Lady Jayne Disappears / by Joanna Davidson Politano. 12.11.2018

Revell ISBN 9780800728755

Adult Rating: 5

Aurelie Harcourt searches for answers in a house filled with secrets in Lady Jayne Disappears.

Upon her father’s death, Aurelie’s Aunt Eudora takes her in. To adjust to her new home at Lynhurst Manor, Aurelie tries to learn the rules of polite society. After all, being raised in a debtor’s prison doesn’t prepare one for life among gentry. But behaving well in public doesn’t stop her from searching for the truth behind her mother’s disappearance, nor does it stop her from writing. Layer by layer Aurelie delves into the secrets surrounding her mother, but even her wild imagination could not prepare her for the truth.

Joanna Davidson Politano weaves a spell-binding tale of mystery and love as she tells the story of Aurelie Harcourt. Mystery shrouds the well-paced plot. The loveable characters discover their flaws as they unpack what it means to love each other. The manor setting and the debtor’s prison both serve as an essential part of the story as they shape the characters and the plot. Politano’s writing is poetic without excessive wordiness, and it breathes life into the characters and setting and adds tension to the plot. Though not at all “preachy,” readers may learn some important lessons along with Aurelie and the rest of her family, one of the most important of which is, “What will be fixed must first be broken.” (p. 376)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Unbreakable / by Sara Ella. (The Unblemished Trilogy, 3) 12.10.2018

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780718081058

YA Grade 9 and up Rating: 5

Sara Ella returns with the thrilling conclusion to her Unblemished trilogy, a series that combines elements from fairy tales and fantasy to captivate the reader.

In Unbreakable, Eliyana Ember is the vessel of the Verity (the purest of souls)–only she can destroy the Void. But doing so will cost her everything she holds dear. The seven Reflections are now in danger, as are those dearest to her. She moves from one Reflection to another, seeking to destroy the Void. Both of her suitors–– Kyaphus Rhyen and Joshua David, each with their own secrets–have not given up on their pursuit of Eliyana’s heart. She is torn between memories leading her in one direction and her heart leading her in another.

Ella masterfully creates a realistic fantasy world, a story with a nod to pop culture and literary references. The inner dialogue of the main characters–Eliyana, Ebony, Joshua, and Ky–can confuse the reader if one doesn’t note the character name at the beginning of the chapter. The maps of the Reflections are a nice touch as well as the family tree!

Her Unblemished trilogy shows that there is a chance for lightness and darkness in all of us. Her allegorical story is filled with excellent narratives, engaging characters, and truths–and plenty of plot twists! The relationships are clean, the faith element is a light touch, and the violence is neither graphic nor inappropriate.

Recommended for public and school libraries, for fans of fantasy and fairy tale retellings, for young adults and adults alike.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Unblemished and Unraveling (Oct/Nov/Dec 2017).

The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match / by Elizabeth Eulberg. 12.7.2018

Bloomsbury USA Children’s ISBN 9781681190549

MS Grades 3-7     Rating: 4

Shelby Holmes is back with her best friend, John Watson, in the sequel to The Great Shelby Holmes, the middle school adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Young readers who love mysteries and mayhem will love Shelby’s story as she races into a new adventure that could change her life—and possibly end John’s.

When the caseload runs low in New York City, this pair of amateur sleuths is itching for a case to crack. Shelby, suspicious of the new teacher, is certain something is wrong—but John isn’t convinced. If Shelby’s hunch is right, though, Mr. Crosby could be in some serious trouble.

As a new case unfolds, Shelby seems to have a new nemesis who is always one step ahead. This anti-sleuth will do anything to beat Shelby, even create an unsolvable mystery. Can NYC’s greatest detective catch her nemesis at the scene of the crime?

While Shelby and John’s first adventure in The Great Shelby Holmes felt like a duplicate of the well-known Sherlock Holmes stories, Elizabeth Eulberg’s The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match feels like a unique story. Eulberg further develops Shelby and John’s personalities separate from Doyle’s original Holmes characters. Eulberg’s school setting allows John to explore middle school issues, like friendship, while listening to what his new classmates say about Shelby. John’s diary-style monologues allow readers to better connect with his character. Younger readers will also appreciate the variety of illustrations throughout the book that help tell the story.

The beginning pace of this second book is slower than the first book’s, which may deter some action-seeking readers. However, readers who can read until the new case surfaces will find all the action and mystery they could want.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

Earlier Title Reviewed by CLJThe Great Shelby Holmes (Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2017).

Lone Witness / by Rachel Dylan. (Atlanta Justice, 2) 12.4.2018

Bethany House ISBN 9780764219818

Adult Rating: 4

Rachel Dylan pens another legal thriller in her new contemporary romantic suspense series set in Atlanta, featuring female lawyers and challenging circumstances.

