What Christians Ought to Believe: An introduction to Christian Doctrine Through the Apostles’ Creed / by Michael R. Bird. 6.6.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780420630935

Adult Rating: 5

Bringing together helpful illustrations, theological discussion, and ways to apply these to one’s life, What Christians Ought to Believe enables readers to see the possibilities of the Apostle’s Creed as a way to probe and understand the basic teachings of the Christian faith. The book provides a syllabus for summarizing what Christians believe about God, Jesus, the church, and the life to come.

Author Michael R. Bird begins by highlighting the importance of creeds for the formation of the Christian faith, with each chapter, following the Creed’s outline, introducing the Trinity and the church of believers. Bird notes that embedding the Apostles’ Creed in our corporate church life is an excellent way to ensure the integrity and orthodoxy of our faith and a great means to infuse some ancient wisdom into our spiritual journey. An appendix includes the Apostles’ Creed in the original Latin and Greek.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

The Inn at Ocean’s Edge / by Colleen Coble. (A Sunset Cove Novel) 6.5.2017

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9781401690267

Adult Rating: 4

The Inn at Ocean’s Edge is an engaging story with a mix of mystery, suspense, tension, family secrets, betrayal, courage, assault, kidnapping, and murder. A budding romance hindered by doubts, trusting in God during highly stressful times, and a rescued baby orca are also woven into the storyline. Some interesting facts about orcas and their similarities to humans are included in the story. Readers will be invested in the outcome of the novel as the suspense continues to build until it culminates into a climatic ending.

Claire Dellamare has just arrived at Hotel Tourmaline on the island of Folly Shoals, Maine, to help her father with an important merger for the family-owned business. She begins to feel uneasy and ends up having a panic attack. To calm herself down, she goes for a walk on the beach, which leads to an unexpected encounter with Luke Rocco and his sister Megan. During their conversation, Claire is stunned to learn that she went missing at the age of four and spent one year lost in the island’s forest. Luke is hopeful she remembers seeing a woman on the night she disappeared, but Claire has no memories of the childhood incident. Claire confronts her parents about her past and comes to believe they are hiding important details about what happened. Subsequently, Claire and Luke work together to try and discover the truth. Even when a mysterious person threatens Claire’s life, she refuses to give up. Will Claire be able to unravel the secrets of her past, and will it change her life in any way?

The central theme of the book revolves around the complexity of family relationships. Colleen Coble has done a good job of showing the adverse emotional effects that lies and deceptions can have on family members, while also showing how love, perseverance, and commitment can profoundly impact families. Questions have been included that can be used in group discussions about complex issues faced by characters in the novel.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

At home in Trinity series / by Delia Parr. 5.24.2017

The Midwife’s Tale / by Delia Parr. (At home in Trinity, 1)
Bethany House ISBN9780764217333

The Midwife’s Choice / by Delia Parr. (At home in Trinity, 2)
Bethany House ISBN9780764217340

The Midwife’s Dilemma / by Delia Parr. (At home in Trinity, 3)
Bethany House ISBN9780764217357
Adult Rating: 4

Martha Cade comes from a long line of midwives, proud of this satisfying work and hoping to continue her vocation for many years to come. She loves ushering new life into the world and ministering to the mothers, but a consequence of being in so many homes and at a rather intimate time is that Martha knows all the secrets of her small Pennsylvania town–a blessing yet a burden at times.

Martha has been long widowed and raising her headstrong daughter Victoria can be a trial. She had hoped that this daughter would take over her midwifery practice in the future but Victoria has her sights set on a more worldly endeavor. At the onset of the first book in the series, The Midwife’s Tale, Martha has not heard from her daughter in months and is distraught, wondering where she might be. Will there be reconciliation?

The story continues in The Midwife’s Choice and The Midwife’s Dilemma. Throughout the series, other events also weigh heavily on Martha. This is the 1830’s and times are changing. The obstetric methods of a new young doctor in town are threatening her job, causing pregnant women to seek him out for their care instead of the traditional midwife. And there is romance in the air. As a young woman, Martha’s beau was Thomas Dillon, now the town’s mayor. Although each of them married another, now that they are both widowed, Thomas is determined to make Martha his bride.

Martha trusts the Lord and although her faith is often tested, she turns to Him again and again for strength and guidance. All three titles in Delia Parr’s At Home in Trinity series are enjoyable inspirational fiction.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story / by Michael Horton. 5.18.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780310525066

Adult Rating: 5

Westminster Seminary professor and theologian Michael Horton seeks to help the Christian reader to invite others into solid theological truths. Horton’s Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story puts together systematic theology, biblical theology, and practical theology into one discussion. The twelve chapters of the book cover four themes: the drama of redemption, the doctrine of Scripture, doxology (praise/worship), and discipleship.

