Traces of Guilt / by Dee Henderson. (An Evie Blackwell Cold Case) 9.29.2016

Bethany House ISBN 9780764218866

Adult Rating: 3

Award-winning author Dee Henderson pens a new contemporary suspense series featuring a female police detective being considered for the governor’s cold case task force.

In Traces of Guilt, Evie Blackwell begins with two cases in Carin County, Illinois: a missing six-year-old whose family was on vacation and a missing local deputy. On Evie’s way into town, she hits a deer, and Sheriff Gabriel Thane comes to the accident scene. She joins forces with him to reopen the investigation for these cases. Evie and Gabriel also enlist his family’s help, including his father who had been the sheriff during the time of both disappearances.

Henderson fans will be delighted to note the appearance of characters from an earlier novel (Paul and Ann Falcone, Full Disclosure). The novel is told from multiple points of view, with the text indicating which character’s point of view follows (Evie, Gabriel, Ann, etc.).

Violence in the story is appropriate but not graphic. The story is sad as the two cold cases are solved, for the families left behind still have to deal with the aftermath of these crimes. The other members of the Thane family probably will appear in the future books in this series.

In Traces of Guilt, the faith element is light, and the book focuses more on the cold case investigations. Although tagged as romantic suspense, Traces of Guilt is more suspense than romance. Like some of her recent books, it is lighter on the romance between the main characters. Still, it is a good book that Henderson fans will enjoy reading.

Recommended for public libraries. Will appeal to fans of Irene Hannon, DiAnn Mills, and Lynette Eason.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Snuggle Time Prayers / by Glenys Nellist; illustrated by Cee Biscoe. 9.28.2016

Zonderkidz ISBN 9780310749325

PRI PS Rating: 5

Snuggle Time Prayers is a board book collection of 15 short prayers for preschoolers.

Each concise blessing references a line of Scripture and offers a soothing reflection on God’s love, protection, friendship, and gifts. Glenys Nellist’s gentle rhyming text has a calming and peaceful tone, just right for bedtime reading.

Soft illustrations by Cee Biscoe feature adorable animal characters in cozy bedroom scenes filled with familiar toys and comforts, as well as enjoying God’s glorious outside world (pasture, forest, beach, rainstorm, snowy night).

Snuggle Time Prayers is an ideal introduction to prayer for the very young and the perfect way to ease into naptime or nighttime!

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

The Plans I Have for You / by Amy Parker; illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. 9.27.2016

Zonderkidz ISBN 9780310724100

PRI PS-Grade 3 Rating: 5

The Plans I Have for You is a rhyming picture book by Amy Parker that introduces the Scripture of Jeremiah 29:11. A diverse cast of children learn that God has given everyone unique talents and a purpose for each of them.

God Himself is the voice of the story, opening with, “Hey, YOU! I’ve got big plans for you!” With Amy Parker’s lighthearted verse, He motivates children to open their hearts, read the Bible, explore their passions, and discover His path for their lives. “You are my hands and my feet there on Earth,” He tells the children, with the comforting message that He has equipped us with all that we need to find our way in the world.

Lively illustrations and creative graphics by Vanessa Brantley-Newton show multi-ethnic children engaged in all sorts of professions, suggesting a promise of fulfilling futures that await. The bright scenes are tender and engaging, with a touch of humor (a busy nurse has seven arms) and the constant reminder of a guiding presence.With its sing-song cadence, timeless message, and whimsical artwork, The Plans I Have for You is an entertaining read as well as a teaching tool. Just as the young characters on the cover float contentedly on colorful parachutes, this delightful story will make the heart soar.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

A Plague of Unicorns / by Jane Yolen. 9.20.2016

Zonderkidz ISBN 9780310746485

INT Grades 3-7 Rating: 5

Because golden apple cider gives the abbey their only source of income, the peaceful monks are forced into war when unicorns invade the orchard. Monks avoid violence, so they decide to capture the animals. Too bad only a girl can capture a unicorn, and females are not allowed in the abbey. After trying to capture the unicorns themselves, the injured monks invite “heroes” to chase off the creatures. But soon, they all fail, too.

An intelligent and curious duke’s son, James, is sent to the abbey as a student. He is considered an outsider until he saves his horse from a unicorn stampede and becomes a hero. James writes home to summon a “hero” that he believes could be the solution to the unicorn problem. The “hero” comes, saves the abbey’s apples, and leads the unicorns far away. It is only later that the nature of James’s little deception is revealed.

A new “once upon a time” begins with this faith-filled fairytale—bringing unicorns and monks together. A Plague of Unicorns would be wonderful to read aloud as a family and learn details about Bible stories from a child’s perspective.

This book explores deep loneliness as James believes that his family sent him away because they thought he was annoying and that he caused his father’s disappearance. These ideas are combatted in the end with the truth of his father’s disappearance and his mother’s love. When the abbot discovers James’s deception, he does not seem unduly upset, perhaps conveying a message that sometimes it is acceptable to break rules for a greater good.

