Prince Edward Island Dreams series / by Liz Johnson. 3.14.2019

Where Two Hearts Meet / by Liz Johnson. (Prince Edward Island Dreams, 2)

Revell     ISBN 9780800724504

On Love’s Gentle Shores / by Liz Johnson. (Prince Edward Island Dreams, 3)

Revell     ISBN 9780800724511

Adult     Rating: 4

Liz Johnson continues her contemporary romance series, set at the Red Door Inn on Prince Edward Island (PEI).

In Where Two Hearts Meet, executive chef Caden Holt is self-confident until she is asked to show a handsome journalist around. Adam Jacobs, an international journalist on sabbatical, is mistaken for a travel writer writing an article that will save the Red Door Inn. Caden is more at home in the kitchen than spending time with the handsome journalist, especially since she is a little overweight. Adam is attracted to her and enjoys her company. Caden struggles with insecurity and self-esteem, while Adam is weighed down with mistakes from the past. Can they overcome these challenges to discover a future together?

In On Love’s Gentle Shores, Natalie O’Ryan returns unexpectedly to PEI years after leaving it abruptly. She buried her past so deep that she appears to everyone as calm and self-controlled. Even her fiancé Russell Jacobs doesn’t know of her abusive family background. He surprises her with a summer vacation and fall wedding on PEI. Then Russell leaves for weeks during their stay, and her childhood friend Justin helps her continue with wedding plans. Natalie faces her past when her alcoholic father reappears in her life. Will Natalie marry Russell in light of her hidden past? Will the truth set Natalie free?

Johnson writes endearing stories with such descriptive detail that the reader experiences the beauty of Prince Edward Island. Her main characters are imperfect and in need of second chances, healing, forgiveness, and love. The faith element is evident but light-handed, as they learn to face their pasts and accept themselves the way God sees them. Then they are open to loving and being loved by others, and who doesn’t love a happy ending?

Recommended for adult collections in public libraries. For readers who grew up with Anne of Green Gables, it is a welcome return to the island. For fans of Becky Wade, Courtney Walsh, and Denise Hunter.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJRed Door Inn (Oct/Nov/Dec 2017).

Just Sayin’ / by Dandi Daley Mackall. 3.13.2019

Tyndale ISBN 9781496423160

INT Grades 4-7 Rating: 5

Cassie Callahan loves big words, making witty remarks, writing letters, and avoiding her mom’s phone calls in Just Sayin’. With the way her mom and almost step-dad broke up, and worse, left town–one to California and the other to Chicago–Cassie has a lot to write about, and she doesn’t mince words. Cassie’s pen-pals include her pastor, her almost step-brother Nick, her almost step-sister Julie, her mom, Jesus, and Johnathan Kirby the star of Cassie’s favorite show, The King of Insults. The letters Cassie reads give her insight into the lives of her loved ones, but with her pastor’s guidance, Cassie starts to read the best “letter” of all–the Bible. The only problem with reading the Bible is she starts to wonder if her insults are wholesome speech. Since Cassie has a plan to reunite her mom and Travis, and that plan relies on her well-honed ability to insult others, God’s timing is just not good at all.

Through letters, Dandi Daley Mackall reveals the idiosyncrasies, deepest thoughts, and growth of her characters. Accessible writing for young readers doesn’t stop Mackall from including new vocabulary words and most of their definitions within the letters. The plot quickly develops as Cassie and Nick commiserate with each other about their disappointment in their respective parent’s decision to break up, and then move on to determining what they can do to change their situation–including entering an insult contest.

