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Friday, April 27, 2012

Crazy Dangerous Review

Book Description:
Sam Hopkins is a good kid who has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Hanging around with car thieves and thugs, Sam knows it's only a matter of time before he makes one bad decision too many and gets into real trouble.

But one day, Sam sees these thugs harassing an eccentric schoolmate named Jennifer. Finding the courage to face the bullies down, Sam loses a bad set of friends and acquires a very strange new one.

Because Jennifer is not just eccentric. To Sam, she seems downright crazy. She has terrifying hallucinations involving demons, the devil, and death. And here's the really crazy part: Sam is beginning to suspect that these visions may actually be prophecies-prophecies of something terrible that's going to happen very soon. Unless he can stop it.

With no one to believe him, with no one to help him, Sam is now all alone in a race against time. Finding the truth before disaster strikes is going to be both crazy and very, very dangerous.

My Review:
I jumped at the chance to review this book for one reason only, I really thought my son would enjoy it. He isn't a big Christian reader, not fiction or nonfiction, but I thought that this would pique his interest. Then I began reading it, and couldn't put it down.

Our hero in the story is young Sam Hopkins, a preacher's kid who feels isolated from his peers because of who his father is. As a result he ends up joining up with the "wrong" crowd. Now before you write Sam off, let me tell you that this kid has a strong sense of right and wrong. Do right, fear nothing becomes his mantra after his first introduction to Jennifer. And boy are we in for a wild ride after that!

Now, I am not going to give the story away but I will tell you that by the end of the book Sam becomes (at least in my eyes) an even better example of trusting God than his father! I found the father in the story to be a bit disconcerting. As a pastor/preacher I didn't understand his responses to Sam's queries concerning the possibility of Jennifer seeing demons. His response as to whether it was possible that Jennifer was having visions was, "I've devoted my life to my faith, so you know what I believe, I believe there are powers beyond the ones we see, but...Well, the world is not a magical place, that's all. The things that happen are pretty predictable, and they can usually be explained in ordinary terms...I can't explain (Jennifer's hallucinations) it. Maybe it was just some kind of coincidence or....something." To me this felt like he didn't believe in the possibility of demons or prophetic visions which is contradictory to the Bible. Sam however, displays childlike faith and follows his beliefs all the way through the story. Which is a good thing, otherwise it would have had a really bad outcome!

There are a lot of subtle Bible references throughout the book, like at the end when a strange man comes upon Sam while he is running and tells him(after all that he has been through doing right and fearing nothing) "...keep on training. You're gonna run a good race when the time comes. I'm sure of it." Reminds me of 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. Still, this isn't a "shove religion down your throat" type of book, the message is there, but it is more subtle than Spirit Fighter.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from this author! Another 2 thumbs up book!

I just passed the book on to my son, and he has promised to write his own review once he completes it.

order Crazy Dangerous online

Crater Review

Book Description:

  A Helium-3 miner named Crater makes a treacherous journey through space to find a mysterious and priceless treasure.
It's the 22nd Century and a tough, pioneering people are mining the moon to produce energy for a desperate, war torn Earth. Crater Trueblood, an orphan, loves his life in Moontown, a frontier mining settlement. Just turned sixteen, Crater is already a seasoned Helium 3 miner, hoping someday to be a foreman on the scrapes. But "the Colonel," the man who owns the mine, has a different plan for Crater which includes Maria, the Colonel's daring young granddaughter. Crater, accompanied by Maria and his gillie--a sentient and sometimes insubordinate clump of slime mold cells--must shepherd a convoy of Helium 3 trucks across a forbidding river of dust while also looking for a mysterious, historical artifact that could mean the difference between life and death for every inhabitant on the moon.

My Review:

I had read Homer Hickam's Rocket Boys and seen the movie October Sky that had been based upon the book and really enjoyed them.  Add to that the fact that he is from the state I now live (and where my parents are from) and I just couldn't pass up the chance to review this sci-fy, young adult foray of his. 

Now don't let the description fool you, this isn't a book on mining on the moon.  It is about relationships, doing what is right, overcoming obstacles, coming of age and it is good!  Just as with Rocket Boys the characters in this novel feel real.  Despite being set on the moon, the situations feel real.  You can relate to Crater as he encounters situations with friends that cause him to question who he really is and who they really are.  You find yourself encouraging him to make the right choice, to overcome his self doubt, to go for the girl.  You just can't help but like him!

