A J.B. Collins Novel series / by Joel C. Rosenberg. 12.6.2017

The Third Target / by Joel C. Rosenberg. (A J.B. Collins Novel)

Tyndale House     ISBN 9781414336282

The First Hostage / by Joel C. Rosenberg. (A J.B. Collins Novel)

Tyndale House     ISBN 9781496423283

Without Warning / by Joel C. Rosenberg. (A J.B. Collins Novel)

Tyndale House     ISBN 9781496406200

Adult Rating: 4

Joel C. Rosenberg holds the reader captive as the story of J.B. Collins, a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, unfolds. His storytelling builds anticipation and suspense, all while delivering the clear messages of salvation through faith, true sacrifice, and redemption.

The reader is first introduced to J.B. Collins in The Third Target. J.B. doesn’t make time for anything else but his stories and the truth until he interviews Abu Khalif, the head of the Muslim terrorist group ISIS. During the interview, J.B.’s suspicions are confirmed:  ISIS has possession of chemical weapons and they intend to use them. After Khalif’s escape from prison, J.B. wants nothing more than to warn the world of the dangers that are sure to come, but now his own life is in danger. Will he disobey the orders of the U.S. government? With the President of the United States about to oversee a peace agreement days from being signed by both Israel and Palestine, there is no time to lose.

The First Hostage picks up where The Third Target ends. Abu Khalif and ISIS will do whatever it takes to establish the global reign of their Islamic messiah, even kidnap the President of the United States and demand the allegiance of the entire nation to the radical Islamic Sharia law. J.B. joins the multinationally-led hunt for the president before time runs out. In so doing, he and his family become targets of the jihadist.

In Without Warning, J.B. realizes that despite his best efforts thousands of lives are lost or put in harm’s way, including those of his family and friends. He joins a classified Mossad Israeli team to find and eliminate Abu Khalif and put an end to the terrorist reign. The independent correspondent has never thought of sacrifice, death, or what happens after, but as he draws closer to eliminating Abu Khalif, J.B. begins to question whether or not he is ready for the end of this life and what sacrifices it will take to save the lives of those he loves.

Rosenberg’s knowledge of current political and geographical regions melds seamlessly with his fictional creations. Although one may question J.B. Collins’ unexpected ability to fight alongside elite trained soldiers from multiple countries, it is quickly set aside for the fast-paced plot and detailed vivid action. The series is recommended with caution, as there are many deaths that take place, from both chemical and military grade weapons. The descriptions, though not in depth, do describe the events in such a way a picture is painted in the mind of the reader.

Cicely K. Ben, CLJ

 

The Story of Passover / by Rabbi Francis Barry Silberg; illustrated by Stephanie McFetridge Britt. 12.4.2017

Worthy Publishing ISBN 9780824916527

PRI Grades 2-5 Rating: 3

Writing for adults about important topics–like faith–can be challenging, and introducing children to important events and intangible ideas requires a wholly different set of skills. In The Story of Passover, Rabbi Francis Barry Silberg uses the simplicity of a board book to make a detailed and complex story comprehensible to both children and adults of all ages and beliefs.

Rabbi Silberg re-tells the story of the Exodus: a significant period in history where God demonstrates wonders and plagues in Egypt in order to force Pharaoh to release the Jewish people from slavery. With easy-to-understand vocabulary and short sentences, he holds the reader’s attention in light suspense that keeps them asking, “What happens next?” Illustrations by Stephanie McFetridge Britt provide realistic artwork, though the soft pastels and light blues that predominate prevent the segment on the ten plagues from being frightening.

The Story of Passover assumes some prior knowledge of the biblical event, while vocabulary specific to the story (such as unleavened bread, worship, and children of Israel) may require adult explanation. While the story does not contain the usual sound patterns and rhymes common to many board books, it engages the child at a higher thinking level where each sentence leads naturally into the “why?” questions that help children to create meaning and that enhance deeper understanding.

Rabbi Silberg’s main skill lies in his ability to touch the inherent curiosity and imagination of a child in order to guide them into the realm of the unseen and of faith.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Unblemished series / by Sara Ella. 12.1.2017

Unblemished / by Sara Ella. (Umblemished, Book 1)

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780718081010

YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 5

Unraveling / Sara Ella. (Umblemished, Book 2)

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780718081034

YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 4

Sara Ella is a new voice in young adult fiction. She combines elements from fairy tales and fantasy to create young adult fiction that will captivate the reader.

