Moore’s Debut of the Month, Bunn, Griep, Stevenson, plus New Series Lineup | Christian Fiction Reviews, September 1, 2016

The literary awards presented at this year’s American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) annual conference, held August 25–28 in Nashville, often identify titles that are bound to become reader favorites. The Carol Awards honor the best inspirational fiction published in the previous year, while the Genesis Awards recognize promising unpublished writers. The winners and nominees for these prizes represent a broad range of subgenres, including speculative, suspense, romance, and historical fiction. For collection development and readers’ advisory purposes, check out last year’s recipients and nominees at www.acfw.com/contests. Look for a full report of the 2016 winners in the ­November 1 column.

Debut of the Month

redstarMoore, Beth. The Undoing of Saint Silvanus. Tyndale. Sept. 2016. 460p. ISBN 9781496416476. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496416513. CF

undoingofsaint.jpg81216Learning that her estranged father has been murdered, Jillian Slater travels to post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans and receives a glacial welcome from her grandmother Olivia. What starts as an awkward and unwanted visit on both sides turns into a journey of discovery for Jillian and the emotionally distant Olivia. As Jillian delves into her family’s past, which revolves around their apartment house, the Saint Silvanus, a series of sinister events endangers her fledgling relationship with her grandmother. Someone wants revenge on her family, but they will gladly take it out on Jillian instead. Strong female protagonists dominate this novel, and memorable supporting characters provide levity and depth. The secondary story line of the origins of the curse on Saint Silvanus is overshadowed by the present-day portrayal of its residents. VERDICT Making her fiction debut, best-selling inspirational author Moore (Audacious; Breaking Free) delivers an absorbing, suspenseful read. Readers who prefer a story focused on finding faith through adversity will savor this beautifully written novel. [See Q&A with Moore, 9/1/16.—Ed.]

Amish Corner

Brunstetter, Wanda E. & Jean Brunstetter. The Selfless Act. Shiloh Run. (Amish Millionaire, Bk. 6). Aug. 2016. 128p. ISBN 9781634092081. pap. $6.99; ebk. ISBN 9781634098564. CF

Returning home at Christmas, Joel Byler discovers that his sister’s house has been destroyed by fire and that his nephew is in the hospital. The tragedy of the situation makes Joel wonder if there is more to life than money. His selfish and deceitful behavior has alienated his family and former girlfriend Kristi, and now he must choose between the affluent lifestyle he craves and letting God fill the hole in his heart. Joel knows he has to prove that he means what he says and that performing selfless acts isn’t enough; he must also convince his family and himself that he’s ready to change. The tension between Joel and his estranged family is palpable from the first page, and the leisurely pacing makes it even more unbearable for readers. ­VERDICT This final volume (after The Divided ­Family) in the ­Brunstetters’ six-part serialized novel will enthrall Amish fiction devotees. Fans of the series will be lining up to see how the story ends.

Fuller, Kathleen. A Love Made New. Thomas Nelson. (Amish of Birch Creek, Bk. 3). Sept. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9780718033200. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780718033316. CF

In love, timing is everything. That’s what Asa Bontrager believes when his repeated attempts to woo Abigail Schrock are rebuffed. Although she is wistful and somewhat self-pitying when her friends and siblings are marrying in rapid succession, Abigail is too filled with grief to allow herself to love anyone. Even though God has told Asa to pursue Abigail, Asa questions His purpose. Readers of this heartwarming romance will empathize with Abigail’s struggles and feel inspired by the underlying theme of the role of faith and prayer in dealing with everyday crises. VERDICT Followers of this series (A Reluctant Bride; An Unbroken Heart) will recognize threads of other stories woven into this latest installment. A solid choice for readers who appreciate ­Beverly Lewis, Wanda Brunstetter, and Vanetta ­Chapman.

Wiseman, Beth & others. An Amish Harvest. Thomas Nelson. Aug. 2016. 425p. ISBN 9780529118530. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780529119766. CF

Autumn is the seasonal backdrop of these four Amish-themed novellas. In Wiseman’s “Under the Harvest Moon,” widow Naomi Dienner is busy raising her children and has no time for new love. Yet romance is in the air when hired hand Brock ­Mulligan arrives to help with the harvest—and to protect Naomi from lurking danger. In Amy Clipston’s “Love and Buggy Rides,” coworkers Janie Lantz and Jonathan ­Stoltfuz are brought together through tragedy. Could their friendship turn into something more? Increased sales values at an auction house lead to theft and a mystery to solve—and possibly love—for the protagonists of Vanetta Chapman’s “Mischief in the Autumn Air.” And “A Quiet Love” by ­Kathleen Fuller showcases a shy bookworm and reserved farmer who are both lonely, but their community has much to say about their budding ­relationship, maybe to its detriment. VERDICT These stories, from authors well known for their Amish romances, are a great way to introduce new readers to this beloved genre.

