Four Winds / by Lisa T. Bergren. (River of Time: California, 2) 3.28.2017

Bergren Creative Group, Inc. ISBN 9781540508195

HS (Adult) Grades 9 and up Rating: 4

Lisa Bergren concludes her new young adult historical fiction series featuring a contemporary teen living an extraordinary adventure in 1840 California.

In Four Winds, 17-year-old Zara Ruiz meets a handsome ranchero–Javier de la Ventura–when she travels back in time to California, 1840. She finds true love, a family (his extended family), and adventure–her three wishes. But is staying in the past really her future?

When she tries to return to her own time, it doesn’t work. Then the Ventura ranch is attacked, and Zara and Javier’s younger brother Manuel are kidnapped. This causes Javier to wonder if Zara wouldn’t be safer returning to her own time. As much as he loves her, can he help her find her way back? It didn’t work last time but can she return now? Does she want to leave true love behind–and will she?

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. Four Winds is a clean romance (no more than heated kisses) with adventure and plot twists a-plenty.

Her series have a strong sense of faith (evident but not preachy), courtly love, and family. Although self-published, Four Winds is another worthy addition to Bergren’s growing list of young adult fiction.

Highly recommended for young adults, teens, and adult readers. Fans of young adult historical fiction will enjoy Bergren’s new series. Fans of her earlier River of Time series will be delighted with this addition.

Carol R. Gehringer,

A Kids’ Guide to America’s Bill of Rights / by Kathleen Drull; illustrations by Anna Divito. 3.27.2017

HarperCollins Publishers ISBN 9780062352316

MS Grades 5-8 Rating: 4

A Kid’s Guide to America’s Bill of Rights explains, in an understandable way within the first 20 pages, how the Bill of Rights came to be, who wrote it, and why it was needed. This is followed by 10 chapters each covering one of the first 10 Amendments. find an explanation of what the amendments are, why they’re necessary, and what court cases have occurred that have drawn on that particular amendment. The final two chapters briefly cover the 17 other amendments and discuss where the Bill of Rights went wrong.

Kathleen Krull’s work has an index and suggestions for further reading. The illustrations by Anna Divito, used throughout the book, are frequently humorous and enable students to focus on the discussion packed with anecdotes, sidebars, and case studies. The discussion leans toward an approach in seeing the need for the government to solve problems rather than more responsibility being in the hands of the individual, though most students will not recognize the liberal versus conservative approach.

Those having The Bill of Rights: The First Ten Amendments of the Constitution by David L. Hudson, Jr. (Enslow Publishers) have a fairly comparable work. Drull’s work probably enhances more the possibility of discussion.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Resilience / by L. R. Burkard. (Pulse Effex series, 2) 3.24.2017

Lilliput Press     ISBN 9780979215452

HS     Grades 10 and up     Rating: 4

L. R. Burkard pens a sequel to her suspenseful contemporary novel about a major disaster, told from the viewpoint of three teenage girls.

In Resilience, Andrea Patterson, Lexie Martin, and Sarah Weaver are friends with very different family situations. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) hits the earth and technology no longer works. Now their biggest challenge is facing the rumors of foreign militia, U.S. government militia forcing people into government camps, and bands of raiders trying to take their supplies by force.

Andrea joins the Martin family and others on their farm. Lexie longs for the day when she and Blake can get married, and Sarah hopes to reach Aunt Susan’s home in Indiana. Will the U.S. be able to recover from this disaster? Will the girls survive to see another day? What will they have to learn just to survive and move forward?

Burkard uses first-person narrative by the three 16-year-old girls, similar to a journal format. The EMP disaster is a chilling possibility in our future. Ms. Burkard tackles an EMP from a young adult point of view.

By using each girl’s experience, the author depicts realistically what could happen. Resilience is more than just a young adult book–adults will find it a clean read (no drugs, alcohol, or sex) with minimal violence, a book that may cause them to think about how they would face the situation of the electric power grid failing.

Recommended for school and public libraries. The third book in the series, Defiance, will be available later this year (2017).

Carol R. Gehringer,

Still Life / by Dani Pettrey. (Chesapeake Valor, 2) 3.23.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764212956

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Dani Pettrey continues her romantic suspense series set in coastal Maryland, about childhood friends with careers in law enforcement.

In Still Life, crime scene photographer Avery Tate reunites with crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell on a case involving the switching of a photograph at a gallery opening. The model in the photograph is Avery’s friend, who is posing as if she is dead–and what’s worse, she is missing! Avery and Parker dig into the case, following leads that are potentially deadly. Domestic terrorism, psychotic killers, and bizarre artists play into this story.

