Death at Thorburn Hall / by Julianna Deering. (A Drew Farthering Mystery Series, 6) 8.15.2018

Bethany House ISBN 9780764218291

Adult Rating: 5

Death at Thorburn Hall is the sixth in this delightful mystery series. Drew Farthering is hoping for a relaxing time at the 1935 British Open in Scotland. But death continues to follow him; this time his host, Lord Rainsby, has a suspicious riding accident. What causes Drew’s apprehensions is that Rainsby had confided in Drew regarding his concerns towards his business partner–suspicions that he is embezzling funds.

As the story ensues, it seems that everyone Drew investigates has motive for killing his host. But he continues to slog through the clues with his lovely wife Madeline and best friend, Nick. Madeline is an excellent foil to Drew, very intelligent and intuitive. Nick and Carrie are a couple as well, although not married, but Nick is afraid the mystery and all that it encompasses may scare Carrie away. A little romance surrounds both couples and readers will find that a lovely addition to the story. The Fartherings have a sweet relationship with each other and with the Lord, but the reader will not feel beaten over the head with Christianity.

Many compare Deering’s Farthering mysteries to Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Rules of Murder (Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015); Death by the Book (Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015); Murder at the Mikado (Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015); Murder on the Moor (Oct/Nov/Dec 2017).

 

Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope With Her Song / by Kathryn Erskine; illustrated by Charly Palmer. 7.17.2018

Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers ISBN 9780734303013

INT Grades 4-8 Rating: 4

Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song by Kathryn Erskine is a picture book introduction to the South African singer who used her voice to fight apartheid.

Growing up near Johannesburg in the 1930s, Miriam loves to sing despite the oppression of harsh restrictions on black people in South Africa. Inspired by the work of Nelson Mandela, she is determined to use her voice to tell the world about the injustice of apartheid. Where this leads her and what she accomplishes are revealed in the story.

This striking book is powerfully written in the present, which creates a tone of tension and suspense befitting the subject matter. With generous use of vocabulary from numerous African languages, the book transports young readers to a time and place of great inequality–but also a time of bravery, activism, and hope.

Bold illustrations by Charly Palmer feature broad shapes and dark colors that highlight the dramatic storyline. Brighter colors in the final scenes celebrate freedom and the homecoming of “Mama Africa.”

Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope With Her Song is suggested for middle grade readers owing to the sensitive content and difficult vocabulary. In a detailed author’s note, Kathryn Erskine shares reflections and photos from her own childhood years in South Africa. Other materials include a bibliography, suggestions for further reading, and a glossary of 23 foreign words used in the book.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

High Treason / by DiAnn Mills. (FBI Task Force, 3) 7.16.2018

Tyndale House ISBN 9781496410993

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author DiAnn Mills returns with another contemporary suspense novel in her FBI Task Force series, this time highlighting the interaction between a FBI and CIA agent as they provide protection for a visiting Saudi dignitary and his family.

In High Treason, FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson’s personal ties with Saudi Prince Omar bin Talal make him the perfect person to take the lead position on the protective detail for the prince. He is joined by CIA operative Monica Alden to protect the prince, his sisters, and his mother who is in the US to seek cancer treatment. Monica and Kord must set aside differences between them in order to work together in protecting the prince’s family from the assassin who seems to be privy to the prince’s every move, including some that are decided at the last minute. Could that would-be assassin be a part of the prince’s trusted inner circle who doesn’t want to see the prince succeed in his plan to promote stronger ties with the US and more westernization in his homeland?

Mills creates a believable scenario with high stakes, plenty of action, and strong characters. The edge-of-your-seat plot will have the reader riveted until its spine-tingling conclusion. The relationship between the Saudi and American characters and the Saudi culture are handled respectfully. The faith element is integrated almost seamlessly: Monica is a believer while Kord is an agnostic who wants to believe but hasn’t been able to do so.

Recommended for high school and public libraries, especially for fans of Irene Hannon, Dani Pettrey, and Dee Henderson, as well as fans of Mills’ earlier works in this series, Deep Extraction and Deadly Encounter.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ Deadly Encounter (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016); Deep Extraction (Apr/May/Jun 2017).

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos / by Monica Brown; illustrated by John Parra. 7.11.2018

NorthSouth Books ISBN 9780735842694

PRI PS-Grade 2 Rating: 5

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown is a picture book introduction to the renowned Mexican artist and the influences on her live and work.

