The Young Adult’s Guide to Stop Bullying: Understanding Bullies and Their Actions / by Rebekah Sack. 1.9.2017

Atlantic Publishing Group ISBN 9781601389886

HS Grades 9-12 Rating: 5

The Young Adult’s Guide to Stop Bullying is geared to junior and high school students and offers discussion to enable one to learn why bullying occurs and explore the root causes for bullying, why some students are victimized, and why others are vicious. The range of bullying covered includes cyberbullying, phone or note bullying, gang bullying, teacher bullying, and sports bullying.

The layout is appealing with photos, illustrations, and layout easy on the eye. Part I is titled “You’re Being Bullied,” Part II ”You See Bullying,” and Part III “You’re a Bully.” The easy-to-follow and understanding discussion warrants The Young Adult’s Guide to Stop Bullying a place in every school and public library. One can concentrate on one part or chapter within a section and gain from that even if other parts or chapters are not considered in that setting or project.

Appendix A offers bullying statistics, Appendix B “A Checklist for Your School,” Appendix C “A Student’s Anti-Bullying Pledge,” and Appendix D “Bullying Laws.” There’s a section of helpful references, a glossary, and an index. A chapter in Part I is devoted to celebrity case studies, and Parts II and III each have a chapter on famous case studies.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Heroes of History series / by Janet & Geoff Benge. 12.30.2016

William Bradford: Plymouth’s Rock / by Janet & Geoff Benge. (Heroes of History)

YWAM Publishing ISBN 9781624860928

John Flynn: Into the Never Never / by Janet & Geoff Benge. (Heroes of History)

YWAM Publishing ISBN 9781576588987

MS Grades 5-9 Rating: 5

Readers in grades 5 to 9 have a great opportunity in these titles, by husband and wife writing team Janet & Geoff Benge, to gain a close up-front introduction to William Bradford and John Flynn as real people who responded to the situation they found themselves in and what God was calling them to do. These touching chronicles are written as narratives so that youth will be able to understand the atmosphere and consequences of the situations and decisions that both William Bradford and John Flynn found themselves in and in which they grew by accepting the challenge of perseverance and leadership.

In William Bradford: Plymouth’s Rock, one explores 17th century America, what the New World colonization involved, and who the Pilgrims at Plymouth were, gaining an overview of Puritan history, all of which contributed to the cornerstone of a great nation. Through William Bradford’s steady leadership, the people of Plymouth Colony endured with their descendants, forming the boundaries of a great country.

In John Flynn: Into the Never Never, the reader gets a glimpse into the early decades of the 20th century and the settings of Australia and Oceania, and learns what the Gilded Age entailed and the role of missionaries and evangelists. While studying to be a minister, John Flynn wanted to use his training to help people in practical ways. In this search he discovered that his mission was to serve inside his own country–the vast outback or Never Never, where life-and-death decisions were a constant experience.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

A Heart Most Certain / by Melissa Jagears. (Teaville Moral Society, 1) 12.28.2016

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217517

Adult (HS) Rating: 4

Award-winning author Melissa Jagears pens another historical fiction novel, this one set in Kansas during the early 1900s.

In A Heart Most Certain, Lydia King finds herself courted by Sebastian Little, an inspiring politician in Teaville. Lydia’s mother is getting sicker by the week, and her father’s debts are piling up. Marriage to Sebastian will secure her future, setting her dying mother’s mind at ease.

However, when Sebastian’s mother asks her to obtain a donation for the Teaville Moral Society from Nicholas Lowe–the wealthiest man in town–things begin to fall apart. At first Nicholas refuses, and then he agrees, as long as Lydia will agree to his own conditions. As they work together, they uncover Little family secrets that require them to expose the Littles’ involvement in corruption. Can they stand firm in their beliefs, even when it costs them that which they hold dear?

