The Alliance / by Jolina Petersheim. 12.19.2017

Tyndale ISBN 9781496402219

YA (Adult) Grades 7-10 Rating: 3

When an airplane crashes in the field near her house, Leora rushes out to help, hoping for survivors. Together with a few of the local men, they pull a lone pilot out of the wreckage and carry him into Leora’s house. When he comes to, Moses, the pilot, reveals that an EMP–an electromagnetic pulse–knocked his plane out of the sky. An EMP, he explains, is a special warhead that wipes out technology, taking out the power grid and everything that relies on a computer, such as supermarkets. Moses, an Englischer outsider, must persuade the peaceful community of Montana Mennonites to prepare to defend themselves from the looting and crime that a food shortage will surely bring.

Astounded by the scenario that Moses depicts, the elders stand frozen in unbelief and inactivity. They never carry weapons and would never harm anyone. If they have food, they must share it. But teenage Leora, the sole care-taker of her grandmother, younger brother, and mentally-challenged sister, quickly realizes that she must protect her family. But how far is she willing to go to accomplish that? And where, in a time of crisis, does falling in love fit in?

In The Alliance, a community’s standards and collective beliefs are put to the test, and hardship, hunger, and danger, unveil each person’s strengths and flaws. The story asks the reader to consider the consequences of our dependence on technology and to examine what the need for survival might bring out in each of us. Petersheim asks, ”How does one keep faith and kindness alive while trying to preserve one’s own life?”

The Alliance suggests that we can only face our greatest fears and achieve peace when we surrender our lives to God. To discover whether or not Leora succeeds, the story continues in Petersheim’s next novel, The Divide.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Blind Spot / by Dani Pettrey. (Chesapeake Valor, 3) 12.15.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764212963

Adult Rating: 5

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

In Blind Spot, FBI Agent Declan Grey is chasing down leads to an imminent terrorist attack on US soil. When his investigation takes him to an immigrant community, he calls on Tanner Shaw for assistance. Tanner works with immigrants and refugees, and recently joined the FBI as a crisis counselor. They find themselves fighting the clock to neutralize the threat, even as they recognize the growing attraction between them. Can they stop the terrorists in time?

Pettrey’s series features strong personalities with real problems. Declan, Tanner, and their friends are people with flaws, problems in their past, and consequences in their future caused by the choices they made. The faith element is evident but not preachy: for example, Declan prays for his relationship with Tanner. Their relationship is clean (appropriate for high school readers). Pettrey excels at creating an ensemble of characters the reader cares about. Characters from earlier novels reappear, to the reader’s delight.

In addition to character development, Pettrey also excels in plot development. The plausible plot takes the reader on a thrilling roller-coaster ride until the end with a final plot twist! Blind Spot answers some but not all of the questions–which no doubt will be answered in Dead Drift (book 4), scheduled for July 2018.

Recommended for public libraries. Fans of DiAnn Mills and Irene Hannon will especially enjoy this series. Suspense, romance, and action add up to a thrilling read!

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com
Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by 
CLJCold Shot (Mar/Apr/May/Jun 2016) and Still Life (Jan/Feb/Mar 2017).

Pursued / by Lisa Harris. (The Nikki Boyd Files, 3) 12.14.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800724207

Adult Rating: 5

Nikki Boyd just wants to quickly return home from her work trip so she can finally be reunited with her boyfriend, Tyler Grant, who has been overseas for three months. On her flight back to Nashville, Nikki meets Erika Hamilton. Minutes after introducing herself to her seatmate, Nikki’s flight crash lands outside of Nashville. That’s where the critical first 48 hours begin.

There’s no record of Erika Hamilton on that flight to Nashville. Nikki knows she was on the flight–she sat right next to Erika. Now she’s missing and Nikki is asked by the FBI to be a part of the missing persons task force determined to find Erika. Taking on that responsibility means no time to see her family or Tyler, which leaves her distracted. Will Nikki successfully locate Erika before it’s too late? What about all the mystery surrounding the identity of this woman? Shouldn’t it be easy to at least find out who she was before she disappeared?

