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Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

Archive for the tag “Christian Fiction”

The Abbey by James Martin

The Abbey by James MartinFamed author and second most popular Jesuit in the world (after Pope Francis), James Martin ventures into new territory by penning his first novel.

Those of you familiar with Father Martin’s works already know he has a knack for making Jesuit spirituality down-to-earth and user-friendly for everyone. The question is can he successfully make the transition to storytelling?

The fictitious Abbey of Saints Philip and James is the setting for three intersecting tales. This sacred place reveals itself as a touchstone for the lives of each character. Anne is a single mother grieving for her only child who died at a young age. Mark is the abbey’s handyman who rents his home from Anne and feels a growing restlessness. Father Paul, head abbot who befriends both Anne and Mark, ponders his decision to sequester himself from the world. Their lives crisscross in a profound way through their time shared at the abbey.

The story itself is very enjoyable but the details are heavy on Catholic dogma and ritual which may lessen the appeal for a broader audience. However, with Catholicism’s resurging popularity in recent years, this novel will be a welcome addition to collections in both the spiritual and public sector. With an ending that brings more questions than answers, readers will be clamoring for a sequel to shed light on how Anne, Mark, and Father Paul finally find peace for their souls.

– Susan

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The Heaven of Animals by Nancy Tillman

The Heaven of AnimalsThe heaven of animals is a special place. Each animal is well known by the angels. They know a dog’s favorite game, horses kick up their hooves and run when they want to have fun, the grass is sweeter, cats bask in the glorious sunshine, and the days are bright and beautiful.

We also know the love we have for our pets and how much it hurts when one passes away. This book shows you how beautiful heaven can be for animals, and someday we will meet up with our beloved pets again.  It also lets children know that their animal best friends are in heaven, watching over them.

This is a rhyming picture book that is great to read to a child of any age.  If you have or know a child that is grieving over the loss of a pet, this will hopefully comfort them through their grief and healing process.

– Tina

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Herb of Grace by Adina Senft

Herb of GraceSarah Yoder is an Amish widow, struggling after the death of her husband to raise two teenage sons.  She would rather spend her time gardening than quilting but needs to provide for her family. 

A local Amish healer, Ruth, believes that Sarah has a gift for growing plants and wants her to become an herbal healer.  Ruth wants to help her, but Sarah is reluctant.

Meanwhile, Henry Byler has returned to Willow Creek after being away for many years.  His aunt left him the family farm adjacent to Sarah’s.  He has his own issues to deal with.  Henry’s the furthest thing from plain or is he?

With a complex mix of both younger and older characters and a complex story line, this book is truly a success.  This is the beginning of the Healing Grace series and I can’t wait to read the rest!  Adina Senft is an author I’ll look forward to reading!

– Becky

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Between Us Girls by Sally John

Between Us GirlsJasmyn Albright’s life has fallen apart.  She’s lost everything she’s owned, not once but twice.  First from a devastating tornado and then her rental car, containing all of her things, is stolen. 

She’s landed in front of Casa de Vida in Seaside Village, CA, where there are 11 quaint bungalows and a motley crew of residents including manager, owner, and mother-hen, Liv.

Liv takes Jasmyn under her wing and enlists the other residents of Casa de Vida to welcome her.  Keegan, who owns a local gym, is quiet but there’s quite a bit going on beneath the surface.  Sam is an engineer, whose environmentally friendly projects have earned her a spot working on a new casino on an Indian reservation, and is having to confront her past.

The residents at Casa de Vida are a family of sorts each with their own unique issues.  While Jasmyn only intends on staying a few weeks she keeps finding more reasons that this may really be home.

This is a great book.  I had never really read any of Sally John’s novels before but this three-time Christy finalist and bestselling Christian Fiction author has me ready to go to my library and see what else I can find.

– Becky

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A Season of Change by Lynette Sowell

A Season of ChangeAs the seasons change in life, the older you get, the more you realize things change. 

The Millers, Jacob, Zeke and Rebecca, are a young Amish family.  Reeling from the loss of his wife, Hannah, and child that died in child birth, Jacob takes the children to Pinecraft, Florida to visit Jacob’s grandparents.   While there, Rebecca is struck by a car.

While in the hospital recovering, Rebecca and her family meet Natalie Bennett, a former circus performer who is volunteering at the hospital as a clown to bring joy to the children.  Natalie has her own family drama.  Her father is remarried, living in California and is too busy for his oldest daughter.  Her mother, whom she just found out was raised Amish, recently passed away from cancer.

As Natalie finds herself with questions about her mother’s background, she also finds that this family has a hold on her heart.  As the young Miller family now takes up residence in Pinecraft as Rebecca heals, will their hearts heal as well?

While this is the first book in the Seasons in Pinecraft series and the first book I’ve read from Sowell, with the well-crafted, emotion filled story, this will certainly not be the last.  With Amish and Mennonite fiction being more popular than ever, I would add this new series to my shelf today.  Amish fiction fans will love this new story as much as I do.

– Becky

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Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom

Steal the NorthKate, a single mother who ran away from her past and the almost cult-like religion of their fundamentalist church, must now encourage her 16 year old daughter to return to Washington State.  Emmy, who was under a year old when they left, doesn’t remember any of these things.  She also doesn’t know of the existence of her mom’s sister Aunt Beth and Beth’s husband, Matt.

