The Crooked Path / by Irma Joubert. 2.26.2019

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780718098179

Adult     Rating: 3

The Crooked Path follows two converging life stories before, during, and after WWII.

Afrikaner Lettie Louw loved her best friend’s older brother for many years, but—even though he was nice to her—she “knew” that boys only fell in love with beautiful girls. After finding the boy she liked with her attractive best friend, Lettie turns her attention away from men and focuses on becoming doctor and inheriting her father’s practice.

Marco Romanelli, a Catholic Italian, fell in love with a Jewish woman at the beginning of WWII. Intending to avoid the German soldiers, she and Marco, along with her family, escaped the village and starved in the mountains—only to be kidnapped and taken away to the Jewish concentration camps years later. Losing his love and his health in the camps, Marco seeks out a warmer climate with his brother in South Africa to get back on his feet.

When Lettie becomes Marco’s doctor, she struggles with their professional-personal relationship. She must make her choice before Marco’s health deteriorates and she loses her chance at love.

By focusing on an overview of Marco and Lettie’s whole lives, The Crooked Path sacrifices depth and cohesiveness. With two introductions, plotlines, and conclusions, most of this novel’s pacing feels slow. The conclusions also feel unresolved and incomplete, as if there is more to the story. While the story seems to drag a little as the plot flips back and forth on one timeline, Irma Joubert’s writing is still beautifully engaging. It feels more like a literary, creative biography of these two characters instead of a fictional story. As readers follow these characters’ stories, they will catch a significant amount of historical, religious, and artistic details from WWII Europe and Africa that add even more realism to the story—appealing to historical and romantic fiction fans. 

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

Dead Drift / by Dani Pettrey. (Chesapeake Valor, 4) 2.25.2019

Bethany House ISBN 9780764212970

Adult Rating: 5

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

In Dead Drift, when Luke Gallagher vanished seven years ago, leaving behind the woman he loved, private investigator Kate Maxwell, with no answers–only questions. Now he is back to help capture a terrorist and rekindle his relationship with Kate. Can they stop the terrorist’s plot before it is too late? Is there a future for them after they catch the terrorist?

Meanwhile, Griffin and Finley continue to investigate his sister Jenna’s murder, uncovering a string of cases with similarities in several states. Can they catch the killer behind his sister’s murder and finally put the case to rest when others haven’t been successful?

Pettrey pens characters with strong personalities and real flaws, making it easier for readers care about them. As always, the faith element is evident, not preachy, and relationships are clean (appropriate for high school readers). Pettrey excels at creating an ensemble of characters readers enjoy, and when these characters from earlier novels reappear, the reader is delighted to catch up and continue their storyline. The violence is appropriate to the story, much like crime dramas one views on TV. As always, the plausible plot is action-packed romantic suspense at its finest. The reader will be satisfied at how the series ends and the questions are answered.

Recommended for adults and high school readers, especially fans of Dee Henderson, DiAnn Mills, and Irene Hannon. Watch for her new series Coastal Guardians coming in 2019.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Cold Shot (Mar/Apr/May/Jun 2016), Still Life (Jan/Feb/Mar 2017), and Blind Spot (Oct/Nov/Dec 2017).

 

Called to Protect / by Lynette Eason. (Blue Justice, 2) 2.22.2019

Revell ISBN 9780800727031

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Lynette Eason adds another book to her romantic suspense series about a law enforcement family in South Carolina.

In Called to Protect, K9 Officer Chloe St. John is recovering from a broken engagement and concentrates all her energy into her job. Chloe’s mother is the chief of police, and her siblings are also in law enforcement. When her young cousin Penny goes missing and it appears there is a connection with human trafficking, she will need to stay focused on her investigation.

