In 27 days / Alison Gervais

Christian Library Journal – April/May/June 2017

In 27 days / by Alison Gervais
Zondervan     ISBN 9780310759058
YA     Grades 9-12     Rating: 5

Archer killed himself. Even though Hadley barely knew him, she can’t shake the sense of loss. Feeling guilty, she attends his funeral and meets his family–and Death. Death offers Hadley a deal: she could go back in time 27 days to convince Archer not to commit suicide, but if she fails, he will be lost forever and it would be her fault.

Hadley is tossed back in time as Death promised, and she is prepared to do anything to save Archer’s life–if only he wanted to be saved. Hadley’s borderline-stalking behavior sets Archer on edge. He doesn’t want to be friends with the most popular girl in school. She was probably faking kindness anyway. Hadley is at a loss. If he won’t let her help, how can she save him?

Death left out one detail. Hadley’s life is in danger. The more she pushes Archer toward hope and life, the more Havoc tries to substitute her life for Archer’s. Is Hadley willing to give up her life if it means Archer can keep his, or would she rather break her contract with Death and let her new friend die?

Race time with Hadley as she tries to force a relationship with the school misfit. Watty Award-winning author Alison Gervais will keep readers guessing whether Hadley can complete her mission before time runs out. Hadley and Archer’s relationship is one-of-a-kind as their banter and Hadley’s pesky intrusions develop into deep conversations and deeper feelings. Facing bullies, worst fears, and family drama, readers will experience through Hadley how much dedication it takes to be friends with someone who has PTSD and depression.

In 27 Days is an extremely well-written story. Readers will be forced to stop and think if they would follow in Hadley’s footsteps to save a stranger’s life. They will giggle while watching this rich girl literally work her way into a poor boy’s heart and home. Even his family will fall in love before he will.

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Out From Egypt Series / Connilyn Cossette

Christian Library Journal – April/May/June 2017

Counted with the Stars / by Connilyn Cossette. (Out of Egypt series, 1)
Bethany House     ISBN 9780764214370

Shadow of the Storm / by Connilyn Cossette. (Out of Egypt series, 2)
Bethany House     ISBN 9780764218217
Adult     Rating: 5

In Counted with the Stars, former-elite Egyptian Kiya is convinced the gods have turned their backs on her. Her father sold her into slavery, her betrothed left her, and her new mistress scolds her for everything. Kiya lives in the shadow of her mistress’s Hebrew servant, Shira, and resents her until Shira accepts blame for Kiya’s greatest mistake.

When a Hebrew man proclaims his God is mightier than Pharaoh’s, strange plagues begin tormenting Hebrews and Egyptians alike. After nine horrifying events, Mosesh says all firstborn boys will die—and Kiya believes him. What she doesn’t know is whether the God of the Hebrews would even spare his own people, let alone her Egyptian family?

In Shadow of the Storm, Shira and her family are terrified of the Levites slaying Hebrew idolaters. How could they have so little faith when Adonai has delivered them so far? The killings stress pregnant woman into giving birth. While Shira’s mother is reluctant to let her help, Shira is gifted at calming the to-be mothers. Disobeying her mother’s orders, Shira becomes an apprentice midwife.

Shira’s partner, Dvorah, wants nothing more than to escape with her son and serve her gods back in Egypt. She envies Shira’s perfect life and will do anything to make herself feel whole again. When Shira falls in love, Dvorah deceives them both to get the life she thinks she deserves. Could Adonai truly have a plan for both women when darkness appears everywhere in the desert?

Counted with the Stars is a story of accepting foreigners into a group that is not their own. Characters struggle with idolatry, holding onto their pasts, and lustful sins. Shadow of the Storm shows how God’s plan always prevails in the face of suffering. Readers should be aware of kidnapping, rape, and violent childbirth scenes.

Reading these books brings life to the great Exodus. Journey through the desert and hear the struggles and complaints of the Hebrews, even with God leading the way. Readers can explore how—despite social divisions, discrimination, and slavery—the Hebrews began to forgive the Egyptians. Connilyn Cossette tactfully creates realistic characters who struggle and fear God’s intervening hand. However, these stories have a clear message: God’s path does not waver or change–trust Him.

