Conspiracy of Silence / by Ronie Kendig. 10.16.2018

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217654

Adult Rating: 5

Tzivia Khalon, an archaeologist, seeks to redeem her professional reputation following a disaster that happened three years earlier. She thinks her most current discovery will do just that in Conspiracy of Silence. Little does she know the threat found within the biblical era discovery. A special ops soldier, Cole “Tox” Russell, presumed dead by all who love him, returns when his country needs him to neutralize the assassin of the former vice president. As Tox assembles his team, forces are at work to access and proliferate a toxin that could kill those with whom it comes into contact. Haven “Kasey” Cortes, FBI deception detector, once had a schoolgirl crush on Cole, and now holds his freedom in her hands. Tox and his team must find not only the assassin responsible for so much death, but also those bent on spreading a plague.

Ronie Kendig’s suspenseful plot moves quickly. In addition to locating and taking down the assassin, the team of characters must find the source of the plague as well as its remedy before it spreads throughout the world. This mission takes them from the United States to Saudi Arabia, to India then Jerusalem, and finally to Syria and beyond. Each piece of the puzzle seems to add a new layer of history or mystery to their search. In addition to the high stakes plot, the characters face some life-changing realizations–if they can see them. Cole fears hurting those he loves more than anything and must overcome that fear if he is to have any meaningful relationships with them. Tzivia’s lack of faith blinds her to possibilities that could solve a devastating outbreak of a plague. Kasey feels dwarfed by the shadow of her sister which sometimes blinds her to feelings others have for her. As they seek answers and justice, they also seek redemption–some professional, some relational, and some spiritual. And whether they see it or not, Kendig shows that God is there–offering redemption and rescue all along the way.

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

The Promise of Breeze Hill / by Pam Hillman. (A Natchez Trace Novel) 9.26.2018

Tyndale ISBN 9781496415929

Adult     Rating: 5

With her brother murdered, her widowed sister-in-law pregnant, her father badly burned, and her home half-destroyed, Isabella Bartholomew longs for her pre-tragedy life. The once-prominent Breeze Hill now stands near-ruin, and young Isabella believes restoring her father’s estate is the only thing that will bring some normalcy back into the Bartholomew household.

Short on funds, Isabella takes a gamble to purchase indentured servant papers for Irishman Connor O’Shea, a carpenter seeking American passage for his brothers, hoping that the harvest will fund his service–that is, if no more misfortune befalls her family.

Connor, scorned by his former mistress, tries to keep focused on his work instead of the enchanting Isabella—though his struggle may be a lost cause. Ruffians, bandits, kidnappers, and courters keep bringing chaos to the Bartholomew family and bringing Connor and Isabella closer together. The misfortune of Breeze Hill begins to appear like a strategic attack. As disaster strikes, can Isabella protect the estate? And will Connor be able to keep her safe?

Bestselling author Pam Hillman subtly fills readers’ minds with historic details of the late 1700s, from female and foreigner discrimination to courting and inheritance traditions. Pulling the reader in with lovely description, Hillman creates an unforgettable adventure with a cast of realistic characters. Isabella embodies the role of a dutiful daughter, while Connor’s past motivates his actions and develops his character throughout the book.

Because of the close third-person narration that alternates between Isabella’s and Connor’s perspectives, readers get to see their thoughts as they encounter thrilling feats and slowly fall in love. As scenes alternate, however, these main characters always seem to know what the other is thinking—often repeating information and merging these distinct voices.

This novel would fit well into any library’s Christian romance collection. Readers of Karen Witemeyer, Michelle Griep, and Regina Jennings will swoon over the romance in The Promise of Breeze Hill and be sucked into this can’t-put-down story.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

How to Live a Life of Prayer: Classic Christian Writers on the Divine Privilege of Prayer / compiled and edited by Donna K. Maltese. 9.20.2018

Barbour Books ISBN 9781683224638

Adult Rating: 4

In this work, Donna K. Maltese provides a compilation of excerpts from four Christian writers: John Wesley, E. M. Bounds, Andrew Murray, and S. D. Gordon. Through the words of these men, this collection of writings expounds on the topic of prayer using a “Who”, “What”, “When”, “Where”, “Why”, and “How” framework. Each author has a few contributing pieces within each section and subsection, providing a range of insight and varying perspectives on each topic. Many of the excerpts also include a Scripture passage to which the writer was referring, providing direct biblical connections alongside the interpretations or implications drawn out by the writer.

Though this combination of authors and pieces of their larger works does provide the reader with distinct perspectives and a broad understanding of the topic of prayer, the nature of the compilation makes for a disjointed reading experience. With excerpts ranging from a few words to a few pages in length, the subsections or topics within each section often change rather abruptly. Nevertheless, for those interested in growing in their understanding of and engagement in prayer, Maltese’s compilation provides excellent and diverse insight into the multifaceted practice of prayer in a neatly organized fashion.

Elisabeth A. Orr, CLJ

The Golden Vial / by Thomas Locke. (Legends of the Realm, 3) 9.17.2018

Revell     ISBN 9780800723873

Adult (YA)     Rating: 4

Award-winning author Thomas Locke continues his fantasy series for adults featuring elves, wizards, magic, and an orphan with special abilities.

