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By Brian Godawa

enochDo you ever wish you could have some kind of amazing device that would allow you to experience biblical history as it happened, rather than just read about it?

Imagine what it would have been like to see the ark up close and then watch the animals gather on their own. What would it have been like to march with Joshua’s crowd around Jericho and see the walls of that mighty city collapse? How breathtaking would David’s fight with Goliath have been if you had had a front row seat to the event?

Unfortunately, no such gadget exists, and while what we do learn from the Bible is more than sufficient for our spiritual needs, there is also so much we don’t know about life back then. At best we have some snapshots of the lives and events that shaped history, tantalizing glimpses only of the full portrait of the past. Brian Godawa’s “Chronicles of the Nephilim” series, originally written for adults but also available in a Young Adult edition, doesn’t change this, but it does give the reader a chance to speculate, to ask the “what if” questions, and to realize that there is so much more to the familiar stories of the Bible than we will ever fully understand this side of heaven.
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By Cassie Beasley

CircusMirandus(Note: This review contains major spoilers.)

Ten-year-old Micah Tuttle has been brought up by his Grandpa Ephraim ever since his parents died, and the two of them have always shared a special bond. Micah loves learning to tie fancy knots just like his grandfather, and he can't get enough stories about the magical and mysterious Circus Mirandus that his grandfather visited as a child. But now everything is changing. Grandpa Ephraim is dangerously ill, and his sister, Micah's Aunt Gertrudis -- who "didn't like any of the things that Micah's grandfather liked, including ten-year-olds" -- has moved in and taken over.

As his grandfather's illness grows steadily worse, and his aunt keeps coming between them, Micah has only one hope. He has to find Circus Mirandus and its star magician, the Man Who Bends Light -- a magician who once promised his grandfather a miracle. Though Micah's aunt lashes out at any talk of magic, and his practical friend Jenny tries to convince him that stories of the circus are just fantasies, Micah knows his grandfather's future, and his own, depend on the stories being true.
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By Maria Dahvana Headley

MagoniaImagine having a disease so rare, so mystifying, that the doctors name it after you—a disease that makes you feel like you’re drowning in Earth’s air. That’s exactly how Aza Ray Boyle feels.

Aza is the heroine of Maria Dahvana Headley’s debut Young Adult Novel, “Magonia,” a blend of romance and fantasy. Headley, a novelist, memoirist, playwright, and winner of the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award for her short story “The Traditional,” creates a mystifying and topsy-turvy tale in “Magonia.”

At first glance "Magonia" feels similar to any number of other contemporary YA novels about sick girls: Bitingly sarcastic Aza has grown up in hospitals, and everyone expects her to drop dead at any moment. A few chapters in, a predictable romance develops between Aza and her best friend, Jason—but it’s interrupted as quickly as it begins.
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By Mary Weber

9781401690359On the mythical and magical island of Faelan, Nym is a slave girl, deemed worthless by society, overwhelmed by her own remarkable power. As an Elemental, she is one of the last surviving residents charged with magic. Plagued by guilt for the death of innocents slain by her unintentional power—the ability to conjure storms when she is angry—Nym’s journey is one of believable self-discovery and self-forgiveness.

Mary Weber’s debut novel, “Storm Siren,” not only establishes a fresh voice in CBA fiction, but also breaks barriers as a perfect example of the growing market for crossover fiction: fiction released by a religious publisher that is accessible to all, Christians and non-believers alike.
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By Diane Stanley

Prince(Note: This review contains some spoilers.)

Much as C. S. Lewis did with his book "Till We Have Faces," Diane Stanley uses Greek mythology to convey profound moral and spiritual truths in her middle-school novel "The Chosen Prince." Themes of sacrifice, selflessness, and especially forgiveness are prominent in this story of Alexos, prince of Arcos, and his struggle to please the gods and find his purpose.

