanie Dobson’s intriguing plot is filled with tension as modern day Quenby attempts to piece together the puzzle of what happened to Brigitte, and then Dobson shows what is happening to Brigitte during WWII. In addition to the tension of the investigation, and the tension of Brigitte’s life, sparks fly between Quenby and Lucas as they team up for the search. Daniel Knight is a knight in the truest sense of the word, searching for Brigitte and wishing he could have better protected her. Both Brigitte and Quenby undergo transformations throughout the book, and their stories provide wonderful themes for life. “She couldn’t change her past…but it didn’t define who she was today…She had the power to write a new story from this moment forward. Her story….A new story filled with…a heart open to trusting God…A heart willing to forgive.” (p. 374)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race / by Chris Grabenstein. 4.18.2018

Random House Books for Young Readers     ISBN 9780553536065

INT     Grades 3-7     Rating: 5

Award winning author Chris Grabenstein pens another humorous middle-grade novel combining the elements of an adventure, a mystery, and a race, set in a research/fact-finding environment.

 In Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race, Mr. Lemoncello calls on Kyle, his friends, as well as Kyle’s nemesis, Charles Chiltington, to test his new game (Fabulous Fact-Finding Frenzy), a game that involves an old-time bicycle, a bookmobile, and Mr. Lemoncello’s jet. The first team to bring the correct facts about historical figures back to the library wins the grand prize. When some disturbing “facts” begin to circulate about Mr. Lemoncello, it causes Kyle to question everything he knows about Mr. Lemoncello and to work hard to uncover the truth.

Grabenstein is back with another whimsical and clever story about solving puzzles and uncovering facts. The action takes part in Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, as well as his home and Imagination Factory in New York City. Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race celebrates readers, libraries, authors, and librarians. Grabenstein continues to develop characters that readers will enjoy getting to know. His storytelling and settings and delightful sense of humor will engage the most reluctant of readers. A number of books are given the nod in this book, and the author lists them in the back (C. S. Lewis, Wonder, Seuss, and more).

The Lemoncello series is filled with adventure, suspense, humor, and puzzles for the reader to solve. Fans of the earlier books will devour this book, with its hidden bonus puzzle. Readers will be delighted to know Grabenstein has been signed to write another Lemoncello book!

Recommended for school and public libraries.

 Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