The first half of the book is filled with somewhat insulting and mildly disrespectful letters. While Cassie and Nick’s insults aren’t necessarily hurtful to each other, many parents may discourage this kind of speech in their children. Mackall handles the situation neatly as Cassie learns what the Bible has to say about speech. The theme comes sparkling through Cassie’s letter to Jesus, “Thanks for your letters and the other stuff in the Bible. I will never forget that one in Colossians, about letting my conversation be gracious so that I will have the right response for everyone.” (p. 178)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Loving Isaac / by Heather Kaufman. 3.12.2019

Concordia Publishing   ISBN 9780758657893

Adult Rating: 5

Hana is a single mom who desperately loves her young son, Isaac, and plans to protect him at all costs from his abusive father. Isaac has special needs and is often misunderstood by those who don’t know him, even within the church. But the pastor of her new church, Matt Schofield, is another matter completely. From the moment he meets Isaac and the boy grabs Matt’s bushy beard, they have a special bond. Matt’s life has been very predictable up until this point, but Hana and Isaac change all that. But how long can it last for all three of them?

This is a story of compassion that will touch the reader’s heart. The writing is eloquent with characters that become important to you as you become part of their lives.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Dive Team Investigations series / by Lynn H. Blackburn. 3.11.2019

Beneath the Surface / by Lynn H. Blackburn. (Dive Team Investigations, 1)

Revell     ISBN 9780800729387

In Too Deep / by Lynn H. Blackburn. (Dive Team Investigations, 2)

Revell     ISBN 9780800729295

Adult     Rating: 4

Lynn H. Blackburn kicks off a contemporary romantic suspense series featuring an investigative dive team in North Carolina.

In Beneath the Surface, nurse Leigh Weston moves to the small town of Carrington, North Carolina, hoping to leave behind her recent troubles. Her brother Kyle asks dive team investigator Ryan Parker to keep an eye on Leigh while he is overseas, telling Ryan about her recent problems with a stalker. When someone tampers with Leigh’s brakes, is her stalker responsible? Meanwhile Ryan investigates a dismembered body in a nearby lake, uncovering a possible connection to Leigh. Will he catch the killer before Leigh becomes the next possible victim?

In In Too Deep, when the Carrington dive team is called to recover a body in a submerged car, they also find an encrypted laptop belonging to a dead accountant with ties to investigator Adam Campbell’s family. Adam turns to cybersecurity and computer forensics expert Dr. Sabrina Fleming for technical assistance in recovering the laptop’s files. As evidence mounts implicating his family members, it becomes clear someone doesn’t want the family secrets revealed. Will Adam and Sabrina be silenced before they can uncover the truth?

Blackburn nailed the romantic suspense elements: good storyline, strong likeable characters, light touch of faith, and clean romance. She creates characters and a location that readers will enjoy visiting through her books. Blackburn supplies plot twists to keep the reader engaged (and guessing!) from the first page to its spine-tingling conclusion. Watch for book 3 coming in fall 2019.

Recommended for adult collections in public libraries and fans of Dani Pettrey, Irene Hannon, Lynette Eason, and other inspirational suspense authors.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Book Scavenger series / by Jennifer Chamblis Bertman. 3.8.2019

Book Scavenger / by Jennifer Chamblis Bertman. (Book Scavenger, 1)

Henry Holt ISBN 9781250079800

The Unbreakable Code / by Jennifer Chamblis Bertman. (Book Scavenger, 2)

Henry Holt ISBN 9781627791168

The Alcatraz Escape / by Jennifer Chamblis Bertman. (Book Scavenger, 3)

Henry Holt ISBN 9781627799638

YA Grades 5-8 Rating: 5

Jennifer Chamblis Bertman pens a middle grade series that will appeal to older elementary and middle school readers.

In Book Scavenger, Emily moves to San Francisco where Garrison Griswold, creator of the Book Scavenger game, lives. Unfortunately, Mr. Griswold lies in a coma after an attack just before his new game is announced. Emily and her friend James race against time to solve the new game before whoever attacked Griswold comes after them. Will Mr. Griswold recover from his injuries and launch his new game?