From beginning to end, this story is packed with action. Within the first few pages, readers are captivated by the characters and the mysterious elements of the plane crash and missing persons case. In true Lisa Harris fashion, Pursued is chock-full of drama and suspense as the story progresses and the plot grows more complex. This is a great read for mystery/thriller lovers. It is a continuation of The Nikki Boyd Files so it is recommended that readers start with the first two books in the series before delving into Pursued.

Dani Seilhamer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Vendetta and Missing (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016).

A J.B. Collins Novel series / by Joel C. Rosenberg. 12.6.2017

The Third Target / by Joel C. Rosenberg. (A J.B. Collins Novel)

Tyndale House     ISBN 9781414336282

The First Hostage / by Joel C. Rosenberg. (A J.B. Collins Novel)

Tyndale House     ISBN 9781496423283

Without Warning / by Joel C. Rosenberg. (A J.B. Collins Novel)

Tyndale House     ISBN 9781496406200

Adult Rating: 4

Joel C. Rosenberg holds the reader captive as the story of J.B. Collins, a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, unfolds. His storytelling builds anticipation and suspense, all while delivering the clear messages of salvation through faith, true sacrifice, and redemption.

The reader is first introduced to J.B. Collins in The Third Target. J.B. doesn’t make time for anything else but his stories and the truth until he interviews Abu Khalif, the head of the Muslim terrorist group ISIS. During the interview, J.B.’s suspicions are confirmed:  ISIS has possession of chemical weapons and they intend to use them. After Khalif’s escape from prison, J.B. wants nothing more than to warn the world of the dangers that are sure to come, but now his own life is in danger. Will he disobey the orders of the U.S. government? With the President of the United States about to oversee a peace agreement days from being signed by both Israel and Palestine, there is no time to lose.

The First Hostage picks up where The Third Target ends. Abu Khalif and ISIS will do whatever it takes to establish the global reign of their Islamic messiah, even kidnap the President of the United States and demand the allegiance of the entire nation to the radical Islamic Sharia law. J.B. joins the multinationally-led hunt for the president before time runs out. In so doing, he and his family become targets of the jihadist.

In Without Warning, J.B. realizes that despite his best efforts thousands of lives are lost or put in harm’s way, including those of his family and friends. He joins a classified Mossad Israeli team to find and eliminate Abu Khalif and put an end to the terrorist reign. The independent correspondent has never thought of sacrifice, death, or what happens after, but as he draws closer to eliminating Abu Khalif, J.B. begins to question whether or not he is ready for the end of this life and what sacrifices it will take to save the lives of those he loves.

Rosenberg’s knowledge of current political and geographical regions melds seamlessly with his fictional creations. Although one may question J.B. Collins’ unexpected ability to fight alongside elite trained soldiers from multiple countries, it is quickly set aside for the fast-paced plot and detailed vivid action. The series is recommended with caution, as there are many deaths that take place, from both chemical and military grade weapons. The descriptions, though not in depth, do describe the events in such a way a picture is painted in the mind of the reader.

Cicely K. Ben, CLJ

 

The Raven /by Mike Nappa. (Coffey & Hill, 2) 11.30.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800726454

Adult Rating: 4

Coffey and Hill are back at it again in the second of the Coffey & Hill series, The Raven. Although divorced, Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill still share an amount of love and attraction between them which gives a type of sweetness to the story. That sweetness helps to balance out the violence to some extent.

The Raven is a magician–no, change that to master of deception, but really just a young man trying to make his mark on the world who is crazy about Trudi Coffey. His life seems harmless enough until he pickpockets the wallet of an important councilman, and, finding compromising information, decides to blackmail him. What ensues does not look good for this boy wonder and his appendages. He finds himself mired in a plot called Nevermore with the Eastern European mafia with no way out except for an old woman who calls herself Mama Bliss and the help of Coffey and Hill.

