Over Maya Dead Body / by Sandra Orchard. (Serena Jones Mysteries, 3) 10.5.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800726706

Adult Rating: 5

Sandra Orchard returns with a final installment in her Serena Jones mystery series, and this is the book her fans have been waiting for!

In Over Maya Dead Body, FBI Special Agent Serena Jones is on Martha’s Vineyard to celebrate the engagement of a family friend. Almost immediately she is embroiled in a murder investigation involving smuggling antiquities. In the meantime, her two beaus–Nate Butler and Tanner Calhoun–arrive to support her, keep an eye on her, and win her heart. Whom will she end up with? Will she uncover more of the truth before someone else is harmed? Orchard keeps the reader guessing on both the romance and murder/smuggling fronts.

Orchard uses a light touch in depicting the FBI, and does an excellent job in her character development. Serena is not looking for romance even though she has not one, but two, eligible bachelors: Nate (her building superintendent who is a kindred spirit) and Tanner (her mentor and former FBI partner). This is a mystery romance with plenty of twists –a delightful twist was asking her readers (after the second book) to vote on which suitor would win Serena’s heart!

Overall, the series has a very light romance and humor on the side. The faith element is light, but the series is a good, clean one with red herrings and suspects to delight any mystery lover.

Recommended for school and public libraries, for older teen and adult readers.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: A Fool and His Monet and Another Day, Another Dali (November 2016).

Then There Was You / by Kara Isaac. 10.3.2017

Bellbird Press   ISBN 9780473396534

Adult  Rating: 4

Kara Isaac returns with another contemporary romance, this one about an American and an Australian.

In Then There Was You, Paige McAllister wants to make a big change in her life. She flies to Australia, leaving behind a dead-end job in Chicago, a deadbeat boyfriend, and a music career she gave up after she was severely injured and her brother died. Struggling with the pain of her past (including her experience in a legalistic megachurch), Paige becomes the logistics planner for an Australian megachurch–the type of church she despises. But the job is only for six months, and will look good on her resume.

Josh Tyler is a member of the church’s world-renowned worship band. Neither of them makes a good first impression to the other. Josh, her boss’s son, is determined not to let this American get under his skin. She manages to disrupt his orderly life, and sparks fly! Having experienced heartache and loss, both close themselves off from being vulnerable with others. When they are thrown together to organize the band’s next tour, will they move beyond their preconceived notions and painful past to take a risk with one another?

Isaac pens another novel with endearing but flawed characters. Readers will empathize with Paige and Josh as they push each other’s buttons. The faith element is present but not overbearing. Then There Was You gives the reader a peek inside the inner workings of a megachurch. Isaac’s novels are lighthearted romances that will have the reader chuckling over the interactions of the main characters, as well as experiencing a range of emotions.

Recommended for adult collections in public libraries and school libraries; it is a clean read for adults.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

A Matter of Trust / by Susan May Warren. (Montana Rescue, 3) 10.2.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800727451

Adult Rating: 5

Susan May Warren returns with another adrenalin-packed adventure/contemporary romance in her Montana Rescue series, featuring rescue professionals living in a close-knit community.

In A Matter of Trust, Gage Watson, former snowboarder champion and now a member of the PEAK Rescue team, finds himself struggling to face both his past and his future. Senator Ella Blair, former attorney whose firm handled Gabe’s negligence lawsuit after the death of a snowboarder fan that eventually cost Gabe his sponsorships, follows her brother to Montana.

Ella begs his help in rescuing her brother from one of Glacier National Park’s most dangerous peaks. Gage is reluctant to search for her brother when he goes missing because Gage believes Ella betrayed him and destroyed his life. When Ella insists on joining him in the search, Gabe vows to keep her safe, even when the weather turns against them. As they work together to find her reckless brother and his friend, old feelings resurface and emotions run high. What will happen when Ella’s secret is revealed? Will the fragile trust Gage and Ella are rebuilding be strong enough?

Warren excels at creating flawed characters the reader cares about, as well as building a suspenseful adventure. Characters from earlier stories make reappearances, and their stories continue to move along. Warren draws vivid word pictures in her stories, with a faith element that is present but not preachy. Readers will be engaged from the first page until the last.

Recommended for public libraries and church libraries. The next book in the series, Troubled Waters, is due in January 2018.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJWild Montana Skies (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016), and Rescue Me (January/February/March 2017)

Annabel Lee / by Mike Nappa. (Coffey & Hill, 1) 9.25.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800726447

Adult Rating: 4

Eleven-year-old Annabel is being kept safe in a bunker, filled with canned foods and protected by a guard dog with the ability to be most vicious but also be a friend to the girl. Uncle Truck (or Leonard Truckson as he is known to others) put her there for safekeeping with the admonition: don’t open the door for anyone unless they have the secret phrase, not even me. And readers don’t have any idea why. Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill, divorced detective partners, are searching for Annabel, as are Mute, a trained mercenary, and a host of other players, including the elusive Dr. Smith. Are these friends or foes?