One particular strength of this work is the author’s emphasizing that it’s not so much that God is a part of our stories, but that we are a part of His. Another is the practical approach on what believers should be doing until Jesus returns, with a look at serving in our various callings—a discussion enabling believers to be more direct in handling challenges and doubts. A lingering consistent theme is Horton’s persistent focus on God and His Word. He is clear about enabling believers to know what they believe and why. Those having read Basic Christianity by John Stott will enjoy this clarifying work.

The discussion is well worth the time in reading. The print is somewhat small, with the font in the sidebars somewhat difficult to read. Younger believers can also consult Surprised by Faith by Don Bierle.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Broken Ground / by Karen Halvorsen Schreck. 5.5.2017

Howard Books ISBN 9781476794839

Adult (YA)      Rating: 5

Ruth envisions an idyllic life with the man she loves, going to college, and becoming a teacher. When a terrible tragedy shatters her life, Ruth must decide how much she wants to live–and how to escape a domineering father. Her choice propels her on a journey through America’s 1930s western landscape dotted with Hoovervilles and plagued by state-sponsored racism.

After an assault and a false accusation derail her dream of school and uproot her again, she embarks on a new journey into the world of Mexican workers fighting illegal deportations. In the midst of her own grief and struggles, Ruth rises above herself and discovers the redeeming qualities of service to others that transforms her life and that of those around her. Teaching the Mexican children, she learns that every child should feel content, that education is a universal right, and that God is the God of all cultures and languages.

Through thoughtful narrative, engaging dialogue, and descriptive scenes, Karen Halvorsen Schreck portrays a little-known part of American History. In addition, Broken Ground is a powerful reminder of the redemptive quality of suffering that leads to fruitful growth in God, and that proves that all things do work together for good, if you are open to God’s call and willing to go wherever that takes you.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Waves of Mercy / by Lynn Austin. 4.27.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217616

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Lynn Austin pens a turn-of-the-century story of two women: one a young Chicago socialite, the other an older Dutch immigrant. Their lives intersect when Geesje recounts her immigration story in preparation for their town’s 50th anniversary.

In Waves of Mercy, 23–year-old Anna Nicholson flees to Holland, Michigan after her wealthy fiancé ends their engagement. She befriends Derk Vander Veen, a seminary student working part-time at her hotel. Their conversations lead to a friendship that brings her in contact with Geesje, his neighbor. Derk sees a similarity between the two women.

In 1846, 17–year-old Geesje de Jonge crossed the ocean with her parents and other immigrants from the Netherlands to settle in the Michigan wilderness. In 1897, she is asked to write a memoir of her early experiences. As she recounts her experiences, no one expects the secrets revealed when the two women meet.

Anna suffers from nightmares she has experienced since she was a young girl; she dreams of drowning as a ship sinks. When she travels with her mother to Holland via steamship, she relives those dreams when they face a raging storm just before arrival. Geesje has had her share of hardships. Though her faith may have wavered, it stands the test of time, something she shares with Anna through her story.

Austin tells the story of two women, identifying the speaker at the beginning of each chapter. The stories are interwoven with the theme of family secrets, religious persecution, hardships, joys, and God’s faithfulness through it all. Austin’s characters are believable, as is her central theme: nothing can separate us from God. He is always with us, and has a plan for our lives.

Recommended for public libraries and Lynn Austin fans.

Carol R. Gehringer , worthy2read.wordpress.com

Beyond suffering Bible NLT: Where Struggles Seem Endless, God’s Hope Is Infinite / by Joni and Friends, Inc. 4.21.2017

Tyndale House ISBN 9781414392028

Adult Rating: 5

2017 is a year of special significance to bestselling author, artist, singer, and radio host Joni Eareckson Tada–it marks the 50th anniversary of her journey in a wheelchair. One of the ways she has chosen to commemorate is by publishing the Beyond Suffering Bible, a special edition of God’s word for individuals who are struggling with disabilities as well as for families struggling to care for suffering people. The volume is a labor of love, reflecting Mrs. Tada’s desire to reach more people and to encourage and strengthen their walks by sharing the insights that have gotten her through the past 50 years.

With Mrs. Tada as its general editor, the Beyond Suffering Bible features the work of many distinguished contributors, including the experts at Joni and Friends Christian Institute on Disability. It is a study Bible with many valuable features, including book introductions with an emphasis on key suffering and disability themes, profiles of biblical persons who lived with a disability or acted as a caregiver, devotionals that tackle some of the toughest questions about suffering, and thousands of “Connection Points”–study notes that delve into verses in the context of suffering. There are essays that take an in-depth look at specific topics, written by people who also know suffering. For example, Stephen F. Arterburn’s article on accidental drug addiction is excellent, as is the article on living with chronic pain written by Dr. Michael Easley, president emeritus of the Moody Bible Institute.

