The Bishop’s Family series / by Suzanne Woods Fisher. 8.3.2017

The Imposter / by Suzanne Woods Fisher. (The Bishop’s Family, 1)

Revell ISBN 9780800723200

The Quieting / by Suzanne Woods Fisher. (The Bishop’s Family, 2)

Revell ISBN 9780800723217

Adult Rating: 5

Sisters Katrina and Abigail Stoltzfus are highlighted in this series about family struggles, hard decisions, and trusting God with life choices in the Amish world. In The Imposter, Katrina sees her future plans and dreams crumble before her, so she eagerly starts on a venture that she believes will take her mind off her broken relationship and give her a new purpose in life. An unwelcome intrusion arrives in the form of a farmhand who seems too good to be true. Katrina has had her trust broken before–she will not allow it to happen again.

In The Quieting, Abigail has been assisting her father in his genealogical research. Although she is definitely interested in the subject of family history, she also hopes her part in it will help dispel the depression her widowed father is experiencing. Her grandmother has different plans for her. Hoping to play matchmaker, Mammi is insisting that Abigail come to Stoney Ridge to take her pick of the many bachelors there.

The Stoltzfus family is facing serious problems in the church and at home. One problem is that everyone in the community expects David, as a minister, to fix things and to fix them fast. But David doesn’t work fast; he waits for God to change hearts. The question on the hearts of many in this Amish district is whether a quieting–the revoking of the ordination of a bishop, minister or deacon–is the answer.

Fisher writes delightful stories of the Amish replete with the customs of this very interesting group of people, drawing the reader into their daily lives and tribulations. The astounding spiritual wisdom of the father is a highlight in both of these books. Very thought-provoking and inspirational and highly recommended.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Life After / by Katie Ganshert. 8.1.2017

Water Brook Press ISBN 9781601429025

Adult (YA) Rating: 5

Katie Ganshert’s novel Life After provides a narrative of brokenness and healing in the context of suffering. Paul Elliott and Autumn Manning, the main characters of the story, must figure out how to continue living after a train bombing turns their lives upside down. Paul loses his wife in the explosion and is left to navigate single father-hood. Autumn, the sole survivor, experiences severe trauma from the explosion itself, as well as emotional turmoil and guilt.

This narrative speaks to the nature of God in suffering. Through the events that bring Paul and Autumn together and the details of each character’s experiences with the incident, Ganshert suggests to the reader that God is still good, though circumstances do not always point to that conclusion. As family members of the victims share their experiences with Autumn, she comes to learn that though God does not promise to answer why some things happen, he does promise to be with His people in every circumstance.

As the story progresses, Paul and Autumn slowly recognize the truth of God’s goodness, allowing them to piece their lives back together. Ganshert uses the discovery of truth as a theme throughout the story. Characters often lean on or learn biblical truths. In addition, Autumn and Paul both learn how important truth is in their own lives. For Autumn, remembering or discovering the truth of past events shapes her view of the present and her ability to move on in her life. Paul, on the other hand, learns that much freedom can be found in even difficult truths.

This book is recommended for older teens and adults. Life After addresses the heavy subjects of death and adultery, though no graphic details are involved. Once again Ganshert has cleverly written an original story with unexpected events and results–a story that touches on raw human emotion and experiences and the arduous process of redemption that God works in the lives of His people.

Elisabeth A. Orr, CLJ

God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe / by J. Warner Wallace. 7.31.2017

David C Cook ISBN 9781434707840

Adult Rating: 4

J. Warner Wallace uses his experience as a cold-case detective to explore the origin of the universe from a unique perspective. God’s Crime Scene follows the format of a court case, beginning with an opening statement, followed by the presentation of evidence and then the closing argument. Wallace discusses whether or not the universe was created by natural means or by the intervention of a Divine Intruder. He applies the same investigative techniques used in solving murder cases to evaluating evidence found at a crime scene. Just as a detective has to look at evidence both “inside” and “outside” the crime scene area to determine motive and intent, Wallace presents evidence from which the “prosecution” argues for the existence of God and His divine intervention in creation, while the “defense” claims that natural forces are behind how the world was created. It is left up to the readers to evaluate the evidence and come to their own conclusion.

Side bars, hand-drawn black-and-white illustrations, personal police investigation stories, and case files provide additional information beneficial for explaining the scientific and philosophical theories behind Wallace’s investigation into whether the universe was designed and brought into existence by God. The side bars include a detective’s approach to solving a cold case and how that relates the question of universe’s origin, qualifications of key witnesses, ways to evaluate evidence, references to pages in the book for further information pertinent to each chapter, and an on-going “suspect” profile. Some of the key witnesses include physicists, philosophers, theologians, and evolutionary biologists.

The book concludes with three sections of case files. The first section gives readers an opportunity to examine detailed explanations of the evidence presented in each chapter that adheres to a more academic way of thinking. The second section provides information not only about whether the expert witness is on the “prosecution” or “defense” side of a case but also the names of books they have written. The third section includes Wallace’s case notes that he put together for his investigation into the creator of the universe.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

Deep Extraction / by DiAnn Mills. (FBI Task Force, 2) 7.28.2017

Tyndale     ISBN 9781496410986

Adult (HS)     Rating: 4

Award-winning author DiAnn Mills continues her contemporary romantic suspense series on FBI agents in the Houston area.

In Deep Extraction, Special Agent Tori Templeton is faced with a professional challenge: her best friend is the FBI’s prime suspect in the murder of her husband, an oil and gas corporation executive. Someone bombed his oil rigs earlier–was his death part of a larger conspiracy? Did someone hack into his pacemaker to cause his death or was it accidental?

Tori is joined by U.S. Marshall Cole Jeffers to investigate the executive’s business and personal affairs to discover the killer’s motives and identity. The closer they get to the truth, the more the killer is intent on silencing them. Will they unravel the mystery before it is too late?

Mills excels in plot development–the story keeps the reader’s attention until the final page. Flawed but realistic characters and a realistic plot with plenty of twists are what readers have come to expect from Mills. The faith element and the romance are present but not the main focus–the main characters are attracted to each other but keep the relationship light until the case is solved. Forgiveness and bitterness are themes in this book. Does one get better or bitter under trying circumstances?

Deep Extraction will appeal to readers who like suspenseful romance and carefully-researched details. Fans of Dee Henderson and Irene Hannon will also enjoy this series. An author note and discussion questions are also included.

Highly recommended for public and high school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Deadly Encounter (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016).

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

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).

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

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