Waking Beauty / Sarah E. Morin. 4.10.2017

Enclave Publishing ISBN 9781621840435

HS Grades 9-12 Rating: 5

Seventeen-year-old Prince Arpien has devoted his life to training for this moment, his dramatic rescue of the Sleeping Beauty. Bending to place his waking kiss, he pauses at the 100-year-old layer of dust covering the beauty’s lips. This was definitely not accounted for in his rescuing plan; however, a quick dust with his sleeve rights the much-anticipated moment, or so he thinks.

One thing after another continues to infringe upon Arpien’s grandiose plans, not least of which is his fair maiden’s less than enthusiastic response to his spell-breaking kiss. How can Arpien rescue a sleeping princess afraid to wake up, afraid to hope, afraid to believe? What will it take to break the spell of Voracity’s evil curse? The prophecies of the old tales speak of the return of the Prince of Here and There, but who can depend on a prince no one has seen or heard from in over a century?

A Christy Award finalist for 2016, Waking Beauty by Sarah E. Morin is a beautifully unique allegorical spin on the traditional fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. The novel starts off slow and on a slightly silly tone; however, as the plot develops, a rich and rewarding tale unfolds, weaving its gentle spell until the final page. The characters and insightful Christian parallelism make this book a gem in its fantasy genre.

The story is told from the alternating perspective of the three main characters, each of whom possesses their own unique appeal. Pretentious Arpien with his flourishing speeches and bows grows to be an example of self-sacrifice and unconditional love. Brierly’s cold indifference and refusal to wake up will initially frustrate but her vulnerability will incite compassion. Nissa, daughter of the present ruling family, is the black velvet that makes the diamond shine more brilliantly, with her unwavering faith and servant heart. Without direct Christian references, the author carefully constructs a fresh picture of the spiritually fallen state of humanity and the redemptive work of Christ. Overall, as the characters discover, the task of waking beauty will slowly reveal a different kind of beauty, one tried by fire and gloriously refined.

Justina McBride, CLJ

 

No Ordinary Fairy Tale series / by R. J. Anderson 4.7.2017

Knife / by R. J. Anderson (No Ordinary Fairy Tale, 1)

Enclave ISBN 9781621840510

HS Grades 7-10 Rating: 4

Rebel / by R. J. Anderson (No Ordinary Fairy Tale, 2)

Enclave ISBN 9781621840596

HS Grades 7-10 Rating: 4

Arrow / by R. J. Anderson (No Ordinary Fairy Tale, 3)

Enclave ISBN 9781621840657

HS Grades 7-10 Rating: 5

Author R. J. Anderson pens an unusual fairy tale series, one that was previously published in the United Kingdom and is now available for American readers.

In Knife, a young fairy–Knife–is determined to discover why the fairy realm Oakenwyld has lost its magic and how they can get it back. Their numbers are dwindling and only female fairies are left. Fiercely independent Knife is unafraid of the crows, the humans, or even the Fairy Queen herself. She befriends Paul, a human, who joins in her quest to save her dying fairy realm. How will her friendship with Paul change all their lives?

In Rebel, fifteen-year-old Linden, Knife’s foster daughter, is the youngest and smallest fairy, yet the dying queen asks her to go out into the human world and find other fairies to save Oakenwyld. Fifteen-year-old Timothy is staying with his cousin Paul and his wife who are friends of the fairies. Disillusioned by his missionary parents’ faith, Timothy also doesn’t believe in fairies. When Linden begs him for help, Timothy gets caught up in the struggle against evil threatening both their worlds. Will they find the legendary white stone that could save her fairy realm?

In Arrow, fairy Rhosmari is one of the Children of Rhys who live on the magical Green Isles, with limited contact with the outside world and its evils. Sworn never to use violence against others, the Children of Rhys refuse to help when an evil fairy empress gathers an army to destroy the fairies at Oakenwyld and other locations in Britain.

Rhosmari leaves the Green Isles in search of her former betrothed Garan who took the Stone of Naming to Oakenwyld. Having lived all her life in a secluded community, she experiences culture shock when she meets the other fairies. The empress wants Rhosmari because of her access to the Children of Rhys. She is torn–if she fights the empress, she can never return home; if she refuses, she puts the others in jeopardy.