At a ceremony just after his birth, Prince Alexos was mysteriously marked as the chosen champion of the goddess Athene, the long-awaited hero who would deliver his people from the plagues of war, famine, and disease sent to them long ago by Zeus. But being chosen proves to be a heavy burden, not the glorious destiny that most people think it's supposed to be. As hard as Alexos tries, he finds it impossible to live up to his father's punishingly high standards. And then he falls prey to a terrible, paralyzing illness that leaves both him and his father wondering if he will ever be of any use at all.
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The summer reading season is almost upon us! What are your kids planning to read this summer, either on their own or guided by school reading lists? Comment here and let us know!
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By William Golding

Lord_of_the_Flies“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.” (ESV)

Jesus’s words in Luke 11:17-18 reference a corruption of the name “Beelzebub,” which translates to “Lord of the Flies.” Whether or not this quote was the direct source for the title of William Golding’s 1954 novel, its truth is unmistakably at work in "Lord of the Flies." Influenced by Golding’s experiences in World War II, this dark tale of innocence lost firmly established him in the canon of influential English authors, which eventually won him a Nobel Prize in 1983.
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By John Green

51hgkNewXL._SY344_BO1204203200_There are many universal experiences in life, and teenage unrequited love is one of them. Okay, maybe not unrequited love. But unrequited angst-inducing-emotionally-crushing-painfully-awkward crushes are a universal experience in life—of that I am fairly certain.

Such unrequited crush-love is the starting point for “Paper Towns,” a novel by John Green, being released as a film adaptation this summer. Quentin Jacobsen, or Q as his friends call him, has grown up living next to The Perfect Girl, or at least his perfect girl: Margo Roth Spiegelman. Not only is she pretty and popular, but she also exudes carefree confidence, demonstrated through adventures and outrageous stunts that have made her almost infamous.
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By Colleen Gleason

17084242As hooks go, Colleen Gleason’s Stoker & Holmes series has a nearly irresistible one. The two main characters are Mina Holmes, daughter of Mycroft Holmes and niece of Sherlock, and Evaline Stoker, sister of Bram Stoker. The setting is an alternate steampunk Victorian London, and Mina and Evaline have been recruited by Irene Adler to solve mysteries afflicting the young women of the city.

Mina is gifted with the Holmesian mind and has been trained by her uncle in the arts of observation and deduction. In every generation of Evaline’s family through the ages, one person has been born with enhanced strength and speed, destined to fight and kill vampires. In her generation, that person is Evaline.

What’s not to love?
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By C. T. Casberg

61ozk-r0RFLHaving little interest in zombies, I know nothing of the popular apocalyptic genre. However, C. T. Casberg, author of “Genesis of the Dead,” makes the case that zombies are of interest to God.

Think about it. Who are the living dead? Sin entered in, the fruit was eaten, and humanity died. But we’re still walking around. We are the living dead!

That’s why Casberg decided to turn the Old Testament into a Young Adult zombie-apocalypse comedy—the first in a trilogy—and decidedly pulls it off.

From the back cover: “An accidental apologetic, Genesis of the Dead offers wit and wisdom for readers of all ages. Banjo duels, devilish doctors, wise-cracking hand puppets and squirrels big enough to ride into battle—this ain't your father's Sunday School class. Sit down, strap in, and please, for the love of God, obey the rules. They were made with your safety in mind.”
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By Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The_Iron_TrialCallum Hunt has grown up knowing that magic exists, but he also knows—through his father—that magic will only bring him pain. It killed his mother, after all, and left one of Call’s legs so mangled as a baby that he still limps. So when he is called to attend the Iron Trial at age twelve, he decides to do his best to fail the test. Those who pass are admitted to the Magisterium, the school where students with magical talent are taught to wield the elements—fire, water, air, earth, and chaos—and become mages. This is the last thing Call wants, but his attempts to fail the tests result in strong bursts of magic clearly displaying his ability.

So despite Call’s wishes and his father’s desperate protests, Call is taken to the underground school, where he will stay for the next year without being allowed to leave. He is a prisoner, as far as he’s concerned, though his fellow students are all excited rather than worried.
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By Ally Condie

AtlantiaIn his poem “Harlem,” poet Langston Hughes famously asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?” He speculated that perhaps it dries up “like a raisin in the sun,” a line that was borrowed to use as the title for Lorraine Hansbury’s award-winning Broadway play and film. After listing some other colorful possibilities (“fester like a sore” is a favorite of mine), he finishes with “Or does it explode?

Although composed in 1951 and addressing the limitations of the American Dream for black Americans, Hughes’ poem could very well have been written for Rio. She is the troubled protagonist of “Atlantia,” the latest dystopian novel by Ally Condie (author of the Matched trilogy). But while Hughes’ core question is never answered in his work, Condie’s character lives it out in a book that raises some profound questions.
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