To Win Her Favor / by Tamera Alexander. 4.11.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780310291077

Adult Rating: 5

In To Win Her Favor, Tamera Alexander exposes the ugliness of the bigotry and prejudice prevalent in the post-Civil War South, especially toward freedmen and immigrants. She counters with the unfailing love of God that gently reprimands, lovingly restores, and gives extravagant gifts.

The two main characters are beautifully introduced in the first pages. Maggie is a daughter of the South, living in Nashville in 1869. Her family has suffered the loss of her four brothers and mother, their land is at risk of foreclosure, and her father ill–but Maggie has a plan. She will continue to race the mare she has raised and trained and use the winnings to stave off their creditors. Maggie is naïve and brash, but a good friend and good-hearted, with a rare talent for teaching riding and training horses. Cullen McGrath is an Irish immigrant. He left England to travel to America with his wife and small daughter, both of whom died of pestilence on the journey. He is determined not to repeat the mistakes of his past, and to follow through with his family’s dream. Cullen’s first transaction, to buy a horse, culminates in a fistfight, as a bystander challenges his character. In his search for land, the Lord leads him to Linden Downs, Maggie’s farm. Her father has trusted the Lord throughout his long life, and he uses that confidence in the Lord’s leading to make a deal with Cullen: win Maggie’s favor, take her hand in marriage, and Linden Downs is his.

Alexander’s writing carries the story effortlessly, creating a landscape rich in the scents and sights of the Reconstruction era and a cast that includes a villainous banker, a wealthy patriarch, and a noble freedman, among others. Through the difficulties overcome and the refining of their characters, Cullen and Maggie learn to trust the Lord with their future, as the Lord redeems their pasts through their struggles. The story’s complexity provides abundant storylines for future books with these characters.

Diane Carver Sekeres, 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

Rescue Me / by Susan May Warren. (Montana Rescue, Book 2) 4.6.2017

Revell     ISBN 9780800727444

Adult     Rating: 5

Susan May Warren continues her new contemporary romance series set in Montana and featuring park rescue professionals living in a close-knit community.

In Rescue Me, Deputy Sam Brooks is convinced Sierra Rose is perfect for him–she’s practical and organized, and totally opposite to her free-spirit sister, Willow, who has been secretly in love with Sam for years. Willow wants her sister to have a happily-ever-after ending with Sam, despite her own feelings for him. Sam thinks Willow, a volunteer youth leader, is naïve in her faith and her assessment of what the teens in the youth group need.

When circumstances force Sam and Willow to rely on one another for their safety and that of the kids in the youth group, they fight a strong attraction to each other. Will they recognize their feelings and God’s purpose in their lives?

Warren does a superb job of creating a dramatic story of survival in Glacier National Park where the characters fight an angry grizzly bear, a wintry storm, and a car crash on several field trips. Both have a lot to learn about relying on God and appreciating the different ways that God gifts a person. In Rescue Me, one learns that only God can rescue us from ourselves.

Characters from earlier stories make reappearances, and their stories continue to move along, but this is mainly Willow and Sam’s story. Packed with excellent character and plot development, Warren draws vivid word pictures in her stories, with a faith element that is present but not preachy. Action, drama, adventure, flawed individuals, and emotional and spiritual challenges are hallmarks of Warren’s books.

Recommended for public libraries and church libraries. The next book in the series, A Matter of Trust, is due latter this year (2017).

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJWild Montana Skies (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016).

To Get to You / by Joanne Bischof. 4.5.2017

Mason Jar Books ISBN 9781514637500

HS Grades 9-12 Rating: 5

Eighteen-year-old Riley Kane is desperate to get to the girl who holds his heart and whose family is depending on his arrival during a time of crisis. When his source of transportation fails him and he has no other alternative, Riley must reach out to the last man he wants to see or ever need. To the world, Jake Kane is one of the greatest pro surfers of his time, but to Riley, he is the world’s worst dad, the man who walked away from him and his mom years ago.

Swallowing his hurt and anger for the sake of the girl he loves, Riley accepts his father’s offer to drive him from California to New Mexico. Will they be able to survive the week-long trip or will the roadblocks of hurt, bitterness, and regret be too great to maneuver through?

Worthy of its honor as a 2016 Christy Award finalist, To Get to You by Joanne Bischof is a poignant tale of a father and son who discover second chances and forgiveness on the Pacific Coast Highway in an old Volkswagen van. The story is written from Riley’s perspective, revealing his honest struggles and vulnerability while endearing himself to readers in the process. Riley is a new Christian, complete with mohawk, piercings, skull t-shirt, and a less than perfect past, while Becca, the girl he loves, is a home school graduate with a purity that Riley desires to honor. The contrast in their lives is a beautiful picture of how God looks at the heart rather than the exterior and how His perfect grace is making all things new. The romance between Riley and Becca, which is a secondary focus of the plot, is full of purity, sweetness, and sacrificial love. Holding center stage is Riley and his father’s journey, which is full of painful remorse and lost time that will bring tears but also, in the end, renewed hope for God’s ability to bring healing and restoration.