Meanwhile, US Marshall Blake MacCallum is on protection duty for a senator when Blake’s daughter Rachel is kidnapped. The kidnappers threaten to kill her if Blake doesn’t kill the senator. He races to rescue his kidnapped daughter Rachel before her kidnappers harm her. Chloe and her German shepherd partner Hank join the human trafficking taskforce with Blake. The two begin working together, investigating the ties between the missing girls and the human trafficking ring. Will they find the girls in time? Can they trust one another even in the midst of their mutual attraction? The more they uncover, the more danger they will face.

Called to Protect grabs the reader’s attention and holds it until the final page. Eason creates a fast-paced series with an ensemble of complex characters dealing with a variety of personal issues, and there is enough suspense to make the reader stay up all night, holding on for a roller-coaster ride of plot twists.

 Highly recommended for public libraries and romantic suspense fans of of DiAnn Mills, Dani Pettrey, Irene Hannon, and Dee Henderson. Look for the next book,  Code of Valor (Spring 2019)!

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJ: Oath of Honor (Jan/Feb/Mar 2018).

The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate / by Tremper Longman III & John H. Walton. 2.11.2019

IVP Academic ISBN 9780830852000

Adult Rating: 4

The Lost World of the Flood provides an academic approach to the narrative of the flood found in Genesis chapters 1-11, presenting it as an ancient document influenced by the Ancient Near East (ANE) culture to which it belonged and focusing on the historical/literary context of this genre of writing. The authors, Tremper Longman and John Walton, who are noted Old Testament scholars, posit that it is the interpretation the events recounted in these biblical texts, and not the events themselves, that are inspired by God. The scope of the book focuses on explaining their method of interpretation, giving background using other ANE texts, providing their conclusions about how to understand the text, and discussing the scientific and literary evidence for the flood. This book is the fifth book in the Lost World series.

Even though the genre of this title is clearly academic, the reading style is easy to understand and the concepts are carefully built upon one another. The authors support their findings with extensive research. The topic is controversial though. While the authors affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, they do interpret the text in a way that may differ from views held by many evangelical Christians. Thus, they assert that the flood recorded in Genesis was an actual event but not a world-wide flood (such a global flood not being supported by geological evidence according to an included “guest” chapter written by a geologist), and that it was instead described using cataclysmic language (meant to be hyperbolic) which was common in ANE literature. They explain that the narrative was intended to convey a theological message, rather than an historical or scientific one.

The book does give some very important insight on ANE culture and will provoke thoughtful reflection, which makes it a valuable resource even if the reader does not agree with the authors’ conclusions.

Tatyana Claytor, CLJ

True to You / by Becky Wade. (Bradford Sisters, 1) 2.1.2019

Bethany House ISBN 9780764219368

Adult Rating: 5

Award-winning author Becky Wade pens a new contemporary romance series featuring three sisters in Merryweather, Washington.

In True to You, the reader meets Nora Bradford, genealogist and owner of the historical village in Merryweather. Nora loves the detailed (and sometimes tedious) work of uncovering someone’s family history as well as all that is entailed in owning a historical village. Following a broken engagement a few years ago, Nora buries herself in her obsession with a historical British TV drama, uninterested in venturing back out into the world of dating again.

Former Navy SEAL John Lawson heads a training organization to help others prepare for hostage situations and similar circumstances. Diagnosed with a rare medical condition, and adopted as an infant, now John wants to discover more about his medical history. He enlists Nora’s assistance in finding his birth family. As the attraction between them grows, will they find a future together, despite his medical condition and the family secrets they uncover?

Wade excels at writing more than just a clean romance. She draws complex characters and creates storylines (with plot twists!) to go along with them. Her books tackle challenging issues like adoption, identity, rejection, and trusting God at all times. Her characters are engaging, even as they struggle in their faith journey. John and Nora have to face some challenging circumstances when they uncover the truth about John’s birth family. Nora’s sisters are introduced in this book, and their stories follow in Falling for You and Sweet on You, the next books in the series.