Pettrey’s series features strong personalities with problems readers can relate to. Avery left Parker’s employ six months ago to sort out her feelings about him. Avery has a past she keeps hidden. She is afraid that when Parker finds out the truth he won’t be interested in her. Parker is attracted to her but still cares for his first love, who was killed a number of years ago.

The faith element is evident: Parker reminds Avery that she is a “new creation in Christ” regardless of her past, and they pray for a friend injured in the line of duty. Their relationship is clean, appropriate for even high school readers.

The plot is intriguing, with enough twists to keep the reader engaged until the end. Watch for loose ends that will probably show up in later books. The violence is a little dark, but appropriate to the story. Suspense, romance, and action add up to a thrilling read!

Recommended for public libraries. Fans of DiAnn Mills and Irene Hannon will especially enjoy this series. Book 3, Blind Spot, is due in October 2017.

Carol R. Gehringer,

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJCold Shot (Mar/Apr/May/Jun 2016).

Explore Colonial America series / by Sarah Gilman. 3.22.2017

The First Thanksgiving / by Sarah Gilman. (Explore Colonial America)

Enslow Publishing ISBN 9780766078697

The Founding of America / by Sarah Gilman. (Explore Colonial America)

Enslow Publishing ISBN 9780766078703

MS Grades 5-8 Rating: 5

Both of these titles, part of the series Explore Colonial America, offer full-color photos, maps, and illustrations to give students an appreciation and picture of colonial life. Each title contains a glossary, timeline, index, and section listing books and websites for further reading.

In The First Thanksgiving, the story explores who the Pilgrims were as well as the Indians living in the colony. Students will learn about the hardships experienced by the Pilgrims and their relationship with the local Wampanoag Indians.

In The Founding of America, students get a close-up view of the active grassroots campaigns among the 13 American colonies to break free from England. In the course of 11 chapters, the discussion centers on the Second Continental Congress, the Continental army, a Declaration of Independence, and the new Constitution. The narrative highlighting the new nation formed enables youth to grasp the uniqueness and importance of this venture and dream, the sacrifices of many, and the bonds achieved.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ


Never Forget / by Jody Hedlund. (Beacons of Hope, 5) 3.21.2017

Northern Lights Press     ISBN 9780692770870

Adult     Rating: 5

Jody Hedlund pens another installment in her historical fiction series, this one set in coastal Rhode Island during the 1880s.

In Never Forget, Abbie Watson cares for her aging grandfather and the Rhode Island Lighthouse, trying to keep them both going. Her grandfather is showing signs of senility, which may lead to their eviction.

Wealthy playboy Nathaniel Winthrop suffers a concussion in a yachting accident, making him lose his recent memories and washing him up on Rose Island. His memory loss causes him to forget the type of man he was–a “bad boy” among Newport’s social elite.

As Abby tends to Nathaniel, he mistakenly assumes he is her husband, Nate, who deserted her recently. He is determined to be a better husband and assistant lightkeeper. Abby doesn’t correct him because his presence soothes Gramps and prevents their possible eviction. What will happen when the truth is discovered? What happened to Nate? Who is digging for treasure on their island? Will Nathaniel leave, continuing his reformed life elsewhere? What will become of her and Gramps?

Hedlund excels in well-researched historical details and rich character development. While this self-published book stands alone, readers might find it helpful to read the earlier books (published by Bethany) to understand the significance of the driftwood cross. These books are a blend of romance and mystery. The faith element is light, with the main characters facing their broken pasts to find their ultimate security in God, not in their circumstances.

Recommended for public and church libraries, and for fans of her earlier books.

Carol R. Gehringer, 

The Bones Will Speak / by Carrie Stuart Parks. (A Gwen Marcey Novel) 3.20.2017

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780825443688

Adult Rating: 4

The Bones Will Speak is the second book in the series about forensic artist Gwen Marcey, written by fine artist/forensic artist Carrie Stuart Parks. When Gwen’s dog comes home with a human skull and then leads her to a nearby cabin in the woods where a young girl is close to death, she realizes there is a serial killer on the loose. As Gwen unearths clues, she discovers the case is personal, and the suspect has her in his sights.

Author Carrie Stuart Parks uses her extensive experience to imbue The Bones Will Speak with accuracy and drama. Vivid description immerses readers into the world of police procedures and crime scene investigation. Ms. Parks’s writing is tight and punchy, creating a fast-paced story. Unfamiliar terms are explained through dialogue without talking down to readers. Because of the subject matter, there are regular episodes of violence; however, they are not gratuitous.

Recommended for church and public libraries.

Linda Matchett, CLJ

Broken Trust / by Jill Williamson. (Mission League: Alaska, 3) 3.17.2017

Novel Teen Press     ISBN 9780988759497

HS Grades 9-12 Rating: 4

Award-winning author Jill Williamson continues her contemporary series, filled with spies and adventures–just the type of book to appeal to teens and tweens, especially boys.

