A Memphis Cold Case Novel series / by Patricia Bradley. 10.23.2018

Justice Delayed / by Patricia Bradley. (A Memphis Cold Case Novel, 1)

Revell ISBN 9780800727086

Justice Buried / by Patricia Bradley (A Memphis Cold Case Novel, 2)

Revell ISBN 9780800727123

Adult Rating: 5

In Justice Delayed, investigative journalist, Andi Hollister, obtains new information regarding the murder of her sister 18 years earlier. Andi’s friend is to be executed in three days when he receives a letter telling him he hadn’t committed the murder. Unfortunately, by the time Andi and Will, a cold-case detective, visit Jimmy in prison, the letter has been stolen. Andi’s life is on the line while she seeks justice for her sister and tries to ascertain Jimmy’s guilt or innocence.

Kelsey Allen hopes to start a security consulting agency in Justice Buried. In the meantime, she consults for another company and her jobs include hacking computer and building security systems, as well as scaling walls and breaking into buildings without getting caught. When she is hired to work undercover at the Pink Palace Museum to investigate some missing items as well as check their security, she has no idea the current case will be so closely linked to a cold case that personally affects her. She also has no idea that accepting the position will bring her into regular contact with Brad Hollister–the boy she once had a crush on who crushed her feelings in return in high school. Now a cold case investigator, he is indispensable to closing the case and to keeping Kelsey alive.

Patricia Bradley’s Memphis Cold Case novels are a suspense lover’s delight! The plot takes off from the beginning and rockets to the end. While puzzling through information, the characters also have to puzzle through some of the intricacies of developing relationships. Though plot-driven, the strong female protagonists grow as they overcome personal hurdles. Plentiful dialogue moves the story along and unfolds the character’s personalities. As the characters take on their challenges, fall in love, solve crimes, and encounter deadly situations, they realize their need for God’s help in their journey.

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

The Liberator series / by Stephenia H. McGee. 10.22.2018

Leveraging Lincoln: A Civil War Novel / by Stephenia H. McGee. (The Liberator, 1)

Vine Press ISBN 9780997866018

Adult Rating: 5

Losing Lincoln / by Stephenia H. McGee. (The Liberator, 2)

Vine Press ISBN 9780997866025

Adult Rating: 5

Labeling Lincoln / by Stephenia H. McGee. (The Liberator, 3)

Vine Press ISBN 9781635640069

Adult Rating: 4

Caught in the middle of the Civil War, Annabelle Ross runs a hospital from her Southern plantation, sending partially recovered soldiers back to war and burying the rest. In Leveraging Lincoln, Annabelle is looking for any excuse to avoid marrying her step-uncle, a scheme that would allow her grandfather to claim her land. When a soldier passes her an urgent note for the Confederate army, she tries to fulfill his dying wish by delivering the message. She is apprehended as a spy until Matthew, a wounded soldier, helps her escape. Could his brother, a prisoner of war, have been her childhood betrothed and the only one who could help save her land? Or is Matthew planning to use the note to kidnap the Union president?

In Losing Lincoln, Matthew and Annabelle have escaped Booth’s president-kidnapping conspiracy and are searching for George, Matthew’s brother. Their prayers are answered when a flood allows George to escape his prison camp. Despite Matthew’s affection toward Annabelle, he leaves her to fall for his brother. Matthew follows one of the conspirators back to their crazed leader, O’Malley, in hopes of stopping the kidnapping. Will Matthew and Annabelle’s attempts to protect Lincoln be enough to save him?

Labeling Lincoln exposes the aftermath of the assassination of Lincoln. Annabelle, Matthew, and George are detained—despite trying to help the police. Believing he has no choice, Matthew signs allegiance papers to help the Union army track Booth and free his brother and love. After being kidnapped by a vicious O’Malley, Matthew’s chances of returning to Annabelle appear slim.

While the first two books focus on the plot with subtle moral lessons, the third book is more preachy. Ideas such as the evils of alcohol, lying, and hate turning into drunkenness, deceit, and demon possession pervade this final chapter. The answer to overcoming all these problems is love and God. Regardless of the overdone conclusion, this is a wonderful series.