In The Golden Vial, Hyam suffers from a strange wasting illness. Lady Shona leads her band of loyal followers to Hyam’s hometown to find answers, even if it means they must build new alliances and face deadly enemies.

Meanwhile, an orphaned servant girl named Dally, who lives in Hyam’s hometown, has kept her unique abilities a secret. But she may be the key to winning the final battle against an ancient evil threatening them. Will Dally step forward and embrace her role, and at what cost?

Locke builds a credible world (the Realm), a world in which no one is an innocent bystander in the eternal fight between good and evil. People can choose to ignore the evil around them and hope it goes away, or choose to fight it, using all their resources in trying to push back the darkness. Like most epic fantasies, this book includes sorcerers, elves, unusual creatures, dragons, and magic. Some would argue a Christian book shouldn’t have these elements, but they are essential to the overall plot. The Golden Vial is more engaging than the previous two books, Emissary and Merchant of Alyss. Surprisingly, Hyam plays a very minor role in this book after playing a major role in the earlier books. Readers are encouraged to read the other two books first to better understand the Realm and its story.

Recommended for adult collections in public libraries, and for fans of epic fantasy books by Patrick Carr and Jill Williamson.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJEmissary (Nov/Dec 2015); Merchant of Alyss (Jan/Feb/Mar 2018).

Egypt’s Sister: A Novel of Cleopatra / by Angela Hunt. (The Silent Years) 8.24.2018

Bethany House ISBN 9780764219320

Adult (YA) Rating: 4

As the daughter of the royal tutor, Chava is as close as a sister to the Princess Urbi of Egypt. A word from HaShem makes Chava believe that she and Urbi will be friends for a lifetime, even after Urbi unexpectedly ascends the throne as Queen Cleopatra. In order to fulfill Hashem’s words Chava rejects her own desires for a loving marriage, certain that she will be the Queen’s handmaiden soon enough. But a gift from Cleopatra forces Chava to choose either her friendship or her God. Tossed aside, forgotten, and eventually sold by the Queen, Chava is forced to leave her home and enter Rome on the bottom rung of society. She will have to keep her eyes on HaShem if she ever hopes to rise again.

In Egypt’s Sister, author Angela Hunt depicts women in ancient Egypt as having a great deal of freedom. This helps to make Chava more relatable to young girls and women just starting their life, and the story presents valuable life lessons. Chava will take readers on a journey of growth, both spiritually and as a person. Young women will relate to Chava’s struggle to remain pure in a world with skewed morals and to chase after God’s will for their life.

Tatiana Bickler, CLJ

How Sweet the Sound / by Amy K. Sorrells. 8.23.2018

Tyndale ISBN 9781496426130

Adult Rating: 5

A storm is brewing over Bay Spring, Alabama and 13-year-old Anniston Harlan finds her family and herself at the very center. She thought she had already survived the worst storm of her life when Hurricane Frederic touched down, destroying a large portion of her family’s pecan orchard a few months ago. Nothing, however, could have prepared her for the tragedy that was soon to strike, changing her life forever. How will she find her way through the darkness and hidden secrets surrounding her family?

Comfort Harlan, Anniston’s aunt, seems to have everything a woman living a life of privilege could want–the looks of a pageant beauty queen and the love of her childhood sweetheart. However, she has always lacked one thing: her mother’s love and approval. Just after the announcement of her upcoming marriage, a violent act steals Comfort’s very will to live, tearing down the protective walls her mind constructed long ago to hide memories too dark to face.

The Harlan family may be at the top of the social ladder, the leading pillars in their southern town, but the glitter of wealth and prestige can only conceal the darkness so long.

Amy K. Sorrells’ novel How Sweet the Sound is not for the faint of heart, addressing incest, rape, and suicide. It is a journey through a dark valley that brings with it a range of emotions from rage to forgiveness, defeat to hope, and sorrow to joy. The story is told through Anniston’s and Comfort’s alternating perspectives. Anniston’s character and point of view help balance the darkness of this tale with her young perspective on life and big heart that reaches to the outcasts and hurting. Comfort’s thoughts and inward battle provide a heartrending glimpse into the life of one who’s innocence has been lost in the most atrocious ways. The reaction of the town to her tragedy mirrors a reality that all too often places the blame and shame on the victim. Overall, as its name rightly attests, this story is truly a picture of amazing grace and its work of sweet healing, redemption, and restoration.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Death at Thorburn Hall / by Julianna Deering. (A Drew Farthering Mystery Series, 6) 8.15.2018

Bethany House ISBN 9780764218291

Adult Rating: 5

Death at Thorburn Hall is the sixth in this delightful mystery series. Drew Farthering is hoping for a relaxing time at the 1935 British Open in Scotland. But death continues to follow him; this time his host, Lord Rainsby, has a suspicious riding accident. What causes Drew’s apprehensions is that Rainsby had confided in Drew regarding his concerns towards his business partner–suspicions that he is embezzling funds.

