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

Vango series / by Timothee de Fombelle. 2.8.2017

Vango: Between Sky and Earth / by Timothee de Fombelle.

Candlewick Press ISBN 9780763687816

A Prince Without a Kingdom / Timothee de Fombelle.

Candlewick Press ISBN 9780763691035

HS Grades 7 and up Rating: 4

Translated from the French, this duology revolves around Vango Romano, a young man with mysterious origins, who was washed up on the shore of a remote island off the coast of Sicily, Italy, at the age of three. Political intrigue, corruption, murder, revenge, mystery, adventure, suspense, heroism, loyalty, and a dash of romance are skillfully blended together into this fast-paced series.

Vango: Between Sky and Earth is set against the backdrop of the Nazi rise to power. The story begins in 1934. Nineteen-year-old Vango is minutes away from being ordained as a priest when the service is interrupted by the arrival of the police, who are in pursuit of Vango. Vango scales the walls of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris to escape while also dodging bullets from an unknown assailant. After Vango discovers he is wanted for murder, he embarks on a cross-continental journey to prove his innocence and to find out the truth about his heritage. A timeline of events pertinent to Vango’s life and a map of where he spent his childhood is included in the book.

A Prince Without a Kingdom is set against the backdrop of World War II and leads off with a cast of characters, a brief recap of the first book, and a flashback from Vango’s life as a teenager. Then the novel moves forward to 1936. Vango is still searching for answers to his heritage, which has led him to hunting for a man he believes is not only partly responsible for a deadly attack on his parents but who also knows the secret of his identity. Vango’s pursuit leads him to cross paths with an old trusted friend from his past, who is on a dangerous mission of his own. Vango ends up embroiled in more than one dangerous adventure with assailants hot on his trail who would like nothing better than to put an end to Vango’s endeavors.

Timothee de Fombelle has included a multitude of fictional characters intermixed with real historical figures and events. The Graf Zeppelin and the Hindenburg airships are key elements in the storylines with black and white pictures of the airships included in the books. Flashbacks are interwoven into the two books providing readers with the backstory of Vango’s childhood.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

Storm / by Bonnie S. Calhoun. (Stone Braide Chronicles, 3) 1.24.2017

Revell     ISBN 9780800723781

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 Storm, Selah Rishon is the novarium, someone who plays a major role in an unfolding prophecy. She rescues the rest of her family, and they are on the run. Selah must find the Third Protocol within the next nine months or she will die. Not everyone wants the Third Protocol discovered, and Selah is being hunted by others for their own evil purposes. Meanwhile they discover a black market for selling pills that give health (or healing) to the person taking the pill.

One should read the first book before reading this one; otherwise the reader will find it challenging to understand the backstory. Calhoun’s characters are believable and flawed, reinforcing the realism of the story. There is plenty of action and appropriate violence as Selah seeks the Third Protocol (think of the violence in Star Wars). There is no discernible faith element. The book covers for this series are dramatic, and each book in the series gets better in terms of the storyline.

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.

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

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJThunder (Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015); Lightning (Jan/Feb 2016).

Anchor in the Storm / by Sarah Sundin. (Waves of Freedom series, 2) 1.13.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800723439

Adult (HS) Rating: 5

Anchor in the Storm finds the United States involved in WWII. Lillian Avery leaves her Illinois home to accept a job as a pharmacist in Boston, Massachusetts, where her brother and his best friend Arch Vandenberg are stationed. Though Arch has expressed interest in Lillian, Lillian doesn’t seem to return his feelings. However, when both Lillian and Arch need answers about some questionable prescriptions, they find themselves working together to solve a mystery. In the process, danger threatens their lives, and the only way they can survive is by learning the truth of Hebrews 6:18-19, “…We might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast…” (p.66)

Sarah Sundin’s second book in the Waves of Freedom series is just as intriguing as the first. The plot moves quickly, part romance and part mystery. Arch and Lillian are well-developed, three-dimensional characters, learning to grow through their brokenness. Lillian’s determined mindset and plucky spirit set an intense mood as the story unfolds. Sundin’s portrayal of the places Arch and Lillian live and work as well as the activities in which they engage recreate a little slice of Boston during WWII. The theme is best summed up by Lillian’s father, “Jesus is your anchor, your hope in any storm, your sure refuge.” (p. 28)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Season of Glory / by Lisa T. Bergren. (Remnants Series, 3) 1.10.2017

Blink ISBN 9780310735663

HS Grades 9 and up Rating: 4

Season of Glory, book three in the Remnants series, finds the Ailith remnant together again following a narrow escape from Pacifica. As they progress across the land, the Ailith show more maturity in following the Maker and in using the gifts He has given them to serve. Increasingly people follow the Way, and hope for peace is on the horizon for the Ailith and all the land. It’s a good thing the Ailith have more support and wisdom, because the enemy seems stronger than ever. Keallach, emperor of Pacifica, is the one Ailith who never received his full gifting from the Maker because of the dark paths he has followed. When he attempts to join his brother, Andriana, and the other Ailith, proper wisdom and discernment of his motives could determine the success or failure of the mission.

Lisa T. Bergren’s writing opens doors into her characters’ world and thoughts. Told from three points of view, Season of Glory shows the progression of Keallach’s thinking and struggles throughout the book, without divulging whether or not his motives for following the other Ailith are pure. Ronan and Andriana also have their battles to face, but much of their personal growth occurred in the first two books of the Remnants series, making them perhaps less interesting in Season of Glory. The plot is well-paced, with high drama action scenes followed by reaction scenes filled with narrow escapes, followed by periods of rest or serving or learning. Romance continues to bloom in Season of Glory, but what seems secure may be undone by the forces of darkness.

The best part of all three books is the wisdom Lisa T. Bergren infuses into the story. As the Ailith prepare for their most dangerous battle, their leader Raniero gives this wise counsel, “Do not let your gift lead you–let the Maker lead you. Call upon him constantly. Put him first, not yourselves. We will stay together whatever comes, because together, we are strongest.” (p. 339)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJSeason of Wonder (November/December 2014); Season of Fire (July/August/September 2016).