Still Life / by Dani Pettrey. (Chesapeake Valor, 2) 3.23.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764212956

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Dani Pettrey continues her romantic suspense series set in coastal Maryland, about childhood friends with careers in law enforcement.

In Still Life, crime scene photographer Avery Tate reunites with crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell on a case involving the switching of a photograph at a gallery opening. The model in the photograph is Avery’s friend, who is posing as if she is dead–and what’s worse, she is missing! Avery and Parker dig into the case, following leads that are potentially deadly. Domestic terrorism, psychotic killers, and bizarre artists play into this story.

Pettrey’s series features strong personalities with problems readers can relate to. Avery left Parker’s employ six months ago to sort out her feelings about him. Avery has a past she keeps hidden. She is afraid that when Parker finds out the truth he won’t be interested in her. Parker is attracted to her but still cares for his first love, who was killed a number of years ago.

The faith element is evident: Parker reminds Avery that she is a “new creation in Christ” regardless of her past, and they pray for a friend injured in the line of duty. Their relationship is clean, appropriate for even high school readers.

The plot is intriguing, with enough twists to keep the reader engaged until the end. Watch for loose ends that will probably show up in later books. The violence is a little dark, but appropriate to the story. Suspense, romance, and action add up to a thrilling read!

Recommended for public libraries. Fans of DiAnn Mills and Irene Hannon will especially enjoy this series. Book 3, Blind Spot, is due in October 2017.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJCold Shot (Mar/Apr/May/Jun 2016).

Never Forget / by Jody Hedlund. (Beacons of Hope, 5) 3.21.2017

Northern Lights Press     ISBN 9780692770870

Adult     Rating: 5

Jody Hedlund pens another installment in her historical fiction series, this one set in coastal Rhode Island during the 1880s.

In Never Forget, Abbie Watson cares for her aging grandfather and the Rhode Island Lighthouse, trying to keep them both going. Her grandfather is showing signs of senility, which may lead to their eviction.

Wealthy playboy Nathaniel Winthrop suffers a concussion in a yachting accident, making him lose his recent memories and washing him up on Rose Island. His memory loss causes him to forget the type of man he was–a “bad boy” among Newport’s social elite.

As Abby tends to Nathaniel, he mistakenly assumes he is her husband, Nate, who deserted her recently. He is determined to be a better husband and assistant lightkeeper. Abby doesn’t correct him because his presence soothes Gramps and prevents their possible eviction. What will happen when the truth is discovered? What happened to Nate? Who is digging for treasure on their island? Will Nathaniel leave, continuing his reformed life elsewhere? What will become of her and Gramps?

Hedlund excels in well-researched historical details and rich character development. While this self-published book stands alone, readers might find it helpful to read the earlier books (published by Bethany) to understand the significance of the driftwood cross. These books are a blend of romance and mystery. The faith element is light, with the main characters facing their broken pasts to find their ultimate security in God, not in their circumstances.

Recommended for public and church libraries, and for fans of her earlier books.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com 

The Bones Will Speak / by Carrie Stuart Parks. (A Gwen Marcey Novel) 3.20.2017

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780825443688

Adult Rating: 4

The Bones Will Speak is the second book in the series about forensic artist Gwen Marcey, written by fine artist/forensic artist Carrie Stuart Parks. When Gwen’s dog comes home with a human skull and then leads her to a nearby cabin in the woods where a young girl is close to death, she realizes there is a serial killer on the loose. As Gwen unearths clues, she discovers the case is personal, and the suspect has her in his sights.

Author Carrie Stuart Parks uses her extensive experience to imbue The Bones Will Speak with accuracy and drama. Vivid description immerses readers into the world of police procedures and crime scene investigation. Ms. Parks’s writing is tight and punchy, creating a fast-paced story. Unfamiliar terms are explained through dialogue without talking down to readers. Because of the subject matter, there are regular episodes of violence; however, they are not gratuitous.

Recommended for church and public libraries.

