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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Santaria" and "Sure-foot Sam" by Katie Pasek

“Santaria” by Katie Pasek is an unusual science fiction short story. Set in what appears to be an intergalactic space ship / headquarters, characters go about their business. With exotic first names juxtaposed with human-like tasks, readers at originally confused as to whether or not the story is about aliens or just advanced humans in the future. This, coupled with quick-paced dialog and action, makes the story puzzling--puzzling enough to make readers keep on reading. Youngsters become engrossed in the story from the get-go. While they might not entirely get what is going on, they want to find out. Later, when top-secret information is spilled, talk of treason arrives, and telekinesis enters the picture, more details begin to unravel themselves. Towards the middle, students are also sucked into the story when their mere youth makes them incredulous. This frustration that many children face really hooks the reader. The ending is expected, but the falling action leading up to it is not. The story ends on an equivocal note that leads itself to either contemplation or a continuation. Youngsters will enjoy this story...regardless of whether they think the characters are really human or actually aliens. Such ambiguity would lead to heightened discussion if this story were used in a classroom setting.

Katie Pasek’s “Sure-foot Sam in Jeopardy” is a fun little adventurous short story. Narrated by a British bulldog, the exploration and escapades have some humor injected into them. The bulk of the plot takes place in the Amazon Rainforest, and Pasek provides an artfully colorful treasure map on the first page. To make the story seem more realistic, the events begin in a British bank, where a young worker is sent on a mission from an investor to go seek out a lost family fortune. Brad claims he owns this fortune, and he is escorted by Sure-foot Sam and the dog Sir Reginald Higgins. Once the team leaves their country, the real fun begins. The bulldog first accounts for the tumultuous traveling, which involves much hiking and rafting. Danger ensues when dangerous animals enter the scenes, predominantly cold-blooded snakes. Waterfalls also heighten the suspense. Once closer to their treasure in the Amazon, the team encounters some natives. These prove to be quite friendly and even assist the team. This amiable scene teaches young ones to be accepting of other nationalities and denominations. Later, the real treasure is found in an ancient temple. While the temple’s origin is said to be polytheistic, no strong religious views are pushed upon readers. In fact, the temple serves more as an adventure site with old fashioned booby traps and hidden clues. Picture rocks falling from the ceiling and rope bridges collapsing. Towards the end of the short story, there is a little activity page for younger ones to complete. This serves to make sure youngsters kept track of what they read and that they can interpret it. There are even prompts for journaling. This is an excellent way for readers to feel involved in the story. The story ends with a shocking twist that is anything but predictable. The route to this twist is foreboding but well worth it. Readers finish this short story with blood pumping adrenaline, wishing it were a longer novel.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"31 Girl" by Mary Simpson

"31 Girl" by Mary Simpson is a sparklingly good read. The whole message stems from Proverbs 31. The infamous Bible quote comparing a noble woman to rubies is heavily referred to. The eighteen chapters of Simpson's book range from beauty, friendship, finances, ego, confidence, humility, modest, attitude, motivation, discipline, and more. The glossy pages that stick to a predominant black, white, gray, and pink color scheme give this book extra class. Each chapter begins with a quote from a fairy tale, followed by a description of the lesson with an author's anecdote. Then, a teenage girl's real story is documented in honest prose. Lastly, Simpson includes a prayer and tip for relaxing / grooming / health. Young girls will greatly enjoy this book not only for its girly nature, but also for its Biblical perspective. The girls in the various photos seem real, as if each picture was taken in the moment--not some sugarcoated photo that was staged. Like the 31 Girl Simpson talks about, this book is a gem!

"The Friends We Keep" & "Rising to the Call of Leadership" & “How Do You Walk the Walk You Talk?" + FREE Giveaway

"The Friends We Keep: A Woman’s Quest for the Soul of Friendship” by Sarah Zacharias Davis is a sincere book. It analyzes female friendships, what makes them, why they are important, what destroys them, and much more. There are fourteen chapters, each with an individual friendship theme. Also, personal anecdotes are incorporated into the chapters. (It is not clear as to whether or not the stories are true, but they are engaging, nonetheless.) The way Davis speaks is unusually charming. Her speech is intelligently semantic yet informally casual all at the same time. Readers feel like they are either being talked to by a wisely contemporary grandmother or innocently precocious niece. Davis explains why women yearn for friendship, and how they act differently than men. Manipulation and jealousy and juxtaposed with compassion and empathy. Additionally, there are discussion questions at the end of the book that are very open-ended. Overall, this book is a gem.

“Rising to the Call of Leadership: A 6-Week, No-Homework Bible Study” by Kay Arthur, David & B.J. Lawson is a devotional book centered around the book of Samuel (both the first and second). The authors introduce what leadership is and how it is important, as well as the different types. Then, each week delves into the Scripture to teach readers valuable lessons. The verses are provided in the margins. These correspond to questions and active reading activities that include marking certain words and phrases. By the end of the book, readers learn how different men of the Bible took on the role of leader, and which one they should emulate.

