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).

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