Jagears’ novel has excellent character development, a clear faith element (without being preachy), and solid historical detail. The relationship between Lydia and Nicholas builds slowly, as each grapples with their response to God’s leading them to confront the corruption of local politicians. The book’s focus is on rescuing those caught in the net of prostitution and helping them to build a new life in Christ. The reactions of the townspeople as Nicholas and Lydia try to help the former prostitutes mirror how the reader might react to anyone upsetting one’s comfortable setting, whether in church or elsewhere. Confronting evil and taking a stand takes courage, the kind that Lydia and Nicholas display.

Recommended for adults and high school students in school and public libraries. Fans of Regina Jennings and Jen Turano will enjoy this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Can’t Help Falling / by Kara Isaac. 12.15.2016

Howard Books ISBN 9780501117343

Adult (HS) Rating: 5

Kara Isaac returns with another contemporary romantic comedy, this one featuring an injured British athlete and an American journalist with a shared love of Narnia.

In Can’t Help Falling, Emelia Mason leaves behind her past as a “journalist” at an American tabloid magazine. Determined to make a fresh start, she flees to Oxford, England to reinvent herself, and possibly make atonement for the damage she caused in others’ lives. She accepts a position as a fundraising coordinator at a local charity.

Peter Carlisle is a British rower, one of the best–or he was until he was injured. Now Peter is determined to risk everything to get back on top and to continue chasing his Olympic dreams. Peter and Emelia cross paths and find a shared interest in Narnia (C. S. Lewis). As their relationship develops, the secrets they hide may tear them apart. Will their shared love of Narnia help them overcome the secrets of their past?

Isaac pens a Christian romantic comedy with endearing characters. It is refreshing to find a novel paying homage to English writer, C. S. Lewis. In fact, Peter and Emelia meet in an antique shop with a wardrobe, and Peter’s first question to her is, “Are you a Susan or a Lucy?” Only a Narnia fan would know the difference between the two! The answer to Peter’s question is significant in Emelia’s life, and a turning point for her. The themes of second chances (love and redemption) run throughout the novel. The faith element is light but very present.

Recommended for adult collections in public libraries and school libraries, it is a clean read for adults and older teen readers, as well as for Tolkien fans.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Deadly Encounter / by DiAnn Mills. (FBI Task Force, 1) 12.1.2016

Tyndale     ISBN 9781496410979

Adult (HS)     Rating: 5

Award-winning author DiAnn Mills kicks off a new contemporary romantic suspense series featuring FBI agents in the Houston area.

In Deadly Encounter, volunteer airport ranger Stacy Broussard stumbles across a murder victim, an injured dog, and an armed drone as she rides around the perimeter of Houston’s airport. FBI Special Agent Alex LeBlanc thinks it is an act of terrorism, but is suspicious of Stacy’s discovery.

Stacy, a veterinarian, cares for the injured dog. Meanwhile, Alex investigates the murdered man and the drone. When a health emergency affects the lives of people living in Stacy’s neighborhood, he wonders if Stacy is the target instead of just a witness. Can they find the mastermind behind the incidents before it is too late?

As always, Mills does an excellent job of plot and character development. The faith element and the romance are evident but light–the main characters are attracted to each other but keep the relationship as a friendship until the case is solved. Themes of forgiveness and reliance on God are interwoven in the text.

Plot twists abound as this unpredictable story unfolds. The characters are flawed but realistic, and the tension builds until the end of the book is reached. The mastermind’s plan is torn from today’s headlines, and the plot elements are all-too-real–domestic terrorism, biological weapons, revenge, child abuse, and even bullying.

Deadly Encounter will appeal to readers who like light romance and carefully-researched details with their suspense. Fans of Dee Henderson and Irene Hannon will enjoy this new series. The book includes an author note and discussion questions.

Highly recommended for public and high school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Three Wishes / by Lisa T. Bergren. (River of Time: California, 1) 11.28.2016

Bergren Creative Group ISBN 9781530674695

HS (Adult) Grades 9 and up Rating: 4

Lisa Bergren kicks off her new young adult historical fiction series featuring a contemporary teen living an extraordinary adventure in the old California, 180 years in the past.

