Doon series / by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon. 3.15.2016

Doon / by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon. (Doon, 1)

Zondervan ISBN 9780310742302

Destined for Doon / by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon. (Doon, 2)

Zondervan ISBN 9780310742333

Shades of Doon / by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon. (Doon, 3)

Zondervan ISBN 9780310742357

HS Grades 9-12 Rating: 5

The Doon saga transports readers into a fantasy tale of teens sacrificing all to find and keep true love. It follows best friends Veronica and Mackenna along their adventures from their ordinary American lives into the magical kingdom of Doon.

In Doon, Veronica’s traumatic breakup causes hallucinations. She is certain that the boy she sees means that she has gone crazy—that is, until she and Mackenna discover a vision journal while in Scotland. Chasing the boy of Veronica’s dreams, the friends cross a bridge into a new world, Doon. With a witch threatening the kingdom and the princes (one who happens to look like Veronica’s vision-boy) suspicious of Veronica and Mackenna, the girls must prove their loyalty to the crown and stop the witch from crossing the border—if they haven’t helped her enter already.

Destined for Doon begins with Mackenna discovering her modern-world theater dream was not all she hoped it would be. She feels guilty for leaving her prince and Veronica behind in Doon. When her prince appears with bad news, Mackenna follows him to Doon to defeat a curse then return to the modern stage as soon as she can. Attempting to delay knowledge of the curse, Mackenna is forced to pretend she returned to the kingdom for love. The witch may be back, and the hunt for a cure could tear apart more than one relationship.

In Shades of Doon, Doon finally appears at peace, but Veronica and Mackenna are on edge. A spy for the witch thrusts them back into their old lives and makes the girls wonder: was it all a dream? The princes rescue them, but upon returning to Doon, they all believe that the witch could be disguised among the civilians. When the witch reveals herself, Veronica must make a choice: allow the Doonian to die or forfeit the kingdom.

This series is extremely well-written, and each book is difficult to put down. If readers can overlook moderately risqué behavior from high schoolers (including intimate kissing scenes), witches with magic, and mild violence, this series will be an excellent adventure and escape. There is a light faith element, in that the characters go to church and the protagonists hold to moral standards. From the point of view of a teenage girl, Doon crosses pop culture references with medieval lifestyle in a way that will have readers laughing out loud. Corp and Langdon’s characters will connect with any YA fantasy enthusiast. Book four, Forever Doon, will release in fall 2016 to complete the series.

Rebecca A. Schriner, CLJ

Lightning / by Bonnie S. Calhoun. (Stone Braide Chronicles, 2) 3.14.2016

Revell ISBN 9780800723774

HS Grades 8-12 Rating: 4

Bonnie Calhoun continues her young adult dystopian series set in a world where life is very different 150 years from now. Most of the population lives in the ruins of American cities destroyed by a nuclear holocaust.

In Lightning, Selah Rishon thinks her problems are over when she finds her birth father, but her special abilities continue to increase–and no one is exactly like her. She is part Lander, part human. Selah is the “novarium”–someone who plays a major role in an unfolding prophecy.

Both Bohdi Locke, the Lander who is her romantic interest, and her newfound father Glade seem to have no time for her. Who will tell her how to handle her abilities and visions? Can she rescue her family from their imprisonment? What about the Third Protocol of Landers that will complete her transformation?

Although the book is interesting, the faith element is non-existent. The book covers for this series are dramatic, and the second book is much better then the first. Lightning has more action and less romance than Thunder.

However, one should read the first book before reading this one; otherwise the reader will find it challenging to understand the backstory. Calhoun has also written two novellas in this series, Tremors and Aftershock. Her characters are believable and flawed, reinforcing the realism of the story.

Calhoun creates a credible futuristic world with a strong heroine, which should appeal to fans of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Lisa Bergren’s Remnants series. Book 3 will be published in Fall 2016.

Recommended for public libraries and school libraries. This book is more appropriate for older teens and adults.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Thin Ice / by Irene Hannon. (Men of Valor, 2) 3.11.2016

Revell ISBN 9780800724535

Adult     Rating: 5

Award-winning author Irene Hannon releases the next installment in her romantic suspense series featuring the former military McGregor brothers as they settle into civilian life.