Growing up in a bright blue house in Coyoacán, Mexico, Frida loves colors, animals, and observing nature with her photographer father. Early in life, her lively imagination and unusual group of pets (including a fawn, parrot, monkeys, turkeys, and an eagle) combine with her enjoyment of painting to help her endure two medical crises.

Author Monica Brown tells Frida’s story with warmth and admiration. Young readers will be surprised to learn about Frida’s animal friends, amused by the description of her mischievousness, and compelled to know more about this gifted 20th century artist. John Parra provides vibrant acrylic scenes in a folk-art style that capture Frida and her beloved “animalitos.” These delightful illustrations take readers on a visual journey through Frida’s challenging life.

A 2018 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor book and ALA Notable Children’s Book, Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos is an enjoyable and inspirational biographical portrait. A thorough author’s note and photograph provide more details and insight for older readers.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

The Saturday Night Supper Club / by Carla Laureano. (A Supper Club Novel, 1) 7.10.2018

Tyndale ISBN 9781496420244

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Carla Laureano pens a new contemporary romance series set in a supper club in Denver.

In The Saturday Night Supper Club, Rachel Bishop, part owner of a fine dining restaurant and James Beard Award-winning chef, finds herself the victim of an social media campaign when writer Alex Kanin’s article goes viral. It damages Rachel’s reputation, and she is pushed out of her restaurant business by her partners.

Alex realizes the article’s unintended effect on Rachel and tries to apologize by hosting a supper club in his home and inviting influential people. As they work together on this unique dinner party, they discover their feelings for one another are growing–and Rachel discovers her dreams might be different than she thought.

Laureano creates a tasty story with realistic characters, a plausible storyline, a clean but delectable romance, and a sprinkling of faith tossed in. Alex’s backstory is a delightful addition to the storyline. The book has a dash of spice in the chemistry between Alex and Rachel, with rom-com moments and mouth-watering cooking descriptions. The culinary terminology is enjoyable, not overwhelming. One almost expects to see recipes in the back. All in all, The Saturday Night Supper Club is a delicious read for adults.

Recommended for public libraries and fans of Laureano’s earlier books. Watch for the next addition to this series: Brunch at Bittersweet Café (Spring 2019).

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

 

Crisis Shot / by Janice Cantore. (Line of Duty, 1) 7.9.2018

Tyndale ISBN 9781496423702

Adult Rating: 4

Tess O’Rourke followed in her father’s footsteps by joining the Long Beach Police Department, and she has high hopes of furthering her already distinguished career by becoming the chief of police. However, before she can realize this dream, she fatally shoots an unarmed teenager in defense of her fellow officer. The grand jury decides against pressing charges, but the damage has been done. Tess receives so much bad press that she realizes she has no choice but to leave the only home she’s ever known and take the lone job offer she has—police chief of Rogue Hollow, Oregon.

Tess struggles to find her place in this small, tight-knit town, but before long tragedy strikes: someone has been murdered and another is missing. Tess must draw on her vast experience to navigate the investigation that follows and uncover the dark secrets lurking in Rogue Hollow.

In Crisis Shot, Janice Cantore successfully weaves a plot rich in momentum and suspense. Though the murder and missing person investigation compose the majority of the book, she maintains a sense of urgency. She also succeeds in maintaining the suspense throughout by giving the reader clues along the way, but not such large clues that the resolution becomes obvious.

Cantore also succeeds in conveying an authenticity throughout her plot, something often missing from novels featuring police or detectives. As a retired police officer, her background is certainly advantageous in this regard, and she takes full advantage of it by including procedures and facts that ring with authenticity and in no way bore the reader. The resulting combination of momentum, suspense, and authenticity lends itself to an entertaining, interesting novel well worth a weekend read.

Rachel Pfeiffer, CLJ

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers / by Deborah Heiligman. 7.5.2018

Godwin Books ISBN 9780805093381

YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 4

Vincent and Theo focuses on the family life of one of the world’s most famous artists: Vincent Van Gogh. In her research, author Deborah Heiligman noticed that very few works focused on the extremely important relationship Vincent had with his brother Theo, who supported him his entire life. The book starts with this relationship and the promise they make to each other as young men to support each other. Beautifully constructed like a piece of art itself, the book uses colorful descriptions and artistic terminology to invite the reader into Vincent’s world. This creative approach encourages the reader to view Vincent’s works–those which are shown in the book, as well as others available online. In addition to this, Heiligman infuses the book with a theme that all readers can relate to–the complications of family life. Vincent and Theo’s relationship is tumultuous, but steadfast, and the bond is inspiring.