Linda Matchett, CLJ

Innkeeper of Ivy Hill / by Julie Klassen. (Tales from Ivy Hill, 1) 3.8.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764218132
Adult Rating: 5
Award-winning author Julie Klassen debuts her first historical fiction series, set in the English village of Ivy Hill “where friendships thrive, romance blossoms, and mysteries await” (back cover).
In Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, genteel Jane Bell becomes a reluctant innkeeper after the death of her husband. She has no clue about managing the business and saving it from bankruptcy. She turns to her mother-in-law Thora for assistance, even though they did not have a close relationship in the past. As she helps Jane, Thora begins to find a new purpose for life and is faced with two suitors for her heart.
Pressure mounts from the bank, even as Jane tries new methods to restore the inn and pay off its debt. Several men seem to have a vested interest in her success or failure, but are any of them trustworthy? Will Jane succeed or lose the inn?
Klassen is known for her excellent plot and character development in her inspirational Regency novels, which are filled with love and redemption and family relationships. The faith elements are not heavy-handed. The historical details that one comes to expect from Ms. Klassen’s works are clearly evident in this new series.
She lays the groundwork for the next few books in this series by introducing the reader to several characters in the village of Ivy Hill and telling parts of their story. Discussion questions are also included. Readers will look forward to the second book, Ladies of Ivy Cottage, which is expected in December 2017.
Recommended for public and high school libraries. Fans of Julie Klassen, Sarah E. Ladd, Carrie Turansky, and other historical fiction fans will be delighted with this new series.
Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

The Art of Losing Yourself / by Katie Ganshert. 3.6.2017

WaterBrook Press ISBN 9781601425928

HS (Adult) Grades 10 and up Rating: 4

Katie Ganshert’s The Art of Losing Yourself tells a story of heartache and redemption through the eyes of Carmen and her half-sister Gracie. Carmen, seemingly well-off and settled in an ideal career, struggles to find hope and meaning in the midst of multiple miscarriages and a failing marriage. Into this emotionally confusing and painful context walks Gracie, a high schooler with her own battles and baggage to carry. Through the course of this story, the reader sees how the lives of these women are transformed through their relationships.

Carmen’s relationship with Gracie shifts from something of duty or guilt to that of a proud mother-figure. Through her relationship with Carmen and the steady friendship of one of her classmates, Gracie is transformed from a bitter, closed-off teenager to a trusting and committed friend. Both sisters have deep and heart-felt struggles, yet it is ultimately through their difficult relationship with each other that each turns to God. Some things remain unresolved at the end of the story; one is left with a recognition that life is not supposed to be perfect, that it is sometimes messy. However, Ganshert does not leave it at that. This narrative reminds us that there is beauty in the difficult times, that God works through our trials, that people are worth loving, and that some things are worth fighting for.

The use of first-person throughout the book allows the reader to engage with the thoughts and emotions of the two main characters while frequent flashbacks provide insight into their motivations and responses. Alternating between the perspectives of Carmen and Gracie can sometimes be confusing, but overall provides a richer understanding of the characters’ experiences.

Recommended for older teens and adults. The content is in no way inappropriate, simply more relatable to adults with respect to Carmen and her struggles, and older students with respect to Gracie and the battles she faces. There are references to drugs, alcohol and premarital sex (not graphic) in the context of a character’s troubled past. The Art of Losing Yourself provides a quality Christian narrative without coming across as preachy or cliché.

Elisabeth A. Orr, CLJ

A Time to Rise / by Nadine Brandes. (Out of Time, 3) 2.17.2017

Enclave Publishing     ISBN 9781683700463

HS (Adult)     Grades 10 and up    Rating: 4

Nadine Brandes concludes her award-winning dystopian series in which the government issues a personal clock to individuals, programmed to show their exact time of death. But what happens when those clocks are faulty?

In A Time to Rise, Parvin Blackwater has died–at least that’s what the world thinks–and she wasn’t scheduled to die (not according to her clock). But Parvin awakens in a shallow grave, with the sense that God is not done with her yet. As she climbs out of her buried coffin, she wonders: will she be reunited with Solomon? Will her “resurrection” be the catalyst for the Wall finally being destroyed? Or will the Council be able to stop them once and for all?

As in her earlier books, Brandes creates a future world where new technology and government control are all too real and possible. Her books are imaginative with realistic characters and suspenseful plot twists. The writing gets intense, and the violence is appropriate for the story. Military control and conspiracy are part of the plot twists.

Parvin struggles in her faith, making her journey in each book both a spiritual and physical one. She is not the only one who changes. Other characters are introduced to God–some embrace him, some do not. Parvin has grown quite a bit since the first book (A Time to Die), as have a number of characters. Learning to trust God in the midst of every circumstance is laced throughout the series.