Every detail of The Liberator trilogy proves author Stephenia McGee’s dedication to research. Her writing is clear and compelling, leaving the perfect amount of suspense to keep readers flipping pages. She chooses to focus on loveable, fictional characters to tell Lincoln’s story. Adult readers of historical fiction and romance will fall in love with this twist on Lincoln’s assassination.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

When We Collided / by Emery Lord. 10.19.2018

Bloomsbury ISBN 9781619638457

YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 4

When We Collided centers around two 16-year-old teenagers who connect in a memorable way in the small coastal California town of Verona Cove over one summer. Vivian “Vivi” Alexander is into art and quirky fashion, has boundless energy, and makes spontaneous decisions. Jonah Daniels is serious, rarely smiles, and passionate about cooking. When the teenagers meet at a local pottery shop, they are immediately attracted to one another and become romantically involved. However, their relationship is profoundly affected by the tough issues both are facing in their lives. Vivi is dealing with mental illness and secretly tossing one of her prescription drugs into the ocean every day. Jonah is struggling to cope with the unforeseen death of his father, his mother’s debilitating depression, and parental and household responsibilities.

The story is told from the perspective of both Vivi and Jonah using alternating chapters in first person. This gives readers a realistic view of what the teenagers are thinking and feeling, and the effects emotional distress has not only on their relationship but also on friends and family members. The teenagers help each other cope with their individual challenges by offering support in a number of ways. For instance, although Jonah feels weighed down by responsibility, Vivi persuades him to relax and have fun, allowing Jonah to discover he enjoys acting carefree, even if only for a short time. On the occasions Vivi exhibits outlandish behavior, Jonah is the one who encourages her to rein in her actions. At the same time, the teenagers’ different personalities sometimes lead to conflicts, and an unplanned accident has a life-changing impact on both of them.

Emery Lord has written a compelling novel about what it means to live with mental illness and bereavement. The story includes profanity, discussions involving reincarnation, sexual innuendo and sexual intimacy, under-age drinking, and skinny dipping. In the author’s note, Lord encourages readers, who relate to what Vivi and Jonah are going through, to ask for help and provides resources that offer expertise in mental health issues.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

Amish Beginnings series / by Suzanne Woods Fisher. 10.18.2018

The Newcomer / by Suzanne Woods Fisher. (Amish Beginnings series, 2)

Revell ISBN 9780800727499

The Return / by Suzanne Woods Fisher. (Amish Beginnings series, 3)

Revell ISBN 9780800727505

Adult Rating: 4

Anna and Bairn’s story continues in The Newcomer. Having just arrived in the New World, Bairn finally reunites with the family who thought him dead. However, the years of living apart from his Amish family and faith are not so easily erased, and Bairn finds himself restless and unsure of where he belongs. When he is offered a position as first mate, he jumps at the chance.

Anna cannot believe he would leave her or his family so soon after finding them, and she begins to fear that the pull of the world and the sea will always keep him from her. Will Bairn find his way back to Anna and to his Amish roots? If so, will she still be waiting for him as she promised?

In The Return, Betsy Zook and Tessa Bauer find themselves infatuated with the same man, handsome Hans; however, it is clear that Hans’ affections lie with Betsy. When Betsy is captured by Natives and taken far from all she knows and loves, will her faith and the faith of a young Native man be enough to sustain her through her loss and heartache? Meanwhile, Tessa finally gains Hans’ attention, but will she ever win his heart?

In books two and three of Suzanne Woods Fisher’s “Amish Beginnings” series, old characters are revisited and new ones introduced, bringing the satisfaction of resolution and continued interest for fans of the first book. Fisher does an excellent job maintaining characterization throughout this series, while authentically merging fiction with history to weave a story of hope without shying away from the harsh realities of an untamed land. Romance, adventure, and suspense keep the pages turning, while the inner struggles and growth of the main characters will challenge and evoke a range of emotions.

