Like A River from Its Course / by Kelli Stuart. 1.15.2018

Kregel Publications ISBN 9780825444142

Adult (YA) Rating: 5

Life sometimes takes us to unexpected places that we did not plan, and that we might not be prepared for.

Like A River from Its Course, based on careful research and hundreds of interviews, fictionally recreates the lives of four unconnected people who are thrown off balance and swept away in Nazi-occupied Ukraine during World War II.

Kelli Stuart masterfully captures the voices of her characters to tell the story from each one’s perspective. Ivan puts himself and his loved ones at risk in order to help a Jewish child and endures the consequences that follow. Maria, taken away from her family, tries to return to them, hoping also to find the child she once was, and whom she believes still lives somewhere inside of her. Luda, a young girl, tries to conceal that she has fallen in love with someone she is supposed to hate. Frederick, a German soldier and the son of a highly respected commander, strives to please his father and serve his country, but his disillusion with Nazi ideology lead to a tragic decision.

Like A River From It Course is a remarkable story of how war ravages a person in the core of their being, inflicting a pain that never leaves. “It always leaves a mark, a scar as a reminder that life and love aren’t free. Pain changes everything.” (pg. 27)

Every word matters in this must-read story because Stuart’s own characters, despite their sufferings, provide the answers to how one can go on living after a tragic ordeal. Pain and heartache, they realize, are not unique to any of us and life will go on. More importantly, when one believes, life has meaning and purpose outside of the hardship. The gem to take away from Like A River From Its Course is that no matter what happens, it is God who holds life together.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Little Francis Falls Asleep / written and illustrated by Pip Craighead. 1.12.2018

Patrol ISBN 9780999083505

PRI PS-Grade 2 Rating: 4

Little Francis Falls Asleep is a beautifully illustrated theological bedtime story.

Francis is a little boy who can’t seem to go to sleep. He wanders into the night looking for tips on how to do so, but all the suggestions he gets—from a tree, a bird, and the moon—fail him. He’s still awake. He can’t find rest.

It isn’t until he beholds God’s providential care and rule over all nature—until he sees the heavens declaring the glory of God and the sky above proclaiming his handiwork (Psalm 19:1)—that Francis can rest easy. A small page offering reflections for parents concludes the book.

Pip Craighead’s story is richly Christian and his illustrations are whimsical and skillful, with a distinctive visual style. Patrol publishes quality books with excellent attention to detail and solid craftsmanship.

Mark L. Ward, Jr., CLJ

The NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible: Confidence for Such a Time as This / ed. Emmanuel Kamporis. 1.11.2018

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780310080367

Adult Rating: 3

The NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible: Confidence for Such a Time as This is a fruit of the ministry of the Kairos Journal, a conservative evangelical publication dedicated to making timely application of the Bible to the cultural season in which we find ourselves in the Western world.

This edition features over 200 page-long article inserts drawn from Kairos on multiple topics, all of which are related somehow to the passages of Scripture near which they are inserted. The article inserts are well written and generally careful, though their connections to surrounding passages are not always equally obvious. The articles are not generally expositional: their purpose is not, like many (most?) study Bibles, to explicate the biblical text but to apply it to current issues. Quotations from prominent Christians (both historical and contemporary) also dot the text, including Ambrose of Milan, Frederica Mathewes-Green, John Adams, and Tertullian. Profiles of other prominent Christians are also included, including brief articles on Nell Bridges, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Justin Martyr and Jim Elliot.

The selection of current issues is indeed timely: “Family: Homosexuality and Transgenderism,” “Sanctity of Life: Euthanasia and Suicide,” “Government: Peace and War,” and “Education: Evolution and Intelligent Design” (though readers may wonder how much the Bible has to say specifically about “Economics: Taxation”—and explanatory notes in this study Bible acknowledge that indeed they are looking for principles more than explicit statements).

Brief introductions are provided for Bible books; red letters are provided for Jesus’ speech; a table of monies, weights and measures is provided in the back; a helpful index of all study material is also given.

Mark L. Ward, Jr., CLJ

Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer / written by Stephen McCaskell and Aaron Armstrong, Illustrated by Rommel Ruiz. 1.10.2018

Patrol ISBN 9780999083512

YA Grades 7-12 Rating: 5

Luther is a beautifully and uniquely illustrated book containing edifying biographical teaching about the premier figure of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther. This is a useful book for parents to read to kids, but it is not a kid’s book per se. It is what may only be called a serious kid’s book.

Several factors contribute to the serious character of the book. First, there is a lot of text in this book. The amount on each page is limited, but it is a big book and it adds up. In this reviewer’s judgment, a child would have to be at least eight and a strong reader to listen patiently, let alone read on his or her own. Second, all of the illustrations are done in grayscale. The look is very striking and memorable—and it lends an overall gravity to the book’s contents. This is not a hagiography or a light treatment. Third, the book is divided into multiple parts, making it suitable for nightly reading in successive evenings. Finally, the book ends with something like an altar call, a homiletical application.