Recommended for fans of dystopian fiction and speculative fiction, especially readers of Krista McGee’s Anomaly series, Lisa Bergren’s Remnant series, Bonnie Calhoun’s Stone Braide Chronicles series, and Jill Williamson’s Safe Lands series. Adults and older teens will like this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJA Time to Die (Jan/Feb 2016); A Time to Speak (Mar/Apr/May/Jun 2016).

A Peculiar Glory / by John Piper. 2.14.2017

Crossway ISBN 9781433552632

Adult Rating: 5

My argument,” says John Piper as he sums up A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness, “has been that the glory of God, in and through the Scriptures, is a real, objective, self-authenticating reality. Christian faith is not a leap in the dark. It is not a guess or a wager. God is not honored if he is chosen by the flip of a coin. A leap into the unknown is no honor to one who has made himself known.” (pg. 283)

Piper praises, values, but ultimately sets aside the most common evangelical apologetic strategies for promoting the truth of Scripture—the detailed historical investigations into the truth of the resurrection, for example. He instead focuses on the power of the Bible through the Spirit to defend itself. He applies to bibliology (the doctrine of Scripture) his common practice of careful exegetical analysis, copious Bible quotation, penetrating illustration, doctrinal rigor, and warmly personal, even passionate writing.

And, as always with Piper, Jonathan Edwards lies only just beneath the surface, breaking out at key points to deliver special insight. Piper insightfully points out that the detailed historical reasoning of an N.T. Wright (in the magisterial and massive The Resurrection of the Son of God) is simply inaccessible to most lay people today—just like the profundities of Jonathan Edwards’ theology, though wonderfully edifying for the church then and now, were not suited to Edwards’ missionary work among the Mohicans. Edwards realized that if these unlettered people were to be among “all the families of the earth” that God intended to bless through Abraham’s seed, Jesus, the gospel would have to be accessible to them. They would have to grasp its truth without the intermediation of detailed historical, theological, or other reasoning. They would have to come to the sweetness of the gospel the way they came to understand the sweetness of honey: by direct experience (in this case, enabled by the Holy Spirit through His own words).

If this sounds esoteric, it really isn’t: Piper is handling a very basic question every Christian must face: how can I know that the Bible is true? Piper shows that the Bible claims complete truthfulness for itself; it claims repeatedly to be the speech of God. But how can we know that these claims are accurate? The answer is that God, in order to glorify Himself, has to show the truth of His words. This is a richly biblical book about the Bible; it stands squarely in the Reformation tradition while applying a Reformed bibliology to modern times.

Mark L. Ward, Jr., CLJ

Ladies of the Manor series / by Roseanna M. White. 2.10.2017

The Lost Heiress / by Roseanna M. White. (Ladies of the Manor, 1)

Bethany House ISBN 9780764213502

The Reluctant Duchess / by Roseanna M. White. (Ladies of the Manor, 2)

Bethany House ISBN 9780764213519

A Lady Unrivaled / by Roseanna M. White. (Ladies of the Manor, 3)

Bethany House ISBN 9780764213526

Adult Rating: 5

Multi-talented author/editor/designer Roseanna White presents her Ladies of the Manor series, set in Edwardian England.

In The Lost Heiress, Brook Eden grew up in Monaco with the royal family, though not really a family member. Her friend Justin discovers Brook might be the long-lost heiress from Yorkshire. She travels to Whitby Park, the family estate where her father quickly accepts her. But the rest of the family does not. When Brook’s life is threatened and she is kidnapped because of rare diamonds in her possession, can Justin save her in time? And is there really a curse on the Fire Eyes diamonds?

In The Reluctant Duchess, a Highland clansman tries to force Lady Rowena Kinnaird into marriage by attacking her. Her family schemes to trap the visiting Brice Mysterston, Duke of Nottingham, into offering marriage to Rowena. Brice resists until he meets Rowena’s “betrothed” and decides to protect her. When Brice took the rare red diamonds from Brook and Justin to protect them, he was single. Now that he is married, will their curse extend to his wife? Can he protect her while trying to bring Brook’s kidnapper to justice?

In A Lady Unrivaled, Lady Ella Myerston decides she will take action to protect her friends from further danger of the Fire Eyes diamonds. Lord James Cayton broke two ladies’ hearts, and now he wants to mend his ways. But old acquaintances try to lure him into stealing the diamonds. Lady Ella intrigues him and he tries to protect her, but she won’t stay out of danger. What happens when they discover their true feelings for one another, in the midst of a desperate attempt to steal the jewels?

