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

Season of Fire / by Lisa T. Bergren. (Remnants, 2) 10.20.2016

Blink ISBN 9780310735656

HS (Adult) Grades 9-12 Rating: 4

Season of Fire is book two in the Remnants series by Lisa Bergren. A struggle for the hearts and minds of the world continues between the Ailith, who seek to lead people to the Maker, and the emperor, Keallach–a rogue Ailith–and his dark forces who seek control over the people. Andriana, an empath, is caught in the middle as she uses the gifting the Maker gave her to help others–even Keallach–to seek the Maker. However, forces stronger than her own have the potential to undermine her gift unless she remembers to fully rely on the Maker.

With the exception of life and death battles, the struggles encountered by the Ailith mirror the struggles of teens today. Learning to lean on God when life doesn’t make sense, what to do with romantic feelings and actions when the time is not right, how to determine God’s leading in life, how to know what’s next, how to lead others to Jesus, and how to handle negative feelings are all a part of the Maker’s journey for the Ailith. As Andriana and Ronan encounter situations that they can’t control, they continue to learn to lean on the Maker. The plot moves along quickly with the Ailith as they find themselves in perilous situations in which they must fight or flee. The point of view switches back and forth between Ronan and Andriana, sprinkling additional tension throughout the book. Tumultuous circumstances cause Andriana to repeat variations of this theme: “No matter how it feels…you are never alone…Remember that.” (p. 379)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJ: Season of Wonder (November/December 2014).

The Steadfast Love Series / by Rachelle Rea. 10.11.2016

 

The Sound of Diamonds / by Rachelle Rea. (The Steadfast Love Series, 1)

WhiteFire Publishing     ISBN 9781939023599

The Sound of Silver / by Rachelle Rea. (The Steadfast Love Series, 2)

WhiteFire Publishing     ISBN 9781939023612

The Sound of Emeralds / by Rachelle Rea. (The Steadfast Love Series, 3)

WhiteFire Publishing     ISBN 9781939023636

HS Grades 8-12     Rating: 4

Rachelle Rea makes her debut with a medieval young adult series about a Catholic maiden and a Protestant former rogue in the midst of the 16th century Protestant-Catholic conflict.

In The Sound of Silver, Gwyneth, an eighteen-year-old Catholic woman, hides in a Dutch convent after the murder of her parents in England. Suddenly one night, Dirk–the man she accused of their murder–breaks into her convent to abduct her. In truth, he is trying to rescue her from the imminent attacks on the Catholics in the area. Can she trust this Protestant rogue, even when he says he has reformed? Can she afford not to?

In The Sound of Silver, Dirk and Gwyneth discover her parents’ murderer and the reason behind their murders. Mindful of his ruined reputation and its impact on Gwyn’s reputation, Dirk leaves her in the care of his mother and rides away. Meanwhile, Gwyn enlists the aid of an old friend to try to clear Dirk’s name, but what is her friend’s motive for helping her? How will Gwyn and Dirk have a future together unless he is declared innocent and his honor is restored?

In The Sound of Emeralds, the story of Dirk and Gwyneth continues in 16th century Europe where the tension between Catholics and Protestants blazes. What started as hatred between them eventually evolves into lasting love. But happy endings are not guaranteed. As Dirk struggles to clear his name before he faces deadly consequences, Gwyn finds out that he has kept secrets from her. Will a friend from her past be an ally or an enemy to clearing Dirk’s name?

Rea has a knack for penning a storyline that is as unique as the main characters she creates. How many heroines need glasses, especially in historical fiction? Her book is carefully researched and grabs the reader’s attention from the first page. The series is filled with plenty of plot twists.

Written in alternating first-person point-of-view, the reader feels right in the middle of the action. Gwyneth and Dirk develop a relationship as they depend on one another in trying circumstances. Faith elements are interwoven and integral to the plot. The Sound of Emeralds presents God’s peace, in the same way the earlier books had the themes of hope and truth. Rea carefully balances the Catholic and Protestant faith without being overly critical of either. She creates flawed individuals in a troubled time in church history.

Recommended for teen collections in school and public libraries. Fans of Melanie Dickerson, Lisa Bergren, and Jody Hedlund (authors of young adult medieval fiction) will enjoy this new author’s works.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

 

Courageous / by Dina L. Sleiman. (Valiant Hearts, 3) 10.7.2016

Bethany ISBN 9780764213144

HS Grades 10-12 and up Rating: 5

Dina Sleiman continues her young adult series with a story about a young woman who is inspired to join a crusade.

In Courageous, Rosalind of Ipsworth joins a crusade to free captives from a Tripoli prison. Haunted by a mistake in her past, Rosalind feels she is unworthy to even consider marriage and a family. She is joined by Sir Randel Penigree, who dreams of becoming a Templar knight, even though he flees humiliation at home. Together they train a group of older children and face political intrigue and an unknown enemy while on their journey to set prisoners free. Will they find redemption from their past? Will they be successful in their attempt to rescue the prisoners?

Both plot and character driven, Courageous is another novel set in the Middle Ages from Sleiman, with strong female characters. The author handles the crusades with sensitivity and detailed research. She also touches on the tenets of a different belief system as Rosalind befriends a Muslim woman, giving the reader some insight into her culture. Redemption and forgiveness are strong themes in this book. Faith elements are strong but not overpowering.

Her main characters (who were secondary characters from earlier books in the series) are realistic and flawed, carrying burdens of guilt from their past and struggling to accept forgiveness. The author provides enough backstory for the reader to understand past actions. The book’s epilogue concludes the series with updates from the other books.

Recommended for public libraries and school libraries. Fans of medieval young adult books by Melanie Dickerson and Lisa Bergren will enjoy this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Dauntless (May/June 2015); Chivalrous (November/December 2015).

Pulse / by L. R. Burkard. (Pulse Effex series, 1) 9.19.2016

Lilliput Press ISBN 9780979215483

HS Grade 10 and up Rating: 4

L. R. Burkard, a new voice to young adult fiction, wrote a number of adult historical romances under the name Linore Rose Burkard. Her first venture into YA fiction is Pulse, a suspenseful contemporary novel about a major disaster, told from the viewpoint of three teenage girls.

In Pulse, an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) hits the earth and life comes to a grinding halt. Andrea Patterson, Lexie Martin, and Sarah Weaver are friends with very different family situations: Andrea comes from a wealthy family, Lexie lives on a farm, and Sarah lives on the top floor of an apartment building. When the EMP hits, they must face their worst nightmare–the failure of the electric grid. Sarah’s family has been preparing for disaster, but not the others. What happens to family relationships, neighbors, and life in general when technology comes to a stop? Who will survive beyond a few days when food starts running out?

Burkard uses first-person narration by the three 16-year-old girls, similar to a journal format. The EMP disaster is a chilling possibility in our future. By using each girl’s experience, the author depicts realistically what could happen. Pulse is more than a young adult book–adults will find it a clean (no drugs, alcohol, or sex) book with minimal violence, a book that may cause them to think about how they would face the situation of the electric power grid failing. Ms. Burkard tackles an EMP from a young adult point of view in this book. Readers who read this book might consider the real possibility of an EMP and how to plan for that.

Recommended for school and public libraries. Resilience, the second book in this series, was published in May 2016.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com