Troubled Waters / by Susan May Warren. (Montana Rescue, 4) 5.28.2018

Revell ISBN 978800727468

Adult Rating: 4

Bestselling author Susan May Warren presents another installment in her Montana Rescue series, a contemporary romance series with elements of suspense, adventure, and happily-ever-after endings–but only after major challenges are resolved.

In Troubled Waters, Ian Shaw and Sierra Rose have fought their attraction to one another. Their journey to a happy ending has been disrupted by misunderstandings, secrets, and singular focus on (some would say obsession with) a niece’s disappearance. As long as Ian’s niece Esme is missing, that is his primary focus, causing him to have no room for anyone else in his life. When Sierra solves the mystery of Esme’s disappearance but promises Esme to keep it a secret from Ian, it causes difficulties in their being together.

Sierra uses Ian’s yacht for a PEAK Rescue fundraising excursion for his friends. Things go amiss, causing the yacht to capsize in the Caribbean, and all its passengers to be scattered. Ian and Sierra are washed up on an empty shore. Will they find their way back home, and to rebuilding a relationship with one another?

Susan May Warren returns with another adrenalin-packed adventure/contemporary romance. Characters from earlier books return and their stories continue. Warren includes a faith element that is present but not preachy, romance that is evident but clean, flawed characters the reader will relate to, and thrilling adventure that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

Recommended for public libraries and church libraries. The next book in the series, Storm Front, was released in May 2018 (and will be reviewed in the next issue of CLJ).

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJWild Montana Skies (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016), Rescue Me (Jan/Feb/Mar 2017), and Matter of Trust (Jul/Aug/Sep 2017).


The Memory Weaver: A Novel / by Jane Kirkpatrick. 4.27.2018

Revell ISBN 9780800722326

Adult Rating: 5

At the tender age of 13, Eliza Spalding Warren loses her mother, but the troubles that haunt and shape her life precede her mother’s death, tracing back to the time she was held hostage by the Cayuse Indians. Her memories of that traumatic experience often take her away from the present. They color her relationships with her father, her sisters, and her husband Andrew Warren. They are also the driving force behind her incessant need to control the lives of those closest to her. Though she is grown now, she longs for her mother’s wisdom and gentle presence to help her navigate the ups and downs of marriage and life.

When life events force her to go back to the place of her childhood trauma, Eliza discovers that memories are not always the most reliable accounts of the truth. When Eliza is given her mother’s diary, she further discovers that many of her preconceived notions are wrong. Will facing the past and the words of her mother help Eliza find freedom to truly live in the present, free from the fear and failures of the past?

In The Memory Weaver, Jane Kirkpatrick merges her love of history and the questions it leaves unanswered to bring to life the heart and soul of the pioneer woman. Her gift of storytelling paints vivid imagery that take one back to the untamed lands of yesterday, while her poignant words linger in the heart with lasting lessons of life, love, and truth. Eliza’s story is skillfully woven together with her mother’s through strategically placed diary entries that often show the parallels of the two women’s struggles, while also showing how a child’s perspective of a parent is not always accurate. The lesson that most stands out in Eliza’s journey is best summed up by the following: “every day is a day that starts a new life, that requires knitting and going back to pick up lost stitches” (p. 262). Ultimately, the past, present, and future are interwoven in the threads of life and sometimes one must go back to move forward, whole and free.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Pearl Spence Novels / Susie Finkbeiner. 4.26.2018

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl / Susie Finkbeiner. (Pearl Spence Novels, 1)

Kregel Publications ISBN 9780825443886

A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression / Susie Finkbeiner. (Pearl Spence Novels, 2)

Kregel Publications ISBN 9780825444463

Adult Rating: 5

In 1934, dust is a constant for the citizens of Red River, Oklahoma, including ten-year-old Pearl Spence; however, she and her family have it better than most. Her daddy is the town Sheriff, meaning he gets paid every month and they do not have to bear the shame of relying on the government aid trucks. They also enjoy the comforts of a real home, not a sharecropper’s cabin. Life is not perfect. Some days Pearl tires of watching her big sister Beanie whose mind does not work the same as other folks’. Pearl also struggles with the injustices of her world, like a man who hurts his family or That Woman no one ever acknowledges. Life is hard, but Pearl has her family and fairy tales to help her rise above the dust seeping into every corner of life.

Her peaceful existence, however, is threatened when a strange drifter jumps off a passing train. Who is this Eddie with the hard, mean eyes and how does he know so much about Pearl? In A Cup of Dust, Pearl stumbles on a mystery that threatens to unravel all she holds dear.