Mike Nappa’s The Raven is not a cozy mystery. As mentioned before, the book contains a serious amount of violence (though not gratuitous). There is a Christian worldview with some sharing of Scripture. Recommended for mystery buffs and those that enjoyed the first in the series.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Dark Deception / by Nancy Mehl. (Defenders of Justice, 2) 11.24.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217784

Adult Rating: 4

Nancy Mehl continues her new romantic suspense series featuring US marshals.

In Dark Deception, Kate O’Brien lives in witness protection in a small Arkansas town. Four years earlier, the O’Brien sisters were attacked by a serial killer, but only Kate survived.

However, Kate’s new life is not as safe as she thinks, especially when new evidence arises that might lead to a convicted man’s freedom. Kate is required to testify in a new trial, putting her life at risk. She agrees to return to St. Louis if the original deputy marshal who protected her during the first trial, US Deputy Marshall Tony DeLuca, will again provide protection. Both of them are unaware that she is being stalked by a killer, putting their lives in danger. Will they make it there alive? Is it the serial killer or is there a copycat killer at the center of the danger?

Mehl has written a plot-driven novel with a strong female character and an honorable male character. The faith element is evident but not heavy-handed. Readers will encounter good and bad cops, serial killers, obsessions, and fractured lives. The violence is appropriate for the story. The plot twists, especially concerning the identity of the mastermind behind Kate’s stalker, will keep the reader turning the pages until the book’s conclusion. All the loose ends are not tied up neatly at the end, leaving the reader wondering what will happen in the next book in this series.

Recommended for public and high school libraries. Fans of DiAnn Mills, Irene Hannon, and Dani Pettrey will appreciate this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJ: Fatal Frost (Jan/Feb/Mar 2017).

When Tides Turn / by Sarah Sundin. (Waves of Freedom, 3) 11.23.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800723446

Adult (YA) Rating: 5

In When Tides Turn, Quintessa Beaumont tires of being known for her beauty and fun personality, desiring instead to be useful. She dumps her “princess” name for “Tess” and joins the Navy’s WAVES, Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service. In so doing, she will be useful–and she can finally give up the idea of a relationship with Dan Avery, since WAVES are not allowed to marry Navy men under any circumstances, not that Dan is interested in her. In addition to new duties, Tess notices something mysterious going on with her friend Yvette and determines to find out what it is.

Though he would prefer to be at sea, Dan Avery is stuck in Boston doing a desk job. Dan continually tries to focus on his naval career advancement and getting back out to sea, but thoughts of Tess tend to distract him. When he gets a chance to serve at sea again, he takes it, happy to serve under his mentor, Admiral Howard. He learns some hard lessons from the Admiral that change the way he thinks when he returns to Boston. When the Navy lifts the restriction against dating WAVES, Dan wonders if Tess could possibly ever be interested in a bore like him.

Once again, Sarah Sundin combines an intriguing mystery with a budding romance and a splash of character transformation to create another compelling WWII-era novel. The war weighs heavily on the characters, lending a serious tenor to the story. Tess and Dan undergo some serious transformation and soul-searching throughout the book. Moments when Tess, Dan, and their friends are together lighten the mood, and also provide insights into America during the 40’s. All too quickly this story concludes, wrapping up the Waves of Freedom series.

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJThrough Waters Deep (Nov/Dec 2015); Anchor in the Storm (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016).

The Mistress of Tall Acre: A Novel / by Laura Frantz. 11.17.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800720445

Adult Rating: 4

The American Revolution has finally ended, but for 28 -year-old Sophie Menzies, the battle is far from won. Because her father was a Tory (though she is herself a loyal patriot), Sophie is in danger of losing her home at Three Chimneys. Alone–with her mother gone to Heaven, her father having escaped to Scotland, and no word from her brother whose loyalties are being questioned–how can Sophie save her home? The only solution to her problems may just rest in the hands of her widowed neighbor General Seamus Ogilvy, newly returned home an American hero with a young daughter to raise. She needs his financial support as well as his political influence to save her home, and he needs a mother for his daughter.

