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Strands of Truth

Colleen Coble. Thomas Nelson, $16.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7180-8588-9

Coble (The House at Saltwater Point) wows with this suspense-filled inspirational that follows a woman trying to piece together her past. Thirty-year-old marine biologist Harper Taylor, who grew up in foster care, is desperate to find her biological family. After she takes a DNA test, the testing company sends her contact information for her half-sister, Annabelle Rice. Harper rushes to meet her, and the sisters quickly discover they have more in common than the same unknown father. Annabelle and Harper both lost their mothers at a young age, and both have been victims of recent attacks: Harper’s houseboat was broken into and she was attacked while diving. On the same day, Annabelle was stabbed with a needle and woke up trapped in a trunk that she was barely able to escape. Harper and Ridge, the son of her boss and an older brother figure to Harper, begin to search for answers and connections between the two attacks—which might also be connected to the deaths of Harper’s and Annabelle’s mothers. As they work together, Harper and Ridge develop feelings for each other. But Harper is worried a complicated history with Ridge’s father might ruin their chance at happiness. With startling twists and endearing characters, Coble’s engrossing story explores the tragedy, betrayal, and redemption of faithful people all searching to reclaim their sense of identity. Fans of Susan May Warren will enjoy this. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Christmas Haven

Cindy Woodsmall and Erin Woodsmall. WaterBrook, $14.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-5256-5329-5

The Woodsmalls (The Gift of Christmas Past), a mother- and daughter-in-law, offer an enjoyable romance that examines the differences in conservative sects of the Amish faith. In rural Pennsylvania, Ivy Zook is eager to leave the old order Amish life behind. She and her Englisher friend Tegan run a party planning business and have plans to share an apartment, but Ivy’s heartbroken mother convinces her to stay for six months, until after her older sister Holly’s wedding and their Christmas celebration. In a concurrent storyline, Arlan Keim is a devout member of the ultra-conservative Swartzentruber Amish. When his parents refuse to get medical care for his ill, pregnant, and unmarried sister, Magda, Arlan disobeys the rules of his family and buys a car to escape with her. However, his plan goes awry when he crashes his car into the pharmacy where Holly works. After getting care for Magda, Holly takes Arlan and Magda home with her and offers to let Magda, who is a couple months pregnant, stay with her until the baby is born. Magda is thrilled, but Arlan fears she will be tempted by Holly’s comfortable way of life. Arlan soon finds himself tempted, as well, as he develops a close relationship with Ivy and longs for the close family relationship the Zooks share. The Woodsmalls’ lovely Christmas tale, concerned with universal themes of home and family, is a fit for any season. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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I, Claudia

Lin Wilder. Wyatt Mackenzie Imprint, $15.75 (272p) ISBN 978-1-948018-43-2

Wilder (The Fragrance Shed by a Violet) provides a fresh, entertaining take on one of the lesser-known women of the Bible: Claudia Procula, daughter of the last Oracle of Pythia in Delphi and wife of Lucius Pontius Pilate. Told from their alternating perspectives, the story begins with Claudia recognizing in adolescence that she is gifted with premonitions and a knack for academics. Meanwhile, Lucius distinguishes himself in battle as a standout soldier and is named Roman tribune by the end of his first campaign. Lucius moves quickly up the ranks, but when he is promoted to Prelate of Judea he realizes he is unable to control the unrest of the land he now must govern. After Claudia’s aunt arranges for her to marry Lucius, she departs for Delphi, which is also the burial site of her parents. On her way, she has premonitions of the tumultuous land where she will live, and finally meets Lucius as the strife around Jesus begins. Christian readers will recognize the familiar story that unfolds from there, as Claudia (a nameless woman in the Bible) experiences a tormenting dream and unsuccessfully warns her husband not to execute Jesus. Wilder paints a vibrant portrait of biblical times in this enjoyable story. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 07/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Listening to Love

Beth Wiseman. Zondervan, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-52911-8714

In this enjoyable second installment to the Amish Journeys series (following Hearts in Harmony), Wiseman expands on the story of the Shetler family. Englischer Natalie Collins and Lucas Shetler, whose family is Old Order Amish, convince themselves that they are just friends. Everyone else in their small Indiana town believes a dangerous emotional attachment is developing. Natalie is studying to become a veterinarian, and Lucas believes there is nothing he wouldn’t give up for Natalie, and, since he has not been baptized, he will not be shunned if he leaves the Amish faith. But can he really adjust to the Englisch world after a lifetime in his ultra-conservative Amish sect? While Natalie’s mother at first disapproves of her relationship with Lucas, her views shift when she becomes acquainted with an Amish neighbor. As Lucas wavers on leaving the community and Natalie considers what it would be like to join the Amish (which would require giving up her studies), they must decide if their relationship can withstand an all or nothing decision for one of them. Wiseman is at her best in this surprising tale of love and faith. Agent: Natasha Kern, Natasha Kern Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Heaven’s Sky

Jan Cline. Cherry Blossom, $12.99 trade paper (316p) ISBN 978-0-692-08588-2

Cline (Emancipated Heart) begins her American Dreams series in the fictional town of Heartland, Kans., with this entertaining tale about a sisterly bond. As the farm owned by Clarissa and Frank Wilding suffers during the Dust Bowl, Frank loses hope and decides he must leave the farm to find work. Clarissa remains and puts her faith in a charming preacher who promises God will end the drought as long as parishioners keep the faith—and keep putting their money in his collection plate. In a separate story line, Clarissa’s estranged sister, Treena, has also fallen on tough times. Treena’s husband killed himself after their fortune was lost in the stock market crash; now destitute and alone in New York, Treena sets out for Kansas in hope of convincing her sister to part with one of their mother’s valuable paintings. As the sisters reunite and get to know one another again, they battle the dust and unscrupulous characters trying to take advantage of them during dire economic times. Though the faith elements are subtle, this strong series launch will appeal to fans of Janette Oke. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 06/21/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The String