A famous writer of fantasy and science fiction and winner of multiple awards (including the Caldecott Medal and two Nebula awards), Jane Yolen presents in A Plague of Unicorns a great story with jokes for all ages. The fun and mythical language paints a comedic picture of a rag-tag group of men chasing unicorns. James’s character is hilariously accurate for a child: his questions never end and will leave readers giggling.

Rebecca A. Schriner, CLJ

Pulse / by L. R. Burkard. (Pulse Effex series, 1) 9.19.2016

Lilliput Press ISBN 9780979215483

HS Grade 10 and up Rating: 4

L. R. Burkard, a new voice to young adult fiction, wrote a number of adult historical romances under the name Linore Rose Burkard. Her first venture into YA fiction is Pulse, a suspenseful contemporary novel about a major disaster, told from the viewpoint of three teenage girls.

In Pulse, an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) hits the earth and life comes to a grinding halt. Andrea Patterson, Lexie Martin, and Sarah Weaver are friends with very different family situations: Andrea comes from a wealthy family, Lexie lives on a farm, and Sarah lives on the top floor of an apartment building. When the EMP hits, they must face their worst nightmare–the failure of the electric grid. Sarah’s family has been preparing for disaster, but not the others. What happens to family relationships, neighbors, and life in general when technology comes to a stop? Who will survive beyond a few days when food starts running out?

Burkard uses first-person narration by the three 16-year-old girls, similar to a journal format. The EMP disaster is a chilling possibility in our future. By using each girl’s experience, the author depicts realistically what could happen. Pulse is more than a young adult book–adults will find it a clean (no drugs, alcohol, or sex) book with minimal violence, a book that may cause them to think about how they would face the situation of the electric power grid failing. Ms. Burkard tackles an EMP from a young adult point of view in this book. Readers who read this book might consider the real possibility of an EMP and how to plan for that.

Recommended for school and public libraries. Resilience, the second book in this series, was published in May 2016.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Bride of a Distant Isle: A Novel / by Sandra Byrd. (Daughters of Hampshire, 2) 9.15.2016

Howard Books ISBN 9781476717890

Adult Rating: 4

Historical fiction author Sandra Byrd pens a second novel in her series set in Victorian England. Bride of a Distant Isle tells of young Englishwoman at the mercy of her cousin who promises her hand in marriage to avoid financial ruin.

Annabel Ashton, teacher at a nearby day school, visits her family home, only to discover her cousin Edward plans to marry her off and sell their family home. As an orphaned illegitimate daughter of a Maltese man and mentally ill Englishwoman, Annabel has few options. Fighting to save her family home and her mother’s memory, she discovers old secrets and mysterious happenings. Is Annabel going mad like her mother? Could Annabel be legitimate and the true heir? Does the dashing but brooding Captain Marco Dell’Acqua from Malta have Annabel’s best interests at heart?

Byrd writes a first-person narrative filled with the best elements of a Gothic novel (mystery, romance, a Heathcliff-like hero, and plot twists!), where the intriguing story grabs the reader’s attention and keeps it until the spine-tingling conclusion. Annabel’s faith helps her in the midst of a very challenging situation, especially when Edward has her confined to an asylum. Byrd’s heroine is Catholic, so the teachings and practices of the Catholic faith in Victorian England are interwoven. The author also includes a note about the Christian faith during Victorian times, as well as poisoned honey and insanity.

Recommended for public libraries and school libraries, and fans of Bronte and Victoria Holt will especially enjoy this series. The final book in this series, A Lady in Disguise, will be released in 2017.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJ: Mist of Midnight (May/June 2015).

Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives / by Robert W. Kellemen. (The Equipping Biblical Counselors series, 1) 9.14.2016

Zondervan ISBN 9780310516132

Adult Rating: *5

Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives, written by Robert W. Kellemen, is the first volume in a two-part series initially designed to sensitize Christians to their own personal relationships with Christ, and then to encourage them to combine biblical insight with compassionate Christian care, as they spread the gospel through counseling. Kellemen urges fellow Christians, both those formally trained and those untrained as counselors, to follow the steps presented in this textbook-style training manual to become more effective healers in a hurting world. He admonishes that Scripture is not a one-size-fits-all prescription and encourages those counseling to maintain a personal relationship with Christ, listen deeply, and prayerfully pinpoint unique earthly perspectives within the bigger picture the Bible offers believers. Illustrations are founded on the Apostle Paul’s letters ministering to believers who faced daily challenges to their faith. Modern, real-life vignettes incorporate physical, emotional, and spiritual facets of the human condition, providing for a more holistic approach to the distinctive individual. The foundational biblical narrative for counseling, Creation-Fall-Redemption, is expanded to remind believers that God knew us even before creation and has plans for us that do not end with time, but instead extend throughout eternity.