The writings of C. S. Lewis and Tolkien inspired Anderson to write fantasy stories from a Christian worldview for a general audience. Anderson does a good job creating the fairy world. Just like the human world, there are good and bad fairies, loyal and rebellious ones. These fairies are not like the fairies from Sleeping Beauty or Peter Pan; they are a community unto themselves with their own rules and roles (hunter, gatherer, healer, leader). Set in the United Kingdom, the fairies tie in with the Celtic legends in the area. Her No Ordinary Fairy Tale series has a light faith element in Knife and a stronger presence in Rebel and Arrow.

Knife received critical acclaim in the UK and was nominated for the 2009 Carnegie Award. Rebel was a 2016 Christy award nominee (Young Adult category). Arrow is a worthy conclusion to the series and potential future award winner.

Recommended for teen readers in public libraries and school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

To Get to You / by Joanne Bischof. 4.5.2017

Mason Jar Books ISBN 9781514637500

HS Grades 9-12 Rating: 5

Eighteen-year-old Riley Kane is desperate to get to the girl who holds his heart and whose family is depending on his arrival during a time of crisis. When his source of transportation fails him and he has no other alternative, Riley must reach out to the last man he wants to see or ever need. To the world, Jake Kane is one of the greatest pro surfers of his time, but to Riley, he is the world’s worst dad, the man who walked away from him and his mom years ago.

Swallowing his hurt and anger for the sake of the girl he loves, Riley accepts his father’s offer to drive him from California to New Mexico. Will they be able to survive the week-long trip or will the roadblocks of hurt, bitterness, and regret be too great to maneuver through?

Worthy of its honor as a 2016 Christy Award finalist, To Get to You by Joanne Bischof is a poignant tale of a father and son who discover second chances and forgiveness on the Pacific Coast Highway in an old Volkswagen van. The story is written from Riley’s perspective, revealing his honest struggles and vulnerability while endearing himself to readers in the process. Riley is a new Christian, complete with mohawk, piercings, skull t-shirt, and a less than perfect past, while Becca, the girl he loves, is a home school graduate with a purity that Riley desires to honor. The contrast in their lives is a beautiful picture of how God looks at the heart rather than the exterior and how His perfect grace is making all things new. The romance between Riley and Becca, which is a secondary focus of the plot, is full of purity, sweetness, and sacrificial love. Holding center stage is Riley and his father’s journey, which is full of painful remorse and lost time that will bring tears but also, in the end, renewed hope for God’s ability to bring healing and restoration.

The overarching theme of this story is surrendered brokenness, held together and made more perfect by the beautiful mystery of grace.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Four Winds / by Lisa T. Bergren. (River of Time: California, 2) 3.28.2017

Bergren Creative Group, Inc. ISBN 9781540508195

HS (Adult) Grades 9 and up Rating: 4

Lisa Bergren concludes her new young adult historical fiction series featuring a contemporary teen living an extraordinary adventure in 1840 California.

In Four Winds, 17-year-old Zara Ruiz meets a handsome ranchero–Javier de la Ventura–when she travels back in time to California, 1840. She finds true love, a family (his extended family), and adventure–her three wishes. But is staying in the past really her future?

When she tries to return to her own time, it doesn’t work. Then the Ventura ranch is attacked, and Zara and Javier’s younger brother Manuel are kidnapped. This causes Javier to wonder if Zara wouldn’t be safer returning to her own time. As much as he loves her, can he help her find her way back? It didn’t work last time but can she return now? Does she want to leave true love behind–and will she?

Bergren is known for her detailed historical research, strong plot development, and excellent characterization. As in her earlier River of Time series, she writes strong female characters who are independent yet vulnerable, with men who are chivalrous and handsome. Four Winds is a clean romance (no more than heated kisses) with adventure and plot twists a-plenty.

Her series have a strong sense of faith (evident but not preachy), courtly love, and family. Although self-published, Four Winds is another worthy addition to Bergren’s growing list of young adult fiction.

Highly recommended for young adults, teens, and adult readers. Fans of young adult historical fiction will enjoy Bergren’s new series. Fans of her earlier River of Time series will be delighted with this addition.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Resilience / by L. R. Burkard. (Pulse Effex series, 2) 3.24.2017

Lilliput Press     ISBN 9780979215452

HS     Grades 10 and up     Rating: 4

L. R. Burkard pens a sequel to her suspenseful contemporary novel about a major disaster, told from the viewpoint of three teenage girls.

In Resilience, Andrea Patterson, Lexie Martin, and Sarah Weaver are friends with very different family situations. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) hits the earth and technology no longer works. Now their biggest challenge is facing the rumors of foreign militia, U.S. government militia forcing people into government camps, and bands of raiders trying to take their supplies by force.