 

The Returning / Rachelle Dekker

Christian Library Journal – April/May/June 2017
Online: August 7, 2017

The Returning / by Rachelle Dekker. (A Seer Novel, 3)
Tyndale     ISBN 9781496402288
YA     Grades 8-12     Rating: 5

Carrington and Remko are back for the third and final chapter of the Seer series. It has been 20 years since baby Elise was taken, and her mother still hasn’t forgiven herself. While watching her second daughter mature, Carrington blames herself for letting Elise’s kidnapper get away. To cope, she writes letters to her firstborn. Carrington’s heart breaks again as her second child, Kennedy, is chosen as one of the Seven, a group prophesized to risk their lives to retake Authority City. How could the “loving” Father take two children from her?

Kennedy never knew Elise, but now she’s on a mission to find her older sister. If it wasn’t for a friend’s gift of dreams, Kennedy wouldn’t even believe her sister could be alive. Hopefully, the dream is also right that Elise is the key to overcoming brainwashing.

Elise believes she’s always lived in Authority City. Abandoned by her parents and immune to the brainwashing serum, Elise has lived in the care of the President and the Scientist. Dreams of darkness haunt her as the Scientist grows agitated by her presence, but Aaron is always there to show her the light within herself. Can the Seven find Elise before the darkness overtakes her?

Follow the next generation of Seers on their search for Elise and for a way to return the Father’s people home. Each of the Seven will have readers laughing at how closely he resembles his parents.

As with the first two books, elements of torture and evil conspiracy continue. This finale also plays heavily on the idea of demon possession. Because there is more darkness compared to the beginning books in the series, The Returning is also more overtly Christian.

Rachelle Dekker completes this series elegantly. Her writing style and characters have matured, forcing readers to feel a wide range of emotions. This idea, along with twists in the story, makes this novel the perfect conclusion to the Seer series.

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJThe Choosing (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016); The Calling (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016).

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The Princess and the Warrior: The Tale of Two Volcanoes / Duncan Tonatiuh

Christian Library Journal –
Online: June 7, 2017

Pura Belpre (Illustrator) Honor Books
The Princess and the Warrior: The Tale of Two Volcanoes  / by Duncan Tonatiuh.
Abrams     ISBN 9781419721304
PRI     PK–Grade 3     Rating: 4

Children will love the lore that author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh shares in his Pura Belpré award-winning book, The Princess and the Warrior: The Tale of Two Volcanoes. The origin story of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, two volcanoes that overlook Mexico City, is a tragic love story.

This story begins with the Aztec princess Izta and a common warrior, Popoca. While the princess has many suitors, Popoca is the only man who understands her love for the common people. The two are supposed to be married after Popoca defeats the neighboring kingdom’s ruler. In a cruel twist of events, Izta is tricked into believing her lover is dead and drinking a sleeping potion to ease her pain. When Popoca returns, he cannot wake his princess.

Children in Mexico are still told this story today to explain why only one of these volcanoes erupts: Popocatépetl is still trying to wake his dormant lover, Iztaccíhuatl.

While the story of Izta and Popoca draws on Atzec history, Tonatiuh discusses in his author’s note that the historical events as depicted in the legend may be inaccurate. Oral tradition has influenced this story enough that Tonatiuh chose to share his own variation of the events.

Tonatiuh enhances the interest of his story by using some Nahuatl words. This language would have been the language originally spoken by the Aztec people and has influenced much Spanish today. Children can visit the glossary in the back of the book for translations and pronunciation help, or they can find context clues in the illustrations to discover the meanings for themselves. The unique and colorful illustrations were inspired by those on Mixtec codices, giving this story the feel of an authentic legend.

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The Girl From the Train / Irma Joubert

Christian Library Journal – January/February/March 2017
Online: April 19, 2017

Christy Award: Historical Finalist
The Girl From the Train / by Irma Joubert.
Thomas Nelson     ISBN 9780529102379
Adult Fic     Rating: 5

Little Gretl must never cry or tell the truth. That’s what her sister and Oma said. Gretl isn’t allowed to tell anyone that she’s a German Jew, especially not in Catholic Poland. With her entire family taken from her, Gretl’s only hope lies with a young Polish rebel named Jakob.

Jakob planted the bomb that killed most of Gretl’s family. How could he have known that an unscheduled train would take those tracks before the Germans? Jakob takes the orphan in, and he knows one thing for sure: she’s not Polish. With the rebellion going on, he has little time to think of his orphan until a serious injury sends him home. He becomes dependent on her, but his family can’t afford another mouth to feed. To give Gretl her best chance, Jakob must send her away with even more lies. Will he ever see Gretl again or will time and war take their reunion from him too?

Beginning with a girl falling off a train, readers are immediately thrown into the action. Even in the slowest moments of the novel, Irma Joubert gives energy and motion to the scenes. All her characters feel real. Each new character introduces new lessons, is chased by their pasts, and begins viewing God in new ways.