White’s exciting series is more than a group of novels about relationships between the main characters. Elements of mystery, faith, lore, and danger permeate the series. More character than plot development (although the plots are well-developed with a number of twists), each book is rich in historical detail, family history, as well as romance and adventure. The relationships are wholesome, making these books “clean reads.”

Highly recommended to public libraries and school libraries. Fans of the TV series, Downton Abbey will love this series with its interaction between the upper crust and downstairs staff. Julie Klassen, Sarah Ladd, and Carrie Turansky fans will also enjoy this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

A Mia Quinn Mystery series / by Lis Wiehl. 2.2.2017

A Matter of Trust / by Lis Wiehl. (A Mia Quinn Mystery, 1)

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9781595549037

A Deadly Business / by Lis Wiehl. (A Mia Quinn Mystery, 2)

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9781595549044

Lethal Beauty / by Lis Wiehl. (A Mia Quinn Mystery, 3)

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9781595549051

Adult Rating: 4

The series centers on Mia Quinn, who is facing both personal and professional struggles in her life. Mia’s recently deceased husband left behind a staggering amount of debt, so she has returned to her job as a prosecutor in Seattle’s King County Violent Crimes Unit. It is not an easy adjustment, especially with her heavy workload and the demands of motherhood. Mia’s dad, who has recently surrendered his life to Christ, is the one witness for Mia. Will she learn to trust God again?

Lis Wiehl starts off each book with a gripping scene that pulls readers into the stories and makes them want to read more. The books include a series of in-depth questions that are perfect for reading group discussions.

In A Matter of Trust, Mia is busy with two high profile cases, both of which have the serious potential to either advance or derail her career. She is the lead investigator looking into the murder of a colleague and the suicide of a teenager linked to bullying. Mia is not pleased when her boss assigns her to work with Charlie Carlson, a homicide detective, with whom she has some unpleasant past work history. Mia struggles with trying to fulfill her duties as a full-time prosecutor while also dealing with a rebellious teenage son and a preschooler who suffers from nightmares.

In A Deadly Business, Mia’s boss, who is in a tight race for re-election, puts into her hands the decision of whether to try three teenage boys as juveniles or adults. Mia is under a time constraint, and the fallout from her decision could affect her job security. At the same time, Charlie suspects that the death of Mia’s husband was not an accident, but murder, so Mia and Charlie end up conducting an unofficial investigation. Between the two cases, personal issues, and taking on a second job to help make ends meet, Mia is trying to find balance in her life.

In Lethal Beauty, Mia is involved in a prominent businessman’s trial for the murder of a Chinese prostitute who is an illegal immigrant. After a mistrial is declared, Mia refuses to give up on proving the businessman’s guilt. While Mia and Charlie work together to try and find more evidence to justify a retrial, more dead bodies are discovered. It is up to Mia and Charlie to figure out if there is a connection between the murders. Meanwhile, her son Gabe has made some decisions in order to improve his self-image that could lead to trouble not only for himself but also for his family. Will Mia’s personal and professional lives clash?

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

A Hidden Springs Mystery series / by A. H. Gabhart. 2.1.2017

Murder at the Courthouse / by A. H. Gabhart. (A Hidden Springs Mystery, 1)

Revell ISBN 9780800726768

Murder Comes by Mail / by A. H. Gabhart. (A Hidden Springs Mystery, 2)

Revell ISBN 9780800727055

Adult Rating: 4

Nothing ever happens in Hidden Springs, Kentucky! Or say they so until the body of a stranger turns up at the courthouse and following that, another dead body, this one a local that everyone knows. Deputy Michael Keane is the protagonist in these mysteries, a likable and very low-key main character who thought his new job would be stress-free and relaxing. With two murders on his hand in Murder at the Courthouse, he finds that every citizen seems to have a theory of “whodunit.” But following these leads is his job, no matter how crazy they might sound, and surely one of them will lead him to the killer.

In the second in the series, Murder Comes by Mail, Deputy Keane saves a man from suicide and is touted by the whole town as a hero. When Michael becomes convinced that the man he saved has gone on to become a murderer, he feels like anything but a hero and must protect those he loves in Hidden Springs from being the next victims.

A. H. Gabhart fills her books with odd but lovable characters (although at times her use of their idiosyncrasies is rather repetitive). The books are clean but not necessarily gentle reads as evidenced in the second title where there are some rather violent murders. There is just a hint of romance, also, which may be developed in ensuing books. This series is not overtly Christian yet Christianity is woven to some extent into the plots.

Ceil Carey, CLJ