Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Deep Brain Learning" by Larry K. Brendtro, PhD, Martin L. Mitchell, EdD, and Herman J. McCall, EdD

"Deep Brain Learning: Pathways to Potential with Challenging Youth" by Larry K. Brendtro, PhD, Martin L. Mitchell, EdD, and Herman J. McCall, EdD is a remarkably professional and researched book. With much psychological and neuro-scientific data, the authors present their information in a most astute yet easy-to-understand manner. There are sections that go over the young brain, how it works, what develops where, and what happens to it in troubled youths. These parts can get very perfunctory, but readers are relieved by the extensive bibliographies included. Several principles are outlined for getting through to troubled youngsters, some of which have educational diagrams alongside them. The authors discuss misdemeanours, acting out, being in jail, losing parents, undergoing change, being abused, being put on drugs, and other problems that troubled kids face. There is also an emphasis on distrust and learning from bad experiences that affects children's behavior. At times, it seems as though the authors are pushing for their own "transformational programs / centers" for kids, but, for the most part, the book aims to inform adults as to why kids act the way they do and how they can change. This book has the goal of adults understanding troubled youth more than being a step-by-step guide for changing them. However, hopefully, by the end of the book, adults will feel knowledgeable enough to face their troubled children with a new perspective--both that of sympathy and science, as proposed by this glossy-paged, hardcover book.

"Your Best Body Now!" by Ashley Marriott and Marc L. Paulsen, MD

"Your Best Body Now!" by Ashley Marriott and Marc L. Paulsen, MD is an innovative exercise / diet book aimed at women. As the back cover states, it focuses on how women have different bodies and shapes that alter how they should go about losing weight. There are four main body types that are based on overall shape (ruler, hourglass, pear, inverted triangle) and three based on where weight accumulates and how fast it does so (ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs). Included are also preliminary fitness tests and quizzes for the reader to identify where they are in their weight-loss journey. Several charts go into detail for how one should start based on their age and physical restrictions. When the book really gets into the exercise routines, they are akin to those of any regular exercise book (these have pictures included). The focus on body shapes is enforced in the beginning then slowly dies out towards the end. There are also recipes included and tips for how to stay on track for one's diet. Twenty-one days are planned out for the reader to follow specific exercises and meal plans. The overall tone of the book is one of tough-love that encourages readers to "grin and bear it," so to speak, if they want to see serious results.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Turnaround Summer" by Paul Hansen

"Turnaround Summer: How Real Men Launched a Lost Boy into Manhood" by Paul Hansen is a memoir written about exactly what the title implies. In its simplest form, this book is mostly meant for men to learn about old-fashioned masculinity. The chapters are broken down into organized sections that span time and family. Pictures are included in black and white to keep the feel of nostalgia there. Most occurrences written about involve the outdoors, heavy lifting, and interacting with wild animals. At the end of the book, there is even a poem included at the end about said adventures and a man's journey. At some points, Hansen even talks directly to the reader (assuming them to be fathers) and encourages them to spend more time with young boys who need role models [especially if those young boys happen to be their sons].

"The Channel" by Susan Alcott Jardine

"The Channel: Stories from L.A." by Susan Alcott Jardine is quite a perplexing set of stories. Each takes a few characters and weaves unusual tales around them to make ordinary situations yield pensive questions. The ages, genders, races, occupations, and personalities of the characters are altered as to not bore the reader. Most involve an overall question of fate, as "Are we in control of our lives, or merely at the mercy of fate?" is strewed across the back cover. Some stories are better than others, but they generally follow the same style. This book is good in that it is not graphic in nature (some parts leave it up to the imagination of the reader). However, there is some swearing and violence is used. Christian readers may be offended when a crazy character in one of the stories sends a Bible verse to another character. Metaphysics also comes into play with many philosophical ideas being thrust at the reader and some paranormal science-fiction throw in. Overall, this book is entertaining and will definitely make readers ponder, especially when they get to understand the true meaning of the title in the last short story.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"The Transition" by Dennis Niewoehner

"The Transition: The Essential Guide for the Baby Boomer Getting Ready to Retire" by Dennis Niewoehner is an interesting book for those planning their later-year finances. It consists of several parts that were contributed by professionals, some of whose contact information is given right in the book. Topics covered range from both the fiscal to the personal. Sure, like the title implies, the author goes over monetary plans of action, terminology, guiding questions, and whatnot. However, the book also includes sections that encourage the reader to better their own health, maintain well mental and emotional states, and set reasonable goals. Some economic history is included that puts things into perspective, too. In general, this book is a great guide for anyone seeking a happier time with putting their finances in order to plan for the future.

"Gifts of the Heart" by Karen Boes Oman & illustrated by Marilyn Brown

"Gifts of the Heart" by Karen Boes Oman and illustrated by Marilyn Brown delicately weaves strong values into children, especially those of giving to the less fortunate. The story is about a set of grandparents telling a story to their grandchildren. It involves the grandparents buying Christmas toys for their grandchildren. Then, through a series of providential events, the family ends up bumping into several characters from well-known fairy tales. By literary creativity, Oman comes up with scenarios that warrant those characters being in need. So, the grandparents give the toys and gifts to the less fortunate fairy tale persons. Each time they do this, they tell the children that giving to others--especially those in need--is giving from the heart. This also teaches children that those who may seem to have it all on the outside really don't (as is the case with the well known fairy tale characters). This book would have been better if it mentioned God more in the Christmas tale, but, overall, it is quite good with traditionally exceptional illustrations to match.

"The Mudhogs" by Dalton James

"The Mudhogs" by Dalton James is a children's book written by an eight-year-old. The story is about three pigs that want mud to roll around and play in. When they have no rain and thus no mud, they try several tactics to make it rain (e.g.- Indian dancing, using magic, and playing make-believe), their efforts are in vain. [Parents that don't want their children to be exposed to such secular responses to try and obtain rain should take note.] Anyway, they go in search of mud from other places. This is also unsuccessful. At the end of the story, the pigs return home to find it has rained in the course of their travels. The story is simple and easy to follow for those youngsters just learning to read. The drawings done in marker and colored pencil will inspire young ones to draw, too.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Primal" by Mark Batterson

"Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity" by Mark Batterson wraps readers into a pensive gyre of contemplation. This book aims at redefining Christianity at its core. The main precepts of loving God and living life to its fullest for the glory of the Lord are set forth. Through personal anecdotes and miscellaneous stories, Batterson explains how God is just as present today as he was in thousands of years ago. Tithing and helping others is also suggested. Batterson also inserts tales of his personal success with business and one account of healing a man with a stress-induced ailment. This book could have done with more Bible quotations and focus on Scripture, but, as it stands, it will attract a modern and young audience to remember to seek after God forevermore.