True to You won 2018 Book of the Year (Christy Award). Fans of Susan May Warren’s Christenson Family series will also enjoy meeting the Bradford family in this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

What Are We Doing Here? Essays / by Marilynne Robinson. 12.26.2018

Farrar, Straus and Giroux ISBN 9780374282219

Adult Rating: 4

Marilynne Robinson is a set of self-described identities that are not generally found together: biblicist, Calvinist, mainline Protestant, theological (and all-around) liberal. Her essay collections, including the new What Are We Doing Here?, reflect these interests and proclivities—and likewise build up to something unique: an intellectual who writes about Christianity and the Bible with genuine knowledge of each and with a distinct voice.

Robinson is the author of the Pulitzer-prize-winning Housekeeping as well as several successor novels known for their theological themes, their classic American setting, and their excellent prose. Her essay collections bear all the same features. It was an odd experience for this reviewer to find himself more proud of the good ol’ U.S. of A. after reading certain essays: Robinson is something of a conservative liberal who refuses to throw under the utopian bus the traditions and institutions which made her who she was. Born in a no-name Idaho town during the thick of WWII, she was nonetheless given an education which, quite clearly, rivals that of any wealthy prep school elite.

Given her paradoxical self-descriptions, it is no surprise that some of Robinson’s viewpoints are less persuasive than others. She explicitly affirms “the authority” of the Bible, interprets it carefully and often, and yet feels free to go her own way on several key issues of contemporary import (e.g., she supports gay marriage). From the perspective of Christian theology, this is a weakness in Robinson’s ad hoc essay collection.

But Robinson’s strengths are so strong that, even when the reader does not agree, the reader profits. Her prose style is clear but demanding—in a way that confers respect upon those lucky enough to have the skill, time, and opportunity to read Robinson.

To evangelical Christians this reviewer says: do read Robinson. Read her for her critiques of scientism and Darwinism and materialism; read her for her rich understanding of the tradition of the Puritans both English and American. Read her for her careful insights into Scripture, despite and because of their unexpected source. Stick around for her critiques of various political ideologies. And then just enjoy the sheer pleasure of reading someone who knows how to write.

Just Let Go: A Novel / by Courtney Walsh. (Harbor Pointe, 2) 12.25.2018

Tyndale House ISBN 97814496421524

Adult Rating: 4

Author Courtney Walsh shares another contemporary romance set in Harbor Pointe, Michigan–a lakeside community where people really get to know and care for one another.

In Just Let Go, Quinn Collins buys the local flower shop to fulfill a childhood dream–to show her estranged mother she is capable of running the shop once owned by her. Her mother left town (and Quinn) over 20 years ago. Quinn also wants to win the floral design competition where her mother serves as head judge. Can Quinn let go of her hurt and forgive her mother for leaving?

Meanwhile short-tempered Olympic skier Grady Benson comes to town. After a heated confrontation resulting in property damage, Grady finds himself doing community service at Quinn’s shop. He is inspired by her hard work and determination to reach her goals, which in turn re-ignites his pursuit of Olympic fame. After a tense moment with his family, Grady pushes everyone away, including Quinn. Can Grady forgive himself and move forward?

Walsh pens a sweet small-town romance with main characters who annoy one another without realizing how alike they are. Both want to prove themselves to someone: Quinn to her mother, and Grady to his family. Just Let Go is the story of facing one’s past and finding joy even in the midst of disappointments. Filled with a clean relationship between Grady and Quinn, a very light faith element, and themes of forgiveness and letting go of the past, this story will remind the reader why Harbor Pointe is a place that readers like to visit again and again.

Recommended for public libraries and for high school readers. Fans of Beth Vogt, Liz Johnson, and Denise Hunter will welcome this new book!