In The Unbreakable Code, Emily and James try to find out who is behind the recent arsons around the city, especially when clues appear to be placed in books hidden through the Book Scavenger game. As they dig deeper, they discover their teacher Mr. Quisling’s hunt for the Unbreakable Code and possible links to the arsons. Is he the arsonist? What role does a book by Mark Twain play?

In The Alcatraz Escape, Emily and James work on a challenging mystery set on Alcatraz Island. Will they be able to “Unlock the Rock”–the latest game from Garrison Griswold? Not only has literary game master Griswold created an escape room challenge at Alcatraz, but mystery writer Errol Roy has written the story behind the puzzle. Threatening notes make the pair wonder if someone is trying to prevent them from solving the escape room challenge. What is the secret behind Roy’s story?

Bertman excels at creating puzzles that will delight the reader, especially those who love a good mystery. While the literary allusions are reminiscent of the Mr. Lemoncello series (by Chris Grabenstein) and The Westing Game (by Ellen Raskin), the Book Scavenger series is not a copy of these books. “Book Scavenger” an actual game–a cross between geocaching and treasure hunting, making it a literary adventure for the reader. Readers will find the actual game being played on the author’s website (http://bookscavenger.com), and enjoy the adventure of solving the puzzles in each book.

Recommended for public libraries, classroom reads, youth book clubs, and book-loving mystery lovers.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Miguel’s Brave Knight / by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Raul Colon. 3.7.2019

Peachtree Publishers ISBN 9781561458561

PRI Grades 2-5 Rating: *5

Fairytales make us believe that dreams can and do come true. But it was Don Quixote who dared brave the dragons (that is, windmills and obstacles) that imprison the treasures and beauty of life, in order to set them free.

In Miguel’s Brave Knight, the reader meets the boy Miguel de Cervantes. Born in 1547, and a contemporary of the English playwright William Shakespeare, Cervantes would become one of Spain and Latin America’s most important literary figures. Today the world knows him best as the creator of the idealistic, and sometimes foolish, Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha. His character’s name has even become part of the English language: quixotic, which Webster’s dictionary defines to mean foolishly impractical, especially in the pursuit of ideals.

Well-known for her strong and descriptive verses, Margarita Engle, winner of numerous awards, enchants the reader with a series of poems that reveal the personal sorrows, as well as the social and political events of the day, that shaped Miguel’s life and formed his thoughts. “Hunger”, “Waiting”, “Daydreams”, “Disaster”, “Learning to Write”, and “Imagination” are some of the poem titles that portray the young author in the making.

Full-page pen and ink watercolor illustrations by Raul Colon, an award-winning illustrator of more than thirty books for children, complement Engle’s moving verses. The muted brown, grey, and blue tones create dream-like visions that help the reader experience Miguel’s life.

The end pages include interesting author and illustrator notes, and important historical and biographical information.

A book that awakens dormant aspirations and provokes action, Miguel’s Brave Knight is a timeless tale of the power of the imagination to create hope out of despair, turn dreams into reality, and bring into existence the light from within that dispels the darkness. In this way one can, as Miguel says, “right all the wrongs of this wonderful but terribly mixed-up world.” (From the last line of Engle’s poem, “Imagination”).

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Noble Knights series / by Jody Hedlund. 3.6.2019

A Loyal Heart / by Jody Hedlund. (Noble Knights, 4)

Northern Lights Press ISBN 9780692055236

A Worthy Rebel / by Jody Hedlund. (Noble Knights, 5)

Northern Lights Press ISBN 9780692144190

YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 4

Best-selling author Jody Hedlund concludes her young adult series with these two medieval novels.

In A Loyal Heart, Lady Olivia is taken captive and held for ransom by Sir Aldric on Lord Pitt’s orders. Loyal to her family, Olivia will do whatever is necessary to make her father happy, whether it is being betrothed to a man he selects or trying to steal a special chalice rumored to have healing properties in Pitt’s possession. Threatened with execution after she is caught trying to steal the chalice, Aldric intervenes and becomes engaged to her. But what about her father’s choice? Will she marry Aldric, a man she is growing to admire but an enemy to her family? Or will her relationship with Aldric help her obtain the chalice?