Themes of forgiveness, coming home, letting go, and holding on are woven throughout the trials and lessons these characters endure along their personal journeys of life, love, and faith. Anna, Betsy, and Tessa are three women with unique personalities and experiences, but each possesses the same steadfast spirit necessary to survive the pioneer life. With its charm, flawed characters, and enduring faith, this series will be a favorite among fans of Amish and historical fiction.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJ: Anna’s Crossing (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016)

The Story Peddler / by Lindsay A. Franklin. (The Weaver Trilogy, 1) 10.17.2018

Enclave ISBN 9781683701361

YA Grades 9 and up Rating: 5

Lindsay Franklin debuts a new young adult fantasy series where storytelling is a gift, one that a wicked king wants to control.

In The Story Peddler, an orphaned peasant girl Tanwen tells stories and weaves crystalized sculptures that she sells to her audience under the tutelage of a cruel mentor. Her dream is to become a Royal Storyteller someday. Tanwen travels around the countryside, selling “crowned” stories (official versions of the stories the way the king wants them told). One day she is telling a story and feels compelled to speak different words, words that tell the truth, but not the “crowned” version. That brings her to the attention of the king, and not in a good way. As the king’s guardsmen hunt her down, she is “rescued” by a band of rebels–story weavers with various gifts who teach her more about her gift. Tanwen discovers secrets about her gift and her family. On the run, will Tanwen find her destiny?Franklin does an excellent job of creating a world where spoken words have magic as they take on new meaning.

The cover shows colorful threads that the storyteller weaves together in telling the story. Her word pictures capture the imagination of the reader and the action builds with each turning page. Tanwen, Brac, Mor, and the other weavers are engaging characters. The dialogue is witty, the plot has several twists and turns, and the faith element is light but still inspirational (Creator vs. goddesses). This is a good vs. evil battle fantasy that will be enjoyed for its colorful imagery, rebels, traitors, unlikely heroes, a princess, a king, and more.

Recommended for young adults, older teens, and fantasy fans, especially fans of Mary Weber, Nadine Brandes, and Sara Ella. Watch for book 2, The Story Mage coming in 2019.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Conspiracy of Silence / by Ronie Kendig. 10.16.2018

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217654

Adult Rating: 5

Tzivia Khalon, an archaeologist, seeks to redeem her professional reputation following a disaster that happened three years earlier. She thinks her most current discovery will do just that in Conspiracy of Silence. Little does she know the threat found within the biblical era discovery. A special ops soldier, Cole “Tox” Russell, presumed dead by all who love him, returns when his country needs him to neutralize the assassin of the former vice president. As Tox assembles his team, forces are at work to access and proliferate a toxin that could kill those with whom it comes into contact. Haven “Kasey” Cortes, FBI deception detector, once had a schoolgirl crush on Cole, and now holds his freedom in her hands. Tox and his team must find not only the assassin responsible for so much death, but also those bent on spreading a plague.

Ronie Kendig’s suspenseful plot moves quickly. In addition to locating and taking down the assassin, the team of characters must find the source of the plague as well as its remedy before it spreads throughout the world. This mission takes them from the United States to Saudi Arabia, to India then Jerusalem, and finally to Syria and beyond. Each piece of the puzzle seems to add a new layer of history or mystery to their search. In addition to the high stakes plot, the characters face some life-changing realizations–if they can see them. Cole fears hurting those he loves more than anything and must overcome that fear if he is to have any meaningful relationships with them. Tzivia’s lack of faith blinds her to possibilities that could solve a devastating outbreak of a plague. Kasey feels dwarfed by the shadow of her sister which sometimes blinds her to feelings others have for her. As they seek answers and justice, they also seek redemption–some professional, some relational, and some spiritual. And whether they see it or not, Kendig shows that God is there–offering redemption and rescue all along the way.

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask about Having a Disability / by Shane Burcaw; photographs by Matt Carr. 10.15.2018

Roaring Brook Press ISBN 9781626727717

PRI Grades 1-5 Rating: 5

Shane Burcaw answers questions about living with spinal muscular atrophy in Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask about Having a Disability.