This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"40 Loaves" by C.D. Baker

"40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with our Father Each Day" by C.D. Baker is a splendid little book. It is structured a bit like a devotional but has the feel of a novel. There are forty sections / chapters that each address an issue mos Christians are facing. They range from the spiritual to the mental to the physical. Baker is general when talking about such issues, but, every now and then, he will insert a story that correlates to his point perfectly. Additionally, there are prayers and poems at the end of each chapter that really close each one nicely. This interesting book is like a self-help manual for Christians that does not disappoint.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Learn more about or purchase these books at

Monday, December 7, 2009

Value Gifts for the Holiday Season

"99 Ways to Entertain Your Family for Free" is a useful little book. Like the title suggests, 99 ways to entertain one's family are provided. The book is divided into seven sections--indoors, outdoors, around town, just imagine, out in nature, rituals / routines, and holidays. Each part begins with a short Bible verse and a paragraph that introduces the types of activities. Then, each actual way to entertain one's family is given about a page. The descriptions are quick and to the point, written with lively rhetoric. The activities in the book range from obvious (book reading, exercise, etc) to the outlandishly creative (read the book yourself to find out). Overall, this book is great for quick reference, and it is sure to entertain!

"What Women Don't Know (And Men Don't Tell You): The Unspoken Rules of Finding Lasting Love" by Michelle McKinney Hammond and Joel A. Brooks Jr. is a self-help book for women. It goes over the main reasons why single women--who are seeking a partner--stay single. Some obvious discussion points like unreal expectations, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and pigeonholing men are mentioned. These are all written with a Biblical twist, oftentimes comparing these scenarios with various relationships of the Bible, most of which are from the Old Testament. There is also a heavy emphasis on celibacy before marriage, which is great for a book on love to mention. Since this book is written by both a man and a woman, readers gain an interesting perspective. Image is heavily discussed, with everything from taking care of one's outward appearance to not overdoing it. One quite pensive point is the notion of three different types of women that readers may fall into. There is the freak, the friend, and the forever. The authors go over this in great detail and write about how to become the forever (and not to over analyze if they are just the friend). In the end, readers will have enjoyed this book's ride with some humor and ideas of what love truly is. This book is great because it mentions how God loves each and every one of us so much that, even if love never finds someone, they are never unloved in God's eyes.

These books were provided for review by Waterbrook Multnomah.

For more information on these books, please visit:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Jesus Lives" by Sarah Young

"Jesus Lives: Seeing His Love in Your Life" by Sarah Young is a tranquil gift book. There are close to 200 mini-devotionals that can either be read on a day-to-day basis or just in one sitting. Each one has a description on the left page akin to God speaking to the reader. This is comforting and not at all blasphemous to the reader; it is understood that Young's prose is more inspirational and not intended to substitute for the Bible. On the right page, there are three to four Bible quotations that directly correlate to the said topic. The verses sometimes repeat, and it is odd how they are not all taken from one translation. Nevertheless, readers will enjoy this little soft / hard covered book that will leave a smile imprinted on their face.

Monday, November 30, 2009

"Treasured" / "God Gave Us Love" / "God Gave Us Christmas" Blog Tour

"Treasured: Knowing God by the Things He Keeps" by Leigh McLeroy is a great little book that all should add to their bookshelves. It it unusual that a book which is so open-ended can be so engaging. The author fills the pages with Bible quotations and her own person anecdotes. Each chapter hones in on a Bible story--mostly from the Old Testament--and expounds on it further. Some of the stories the author shares are so candid that readers will actually recoil in shock that she would divulge that information. From the nice hard cover (the type without the jacket) to the fancy font to the actual prose itself, readers will enjoy this book and cherish it. While reading this book, readers will feel like they are with their legs crossed and their chin rested upon their palms with their elbows on a coffee table, listening in rapt attention as Leigh shares her walk of faith with them.

"God Gave Us Love" by Lisa Tawn Bergren [and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant] is a copacetic children's book. The main character is a female cub that sparks a conversation with her grandfather about malice, more or less. While they are fishing, the otters are scaring away all the fish, and the cub does not like this. The grandfather then discusses how the cub should love everybody and look at them through God's eyes. Subsequently, several types of love are depicted (among friends, family, God, etc) for children to understand with cute pictures. In the end, children will learn a valuable lesson about not judging others. Plus, they will sleep soundly knowing God loves them immensely.

"God Gave Us Christmas" by Lisa Tawn Bergren [and illustrated by David Hohn] is a fantastic book for children. It starts off with a cub asking "Mama Bear" what the true meaning of Christmas is. The youngster thinks Christmas is about Santa and presents, but the mother assures her otherwise. The mother takes the cub outside to awe at God's creation--including Aurora Borealis, the Northern Star, glaciers, and more. The cub learns that God is everywhere (not just around once a year). At one point, the bears even visit a church and see a nativity scene. This book explains the true meaning of Christmas in simple enough terms for kids, and the illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Learn more about or purchase these books at


Christmas Blog Tour

"The Christmas Dog" by Melody Carlson is a sentimental book. A widow named Betty is in her small town by herself. She has children, but they have their own lives. They will occasionally visit, and grandchildren frequent her house, but, for the most part, Betty is on her own. To make matters worse, she has a new neighbor. Like the stereotypical crazy neighbor, the man makes plenty of noise and hubbub. This is because he is doing construction and remodeling--or demolition, as Betty likes to say. Anyway, Betty has much internal conflict as she reflects on her years--added to that the nosy questions from her close friends about her situation. However, one day, a dirty little dog comes by. Betty tries to shoo it away, but it keeps coming back. At first, Betty thinks the dog belongs to her neighbor since it runs between yards. Eventually, her opinion of the dog changes when a climactic even happens. In the end, there is happiness and a bit of sap. This book moves fairly slowly, but it is satisfactory for those that like quaint books about older women and dogs.

"The Unfinished Gift" by Dan Walsh is an emotional novel. The main character is a little boy named Patrick. His mother has died in a car crash, so he has to live with his grandfather. The reader is taken aback at how the grandfather treats his grandson. There is tension, and much dramatic suspense arises. Also, the reader learns of the unusual relationship between the grandfather and son (Patrick's father). While living with his grandfather, Patrick finds a unique object that catches his attention. The grandfather yanks it away from the boy, and mystery ensues until later when the reader learns the history behind the object. The setting of this book is around Christmastime during World War Two. It is interesting when the author inserts letters from Patrick's father to Patrick's mother that were stored away. This novel will move readers because the boy is only seven. Also, the boy's precocious level of piety will make readers smile. The ending is a bit predictable, but the journey there is definitely worth the read.