The book also deals with some other difficult topics–namely, Vincent’s struggle with mental illness (most likely bipolar disorder) which leads to his being institutionalized. Because the family is a central focus of this piece, the reader is able to observe the tension this causes in his family, who cannot understand him and must support him financially. His illness also leads him to self-harm, both the cutting off of his ear and his suicide. The author suggests that these might not have been self-inflicted though there are other instances in the book where he does attempt to hurt himself while he is institutionalized. In addition, both Theo and Vincent, though children of a pastor, turn away from their faith. They also engage in immoral behavior as it is mentioned that they both frequented prostitutes. In fact, Vincent lives with a former prostitute for an extended amount of time. Despite this, the book is not overly descriptive in these sections, and the reader does see that there are negative consequences to this lifestyle, particularly in how it affects their health.

Tatyana Claytor, CLJ

Refugee / by Alan Gratz. 7.4.2018

Scholastic Press ISBN 9780545880831

YA Grades 7-10 Rating: 5

Three continents. Three different time periods. Three children fleeing their countries.

Alan Gratz joins the past and the present to weave a gripping tale of the harrowing experiences of three children forced from their homes due to war and political unrest.

Josef yearns to celebrate his upcoming bar mitzvah and finally become a man. He just never expected it to be on a ship bound for Cuba, which he and his family board to escape out of Nazi Germany. When the ship is forced to return to Europe, and perhaps certain death, Josef finds himself thrust into adulthood and must make a decision that will determine the survival of his family.

Fast forward to 1994 when Cuba is teeming with food shortages and riots. Teenage Isabel finds herself on a questionable homemade raft. Together with her family and the neighbors next door, they depart for the United States. They just need the raft to hold up, avoid the Coast Guard, pray the sharks don’t get them, and hope that her mother, heavy with child, can survive the journey.

On the other side of the world, in 2015, war tears Syria apart forcing Mahmoud’s father to seek a safe haven for his family. Amidst gunfire, danger, and the ever-present threat of death, they travel through Turkey and Serbia, enduring hunger, thieves, and prison. Mahmoud and his family continue onward through Austria and finally Germany, where the lives of the three children find a binding tie.

Refugee is a fast-paced, heart-rending story of the strength and courage of children and their valiant efforts, despite all obstacles, to forge a life filled with meaning and purpose.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Good Night Tales: A Family Treasury of Read-Aloud Stories / by C.S. Fritz. 7.3.2018

NavPress ISBN 9781631465567

PRI Grades 2-3 Rating: 4

This book collects children’s stories written and illustrated by C.S. Fritz, each story inspired by Scripture passages or Bible stories. Some chapters adapt Bible stories (such as Noah’s ark or the Good Samaritan) into stories involving talking animals and fairytale creatures, while others take biblical ideas (such as a lesson Jesus said in one of his parables) and create a story that illustrates that principle. Some stories are told entirely through pictures, while others use words with accompanying illustrations. Each chapter starts with a Scripture reference to the passage or story that inspired it, and there are discussion prompts at the back of the book for families who want to discuss these stories with their children.

C.S. Fritz did an excellent job writing and illustrating this book. Each story contains moments of humor, poetic language or images, and biblical ideas explained in profound ways. Like The Chronicles of Narnia, these stories excel at communicating biblical truths in entertaining ways that will help readers understand them better. The lavish illustrations, which have both silly elements (such as animals wearing glasses) and dramatic ones (such as carefully placed shadows or wafts of smoke), amplify the text’s qualities and make the stories even more powerful. Overall, this book will definitely delight young readers and continue to entertain them even when they become adults.

G. Connor Salter, CLJ

A Different Pond / by Bao Phi; illustrated by Thi Bui. 7.2.2018

Capstone ISBN 9781623708030

PRI K-Grade 2 Rating: 5

Poet Bao Phi offers his son, while fishing on a small pond in Minneapolis, a story of how he and his father before him fished for food in their homeland of Vietnam. This 2018 Caldecott Honor Book brings together issues of diversity, culture, and immigration without using platitudes. The personal story offers many positive messages about family values that highlight the relationship between father and son and between cultures, old and new.

Illustrator Thi Bui’s art offers a striking exhibit of Phi’s prose through illustrations with depth and a quiet, moving emotion. Using a dominant blue background with insets, Bui presents a powerful picture and experience of an immigrant family making its way in a new home while honoring its bonds to the past. The use of varying blues and then illustrations that offer a close-up view as well as an overall view of a scene enables children to linger in the family relationships so integral to the story. Both author and illustrator provide a closing note after the story.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