In Lone Witness, prosecutor Sophie Dawson is the only eyewitness to a double homicide which occurs when she is in the midst of a corporate fraud case. All of a sudden, Sophie’s customary threatening letters escalate to a drive-by shooting and intentional car accident, putting her life in danger.

Former Atlanta police office Cooper Knight is hired by her father as Sophie’s bodyguard. Can he protect her as Sophie tries to find the truth in both cases? Who is behind the threats–the murder suspect who is also the brother of a gang leader, or the high-level executive trying to protect the company whose employee accused of fraud? Who will go to any length to prevent the truth from coming out?

Dylan returns with another legal thriller that will have the reader on an exhilarating ride as the plot twists and turns. Lone Witness has a solid and realistic faith element, clean romance, and a gripping storyline that will keep the reader guessing until the final plot twist. The relationship builds naturally between Sophie and Cooper, as the two cases Sophie is working on finally go to trial.

Readers will get an inside view of the legal profession, as characters from her first book return as secondary characters in this novel. Dylan creates strong characters who are willing to fight for justice, regardless of the cost to themselves. Her third book, Breach of Trust, will be available in 2019.

Recommended for public libraries, and fans of romantic suspense novels by Dani Pettrey, Irene Hannon, and Lynette Eason, and of legal thrillers by Cara Putman.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJDeadly Proof (Jan/Feb/Mar 2018).

Winning Miss Winthrop / by Carolyn Miller. (Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope, 1) 12.3.2018

Kregel ISBN 9780825445330
Adult Rating: 4
Australian author Carolyn Miller begins another engaging Christian Regency series, sure to delight her fans and Regency fans alike.
In Winning Miss Winthrop, Catherine Winthrop loses her home and social standing following the death of her father and the discovery of his gambling debts. When the new Lord Winthrop turns out to be Jonathan Carlew, her new impoverished life is even more challenging. Both Jonathan and Catherine believe their hearts were broken by the other person. Will the misunderstandings between them ever be resolved? Will they find their way past their shared rejection and painful memories, and back to one another?
Miller writes Regency novels with historical detail, excellent characterization, and clean romance, suitable for adults and older teens. Her characters face financial problems, others’ expectations, and faith issues, allowing the reader to more easily identify with them. The tension in the relationship between Jonathan and Catherine is reminiscent of books by Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen (e.g., Persuasion). Will Jonathan and Catherine find healing, forgiveness, and redemption? Will they find a future together?
Recommended for high school and public libraries. Fans of Julie Klassen, Jane Austen, Sarah E. Ladd, and Regency romances will enjoy this new series. Miller’s fans will enjoy the reappearance of some characters from her first series, Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace.
Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

The 57 Bus / by Dashka Slater. 11.6.2018

Farrar Straus Giroux ISBN 9780374303235

YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 5

The 57 Bus is a moving story about two teenage boys from different parts of town with different beliefs. Sasha loves to read, makes up his own language, wears skirts, and refers to himself using the pronouns “they” and “them. Sasha has classified himself as agender. Richard has had some trouble in the past, but he is eager to help others. He likes to cut up and make people laugh, but also works hard to get good grades in school. Their brief encounter happens on one of the public buses when they’re heading home from school. Richard’s friends think it would be funny if Richard lit the sleeping Sasha’s skirt on fire. Richard, thinking it would be a harmless prank, doesn’t see the harm because he never thought Sasha would become engulfed in flames. Richard thought the little flame would just die out.

Dashka Slater has touched on some very sensitive and controversial subjects in this book: racism and confusion with gender identity. Sasha has struggled to fit in and realize who “they” are. Richard has had to make up for the bad decisions in his past and now he’s facing prison time for an act that he didn’t think completely through. Due to his actions, he could also potentially be charged for a hate crime. The boys’ families demonstrate struggles, strength, and forgiveness, as Richard’s prank doesn’t just affect Richard and Sasha–it also affects both of their families. This story affirms that people should have the right to be themselves, even if it’s confusing to others, and that nobody should ever be harmed for how they dress or because they are different.

There is some strong language; recommended for public and high school libraries.

Trina Chase, CLJ

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education / by Raphaële Frier; illustrated by Aurélia Fronty. 11.5.2018

Charlesbridge Publishing ISBN 9781580897853

INT Grades 3-9 Rating: 5

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education by Raphaële Frier details the true story of Malala Yousafzai, youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Growing up in Pakistan, Malala joins her father in speaking out when the Taliban impose restrictions on education for girls. By age 13 she has become a noted activist for children’s rights in her country and in 2012 she survives an apparent assassination attempt by the Taliban. After recovering at a hospital in England, Malala continues to be a voice and advocate for girls all over the world.