Melody Carlson, author of Limelight, Love Finds You in Sisters, The Christmas Dog, 86 Bloomberg Place, Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Carter House Girls, and much more... This is an interview with her:

1. What made you choose to write a book about an older widowed woman? Did you ever think back to the story in the Bible about the widow and Elisha?
I’m not really sure what made me choose an older widow. It was more like Betty Kowalski “chose me” when she popped into my head. And despite being widowed relatively young, she’d had a fairly happy and content life…but with Christmas around the corner, economic challenges, no family to speak of, a “declining” neighborhood, and an “obnoxious” neighbor across the fence, Betty was just plain fed up and Christmas good cheer was not abundant. I didn’t specifically think about Elisha and the widow, but that story is a good parallel. In the same way Elisha filled the widow’s oil jar, God used a little dog (and a few other characters) to fill Betty’s depleted spirits.

2. Do you have an idea for next year’s Christmas book yet?
I always write my Christmas novellas in July, and they release about fifteen months later. So I’ve already written next year’s Christmas novella and it might be my favorite ones so far. It’s called Christmas at Harrington’s and it has some very fun twists and turns. As usual, I start the character out with some major challenges—much more so than usual this time—and yet by the time the story ends…well, I guess I can’t tell you what happens. I’ll just say that I had a good time with that book.

3. Was there or is there a special dog in your life that spurred the idea for The Christmas Dog?

Long ago, when our boys were preschool age, we were asked to doggy-sit by an international college student we’d befriended. She said it would only be for a week, but we ended up with that dog for sixteen years. She’d rescued the scruffy little mutt from the streets and named him Prince. And although he looked nothing like a “prince” he turned out to be A Prince Among Dogs (and actually has a book named after him). He was probably the inspiration for the dog in the book.

4. Do you have a special Christmas memory that stands out as extra-special?
When I was a little girl, Oregon experienced a major flood one December, right before Christmas. The flood was so devastating and widespread that it closed businesses and roads and made the holidays miserable for a lot of people. Because my mother was single, the need of an extended family (particularly during the holidays) was extreme. But my sister and I talked our mom into making the three hour trek to our grandparents, where we actually drove through a flooded river (watching a VW bug floating away) to get there. Then, once we were there, my grandfather told us that due to the flood we couldn’t go to the woods to get the usual tree. Naturally, this was a huge disappointment. But with a twinkle in his eyes, Grandpa took us out to the front yard where he proceeded to chop down one of his own beautiful holly trees. Decorating the tree was a prickly affair that year, but the end results were stunning. Worried that he’d be sorry about chopping down his tree, I later asked him about the sacrificed holly tree and he informed me that the city had told him to remove the holly trees from the parking strip because they obstructed the view for traffic.

5. Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition that you can share?
My favorite tradition is simply being with family and friends. Does it get any better than that? But because my husband’s birthday is also on Christmas Day, and because he got tired of having turkey for his birthday every year, I asked him what he’d prefer. “Lasagna,” he proclaimed. So for the last fifteen years, we’ve had lasagna on Christmas Day and everyone seems to enjoy it more than turkey.

Dan Walsh is author of "The Unfinished Gift," received 4.5 Stars/Top Pick from RT Book Reviews, and has "The Homecoming" (Revell) coming out in June of 2010. His websites are: and Below is an interview with him:

1. When writing this book, why didn't you choose to make the war the one in Iraq? Was there something special about WWII?
I guess the simple answer is, the book came to me in a WW2 setting. It was just after Christmas several years ago. I actually saw the ending of the book first, like a movie playing my head. Over the next several days, different pieces of the story would just pop into my head. I'd stop whatever I was doing and write them down. But as I researched and wrote the book, I realized another benefit for this setting. America was such a different place, so unified. Life itself was much simpler and faith was a normal part of life. It allowed me to move in and out of important issues, including faith issues, without seeming the least bit forced or preachy. That has allowed the book to crossover to unchurched audiences quite easily. I've gotten many emails from readers saying they felt they could easily buy the book as a gift to someone they're trying to reach.

2. Do you have an idea for next year’s Christmas book yet?
Yes and no. My editors at Revell aren't really looking for me to write an annual Christmas story. They'd like me to write in the same genre (inspirational historic fiction), but not necessarily to stay in the Christmas season. The sequel to The Unfinished Gift, for example, carries the same storyline and characters but doesn't take place at Christmas (it releases this June). My third book begins a brand new storyline with new characters set in 1857. Having said that, back in August I got a wonderful idea for another Christmas novel. Both my agent and editor loved it, and want me to finish it, so that's what I'm writing now. Not sure it will be coming out next Christmas or the one after that.

3. Do you have a special Christmas memory that stands out as extra-special?
I do. I was in 5th grade in a little suburb south of Philadelphia, not unlike the setting of The Unfinished Gift. It was my last Christmas up north. The next year my Dad moved us to Florida. It was Christmas Eve, we were setting up our tree (that was our tradition). One of my little sisters shouted, "It's snowing." We all ran to see. Sure enough, it was coming down hard, harder than I've ever seen. Philadelphia will get snow in the winter, but there's no guarantee it will snow on Christmas Eve. I'm pretty sure that was my first white Christmas; I know for a fact it was my last. It snowed all night.
We woke up Christmas morning to the always-amazing sight of toys sparkling under the tree. But equally amazing was the sight outside. A full two feet of snow covered the ground, with drifts up to five feet or more. It was the most beautiful scene. But in 5th grade, scenery matters just so much. The real marvel came the next day when the snow plows went through, carving out a single lane for cars. The best part was where they dumped the two huge mounds directly across from each other. Two perfectly-formed snow forts. All the kids from one side of the street challenged the kids on the other to a snowball fight. An epic battle, that lasted all the way to New Year's Day.

4. Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition that you can share?
Yes, it's the night we set up the tree (not on Christmas Eve, usually in the first week of December). We play our favorite Christmas music CD's and drink egg nog (I have no self-control with egg nog). After the tree is completely decorated, we take out the videos of our kids when they were little at Christmastime and have the best time, sitting on the couch, with just the lights of the tree lighting the room, drinking egg nog, remembering.