“How Do You Walk the Walk You Talk? --A 6-Week, No-Homework Bible Study” by Kay Arthur is focused on the book of Ephesians (the letter). Arthur introduces the notion of acting out what you say, and he even gives helpful advice. Then, the Bible quotations in the margins give readers more to think on. He also provides questions with room in the page to answer, as well as active-reading strategies. Luckily, since the quotations are provided, readers do not have to worry about underlining and marking up their own Bible. At the end of this short book, readers learn who Jesus wants them to be, as well as what they should do to carry their own cross.

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

*To enter to win a free copy of “The Friends We Keep,” leave a one-sentence response with why you should get the book. Full names are not required, but please leave your email. This contest ends August 15.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"The Jesus Book" by Stephen Elkins

"The Jesus Book: The Ultimate Who, What, When, Where, and Why Book" by Stephen Elkins is a great book. This is great for children who want to know about Jesus but are too young to tackle the Bible. Under 100 pages with large print, bright colors, and artistic pictures, this will not seem as daunting to a child compared to a 1000+ page Bible. Included are facts about Jesus' young life, His miracles, His ministry, why He died on a cross, and more. For the geography, a simply and large map is included. Children interact and learn when prompts on the pages ask them to identify cities where Jesus went (subsequent pages tell what Jesus did in those exact cities). Illustrated by Claudine Gevry, the photos comes to life in a descriptive yet imaginative manner. Many images of children are used with Jesus, and this will excite young readers. Plus, a music CD with thirty songs [that run for a little over an hour] are fun. Classics are sung by youngsters, and little ones will recognize many songs. While this book is meant for young readers, older ones will still relish its message. Older readers will really learn the meaning of Matthew 18:1-4~ "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'"

Monday, August 3, 2009

"The Hope of the Refuge” by Cindy Woodsmall + FREE Giveaway

“The Hope of the Refuge: An Ada‘s House Novel” by Cindy Woodsmall is an utterly mesmerizing book. Bittersweet to say the least, it will have readers turning page after page. The story is about a tough blond woman from New York with a child. Widowed, she is constantly fleeing from a stalker she knew while in foster care. When the stalker finally one-ups her by reading her diary, he knows every nuance about her daughter and every possible place they could try to escape to. Then, however, she remembers a small Amish town her mother brought her to once and told her to not write about. The blond woman goes there and causes quite a stir. Her long lost friend is shunned for taking the woman in. Drama ensues as the friend falls in love with the New Yorker and dumps his betrothed. Not to give anything away, but the story is priceless and full of performance. As for romance, there is nothing graphic. Religiously, the book speaks of God and mentions Jesus briefly. Equip with a glossary in the back, readers have no problem translating some Amish colloquialisms that give the book depth. This book has a predictable ending, but the route to it is anything but.

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

New York Times bestselling author Cindy Woodsmall is on tour, and she may be coming to a city near you! Don’t miss your opportunity to meet Cindy and have her sign her newest title The Hope of Refuge at one of the following events.

*Tuesday, August 11 7 – 8:30pm, Barnes & Noble, 5141 Peachtree Parkway, The Forum, Norcross, Georgia, 30092, (770) 209-4244

*Wednesday, August 12 7 – 8pm, Barnes & Noble Opry Mills, 515 Opry Mills Drive, Nashville, Tennessee 37214, (615) 514-5000

*Thursday, August 13 6 – 8pm, Barnes & Noble, 2540 Futura Pkwy. #135, Plainfield, Indiana 46168, (317) 838-7941

*Friday, August 14 6 – 8pm, Barnes & Noble, 1550 West 75th, Downers Grove, Illinois 60516, (630) 663-0181

*Saturday, August 15 1 – 3pm, Baker Books, 2768 East Paris Ave SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546-6139, (616) 957-3110

*Sunday, August 16 2 – 4pm, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 3700 Rivertown Parkway Ste. 2058, Grandville, Michigan 49418, (616) 531-1825

*Monday, August 17 7 – 8:00pm, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 1739 Olentangy River Road, Columbus, Ohio 43212, (614) 298-9516

*Tuesday, August 18 7– 8:30pm, Joseph Beth Booksellers, 2705 E. Carson Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15203, (412) 381-3600

*Wednesday, August 19 6 – 8pm, Hackman’s Bible Book Store, 1341 Mickley Road, Whitehall, Pennsylvania 18052-4610, (610) 264-8600

*Thursday, August 20 1 – 3pm, Rachel’s Country Store (Amish dry goods store), 6352 McClays Mill Road, Newburg, Pennsylvania 17240, (717) 530-9452

Can’t make the tour? You can still follow Cindy’s adventures on Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter. See you there!

*To enter to win a free copy of “The Hope of Refuge,” leave a one-sentence response with why you should get the book. Full names are not required, but please leave your email. This contest ends August 11.