Being the first in a series there are several questions left unanswered by the end of the book, but you aren't left feeling like you were gypped by the ending.  I know I can't wait for the next installment.  I found that I would be comfortable allowing my middle school children to read this and in fact I have encouraged them to do so.  Perhaps they will pick up some of Crater's "do the right thing" mentality even when the right thing isn't always the easy thing. 

So two thumbs up for this title!

 Order Crater online

Friday, April 20, 2012

Swipe review

Publisher's Description:

Everyone gets the Mark. It gives all the benefits of citizenship. Yet if getting the Mark is such a good thing, then why does it feel so wrong? 

Set in a future North America that is struggling to recover after famine and global war, Swipe follows the lives of three kids caught in the middle of a conflict they didn't even know existed. United under a charismatic leader, every citizen of the American Union is required to get the Mark on their 13th birthday in order to gain the benefits of citizenship.

The Mark is a tattoo that must be swiped by special scanners for everything from employment to transportation to shopping. It's almost Logan Langly's 13th birthday and he knows he should be excited about getting the Mark, but he hasn't been able to shake the feeling he's being watched. Not since his sister went to get her Mark five years ago . . . and never came back.

When Logan and his friends discover the truth behind the Mark, will they ever be able to go back to being normal teenagers? Find out in the first book of this exciting series that is Left Behind meets Matched for middle-grade readers.

My Review:

  This dystopian fiction book is a great read for middle school kids and up (including adults!!).  Imagine a world in which life itself is dependent upon being "marked".  You can't buy anything without it and it is a symbol of adulthood, a celebrated event.  That's not so hard for those of us who have read the New Testament and know it is coming.

After some serious world-wide conflict (alluded to but not included in the book) government officials banned together and created world peace.  Citizens were asked to voluntarily take the mark to show their commitment to the new peace.  Fast-forward a few years and we are introduced to Logan, a normal teen struggling with normal teen stuff.  A best friend who seems to be drifting away, a female best friend who is acting strangely, and feelings for a new girl who moves to town that seems to be so much more worldly than he is.

Logan has doubts about the mark, partly because his sister never came back from her marking ceremony, and partly because of the things his grandmothers says about how wrong it is, despite the fact that she too has the mark.  Add to that the feeling of being watched and that kids are disappearing.

The first of the series introduces us to the main characters and the story.  At the end of the book we are left with a lot of questions.  What is the mark really?  What happens with Logan?  What happens with Erin, the pretty gal from the city?  What about The Dust, the group of street children who refused the mark?  And what is DOME, the government body that acts so secretly and is responsible for administering the mark, up to?

The characters, however, are fleshed out and despite the cliff hanger ending it is a great introduction and I look forward to seeing where Evan Angler takes them in the next installment!

Monday, April 9, 2012

God Gave us Love

Book Description:
 As Little Cub and Grampa Bear’s fishing adventure is interrupted by mischievous otters, the young polar bear begins to question why we must love others… even the seemingly unlovable.

In answering her questions, Grampa Bear gives tender explanations that teach Little Cub about the different kinds of love that is shared between families, friends, and mamas and papas. Grampa explains that all these kinds of love come from God and that it is important to love others because…

“Any time we show love, Little Cub, we’re sharing a bit of his love.”

This sweet tale will warm the hearts of young children as they learn about all the different sorts of love, while the gentle explanations of each provide a valuable opportunity to encourage children to share with others a “God-sized love.”

My Review:
Bergren has written three books in this series, God Gave Us You, God Gave Us Two, and of course God Gave Us Love.  This is the first of the series that I have read and i really enjoyed it.

The illustrations Laura Bryant created to go with the story really bring it to life and captured the attention of my daughter as we read.  What I really enjoyed is that the questions Little Cub asks throughout the book are those that even adults have asked.  Begren does a great job of answering them in a manner that a young child can understand.  These questions include How come one minute we can love someone and the next be annoyed by them, and could we ever do something to cause God to not love us.

This is a great book to introduce what love is and where it comes from.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The 13th Tribe

Book Description:

Immortal vigilantes from the time of Moses have planned the unthinkable. But how can you stop what you can't see?

The battle didn't start this year . . . or even this millennium.  It began when Moses was on Mt. Sinai. Tired of waiting on the One True God, the twelve tribes of Israel began worshipping a golden calf through pagan revelry. Many received immediate death for their idolatry, but 40 were handed a far worse punishment-endless life on earth with no chance to see the face of God.