The book’s narrative alternates between Anna and the dog in their forced incarceration and those that are looking for them. It is only at the conclusion of the book that the reader discovers the nefarious reason some are searching for the girl.

Annabel Lee is not a cozy mystery. The book contains a large amount of violence, though not simply for the sake of violence. The story is rather convoluted to begin with until the reader gets the rhythm of it. Most questions are left unanswered until the very end. While there are a few references to Christianity , it is predominantly a tale of mystery, subterfuge and love for a young girl who must be protected from the evil intents on her life at all costs.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

The Second Half / by Lauraine Snelling. 9.21.2017

FaithWords ISBN 9781455586172

Adult Rating: 5

Life so often changes in just a moment. It could be a phone call informing of a love one’s death or that dreaded summons to the boss’s office or a bad report from the doctor. These startling changes happen to all.

The Sorensons are approaching retirement, hopefully the best years of their life. Then the call comes. Their son Steig is being deployed immediately as a special forces officer in the Army to destinations unknown. Since his wife walked out on him, Steig has had sole custody of their two children. Whom can he call on for help but his parents? Now those grandchildren they had looked forward to spending time with occasionally have become their total responsibility. They would be parenting again, this time grandchildren!

This is the story of their adventure as Ken and Mona care for their grandchildren in their son’s absence–the fears, the joys, what the Lord teaches them as they take on this charge. Although seniors may have a special interest in this subject, The Second Half will be enjoyable reading for any adult. Lauraine Snelling writes a wonderful tale with something for all!

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Land of Silence / by Tessa Afshar. 9.20.2017

Tyndale House Publishers ISBN 9781496406460

Adult Rating: 5

In Land of Silence, Tessa Afshar tells the biblical story of the woman with a long-standing issue of blood. Elianna is plagued by guilt all her life because of her young brother’s death while in her care and her life seems to unravel one thread at a time, becoming one exemplified by loss. She loses the affection of her beloved father who finds her at fault for Joseph’s demise, followed by the loss the family business. Finally, she loses Ethan, the only man she has ever loved. And with thirteen years of uncleanness, friends and family are few, leaving her a lonely woman.
Readers familiar with her scriptural encounter with Jesus will know of her miraculous healing, but author Afshar fleshes out the story in a beautiful way, giving life and personality to Elianna and her family. The heroine becomes a believer in Christ in a gradual way, beautifully illustrating how one may come to saving faith. And reminiscent of the story of Job, many of her former losses are restored to her. This is a wonderful, inspiring story, highly recommended!

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II / by Albert Marrin. 9.19.2017

Alfred A. Knopf ISBN 9780553509366

YA (Adult) Grade 7 and up Rating: *5

Mastery of the subject matter and thorough research make Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II a must-read for everyone.

Albert Marrin skillfully balances facts, first-hand narratives, news clips, photos, and illustrations to present a comprehensive and insightful account of the uprooting and internment of Americans of Japanese descent after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His writing is clear and concise as he explores the foundations, historical events and racial attitudes of both America and Japan that culminated in war between the two nations. In addition, Marrin details the role that the news media played in stirring panic that encouraged animosity toward the Japanese-Americans.

The author also references similar experiences of other groups throughout history–for example, the forced removal of Native Americans, the Chinese Exclusion Laws of the 1880s, and the racism against African-Americans that led to the Civil Rights Movement. Lovers of history, moreover, will recall the English Only Movements that have surfaced at various times in the United States in order to protect and secure the country from foreigners, as well as the expulsion of Mexican-Americans in 1929-1936, who were blamed for taking American jobs.

Uprooted challenges readers to grapple with thought-provoking questions. How do we ensure the liberty of each citizen during wartime? Should race and religion exist as factors when determining a nation’s security? Should the media be held to a higher standard of accountability in its news coverage? These questions are all the more relevant today as the nation continues its war against terrorism and as the world becomes an increasingly multi-cultural environment.

Albert Marrin reminds the reader of the importance of studying history. It not only informs us about the past, but also helps us decide about the future. We can learn from our collective knowledge and experience.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Plain and Simple Miracles series / by Vanetta Chapman. 9.18.2017

Anna’s Healing / by Vanetta Chapman. (Plain and Simple Miracles, 1)
Harvest House ISBN 9780736956031
Joshua’s Mission / by Vanetta Chapman. (Plain and Simple Miracles, 2)
Harvest House ISBN 9780736956055

Sarah’s Orphans / by Vanetta Chapman. (Plain and Simple Miracles, 3)
Harvest House ISBN 9780736956079

Adult Rating: 5

The three books in this series could all be stand-alone reads. There is overlap as far as mention of some of the characters but basically the stories are individual.