In A Trail of Crumbs, Pearl feels life has returned to some semblance of normal, though she “didn’t make believe anymore” (p. 15). However, tragedy rears its ugly head again; this time, she does not know if her family can find their way back from it in one piece.

Susie Finkbeiner’s “Pearl Spence Novels” are a rich delight to the mind and heart. Experiencing life during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression through the eyes of Pearl lends a fresh, poignant look at some of the darker times in American history. The author’s skillful use of Pearl’s point of view also serves to dull some of the sharpness of the more weighty, gruesome circumstances of the plot. Readers cannot help but fall in love with Pearl’s courageous heart and innocent, yet perceptive understanding of life and the people around her. In the first book, she learns an important lesson that kindness and meanness both have the power to “break a heart”; the difference, however is that kindness softens the heart, while meanness “just made the heart want to be hard” (p. 25). These contrasting truths echo throughout this coming of age journey wrought with trials and loss but anchored in the surety of love, belonging, and never-ending hope.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Beyond the Silence / by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse. 4.25.2018

Bethany House ISBN 9780764214103

Adult Rating: 4

Twenty-one-year-old Lillian Porter is ready to break free of the prison her grandfather has constructed for her behind the safe walls of his wealthy home. For years, she has allowed it, hoping he would break free from his grief over the death of his wife and daughter, but the time has come for her to make her life count and follow her mother’s dreams of heading out west. Her chance to do both comes when she takes a position in Angels Camp, California as a nanny to a young boy who has not spoken since his mother’s death.

Almost as soon as she steps off the stagecoach, she hears dark accusations about her new employer and is warned to take the first stage back to the safety of home. However, Woodward Colton, the sincere and conscientious man employing her, does not measure up to the ugly rumors attached to his name, nor does his account of what happened to his wife. She instantly loses her heart to her young charge and settles into her new life, but danger is lurking and more accusations are hurled. Will the truth come to light before it is too late to save herself and those she has come to love?

In Beyond the Silence, Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse weave an engaging tale of suspense, healing, and love. The main characters quickly pull readers in: Lillian with her desire for purpose and meaning in life, Woody with his broken heart, and little Jimmy with his silent cries. Told in the alternating voices of the main characters as well as the antagonist, this story goes beyond a typical romance novel and paints a picture of the contrasting outcomes of family tragedy and grief. One is seen through Lillian’s grandfather whose grief ultimately drives away the only family he has, another through the bitterness and evil acts of the antagonist. Still another, and the one desired, is seen through Woody who allows God’s healing and forgiveness to save him, opening the door to another chance at love.

Justina McBride, CLJ

The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy / by Kim Vogel Sawyer. 4.24.2018

When Mercy Rains / by Kim Vogel Sawyer. (The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy, 1)

WaterBrook Press ISBN 9780307731319

When Grace Sings / by Kim Vogel Sawyer. (The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy, 2)

WaterBrook Press ISBN 9780307731333

When Love Returns / by Kim Vogel Sawyer. (The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy, 3)

WaterBrook Press ISBN 9780307731357

Adult Rating: 5

The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy tells the stories of a woman living with a secret and two young girls that have been denied the truth.

In When Mercy Rains, Suzanne Zimmerman has stayed away from her family for 20 years. Since Suzanne is a nurse, her brother is asking for her assistance with their mother due to an accident. Nobody knew she was pregnant when her mother sent her away at 17, not even her boyfriend at the time, Paul. Suzanne is conflicted on returning home with her daughter, Alexa, who doesn’t even know the story of her birth. What will happen when the truth comes out about the daughter nobody knows about, the daughter she was supposed to give away?

In When Grace Sings, Alexa Zimmerman has decided to stay in Kansas with her grandmother to open a bed and breakfast. She and her family have learned the story of her birth, but she still wonders if she’ll ever be fully accepted in the Old Order community. Alexa’s cousin, Anna-Grace, is getting married and wants to stay closer to her future husband and to get used to the community. Alexa agrees to have her stay at the bed and breakfast. She knows that Anna-Grace will be a huge help to the business. However, she also feels fear and guilt whenever Anna-Grace is around. She’s afraid that she will be pushed aside because everybody knows her mother’s secret–and feels guilty because Anna-Grace is the only one that doesn’t know.

In When Love Returns, Suzanne has decided to move back to Kansas even though the decision was not an easy one to make. She can’t help that she still has feelings for Paul after all these years. She also senses that he still has feelings for her. They have accepted their past and wonder if they could have a future together. Meanwhile, Suzanne has to accept that Alexa is a grown woman who needs to seek out a truth of her own. This hurts Suzanne because she’s afraid what Alexa might find and that the truth could take her away from her.