In Thin Ice, Christy Reed lost her parents in a car accident eight months ago and her sister in a house fire two months ago. When Christy receives a note from someone claiming her sister is still alive and is a hostage, she turns to Lance McGregor, a new FBI agent and a former Delta Force operator, for help. Can Christy, a former ice skater, trust Lance to protect her and find out the truth? Or is she skating on thin ice?

When Lance and Christy start discovering the truth about her sister and her parents, all signs point to Christy as the next target. Will they find the mastermind behind the plot against her family before he strikes again? What is the motive behind his actions toward her and her family? Will they discover his identity before it is too late?

Hannon writes edge-of-your-seat inspirational romantic suspense that will keep the reader engaged until the final page. Unexpected plot twists are a Hannon trademark as the villain’s identity and sinister motives are unveiled.

Hannon’s books are filled with suspense, romance, appropriate violence, and clean language. The faith element is light, not heavy-handed. Although written for adults, the books would be acceptable for high school students as well.

Highly recommended for adult collections in public libraries. Fans of Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and DiAnn Mills will clamor for this new series!

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus / written and illustrated by John Hendrix. 3.10.2016

Abrams Books for Young Readers ISBN 9781419718991

PRI PS-Grade 6 Rating: *5

Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus retells stories of Jesus healing, providing, and ministering to His believers, leading up to the most glorious and enduring miracle of all—His resurrection.

Author/illustrator John Hendrix movingly presents a selection of Bible-based stories with imagined dialogue between Jesus and his followers. Featured are well-known events from the Gospels such as Jesus calming the storm, walking on water, feeding five thousand, and healing the leper, the paralytic, and the blind. The book concludes with Jesus’s last supper and crucifixion.

The brilliant and imaginative pen-and-ink artwork distinguishes this picture bookand extends the audience appeal to include older readers. Scenes of Jerusalem and the Sea of Galilee are captivatingly overlaid with creative fonts, speech bubbles, and animated text. On some pages the pictures literally speak the word of God!

Whether revisiting these stories or introducing young children to them for the first time, this striking book is fresh and engaging. Rich with dramatic, visual intricacy and powerful messages, Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus is a timeless treasure, memorable for all the right reasons, and ideal for read-aloud sharing.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard Topics / by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson. 3.9.2016

Bethany House ISBN 9780764211874

Adult Rating: 5

Author of 20 books on daily living and the Christian life, Elyse Fitzpatrick coauthors Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions with her adult daughter and mother of three children, Jessica Thompson. Those familiar with their earlier Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus will find here the same clear and encouraging approach and solid foundation out of Scripture.

The mother/daughter team carefully walks parents through difficult conversations. Eight tough questions/topics are addressed: What is sin? Why do people die? Who is Satan? What is Hell? Why do people get divorced? Why does the Bible say that? Why and how do some people sin sexually? Why does God let natural disasters happen? Why do people fight and kill?

After discussing each topic, Fitzpatrick and Thompson give three answer summaries geared to three different age groups so that parents might relate better to the child. The first summary is for preschoolers, the second geared to ages 5 to 10, and the third one for ages 11 and older. This thoughtful, well-written book with a biblical mindset makes Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions a welcome addition for parents in the Christian home and a must-have for libraries serving parents.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

The Shock of Night / by Patrick W. Carr. (The Darkwater Saga, 1) 3.8.2016

Bethany House ISBN 9780764213465
Adult     Rating: 4

Patrick W. Carr, author of The Staff and The Sword series, presents a new epic fantasy for adults, rich in character development and suspenseful plot twists.

In The Shock of Night, Willet Dura–the King of Bunard’s reeve–is called to investigate a brutal attack that results in the death of one man and near-death of a priest. The dying priest utters a foreign word as he grabs Willet and dies. Willet is unaware that a rare gift was passed to him: the ability to see a person’s deepest thoughts, a gift that will kill. Willet tries to discover the murderer’s identity and accidentally uncovers a plot putting Bunard at the center of a major conflict.