CHECK THESE OUT

redstarBunn, Davis. The Domino Effect. Bethany. Sept. 2016. 336p. ISBN 9780764218675. $22.99; pap. ISBN 9780764217913. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441230515. CF

dominoeffect.jpg9616The world’s financial markets are set for a collapse that would eclipse 2008’s Great Recession. Risk analyst Esther Larsen’s warnings are ignored by her myopic, ruthless boss, who sees only prodigious financial gain. Esther risks her career—and her life—by making this information public. With support from the community, she has an opportunity to lead the global economy out of utter ruin before time runs out. Bunn’s economics and finance background combined with his subsequent industry experience shine through in this financial thriller. The heightened level of detail allows readers to feel deeply Esther’s sense of impending doom. VERDICT Four-time Christy Award winner Bunn (The Fragment) bases his latest novel loosely on the biblical story of Esther, delivering a stylistically complex work that lends itself to a variety of audiences, from Bible study groups to fans of financial thrillers such as Michael M. Thomas’s Fixers.

Collins, Brandilyn. Vain Empires. Challow. Jun. 2016. 338p. ISBN 9780692723111. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780996961158. CF

How far will someone go to keep up appearances? Alone for three days at an Australian beach house, six reality TV contestants compete to win their “Dream Prize.” Each participant is confident of their success until they learn the real purpose of the game is to uncover their darkest secrets. Immediately, the contestants turn on one another. The latest stand-alone entry in Collins’s “Seatbelt Suspense” series starts off slowly like a roller coaster and picks up speed, racing through a twisty, terrifying plot. VERDICT Adrenaline junkies will appreciate Collins’s (Dark Justice) locked-room, Agatha Christie–esque novel of suspense. An eerie and foreboding tone and a tense plot keep readers glued to the story until the final page. A perfect fit for fans of Irene Hannon, Stephen King, and psychological suspense.

Ellis, Mary. Magnolia Moonlight. Harvest. (Secrets of the South, Bk. 3). Aug. 2016. 352p. ISBN 9780736961738. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780736961745. CF

Sometimes the truth hurts, and sometimes it kills. No one knows this better than newly hired PI Michael Preston and his ex-police officer partner, Elizabeth Kirby. When a much-loved Baptist minister is found dead, the evidence points to suicide, but his widow believes otherwise. As Michael and Beth uncover clues relating to the reverend’s death, including possible embezzlement, the danger levels reach new heights. The growing tension will keep readers hooked until the end. VERDICT Ellis’s third entry in her Southern-flavored series (after What Happened on Beale Street) is an edgy police procedural, ideal for Greg Iles fans and crime fiction devotees seeking an immersive reading experience.

Flynn, Elizabeth. End of the Roadie. Lion Fiction: Kregel. (Mystery for D.I. Costello, Bk. 3). Sept. 2016. 256p. ISBN 9781782642053. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781782642060. CF

Roadie Oliver Joplin is fatally shot while working on rock star Brendan Phelan’s concert in west London. Responding to the call, DI Angie Costello investigates the circumstances surrounding Oliver’s death and learns the victim had more enemies than friends. As the suspect list grows, Costello and her team of investigators work diligently to find out who did it and, more importantly, why? This British mystery is a fun whodunit in the spirit of Agatha Christie. There are many suspects and red herrings, and it’s a race to the finish to identify the killer. VERDICT With its short chapters, ­Flynn’s third series outing (after Dead Gorgeous) offers a fast-paced, quick read; the British slang creates a strong sense of place. Anglophiles and readers who enjoy UK crime novels will relish this title.

redstarGriep, Michelle. The Captive Heart. Shiloh Run. Oct. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781634097833. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781634097857. CF

After a debauched duke attempts to seduce her, Eleanor Morgan flees on a ship bound for the American colonies. Arriving in South Carolina, she is now an indentured servant to trapper Samuel Heath. A former governess, Eleanor is ill prepared for the rough life in America. For the widowed Samuel, the thought of marrying again is unfathomable, but he realizes he needs help caring for his young charge. Two wounded hearts find solace in each other as they seek God’s forgiveness and grace. ­VERDICT Griep’s (Brentwood’s Ward) beautifully drawn protagonists and authentic depictions of the harshness of 18th-century American frontier life is not to be missed. A sure bet for fans of historical romance.