In Umblemished, Eliyana Ember has a large facial birthmark. Joshua David, her closest friend, treats her as if the birthmark is normal, even a thing of beauty, leading her to finally believe she is worthy to be loved. She is just a few weeks short of her eighteenth birthday when tragedy strikes.

Her mother is presumed dead when she doesn’t come home one night. Joshua becomes her legal guardian, complicating their relationship. Things get strange quickly, from a hooded stalker, to travel to a parallel world, to being pursued by an evil man.

Soon she is faced with two possible suitors: her guardian Joshua, and Kyaphus. On top of this, Eliyana discovers her birthmark is a symbol of hope in this new world. How can she be the one to save others when she can’t even decide between them?

In Unraveling, Eliyana will be crowned queen soon. Joshua who was raised to be king, wants Kyaphus out of the picture because Eliyana is torn between her feelings for both of them. Those feelings have a devastating effect on those around them.

Eliyana’s dream life begins to unravel. Both Joshua and Kyaphus love her, but who does she really love–the man she fell in love with over the past three years or the one who knows her better but for a shorter time? Our princess faces two charming suitors who care for her differently–which one is her true love? And how will her choice affect those around her? What lengths will they go to, in order to win her hand forever?

Ella gives readers a strong heroine who overcomes adversity to take her place in the battle of good vs. evil. Callings (gifts) play a role in the story and are symbols for a life of faith. Ella gives us a tale of the not-so-beautiful-in-our-world princess who is beautiful in another world because of her blemish.

Unblemished was nominated for the INSPY Award (Literature for Young People), 2017 Christy award, and 2017 Carol award. Unbreakable (Book 3) is expected in May 2018.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

 

The Raven /by Mike Nappa. (Coffey & Hill, 2) 11.30.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800726454

Adult Rating: 4

Coffey and Hill are back at it again in the second of the Coffey & Hill series, The Raven. Although divorced, Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill still share an amount of love and attraction between them which gives a type of sweetness to the story. That sweetness helps to balance out the violence to some extent.

The Raven is a magician–no, change that to master of deception, but really just a young man trying to make his mark on the world who is crazy about Trudi Coffey. His life seems harmless enough until he pickpockets the wallet of an important councilman, and, finding compromising information, decides to blackmail him. What ensues does not look good for this boy wonder and his appendages. He finds himself mired in a plot called Nevermore with the Eastern European mafia with no way out except for an old woman who calls herself Mama Bliss and the help of Coffey and Hill.

Mike Nappa’s The Raven is not a cozy mystery. As mentioned before, the book contains a serious amount of violence (though not gratuitous). There is a Christian worldview with some sharing of Scripture. Recommended for mystery buffs and those that enjoyed the first in the series.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow / by Mary Weber. 11.27.2017

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9789716080907

YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 4

Mary Weber, author of the Storm Siren trilogy, pens a new science fiction series, incorporating video gaming, futuristic fantasy, adventure, and alien invasions.

In The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, 17-year-old Sofi Snow is an online gamer and hacker, working behind the scenes to protect her younger brother Shilo, a contestant in the Earth’s Fantasy Fight, where real and virtual blood sport mix. When a bomb destroys the gaming arena, Sofi is certain Shilo is still alive, despite the evidence of his death. Sofi’s nightmares about him are so vivid that she is convinced he is on the Delonese ice-planet where only Earth’s ambassadors and the Delonese live. She convinces her friend Miguel to take her to the ice planet to find him. Will she find Shilo in time? What is really going on behind the scenes on Delon? Can she uncover the conspiracy before the mastermind behind it strikes again?

Weber creates a credible future world where cameras monitor one’s every move and no detail of one’s life is private. For 19-year-old Miguel, one of Earth’s ambassadors, that constant scrutiny makes him a blackmail target. Can Miguel help Sofi find Shilo without being exposed by his blackmailer? Alien invasions, interplanetary politics, and human trafficking are at play in this gripping novel by Weber.

