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).

In 27 days / by Alison Gervais. 7.11.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780310759058

YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 5

Archer killed himself. Even though Hadley barely knew him, she can’t shake the sense of loss. Feeling guilty, she attends his funeral and meets his family–and Death. Death offers Hadley a deal: she could go back in time 27 days to convince Archer not to commit suicide, but if she fails, he will be lost forever and it would be her fault.

Hadley is tossed back in time as Death promised, and she is prepared to do anything to save Archer’s life–if only he wanted to be saved. Hadley’s borderline-stalking behavior sets Archer on edge. He doesn’t want to be friends with the most popular girl in school. She was probably faking kindness anyway. Hadley is at a loss. If he won’t let her help, how can she save him?

Death left out one detail. Hadley’s life is in danger. The more she pushes Archer toward hope and life, the more Havoc tries to substitute her life for Archer’s. Is Hadley willing to give up her life if it means Archer can keep his, or would she rather break her contract with Death and let her new friend die?

Race time with Hadley as she tries to force a relationship with the school misfit. Watty Award-winning author Alison Gervais will keep readers guessing whether Hadley can complete her mission before time runs out. Hadley and Archer’s relationship is one-of-a-kind as their banter and Hadley’s pesky intrusions develop into deep conversations and deeper feelings. Facing bullies, worst fears, and family drama, readers will experience through Hadley how much dedication it takes to be friends with someone who has PTSD and depression.

In 27 Days is an extremely well-written story. Readers will be forced to stop and think if they would follow in Hadley’s footsteps to save a stranger’s life. They will giggle while watching this rich girl literally work her way into a poor boy’s heart and home. Even his family will fall in love before he will.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

For Love & Honor / by Jody Hedlund. 7.10.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780310749301

YA     Grades 9-12     Rating: 5

Award-winning historical fiction author Jody Hedlund presents the third book in her trio of related medieval young adult novels. For Love & Honor gives a nod to Beauty and the Beast.

In For Love & Honor, Lady Sabine is a young noblewoman. Although she is beautiful and wealthy, she has a physical flaw that could prevent her from making a good marriage as well as endanger her life due to 14th century superstitions.

Meanwhile, Sir Bennet is called home to rescue his family from financial ruin. His brother has incurred a debt that cannot be easily repaid. The only recourse is to marry a wealthy noblewoman, but Bennet doesn’t want to marry just for that.

Sabine travels to Bennet’s home, thinking she is purchasing some valuable art and unaware that her grandmother has her own plan. When Bennet’s home is attacked while Lady Sabine is there, they are forced to trust one another. Will they build a relationship based on love and honor? What will happen when Sabine’s blemish is revealed and she is called a witch?

Written from a dual viewpoint, the book employs two different fonts. Hedlund excels at showing how others judge by external appearances while God judges by the inward beauty. The spiritual element is evident but not heavy-handed.

Filled with descriptive narrative and endearing characters, For Love & Honor is an entertaining read–except for the necessary violence in the fighting scenes and Sabine’s imprisonment. Its believable plot has enough twists to keep the reader engaged. Fans of Lisa Bergren’s River of Time series, Dina Sleiman’s Valiant Hearts series, and Melanie Dickerson’s medieval young adult books will also enjoy Hedlund’s medieval stories. Recommended for teen collections in public libraries and school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Related Titles Reviewed by CLJ An Uncertain Choice ( Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015); A Daring Sacrifice (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016).

Grover Cleveland, Again! / by Ken Burns; illustrated by Gerald Kelley 6.26.2017

Alfred A. Knopf ISBN 9780385392099

YA Grades 5 & up Rating: 4

Grover Cleveland, Again! by noted documentarian Ken Burns is an illustrated collection of facts and stories about the U.S. presidents, culminating with Barack Obama.

Each two-page spread features biographical details, brief anecdotes, and a description of significant aspects of that president’s term. Burns provides historic and political context to help middle grade readers begin to understand the pertinent issues. Multiple sidebars throughout supply additional information to help capture each leader’s personality and legacy. The end pages offer related sites to visit and a glossary of terms.

Handsomely and chronologically arranged, Grover Cleveland, Again! features large scale pencil and digital color illustrations by Gerald Kelley. Kelley captures the presidents in active and dynamic poses against dramatic backdrops that truly add a sense of realism. Rich red and blue highlights on each page create a patriotic feel. Each president’s official portrait is also included.

The author’s conversational tone at times blurs the line between fact and opinion on challenging topics such as slavery, Native Americans, war, and the economy. Children interested in history will enjoy this lively book, though parents may need to help them approach some of the content.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story / by Caren Stelson. 6.23.2017

Carolrhoda Books ISBN 9781467789035

YA Grades 5-12 Rating: 5

Sachiko shares a Nagasaki bomb survivor’s story of the devastation that changed her family’s lives in 1945, chronicled through extensive interviews with author Caren Stelson.