Andrea joins the Martin family and others on their farm. Lexie longs for the day when she and Blake can get married, and Sarah hopes to reach Aunt Susan’s home in Indiana. Will the U.S. be able to recover from this disaster? Will the girls survive to see another day? What will they have to learn just to survive and move forward?

Burkard uses first-person narrative by the three 16-year-old girls, similar to a journal format. The EMP disaster is a chilling possibility in our future. Ms. Burkard tackles an EMP from a young adult point of view.

By using each girl’s experience, the author depicts realistically what could happen. Resilience is more than just a young adult book–adults will find it a clean read (no drugs, alcohol, or sex) with minimal violence, a book that may cause them to think about how they would face the situation of the electric power grid failing.

Recommended for school and public libraries. The third book in the series, Defiance, will be available later this year (2017).

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Broken Trust / by Jill Williamson. (Mission League: Alaska, 3) 3.17.2017

Novel Teen Press     ISBN 9780988759497

HS Grades 9-12 Rating: 4

Award-winning author Jill Williamson continues her contemporary series, filled with spies and adventures–just the type of book to appeal to teens and tweens, especially boys.

In Broken Trust, Spencer Garamond wants to be a normal teenage boy: a basketball player who hopes to recover from an ACL injury in time to still have a shot at a scholarship. But Spencer isn’t a normal teen– he’s an agent-in-training in the Mission League. His training continues, this time on an outdoor survival trip to Alaska. Spencer is still juggling his relationship with Grace and trying to figure out where Nick fits in with things. When someone close to him appears to betray Spencer and the Mission League, it is hard to know whom to trust. Spencer wants to figure everything out.

In this series, Williamson successfully captures the teenage boy’s challenges and interests: spies, girls, sports, and drugs/alcohol temptation. Spencer is a young adult who struggles with faith issues. He is a reluctant member of the Mission League, yet he is willing to go on these short-term missions.

The series is filled with good and bad examples of teens. Spencer is never far from trouble, both from his own choices and from the actions of others. Despite his choices and injuries, he manages to learn from his experiences, making the reader eager to read his next adventure. As in the other books, the chapters are presented as filed reports, making the timeline easier to follow. Spencer will return for his final adventure in The Profile Match.

Recommended for teen collections in public libraries, church libraries, and school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

The Art of Losing Yourself / by Katie Ganshert. 3.6.2017

WaterBrook Press ISBN 9781601425928

HS (Adult) Grades 10 and up Rating: 4

Katie Ganshert’s The Art of Losing Yourself tells a story of heartache and redemption through the eyes of Carmen and her half-sister Gracie. Carmen, seemingly well-off and settled in an ideal career, struggles to find hope and meaning in the midst of multiple miscarriages and a failing marriage. Into this emotionally confusing and painful context walks Gracie, a high schooler with her own battles and baggage to carry. Through the course of this story, the reader sees how the lives of these women are transformed through their relationships.

Carmen’s relationship with Gracie shifts from something of duty or guilt to that of a proud mother-figure. Through her relationship with Carmen and the steady friendship of one of her classmates, Gracie is transformed from a bitter, closed-off teenager to a trusting and committed friend. Both sisters have deep and heart-felt struggles, yet it is ultimately through their difficult relationship with each other that each turns to God. Some things remain unresolved at the end of the story; one is left with a recognition that life is not supposed to be perfect, that it is sometimes messy. However, Ganshert does not leave it at that. This narrative reminds us that there is beauty in the difficult times, that God works through our trials, that people are worth loving, and that some things are worth fighting for.

The use of first-person throughout the book allows the reader to engage with the thoughts and emotions of the two main characters while frequent flashbacks provide insight into their motivations and responses. Alternating between the perspectives of Carmen and Gracie can sometimes be confusing, but overall provides a richer understanding of the characters’ experiences.

Recommended for older teens and adults. The content is in no way inappropriate, simply more relatable to adults with respect to Carmen and her struggles, and older students with respect to Gracie and the battles she faces. There are references to drugs, alcohol and premarital sex (not graphic) in the context of a character’s troubled past. The Art of Losing Yourself provides a quality Christian narrative without coming across as preachy or cliché.

