A Peculiar Glory / by John Piper. 2.14.2017

Crossway ISBN 9781433552632

Adult Rating: 5

My argument,” says John Piper as he sums up A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness, “has been that the glory of God, in and through the Scriptures, is a real, objective, self-authenticating reality. Christian faith is not a leap in the dark. It is not a guess or a wager. God is not honored if he is chosen by the flip of a coin. A leap into the unknown is no honor to one who has made himself known.” (pg. 283)

Piper praises, values, but ultimately sets aside the most common evangelical apologetic strategies for promoting the truth of Scripture—the detailed historical investigations into the truth of the resurrection, for example. He instead focuses on the power of the Bible through the Spirit to defend itself. He applies to bibliology (the doctrine of Scripture) his common practice of careful exegetical analysis, copious Bible quotation, penetrating illustration, doctrinal rigor, and warmly personal, even passionate writing.

And, as always with Piper, Jonathan Edwards lies only just beneath the surface, breaking out at key points to deliver special insight. Piper insightfully points out that the detailed historical reasoning of an N.T. Wright (in the magisterial and massive The Resurrection of the Son of God) is simply inaccessible to most lay people today—just like the profundities of Jonathan Edwards’ theology, though wonderfully edifying for the church then and now, were not suited to Edwards’ missionary work among the Mohicans. Edwards realized that if these unlettered people were to be among “all the families of the earth” that God intended to bless through Abraham’s seed, Jesus, the gospel would have to be accessible to them. They would have to grasp its truth without the intermediation of detailed historical, theological, or other reasoning. They would have to come to the sweetness of the gospel the way they came to understand the sweetness of honey: by direct experience (in this case, enabled by the Holy Spirit through His own words).

If this sounds esoteric, it really isn’t: Piper is handling a very basic question every Christian must face: how can I know that the Bible is true? Piper shows that the Bible claims complete truthfulness for itself; it claims repeatedly to be the speech of God. But how can we know that these claims are accurate? The answer is that God, in order to glorify Himself, has to show the truth of His words. This is a richly biblical book about the Bible; it stands squarely in the Reformation tradition while applying a Reformed bibliology to modern times.

Mark L. Ward, Jr., CLJ

Making Mistakes on Purpose: Sequel to Ms. Rapscott’s Girls / by Elise Primavera. 2.13.2017

Dial Books     ISBN 9780803738249

INT     Grades 3–6     Rating: 4

Author/illustrator Elise Primavera pens a sequel about girls at an unusual boarding school. The girls’ parents love them but are too busy to teach them life lessons, so the headmistress teaches them using silly lessons and adventures.

In Making Mistakes on Purpose, Bea, Mildred, Fay, Annabelle, and Dahlia return for their second term at Great Rapscott School for Girls of Busy Parents. Since Dahlia was lost last year and ended up at the Mr. Everbest Academy for Boys, she is careful to follow directions this time. However, Fay goes to the wrong address because she doesn’t follow directions. Ms. Rapscott, their headmistress, teaches the girls How to Get to the Top after they land at the Bottom of the Barrel. The girls learn how to Make a Bad Day Good, as well as How to Celebrate a Birthday. Making mistakes and learning from them becomes their biggest adventure.

Elise Primavera provides delightful black-and-white illustrations throughout the text. They add to the whimsy of the story. Readers will enjoy Ms. Rapscott as she teaches the girls who never learned to peel a hard-boiled egg, or take matters into their own hands. The story inspires thinking and learning to fail in order to succeed. More plot development than character development, Making Mistakes on Purpose is a delightful book to read. The ending leaves one wondering what will happen in the next semester.

Recommended for school and public libraries. Fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Stewart), Mary Poppins (P. L. Travers), and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (Betsy MacDonald) will enjoy this book.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Ladies of the Manor series / by Roseanna M. White. 2.10.2017

The Lost Heiress / by Roseanna M. White. (Ladies of the Manor, 1)

Bethany House ISBN 9780764213502

The Reluctant Duchess / by Roseanna M. White. (Ladies of the Manor, 2)

Bethany House ISBN 9780764213519

A Lady Unrivaled / by Roseanna M. White. (Ladies of the Manor, 3)

Bethany House ISBN 9780764213526

Adult Rating: 5

Multi-talented author/editor/designer Roseanna White presents her Ladies of the Manor series, set in Edwardian England.

In The Lost Heiress, Brook Eden grew up in Monaco with the royal family, though not really a family member. Her friend Justin discovers Brook might be the long-lost heiress from Yorkshire. She travels to Whitby Park, the family estate where her father quickly accepts her. But the rest of the family does not. When Brook’s life is threatened and she is kidnapped because of rare diamonds in her possession, can Justin save her in time? And is there really a curse on the Fire Eyes diamonds?