Sachiko was six when a U.S. military plane dropped a second atomic bomb on Japan just prior to the end of the Second World War in the Pacific. Thousands of adults and children died that horrific day, including several of Sachiko’s siblings. More people, including Sachiko’s extended family, died in the days, weeks, and years that followed. As she matured, she wrote of the influence Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi had on her growing conviction to embrace non-violence and teach others to do the same. As a result, Sachiko decided to publicly share her story of the bombing and radiation sickness in the hope that it never happens again to anyone. Extensive bibliographical references and an index aid additional study.

The author inserts in-depth historical summaries of events and facts in special sections between episodes of Sachiko’s story. The carefully researched historical information add a wider and deeper context for the intimate details of Sachiko’s personal experiences, allowing knowledge and empathy to grow in readers. Tight writing, strong verbs, and original metaphors join with compelling themes and facts–all these transform this shocking and tragic story, a Robert F. Sibert Honor book, into a compelling revelation. Sachiko rises above painful ashes and waves a bright banner of hope that future tragedies can be avoided if difficult truths are known.

Connie Brown, CLJ

The Drum of Destiny / by Chris Stevenson. 6.2.2017

Stone Arch Books ISBN 9781496526731

YA Grades 5-9 Rating: 4

The American Revolutionary War is an exciting time for a boy, especially for a 12-year-old New Yorker. An avid reader and fluent in French (thanks to his patriot father who owned a book store and his mother’s French roots), Gabe suddenly finds himself orphaned and thrust into the home of a staunch British loyalist. The Reverend Loring, with ten children of his own, treats Gabe more like a servant than a child.

Crisis strikes during dinner one night when Gabe refuses to toast King George III of England and is cast out of the house. He finds himself on the street where the only families that exist are gangs of thieves or pickpockets. Spending a solitary night by a river, Gabe finds a drum that inspires him to travel to Boston in hopes of becoming a drummer boy in George Washington’s army. The only problem is that he doesn’t know how to play the drum. Would they still accept him? Can he make it on foot from New York City to Boston?

Through a series of mishaps on the road, Gabe learns the consequences of indecision and of ignoring good advice. He also painfully realizes that war recognizes no age.

Chris Stevenson leads the reader on a geographic tour and action-packed journey through old Manhattan and across King’s Bridge at the northern tip of the island toward Boston, as Gabe confronts troubles, dangers, and sickness, and finds friends as well as foes. He even meets Benedict Arnold! Significant historical information is conveyed through the characters’ eyes, making the facts meaningful in context and easy to remember.

Although Gabe’s resolve and determination are tested and often waver, he learns courage by staying true to his goals and to himself and grasps the importance of earning the respect of others by being truthful. The Drum of Destiny is an engaging historical adventure filled with life-lessons for young and old alike.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History / by Karen Blumental. 5.8.2017

Feiwel and Friends ISBN 9781250060143

YA Grades 10-12 Rating: 4

Karen Blumental’s Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History is in many ways a book about firsts. Clinton was the first student commencement speaker at Wellesley College. She was the first woman to become a full partner at Rose Law Firm. She was the first female U.S. Senator from the state of New York. She was the first woman to be a presidential candidate in every primary held in each state. She was the first former First Lady to seek the presidency. In her life, Clinton has blazed her own path in pursuing the things that are important to her. She has also made some shifts–she began her political activism as a Goldwater girl, but by the time she started coming into the limelight, she had become a staunch Democratic operative.

Blumenthal also attempts to show the side of Clinton that perhaps is not seen so much by the public. This includes her surprise when she discovers that some women do not like or feel insulted by her, and also the information that she carries a Bible with her everywhere she goes. For someone who is wondering where to start to learn about Mrs. Clinton, this book is a great place to start. It is comprehensive without getting bogged down in minutiae. It offers a portrait that shows the complexity of its subject and is at the same time fair. This book would be a welcome addition to a public library.

Michael Wilhelm, CLJ

Broken Ground / by Karen Halvorsen Schreck. 5.5.2017

Howard Books ISBN 9781476794839

Adult (YA)      Rating: 5

Ruth envisions an idyllic life with the man she loves, going to college, and becoming a teacher. When a terrible tragedy shatters her life, Ruth must decide how much she wants to live–and how to escape a domineering father. Her choice propels her on a journey through America’s 1930s western landscape dotted with Hoovervilles and plagued by state-sponsored racism.

After an assault and a false accusation derail her dream of school and uproot her again, she embarks on a new journey into the world of Mexican workers fighting illegal deportations. In the midst of her own grief and struggles, Ruth rises above herself and discovers the redeeming qualities of service to others that transforms her life and that of those around her. Teaching the Mexican children, she learns that every child should feel content, that education is a universal right, and that God is the God of all cultures and languages.

Through thoughtful narrative, engaging dialogue, and descriptive scenes, Karen Halvorsen Schreck portrays a little-known part of American History. In addition, Broken Ground is a powerful reminder of the redemptive quality of suffering that leads to fruitful growth in God, and that proves that all things do work together for good, if you are open to God’s call and willing to go wherever that takes you.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

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