This compelling picture book is absorbing and inspirational. Many young readers will likely have heard of Malala without fully realizing the extent of her courage and leadership. Author Raphaële Frier narrates the dramatic events of Malala’s childhood in the present tense, conveying the sense that her story is very much ongoing. Extensive end notes include photos, speech excerpts, a timeline, map, and historical information that greatly expand the reading level and audience.

Vivid illustrations by Aurélia Fronty show Malala’s world from a variety of perspectives, including both peaceful times and times of violence.

A Batchelder Award Honor Book, Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education is an eye-opening and though-provoking biographical picture book. Though violent acts are presented carefully, parents may wish to preview the material before sharing with younger readers.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults / by Greg Cootsona. 11.2.2018

IVP Books ISBN 9780830838141

Adult Rating: 5

Greg Cottsona, writer and researcher with a Ph.D. from Theological Union, draws from his experience in ministry with young adults (emerging adults to use Cottsona’s terminology and referring to 18-30 year olds) and his theological expertise, to explore how faith and science are not in a wrestling match where one will be the victor. Mere Science and Christian Faith is written conversationally rather than didactically, and provides a field guide that identifies challenges and creative ways faith can integrate and collaborate with science, whether in concern for environment, an understanding of human sexuality, or the ubiquitous presence of smart media which changes how we relate to each other and the community. Quotes from young adults that relate to chapter themes are sprinkled throughout the narrative. Current scientists like Katherine Hayhoe and Elaine Ecklund are cited, as well as writers on the philosophy of science like Ian Barbour, and theologians like Arthur Peacocke.

Cottsona notes that emerging adults are leaving the church in record numbers or that increasing numbers identify as “spiritual but not religious.” He is concerned that the church too often creates a suspicion of mainstream science, and that when the church does talk about science, it often focuses on conflict instead of embracing that God as first cause works through secondary, intermediate, and natural causes. He sees it as a natural given for mainstream scientists to hold onto Christian faith.

Both the narrative and footnotes point readers to further resources in print and online.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets / by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth; illustrated by Ekua Holmes. 11.1.2018

Candlewick Press ISBN 9780763680947

INT Grades 3-7 Rating: 5

It has been said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In Out of Wonder, Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, take this concept to heart. With a collection of their own inspiring poems, the authors celebrate 20 of their favorite poets by incorporating some of the poets’ styles, voices, and techniques into their own poetry.

This collection is sectioned into three parts, each beginning with a short introduction on how the following poems celebrate its specific poet. Under each poem’s title, the name of the poet being honored is listed. At the end of the book is a short biography for each poet. It is recommended that one begin with the biographies before reading the poems, as the biographies explain many of the references in the poems about each poet.

It is easy to see why this beautiful collection of poems has won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for 2018. The mixed media illustrations are a gorgeous collage of color, geometric shapes, and bold and subtle images of nature, people, and places. Each illustration brings visual life to its accompanying poem, reinforcing the lessons, truths, and themes shared within.

Overall, this book is an excellent addition to any child’s library, as well as the classroom. It would make a great springboard for a poetry unit. Students will learn about some of the world’s greatest poets, ranging from Rumi to Robert Frost to Maya Angelou. They will be exposed to a variety of different forms of poetry, such as the guided structure of haiku and the creative liberty of free verse. Along the way, they are sure to be inspired to create their own poems following the methods highlighted in each unit.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Big Cat, Little Cat / by Elisha Cooper. 10.31.2018

Roaring Brook Press ISBN 9781626723719

PRI PK-Grade 1 Rating: 5

Elisha Cooper wrote and illustrated this delightful picture book for the youngest of readers.

In Big Cat, Little Cat, a white cat lives alone. One day a new little cat shows up to live with him. The first cat shows the little black cat where to eat, drink, and rest. Days go by, and the little cat grows up. They spend years together until one day the older cat leaves. Then a new little cat comes to live with him, and the cycle begins all over again.

Cooper pens a picture book with bold black and white illustrations, with bright yellow accents. He presents a story that shows the role animals play in our lives, as well as the friendship of two cats. Readers will enjoy viewing the simple text and drawings over and over again, and personalizing it with their own experience of family pets. The departure of the older cat is told simply, and off-stage, yet it offers a venue for discussion. Cooper, the author of several picture books, draws on his personal experience with cats to deliver a warm message that the love experienced by pet lovers continues even during loss. The repetition of text and artwork is what makes this book a welcome addition to the library.

Recommended for public and school libraries, and especially pet lovers. It is especially a suitable book to share with families experiencing the loss of a pet. A 2018 Caldecott Honor Book, Big Cat, Little Cat is a touching story that will be read and enjoyed over and over again by readers, both parents and children alike.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