In Three Wishes, 17-year-old Zara Ruiz is reeling from her beloved abuela’s death. Walking along the beach, she remembers their last conversation in which her grandmother, who raised her, asks Zara what she wants most from life. Zara makes three wishes, never expecting that those wishes (an adventurous life, true love, and family) might come true. Shortly after that, she is thrust 180 years into the past where she meets a handsome ranchero and his family. Will her wishes come true in that past, or will she return to her world? Will the secrets in Javier’s family change her future?

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. Three Wishes, the first of Bergren’s new young adult historical time-travel series, is a clean romance (no more than heated kisses) with adventure and plot twists a-plenty. Although self-published, Three Wishes is another addition to Bergren’s growing list of young adult fiction titles. Her series have a strong sense of faith (evident but not preachy), courtly love, and family.

Highly recommended for young adults, teens, and adult readers. Fans of young adult historical fiction will enjoy Bergren’s new series. The next book in this series, Four Winds, will be published shortly. 

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Siren Song / by Mary Weber. (The Storm Siren Trilogy, 3) 11.2.2016

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9781401690403

HS Grades 9-12 Rating: 4

Mary Weber concludes her fantasy series about a teen girl with special powers in a futuristic world.

In Siren’s Song, Nym is an Elemental (one who is able to summon and control storms) who is used as a weapon by those in power for their own agenda. Each time it drains her, physically and emotionally. But as a slave, she has little control over her own life.

Her last battle with Draewulf left her barely alive. Now as he prepares for another battle, Nym realizes she must warn the other kingdoms before he strikes again. Is her power strong enough for the battle ahead? What about Nym’s role in the final prophecy?

Throughout this series, Weber’s storytelling engages the reader’s attention from the first page, holding it until the gripping final chapter. The third installment–like the earlier ones–is filled with imperfect characters and plot twists, making it both character- and plot-driven.

Sacrifice for the good of others is a strong theme in her series. The faith element is very light, but compassion and emotional strength are valued. The battle of good vs. evil is clear. For example, Nym’s Elemental power–the one she was born with–is considered good but the unnatural (dark) power is considered evil.

Fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent, stories with strong heroines battling for high stakes, as well as fantasy fans of Jill Williamson and Morgan Busse will want to read this series’ conclusion.

Recommended for teen collections in public libraries and school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Storm Siren and Siren’s Fury (July/August 2015).

 

Seer Series / by Rachelle Dekker. 10.27.2016

Choosing / by Rachelle Dekker. (A Seer Novel, 1)

Tyndale ISBN 9781496402257

HS Grades 8-12 Rating: 4

Calling / by Rachelle Dekker. (A Seer Novel, 2)

Tyndale ISBN 9781496402264

HS Grades 8-12 Rating: 3

Carrington lost everything on the day she wasn’t chosen. Not being picked meant no family, no husband, and no rights. The Council said that the Father chose her instead. The Choosing follows Carrington as she is forced into a life of manual labor and shame. Women around her compound are dying, but the extra guards that should protect the women prey on them instead. A soldier, Remko, saves Carrington, and then a friend leads her to question what society has taught her. When Carrington is given a chance to recover all that she has lost, will she take it or will she choose to learn the truth about her world?

In The Calling, Carrington believes her family has been called to lead the city back to the Father. Remko, who is leading a group of freedom fighters, is uncertain. With more people dying under a new city leader’s rule, friends blame Remko. City police raid their camp, and Remko believes Carrington is captured. Will they be reunited, and will Remko find faith?

Both novels throw the reader right into the action. Carrington and Remko immediately connect to the readers because of their backstories. The second book is slower than the first, but both have balanced pacing. Both stories include a fair amount of torture. The first book touches on physical agony while the second shows brainwashing and brain distortion. Both pains are overcome by faith redeeming the character, though the pain doesn’t disappear.

Although both novels had good story arches and believable characters, the plot was predictable and preachy. The characters’ faith is clearly based on Christianity, though many faith practices have been distorted in the city. Deep topics—such as the meaning of freedom, gender roles, abandoning everything for the Father’s plan, and losing faith—are touched on these novels.

The final book in the Seer trilogy, The Returning, hits the shelves in January 2017.

