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

From This Moment / by Elizabeth Camden. 1.30.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217210

Adult Rating: 4

Artist Stella West has given up her dream of artistic success in London to hunt for her sister’s murderer in Boston. While the police and medical examiner swear Gwendolyn’s drowning was an accident, Stella insists on foul play. She goes undercover at City Hall to look for a man that Gwendolyn wrote about in her final letters.

Seeking the help of Romulus White, co-owner of the famous magazine Scientific World, Stella risks sharing her tale. As Stella reveals the tragedy of her sister’s death, confirmed bachelor Romulus sees an opportunity to trade his public influence for her artwork. Romulus is powerful, stylish, ornery–and handsome. Could Stella’s choice of involving him get in the way of finding the true killer?

Clues that indicate a cover-up surface, but the more Romulus gets involved with the whirlwind that is Stella West, the more trouble he encounters. If he pursues her wild story, it could mean the demise of his magazine and reputation. But if he doesn’t, Gwendolyn’s killer could return to finish off her sister.

Elizabeth Camden is a skilled writer who knows how to use her setting as a character. The ideas of the first American subway, snail mail, telegrams, and train travel play major roles in the plot of this novel. Her word choices fit the era, and her point of view changes between Stella and Romulus allow readers to see two unique perspectives as these characters come together to deal with their problems.

While the main characters both have bold and distinct personalities, their character development (apart from their affections toward each other) seems minor compared to the greater character arches found in the supporting characters, notably Romulus’s cousin Evelyn and her ex-husband. Readers will see multiple characters relying on God in their greatest moments of struggle for physical salvation and redemption of broken relationships.

Readers of romance, history, and mystery will enjoy the suspense of this dramatic narrative. As the plot unfolds, readers will love becoming pseudo-detectives with Stella and Romulus as they solve this murder mystery and deduce the killer’s identity.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

Come Rain or Come Shine / by Jan Karon. (A Mitford Novel) 1.23.2017

G.P. Putnam’s Sons ISBN 9780399167454

Adult Rating: 4

Author Jan Karon offers another winning story in Come Rain or Come Shine, the latest in her much-beloved Mitford series. In this touching novel, readers finally experience the long-awaited wedding of Dooley Kavanagh and Lace Harper. As expected, the ceremony is filled with simple beauty and deep emotion, along with a few down-to-earth surprises. Many favorite characters attend the wedding, which is a celebration of all that is good in life.

As always, Father Tim is the central, grounding figure in the story and other beloved characters continue being who they are and doing what they do best as well. As in the other Mitford novels, there is an underlying peace amidst a cast of characters who are simple and real and deal with all the trials and troubles life brings to all. No matter the challenge, Mitford’s characters survive and thrive by engaging their unique mix of humor and faith. And they always love their neighbors.

Central to this novel, which ties up several loose ends while leaving open the possibility of a continuing storyline, is the theme of love. As Lace Harper prepares for her wedding, she wonders aloud in her diary about the definition of cherish: “Fr Tim says he feels cherish is linked to ~ or perhaps best defined by the admonition in Romans 12:10: Outdo one another in showing honor.” (p. 92) As always in the Mitford series, the characters in Come Rain or Come Shine show what it means to honor both each other and God. And those characters who fall short find their way to some form of redemption. Readers who come to Mitford to find a place where neighbors are what neighbors should be and families overcome challenges to be what families should be, will be more than satisfied.

Valorie Cooper, CLJ

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJSomewhere Safe with Somebody Good (Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015).

Saving My Assassin / by Virginia Prodan. 1.20.2017

Tyndale House Publishers ISBN 9781496411846

Adult Rating: 5

It’s hard to believe that an 87- pound woman, just under five feet tall, could stand up to those intent on murdering her, but with God that is just what happened! As the author herself states, “I should be dead. Buried in an unmarked grave in Romania. Obviously, I am not. God had other plans.”

Saving My Assassin is Prodan’s memoir of her life in Romania from early childhood through her time as an attorney, fighting for truth and defying the “powers that be” in their evil regime. When she became a Christian as a young woman, she felt the calling to defend other believers and churches in direct disobedience to the government. She sought the truth in following her Lord. This was treason in the eyes of this régime under the rule of Ceausescu, and for her disobedience she was kidnapped, tortured, and beaten as well as placed under house arrest with her two young daughters.

Prodan’s writing is very simple yet profound as she shares her life experiences and the many ways that God answered prayer and kept her and her family safe. She also tells of a less-than-ideal childhood and of those who helped her escape and become a lawyer.

American Christians particularly should read this unforgettable account of Virgina Prodan’s life and God’s continued protection.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Wild Montana Skies / by Susan May Warren. (Montana Rescue, Book 1) 1.19.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800727437

Adult     Rating: 5

Susan May Warren kicks off her new contemporary romance series, set in Montana and featuring park rescue professionals living in a close-knit community.

In Wild Montana Skies, Kacey Fairing moves to Mercy Falls, Montana to rebuild her life after her recent tour in Afghanistan. She is hired as the PEAK Rescue pilot for Glacier National Park. She also wants to spend time with her teenage daughter who has been cared for by her parents while she was deployed.

Country music star Ben King comes home after his father is injured. He is there to manage PEAK Rescue during his father’s recovery. Ben and Kacey were teenage sweethearts until Ben moved to Nashville to pursue his dream. Ben doesn’t know Kacey’s secret: Ben has a daughter he has never met. Now they have to work together to save lives. Will they find a happy ending in spite of old secrets and hurts they uncover?

Warren writes character-driven, contemporary books that are a blend of action and romance, as well as emotional and spiritual challenges. The faith element is evident but not preachy. More than romances, these are stories of flawed individuals with very messy lives and life-changing mistakes. God teaches them about forgiveness of others and themselves. Warren uses these imperfect lives to teach the reader about God’s gift of grace, and the strength it takes to live a life of faith and accept the second chance He offers. Readers can follow the characters introduced in Wild Montana Skies in subsequent books. Rescue Me (Book 2) is due in late January 2017.

Recommended for public libraries and church libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Anchor in the Storm / by Sarah Sundin. (Waves of Freedom series, 2) 1.13.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800723439

Adult (HS) Rating: 5

Anchor in the Storm finds the United States involved in WWII. Lillian Avery leaves her Illinois home to accept a job as a pharmacist in Boston, Massachusetts, where her brother and his best friend Arch Vandenberg are stationed. Though Arch has expressed interest in Lillian, Lillian doesn’t seem to return his feelings. However, when both Lillian and Arch need answers about some questionable prescriptions, they find themselves working together to solve a mystery. In the process, danger threatens their lives, and the only way they can survive is by learning the truth of Hebrews 6:18-19, “…We might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast…” (p.66)

Sarah Sundin’s second book in the Waves of Freedom series is just as intriguing as the first. The plot moves quickly, part romance and part mystery. Arch and Lillian are well-developed, three-dimensional characters, learning to grow through their brokenness. Lillian’s determined mindset and plucky spirit set an intense mood as the story unfolds. Sundin’s portrayal of the places Arch and Lillian live and work as well as the activities in which they engage recreate a little slice of Boston during WWII. The theme is best summed up by Lillian’s father, “Jesus is your anchor, your hope in any storm, your sure refuge.” (p. 28)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