In Anna’s Healing, a tornado rips through Cody’s Creek, Oklahoma and changes Anna Schwartz’s life forever. She is left partially paralyzed in a wheelchair, but it seems that just as she has accepted her situation, Anna is inexplicably and totally healed. Just as she had questions when she was confined to her chair, Anna is now asking why? how? how long will it last? And the notoriety and attention she and her community are receiving are so unwanted, so counter to the teachings of her people, the Amish. Whether one believes in miraculous healings or not, Anna’s healing will cause the reader to consider their beliefs and reflect on this miracle. Was it truly from God or as some wonder, was Anna ever actually paralyzed?

Joshua’s Mission is also a story of miracles–but the spiritual ones of forgiveness and healing of relationships and God’s will being revealed. The setting is unusual for Amish fiction: an Englisch town on the Gulf of Texas after a horrific hurricane. Joshua Kline, along with several other Amish young people, go to offer aid to the distressed residents. He takes with him his brother Alton, a young man who does not need another brush with the law. Perhaps assisting those whose lives have been torn apart will change his heart and help him to grow up. Of course, Joshua doesn’t realize how his own heart will be changed, too.

And finally, in Sarah’s Orphans, Sarah Yoder is left in charge of her family after her father’s death and her mother’s desertion of her and her siblings. How could she just leave them? They all wonder this but really have little time to ponder as life continues and chores abound. Sarah is exhausted yet when she almost runs over a young Hispanic boy with her buggy, she finds herself in the position of taking into her care two young homeless children. Is this God’s will for her? And what of their new neighbor who seems like a part of the family already? Where does he fit in Sarah’s heart and her calling?

Three separate stories set among the Amish. Three separate arenas with needs and desires. And in each God works in amazing ways.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided / by Diane Guerrero. 9.7.2017

Henry Holt ISBN 9781250134967

Adult (YA) Rating: 4

In the Country We Love is a compelling and heartfelt memoir of the plight of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Diane Guerrero has first-hand knowledge of the challenges immigrants face when they come to America to begin a new life and of the devastating effects of deportation. She was born in the United States to undocumented Columbian parents. With courage, humor, sincerity, and a moderate amount of profanity, she shares the story of her life from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood, and the ways in which her attitude toward life have been shaped by her experiences from her growing up years.

Guerrero’s parents not only worked for low wages in menial jobs to make ends meet, but they were also persistent in their quest to become American citizens, only to have crippling blows dealt to their efforts. Guerrero’s childhood was overshadowed by the constant worry that her parents could be taken away at any moment. Guerrero’s fears came true at the age of 14 when her parents were arrested and shortly thereafter deported back to Columbia. She moved in with family friends so she could continue attending Boston Arts Academy, a performing arts high school.

Fearful of rejection as a performing artist, Guerrero chose to follow an academic path in college. During this time, her life spun out of control. She dealt with major financial debt, emotional fallout from her parents’ deportation, depression, self-cutting, and excessive drinking. After seriously contemplating suicide, she started seeing a therapist, who Guerrero believes was sent by God to help her overcome her fears and doubts. Subsequently, she enrolled in acting classes, and through perseverance became a recurring actress in two popular television shows.

The black-and-white photographs and quotes from novelists, poets, singers, and other notable individuals add to the powerful message Guerrero recounts about the toxic stress and its long-lasting impact on children of undocumented parents. The book concludes with an overview of immigration policy issues, the importance of immigration reform, and a list of resources for Americans who are interested in advocating for change in the current immigration system.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

Die Young with Me: A Memoir / by Rob Rufus. 8.31.2017

Touchstone ISBN 9781501142628

Adult (YA) Rating: 5

Die Young with Me is a candid and heart-wrenching memoir of a teenager whose life is changed dramatically when he is diagnosed with cancer.

Rob Rufus lives with his family in Huntington, West Virginia. He feels like an outcast in the rural town and has no real goals in life. However, his attitude changes when he and his twin brother, Nat, are introduced to punk rock. The two 13-year-old boys are so enthralled with the music they acquire instruments and turn the basement of their house into a practice space, so they can form a punk rock band. It takes a few years for their dream to turn into a reality, but once they succeed the band starts playing local gigs with Rob as the drummer.

Just as the band is on the verge of getting a big break that could give them national recognition, Rob sees his world turned upside down. He is 17 and diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.

The course of treatment requires both chemotherapy and surgery. Rob candidly shares not only the horrific physical side effects he experiences due to the treatments, but also the roller coaster ride of emotions he goes through. He vacillates between feeling angry, terrified, frustrated, panicked, downhearted, anxious, and lonely. At the same time, he steadfastly refuses to give up hope that he can beat the disease. He also describes how family members and friends deal with their own stress when someone close to them is being ravaged by a life-threatening disease.

The key element behind Rob’s surviving the nightmare of a debilitating disease is the inner strength he draws upon that comes from his music and the determination to get strong enough to play the drums again. The support of family and friends, prayer, and items Rob considers good luck that pertain to punk rock and Christianity are also important in helping him in his challenging fight to survive against overwhelming odds. The book includes cigarette and marijuana smoking, drinking, a bit of sexual innuendo, a trip to a strip club, and an excessive amount of profanity.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