As the story ensues, it seems that everyone Drew investigates has motive for killing his host. But he continues to slog through the clues with his lovely wife Madeline and best friend, Nick. Madeline is an excellent foil to Drew, very intelligent and intuitive. Nick and Carrie are a couple as well, although not married, but Nick is afraid the mystery and all that it encompasses may scare Carrie away. A little romance surrounds both couples and readers will find that a lovely addition to the story. The Fartherings have a sweet relationship with each other and with the Lord, but the reader will not feel beaten over the head with Christianity.

Many compare Deering’s Farthering mysteries to Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Rules of Murder (Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015); Death by the Book (Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015); Murder at the Mikado (Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015); Murder on the Moor (Oct/Nov/Dec 2017).

 

High Treason / by DiAnn Mills. (FBI Task Force, 3) 7.16.2018

Tyndale House ISBN 9781496410993

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author DiAnn Mills returns with another contemporary suspense novel in her FBI Task Force series, this time highlighting the interaction between a FBI and CIA agent as they provide protection for a visiting Saudi dignitary and his family.

In High Treason, FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson’s personal ties with Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal make him the perfect person to take the lead position on the protective detail for the prince. He is joined by CIA operative Monica Alden to protect the prince, his sisters, and his mother who is in the US to seek cancer treatment. Monica and Kord must set aside differences between them in order to work together in protecting the prince’s family from the assassin who seems to be privy to the prince’s every move, including some that are decided at the last minute. Could that would-be assassin be a part of the prince’s trusted inner circle who doesn’t want to see the prince succeed in his plan to promote stronger ties with the US and more westernization in his homeland?

Mills creates a believable scenario with high stakes, plenty of action, and strong characters. The edge-of-your-seat plot will have the reader riveted until its spine-tingling conclusion. The relationship between the Saudi and American characters and the Saudi culture are handled respectfully. The faith element is integrated almost seamlessly: Monica is a believer while Kord is an agnostic who wants to believe but hasn’t been able to do so.

Recommended for high school and public libraries, especially for fans of Irene Hannon, Dani Pettrey, and Dee Henderson, as well as fans of Mills’ earlier works in this series, Deep Extraction and Deadly Encounter.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ Deadly Encounter (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016); Deep Extraction (Apr/May/Jun 2017).

The Saturday Night Supper Club / by Carla Laureano. (A Supper Club Novel, 1) 7.10.2018

Tyndale ISBN 9781496420244

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Carla Laureano pens a new contemporary romance series set in a supper club in Denver.

In The Saturday Night Supper Club, Rachel Bishop, part owner of a fine dining restaurant and James Beard Award-winning chef, finds herself the victim of an social media campaign when writer Alex Kanin’s article goes viral. It damages Rachel’s reputation, and she is pushed out of her restaurant business by her partners.

Alex realizes the article’s unintended effect on Rachel and tries to apologize by hosting a supper club in his home and inviting influential people. As they work together on this unique dinner party, they discover their feelings for one another are growing–and Rachel discovers her dreams might be different than she thought.

Laureano creates a tasty story with realistic characters, a plausible storyline, a clean but delectable romance, and a sprinkling of faith tossed in. Alex’s backstory is a delightful addition to the storyline. The book has a dash of spice in the chemistry between Alex and Rachel, with rom-com moments and mouth-watering cooking descriptions. The culinary terminology is enjoyable, not overwhelming. One almost expects to see recipes in the back. All in all, The Saturday Night Supper Club is a delicious read for adults.

Recommended for public libraries and fans of Laureano’s earlier books. Watch for the next addition to this series: Brunch at Bittersweet Café (Spring 2019).

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

 

Crisis Shot / by Janice Cantore. (Line of Duty, 1) 7.9.2018

Tyndale ISBN 9781496423702

Adult Rating: 4

Tess O’Rourke followed in her father’s footsteps by joining the Long Beach Police Department, and she has high hopes of furthering her already distinguished career by becoming the chief of police. However, before she can realize this dream, she fatally shoots an unarmed teenager in defense of her fellow officer. The grand jury decides against pressing charges, but the damage has been done. Tess receives so much bad press that she realizes she has no choice but to leave the only home she’s ever known and take the lone job offer she has—police chief of Rogue Hollow, Oregon.

Tess struggles to find her place in this small, tight-knit town, but before long tragedy strikes: someone has been murdered and another is missing. Tess must draw on her vast experience to navigate the investigation that follows and uncover the dark secrets lurking in Rogue Hollow.

In Crisis Shot, Janice Cantore successfully weaves a plot rich in momentum and suspense. Though the murder and missing person investigation compose the majority of the book, she maintains a sense of urgency. She also succeeds in maintaining the suspense throughout by giving the reader clues along the way, but not such large clues that the resolution becomes obvious.

Cantore also succeeds in conveying an authenticity throughout her plot, something often missing from novels featuring police or detectives. As a retired police officer, her background is certainly advantageous in this regard, and she takes full advantage of it by including procedures and facts that ring with authenticity and in no way bore the reader. The resulting combination of momentum, suspense, and authenticity lends itself to an entertaining, interesting novel well worth a weekend read.

Rachel Pfeiffer, CLJ