Rebecca A. Schriner, CLJ

Curio / by Evangeline Denmark. 10.25.2016

Blink ISBN 9780310729662

HS Grades 8-12 Rating: 4

In an evolved dystopian society, Chemists catch Grey alone after curfew with her male childhood friend—breaking multiple taboo laws. Because she is underage and he is not, his punishment is severe. Grey feels guilt and a rebellious power stirs inside her. To help her friend, she breaks another law, sharing her nourishment potion. Chemists catch her again, but her grandfather and father accept her punishment in her place. Despite the men’s sacrifice, the Chemists still seek to punish Grey. She runs into her grandfather’s shop where his assistant locks her in a wardrobe world with instructions to bring him back.

Lost in a new world among living dolls and clocks, Grey is trapped in the lord’s mansion. He knows that she is not porcelain and intends to make her his mistress. Political tensions between the dolls and the clocks become heated, and the leader of the clock-rebels saves Grey.

Grey discovers her hero is human, the him she needed to bring back to her world. Once they escape the doll world, they find the Chemists waiting to punish her. Grey uses the rebellious power of her ancestors to subdue the Chemists and begin a rebellion in her own world.

Evangeline Denmark immerses readers immediately into the steampunk, fantasy genre—explaining little, yet world-building perfectly. Mystery permeates every page as Grey and the Mad Tock fight liberation wars in two worlds. The plot is flows smoothly throughout the novel, and, despite the length of 400 pages, the book is hard to put down.

This novel, however, is not for young or queasy audiences. The kisses between Grey and her savior are intense, and one scene features a near-rape. Injuries, such as dislocating a shoulder and losing a hand, are described in gruesome detail.

The point of view switches a lot among characters in the two worlds, providing a sense of time displacement between the worlds. The perspectives are well-balanced and enjoyable. This novel is a thought-provoking read that delves into what it means to be human and worthy of salvation.

Rebecca A. Schriner, CLJ

The Handy Anatomy Answer Book (Second Edition) / by Patricia Barnes-Svarney, Thomas E. Svarney. (Handy Answer Book series) 10.24.2016

Visible Ink Press ISBN 9781578595426

HS Grades 9-12 Rating 4

Have you ever wondered how much skin the average person sheds in a year? Are you intrigued by bone growth and how the human body fits together? Did you know that the average human brain holds trillions of support cells, yet weighs only three pounds? The Handy Anatomy Answer Book, written by Patricia Barnes-Svarney and Thomas E. Svarney, is a general anatomy reference resource, including 1200 topics that range from the history of anatomy to human growth and abnormalities to comparisons between human and animal senses. Bodily systems are introduced in basic terms, utilizing a question and answer approach.

Examples of featured sections include human growth and development, describing ectodermal, mesodermal, and endodermal layers of the organ system, prenatal week-to-week fetal stage development, and hormonal changes that accompany puberty; the nervous system, comparing human and animal reactions to drug and toxin, sleep and dream patterns, and reasons behind the human “fight or flight” response; the lymphatic system, defining allergies, vaccines, and well-known disease, detailing effects on specific body systems, and comparing human and animal reactions to viruses; and the digestive system, highlighting various diseases, ways they can be transmitted, treated, and prevented, and offering holistic tips on nutrition and vitamins.

Science fiction writer and scientist Patricia Barnes-Svarney and co-author Thomas E. Svarney, also a scientist and natural world writer, pose answers to questions that follow a logical progression, from brief one- to two-paragraph answers to multiple pages. Illustrations include color and black-and-white photos, sketches, charts, graphs, tables, and sidebars. Although some topics (e.g.,“iatromathematics,” or “medical astrology,” and dinosaurs, noted to have roamed the earth 230 million years ago) represent a scientific world view, rather than the Christian perspective, overall facts are well-supported.

Reference sections include “Further Readings,” web addresses for notable experts in the field of anatomy, a “Glossary” of terms, and a comprehensive subject index. Visible Ink Press’ Handy Answer Book series is widely known for its comprehensive research, inviting writing style, and subject-specific approach to learning that is both informative and entertaining.

Kim Harris, CLJ