In Broken Trust, Spencer Garamond wants to be a normal teenage boy: a basketball player who hopes to recover from an ACL injury in time to still have a shot at a scholarship. But Spencer isn’t a normal teen– he’s an agent-in-training in the Mission League. His training continues, this time on an outdoor survival trip to Alaska. Spencer is still juggling his relationship with Grace and trying to figure out where Nick fits in with things. When someone close to him appears to betray Spencer and the Mission League, it is hard to know whom to trust. Spencer wants to figure everything out.

In this series, Williamson successfully captures the teenage boy’s challenges and interests: spies, girls, sports, and drugs/alcohol temptation. Spencer is a young adult who struggles with faith issues. He is a reluctant member of the Mission League, yet he is willing to go on these short-term missions.

The series is filled with good and bad examples of teens. Spencer is never far from trouble, both from his own choices and from the actions of others. Despite his choices and injuries, he manages to learn from his experiences, making the reader eager to read his next adventure. As in the other books, the chapters are presented as filed reports, making the timeline easier to follow. Spencer will return for his final adventure in The Profile Match.

Recommended for teen collections in public libraries, church libraries, and school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer,

The Hedge School / by Gloria Whelan. 3.16.2017

Bethlehem Books ISBN 9781932350524

MS Grades 7 and up Rating: 4

Padraic, 15 years old in 1735, is one of three students who are in their last year at a secret Irish school. Gloria Whelan’s The Hedge School takes place during a time in history when Roman Catholics were forbidden by law to attend or teach school or to worship in a Catholic church. But the people revered education, so they created their own schools that met under hedgerows, moving often to avoid discovery. Schoolmasters and priests alike were always in danger; people were jailed or hung at the landowners’ discretion for breaking any law, and there was no legal recourse.

Despite the desperate times, Padraic, Rose and Liam are irrepressible– full of stories of heroes of the Irish resistance to English rule and determined to enact their own rebellions. When the son of a landowner shows them a hidden way to his family’s stables, as a ploy to force Rose to give him her colt, Padraic and the resistance fighters use that knowledge to visit mischief on the hated landowner. Unfortunately, Padraic, reveling in his success, makes a hasty decision that puts everyone in danger from the law.

The hedge school is itself a strong symbol of resistance, but the central idea of the story is the weft of resistance woven through the warp of English power to determine the daily lives of the Irish peasantry. Whalen’s deft portrayal of teenage bluster and recklessness, and especially of Padraic and Rose, give life to the story. She shows Padraic’s close relationships with his family and teacher and his growth through those relationships. It is their coming to his aid without censure that helps him to realize his mistakes, learn from them, and make better decisions for his and Ireland’s future. Whelan’s mastery of complex stories is evident in her plot and inclusion of historical details that set up Padraic’s hatred of the English convincingly. However, her descriptions of the evil landowner, the selfless resistant fighter, the villainous churl, and others rely on stereotypical attitudes, dialogue, and behaviors, which dilute the emotional impact of the story.

Diane Carver Sekeres, CLJ

World War II: History’s Deadliest Conflict series / by Natalie Hyde and Kelly Cochrane. 3.15.2017

Significant People of World War II / by Natalie Hyde. (World War II: History’s Deadliest Conflict)
Crabtree Publishing ISBN 9780778721154

Significant Battles of World War II / by Kelly Cochrane. (World War II: History’s Deadliest Conflict)

Crabtree Publishing ISBN 9780778721147

MS Grades 5-8 Rating: 5

For grades 5 to 8, the series World War II: History’s Deadliest Conflict looks at this worldwide conflict involving alliances between political leaders and military forces from many different countries. Each title, written at guided reading level U, offers a section with Further Reading and Websites, Glossary, and Index. Photographs accompany the text, and timelines and maps make it easier to follow the narrative.

Natalie Hyde’s Significant People of World War II looks at key figures involved during this war. Brief biographies give details of the lives and actions of political leaders Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Truman, Stalin, Hirohito and Tojo; military leaders Rommel, Goring, Conitz, Dowding, Pound, MacArthur, and Patton; as well as flying aces, code breakers, and activists.

Kelly Cochrane’s Significant Battles of World War II follows the significant battles over the course of the war. European countries, their colonies and allies, such as the United States and Canada, supplied forces for battles. The focus continues on the five parts of the world where the fighting took place: western and eastern Europe, North Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, and Asia. With advances in technology since WWI, more destructive fighting occurred on land and on sea. The compelling book explores how victory was won or lost in famous conflicts such as the Battle of the Atlantic, Germany’s Blitzkrieg, the Battle of Britain, Dieppe, Paris, Stalingrad, Berlin, Midway, Pearl Harbor, and the dropping of the atomic bombs.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