Caleb Breakey. Revell, $14.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3507-4

A university cop must thwart the plans of a sociopath in Breakey’s suspenseful debut. Markus Haas has great rapport among the students of fictional Trenton University and feels protective over the new class that arrives each fall. He has recently started dating single mom Stephanie and is getting to know her two daughters when Markus receives a video message from a man in clown makeup who calls himself the conductor. The man threatens to hurt Stephanie and her daughters unless Markus joins “the string,” a web of people forced to participate in cryptic assignments. After Markus is introduced to the other members of the string, they work together to create a plan to take down the conductor by using his own techniques against him. As Markus tries to discover who the conductor is, Breakey’s complicated plot emerges as a parable about what it means to have faith in the face of evil. Though faith elements are subtle, fans of allegorical suspense in the vein of the works of Ted Dekker will want to take a look. (July)

Reviewed on 06/07/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Yours Truly, Thomas

Rachel Fordham. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3538-8

In this excellent second installment to the Azure Springs series (following The Hope of Azure Springs), a lost letter connects two lonely, restless souls. In 1883 Washington, D.C., after 22-year-old Penny Ercanbeck’s father dies, she takes a job as a clerk in the Dead Letter Office to support herself and her grieving mother. When eloquent, pain-filled letters addressed to a woman named Clara from a man named Thomas fall into her hands in the office, her heart is touched, and she makes it her mission to ensure that the letters find their recipient. Thomas, meanwhile, is a broken man running from his past who ends up in Azure Springs, Iowa. When Penny appears in town searching for Clara, she hides her true reason for coming, claiming she is there to write a novel. Penny finds Thomas through the local boardinghouse, and as the two get to know one another, Thomas becomes infatuated—despite the fact that Penny clearly has a secret. Featuring faithful lead characters and a solid secondary cast (the standout here is Penny’s quirky coworker Dinah), the story will leave readers wondering what will happen next in Azure Springs. Fordham’s wholesome tale will hit all the right notes for fans of Christian historical novels. (July)

Reviewed on 06/07/2019 | Details & Permalink

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State of Lies

Siri Mitchell. Thomas Nelson, $16.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7852-2861-5

In the pleasant first suspense inspirational from Mitchell (Like a Flower in Bloom), a woman investigating the mysterious death of her husband uncovers a deep well of political intrigue. Sean and Georgie Brennan’s great marriage ends abruptly when Sean is killed in a hit-and-run accident. As physicist Georgie reels from the tragedy and starts the slow process of recovery, she discovers things that don’t make sense. Why did Sean lie about where he was going on the day he died? Why did he plant flowers in the front yard that he knew she hated? Seemingly small details begin to point to a cover-up related to Sean’s research. Georgie follows the trail left by Sean, which appears to lead to the very government office where her father, a war hero about to be sworn in as Secretary of Defense, is about to begin work. After discovering a cryptic journal, Georgie digs deeper into the last projects military historian Sean was researching. Mitchell seamlessly integrates faith elements, as Georgie relies on her faith throughout. Fans of Terri Blackstock will love this fast-paced tale with a surprising, disconcerting finale. Agent: Natasha Kern, Natasha Kern Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/07/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Glitter of Gold

Liz Johnson. Revell, $14.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-8007-2941-7

This entertaining tale from Johnson (A Sparkle of Silver) explores a woman’s slow process of forgiving herself. Anne Norris, disgraced and ashamed after serving time on “accessory to domestic terrorism” charges for unknowingly helping her boyfriend bomb an oil rig, has run from California to live a quiet life in Savannah, Ga. But her pirate-tour business, centered on the historic buccaneer haven of Tybee Island, is struggling. Days after a hurricane, Anne stumbles upon the golden hilt of a sword buried in the sand that she believes could lead to treasure that would change her life. She takes it to Dr. Carter Hale at a local museum, and he is delighted to see the sword hilt, which he thinks is described in an 18th-century family diary. Believing the sword hilt proves the existence of a nearby shipwreck, Carter convinces Anne to work with him to locate the ship—despite her reservations about letting anyone new into her life. Launching herself into the search, Anne learns that she doesn’t have to hide from her past and that God has forgiven her mistakes. Both an exciting treasure hunt and penetrating exploration of overcoming past mistakes, Johnson’s excellent novel will captivate readers. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/07/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Shades of Light

Sharon Garlough Brown. IVP, $18 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-8308-4658-0

Brown (Sensible Shoes) pulls back the curtain on mental illness in this moving story. In small-town Michigan, Wren Crawford is a social worker who works with women and children overcoming traumatic events. After years of struggling to maintain happiness, Wren’s depression and anxiety begin spiraling dangerously out of control, and she decides to check herself in to Glenwood Psychiatric Hospital. While her depression has never really affected her sense of self—she accepts it after seeing it all the time in her work and feels numb to it—it has started affecting her mother, causing her to wonder what she could have done to help or better understand her daughter. While at Glenwood, Wren admits that she dislikes change and becomes more receptive to therapy. After learning new coping strategies, she returns home and starts working again, but when a childhood friend with bipolar disorder comes back into her life, Wren feels her progress toward stability and health coming undone. To find a way out of her depression, Wren grabs hold of her faith—something she had almost given up. Brown’s evocative prose and often claustrophobic exploration of Wren’s psyche is both heartbreaking and enthralling. This emotionally harrowing story will appeal to fans of Karen Kingsbury. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/07/2019 | Details & Permalink

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