This Christy Award Historic Finalist allows readers to walk in the shoes of a curious young refugee and a guilty soldier post-WWII. Gretl and Jakob mature in their narrative and develop new perspectives throughout the story. Readers will love watching these broken humans’ stories intertwine. Experience the heartbreak of a little girl as she tries to force away all the nightmares of her past. Share in her love for language and learning as she begins to heal and embrace her identity as an Afrikaner- and Polish-speaking Jewish-Christian German.

Readers will experience a range of emotions as they delve into the many themes of The Girl from the Train: love, war, learning, deception, family, mourning, and death. This piece of historic fiction focuses on the tensions between religious groups and ethnicities, including stories of the Jewish concentration camps.

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The Five Times I Met Myself / James L. Rubart

Christian Library Journal – January/February/March 2017
Online: April 13, 2017

Christy Award: Book of the Year and Visionary 2016 Winner
The Five Times I Met Myself : a novel / by James L. Rubart.
Thomas Nelson     ISBN 9781401686116
Adult Fic     Rating: 5

Brock knows life isn’t perfect but hopes that his rut is just a phase. He’s lost the effort behind his relationship with his wife, Karissa; he holds a flame for his high school sweetheart; and he struggles for power against his brother in their father’s coffee company. After dreaming about his late father, Brock digs into his past. Brock takes control of his dreams and talks to his younger self to remember who he was. When Brock wakes, however, his conversations with his past-self changes his present. Brock sees an opportunity to rekindle the flame with his wife and reconnect with his family, but everything goes horribly wrong.

Young Brock is wary of the older man claiming to be him. But everything the man shares is true. He knows too much to not be Brock. But the more he follows Future Brock’s advice, the more Future Brock says goes wrong. How could his life, that’s going so well, suddenly change for the worst?

Journey with Brock as he relives the pivotal moments in his past and tries to create a brighter future–without destroying his life.

The Christy Awards’ Book of the Year and Visionary 2016 winner, The Five Times I Met Myself, is an addictive read. James L. Rubart’s use of sensory detail is impeccable and will weave readers into the book’s pages. While this story begins slowly, readers will be eating up this wellwritten story by the end. This story adds a new twist on Charles Dickenson’s A Christmas Carol as Brock goes back and forth between the past and the present to see how his actions shape his future.

While this book toys with the fantastic, it realistically depicts how the real struggles of marriage, kinship, crime, and separation destroy a person. It also shows how finding yourself starts with forgiveness and getting right with God.

While some may consider this book preachy, the use of biblical examples and Christian language packs a punch for this book’s message: prayer and surrendering all to God will lead Christians to God’s perfect plan–not always a perfect life

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The Great Shelby Holmes / Elizabeth Eulberg

Christian Library Journal – January/February/March 2017
Online: March 14, 2017

The Great Shelby Holmes / by Elizabeth Eulberg.
Bloomsbury    ISBN 9781681190518
MS    Grades 3-7    Rating: 4

Army brat John Watson thinks writing fiction was more exciting than his life–until he moves to Harlem and meets Shelby Holmes. After Shelby’s science experiment interrupts John’s moving day, his curiosity and desire for friendship get the better of him. After tagging along with Shelby on an errand, John realizes that his scientist neighbor is actually a junior sleuth–and no amateur at that. It seems like all of New York City knows her name!

Because of Shelby’s reputation, it’s no surprise that when Daisy (the award-winning dog) goes missing, Detective Holmes is on the case. Shelby is no people-person, and Daisy’s family’s emotions are running high before the next competition. She needs outside help to solve the case. But Shelby doesn’t have friends; she has contacts. Can Shelby find the pooch on her own before the big show? Or will she need to trust John in order to break the case?

Children of all ages will love Elizabeth Eulberg’s version of Sherlock Holmes. With a new twist on the classic story, Eulberg comedically sends these two characters to middle school. Just like Sherlock, Shelby is socially awkward and likes to work alone. John, like Dr. Watson, follows the detective out of curiosity. Their adventure leads them to the truth of friendship.

Thanks to John’s personal and journal-like tone in narrating the story, kids will get to experience the case and the peculiar Shelby Holmes up close. Kids can follow John’s thoughts and guess who was the pup-snatcher. The only problem is that Shelby is way more perceptive than John, so readers won’t get all the clues. But it’s still fun for them to guess who the culprit is based on the clues available.