The overarching theme of this story is surrendered brokenness, held together and made more perfect by the beautiful mystery of grace.

Justina McBride, CLJ

The Wedding Chapel / by Rachel Hauck. 4.4.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780310341529

Adult Rating: 5

Rachel Hauck, who serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and is a conference speaker, provides another work that endears her to many. Contributing to an enjoyable reading of The Wedding Chapel is the dual timeline which prompts readers to keep turning the page. This timeline offers a current-day narrative about Taylor and Jack as well as the history of Jimmy and Colette from the 1940-50s. In The Wedding Chapel she enables the reader to see the story from various perspectives as the story alternates between the four main characters.

Readers who enjoyed Hauck’s earlier The Wedding Dress will again note her ability to portray strong characters that relate to real life. The fact that a variety of relationship journeys are explored–e.g., Jimmy and Collette in their teen years and Taylor and Jack’s development from their first meeting–adds interest to the story’s progression. Hauck’s ability to have the complex characters of Taylor and Jack deal with very real issues conveys a message of forgiveness and hope with ease. Some readers will feel like they are on a sort of time-travel because the story moves back and forth from Heart’s Bend, Tennessee in 1948 in the story of Jimmy and Colette’s lost love and then flashes to today where one encounters the contemporary love story of Jack and Taylor’s troubled marriage in New York. The image of the chapel –built as a monument to true love and ultimately an instrument of reconciliation – as holding the heartbeat of God complements the romance of the story.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Psalm Book: Prayers and Poems for Kids / edited by Naomi J. Krueger; illustrated by Peter Grosshauser. (Spark Story Bible) 4.3.2017

Spark House Family ISBN 9781506417684

PRI K-Grade 5 Rating: 4

Psalm Book: Prayers and Poems for Kids is an illustrated collection of 50 prayers, worded and compiled for young readers.

Nine authors contributed to this 2017 Junior Library Guild Selection, edited by Naomi J. Krueger and organized into four chapters: Prayers of Morning and Evening, Prayers of Praise, Prayers of Comfort, and Prayers of Creation. Each short prayer is titled, referenced to a psalm, and accompanied by an illustration. The prayers reflect a range of thoughts, emotions, and situations.

Imbedded sparkles on the book’s cover suggest that something really special is inside! Cartoon-style illustrations by Peter Grosshauser add brightness and activity to the pages; a friendly green snake playfully appears throughout. The readability and length of the prayers are right on target for children.

A Message for Kids” explains what the psalms are, where to find them in the Bible, and why they are such an expressive part of prayer. “A Message for Grown-ups” encourages parents to help their children engage with the material. Blank pages at the end of the book are included for readers to write their own notes or prayers.

With an intended grade school audience, Psalm Book: Prayers and Poems for Kids offers simple, succinct prayers that children can share and understand. The book’s well-organized format and small size make it the perfect travel companion or bedside devotional.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

The Prince Warriors series / by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler. 3.31.2017

The Prince Warriors / by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler. (The Prince Warriors, 1)

B&H Kids ISBN 9781433690198

The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion / by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler. (The Prince Warriors, 2)

B&H Kids ISBN 9781433690204

The Prince Warriors and the Sword of Rhema / by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler. (The Prince Warriors, 3)

B&H Kids ISBN 9781433690211

INT Grades 3-6 Rating: 4

Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler co-authored this fiction series for children ages 8-12 years old. Xavier and Evan are brothers and used to fighting each other. Now they discover the real battle is in the spiritual realm, and they have been called to fight it using the armor of God.

In The Prince Warriors, Xavier and Evan find themselves in a hidden realm (Ahoratos) where some friends join them, and they learn under the tutelage of Ruwach what it means to be Prince Warriors. He directs them in their first danger-filled adventure and warns them not to take anything from Ahoratos back to their world. Will they defeat the enemy in their first battle with him? What happens when one of them forgets Ruwach’s warning?

In The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion, they face new weapons from the enemy, ones they never even imagined. They are given more armor to help them face the deadly Olethron. Have they learned their lessons well? What about the consequence of those seemingly harmless decisions that went against Ruwach’s instructions? Will that cost them the battle?

In The Prince Warriors and the Sword of Rhema, the Prince Warriors finally receive their long-awaited swords, promised to them when they first began their training in Ahoratos. Now they must face the enemy for the final battle to stop him. Will their swords give them victory? Will they recognize the traitor in their midst?