In The Reluctant Duchess, a Highland clansman tries to force Lady Rowena Kinnaird into marriage by attacking her. Her family schemes to trap the visiting Brice Mysterston, Duke of Nottingham, into offering marriage to Rowena. Brice resists until he meets Rowena’s “betrothed” and decides to protect her. When Brice took the rare red diamonds from Brook and Justin to protect them, he was single. Now that he is married, will their curse extend to his wife? Can he protect her while trying to bring Brook’s kidnapper to justice?

In A Lady Unrivaled, Lady Ella Myerston decides she will take action to protect her friends from further danger of the Fire Eyes diamonds. Lord James Cayton broke two ladies’ hearts, and now he wants to mend his ways. But old acquaintances try to lure him into stealing the diamonds. Lady Ella intrigues him and he tries to protect her, but she won’t stay out of danger. What happens when they discover their true feelings for one another, in the midst of a desperate attempt to steal the jewels?

White’s exciting series is more than a group of novels about relationships between the main characters. Elements of mystery, faith, lore, and danger permeate the series. More character than plot development (although the plots are well-developed with a number of twists), each book is rich in historical detail, family history, as well as romance and adventure. The relationships are wholesome, making these books “clean reads.”

Highly recommended to public libraries and school libraries. Fans of the TV series, Downton Abbey will love this series with its interaction between the upper crust and downstairs staff. Julie Klassen, Sarah Ladd, and Carrie Turansky fans will also enjoy this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

The Silent Songbird / by Melanie Dickerson. 2.9.2017

Thomas Nelson     ISBN 9780718026318

HS     Grades 9-12     Rating: 5

Award-winning author Melanie Dickerson continues her medieval retelling of fairy tales, this time loosely basing her novel on the story of The Little Mermaid.

In The Silent Songbird, 17-year-old Evangeline, cousin to King Richard II, is known for her beautiful singing voice. She is unhappily betrothed to a much older man whose character is suspect and whose first wife died under mysterious circumstances. Evangeline runs away, seeking a life where she can marry for love instead of politics.

She pretends to be a mute servant to avoid detection and joins a band of servants on their way to their home. She becomes acquainted with Westley le Wyse, who is intrigued by her. But when the truth is revealed, it shatters any hope of a future together. When Evangeline finds herself in the midst of a plot that threatens the king, where can she turn?

As in her earlier books, the faith element is clearly evident yet not preachy. Dickerson’s tales feature wholesome relationships while still building a strong attraction between the main characters, making this a good choice for teen readers. Dickerson is a masterful storyteller with a carefully crafted plot, richly-drawn characters, and detailed setting. The reader is easily pulled into the story.

Recommended for young adults and adults who are young at heart.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

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

A Mia Quinn Mystery series / by Lis Wiehl. 2.2.2017

A Matter of Trust / by Lis Wiehl. (A Mia Quinn Mystery, 1)

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9781595549037

A Deadly Business / by Lis Wiehl. (A Mia Quinn Mystery, 2)

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9781595549044

Lethal Beauty / by Lis Wiehl. (A Mia Quinn Mystery, 3)

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9781595549051

Adult Rating: 4

The series centers on Mia Quinn, who is facing both personal and professional struggles in her life. Mia’s recently deceased husband left behind a staggering amount of debt, so she has returned to her job as a prosecutor in Seattle’s King County Violent Crimes Unit. It is not an easy adjustment, especially with her heavy workload and the demands of motherhood. Mia’s dad, who has recently surrendered his life to Christ, is the one witness for Mia. Will she learn to trust God again?

Lis Wiehl starts off each book with a gripping scene that pulls readers into the stories and makes them want to read more. The books include a series of in-depth questions that are perfect for reading group discussions.

In A Matter of Trust, Mia is busy with two high profile cases, both of which have the serious potential to either advance or derail her career. She is the lead investigator looking into the murder of a colleague and the suicide of a teenager linked to bullying. Mia is not pleased when her boss assigns her to work with Charlie Carlson, a homicide detective, with whom she has some unpleasant past work history. Mia struggles with trying to fulfill her duties as a full-time prosecutor while also dealing with a rebellious teenage son and a preschooler who suffers from nightmares.

In A Deadly Business, Mia’s boss, who is in a tight race for re-election, puts into her hands the decision of whether to try three teenage boys as juveniles or adults. Mia is under a time constraint, and the fallout from her decision could affect her job security. At the same time, Charlie suspects that the death of Mia’s husband was not an accident, but murder, so Mia and Charlie end up conducting an unofficial investigation. Between the two cases, personal issues, and taking on a second job to help make ends meet, Mia is trying to find balance in her life.