Will a marriage of convenience solve both their problems? Can two broken people find healing together? Just when it seems that happily ever after might be attained, a visitor from the past threatens to tear the new family apart.

Laura Frantz’s The Mistress of Tall Acre is a beautiful story of love and restoration that will sweep readers off their feet. The plot builds suspense with the intrigue of secrets and spies all culminating into a surprising twist. The main characters are full of depth and their own authentic charm. Sophie has a tender, compassionate heart and a giving nature; however, she is strong in her convictions and loyalty. Seamus has a hardened intensity about him, a result of his personal losses and years away at war. At times, his actions and words are insensitive if not hurtful, yet he is a protector by nature who learns to open his heart again. For both characters, their story is one of finding and coming home, with heartaches and joys along the way. The relationships in this story, both the developing romance between the main characters and their parental bonds with Lily Cate, possess a poignant sweetness and devotion. The final chapters paint a message that truth brings freedom and with it hope for the future.

Justina McBride, CLJ

A Love So True / by Melissa Jagears. (Teaville Moral Society, 2) 11.13.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217524

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Melissa Jagears continues her historical fiction series set in Kansas during the early 1900s.

In A Love So True, Evelyn Wisely works at the Teaville mansion that rescues children from the red-light district, but her heart is for the women who live there as well. She wants to help them escape poverty and prostitution. To do that, she needs the support of local businessmen to fund her work. David Kingsman comes to Teaville to rebuild his father’s faltering factory business. His intent was to stay only as long as needed to put the business on solid footing again, and then he would return to Kansas CIty. However, he is attracted to Evelyn. He shows interest in Evelyn’s work and wants to lend support, but complications arise.

Evelyn is compassionate and fiercely independent, holding others at arm’s length because of a secret she hides. When her secret is finally revealed, it causes a rift that threatens her budding relationship with David and any possible future together. The conclusion is a nice surprise twist.

Like Jagears’ other novels, A Love So True has solid character development, a clear faith element (without being preachy), and excellent historical detail. Characters from A Heart Most Certain (book 1) appear as secondary characters, continuing their storyline. It is refreshing to read a novel set in a time period and in circumstances not as familiar to readers. Jagears’ books are not just historical romance–these books deal with Christian charity, adoption, responsibility, compassion, and redemption in the community around them.

Recommended for adults and high school students in school and public libraries. Fans of Regina Jennings and Jen Turano will enjoy this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Where Hope Prevails / by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan. (Return to the Canadian West, 3) 10.31.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217838

Adult Rating: 5

This series is delightful and Where Hope Prevails, the third book, is no exception. The characters are easy to connect with and very likable. Even Mr. Robert Harris Hughes, a type of villain in this story, will have one’s sympathy. This title basically stands alone, but being the third in a series, there are a few things the reader will not fully appreciate without having read the first two books.

When Beth Thatcher returns to her fall teaching job in her well-loved village of Coal Valley, she finds her life changed drastically. Not only does she have a new place to live and many topical changes in the town have occurred due to prosperity, but she finds there is now a second teacher who will share her responsibilities. And when she discovers that Mr. Robert Harris Hughes (yes, he always goes by all three names!) is not a believer, her hackles are raised and she is on the defensive.

Dealing with these changes and her upcoming wedding to Jarrick, Beth is struggling to keep her faith resting in the Lord and His all-knowing control. Her dear friend Molly encourages her, and when faced with a difficult decision, Beth is strong and decisive.

Highly recommended for fiction readers, particularly historical fiction.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: When Courage Calls (Sep/Oct 2014); Where Trust Lies (Jul/Aug 2015).