Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II / by Albert Marrin. 9.19.2017

Alfred A. Knopf ISBN 9780553509366

YA (Adult) Grade 7 and up Rating: *5

Mastery of the subject matter and thorough research make Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II a must-read for everyone.

Albert Marrin skillfully balances facts, first-hand narratives, news clips, photos, and illustrations to present a comprehensive and insightful account of the uprooting and internment of Americans of Japanese descent after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His writing is clear and concise as he explores the foundations, historical events and racial attitudes of both America and Japan that culminated in war between the two nations. In addition, Marrin details the role that the news media played in stirring panic that encouraged animosity toward the Japanese-Americans.

The author also references similar experiences of other groups throughout history–for example, the forced removal of Native Americans, the Chinese Exclusion Laws of the 1880s, and the racism against African-Americans that led to the Civil Rights Movement. Lovers of history, moreover, will recall the English Only Movements that have surfaced at various times in the United States in order to protect and secure the country from foreigners, as well as the expulsion of Mexican-Americans in 1929-1936, who were blamed for taking American jobs.

Uprooted challenges readers to grapple with thought-provoking questions. How do we ensure the liberty of each citizen during wartime? Should race and religion exist as factors when determining a nation’s security? Should the media be held to a higher standard of accountability in its news coverage? These questions are all the more relevant today as the nation continues its war against terrorism and as the world becomes an increasingly multi-cultural environment.

Albert Marrin reminds the reader of the importance of studying history. It not only informs us about the past, but also helps us decide about the future. We can learn from our collective knowledge and experience.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Plain and Simple Miracles series / by Vanetta Chapman. 9.18.2017

Anna’s Healing / by Vanetta Chapman. (Plain and Simple Miracles, 1)
Harvest House ISBN 9780736956031
Joshua’s Mission / by Vanetta Chapman. (Plain and Simple Miracles, 2)
Harvest House ISBN 9780736956055

Sarah’s Orphans / by Vanetta Chapman. (Plain and Simple Miracles, 3)
Harvest House ISBN 9780736956079

Adult Rating: 5

The three books in this series could all be stand-alone reads. There is overlap as far as mention of some of the characters but basically the stories are individual.

In Anna’s Healing, a tornado rips through Cody’s Creek, Oklahoma and changes Anna Schwartz’s life forever. She is left partially paralyzed in a wheelchair, but it seems that just as she has accepted her situation, Anna is inexplicably and totally healed. Just as she had questions when she was confined to her chair, Anna is now asking why? how? how long will it last? And the notoriety and attention she and her community are receiving are so unwanted, so counter to the teachings of her people, the Amish. Whether one believes in miraculous healings or not, Anna’s healing will cause the reader to consider their beliefs and reflect on this miracle. Was it truly from God or as some wonder, was Anna ever actually paralyzed?

Joshua’s Mission is also a story of miracles–but the spiritual ones of forgiveness and healing of relationships and God’s will being revealed. The setting is unusual for Amish fiction: an Englisch town on the Gulf of Texas after a horrific hurricane. Joshua Kline, along with several other Amish young people, go to offer aid to the distressed residents. He takes with him his brother Alton, a young man who does not need another brush with the law. Perhaps assisting those whose lives have been torn apart will change his heart and help him to grow up. Of course, Joshua doesn’t realize how his own heart will be changed, too.

And finally, in Sarah’s Orphans, Sarah Yoder is left in charge of her family after her father’s death and her mother’s desertion of her and her siblings. How could she just leave them? They all wonder this but really have little time to ponder as life continues and chores abound. Sarah is exhausted yet when she almost runs over a young Hispanic boy with her buggy, she finds herself in the position of taking into her care two young homeless children. Is this God’s will for her? And what of their new neighbor who seems like a part of the family already? Where does he fit in Sarah’s heart and her calling?

Three separate stories set among the Amish. Three separate arenas with needs and desires. And in each God works in amazing ways.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided / by Diane Guerrero. 9.7.2017

Henry Holt ISBN 9781250134967

Adult (YA) Rating: 4

In the Country We Love is a compelling and heartfelt memoir of the plight of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Diane Guerrero has first-hand knowledge of the challenges immigrants face when they come to America to begin a new life and of the devastating effects of deportation. She was born in the United States to undocumented Columbian parents. With courage, humor, sincerity, and a moderate amount of profanity, she shares the story of her life from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood, and the ways in which her attitude toward life have been shaped by her experiences from her growing up years.