For excerpts to these books plus a bonus excerpt from "Finding Christmas" by James Calvin Schaap, please visit:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Strictly Sundays" by Joe Fitzpatrick

"Strictly Sundays: Making Every Cook a Hero on Sundays" by Joe Fitzpatrick is an exquisite cookbook. As the title implies, the meals in the book are more on the extravagant side for a Sunday meal (perhaps after church?). Fitzpatrick has recipes for appetizers, main dishes, salads, soups, side dishes, and salsas. The meals themselves look very tasty, given the high-definition photos. Many meals have meat and grains in them, so it is good that this book encourages readers to only do these meals once a week. The steps to make the food are quite simple and written in a manner that anyone can understand. Also, readers will get a kick of the miscellaneous writing that Fitzpatrick inserts between recipes at his whim. Additionally, there is an index in the back of the book for quick reference. The cover sports "The Blue Collar Gourmet" under the author's name. However, these recipes are anything but blue collar.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Marilyn E. Randall's Children's Books

"For Faithful Friends" by Marilyn E. Randall is a pleasant children's book. It is about a turtle that holes himself up in his shell under a fence. He is so terribly afraid of life and the world beyond his comfort zone that he does not even go out to eat. A friend of his--the mouse--is kind enough to gather food for the turtle and talk with him. The turtle and mouse have many talks together, and the mouse encourages the turtle to go and see the world. A dilemma arises as winter approaches and the turtle will no longer have the mouse to gather food for him. Also, there is a climactic event when the turtle must either save his friend or stay in his safe area of fear. The morals of this story are clear as day, and the added religious dialog is sweet for little eyes.

"Inside Out" by Marilyn E. Randall offers a reassuring message for youngsters. The protagonist is a frog who thinks he is quite ugly. He does not like the green color of his skin, the croaking noises he makes, and his big, bulging eyes. He compares himself to other animal and plants in nature that he considers beautiful. At one point, he pines to God for making him grotesque. While crying, his mother consoles him and sends him to a wise owl. The owl knocks some sense into the frog and tells him that he is perfect how he is. He lets the frog know that God does not make mistakes and that friends who love him are all around. The frog then begins to croak without inhibition. He then makes other friends and has a higher level of self-confidence. This book is great for children that are stuck in the rut of comparison.

"Elmer the Christmas Elf" by Marilyn E. Randall is a quaint book for children. It is about an elf in Santa's workshop. Working diligently, Elmer is content. However, come Christmas day, a toy is left behind--which means one child will not have a present on Christmas. Distraught and a bit befuddled, Elmer bows down and prays to God for help. Subsequently, an angel comes and helps Elmer by having the child ride in Santa's sleigh back to the workshop so Elmer can give him the toy. There is a remarkable point in the book when it is stated that the love of God is the greatest gift of all. This short Christmas book will entertain little ones and put a smile on their faces. The graphics are very rudimentary and may inspire kids to pick up markers and draw the characters with ease.

Faith and Fangs

"Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight saga" by Beth Felker Jones is an enticing read. It chronicles the messages of Twilight from a Christian perspective. The issues of a nuclear family, love, self-esteem, gender roles, and more are discussed. Jones first gives the reader an overview of the plot (spoilers included) of the Twilight saga. Then, she dives into particular topics. Each time she does this, she recaps the part of the Twilight story that pertains to her point so those that haven't read the saga will not get lost in her arguments without perspective. Readers are interested as they learn that the protagonist in Twilight puts herself down, obsesses over a perfect boy, and leaves behind everything for her "soul mate." Jones talks about girls needing more positive role models and that idolizing perfect men will leave nothing but disappointment. While love is droned over, the pages fly by almost as if readers were reading Twilight. At the end, Jones recaps how Jesus is all one needs in life, and that, while finding a significant other is copacetic, it must not trump God. Jones mentions how the author of Twilight is Mormon and brings up many interesting points. There are discussion questions included, too. It would have been interesting to read about race or the economy in Twilight, but, as it stands, Jones' book is a page turner.

"Thirsty" by Tracey Bateman is a gripping novel. It is about an alcoholic woman of Indian descent who is supposed to be quite beautiful. When she is young, a vampire finds her after a party when she is intoxicated and has just been raped (there is no explicit detail of this). Seventeen years later, the vampire sees her again and is compelled to go to her. He has waited for her all those years. To him, she reminds him of his long lost love that he killed in a fit of rage when she would not marry him. The alcoholic woman has found her sobriety and goes to her hometown to live next door to her sister while her daughter visits for a week. She ends up talking with the vampire and interacting with him, but she does not know who he is to that extent--she does not remember. The vampire's admirer is a black magic woman that threatens to kill the alcoholic woman if he does not go to her. There is intense internal conflict. There is also tension between the woman and her ex-husband as he still loves her. Additionally, the woman reconnects with the man that raped her, and her daughter finds out who her real biological father is. There is much drama in the book, and the excitement heightens towards the end. As for the vampirism itself, that comes into play more towards the second half. This book is a great read for those that want to have the appeal of "Twilight" without any of the religious guilt attached to it. The characters and moral dilemmas in this book are more Christian. God could have been written about more often, but, in general, the themes and lessons are more Christian-friendly.

This book was provided by the Multnomah Publishing Company. Check out their books at

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Fit For My King" by Sheri Rose Shepherd

"Fit For My King: His Princess 30-Day Diet Plan and Devotional" by Sheri Rose Shepherd is a nice book. From the tiara on the cover to the tough binding to the designs on the interior, this book is sure to make women smile. In it, Shepherd discusses the most candid parts of her life, from the heights to the depths. She talks of eating disorders, love lost, failure, depression, and so much more. However, she brings the focus back onto God. There are several Bible quotations in the book that relate to her topic for each day of the month. There are prayers the author wrote, as well as letters that are supposed to be from God. These are not presented in a form of blasphemy, but rather for the reader to read how much God loves her. There are even actions where Shepherd tells the reader what to do to be more successful. At the end of the book, there are recipes included that seem tasty. Many women may find Shepherd's idea of giving up certain foods / ingredients hard, especially with a book that only goes up to thirty days, but, overall, the book is a pleasant read for Christian women looking for a book geared to them as an audience.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"What Your Mother Never Told You" by Richard M. Dudum

"What Your Mother Never Told You: A Survival Guide for Teenage Girls" by Richard M. Dudum is a novel reference book for young girls. It dives deep into many controversial issues centered around today's young women. Drugs, sex, friendships, relationships, self-esteem and more are discussed. The book is divided into several parts with sub-chapters that are quite short. This makes the book very un-intimidating. Also, there is a table of contents and logistics in the back for quick reference. The pages themselves are quite pretty with flowers and fancy title fonts. Conversely, in his candor, Dudum does use explicit language and leaves nothing unsaid. In terms of content, Dudum does give young girls important messages such as never to assume anything, always have a plan b, be aware of surroundings, and know what their words / actions / clothes say to the world, especially boys. In a few parts of the book, Dudum refers to the Bible in terms of being individualistic and savoring uniqueness (not conforming to society's pressures). However, there are some contradictions to the Bible. For one, Dudum does tell girls not to rush into sexual intercourse, but he is not so blunt as to reinforce abstinence before marriage. Also, he discusses talking with parents and thinking things over when it comes to emergency contraception--something that many conservative Christians consider abortion. In general, this book is candid and has some satisfactory lessons for girls. For the more conservative readers and parents, they should give this book a good once-over before placing it into a little girl's hands to fill her tabula rasa.