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow is told in alternating first-person points of view (Sofi’s and Miguel’s), with the viewpoint indicated at the beginning of each chapter. Discussion questions are also included. The book ends on a cliffhanger with unanswered questions. Hopefully they will be answered in her forthcoming book, Reclaiming Shilo Snow in the March 2018.

Recommended for public libraries for adults and older teens.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Dark Deception / by Nancy Mehl. (Defenders of Justice, 2) 11.24.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217784

Adult Rating: 4

Nancy Mehl continues her new romantic suspense series featuring US marshals.

In Dark Deception, Kate O’Brien lives in witness protection in a small Arkansas town. Four years earlier, the O’Brien sisters were attacked by a serial killer, but only Kate survived.

However, Kate’s new life is not as safe as she thinks, especially when new evidence arises that might lead to a convicted man’s freedom. Kate is required to testify in a new trial, putting her life at risk. She agrees to return to St. Louis if the original deputy marshal who protected her during the first trial, US Deputy Marshall Tony DeLuca, will again provide protection. Both of them are unaware that she is being stalked by a killer, putting their lives in danger. Will they make it there alive? Is it the serial killer or is there a copycat killer at the center of the danger?

Mehl has written a plot-driven novel with a strong female character and an honorable male character. The faith element is evident but not heavy-handed. Readers will encounter good and bad cops, serial killers, obsessions, and fractured lives. The violence is appropriate for the story. The plot twists, especially concerning the identity of the mastermind behind Kate’s stalker, will keep the reader turning the pages until the book’s conclusion. All the loose ends are not tied up neatly at the end, leaving the reader wondering what will happen in the next book in this series.

Recommended for public and high school libraries. Fans of DiAnn Mills, Irene Hannon, and Dani Pettrey will appreciate this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJ: Fatal Frost (Jan/Feb/Mar 2017).

When Tides Turn / by Sarah Sundin. (Waves of Freedom, 3) 11.23.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800723446

Adult (YA) Rating: 5

In When Tides Turn, Quintessa Beaumont tires of being known for her beauty and fun personality, desiring instead to be useful. She dumps her “princess” name for “Tess” and joins the Navy’s WAVES, Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service. In so doing, she will be useful–and she can finally give up the idea of a relationship with Dan Avery, since WAVES are not allowed to marry Navy men under any circumstances, not that Dan is interested in her. In addition to new duties, Tess notices something mysterious going on with her friend Yvette and determines to find out what it is.

Though he would prefer to be at sea, Dan Avery is stuck in Boston doing a desk job. Dan continually tries to focus on his naval career advancement and getting back out to sea, but thoughts of Tess tend to distract him. When he gets a chance to serve at sea again, he takes it, happy to serve under his mentor, Admiral Howard. He learns some hard lessons from the Admiral that change the way he thinks when he returns to Boston. When the Navy lifts the restriction against dating WAVES, Dan wonders if Tess could possibly ever be interested in a bore like him.

Once again, Sarah Sundin combines an intriguing mystery with a budding romance and a splash of character transformation to create another compelling WWII-era novel. The war weighs heavily on the characters, lending a serious tenor to the story. Tess and Dan undergo some serious transformation and soul-searching throughout the book. Moments when Tess, Dan, and their friends are together lighten the mood, and also provide insights into America during the 40’s. All too quickly this story concludes, wrapping up the Waves of Freedom series.

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJThrough Waters Deep (Nov/Dec 2015); Anchor in the Storm (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016).

The Mistress of Tall Acre: A Novel / by Laura Frantz. 11.17.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800720445

Adult Rating: 4

The American Revolution has finally ended, but for 28 -year-old Sophie Menzies, the battle is far from won. Because her father was a Tory (though she is herself a loyal patriot), Sophie is in danger of losing her home at Three Chimneys. Alone–with her mother gone to Heaven, her father having escaped to Scotland, and no word from her brother whose loyalties are being questioned–how can Sophie save her home? The only solution to her problems may just rest in the hands of her widowed neighbor General Seamus Ogilvy, newly returned home an American hero with a young daughter to raise. She needs his financial support as well as his political influence to save her home, and he needs a mother for his daughter.