The author has a small body and extremely weak muscles due to SMA. He candidly addresses the curiosity of young readers by explaining that he is “just a little different”. Photographs by Matt Carr capture Burcaw’s personality and show his many capabilities alongside his physical challenges.

Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask about Having a Disability is written with sincerity, humor, and insight. The author’s openness and positive outlook help to educate readers of all ages about living with a disability.

An Author’s Note contains additional reflections of the author and information about his non-profit organization.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Grand Canyon / by Jason Chin. 10.12.2018

Roaring Brook Press ISBN 9781596439504

INT Grades 3-5 Rating: 5

Using a narrative of a girl and her father hiking throughout the canyon, going from present day to the past and back again, Jason Chin’s Grand Canyon presents information appealing to the imagination of third to fifth graders. The journey enables children to understand how rivers wind through earth, eroding the soil for millions of year, creating what is the Grand Canyon, a cavity 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and more than a mile deep. The illustrations in this 2018 Caldecott Honor Book add a lot to the narrative by capturing the feel of this high desert landscape and each elevation’s own ecological zone.

The breathtaking walk covers an astonishing variety of plants and animals that have lived within its walls for millennia. In Chin’s illustrations, one grasps many details about geology, geography, and biology. A double foldout clearly offers testimony that the Grand Canyon is much more than a big hole in the ground.

Along the way, children also gain an appreciation for Southwestern biomes, sedimentary geology, and the discoveries to be made in observing and being close to nature. Chin provides further notes and illustrations covering the canyon’s history, ecology, human settlement, and geology in the closing section of the book.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats / by Dori Hillestad Butler ; Illustrated by Nancy Meyers. 10.11.2018

Peachtree Publishers ISBN 9781561458776

PRI K-Grade 2 Rating: 4

King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats by Dori Hillestad Butler is a short chapter book with illustrations that is ideal for beginning readers, as well as an appealing mystery story for early elementary students.

King is a dog explaining the Case of the Missing Dog Treats from his point of view. He loves the dog treats his friend Kayla is making, but he must share this time. When some go missing the thought is King has taken them. He has not, so he is determined to find out who has taken the treats and clear his name. King wants to prove he is not a bad dog.

Readers will be eager to find out what happens next as the story holds their interest to the end. King is a lovable dog, and readers will feel for him and hope he can solve the case and prove he is a good dog. Problem–solving skills are also presented as the mystery progresses through the book.

Colorful illustrations by Nancy Meyers throughout the book go along perfectly with the story. These are nice visuals adding details to the storyline and depth for the reader.

Did King really gobble up the treats he loves so much instead of sharing? Or does he find who actually took the missing dog treats? Find out all the answers in this adorable mystery perfect for beginning readers.

Charity R. Bartley Howard, CLJ

My Kite is Stuck! And Other Stories / by Salina Yoon. 10.10.2018

Bloomsbury Children’s Publishers ISBN 9781619638877

PRI K-Grade 2 Rating: 5

Playful and colorful, My Kite is Stuck and Other Stories by Salina Yoon is a Duck, Duck Porcupine! picture book starring three friends–a chatty Big Duck, a quietly resourceful Little Duck, and a kind Porcupine. Designed for ages 5-7, this is a charming read for little listeners not yet reading and early readers starting on the reading path. There are three different adventures including “My Kite is Stuck”; the other stories are “A New Friend” and “Best Lemonade Stand.”

Working together, problem solving, welcoming others, and a good amount of silliness are all part of these cute stories. The author tells short engaging stories with beautiful visuals spoken through bubble quotes by the characters. The reader will find important educational elements sprinkled throughout as well as some colors and numbers too.

Everything about this book is a value from the literary presentation and colorful, well-done illustrations to the delightful messages and stories of friendship. Early readers might find some words to learn, but there is plenty of repetition to help them catch on to any bigger words such as “porcupine” and “lemonade.”

My Kite is Stuck and Other Stories is a delightful book perfectly designed to read aloud, with lovable characters and fun messages. This would also make a great book for older siblings to read to younger siblings.

Charity R. Bartley Howard, CLJ