"Stop It!" by Sally O. Lee

"Stop It!" by Sally O. Lee is a charming children's book. It has only three characters, two of which are human. There is a boy and a girl; they are siblings. The girl is quite feminine and enjoys dressing up with her cat. However, the brother is malevolent and both steals the girl's accessories and harms her cat. One day, the girl explodes at the boy, and the boy feels badly. Full of remorse, he gives his sister back her accessory. Then, the sister appoints him as king. This book is simple and fun for little children, especially those just learning how to read. It has the messages that children need to know--speaking up for oneself, forgiving, and obliterating sibling rivalries. The pictures are cute and may inspire kids to pick up crayons and emulate the rudimentary shapes that make up the characters. This book is suitable for both young boys and girls, especially if they are partial towards cute kitties with bowties.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"The Swiss Courier" by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey

"The Swiss Courier: In a time of Traitors and Uncertainty, Whom Can She Trust?" by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey is an exciting book. It incorporates many characters' stories and winds them together. There is the linguistic named Gabi--the infamous Swiss Courier plastered across the cover. Then, there is her beau who is presented to the reader as a simple farmer. There is also an American pilot that is being retained in Switzerland. Then, there are several German and Swiss operatives, some of which are loyal to Hitler and some of which a saboteurs. Gabi is intoxicated by the good looks of her boss, who is intrigued by her translational skills and ability to break open safes. They partake in many dangerous missions together. Gabi comes to a crossroads when she must determine what her true feelings are and who has her best interests in mind. A physicist named Joseph Engel makes most of the adventure in the book. Working for Germany, he is studying how to develop an atomic bomb. However, when German operatives find he is really German, he is hunted down. Engel is raised Christian, but there is some mystery as to his true lineage, which is heavily discussed in the novel. There are many colloqualisms that refer to World War Two, as well as anti-Semitic sentiments to reflect the time era. However, there are characters that support the Jews and trust in God to end the horrific war. The romance in the book is subtle and not truly graphic (the worst part involves one implication, and one implication only). The book may seem overly dramatic at times, but it does manage to hold the reader's attention for quite some time.

Available October 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Friday, November 6, 2009

"Embrace the Struggle" by Zig Ziglar and Julie Ziglar Norman

"Embrace the Struggle: Living Life on Life's Terms" by Zig Ziglar and Julie Ziglar Norman is an inspiring book. What one may pigeonhole as an ordinary self-help book is so much more. The authors take the ordinary theme of perseverance and put a Christian spin on it. They insert Bible quotations into the pages and talk about the love of Christ. Oftentimes, books such as these are insincere and have ulterior motives. However, the authors seem genuinely concerned about God. One can't say if that is their only focus, but it is better than the books that discuss the power of prayer without talking about being "born again." The authors touch several topics that range from finances to relationships to mental struggles to addictions and more. Many stories of people--both famous and ordinary--fill the pages. There is no bibliography in the back of the book, but there is an acknowledgement page. Readers who are skeptical about the credulity of the stories find a tad bit of reassurance. In general, this book is candid, crisp, and something of a beautiful enigma in its genre.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fun Fall Fiction

"Diary of a Teenage Girl: What Matters Most" by Melody Carlson is a shockingly good book. It is number three in the diary series of Maya and the last volume of the "Diary of a Teenage Girl" series. (It is number 16, but the series has other books from other girls' perspectives, not just Maya's.) Readers don't need to read the other books to understand this one, but, after completing this one, they will want to. Maya is a teenage girl that is half white and half black. Her father is a famous musical artist, and her mother is an incarcerated train wreck. Writing an ecological newspaper column, working on TV, and studying, Maya has her hands full. In her past, she has done modeling work (possibly expounded upon in the earlier books). Beautiful, the ex-boyfriend of a top cheerleader has his eyes on Maya. This causes animosity between the cheerleader and Maya, with drama ensuing. Also, Maya's ex-boyfriend but still friend Dominic has feelings for her (also possibly detailed in book 1 and 2 of Maya's diary). Later on in the book, Maya's mother comes back from jail, and a local band asks Maya to join. While only a couple of months are detailed in this book, readers will feel as if they are looking down on Maya as she lives and goes about her day to day life. The choices Maya makes about her mother, her band, and her enemies truly reflect Christian values. This is a great gift for teenage girls that will compel them to read the diaries of the other girls, as well as the first two of Maya to squeeze the juicy details out of all sixteen diary books. Fantastic to say the very least.

"Limelight" by Melody Carlson is a book geared towards older readers. The main character is an ex-actress in her eighties. In her heyday, she was the one of most beautiful and gorgeous women around. However, in the current age, she is alone and bitter. Her looks have faded with the years, and her husband is deceased. To make matters worse, she has little to no money. This is due to the fact that, when her husband was alive, he eluded the IRS. This leaded to the government repossessing the actress' possessions and tapping most of her money. As the story begins, the woman is in a nursing home of sorts. Tired of such a mundane setting, this ex-actress flees to an old friend who has a real house. This friend happens to be homosexual. The book gets controversial and may not sit well with certain Christian readers. When the woman and the homosexual friend discuss religion, the woman does not tell him that his lifestyle is wrong. The friend goes to church because Jesus loves him (which is true of all people), but no one in the book points out what a grave sin the man is committing against God. Anyway, as the book progresses, the woman moves to an old house from her hometown that is in her name. It is run down, but it is shelter nonetheless. Once there, the woman reconnects with her estranged sister and makes some new friends. In the end, she feels better and is no longer suicidal / depressed in her old age. There is more description than dialog, and the book moves a bit slowly, but older readers may enjoy it.

