Sketchy Behavior by Erynn Mangum
This book will always hold a special place in my heart because this story helped me to be the writer I am today. Years ago when I had finished writing my first clean teen book and was searching unsuccessfully for a publisher, I came across this book in my local bookstore. It had all the elements I love in a great book – adventure, mystery, romance and humor. But it had another element that I didn’t expect – faith. A subtle message that just became part of the story but added something truly meaningful to this fun story. I realized this was what my mystery was missing – a deeper meaning – a message of faith. Once I added that element to my story, suddenly everything changed and I found an interested publisher. But enough about me.
Sketchy Behavior is about a teen, Kate Carter, is about as ordinary as they come. But when she discovers a talent for sketching faces based on a description, she finds herself helping the police track down a serial killer. This seemingly good deed fills her unassuming, simple world with complications and danger. The premise might sound a little heavy but the author adds lots of humor to keep this story moving along in a delightful way.
Past Suspicion by Therese Heckenkamp
As a mystery lover I was excited to start reading this Christian suspense novel. The only bad news is that I enjoyed it so much that I finished it much too quickly. The author drew me into the spell of this book immediately. Her ability to build suspense made me nervous and anxious from page one. Somehow this quaint small town and its residents felt spooky and odd, filled with secrets. This sense of eeriness was so palpable that I found myself extremely frustrated when the lead character trusted the new people in her life immediately. I wanted to scream at her not to be so trusting but of course she was a lonely, heart-broken, vulnerable young lady without the knowledge that she was the main character in a suspense novel. ? This story was spell-binding and I just had to keep reading to figure out what would happen. Which is always the problem with a good book – you can’t stop reading but then you’re disappointed when the book is finished too soon. Looking forward to reading another one of Therese Heckenkamp’s books.
The Perfect Blindside by Leslea Wahl
He’s an egotistical snowboarder with a silver medal.
She’s a judgmental honors student with a flair for photography.
Slashed tires…. False accusations…. A coded message…. When all they can see is each other’s flaws, how can Jake and Sophie work together to figure out what’s really been happening at the abandoned silver mine?
Follow Sophie and Jake into secret tunnels as they unravel the mystery and challenge each other to become who God wants them to be.
Extreme Blindside by Leslea Wahl
After winning silver, teen snowboarder Jake Taylor is struggling with sudden fame when he s offered a gig he can’t refuse: becoming a spokesperson for a state-of-the-art athletic training facility. Training for its first competition, Jake relies on his faith to help him find ways to use his fame to help others… when athletes mysteriously start getting sabotaged one by one. Time is running out for Jake and his girlfriend, Sophie, to figure out what is going on before he is also sabotaged… or worse.
Into the Spotlight by Leslea Wahl
The devastation of a ruined summer.
The gift of a second chance.
Can Josie learn the lessons she needs in order to discover her true self?
After a humiliating event and overwhelming peer pressure, 16-year-old Josie flees her home to spend the summer with her Aunt on a South Carolina island. Her fresh start turns into the summer of her dreams as friendships grow, romance blossoms, and a series of thefts surround her with excitement. However, when tragedy strikes someone close to her, Josie realizes there are more important things than her reputation. As she sets out to solve the mystery she has become entangled in, she not only realizes the importance of relying on her faith but along the way also discovers who God wants her to be.
Unlikely Witnesses by Leslea Wahl
When four friends vacation together in the Colorado Rockies, they expect a week of hiking, biking, and rafting – not being interrogated by the FBI.
Unlikely Witnesses combines the characters of Leslea Wahl’s award-winning YA mysteries, The Perfect Blindside and An Unexpected Role, in an all-new adventure.
Jake is a silver-medal-winning snowboarder. His famous face makes it hard to go anywhere unnoticed. Sophie, his devoted girlfriend, is an aspiring journalist whose camera is never far from her side.
Sophie’s cousin Ryan, a high school baseball star, enjoys an ongoing prank war with his cousin. His girlfriend Josie adds excitement to all situations with her uncanny flair for the dramatic.
Between Josie’s mishaps, Jake’s celebrity status, and Sophie and Ryan’s friendly feud their peaceful family vacation turns into a comedic adventure. But, when these four teens stumble upon a mystery, things become downright dangerous.