Moran, Beth. The Name I Call Myself. Lion Fiction: Kregel. Sept. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781782642077. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781782642084. CF

Is there ever a wedding plan that doesn’t go awry? Faith Harp doesn’t think so. Trying to keep herself afloat financially while caring for a mentally ill brother is no small feat. Mix in a crazy mother-in-law and the ugliest wedding dress ever made, and the scene is set for disaster. Faith can’t decide how life could be worse until her mother’s murderer is released from prison, sending her brother’s health into a tailspin. A chance interaction with a church choir and its no-nonsense director forces Faith to transform in ways she never imagined. When she meets the vicar, her life makes an unexpected change of course. VERDICT Moran’s (I Hope You Dance) light, upbeat tale has a few dark moments, but the sweet, uplifting tone, memorable characters, and snappy dialog make this great vacation read appealing to fans of ­Virginia Smith’s “Tales from the Goose Creek B&B” series and readers seeking a bit of gravitas in an otherwise buoyant story line.

Oke, Janette & Laurel Oke Logan. Where Hope Prevails. Bethany. (Return to the Canadian West, Bk. 3). Aug. 2016. 336p. ISBN 9780764217685. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441229915. CF

Beth Thatcher returns for another year of teaching in Coal Valley to find that a second teacher has been hired. Robert Harris Hughes’s rejection of God has Beth worried for her students, with whom she has made much headway. His teaching philosophy is diametrically opposed to her faith-based lessons. Still, Beth is hopeful, anticipating that Jarrick might propose. However, her excitement slowly ebbs when she realizes his job opportunity at her father’s company may be more her wish than his. Both situations weigh heavy on Beth, yet she can’t decide in either case how or if to speak up. She prays for God’s help in navigating both issues. VERDICT Having followed Beth and Jarrick’s relationship and Beth’s teaching career through the last two books (Where Courage Calls; Where Trust Lies), fans will be delighted by the charming narrative and satisfying ending.

longjourney.jpg9616redstarRubart, James. The Long Journey to Jake Palmer. Thomas Nelson. Aug. 2016. 400p. ISBN 9781401686130. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401686147. CF

Jake Palmer’s life is irrevocably changed when a freak accident burns over half his body. His self-worth always hinged on what he could do, not who he was. Ironically, Jake’s motivational speaking career helps others find their inner self-worth while he is unable to do the same. A chance meeting with a stranger on a plane causes him to reconsider his life, offering Jake an opportunity he can’t refuse. But our protagonist discovers that true healing can only come from acknowledging the wounds within. ­VERDICT Two-time Christy Award winner Rubart’s (The Five Times I Met Myself) mesmerizing tale about one man’s journey of self-realization, forgiveness, and healing, will be appreciated by fans of ­Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead or Anne Morrow ­Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea. Book clubs will find lots of meaty ideas here.

redstarStevenson, Rebecca Brewster. Healing Maddie Brees. Light Messages. Sept. 2016. 300p. ISBN 9781611531749. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781611531756. CF

Frank and Maddie’s lukewarm marriage turns ice cold when Maddie is diagnosed with breast cancer. Remembering how her high school boyfriend Vincent had performed miracles of healing—including her broken leg—in their Methodist community, Maddie obsesses about finding him. A suspicious Frank doubts that healing is the only thing that Maddie wants from Vincent and turns to Facebook to seek out an old flame of his own. In debut author Stevenson’s portrait of a marriage, Maddie and Frank’s emotional distress over past mistakes and trauma creates relentless anxiety. VERDICT This thought-provoking and sobering first novel provides plenty of discussion topics for book groups. Fans of Julia Cantrell’s The Feathered Bone and readers who enjoy issue-oriented domestic fiction will want to check out this title.

White, Roseanna M. A Lady Unrivaled. Bethany House. (Ladies of the Manor, Bk. 3). Sept. 2016. 416p. ISBN 9780764213526. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441230539. CF

Lady Ella Myerston is an eternal optimist, but she is also aware of the dangers lurking beneath the surface of her otherwise sunny existence. Arriving in the Cotswolds to face the threat that has stalked her brother since he acquired the red diamonds known as “Fire Eyes,” she meets the handsome Lord Cayton, whose relationship history is nothing short of disastrous. He may be endangering not only Ella’s heart but her life as well. VERDICT Demonstrating White’s excellent eye for historical detail and a deftness at creating suspense, this final book in her Edwardian series (The Lost Heiress; The Reluctant Duchess) doesn’t disappoint. The author is well equipped to write a swoon-worthy romance capped off with a satisfying finale. Suggest to fans of Carrie Turansky and Julie Klassen.