Guerrero’s parents not only worked for low wages in menial jobs to make ends meet, but they were also persistent in their quest to become American citizens, only to have crippling blows dealt to their efforts. Guerrero’s childhood was overshadowed by the constant worry that her parents could be taken away at any moment. Guerrero’s fears came true at the age of 14 when her parents were arrested and shortly thereafter deported back to Columbia. She moved in with family friends so she could continue attending Boston Arts Academy, a performing arts high school.

Fearful of rejection as a performing artist, Guerrero chose to follow an academic path in college. During this time, her life spun out of control. She dealt with major financial debt, emotional fallout from her parents’ deportation, depression, self-cutting, and excessive drinking. After seriously contemplating suicide, she started seeing a therapist, who Guerrero believes was sent by God to help her overcome her fears and doubts. Subsequently, she enrolled in acting classes, and through perseverance became a recurring actress in two popular television shows.

The black-and-white photographs and quotes from novelists, poets, singers, and other notable individuals add to the powerful message Guerrero recounts about the toxic stress and its long-lasting impact on children of undocumented parents. The book concludes with an overview of immigration policy issues, the importance of immigration reform, and a list of resources for Americans who are interested in advocating for change in the current immigration system.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

Die Young with Me: A Memoir / by Rob Rufus. 8.31.2017

Touchstone ISBN 9781501142628

Adult (YA) Rating: 5

Die Young with Me is a candid and heart-wrenching memoir of a teenager whose life is changed dramatically when he is diagnosed with cancer.

Rob Rufus lives with his family in Huntington, West Virginia. He feels like an outcast in the rural town and has no real goals in life. However, his attitude changes when he and his twin brother, Nat, are introduced to punk rock. The two 13-year-old boys are so enthralled with the music they acquire instruments and turn the basement of their house into a practice space, so they can form a punk rock band. It takes a few years for their dream to turn into a reality, but once they succeed the band starts playing local gigs with Rob as the drummer.

Just as the band is on the verge of getting a big break that could give them national recognition, Rob sees his world turned upside down. He is 17 and diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.

The course of treatment requires both chemotherapy and surgery. Rob candidly shares not only the horrific physical side effects he experiences due to the treatments, but also the roller coaster ride of emotions he goes through. He vacillates between feeling angry, terrified, frustrated, panicked, downhearted, anxious, and lonely. At the same time, he steadfastly refuses to give up hope that he can beat the disease. He also describes how family members and friends deal with their own stress when someone close to them is being ravaged by a life-threatening disease.

The key element behind Rob’s surviving the nightmare of a debilitating disease is the inner strength he draws upon that comes from his music and the determination to get strong enough to play the drums again. The support of family and friends, prayer, and items Rob considers good luck that pertain to punk rock and Christianity are also important in helping him in his challenging fight to survive against overwhelming odds. The book includes cigarette and marijuana smoking, drinking, a bit of sexual innuendo, a trip to a strip club, and an excessive amount of profanity.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

The Bishop’s Family series / by Suzanne Woods Fisher. 8.3.2017

The Imposter / by Suzanne Woods Fisher. (The Bishop’s Family, 1)

Revell ISBN 9780800723200

The Quieting / by Suzanne Woods Fisher. (The Bishop’s Family, 2)

Revell ISBN 9780800723217

Adult Rating: 5

Sisters Katrina and Abigail Stoltzfus are highlighted in this series about family struggles, hard decisions, and trusting God with life choices in the Amish world. In The Imposter, Katrina sees her future plans and dreams crumble before her, so she eagerly starts on a venture that she believes will take her mind off her broken relationship and give her a new purpose in life. An unwelcome intrusion arrives in the form of a farmhand who seems too good to be true. Katrina has had her trust broken before–she will not allow it to happen again.