This reviewer has a serious desire to use the 500th anniversary of the Reformation to impress upon his children the importance of the Christian doctrines retrieved in that time period. The Luther book is a valuable tool for this weighty and joyful task.

The book is something of a companion to a documentary on Luther which is also worth viewing; the illustrations in the book derive from those used in the film.

Mark L. Ward, CLJ

A Stranger at Fellsworth / by Sarah E. Ladd. (A Treasures of Surrey Novel, 3) 1.9.2018

Thomas Nelson     ISBN 9780718011857

Adult     Rating: 4

Sarah Ladd pens the third novel in her 19th century historical series set in the English countryside.

In A Stranger at Fellsworth, Annabelle Thorley is at the mercy of her brother when she is abandoned by her fiancé and must set aside her life in high societybecause of her deceased father’s debts. She runs away to Fellsworth, where her uncle serves as the superintendent. But a life of ease does not await her, for she must work for a living now.

She meets Owen Locke, widowed gamekeeper at Fellsworth. His goal is to keep poachers at bay and earn enough money to purchase land of his own for him and his young daughter. But mysterious strangers, poachers, and other forces threaten his plan and the budding relationship with Annabelle. Will they uncover the person behind the poaching and find a life together?

Ladd writes descriptive narrative with hints of mystery and suspense woven into the plot. As in her earlier novels in this series, the historical details enrich the plot, and the story is plot-driven with plenty of twists. The faith element has a light touch; the relationship between Annabelle and her suitor develops appropriately to the storyline.  Each book includes discussion questions for reading groups.

Recommended for adult collections in public libraries. Older teen readers will find it a clean read. It will appeal to Julie Klassen and Jane Austen fans.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed:  The Curiosity Keeper (Mar/Apr/May/Jun 2016); Dawn at Emberwilde (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016).

 

The Shattered Vigil / by Patrick Carr. (The Darkwater Saga, 2) 1.8.2018

Bethany House ISBN 9780764213472

Adult Rating: 4

Patrick W. Carr, author of The Staff and The Sword series, presents the next installment in his new epic fantasy for adult readers.

In The Shattered Vigil, Willet Dura and the rest of the Vigil discover that their enemy strikes at the heart of the Vigil: one of them is missing. The defense of the six kingdoms is threatened. As deadly unseen assassins target the Vigil, the church leaders and kingdom rulers want to put the Vigil members into protective custody.

Willet is imprisoned as the other men and women in the Vigil scatter to avoid being taken into custody. When Willet discovers the murder of a noblewoman–not a member of the Vigil–by an unseen assassin, he manages to escape from prison, intent on finding her killer. How does her death hold a key to the evil threatening them? How many members of the Vigil will be lost fighting the dark forces? What happens when they find a traitor in their midst?

Carr’s book is filled with strong characters and plenty of suspenseful plot twists. This series is intense, filled with more violence (though not too graphic). It appears there is little hope for overcoming this darker evil. This story makes the supernatural abilities of the Vigil–as well as the evil they face–even more evident, more of a spiritual battle.

Carr does an excellent job of creating the dark world, building tension as the story unfolds. While many questions are answered at the end of this book, there is a big plot twist that will leave the reader eager to read the next installment!

Recommended for adult collections in public libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Earlier Series Title Reviewed:  The Shock of Night (Jan/Feb 2016)

The Elusive Miss Ellison / by Carolyn Miller. (Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace, 1) 1.5.2018

Kregel ISBN 9780825444500

Adult Rating: 4

Carolyn Miller writes the first inspirational Regency novel in her new trilogy.

In The Elusive Miss Ellison, the entire village–except for Miss Lavinia Ellison–eagerly anticipates the arrival of the new Earl of Hawkesbury. She believes him to have the same reputation as brother: reckless and arrogant. Lavinia is the unmarried bluestocking daughter of the local minister. Nicholas, the new Earl, is a former war hero and reluctant Duke, unprepared for the problems his brother left unsolved and the other obligations he faces. When Nicholas is challenged by feisty Lavinia to move beyond his wounded pride, it may provide too many obstacles for them. A family secret adds to the complications they face.

Like the hero in Jane Austen’s original Pride and Prejudice, wealthy Nicholas suffers from too much pride and is a snob! Feisty Lavinia suffers from too much prejudice towards his family and their effect on others around them. Both of them come to an appreciation of God’s forgiveness as they move past their own histories.

Miller does an excellent job in portraying Regency England with its historical details and solid characterization. Like anyone, her characters face real problems in terms of finances, others’ expectations, and finding one’s place, allowing the reader to identify with them as they struggle to become better people. While the storyline is somewhat predictable, it follows the pattern of a good Regency novel; the faith element is light, the romance is clean, and it is a cozy read!