"Leaving Carolina" by Tamara Leight is an unusual book. It centers around a woman named Piper. She is from down south and has an odd family history. One of her uncles comes clean to a less-than-perfect life and wants to make up for it by altering his last will and testament. Urged by others, Piper visits her uncle to try and bring him to his senses. While there, Piper encounters her uncle's robust and rugged gardener. The reader will think of this man as the Brawny paper towel man with more facial hair and a ponytail. At the same time, Piper is in a relationship with a congressman. She is not engaged to him yet, but she wishes she were. Things go downhill when the congressman ignores her for work and is rumored to run off with other women. Throughout the book, Piper's family secrets come out of the closet with much southern colloquialism. Depending on the reader's perspective, this book will either be seen as remarkably charming or remarkably annoying. The romance in the book is not raunchy, but it is a bit superficial. The storyline as a whole is reminiscent of a mix between a Lifetime series and Desperate Housewives. In any case, readers will definitely be surprised by this book.

These books were provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"The Guilt Gene" by Diana M. Raab

"The Guilt Gene" by Diana M. Raab is an unusual collection of poems. It is about the poet's youth, mistakes, middle-age life, aging, love, and ordinary occurrences. The poems range in length, with some paragraphs thrown in. Most are written in free verse. The odd scenarios that the poem writes of makes the reader wonder if the poet is truly "something else" or if various events were made up for literary purposes. Also, one would think the publication of this book would cause angst between the poet and close family / friends when the poet discusses problems in her marriage as well as embarrassing childhood events. The tone of most of the poems is quite satirical and mostly cynical. Readers may be depressed with this book, while others may take it as daringly whimsical. Either way, this book of poetry is highly existential for lack of a nicer euphemism.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"The Tallest of Smalls" by Max Lucado and Illustrated by Maria Monescillo

"The Tallest of Smalls" by Max Lucado and Illustrated by Maria Monescillo is a marvel of a children's book. It takes place in its own little town that--albeit unusual--is not too far off for little ones to grasp. In Smallsville, the townspeople are tiny and await a time each day when they get the opportunity to be called to walk on stilts. A little boy named Ollie is short and imperfect. Those around him tend to look down upon him--both literally and physically. Then, one day, his name is called to walk on stilts. Everything feels stupendous as he perches upon those sticks and is tall for a bit. However, birds perch on him and make him lose his balance. When he falls, no one but Jesus helps him up or even seems to care. At the conclusion, Ollie realizes that he is fine as he is and that no status or elevation matters at all when compared to the everlasting love of God. The pictures aren't bad, either. ;)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"The Great Grammar Book" by Marsha Sramek

"The Great Grammar Book: Mastering Grammar usage and the Essentials of Composition " by Marsha Sramek is a fine reference book. It starts off with a lengthily diagnostic test on grammar, followed by subsequent chapters on grammar skills. Everything from verbs to spelling to pronouns to capitalization to syntax to punctuation and more is covered. The structure of each chapter is relatively the same. Examples of the key skill are marked off in boxes. These are followed by prompts for the reader to complete. This cumulates with a review. This book is ideal for students, teachers, or even professionals looking to improve their own grammar (after all, having a comma splice on a resume may be the reason why one does not get hired). This book is quite long, so it is better as a reference book to look things up. However, if readers are audacious enough to go through the whole book, they will be quite rhetorically astute upon completion.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Jack's Dreams Come to Life" by Sara Jackson

"Jack's Dreams Come to Life" by Sara Jackson is a copacetic book for little ones. The adventures of furry Jack are chronically most adorably. Children's attention is grabbed in the beginning as Jack plays around outside and encounters other animals most amusingly. Later, he falls asleep and has a dream. It is quite scary, or at least little ones will think so. Jack's squeaky toys come to life and chase him. Plus, a giant squirrel attacks him. In the end, Jack wakes up to find that he is all right and that none of his squeaky toys are plotting his demise. With fun pictures and cute drawings, children will learn that even the most scary of dreams are nothing to fret over.

Jack’s Dreams Come to Life can be purchased on Her book can also be found at Copperfield’s Books in Napa and at the Bookshelf in Southampton, Benicia. For each book sold, Sara will donate $1 to the Benicia/Vallejo Humane Society.

About the author:
Professional author Sara Jackson is a graduate of Vallejo High School. She also earned a Bachelors degree in screenwriting from the Academy Of Art University in San Francisco. After graduating, she became a freelance writer for The American Canyon Eagle. Ms. Jackson is a regular contributor of Gorezone Magazine, Animal Wellness and Fangoria. Sara has written numerous book and movie reviews for†Scars Magazine. She has also written opinion articles for the Times Herald, most of which address the issue of animal rights and politics. In January 2007, she won first prize in the Soul Making Literary Contest with her nonfiction piece, "Necessary Procedures." She is working on a horror script for director Rob Schmidt, has another children’s book at a publisher’s and is in the process of writing a collection of short horror stories.

Sara Jackson,

"The Laceyville Monkeys" by Harriett Ruderman and illustrated by Beverly Luria

"The Laceyville Monkeys: Say the Right Words" by Harriett Ruderman and illustrated by Beverly Luria is a fun book for children, especially those enamored with monkeys. It is about three monkeys who have special talents. One can sing, one can act, and one can dance. Their teacher / mentor enrolls them in a local competition where they can showcase their abilities. When a human grandmother--possibly estranged--discovers this, she tries to exploit the monkeys. However, the monkeys do not work in her favor because she treats them poorly. Only when the teacher says kind and encouraging words do the monkeys perform at their best. The main theme of the book is that a kind word can go a long way, and that impetuous anathemas do nothing but harm. The pictures are fun, and children will be amused at the superfluous images of other animals putting on shows. There are some subtle undertones against the elderly in the book, but most children will not pick up on this.