In The Quieting, Abigail has been assisting her father in his genealogical research. Although she is definitely interested in the subject of family history, she also hopes her part in it will help dispel the depression her widowed father is experiencing. Her grandmother has different plans for her. Hoping to play matchmaker, Mammi is insisting that Abigail come to Stoney Ridge to take her pick of the many bachelors there.

The Stoltzfus family is facing serious problems in the church and at home. One problem is that everyone in the community expects David, as a minister, to fix things and to fix them fast. But David doesn’t work fast; he waits for God to change hearts. The question on the hearts of many in this Amish district is whether a quieting–the revoking of the ordination of a bishop, minister or deacon–is the answer.

Fisher writes delightful stories of the Amish replete with the customs of this very interesting group of people, drawing the reader into their daily lives and tribulations. The astounding spiritual wisdom of the father is a highlight in both of these books. Very thought-provoking and inspirational and highly recommended.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Life After / by Katie Ganshert. 8.1.2017

Water Brook Press ISBN 9781601429025

Adult (YA) Rating: 5

Katie Ganshert’s novel Life After provides a narrative of brokenness and healing in the context of suffering. Paul Elliott and Autumn Manning, the main characters of the story, must figure out how to continue living after a train bombing turns their lives upside down. Paul loses his wife in the explosion and is left to navigate single father-hood. Autumn, the sole survivor, experiences severe trauma from the explosion itself, as well as emotional turmoil and guilt.

This narrative speaks to the nature of God in suffering. Through the events that bring Paul and Autumn together and the details of each character’s experiences with the incident, Ganshert suggests to the reader that God is still good, though circumstances do not always point to that conclusion. As family members of the victims share their experiences with Autumn, she comes to learn that though God does not promise to answer why some things happen, he does promise to be with His people in every circumstance.

As the story progresses, Paul and Autumn slowly recognize the truth of God’s goodness, allowing them to piece their lives back together. Ganshert uses the discovery of truth as a theme throughout the story. Characters often lean on or learn biblical truths. In addition, Autumn and Paul both learn how important truth is in their own lives. For Autumn, remembering or discovering the truth of past events shapes her view of the present and her ability to move on in her life. Paul, on the other hand, learns that much freedom can be found in even difficult truths.

This book is recommended for older teens and adults. Life After addresses the heavy subjects of death and adultery, though no graphic details are involved. Once again Ganshert has cleverly written an original story with unexpected events and results–a story that touches on raw human emotion and experiences and the arduous process of redemption that God works in the lives of His people.

Elisabeth A. Orr, CLJ

God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe / by J. Warner Wallace. 7.31.2017

David C Cook ISBN 9781434707840

Adult Rating: 4

J. Warner Wallace uses his experience as a cold-case detective to explore the origin of the universe from a unique perspective. God’s Crime Scene follows the format of a court case, beginning with an opening statement, followed by the presentation of evidence and then the closing argument. Wallace discusses whether or not the universe was created by natural means or by the intervention of a Divine Intruder. He applies the same investigative techniques used in solving murder cases to evaluating evidence found at a crime scene. Just as a detective has to look at evidence both “inside” and “outside” the crime scene area to determine motive and intent, Wallace presents evidence from which the “prosecution” argues for the existence of God and His divine intervention in creation, while the “defense” claims that natural forces are behind how the world was created. It is left up to the readers to evaluate the evidence and come to their own conclusion.

Side bars, hand-drawn black-and-white illustrations, personal police investigation stories, and case files provide additional information beneficial for explaining the scientific and philosophical theories behind Wallace’s investigation into whether the universe was designed and brought into existence by God. The side bars include a detective’s approach to solving a cold case and how that relates the question of universe’s origin, qualifications of key witnesses, ways to evaluate evidence, references to pages in the book for further information pertinent to each chapter, and an on-going “suspect” profile. Some of the key witnesses include physicists, philosophers, theologians, and evolutionary biologists.

The book concludes with three sections of case files. The first section gives readers an opportunity to examine detailed explanations of the evidence presented in each chapter that adheres to a more academic way of thinking. The second section provides information not only about whether the expert witness is on the “prosecution” or “defense” side of a case but also the names of books they have written. The third section includes Wallace’s case notes that he put together for his investigation into the creator of the universe.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

Deep Extraction / by DiAnn Mills. (FBI Task Force, 2) 7.28.2017

Tyndale     ISBN 9781496410986

Adult (HS)     Rating: 4

Award-winning author DiAnn Mills continues her contemporary romantic suspense series on FBI agents in the Houston area.