The fun and intrigue of this short story is paired with a reminder that if we live our lives as Christians, we never know when we might be a witness for Christ.
Where You Lead by Leslea Wahl
A vision from God leads to the adventure of a lifetime.
Sixteen-year-old Eve Donahue’s lonely existence changes in an instant when visions of a mysterious stranger haunt her. Certain God is calling her for a mission, she bravely says yes and begins her quest to meet this young man.
Thousands of miles away, Nick Hammond has been dealing with his own unusual experience, an unwavering certainness to convince his father to run for political office.
When these two unlikely teens finally meet, their belief that God has called them to work together sets them on a journey of faith to untangle a web of deception involving international trade agreements, lost confederate gold, and a blossoming romance. As they follow century old clues, they realize God can call us all in big and small ways. We just need to listen and say, “Yes Lord, I will go where You lead.”
Riddle at the Rodeo by Claudia McAdam
This is a delightful middle-grade mystery – a Catholic Nancy Drew. This book is the kind of Christian book that I love, where the character’s faith comes out in a natural way. I always think these types of “Catholic-light” books are extremely important because they portray the characters as just regular kids and that faith is a natural part of their lives.
In Riddle at the Rodeo, the main character, Kirsten, is asked to help solve a mystery. The mystery is fun and intriguing, but I really appreciate how this character feels bad about the white lies she has told and for the way she has treated her brother. These feelings cause her to take a detour during her adventure to go to confession. These small incidents are exactly the things kids have to deal with every day. Having characters that can show them how to deal with these issues in a faith-based way, is such a fantastic message for kids.
Lost in Peter’s Tomb by Dianne Ahern
This is a delightful mystery for families. I debated whether to include this story in my review since it is written more for elementary age students, but I think young middle-grade readers would also enjoy it. This book would be perfect for a family with multiple aged children who enjoy reading together. The illustrations and short chapters make this one that even younger siblings would appreciate.
A family trip to Rome sounds exciting, but instead of touring the country with their parents, Riley and his younger sister must spend time with their Aunt. Riley is less than thrilled because Aunt Philomena is a nun and lives in a convent! Who could have fun there? But when Aunt Philomena gets a phone call, things change. It turns out she is a special agent for the Pope and has been called by the Holy Father to help solve a mystery at the Vatican.
Thus, begins their adventure. During their time at the Vatican, they meet one of the Swiss Guards and find out all kinds of interesting things about the building, the artwork, the artifacts, and the lineage of Popes. This was a fun story with some great history and theology elements.
Always Watching (The Rayne Tour #1) by Brandilyn and Amberly Collins
This is a fantastic suspenseful murder mystery. First of all, I love the concept behind this book. It is written by a mother and daughter author team. My own daughter is a fantastic writer and I can’t help but think how much fun it would be to write a book together. (Of course, this idea probably appeals to me much more than it would for her!)
The book is also about a mother-daughter team. Shaley and her mother Rayne do not live an ordinary life. Rayne is a rock star and their life revolves around fame, concerts, touring, and paparazzi. On the band’s latest tour, one of the team, and someone Shaley is very close to, is murdered. But things get worse when it appears to be an inside job. Could one of the band or crew really be the murderer?
This book is such a fast-paced page-turner. I whipped through the story, compelled to finding out what would happen next. While it is a murder mystery, and there is a little gore, it is not over the top. The rock star aspect will be interesting to teens. I really liked how the authors included faith in the story. When Shaley is scared and not sure who she can trust, someone shares with her that God will always be there for her watching over her.
Shadow in the Dark by Antony Barone Kolenc
Shadow in the Dark is an exciting middle-grade adventure set in a medieval village. The story is about a boy who is injured and loses his memory. With the help of a group of Benedictine monks, Xan (short for Alexander) begins to heal and discover his identity. But, in the process, he uncovers a sinister plot that not only involves his past but places him in danger.
This short novel has a lot to offer. Adventure, mystery, history, and faith. I think older elementary and middle school boys will enjoy this swashbuckling tale. There are plenty of things modern-day readers will relate to, friends sharing scary tales of dark shadows, peer pressure, standing up for what is right, and discovering ones faith. Enjoyable read.