Like Carr’s earlier books, the church (The Vigil) is an important faction in the storyline, one that is sometimes good, sometimes corrupt. It involves gifts that are divinely given, but even traitors can infiltrate The Vigil. When people go into the Darkwater Forest, it causes significant changes, ones that might not appear until years later.

Carr’s book is filled with strong characters, and a plot with plenty of suspenseful twists. Unlike his earlier series, The Darkwater Saga is more intense–there is little hope for overcoming this darker evil. It is also harder for it to grab the reader’s interest. There is more violence than in his earlier books, but it is not too graphic.

Carr does a good job of developing this dark world and building tension as the story unfolds.The Shock of Night answers some questions as it ends, but lays the groundwork for the second book, The Shattered Vigil, coming in 2016.

Recommended for adult collections in public libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, Worthy2Read.wordpress.com

A Beauty So Rare / by Tamera Alexander. 3.7.2016

Bethany House ISBN 9780764206238

Adult Rating: 5

Eleanor Braddock is plain and sensible, not a woman that attracts men. Convinced she will never marry, Eleanor, upon hearing a dying soldier’s final words, is determined to make her life count. When family finances dwindle and her father’s mental loss worsens, Eleanor makes the difficult choice of moving to Belmont Mansion to live with her wealthy aunt, Adelicia Acklen. While her aunt is determined to find her a suitable husband, Eleanor discovers her own calling.

Unlike Eleanor, the Archduke Marcus Gottfried is a man too handsome for his own good who has lived a life full of frivolity, privilege, and selfish pursuits. While initially coming to America to temporarily escape his royal heritage and a family scandal, Marcus becomes a changed man, desiring to accomplish something of importance through his love of botany and architectural work.

When Eleanor and Marcus cross paths, sparks instantly fly between these two opposites, while a kindred purpose and growing attraction unite their hearts, blossoming into an impossible love. Will circumstances beyond themselves prove too great an opposition?

In A Beauty So Rare, Tamera Alexander weaves a historical masterpiece worthy of being a 2015 Christy award finalist for best historical romance. The storyline goes far beyond that of a typical romance novel by delving into family dynamics, grief, societal flaws, friendship, and life purpose. The poverty and loss of the South in the post-Civil War era is richly and tragically portrayed through the lives of the widows and fatherless interlaced throughout the plot. The novel is full of unforgettable characters who will arrest readers with their complexity and heart. Eleanor and Marcus are pictures in contrast, coming from two different worlds in more ways than birth and location. Both, however, seek to find God’s purpose for their lives while learning the valuable lesson that “the mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). The overarching theme centers on uncovering “a beauty so rare,” one that shines deep from within and is often overlooked by those who lack the patience and right perspective to take a closer, longer look.

Justina McBride, CLJ

The Invention of Wings / by Sue Monk Kidd. 3.4.2016

Penguin Books ISBN 9780143121701

Adult Rating: 4

Sue Monk Kidd has written a riveting story that illustrates not only the brutal and degrading treatment of slaves but also the courage it takes to fight for freedom in the face of insurmountable odds.

Sarah Grimke’s wealthy and prominent slave-holding family resides in Charleston, South Carolina. On Sarah’s eleventh birthday, ten-year-old slave Hetty “Handful” Grimke is gifted to Sarah to serve as her handmaiden. Even though Sarah is adamantly opposed to taking Handful on as a slave, she is unsuccessful in her efforts to give Handful her freedom. A friendship develops between the two girls, and their lives become permanently intertwined. The story follows the lives of both Sarah and Handful over the course of thirty-five years from 1803 to 1838. Both women yearn for freedom. Handful dreams of escaping her life of servitude, and Sarah longs to make her own choices in life instead of living under the constraints of a patriarchal society. Will the two women ultimately succeed in their endeavors?