In Deep Extraction, Special Agent Tori Templeton is faced with a professional challenge: her best friend is the FBI’s prime suspect in the murder of her husband, an oil and gas corporation executive. Someone bombed his oil rigs earlier–was his death part of a larger conspiracy? Did someone hack into his pacemaker to cause his death or was it accidental?

Tori is joined by U.S. Marshall Cole Jeffers to investigate the executive’s business and personal affairs to discover the killer’s motives and identity. The closer they get to the truth, the more the killer is intent on silencing them. Will they unravel the mystery before it is too late?

Mills excels in plot development–the story keeps the reader’s attention until the final page. Flawed but realistic characters and a realistic plot with plenty of twists are what readers have come to expect from Mills. The faith element and the romance are present but not the main focus–the main characters are attracted to each other but keep the relationship light until the case is solved. Forgiveness and bitterness are themes in this book. Does one get better or bitter under trying circumstances?

Deep Extraction will appeal to readers who like suspenseful romance and carefully-researched details. Fans of Dee Henderson and Irene Hannon will also enjoy this series. An author note and discussion questions are also included.

Highly recommended for public and high school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Deadly Encounter (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016).

The Jesus Experience: Journey Deeper into the Heart of God / by Bill Myers. 7.27.2017

Shiloh Run Press ISBN 9781630589899

Adult Rating: 5

Award-winning author Bill Myers shares his personal journey of how he falls deeply in love with God. The transformation of his walk with God does not happen overnight. After becoming overworked from all of the numerous projects he is doing in trying to please God, Myers comes to realize that he is emulating Martha from the Bible story of Martha and Mary. This is a turning point in his mindset and attitude regarding God and leads to his developing an intimate friendship with God. Meyers discusses three Scriptures that have had a major impact on his relationship with Jesus Christ and are the key elements of his deep, unwavering joy for God.

The Jesus Experience: Journey Deeper into the Heart of God offers practical ways for both recent converts and long-time believers in Jesus Christ to avoid the pitfall of allowing works of service to become the priority in their lives, instead of spending time with God and enjoying His company. The book is written in an easy-to-understand style, and Myers recounts his story with candor, insight, and humor. The anecdotes, personal testimony, Bible verses and passages, inspirational examples of God’s unfailing love, and challenging chapter questions to reflect on at the end of the book makes this an inspiring story for readers to explore their own relationship with God.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

King’s Blood / by Jill Williamson. (The Kinsman Chronicles, 2) 7.25.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764218316

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Jill Williamson pens another volume in her epic fantasy series for adult readers, filled with political and spiritual intrigue.

In King’s Blood, those who escaped the destruction of the Five Realms live on hundreds of ships, seeking a new home. They encounter giants and serpents, while their leaders face assassination attempts and coups. The people live in spiritual darkness–worshipping multiple gods, believing in superstition, and using dark magic. The king of Armania is dying, and Sar Wilek emerges as the leader of the Armanians. How will the prophecy of the promised Deliverer affect them?

Even longer than book one (by 50 pages, this one has almost 600 pages!), Williamson manages to produce another well-written volume with interesting characters and plot twists. The author carefully juggles multiple points of view by identifying the character at the beginning of each chapter. Although it is a lengthy book, it was originally published as three shorter ebooks: Kingdom at Sea, Maelstrom, and Voices of Blood.

Williamson does an excellent job of world building. Inspired by the corrupt kings of Israel, Williamson’s series is more appropriate for adults and teens over sixteen. The book includes a list of the key players and an author’s note; supplemental material is available on her website. The Kinsman Chronicles contains elements that foreshadow The Blood of Kings trilogy (for example, blood voicing which is similar to telepathic powers and only given to those in the royal bloodline).

Recommended for high school libraries, as well as adult fiction collections in public libraries. The third book, King’s War, will complete this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJKing’s Folly (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016).