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The Art of Writing: Satisfaction in the Blogosphere

The PWR Lounge: Taylor University’s Professional Writing Blog
Online: March 13,2017

I’ll admit it: I was nervous when the big assignment for my Author Platform class was creating a blog. While I’d been in the PWR major for three years, my specialty had always Light blulbbeen editing. Not writing. I’d tried a writing blog once. Little stories that came to my mind. No one seemed interested.

But, for the grade, I had to do it.

I figured I’d probably delete my blog after the class.

I scrounged around for a topic – called a friend, called my mom, called my sister – but it wasn’t until my roommate started talking about how lost she would be as an “adult” that I got my idea. I’d spent a summer on my own and would be graduating a semester before my friends. Maybe I could share my “adulting” stories online and teach teens and twenty-somethings about how to be real-world adults.

I thought, “If I could just impact one life with this blog, then it would be worth creating.”

Thus, Extraordinary Young Women was born.

Extraordinary

I sat down that night and brainstormed Post topics. Perhaps it was too easy. I knew that night that I would fall in love with blogging and not be able to quit. I hit 183 ideas before I stopped consciously thinking about it….

But the ideas didn’t stop there. I still have 200+ ideas in my “Brain Bin” with new ideas surfacing every day.

When I started writing, I quickly noticed blogging wasn’t like other writing styles. Posts Content Management System Cms WordPress Blog Postwere 300 to 500 words, plus media. They didn’t take hours to perfect. My posts became advice letters to my readers. I could be open and honest and be my quirky self. I could be a friend.

And friendship is what I got.

My first week I had 36 visitors – 36 people whom I could impact. Soon, people started engaging. Now, I have a fellow blogger, friend, and graduate who comments weekly on my posts. We’re doing a blog swap next week, and I’m super excited.

Writing a blog boosted my confidence as a writer. I’m not afraid to take on new assignments because I know I can write on a consistent deadline. Blogging helped me find Becca Professional Shotmy voice and discover more about my identity. My friend constantly says she loves my blog because it’s like I’m sitting there talking with her. Finally, my blog has kept me writing and doing what I love after college. It’s easy to slack off and say you write enough at work, or say you’ll get around to writing “someday.” I get to share a piece of myself weekly, and it is the most rewarding experience.

Writers (and non-writers too!), if you are debating about starting a blog, stop procrastinating and just do it. Don’t worry about Followers or Stats. Instead, care about your message and what you can share with the world.

What’s the Buzz?

Zoo News Blog, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo – February 2, 2017

On Wednesday, January 11, the Federal Register and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service labeled the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis) as an endangered species. It is the second bee and the first bumble bee to receive this kind of protection under United States federal law.

The rusty patched bumble bee is an important pollinator down the East Coast and across Midwest, populating 13 states, including Indiana. Since the late ’90s, the native bee population has declined nearly 90% (from 926 to 103 populations) due to environment destruction, pesticides, and diseases.

Because of their large and long bodies and dense hairs, these bees are able to stay active in cool temperatures and high Appalachian altitudes. This also allows this species to be one of the first native bees active in the spring and last active in the fall. Its ability to stay active makes it a great pollinator, along with its “buzz pollination” technique. Unlike honey bees, bumble bees cling to a variety of flowers through prairies, woodlands, marshes, fields, and parks and vibrate its muscles to gather pollen. This technique makes this bumble bee, known for its pollination of wildflowers, a variety of berries, apples, alfalfa, tomatoes, peppers, and many other crops, worth over $3 billion to farmers.

Rusty patched bumble bees are one of nearly 50 bumble bee species in North America. Like many other bee species, a rusty patched bumble bee colony has a single queen, male drones, and female workers. This species has a large colony compared to other native bees. A healthy colony size would be 1,000 workers. The workers collect food, care for young, and defend the colony; drones help in reproduction. Worker and drone rusty patched bumble bees uphold their species name with black heads and red patches in the center of their abdomens.

How can you help protect this endangered species? Plant a pesticide-free garden with native flowers that bloom in the early spring and last through the fall, such as columbines, hairy sunflowers, cardinal flowers, heath asters, showy goldenrod, spiderworts, and pale beardtongues. Build a safe place for bumblebees to build nests and stay over winter.

For more information on what you can do for these bees, visit the Xerces Society (an invertebrate conservation organization) website.

*Photo taken by Johanna James-Heinz and provided by Xerces Society.

From This Moment / Elizabeth Camden

Christian Library Journal – January/February/March 2017
Online: January 30, 2017

From This Moment / by Elizabeth Camden.
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.

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