The Invention of Wings is told from the viewpoints of Handful and Sarah and switches from chapter to chapter between them. Sue Monk Kidd realistically depicts the appalling treatment of slaves, the struggles against slavery and women’s oppression, and the harsh punishments for defying societal norms that were an inherent part of early nineteenth-century American culture. A few curse words and an illicit affair are included in the story. The author’s note provides details about the historical figures upon whose lives the story is loosely based, with the majority of the story inspired by the real life of Sarah Grimke.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

The Men of Lancaster County series / by Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner. 3.3.2016

The Amish Groom / by Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner. (The Men of Lancaster County, 1)

Harvest House Publishers ISBN 9780736957342

The Amish Blacksmith / by Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner. (The Men of Lancaster County, 2)

Harvest House Publishers ISBN 9780736957366

The Amish Clockmaker / by Mindy Starns Clark and Susan Meissner. (The Men of Lancaster County, 3)

Harvest House Publishers ISBN 9780736957380

Adult Rating: 4

The Men of Lancaster County series revolves around an Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and features Amish men who are struggling to cope with personal challenges in their lives. Readers will gain insight not only into the religious beliefs and lifestyle of the Amish people but also into the Rumspringa, which is a coming-of-age ritual for teenagers.

In The Amish Groom, 23-year old Tyler Anderson is facing a crossroads in his life. Tyler lives in the “English” world until the death of his Amish mother, and then he is sent by his father to live with his Amish grandparents. Now that it is time for Tyler to make the decision about whether or not to be baptized and to fully commit to the Amish lifestyle, he is conflicted between an Amish or an English way of life. The dilemma leads him to embark on a journey of self-discovery in order to find out God’s plan for his life. This is a poignant and touching story about a young man who is in the midst of an identity crisis and uncertain about where he belongs in the world.

In The Amish Blacksmith, the story centers on 24-year old Jake Miller. He is content with his life working as a blacksmith apprentice, rehabilitating troubled horses, and courting Amanda Shetler, a young Amish woman. Jake’s boss asks him to help his niece, a woman with a troubled past, get reintegrated into the Amish community. Life becomes complicated for Jake when he begins to have romantic feelings toward the niece. A thread of mystery is woven into this heartfelt story that encompasses friendship, forgiveness, dealing with challenges in life, hearing God’s voice, and healing.

The Amish Clockmaker focuses on Matthew Zook and Clayton Raber and a decades- old mystery. When a property dispute arises that involves an acre of land purchased years ago by the Zook family from the Raber family, Matthew takes on the task of locating Clayton. Clayton has left the Amish community in Lancaster County under questionable circumstances. Can Matthew succeed in finding Clayton when fellow members of the community are reluctant to help him? This is a heartbreaking and uplifting story that illustrates the power of perseverance, the tragic consequences a horrible tragedy can cause, the importance of forgiveness, effects of mental illness, and God’s enduring love.

Each book can be read as a stand-alone, and discussion questions are included. Anyone who wants to gain first-hand knowledge of the Amish culture will enjoy the books.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

Seasons series / by Dandi Daley Mackall; illustrated by Katherine Blackmore. 3.2.2016

The Super Gifts of Spring / by Dandi Daley Mackall; illustrated by Katherine Blackmore. (Seasons series)

B&H Kids ISBN 9781433682339

The Special Gifts of Summer / by Dandi Daley Mackall; illustrated by Katherine Blackmore. (Seasons series)

B&H Kids ISBN 9781433682353

PRI PS-Grade 3 Rating: 5

God created the seasons, with all of their splendor and blessings. The Super Gifts of Spring and The Special Gifts of Summer by Dandi Daley Mackall remind us to notice and appreciate all that is special about each time of year.

The Super Gifts of Spring celebrates the birds, puddles, breezes, wildflowers, baby animals, dandelion fluff, and the Resurrection. The Special Gifts of Summer include sunshine, swimming, lemonade, Independence Day, fishing, and camping. The uplifting theme is thankfulness.

These sweet books depict happy children immersed in God’s world and showing joy and gratitude for all that He has provided. Each page contains a four-line rhyming stanza and a relevant Bible quote. Author Dandi Daley Mackall’s bright verses are especially quick and clever, ideal for reading aloud. Katherine Blackmore’s lovely illustrations fairly hum with the sensory delights of the seasons.

Each story concludes with a Parent Connection page offering “read, think, and do” tips for further sharing, and instructions for a simple related craft.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