She is to stay with Aunt Beth and Uncle Matt.  Once Emmy is there, she comes to love them and is encouraged to participate in a faith healing for her Aunt Beth. Beth has tried many times to have a child and feels that this is her last chance to carry to term and have the baby she so desperately wants.

In the meantime, Emmy meets the next door neighbor, a Native American boy named Reuben. They end up falling in love and eventually are torn apart when Kate returns to take her daughter back to California.

This is a novel of young love.   For Emmy, it’s a love for an unknown family, the land which she was born to and the boy who comes to mean so much.  It’s also a novel of how one woman’s lies and past can devastate a young couple and possibly doom them to repeat her mistakes.

– Ellen

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Friend Me by John Faubion

friend meThis debut novel by a former software developer is an interesting mash-up of suspense fiction and Christian fiction. Even though I’d never imagine those two terms in the same sentence, this newbie writer seems to be comfortable tackling both genres head-on.

When Rachel and Scott experience a difficult spell in their marriage, each of them decide to “friend” a virtual avatar who they believe will be the answer to all their problems. Little do they know that what they believe to be a fictional animated persona is actually a disguise for Melissa, a desperately lonely psychotic who also happens to be a genius software designer. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Catfish, then you know where this is going.

The story successfully alternates the three point of views which helps the reader  get inside the head of each character and explains why they do what they do. The suspense is ratcheted up a little bit with each chapter until it reaches a screeching climax. The end of the story is an interesting surprise but just a little too tidy for me. I also felt that the Christianity themes were too sporadic and so subtle that I wasn’t sure they coalesced successfully with the rest of the story. If you are looking for a solid Christian novel then you may feel slightly disappointed that the religious views take a major backseat here.

It’s hard to pigeonhole this one-and that is to say- I’m not sure which type of reader would enjoy it the most. It should be very interesting to see which of your patrons decide to check it out.

– Susan

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Plain Peace by Beth Wiseman

9781401685942 plainPopular Amish fiction author, Beth Wiseman, is back with another title from her Daughters of Promise series, Plain Peace.

Jacob Hostetler has settled in Lancaster County after a family tragedy, and his family is struggling to put the pieces back together.

Anna Byler is in the middle of her Rumspringa. Her grandfather, the bishop, doesn’t care that his strict ways are dashing any chance Anna has of finding a husband and also alienating the community.

Anna’s grandmother is keeping all kinds of secrets from her grandfather, how will he react when he finds out? But then Anna is keeping secrets of her own so she can see Jacob behind her grandfather’s back. Will all of these secrets, ever be brought into the light?

Jacob’s mother, Cora, befriends Anna’s grandmother. They form a tentative bond with an Englisher, Lucy, who has brought heartache to another local Amish family in the past. Can old wounds really be healed and can peace be found?

This will be a great addition for libraries that can’t keep Amish Fiction on the shelves.

-Becky
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An Amish Family Christmas by Murray Pura

9780736952378 amishWho doesn’t love a great Christmas story? When it still feels like summer I know it’s hard to start getting ready for cold winter days and Christmas books, but it’s that time again. Murray Pura has created an awesome story with An Amish Family Christmas. I wasn’t familiar with Pura before this book, but the description caught my attention, and I’m so glad I gave his book a try.

An Amish Family Christmas centers around Naomi Bachman, whose parents and sister are killed in an accident, her brother, Luke, is left catatonic. Her husband, Micah, is shunned since he decided to join the Army as a medic. Naomi’s sister-in-law, Rebecca, stands with her as she deals with the aftermath of the accident and Luke’s catatonic state. Just when Naomi believes things can’t get anything worse, Micah returns home discharged from the service.

Naomi is frustrated with Micah since there has been no contact, per the bishop’s orders; however Micah has been writing her every week and loves her even more than before. Also, if Micah would confess in front of the church, they would be reunited, but how can he confess when he’s not ashamed of saving lives.

Will Naomi and their community ever understand Micah’s decision, will Luke ever be healed? This is a great book about the power of holiday miracles. It will be a must-read for patrons who love books about the Christmas season.

-Becky

Learn more and order here.

The Amish Seamstress by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould

9780736926263 seamstressA great series is sometimes a blessing and a curse. You know the story will be great, but you also are compelled like bees to honey to keep reading. This was definitely the case with The Amish Seamstress, the story of Izzy Mueller, an Amish woman who has feelings for a Mennonite boy, who’s become one of her best friends.

Zed is on his way to college near his sister, Ella, in Indiana and Izzy is conflicted. She’s tried to convince herself and her family she and Zed are just friends but as Zed is getting ready to head off to college, Izzy realizes her feelings are definitely real. Izzy is still in the middle of her rumspringa, so being friends with a Mennonite boy or working on the small independent films he’s creating isn’t an issue yet.

Izzy is also almost done with her classes on care giving and she falls apart when she loses a patient. Then she is asked to care for her great aunt Verna, who passes away suddenly. She also begins caring for two of Zed’s extended family members. As she cares for each of these people, she slowly starts to figure out who she is and how to cope with life and death. Will Zed and Izzy find a way to make their relationship work; will Izzy figure out what she is supposed to do with her life?

For those who have read the other books in the Women of Lancaster County Series, you will love this book because it brings a great sense of closure to many characters who have appeared previously in the series. For those who are new to the series, there is enough back story that you can quickly follow the story (which I was grateful for since it has been a long time since I’ve read the rest of the series). Either way, this is a great book and a wonderful addition for your patrons who love an inspirational story of finding oneself.

~Becky

Learn more and order here.

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