The Haunted Cathedral by Antony Kolenc
This is the second book in Antony Kolenc’s Harwood Mysteries, and the reader once again joins Xan and Lucy on an exciting adventure. Xan has had so much to deal with in his young life due to the tragic loss of his family. In book one, Shadow in the Dark, he sets out to discover what happened to his parents. In this new story, he must come to terms with the past—not always an easy task.
While the new mystery is intriguing, what really made this story special is the continued storyline of Xan’s past and his character growth. The author did a superb job showing Xan’s emotional struggles as he deals with his new life. These books blend adventure, history, friendship, and faith into a marvelous series for middle-grade readers. I can’t wait to read more.
Code of Silence by Tim Shoemaker
I absolutely loved this middle-grade book. Cooper and his two friends witness a crime. Afraid that the perpetrators will track them down they make a pact—the Code of Silence. They believe by keeping silent, they will stay safe and protect those that are suddenly in danger. But as they continue this agreement, the lies they must tell, continue to grow ultimately threatening their friendships.
This book has so many amazing discussion topics. As a reader you sympathize with Cooper and his decisions, but they bring up some fantastic moral dilemmas. Is it okay to lie? Is keeping silent different than being untruthful? What would we do in a similar situation when things aren’t always so black and white? What do we do when we aren’t sure who we can trust?
Throughout the difficult moments Cooper and his friends continue to pray and try to do the right thing. This exciting, action-packed story is the first in a series.
Secrets in September by Doreen McAvoy
Secrets in September is a fun middle-school novel, perfect for those younger teens who love a good mystery. The enjoyable characters and Christian messages are intertwined throughout this book that is the first in a series.
When Will and his twin sister Wendy begin their fall semester, little do they know that they and their friends will be caught up in a series of mysteries that will make this September one to remember. When strange things begin to happen around town, Will, Wendy, and their friends start investigating. Who is the mysterious new girl in town? What trouble is the class bully involved in now? And what really happened at the creepy, abandoned house down the block?
Kindness, friendship, and faith make this story a wonderful choice for middle-grade readers. The values and faith of this of group friends was refreshing. They were average kids who sometimes made questionable decisions but, in the end, helped each other to choose the right path.
Deception in December by Doreen McAvoy
Deception in December is the second book in Doreen McAvoy’s middle-grade Fern Valley Mystery series. While this book could be a stand-alone, I’d recommend starting with Secrets in September. Understanding the previous mystery, as well as the character’s relationships, will enhance the storyline. The characters in this series are wonderful—from the main protagonists to the supporting cast, they all help to bring the story to life. I especially appreciate the positive messages and life lessons that the author weaves into her stories.
Twins Will and Wendy, and their friends, find themselves involved in another intriguing adventure set at the town’s mysterious Mayfield mansion. As Christmas nears, can the twins and their friends uncover who is behind the strange happenings around town that threaten to tear their friend group apart? Can Will regain his confidence, on and off the court? Join the residents of Fern Valley in this heart-warming Christmas-time caper.
The Ghosts of Westthorpe Academy by Joseph Lewis
This contemporary faith-based novel combines an intriguing mystery with speculative elements.
Joe is an ordinary kid. A good student who has an incredible opportunity to attend a prestigious private Catholic school—Westthorpe Academy. All seems to be going well—new friends, great teachers, lots of activities—until rumors start swirling that the historic Westthorpe Academy is in danger of closing. Soon Joe’s ordinary life is changed by unusual events. Are the supernatural visits and vivid dreams just strange coincidences or messages from God?
There is a lot to enjoy in the book, the mystery, the faith, and interesting historical facts. I just found it refreshing to read about a good kid with nice friends and a supporting family. But don’t worry, there is plenty of drama and excitement that keep you turning the pages.
Miracle at the Mission by Joseph Lewis
Looking for the perfect blend of relatable characters, fascinating history, intriguing mystery, and strong faith? Look no further than Miracle at the Mission. Author Joseph Lewis’ vivid descriptions of the California coast help sweep the reader away on an epic adventure.
High school friends, Joe and Pete are honored with a trip to California. Their exciting trip leads to one they will never forget. This story is told from many different angles, creating a richly compelling story. I also enjoyed how the current historical elements make this story a time-capsule of the unique era we are living in.