Kim Vogel Sawyer has introduced a very sensitive subject for an Old Order Mennonite family. There are so many emotions that this family has to experience. Suzanne’s mother realizes that what she did was wrong, but felt it was her only option at the time. She now has to live with the guilt of missing out on her daughter’s and granddaughter’s life. Suzanne has been hiding a secret for 20 years and afraid that the truth could hurt those she loved the most, including her daughter, Alexa. This family has had to put their trust and faith in God that he will help restore their family’s relationships and place forgiveness in their hearts. When they place it in the Lord’s hands, they realize that their faith and family is strong and they will be able to mend relationships over time.

Recommended for public and school libraries.

Trina Chase, CLJ

Teach Us to Pray / by Gordon T. Smith. 4.20.2018

InterVarsity Press ISBN 9780830845217

Adult Rating: *5

In Teach Us to Pray, Gordon T. Smith elaborates on an aspect of prayer overlooked by a majority of the Christian body. Smith believes the phrase “Thy Kingdom come” is not merely a statement of God’s glorious kingdom establishing itself within His creation, making believers nothing but observers, but an acknowledgement that believers are participants in that coming–and that this kingdom view emerges in the life of a believer through the constant practice of prayer.

Smith believes that many times Christians miss the subtle workings of the living God, giving in to hopeless despair by focusing on all that’s wrong with the world and people around them, and by giving in to a need to be heroes or little messiahs. Only through regular, consistent, persistent, and intentional prayer does the believer become aware of God’s transforming power and grace. When believers shift their focus and open their spiritual eyes, the world becomes viewed through the eyes of the kingdom.

Explaining the three movements in prayer–Thanks, Confession, and Discernment–Smith reveals, not an instructional manual on how to pray, but a change in perspective. He explains how allowing the Spirit freedom to lead the prayer allows for a deep fellowship with God and an opening to knowing the joy of God.

Smith’s minimal use of theological language allows readers to understand quickly the purpose behind Spirit-led prayer. Through every change or new life situation readers will be able to apply the spiritual practices laid out in logical, easy-to-follow sequence. Understanding that intentional prayer is a practice, they will always be learning, and prayer will always be an essential element in their growing relationship with God.

Cicely K. Ben, CLJ

Catching the Wind / by Melanie Dobson. 4.19.2018

Tyndale House ISBN 9781496417282

Adult Rating: *5

Dietmar and Brigitte, young friends in Germany during WWII, make a daring escape from Nazi soldiers in Catching the Wind. Now 77 years later, Dietmar, who changed his name to Daniel Knight following the war, urgently longs to find out what happened to Brigette. He last saw her when they arrived in England, and a couple took her in for the duration of the war. After multiple investigators over his lifetime fail to find Brigitte, Daniel feels perhaps Quenby Vaughn–a young journalist whose articles reflect her passion to dig out stories and help others–can help in his quest. Quenby and Lucas Hough, Daniel’s very handsome solicitor, team up on an impossibly cold case which just happens to coincide with Quenby’s research for an article about a prominent family in WWII England and their possible involvement with Nazis during the war.

Melanie Dobson’s intriguing plot is filled with tension as modern day Quenby attempts to piece together the puzzle of what happened to Brigitte, and then Dobson shows what is happening to Brigitte during WWII. In addition to the tension of the investigation, and the tension of Brigitte’s life, sparks fly between Quenby and Lucas as they team up for the search. Daniel Knight is a knight in the truest sense of the word, searching for Brigitte and wishing he could have better protected her. Both Brigitte and Quenby undergo transformations throughout the book, and their stories provide wonderful themes for life. “She couldn’t change her past…but it didn’t define who she was today…She had the power to write a new story from this moment forward. Her story….A new story filled with…a heart open to trusting God…A heart willing to forgive.” (p. 374)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Let There Be Science: Why God Loves Science and Science Needs God / by Tom McLeish and David Hutchings. 4.17.2018

Lion Books ISBN 9780745968636

Adult (YA) Rating: 4

In Let There Be Science: Why God Loves Science and Science Needs God, physics teacher David Hutchings and physics professor Tom McLeish lay out a discussion of the relatedness–and even inseparable relationship–between God and science. The authors propose that “science flows naturally from the Christian worldview, and that it always has” (p. 10). In order to support this claim, Hutchings and McLeish set forth an initial explanation of science as a way of thinking, rather than a specific body of knowledge or modern technological advances. Each chapter then tackles a broader, typically theologically-related topic by presenting historical narratives of scientific discoveries, then analyzing or comparing these narratives within an openly Christian framework.