Friday, October 9, 2009

"Three Feet From Gold" by Sharon L. Lechter & Greg S. Reid

"Three Feet From Gold: Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities" by Sharon L. Lechter & Greg S. Reid is a philosophical book of sorts. It is about improving one's current situation and becoming great. With the words "Think and Grow Rich" sprawled across the cover, readers think they are picking up a fiscal manual. However, the true essence of this book relies first on success, not fortune. The fortune is supposed to come with success, not the other way around. The authors of this book did their research on Napoleon Hill's original manuscript. That man was a reporter who interviewed Carnegie and other powerful people in that time era. The chapters cover several topics from passion to perseverance, and each begins with a quote from Hill himself. The chapters themselves have both fictitious and real anecdotes that illustrate points. Inspirational sayings are thrown in every now and then in boldface. Readers of this book may never grow rich, but if they start thinking the way the authors suggest, they will accomplish more and quit less.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Redefining Beautiful" by Jenna Lucado

"Redefining Beautiful: What God Sees When God Sees You" by Jenna Lucado is a self-help book for young girls. It revolves around the notion of self esteem. Topics range from health and beauty to self-mutilation, bulimia, and--yes--boys. Each chapter starts off with a story. Then, there is an explanation of a particular professional development lesson for girls. Interspersed throughout the book are "Notes from Max" (Max Lucado is a famous author and Jenna's father). There are also Bible quotations and fill-in questions provided. Additionally, there is a quiz here and there. The main concept of girl's beauty in God's eyes always goes back to fatherhood. Jenna Lucado discusses girls' relationships with their fathers and correlates it to having God as Father. Girls will enjoy the straightforward and candid style of this book. The current nature is copacetic, too; even facebooking is integrated into a chapter. Also, the aesthetics are nice with fun chapter designs that will excite young readers.

Friday, September 25, 2009

"If God is Good" by Randy Alcorn

"If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil" by Randy Alcorn is a mind-boggling book. Written with rhetorical finesse, Alcorn covers every possible angle when it comes to God and evil / suffering. He discusses illnesses, disabilities, depression, suicide, natural disasters, politics, philosophy, relationships, prayer, heaven, and so much more. Scripture is quoted heavily, as are personal anecdotes, stories from others, and quotes from prominent anti-Christians. Arguments are boldfaced as to make this brick of a book a bit more accessible for reference. There are eleven sections, each with sub-chapters. The organization is pristine, and readers will pick up this book whenever they are doubting their faith or just to something wise to say back to the sharp tongues of the world. While this book is scholarly at best, it can still be understood by readers of all levels. The notion of Jesus and Christ's redemptive plan for all of humanity--from even before the beginning of humanity--is a simple concept that is expounded to the utmost degree in this book. The cover is this book proclaims Randy Alcorn as a best selling author. With this book, it is not hard to see why.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"The First Thirty Seconds" by Stephen M. Armstrong

"The First Thirty Seconds: A Collection of Inspired Thoughts and Reflections for Living" by Stephen M. Armstrong is an intriguing book. Written in poetic form, this is a quick read. On the left side of the page, there is a sort of story. On the right side of the page, there is a question / prompt addressed to the reader. All of the poems and sentences pertain to changing attitudes in thirty seconds--almost with alacrity if you will. The major themes in the book are thoughts, feelings, relationships, power, hands, living ideas, character, and spirit. Since marriage is mentioned with sexual innuendos, this book is not appropriate for children. The book is not graphic, but it does mention not forcing a partner to fulfill desires, not using sexual intimacy as collateral, and how marital intimacy is an illustration of trust and acceptance. Religiously, the author briefly quotes Jesus and discusses the peace of God. Those who are religious will feel this book is lacking. Others will think this book is just a quirky book on self-improvement. This book is unusual to say the least.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"After the Ball" by Barb Greenberg

"After the Ball: A Woman's Tale of Reclaiming Happily Ever After" by Barb Greenberg is a dashingly good read. It is about Snow White and Cinderella. Long time friends since they were girls, the two are separated when they marry their princes. However, they still find time to talk with each other every now and then--usually over tea or while picking herbs. One day, each princess realizes the other is disheveled. They begin to prod each other and discover that they are both unhappy. Apparently, the princes have taken the power of the princesses. Later, the princesses travel to a sagacious woman for guidance. Many metaphors ensue and the princesses ultimately realize that they must first save themselves before they let a prince save them. This book is short and easy to read with wonderful artwork inside. It is quick, but the hidden meanings and undertones will keep readers pondering for quite some time.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Cracking the $$ Code" by Patricia M. Annino

"Cracking the $$ Code: What Successful Men Know and You Don't (Yet)" by Attorney Patricia M. Annino is a savvy book. It is basically a handbook for working women. The main goal of the book is to give women the masculine skills they need to climb their corporate ladders. Several key issues about women in the workforce are tackled. Some include women being afraid to say no, feeling bad for others less successful, not speaking up, and so on. More interesting topics such as public relations and imaging are also touched upon. At the end of each chapter, there is a table with important lessons from the chapter. Also, there are inspirational quotes interspersed throughout the book. This is a short read--ideal for the working woman that doesn't have time to read a large encyclopedia-of-sorts on corporate success.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Fearless" by Max Lucado

“Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear” by Max Lucado is an unconventionally good book. Delving deep into controversially contemporary topics, Lucado takes a literary plunge akin to the one plastered on the cover. Hard fiscal times, control issues, mental projections, natural disasters, terrorism and more are juxtaposed with biblical insights. Lucado takes Bible quotations and stories and inserts them into the chapters that best correspond to letting go of fear. What’s even more interesting is that Lucado actually explains the biblical story in its timeframe and how it relates to today. He does not merely blow hot air and talk about hard times with some quotes at the end of the chapter. Rather, everything is intertwined and in easy-to-understand terms. Also, there are personal anecdotes (they are real with notes in the back of the book to back them up) and a discussion guide. The companion booklet is also nice; it’s a great way to get friends thinking or just a nice complement to a gift. Readers will feel better after reading this book. They will understand God’s promises, why He wants us to fear Him and not the world, and how Jesus’ time on earth some 2000 years ago is as relevant today as it was back then.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Expanded Bible: New Testament

The Expanded Bible: New Testament is a modern study Bible for young readers. It focuses on the New Testament and reads left to right like a book. There are side columns for notes that explain concepts to readers and make connections from other Biblical quotations. Some words are inserted with brackets to make the text easier to comprehend. The print is also very large and not at all intimidating. This Bible has the look and feel of an ordinary Bible but with extra study tips, a light weight, and the exclusivity of just the New Testament. There is an introduction into how the book is formatted so readers understand what the pages entail. An index would have been nice, but, besides that, this book has it all.

Monday, August 24, 2009

“Rose House” & “The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love” & “The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper”

“Rose House” by Tina Ann Forkner is a gripping novel. It follows the story of a widow named Lillian. She lost her husband and twin children when the car her sister was driving became involved in an accident. Also, Lillian’s parents and two older brothers were killed in a house fire that she and her sister survived. Oh, yeah, and there’s the fact that Lillian’s husband cheated on her with her sister. Lillian’s life is twisted beyond belief, and she truly is down in the dumps. Then, one day, she visits the Rose House. The house covered in roses evokes emotions deep within her. She even makes friends with the owner of the bed and breakfast she stay at--who, by the way, has a daughter about the age of Lillian’s deceased children. Later, Lillian encounters a mysterious painting that moves the story along. She even falls in love with a local. The romance in the book is physical, but there is nothing graphic (kissing is mentioned, and the couple waits until marriage to “make children,” the very process of which is not even described). So, readers do not have to worry about anything raunchy. While God is mentioned in the book, religion is only in the background of this story and Lillian painfully learns not to have God for her circumstances.