The Beyond Suffering Bible may have been created specifically for people who are dealing with disabilities or illnesses, but would be a comfort and invaluable resource for anyone who has ever suffered–which is everyone.

Valorie Cooper, CLJ

Luther and Katharina: A Novel of Love and Rebellion / by Jody Hedlund. 4.20.2017

WaterBrook Press ISBN 9781601427625

Adult Rating: 5

Award-winning author Jody Hedlund pens another award-winner with this story of the relationship between Martin Luther and his wife, Katharina von Bora.

In Luther and Katharina, Martin Luther is leading the reformation of the Catholic Church and promoting the value of marriage over celibate life. As nuns and monks leave their cloistered life, it awakens in them a desire for marriage and family, even as they are persecuted for leaving their former lives. Noblewoman Katharina von Bora is one of those. She is attracted to Luther who is determined to remain single, despite his growing feelings for Katharina. Both are strong-willed individuals. Could it be God’s will that they support and love one another as husband and wife?

Hedlund showcases their relationship against the backdrop of 16th century Germany, weaving in carefully-researched historical detail with fiction. Katharina is proud and strong-willed, while Luther is plagued by physical ailments and a strong sense of his mission. They become unlikely allies who support one another. Their relationship is clean, even in their expression of physical affection as a married couple.

Their love story is filled with faith and courage in the midst of a turbulent time in church history. Together they face several attempts on Luther’s life, a kidnapping, and spies in their midst. So Luther and Katharina has romance, adventure, history, and more–a little something for everyone!

Recommended for adult readers in public and school libraries due to the torture and violence pervasive in the 16th century. Luther and Katharina won the 2016 Christy Award, and was the 2016 Carol award finalist.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

The Girl from the Train / by Irma Joubert. 4.19.2017

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780529102379

Adult Rating: 5

Little Gretl must never cry or tell the truth. That’s what her sister and Oma said. Gretl isn’t allowed to tell anyone that she’s a German Jew, especially not in Catholic Poland. With her entire family taken from her, Gretl’s only hope lies with a young Polish rebel named Jakob.

Jakob planted the bomb that killed most of Gretl’s family. How could he have known that an unscheduled train would take those tracks before the Germans? Jakob takes the orphan in, and he knows one thing for sure: she’s not Polish. With the rebellion going on, he has little time to think of his orphan until a serious injury sends him home. He becomes dependent on her, but his family can’t afford another mouth to feed. To give Gretl her best chance, Jakob must send her away with even more lies. Will he ever see Gretl again or will time and war take their reunion from him too?

Beginning with a girl falling off a train, readers are immediately thrown into the action. Even in the slowest moments of the novel, Irma Joubert gives energy and motion to the scenes. All her characters feel real. Each new character introduces new lessons, is chased by their pasts, and begins viewing God in new ways.

This Christy Award Historic Finalist allows readers to walk in the shoes of a curious young refugee and a guilty soldier post-WWII. Gretl and Jakob mature in their narrative and develop new perspectives throughout the story. Readers will love watching these broken humans’ stories intertwine. Experience the heartbreak of a little girl as she tries to force away all the nightmares of her past. Share in her love for language and learning as she begins to heal and embrace her identity as an Afrikaner- and Polish-speaking Jewish-Christian German.

Readers will experience a range of emotions as they delve into the many themes of The Girl from the Train: love, war, learning, deception, family, mourning, and death. This piece of historic fiction focuses on the tensions between religious groups and ethnicities, including stories of the Jewish concentration camps.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

Anna’s Healing /by Vanetta Chapman. (Plain and Simple Miracles, 1) 4.18.2017

Harvest House ISBN 9780736956031
Adult Rating: 5

A tornado rips through Cody’s Creek, Oklahoma and changes Anna Schwartz’s life forever. Left partially paralyzed in a wheelchair, Anna has to rely on her friends Chloe Roberts and Jacob Graber and her grandmother Ruth to be the anchors that keep her tethered to her faith and sanity as she comes to grips with her disability.

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 wheelchair, Anna is now asking why? how? how long will it last? And the notoriety and attention she and her community are receiving is so unwanted, so counter to the teachings of her people, the Amish.

Whether the reader’s believes in miraculous healings or not, Anna’s healing will cause one to consider their beliefs and reflect on this miracle. Was it truly from God? Some wonder if Anna was ever actually paralyzed. The book is very thought-provoking and insightful.

Fans of Amish fiction will be eager to read this first title in Chapman’s new series but will find it is deeper and contains more meat than some Amish fare.

Ceil Carey, CLJ