Hutchings and McLeish do a fabulous job of creating an understandable and relatable text. The authors use biblical texts and narratives from the history of scientific discovery as their main tools. In so doing, the authors constantly remind the reader that science is something that is innately human. Although “science” sometimes seems unapproachable or a field only for a certain group of people, Hutchings and McLeish superbly explain each topic, as well as show the humanness or relatability of the process of scientific discovery and the individuals involved. Each chapter then concludes with a summary section that helps to clarify connections or implications within individual chapters and chapters up to that point.

By the end of the book, the reader has heard the stories of numerous scientists, from ancient to modern, and the biblical analysis that best explains the continued progression of science no matter the circumstance. From biblical invitation to study the universe, to the knowableness of nature, to the order found in chaos, to perseverance in the face of hardship, Hutchings and McLeish present a thought-provoking argument for the unavoidable relatedness of God and science.

Elisabeth A. Orr, CLJ

Jo Oliver Thriller series / by Catherine Finger 4.5.2018

Cleansed by death / by Catherine Finger (A Jo Oliver Thriller, 1)
Anchored Productions ISBN 9780007991901

Shattered by death / by Catherine Finger (A Jo Oliver Thriller, 2)
Anchored Productions ISBN 9780997991994

Anchored by death / by Catherine Finger (A Jo Oliver Thriller, 3)
Elk Lake Publishing, Inc. ISBN 9781946638304

Adult Rating: 3

In Catherine Finger’s Cleansed by Death, Police Chief Jo Oliver is tracking a serial killer, one who has her in his sights. The Mentor Sister Serial Killer always first takes a young girl in anticipation of an adult woman in her life. The child is not fatally harmed but brings the adult to his door, an adult he does unspeakable things to before taking her life.

Jo has desperately wanted to adopt Samantha, but her cruel and abusive husband would not allow it. Now on the brink of divorce from Del, she is determined to make that adoption a reality. But can she save Sam from the kidnapping that is intended to bring about her own death?

In this book Jo herself has mentors who gently lead her to Christ, a decision she makes before the book’s ending. She does have a friend named Nick with whom there is a definite attraction and sexual tension. They do not act on this, and Jo gives as her reason the fact that she is still married.

The second book in the series is Shattered by Death. On the brink of a very costly divorce and having once said she would be glad to see her ex-husband and his girlfriend both dead, when Del and his paramour are found brutally murdered, Josie Oliver is the key suspect. One by one, her worst enemies are being killed. Who is behind this, who hates Oliver enough to want to make her a prime target?

Once again, Jo is concerned about Sam and how this will affect the adoption. Her newfound faith is present and active but her doubts abound, too.

Anchored by Death takes Police Chief Oliver off to Wisconsin for some much-needed R & R where, of course, she once more becomes embroiled in a case, hoping to catch the Bow Tie Killer. Dealing with a psychopath is one thing but the long-held romantic feelings for Nick Vitarello only add fuel to the fire of Jo’s crazy life, searching for a serial killer and trying to either rein in her feelings or give in to her love for Nick.

And always, in the back of her mind is Samantha, the young girl she is determined to adopt and create a family with. Jo Oliver loves the Lord, rather newly-found in her life, and His presence is felt throughout Anchored by Death.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage / by Julie Klassen. (Tales from Ivy Hill, 2) 4.2.2018

Bethany House ISBN 9780764218156

Adult Rating: 5

Award-winning author Julie Klassen continues her Regency series set in the English village of Ivy Hill.

In The Ladies of Ivy Cottage, Rachel Ashford is Mercy and Matilda Grove’s guest at the Ivy Cottage. Rachel is a gentlewoman who seeks to make a living as her funds are dwindling. Her friend Jane Bell, the innkeeper of Ivy Hill, and Mercy, manager of the local school for girls, encourage her to start a circulating library with books she inherited from her father, as well as with donations. As she sorts through the villagers’ donations, she uncovers a mystery hidden within one of the books that she tries to solve.

Meanwhile, Mercy fills her days at the school, having given up the thought of marriage. When several men begin taking an interest in the ladies of Ivy Cottage, she assumes Rachel is the attraction, but what if she is wrong? Will the ladies solve the mysteries of the past and find hope for the future?

Klassen is known for her excellent character development in her inspirational Regency novels, which are filled with love and redemption, and family relationships. The faith elements are light-handed. Readers will appreciate the nod to Jane Austen, as well as the depth of the historical details. Discussion questions are also included.

 Recommended for public and high school libraries. Her novels should appeal to adults and high school readers alike. Fans of Julie Klassen, Sarah E. Ladd, Carrie Turansky, and other historical fiction fans will be delighted to read this series. Watch for the next book in this series, The Bride of Ivy Green, coming in December 2018.

Carol R. Gehringer,

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill (Jan/Feb/Mar 2017).