Fans of Julie Klassen, Jane Austen, and Regency romances will welcome this new author!

Recommended for high school and public libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

A Drew Fathering Mystery Series / by Julianna Deering 1.2.2018

Dressed for death/ by Julianna Deering (A Drew Fathering Mystery Series, 4)

Bethany House ISBN 9780764214110

Murder on the moor/ by Julianna Deering (A Drew Fathering Mystery Series, 5)

Bethany House ISBN 9780764218286

Adult Rating: 5

In Dressed for Death, Drew Farthering and his bride of six months arrive at a Regency-era party at the home of old friends, looking forward to a relaxing and interesting week living in a different time period. Beginning with the host’s fiancée, Alice, one death follows another while the characters feel they are standing by and watching it happen without knowing what to do to stop it. Friendships are strained, relationships are broken, but our hero is Drew, always on the lookout, always finding the perpetrator although in this case plenty of guilt abounds. Why didn’t he realize the identity of the murderer before all the killing happened?–he torments himself with this question.

Murder on the Moor takes place on the creepy, misty Yorkshire moors, a setting just perfect for murder and malice. Several incidents have caused great concern to Drew’s old friend Beaky Bloodworth and his new bride Sabrina. But the very worst is the recent killing of the local vicar followed in succession by the murder of a village spinster, a governess in the past. What had they seen or what did they know that their lives had to be taken? And who might be next if Drew cannot sort out the various characters and motives?

These books are very easy to read, with delightful main characters, including a godly couple. The books offer a Christian worldview without actually presenting the gospel.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

 

This Road We Traveled / by Jane Kirkpatrick. 1.1.2018

Revell ISBN 9780800722333

Adult Rating: 5

When her family decides to head west at the prompting of her adult son, Tabby Brown decides nothing will stop her from going–not her physical disability, her advancing age, or her children who believe she is too frail to make the long, treacherous journey to Oregon. She has survived many hardships in life and she is ready to face this new chapter with the same courage, determined spirit, and faith in God that has always carried her.

Pherne Pringle, Tabby’s daughter, feels her heart is being torn in two as her husband insists on going west, leaving behind all that is familiar and safe, as well as the resting place of their youngest son. Will she learn to find peace in letting go while walking this uncertain road?

Atage 17, the trip to Oregon is full of promise and a small measure of uncertainty for Virgilia Pringle, a blend of her independent grandmother and her cautious mother. Together will these three women have what it takes to survive the journey that lies before them, and if so, the fortitude to start a new life in an untamed land?

In This Road We Traveled, Jane Kirkpatrick uses the liberty and entertainment of fiction combined with true events and real people to capture the very essence of the pioneering spirit that drove men and women to carve out new roads and new lives to settle the West. Kirkpatrick’s thorough research and vivid descriptions allow readers to see the sights of the wild prairie and hear the creaking wagons and playful voices of children making their way across the Oregon Trail. Full of suspense, romance, and danger, the plot holds everything necessary for a grand adventure. However, it is the main characters, their growth, and wisdom that leave a lasting impression about the journey of life, which is always full of goodbyes and new beginnings, joys and sorrows, and holding on and letting go. The overarching theme is that life is constantly moving; one can either run from this reality or embrace it in faith and live fully.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Jada Jones series / Kelly Starling Lyons 12.29.2017

Rock Star, / Kelly Starling Lyons (Jada Jones, 1)

Penguin Workshop ISBN 9780448487519

Class Act / Kelly Starling Lyons (Jada Jones, 2)

Penguin Workshop ISBN 9780451534279

INT Grades 1-3 Rating: 4

Author Kelly Starling Lyons kicks off a new realistic fiction series for young readers, featuring fourth grader Jada Jones.

In Rock Star, Jada Jones misses her best friend Mari who moved away that summer. When her teacher assigns a group project on rocks and minerals, she is thrilled because rocks are her passion. But finding friends to work with who understand her can be a challenge. Will she rock the assignment and make new friends in the process?

In Class Act, Jada is back with another school story–this time she is running for student council! Being a candidate is challenging when others pressure her to make promises she can’t keep. The last straw is a rumor spread about her fear of public speaking. Who can she trust? Will she lose friends as a result of the election?

Lyons creates a likeable character in Jada Jones. She hits just the right note of spunk without being sassy to adults, and just the right note of vulnerability without being weak. Jada is an African-American fourth grader who appeals to young readers. She has her struggles but her stories promote good values such as believe in yourself, say no to drama, and try to fix your mistakes. Most of all, her stories show that to have a friend, one must be a friend.

Lyons’ books are delightfully illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton in these easy-to-read chapter books. Readers in first through third grades will enjoy meeting Jada and her friends!

Recommended for school and public libraries. Fans of “Katie Woo” and “Ivy and Bean” will welcome this new series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com