Series Lineup

roomwithsecondbestview.jpg9616Crandall, Dawn. The Cautious Maiden. Whitaker House. (Everstone Chronicles, Bk. 4). Oct. 2016. 304p. ISBN 9781629117508. pap. $14.99. CF

After her brother turns their parents’ home into a brothel, Violet Hawthorne reluctantly enters an engagement to Vance Everstone to restore her tarnished reputation. This fourth entry in the New England–set series (after The Captive Imposter) will please historical romance fans.

Darlington, C.J. Jupiter Storm. Mountainview. (Jupiter Winds, Bk. 2). Oct. 2016. 283p. ISBN 9781941291306. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781941291313. CF

When the Mazdaar government threatens to overtake Jupiter, Grey Alexander and her sister Rin, reunited with their parents, must fight against their Mazdaar adversaries who may be hiding in plain sight. Fans of YA space adventures will enjoy this second outing after Jupiter Winds.

Mentink, Dana. Fetching Sweetness. Harvest House. (Love Unleashed, Bk. 2). Aug. 2016. 224p. ISBN 9780736966238. pap. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9780736966245. CF

Stephanie Pink’s hopes of becoming a literary agent quite literally fly out the window when author Agnes Wharton’s dog runs off before their meeting concerning her latest manuscript. In tracking the runaway pooch, ­Stephanie finds more than she bargains for in ­Mentink’s funny follow-up to Sit Stay Love. Canine lovers and romance fans will enjoy this delightful series.

Smith, Virginia. The Room with the Second-Best View. Harvest House. (Tales from the Goose Creek B&B, Bk. 3). Sept. 2016. 224p. ISBN 9780736964814. pap. $9.99; ebk. ISBN 9780736964821. CF

In Smith’s third series outing (after Renovating the Richardsons), Millie Richardson is determined to be the best Southern hostess as the town of Goose Creek prepares to celebrate a major anniversary. However, the cranky Creekers get angry when fundraising for the event is done by an “outsider,” so husband Al is once again dragged into one of Millie’s schemes.

Current Thrills

redstarCantore, Janice. Catching Heat. Tyndale. (Cold Case Justice, Bk. 3). Sept. 2016. 390p. ISBN 9781414396705. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496418272. CF

deadlyencounter.jpg9616Det. Abby Hart is still searching for proof that will convict her parents’ killer almost 30 years after their murders. She teams up once again with PI Luke Murphy to investigate a cold case in San Luis Obispo, CA, her relentless pursuit of justice placing her in yet another personally dangerous situation. Still, Abby struggles as she waits for God to provide justice and learns to respect that His timeframe is not her own. The final volume of Cantore’s “Cold Case Justice” trilogy (after Drawing Fire and Burning Proof) wraps the series with a gripping thriller that brings readers into the mind of a police officer involved in a fatal shooting case. ­VERDICT Drawing on her two decades as a Long Beach, CA, police officer, Cantore offers true-to-life stories that are relevant to today’s news. The author’s followers and fans of TV’s Cold Case and Castle will line up for this title.

Mills, DiAnn. Deadly Encounter. Tyndale. (FBI Taskforce, Bk. 1). Aug. 2016. 376p. ISBN 9781496410979. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496414427. CF

A smooth cruise around the Houston airport for volunteer ranger (and veterinarian) Stacy Broussard turns into a rough ride when she finds a dead man, a wounded dog, and a drone that is capable of shooting down a 747. The FBI is called in and Special Agent Alex LeBlanc writes it off as case of domestic terrorism. But this is just the first of several unfortunate incidents that appear to target Stacy. As her life runs off the rails, the FBI task force takes action, but it may be too late to save Stacy and her community. VERDICT Crackling dialog and heart-stopping plot lines are the hallmarks of Mills’s (“FBI Houston” series) thrillers, and this series launch won’t disappoint her many fans. Dealing with issues of murder, domestic terrorism, and airport security, it eerily echoes current events. An excellent read-alike for admirers of Daniel Silva’s The Black Widow, James Patterson’s “Alex Cross” series, and Janice Cantore’s “Cold Case Justice” series.

Call for Reviewers

LJ seeks dedicated reviewers of Christian fiction. If you are passionate about the genre and write well, please go to reviews.libraryjournal.com for an application or email           ­wwilliams@mediasourceinc.com.

Christine Sharbrough is Reference Librarian, Tewksbury Public Library, MA. She loves Christian fiction for the inspiration and hope it gives to readers

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