Gina Detwiler and Priscilla Shirer, author of several best-selling adult non-fiction books, do an excellent job of capturing the voice of the children in this new series. They tackle the non-fiction topic of spiritual warfare through the use of fantasy fiction to reach their target audience. More character development than plot development, the series is an easy read for young readers, filled with adventure, choices, consequences of wrong choices, danger, and wisdom gained from experience. Both boys and girls alike will enjoy this series. Loosely based on Ephesians 6:10-18, the series highlights the armor of God and its application in spiritual warfare.

Recommended for school and public libraries. The authors have also created an app for smartphones and a 365-day devotional (Unseen: The Prince Warriors 365 Devotional)

for their young readers, based on the series.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Hawthorne House series / by Kristi Ann Hunter. 3.30.2017

A Noble Masquerade / by Kristi Ann Hunter. (Hawthorne House, 1)

Bethany House ISBN 9780764214325

An Elegant Façade / by Kristi Ann Hunter. (Hawthorne House, 2)

Bethany House ISBN 9780764218255

Adult Rating: 5

In A Noble Masquerade, Miranda Hawthorne is the epitome of a lady–calm and reserved, showing little emotion. Inwardly, Miranda’s passionate nature threatens to shatter her outward mask, as she struggles with the insecurities of entering her fourth season and jealousy over her younger, spoiled sister. However, she has a secret coping method that would be a complete scandal if ever revealed. Since she was a child, she has been expressing her deepest feelings in letters addressed to the Duke of Marshington, an old friend of her brother’s and someone she has never met. The letters, of course, are never sent, until her brother’s mysterious new valet Marlow finds one and mails it. Miranda panics, certain of her ruination, but much to her shock, the duke writes back. As Miranda and the duke’s correspondence continues, a sinister plot that Marlow seems to be caught up in is unfolding on her brother’s estate and Miranda finds her own life and those she loves in danger.

To high society and her older sister Miranda, Lady Georgina Hawthorne appears confident and perfect, with an air of superiority bordering on snobbery. However, this flawless façade is really a shield, one she has spent years crafting to conceal her disgraceful secret and ensure she makes the match of the year. In An Elegant Façade, the wealthy and begrudgingly handsome but untitled Colin McCrae is a real threat to Georgina’s plans, her secret, and possibly her heart. Will Georgina achieve her lofty ambitions or discover that what she needs is far greater than what she wants?

The “Hawthorne House” series by Kristi Ann Hunter is full of Regency romance, charm, and animated discourse. The first book in the series rightfully earns its honor as a finalist in the 2016 Christy Awards for First Novel by introducing and developing a host of uniquely memorable characters, romantic intrigue, and thrilling mysteries. The main character will instantly charm and endear herself with her inward battles, dry humor, and passion for life. The second book naturally builds upon the first by advancing the plot of two of the formerly supporting characters, revealing a surprising insight that turns a spoiled, unlikeable younger sister into a heroine that readers will grow to love and sympathize with. Each romance holds its own sweetness and heartache. The underlying theme of learning to be oneself is woven throughout both novels, yet in its own unique way.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Robo Tales series / by Jill Williamson and Luke Williamson. 3.29.2017

Tinker / by Jill Williamson and Luke Williamson. (Robo Tales, 1)

Novel Kids Press ISBN 9780996294508

INT Grades 4-5 Rating: 3

Mardok and the Seven Exiles / by Jill Williamson and Luke Williamson. (Robo Tales, 2)

Novel Kids Press ISBN 9780996294522

INT Grades 4-5 Rating: 4

Award-winning author Jill Williamson and her son Luke Williamson co-author this series aimed at young readers, featuring a robotic dog.

In Tinker, 13-year-old Tinker lives with his uncle and two cousins, Grezzer and Ratch, on the planet Kitz. Although his uncle owns the repair shop, Tinker does most of the work. When the Invention Institute holds a Recycle Race, Tinker builds an airbike to compete against his cousins. They sabotage his entry, and a robot dog named Robo helps him fix his entry in time. Who will win the Race and the coveted apprenticeship at the Invention Institute?

In Mardok and the Seven Exiles, Robo flies to the moon Relo on his way to President Cassian. Cadet Riv Mardok is asked by General Gruss to hunt down the Ice Beast. He eagerly accepts the quest but finds himself trapped in a deep pit in the forest. When he calls for help, it is Robo to the rescue. Together with the other exiles, they pursue the Ice Beast, discovering who is behind the strange things happening at the Space Force Military Academy. Can they stop him before Robo flies off to the President?

Ms. Williamson and her son pen convincing stories about Robo and his adventures. It is hard to believe that a robot dog is the main character in these tales, but somehow it works. Williamson used illustrations from a number of young artists, ages 10-15.

Although self-published, these books will appeal to its intended audience. The futuristic spin on a Cinderella story (Tinker) and Snow White (Mardok and the Seven Exiles) will delight readers. In light of the Makerspace movement in libraries, this reviewer recommends Tinker for book clubs.

Recommended for public and school libraries. The third book in the series, The Tiny Cyborg, will be available in 2018.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com