In A Worthy Rebel, Lady Isabelle flees an arranged marriage, becoming lost in the countryside. She hides her identity as a noblewoman when she is rescued by Cole Warwick, a peasant. He is the leader of the peasants who are rebelling against the nobility. As she recovers from her injuries, they develop strong feelings for each other, which are shaken by the revelation of Isabelle’s true identity. Will they be able to overcome the truth?

Hedlund excels at providing a clean romance suitable for teens and adults alike. Second chances, redemption, family loyalty, adventure, intrigue and more await the reader. Recommended for historical fiction fans, fans of courtly romance, and inspirational fiction fans.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Related Titles Reviewed by CLJ An Uncertain Choice ( Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015); A Daring Sacrifice (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016); For Love & Honor (Apr/May/Jun 2017).

Darkwater Secrets / by Robin Caroll. (Darkwater Inn, 1) 3.5.2019

Gilead ISBN 9781683700685

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Robin Caroll returns with a new romantic suspense series set in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

In Darkwater Secrets, general manager Adelaide Fountaine keeps busy with the Darkwater Inn full of guests. She is shocked when a hotel guest is found stabbed with a kitchen knife, one with her fingerprints on it, as well as those of her coworker Dimitri Pampalon.

Detective Beau Savoie is assigned to the case–he’s known Adelaide since they were children and hidden his true feelings for her. During the investigation, he uncovers a secret from Adelaide’s past that ties her to the victim, but he is also hiding a secret from her. Will he be able to solve the case and rebuild his relationship with Adelaide? Will Adelaide end up with Beau or Dimitri, since both of them care for her and have their own secrets?

Caroll is well-acquainted with New Orleans, capturing the unique culture of New Orleans in its music, voodoo, and Mardi Gras traditions. The voodoo element is handled well, not overly emphasized. While it is part of the life around them, the main characters don’t believe in it. Tough subjects (alcoholism, prostitution, and sexual assault) are woven into the story, in the secrets of the main characters’ pasts. The main characters–Beau, Dimitri, and Adelaide–are believable and realistic, facing their spiritual challenges and relationship strains. Told from three points of view, the plot twists keep the reader guessing on the identity of the murderer. It is more of a suspense novel, with a triangle between the main characters.

Recommended for adult collections in public libraries. Fans of inspirational romantic suspense and dark mysteries will enjoy this new series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

The Cost of Betrayal / by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason. 3.4.2019

Bethany House ISBN 9780764231735

Adult Rating: 4

Best-selling authors Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason lend their skills to this compilation of three contemporary romantic suspense novellas.

In Betrayed (by Dee Henderson), an innocent woman is freed after serving a portion of the time for a murder she didn’t commit–but the murderer is still at large, putting her in danger.

In Deadly Isle (by Dani Pettrey), a woman is trapped on her isolated, childhood island following a storm, with a murderer at large, one that killed her cousin and now threatens her life.

In Code of Ethics (by Lynette Eason), a trauma surgeon saves the life of an injured detective, only to have him attacked again in her hospital, leading them to be on the run from the killer.

Henderson, Pettrey, and Eason expertly weave their stories with believeable characters, tightly-woven suspense, and faith elements. Although shorter than a full-length novel, they make for an edge-of-your seat reading thrill ride. In each story, faith in relationships is broken as they experience betrayal by those closest to them. Betrayal comes from friends and family, those closest to them–yet God can bring good out of the evil dealt to the injured parties.

Two of the novellas give the reader a chance to meet old friends (from previous books by the author). While each could be read alone, together they make a winning combination of mystery, action, and suspense. Comparing the three, Eason’s and Pettrey’s novellas are slightly better than Henderson’s, but Henderson’s novella is better than her last few full-length novels.

Recommended for public libraries and suspense fans.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

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