Will a marriage of convenience solve both their problems? Can two broken people find healing together? Just when it seems that happily ever after might be attained, a visitor from the past threatens to tear the new family apart.

Laura Frantz’s The Mistress of Tall Acre is a beautiful story of love and restoration that will sweep readers off their feet. The plot builds suspense with the intrigue of secrets and spies all culminating into a surprising twist. The main characters are full of depth and their own authentic charm. Sophie has a tender, compassionate heart and a giving nature; however, she is strong in her convictions and loyalty. Seamus has a hardened intensity about him, a result of his personal losses and years away at war. At times, his actions and words are insensitive if not hurtful, yet he is a protector by nature who learns to open his heart again. For both characters, their story is one of finding and coming home, with heartaches and joys along the way. The relationships in this story, both the developing romance between the main characters and their parental bonds with Lily Cate, possess a poignant sweetness and devotion. The final chapters paint a message that truth brings freedom and with it hope for the future.

Justina McBride, CLJ

A Love So True / by Melissa Jagears. (Teaville Moral Society, 2) 11.13.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217524

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Melissa Jagears continues her historical fiction series set in Kansas during the early 1900s.

In A Love So True, Evelyn Wisely works at the Teaville mansion that rescues children from the red-light district, but her heart is for the women who live there as well. She wants to help them escape poverty and prostitution. To do that, she needs the support of local businessmen to fund her work. David Kingsman comes to Teaville to rebuild his father’s faltering factory business. His intent was to stay only as long as needed to put the business on solid footing again, and then he would return to Kansas CIty. However, he is attracted to Evelyn. He shows interest in Evelyn’s work and wants to lend support, but complications arise.

Evelyn is compassionate and fiercely independent, holding others at arm’s length because of a secret she hides. When her secret is finally revealed, it causes a rift that threatens her budding relationship with David and any possible future together. The conclusion is a nice surprise twist.

Like Jagears’ other novels, A Love So True has solid character development, a clear faith element (without being preachy), and excellent historical detail. Characters from A Heart Most Certain (book 1) appear as secondary characters, continuing their storyline. It is refreshing to read a novel set in a time period and in circumstances not as familiar to readers. Jagears’ books are not just historical romance–these books deal with Christian charity, adoption, responsibility, compassion, and redemption in the community around them.

Recommended for adults and high school students in school and public libraries. Fans of Regina Jennings and Jen Turano will enjoy this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Currents / by Jane Petrlik Smolik. 11.1.2017

Charlesbridge ISBN 9781580896481

INT Grades 4-6 Rating: 4

On a planation in Virginia, 11-year-old Bones Brewster has spent her life a slave, serving a harsh mistress, longing for freedom. When a series of circumstances occurs that leads to hope and heartache, she discovers something that no one can take away from her, while an old bottle set adrift a river may bring its own form of freedom.

An ocean away, Lady Bess Kent longs for adventure, to explore the world as her father does far away from her manipulative step-mother. When she discovers a bottle that has washed up on her English shores, its mysterious contents provide an adventure all their own, as well as help in a time of need.

In Boston, Massachusetts, Mary Margaret Casey irons shoelaces for eight pennies a week and, in her free time, fills a journal with stories about life and the people around her. Though she would love to be a writer, few options are open to a poor Irish girl, especially when any spare funds are needed to help her sick sister. When a shiny bottle catches her eye, Mary finds a valuable treasure inside.

In Currents, author Jane Petrlik Smolik presents a historically rich tale of three young girls living miles and an ocean apart, but whose lives and stories are intertwined and impacted by one bottle set adrift in the James River. The stories flow seamlessly from one to the other, with little reoccurring details (such as Merry’s Museum Magazine and inspiring quotes from the philosopher Marcus Aurelius) that tie them further together and add historical authenticity. Black-and-white illustrations and brief descriptions signal the story shifts, and an epilogue at the end brings closure for both the characters and readers. Messages of courage, friendship, compassion, sacrifice, and forgiveness drift across the pages. Hard topics such as slavery and prejudices are presented with an age-appropriate honesty that stirs both outrage and empathy. A note of caution: there is a somewhat graphic description of a slave being beaten in the first story.

Justina McBride, CLJ