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Fatal Trust / by Todd M. Johnson. 12.24.2018

Bethany House Publishers ISBN 9780764212352

Adult Rating: 4

Ian Wells dreamed of a practice in criminal law. His ambitions quickly derailed with the death of his father and a request from his mother. Years later, still running Wells & Hoy Law Office, Ian has nothing to show for his work except mounting bills, a possible lawsuit against the firm, his mother who now has Alzheimer’s, not enough income to cover his pending needs, and dreams that wake him up drenched in sweat.

Then he meets Sean Callahan and is offered the chance to earn more than enough to pay the bills, settle the lawsuit, and take care of his mother, and finally start his criminal law practice. All Ian must do is dig up the past on three possible trust recipients. But as Ian begins to dig up their past he soon realizes that his past is somehow connected. What he discovers could destroy his entire future.

Todd M. Johnson introduces a mysterious web connecting the past, present, and future of his characters in a swiftly spiraling plot full of intrigue. Fatal Trust brings the once mundane legal world of wills and trusts alive with riveting mystery.

Cicely K. Ben, CLJ

King’s War / by Jill Williamson. (The Kinsman Chronicles, 3) 12.21.2018

Bethany House ISBN 9780764218323

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Jill Williamson concludes her epic fantasy series for adult readers, with another volume filled with political and spiritual intrigue.

In King’s War, the growing battle between the Kinsman remnant governed by King Trevn of Armania and their enemies led by Barthel Rogedoth leads to a final conflict between good and evil, in Er’Rets and in the Veil (a shadow realm). The final battle is more dangerous than any can imagine, and allies change sides frequently. As new gifts and powers are discovered, new alliances are made and broken. Will the gifts of Arman be able to defeat the armies of enemies? How will the final prophecy be fulfilled?

Williamson produces another well-written volume with complex characters and plot twists. Although it is a lengthy tome (even longer than the previous two volumes!), the multiple points of view are identified by the character’s name at the beginning of each chapter. Originally published as three shorter ebooks–The Reluctant King, A Deliverer Comes, and Warriors of the VeilKing’s War concludes this epic fantasy satisfactorily.

Inspired by the corrupt kings of Israel, Williamson’s series is more appropriate for adults and young adults. Each volume includes a list of the key players, a map, and an author’s note; discussion questions and other supplemental material are available on her website. The Kinsman Chronicles series serves as a prequel to Williamson’s The Blood of Kings trilogy, set 500 years later.

Recommended for high school libraries, as well as adult fiction collections in public libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles and Related Titles Reviewed by CLJKing’s Folly (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016) and King’s Blood (Apr/May/Jun 2017; from the Blood of Kings trilogy–By Darkness Hid (October 2010), To Darkness Fled (October 2010), and From Darkness Won (November2011).

Lady Jayne Disappears / by Joanna Davidson Politano. 12.11.2018

Revell ISBN 9780800728755

Adult Rating: 5

Aurelie Harcourt searches for answers in a house filled with secrets in Lady Jayne Disappears.

Upon her father’s death, Aurelie’s Aunt Eudora takes her in. To adjust to her new home at Lynhurst Manor, Aurelie tries to learn the rules of polite society. After all, being raised in a debtor’s prison doesn’t prepare one for life among gentry. But behaving well in public doesn’t stop her from searching for the truth behind her mother’s disappearance, nor does it stop her from writing. Layer by layer Aurelie delves into the secrets surrounding her mother, but even her wild imagination could not prepare her for the truth.

Joanna Davidson Politano weaves a spell-binding tale of mystery and love as she tells the story of Aurelie Harcourt. Mystery shrouds the well-paced plot. The loveable characters discover their flaws as they unpack what it means to love each other. The manor setting and the debtor’s prison both serve as an essential part of the story as they shape the characters and the plot. Politano’s writing is poetic without excessive wordiness, and it breathes life into the characters and setting and adds tension to the plot. Though not at all “preachy,” readers may learn some important lessons along with Aurelie and the rest of her family, one of the most important of which is, “What will be fixed must first be broken.” (p. 376)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