“The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love” by Beth Pattillo is a characteristically complex novel. It follows the stories of several women in a knitting club. There, they talk about literature they are reading--particularly classics that involve some sort of romance. As the book progresses, the women juxtapose the lives of literary characters with their own. The ages and situations of the women vary, but all have struggles. One woman has lost her husband and not sure how to act around men anymore. Another is focused on her career and doesn’t know what to do when a boyfriend distracts her. A teen struggles to forgive a football player that doesn’t want to recognize their relationship in public to the popular kids. A wife juggles her priorities as her husband makes demands of her related to his occupation. A mother yearns to be a better provider and role model for her baby. The stories go on and on. While the book is a bit slow at first, eventually readers find their favorite character that most relates to them. This woman is the one that ends up making the reader turn the pages--eager to know what happens that that particular knitting member next.

“The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper” by Kathleen Y’Barbo is an enjoyable Western novel. Set in the late nineteenth century, the story follows the story of a well-off New Yorker who goes to Denver. She does this so her servant’s relative may marry and not have to be go be a governess in Denver. Catapulted into the new world of child rearing and subservience, Eugenia is beside herself. Eugenia must tame an unruly child named Charlotte, which is in itself an adventure. Speaking of adventures, Eugenia is an avid Mae West reader and desires to live a life akin to hers. In fact, each chapter includes an excerpt from the Mae West novels that parallels Eugenia’s experiences. The real drama ensues when Eugenia writes an indignant letter to Charlotte’s father. She tells him to come home and tend to his child instead of his business. Believing the governess was insulting his parenting skills, Charlotte’s father Daniel returns home ready to fire the girl’s governess. Eugenia and Daniel meet in a store, and neither know who the other is. Flirting ensues, and both characters are enamored by the new stranger they have just met. When Eugenia and Daniel learn who each other are, they are flabbergasted. So begins the back and forth melodrama. Both are infuriated with the other’s character but intrigued by the other’s physical appearance. In no time, Daniel makes his feelings for Eugenia clear. Also, a dear new friend of Eugenia claims to love Daniel (who does not pay her a wink of attention). Delicately, Eugenia also falls in love with Daniel. The town lets on, and both Daniel’s and Eugenia’s reputations are at stake when they kiss in public. Romantic displays of affection without being married are outrageous. The details in the novel are enough to allude to romance but not enough to be considered graphic. The couple goes only as far as kissing, and the honeymoon is only alluded to once they are married. In the end, Eugenia’s cover is blown throughout town when people realize she isn’t who she said she was. The whole secret was kept away from her family, as well as her soon-to-be husband banker. In a shocking turn of events, Eugenia leaves behind her New York life and fiance banker for a wild west adventure with her new husband Daniel.

These books were provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

BJU Press Exclusive

"Brain Games" by Sharon Hambrick is an interesting book about an academic Olympics, so to speak. A teacher who is dying of cancer has one last wish--for her students to win this competition. When no students volunteer, they are hand picked (much to their surprise). The students do not want to compete, but they have a change of heart when they learn of why their teacher is so adamant about the competition. Faith in God is a theme encouraged, as is loving those who hate you. The characters are identifiable, from jocks to beauty queens. Kids will relate to this book as they learn about stepping up, taking action, and doing what is right. The academic questions themselves aren't mentioned heavily, but some are. The book flows quickly and is easy to follow. This is a fun book for high schoolers that want more than the predictable teeny-bopper novels.

"Farmer Dillo Shapes Things Up" by Jesse Adams is a fun book for little ones. Farmer Dillo, who is actually an armadillo fixes things that are misshapen around his farm. This is an excellent idea for little ones in terms of righting wrongs and cleaning up. When he fices each individual item, the reader is asked what shape the item is in and what it needs to be. The shapes are obvious and really hone in basic geometric skills for little children. The illustrations by Julie Speer and Bruce Polhamus are computer generated but still capture imagination. This book highlights the notion of doing what is right just for the sake of doing what is right.

"Girl in the Mirror" by Michelle Grover is a reflection book for teens, specifically teen girls. It centers on Proverbs 31 and many questions of self esteem / self worth. Each chapter starts off with an opener. This is usually a story, prompt, or some question directed to the reader. Next, there is a Focus Passage from the Bible that the teen is urged to look up. Facing the Facts is next. This is where teens assess what they just read and answer questions (lines are provided to write on). Then, the Closer Look dives more into the analytical and less into the details. The Time to Reflect segment takes the Bible theme and applies it to real life--specifically the teen girl's real life. An Additional Study passage is given for girls to look up if they are hungry for more. Finally, there is a Memory Verse for girls to either highlight or copy. While the topics tend to be similar and the Bible verses similar, this book is more of a journal for girls.

"Mumsi Meets a Lion" by Kim Stegall is a great book. It tells the story of an African boy whose family tells him never to flee from a lion. When he does encounter wild beasts on a trip, he flees. However, when he encounters a lion, he faces his fears and does not run away. Mumsi prevails in the end. While there is no specific mention of God, there is a between-the-lines theme of trusting God and obeying parents (one of the ten commandments). Due to the setting and rich culture, children will enjoy this unique book. Kimberly Batti's painted illustrations will also keep kids' attention with bright, vibrant colors, and realistic depictions. This book is short, colorful, and fun--a must-have for those just learning how to read.

"Where I Belong" by Rebecca Kenney is about Miu. She is an Egyptian girl living contently with her family when she is one day whisked away by bandits. Treated terribly and seen as a slave, she is beside herself. Then, Abraham of the New Testament comes to buy her. While she is still a slave, she is treated better by Abraham than by the bandits. She comes to know Sarah, Hagar, Hagar's son, and other servants. Tensions rise when Sarah has a child. Then, Hagar's son (is seen as son of Sarah due to the concubine) is angry because he is not longer the heir. Young readers will be intrigued by Miu's journey as she learns about God. Her questions of why God allows slavery and why bad things happen to good people are answered in a most appropriate way for youngsters to understand. She learns that things happen for a reason and that, while she may not see the end picture, God does, and He knows best. Times may get tough, but God never leaves.