Elisabeth A. Orr, CLJ

Embassy Row series / by Ally Carter. 3.3.2017

See How They Run / by Ally Carter. (Embassy Row, 2)

Scholastic Press ISBN 9780545654845

Take the Key and Lock Her Up / by Ally Carter. (Embassy Row, 3)

Scholastic Press ISBN 9780545654951

HS Grades 7-10 Rating: 4

Ally Carter, author of The Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series, pens a new series for teens filled with espionage, mystery, and plenty of plot twists.

In See How They Run, 16-year-old Grace is living in Adria. She is reeling from her recent discovery of the truth behind her mother’s murder. Her brother Jamie comes home from West Point with a buddy, Spence, whose grandmother was born in Adria. Troubles ensue when Grace stumbles upon a secret society, female assassins, Roman tunnels, and ancient secrets tied to her mother’s death. But the truth doesn’t set Grace free – it threatens her life!

In Take the Key and Lock Her Up, Grace knows the terrible secret that has been guarded for over 200 years, a family secret so big that revealing it could start a revolution. Some people will do anything to prevent it from being found out. Now Grace is in a race to save everyone she cares about by cutting through the years of lies and the web of deceit that is hidden in a conspiracy no one will ever believe.

Ally Carter writes books with plenty of action, adventure, and thrills. Carter cleverly uses lines from a nursery rhyme to title her books in this series. The relationships between Grace and her friends are not the usual boy-girl romances; there may be a hint of attraction but that is not the focus. The depth of friendship is more important, making this a clean read even for older middle school readers. The series will grab the reader’s attention from the start and hold it until the end.

Recommended for public and school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJAll Fall Down (Sept/Oct 2015).

A Time to Rise / by Nadine Brandes. (Out of Time, 3) 2.17.2017

Enclave Publishing     ISBN 9781683700463

HS (Adult)     Grades 10 and up    Rating: 4

Nadine Brandes concludes her award-winning dystopian series in which the government issues a personal clock to individuals, programmed to show their exact time of death. But what happens when those clocks are faulty?

In A Time to Rise, Parvin Blackwater has died–at least that’s what the world thinks–and she wasn’t scheduled to die (not according to her clock). But Parvin awakens in a shallow grave, with the sense that God is not done with her yet. As she climbs out of her buried coffin, she wonders: will she be reunited with Solomon? Will her “resurrection” be the catalyst for the Wall finally being destroyed? Or will the Council be able to stop them once and for all?

As in her earlier books, Brandes creates a future world where new technology and government control are all too real and possible. Her books are imaginative with realistic characters and suspenseful plot twists. The writing gets intense, and the violence is appropriate for the story. Military control and conspiracy are part of the plot twists.

Parvin struggles in her faith, making her journey in each book both a spiritual and physical one. She is not the only one who changes. Other characters are introduced to God–some embrace him, some do not. Parvin has grown quite a bit since the first book (A Time to Die), as have a number of characters. Learning to trust God in the midst of every circumstance is laced throughout the series.

Recommended for fans of dystopian fiction and speculative fiction, especially readers of Krista McGee’s Anomaly series, Lisa Bergren’s Remnant series, Bonnie Calhoun’s Stone Braide Chronicles series, and Jill Williamson’s Safe Lands series. Adults and older teens will like this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJA Time to Die (Jan/Feb 2016); A Time to Speak (Mar/Apr/May/Jun 2016).

The Silent Songbird / by Melanie Dickerson. 2.9.2017

Thomas Nelson     ISBN 9780718026318

HS     Grades 9-12     Rating: 5

Award-winning author Melanie Dickerson continues her medieval retelling of fairy tales, this time loosely basing her novel on the story of The Little Mermaid.

In The Silent Songbird, 17-year-old Evangeline, cousin to King Richard II, is known for her beautiful singing voice. She is unhappily betrothed to a much older man whose character is suspect and whose first wife died under mysterious circumstances. Evangeline runs away, seeking a life where she can marry for love instead of politics.

She pretends to be a mute servant to avoid detection and joins a band of servants on their way to their home. She becomes acquainted with Westley le Wyse, who is intrigued by her. But when the truth is revealed, it shatters any hope of a future together. When Evangeline finds herself in the midst of a plot that threatens the king, where can she turn?

As in her earlier books, the faith element is clearly evident yet not preachy. Dickerson’s tales feature wholesome relationships while still building a strong attraction between the main characters, making this a good choice for teen readers. Dickerson is a masterful storyteller with a carefully crafted plot, richly-drawn characters, and detailed setting. The reader is easily pulled into the story.

Recommended for young adults and adults who are young at heart.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com