Gospel-Centered Counseling is divided into 10- to 15-page chapters that are further separated into short half- to two-page sections, patterned for today’s busy lifestyle. Chapters introduce life questions, counseling questions, authentic examples, Scripture-supported responses, and a “Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Headed” section that briefly summarizes the chapter, connects to previous chapters, and invites interest in upcoming chapters. Included are discussion questions, comprehensive reference section, and a Scripture index. Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV) 2011 by Biblica, Inc.

Pastor and author of more than a dozen gospel-focused self-help books, Robert W. Kellemen, ThM, PhD. is the executive director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, founder and CEO of RPM Ministries, and Vice President of Institutional Development and Chair of the Biblical Counseling Department at Crossroads Bible College (Indiana).

Kimberley D. Harris, CLJ

The Beautiful Pretender / by Melanie Dickerson. (A Medieval Fairy Tale, Book 2) 9.13.2016

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780718026288

Adult Rating: 5

Historical fiction author Melanie Dickerson presents another medieval fairy tale specifically aimed at adult readers.

In The Beautiful Pretender, the king wants the Margrave of Thornbeck married to promote an alliance within his kingdom. The margrave invites 10 noblewomen to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks. During that time, he will chose his bride after testing her character.

Unbeknownst to him, the Earl of Plimmwald sends Avelina, a maidservant as a substitute for his daughter Dorothea who is unable to attend. Avelina was told to make sure the margrave doesn’t select her and to keep her true identity a secret. But what happens when despite her efforts, the margrave falls in love with her, and they find themselves in the midst of a plot with deadly consequences?

Dickerson combines elements from two fairy tales to create a story that holds the reader’s interest to the final chapter. Her careful research captures the nuances of medieval Germany. The characters are engaging, and the plot is well-developed. Loosely based on The Princess and the Pea and The Beauty and the Beast, the reader will be captivated by Avelina’s story and delighted by its ending. Discussion questions are included in the back matter.

Recommended for public libraries and church libraries. Adult fans of Dickerson’s young adult novels will be thrilled with this new series, as will fans of fairy tales and the TV show Once Upon a Time.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJ: The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest (July/August 2015).

Adventure Bible for Toddlers / Adventure Bible Storybook / by Catherine DeVries; illustrated by Jim Madsen. 9.12.2016

Adventure Bible for Toddlers / by Catherine DeVries; illustrated by Jim Madsen.

Zonderkidz ISBN 9780310730422

PRI Toddler-PS Rating: 4

Adventure Bible Storybook / by Catherine DeVries; illustrated by Jim Madsen.

Zonderkidz ISBN 9780310716372

PRI PS-Grade 3 Rating: 4

Adventure Bible for Toddlers and Adventure Bible Storybook present people and events from the Bible in an illustrated story format intended for young children. Writer Catherine DeVries and artist Jim Madsen combine talents for both of these Zonderkidz titles.

Adventure Bible for Toddlers is a chunky board book with four pages devoted to each of 10 biblical tales from “The Adventure Begins” (Genesis 1) to “The Adventure Continues” (the Gospels). Each significantly abridged story lays a foundation, introducing the main points and characters. Colorfully detailed pictures add visual appeal for the very young and the recurring theme of adventure conveys the excitement of God’s word. The small size and sturdy pages are perfect for little hands.

Adventure Bible Storybook retains the flavor of exploration and discovery in a more expansive collection (23 Old Testament and 28 New Testament stories) for a higher reading audience (ages 4-8). Context and Scripture are included as “Adventure Discovery” and “Words to Treasure” graphics. With a nice mix of close-ups and panoramic scenes, the engaging artwork captures the drama and emotion of the subject matter. The portraits of Jesus are especially effective. The simple language keeps each story concise. However, for children already familiar with the Bible the abbreviated versions may seem incomplete and the imagined details (such as dialog between Noah and his wife) unnecessary.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Little Big / by Jonathan Bentley. 9.9.2016

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers ISBN 9780802854629

PRI PS-Grade 1 Rating: 4

Being little is hard, especially when trying to be big in order to do what big people can do. In Little Big, one small boy bemoans the struggles of having little legs and hands that prevent him from doing big things like his older brother. As he considers the benefits of being big, such as having big legs like a giraffe or big hands like a gorilla, he simultaneously acknowledges the disadvantages of not being able to ride in his wagon or fit in his playhouse. In the end, he joyfully discovers he is just the perfect size.

In this charming book, Jonathan Bentley depicts a very common plight of most young children: the desire to be big. Using humor and childlike logic, the author convincingly leads young readers or listeners to the conclusion that being little is something to celebrate and enjoy. The text is minimal, with no more than one sentence appearing on a page, making the illustrations a central focus. The watercolor illustrations enhance the text with added detail and humor while providing visual delight. Each illustration is skillfully depicted from a little person’s perspective. Overall, this book is a treasure to add to the nursery library.

Justina McBride, CLJ