This group of immortals became the 13th Tribe, and they've been trying to earn their way into heaven ever since-by killing sinners. Though their logic is twisted, their brilliance is undeniable. Their wrath is unstoppable. And the technology they possess is beyond anything mere humans could imagine.
Jagger Baird knows nothing about the Tribe when he's hired as head of security for an archaeological dig on Mt. Sinai. The former army ranger is still reeling from an accident that claimed the life of his best friend, his arm, and his faith in God.

The Tribe is poised to execute their most ambitious attack ever and the lives of millions hang in the balance. When Jagger's wife and son are caught in the crossfire, he'll stop at nothing to save them.
But how can one man stand against an entire tribe of immortals?

My Review:

This is the first of Robert Liparulo's books I have ever read, and I look forward to reading the rest of this series when they are published.  Liparulo creates characters that are real.  Jagger, our main character, struggles with his thoughts on who God is after an accident that took his arm and even more later in the book as he faces the possibility of losing all that he loves.  His wife, however never waivers even when she faces the same outcome.

Then there are the tribe members themselves, those who have spent an endless amount of time trying to reconcile God with what the believe.  The message in this fiction is so amazing, and that alone makes this a book worth reading. 

But then you add a phenomenally interesting plot, a great "what if" scenario and you just can lose with this one.  The plot is interesting throughout, and even has an unexpected twist.  REALLY looking forward to more and may have to check out some of his other books in the mean time.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Our Favorite Sins

Book Description:
With more than thirty years of pastoral experience, Todd D. Hunter knows that most people-himself included-struggle every day with temptation. All too often, we fail and fall, and some of us are at our wit's end, utterly defeated. What do we do to get a grip on the sin in our life and live like God wants?

There's good news: despite all our failures and shameful "moments after," there really is a way out, a way forward, and a way that draws us closer to the life that God desires for us.

In Our Favorite Sins, Hunter cracks open the problem of temptation and points to practical, biblically based, time-tested solutions. First revealing the role played by our disordered desires, Hunter shows how different temptations trip us up and how we can resist and overcome them, even if we've fallen prey to them for decades. Victory starts with reordering our desires, and the church has given us the tools for the job. Hunter shows us how to use them and start beating the temptations that so often beat us.

Informed by exclusive research from the Barna Group, Our Favorite Sins offers a view that works for any believer wherever they are and no matter how big the battle they're fighting.

My Review:

Hunter spends the first half of the book creating a fictionalized, average Joe or Jane for each chapter.  The character then gives a brief description of the problem he or she is having with a particular sin such as worry, laziness, overindulgence.  Hunter then spends the remaining portion of the chapter explaining how the trait becomes sin, what it really is etc.  I found one chapter to be misleading.  Overindulgence is introduced with Eating Eddie.  Eating Eddie has used food to celebrate or medicate every emotion in his life.  When he became obese he tried several things that each worked for a while but none really lasted.  The author goes on to explain that Eddie was focusing on trying harder to do better an not on the spiritual, whole body problem.   Then the author spends the chapter talking about combating sexual desires.  While both may stem from a similar need to fill an emptiness they are truly VASTLY different.  Being a person who has similar issues as Eating Eddie I thought this chapter would speak to me.  It left me confused instead.

The second half of the book is how to confront and turn from sin.  One of my favorite parts of this section is when Hunter writes, "People have forgotten how to suffer, how to do the right thing and to suffer in silence for it. They think that to NOT act on a desire is wrong, that it's somehow dishonest. ... You DON'T HAVE TO HAVE WHAT YOU WANT! It will not kills you to deprive yourself of it. Try it." (emphasis mine)  I couldn't agree more.  Today we live in a world where "I want it all, I want it all, I want it all and I want it NOW" are not the lyrics to a song but truly a life motto.  Where telling someone that you don't have cable tv or a smart phone causes people to ask if you need financial help.  Credit card debt is at an all time high, homes are being foreclosed on because people just had to have the BIG house rather than the one they could really afford, both parents work so they can afford the toys their kids want.  I think that thought alone, that we don't have to have what we want, taken to heart would lead so many people out of sin.  "You'll see that on the other side of the little death--giving up what you want-- is a larger resurrection of spiritual life!"

This isn't one of those books that you can just sit down and breeze through.  It takes some serious time reading and reflecting.  I don't necessarily agree with all that Hunter wrote, but I will say it got me thinking about the sins in my life, the things that I don't want to die to in order to have the better life.  This book is worth reading, but you may not find yourself wanting to pass it on to a friend.