In Lethal Beauty, Mia is involved in a prominent businessman’s trial for the murder of a Chinese prostitute who is an illegal immigrant. After a mistrial is declared, Mia refuses to give up on proving the businessman’s guilt. While Mia and Charlie work together to try and find more evidence to justify a retrial, more dead bodies are discovered. It is up to Mia and Charlie to figure out if there is a connection between the murders. Meanwhile, her son Gabe has made some decisions in order to improve his self-image that could lead to trouble not only for himself but also for his family. Will Mia’s personal and professional lives clash?

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

A Hidden Springs Mystery series / by A. H. Gabhart. 2.1.2017

Murder at the Courthouse / by A. H. Gabhart. (A Hidden Springs Mystery, 1)

Revell ISBN 9780800726768

Murder Comes by Mail / by A. H. Gabhart. (A Hidden Springs Mystery, 2)

Revell ISBN 9780800727055

Adult Rating: 4

Nothing ever happens in Hidden Springs, Kentucky! Or say they so until the body of a stranger turns up at the courthouse and following that, another dead body, this one a local that everyone knows. Deputy Michael Keane is the protagonist in these mysteries, a likable and very low-key main character who thought his new job would be stress-free and relaxing. With two murders on his hand in Murder at the Courthouse, he finds that every citizen seems to have a theory of “whodunit.” But following these leads is his job, no matter how crazy they might sound, and surely one of them will lead him to the killer.

In the second in the series, Murder Comes by Mail, Deputy Keane saves a man from suicide and is touted by the whole town as a hero. When Michael becomes convinced that the man he saved has gone on to become a murderer, he feels like anything but a hero and must protect those he loves in Hidden Springs from being the next victims.

A. H. Gabhart fills her books with odd but lovable characters (although at times her use of their idiosyncrasies is rather repetitive). The books are clean but not necessarily gentle reads as evidenced in the second title where there are some rather violent murders. There is just a hint of romance, also, which may be developed in ensuing books. This series is not overtly Christian yet Christianity is woven to some extent into the plots.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge / by Monica Kulling; illustrated by Bill Slavin. (Great Ideas series) 1.31.2017

Tundra Books ISBN 9781770495227

PRI K-Grade 4 Rating: 4

In 1884, Nikola Tesla leaves his native Croatia for New York, bringing a new concept about electricity. Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge is a picture book telling of Tesla’s early ideas, which advanced the use of electric lighting and hydroelectric power in America.

Author Monica Kulling focuses on the bright immigrant’s enthusiasm and innovation, and his model of electricity (alternating current) that challenged Edison’s design (direct current). Her book introduces young readers to Tesla, his competitive relationship with Edison, his role in electrifying the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and his dream of “harnessing” the power of Niagara Falls.

Handsome digitally-colored pen-and-ink sketches by Bill Slavin complement the tone, time period, and setting, with muted greys and browns evoking the grittiness of early industrial America.

Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge is an interesting biographical sketch, well-suited for both school and home libraries. The author provides a list of book and internet sources. “Electric Cat,” a short poem about young Niko’s fascination with static electricity, and “Tesla’s Robot,” an account of Nikola’s later invention of a radio-controlled toy boat, add additional information and insight.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

From This Moment / by Elizabeth Camden. 1.30.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217210

Adult Rating: 4

Artist Stella West has given up her dream of artistic success in London to hunt for her sister’s murderer in Boston. While the police and medical examiner swear Gwendolyn’s drowning was an accident, Stella insists on foul play. She goes undercover at City Hall to look for a man that Gwendolyn wrote about in her final letters.

Seeking the help of Romulus White, co-owner of the famous magazine Scientific World, Stella risks sharing her tale. As Stella reveals the tragedy of her sister’s death, confirmed bachelor Romulus sees an opportunity to trade his public influence for her artwork. Romulus is powerful, stylish, ornery–and handsome. Could Stella’s choice of involving him get in the way of finding the true killer?

Clues that indicate a cover-up surface, but the more Romulus gets involved with the whirlwind that is Stella West, the more trouble he encounters. If he pursues her wild story, it could mean the demise of his magazine and reputation. But if he doesn’t, Gwendolyn’s killer could return to finish off her sister.

Elizabeth Camden is a skilled writer who knows how to use her setting as a character. The ideas of the first American subway, snail mail, telegrams, and train travel play major roles in the plot of this novel. Her word choices fit the era, and her point of view changes between Stella and Romulus allow readers to see two unique perspectives as these characters come together to deal with their problems.

While the main characters both have bold and distinct personalities, their character development (apart from their affections toward each other) seems minor compared to the greater character arches found in the supporting characters, notably Romulus’s cousin Evelyn and her ex-husband. Readers will see multiple characters relying on God in their greatest moments of struggle for physical salvation and redemption of broken relationships.

Readers of romance, history, and mystery will enjoy the suspense of this dramatic narrative. As the plot unfolds, readers will love becoming pseudo-detectives with Stella and Romulus as they solve this murder mystery and deduce the killer’s identity.

Rebecca Schriner, 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).