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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

the Perfect Score Project

The Perfect Score Project: One Mother's Journey to Uncover the Secrets of the SAT Description:

The project began as an attempt by Debbie Stier to help her teenage son, Ethan, who would shortly be studying for the SAT. Aware that Ethan was a typical teenager (i.e., uninterested in any test, especially a 4-hour standardized exam) and would be facing a much more competitive admissions process and economy than when she was in high school, she decided to climb into the trenches with him.  She took the SAT seven times in one year, ultimately compiling an accessible and relatable guide that is both a consumer report of fresh tips and an amusing snapshot of parental love and wisdom colliding with teenage apathy. Stier quickly became hooked, and her quest turned into an exercise in both hilarity and heartbreak as she persisted in deciphering the mind-boggling menu of test prep options. In The Perfect Score Project Debbie tries it all, from Kaplan, to Kumon and The Khan Academy; she meets with a premier grammar coach, takes a battery of intelligence tests, and studies with the world’s most prestigious (and expensive) test prep company. She answers all the questions that overwhelm students and parents facing the SAT: “When do I start?” “Does brand-name test-prep work?” “Do I need a tutor, a class, or can I self-study?” “What’s the one thing I need to know?” and, “What’s the secret to teenage motivation?”

    The Perfect Score Project has inspired thousands of parents, students and teachers to connect and transform the most reviled right of passage in a high school student’s life into a positive experience. This book provides concrete research on the best ways to succeed on a test that serves as the last big milestone before kids leave for college.

My Review:

As the mom of a bright, intelligent, ADHD underachieving boy preparing for college exams, this book excited me.  You see, my son scores "gifted" on intelligence tests....until he has to write down his answers and show his work, or put his thoughts on paper in some form slightly resembling a paragraph.  Then he scores "learning disabled".  The conundrum of both a gifted and learning disabled student neatly wrapped up in the body of an exuberant boy terrifies me when it comes to converting it into numbers that will allow him admittance in a college.  Especially when his chosen major is only offered at one college in the state and it only accepts about 5-10 students per year for that major!

When I was given the opportunity to review this book it felt like an answer to prayer.  Debbie Stier's own son had ADHD and her concerns were much like mine.  I sure don't want to pay for various test prep programs, much less the $350+ she must have spent to take the SAT seven times in an attempt to find the best scenario.  Let me say, I am glad that Stier was not only willing to do so, but she was also willing to share her story and results with the rest of us.

This book is FULL of advice that I had never even considered, and even more things to think about that I didn't even know were available!  My son has already begun to incorporate some of it in his own test prep, and both of our minds are much more at ease about the whole process.  Is he going to achieve "the perfect score"?  Probably not.  But he will achieve a score much higher than he would have without this book, and with a lot less stress!

The Legend of the Candy Cane

The Legend of the Candy Cane  Description:

One dark November night a stranger rides into a small prairie town. Who is he? Why has he come? The townspeople wish he were a doctor, a dressmaker, or a trader. But the children have the greatest wish of all, a deep, quiet, secret wish. Then a young girl named Lucy befriends the newcomer. When he reveals his identity and shares with her the legend of the candy cane, she discovers fulfillment of her wishes and the answer to her town's dreams. Now will she share what she has learned? Warm, lavish illustrations by James Bernardin bring to life a timeless tale by Lori Walburg, a story that will help families celebrate the mystery and miracle of Christmas - for many Christmases to come.

My Review:

While the story hasn't changed, the illustrations on this edition are beautiful!  Much more appealing to the younger crowd.  While the story itself isn't verifiable, (there are many variations floating around in cyberspace) it is a great way to share the meaning of Christmas.  I am pleased to add this to my list of Christmas stories and am sure we will read it for many Christmases to come!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Advocate Review

The Advocate Description:

At the trial of Christ, Theophilus, brilliant young assessore raised in the Roman aristocracy, stands behind Pontius Pilate and whispers, “Offer to release Barabbas.” The strategy backfires, and Theophilus never forgets the sight of an innocent man unjustly suffering the worst of all possible deaths—Roman crucifixion.

Three decades later, Theophilus has proven himself in the legal ranks of the Roman Empire. He has survived the insane rule of Caligula and has weathered the cruel tyrant’s quest to control the woman he loves. He has endured the mindless violence of the gladiator games and the backstabbing intrigue of the treason trials.

Now he must face another evil Caesar, defending the man Paul in Nero’s deranged court. Can Theophilus mount a defense that will keep another innocent man from execution?

The advocate’s first trial altered the course of history. His last will change the fate of an empire.

My Review:

Although the identity of the biblical Theophilus has been lost in history, and the opinion that Theophilus was in fact Paul's advocate is not widely accepted, Singer offers up a rather interesting and intriguing story from that perspective.  Singer draws from the biblical account of not only Jesus "trial" but of Paul's character and life as well.  He does take some creative license, but not so much that it caused me to question his attempt at a creative telling of biblical accounts.

Theophilus embodies what I think many citizens during the time of Jesus and the birth of Christianity may have felt.  They knew that something was different about Jesus, but weren't really sure what.  It wasn't until they took the time to hear his message that their lives were changed.  I found the characters came to life in this story and I was drawn in.  At over 400 pages there was enough detail to allow me to create the images and action in my mind but not so much that I was overwhelmed with useless information.

I look forward to reading more from Singer and I hope that he again writes in this genre.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Get to Know Jesus Review

Get to Know Jesus Description:

Get to Know Jesus --part of the Get to Know series--is a unique biography about Jesus, the son of God. Focusing on the life and character of this Biblical hero, using color photographs, maps, and other visual resources to tell the whole story, young biography fans will come to learn more about this man of the God and the role he plays in history.

Featuring a bibliography and scriptural references throughout, this is sure to become a favorite for young readers and for first book reports.

My Review:

If you have read my reviews of Get to Know King David and Get to Know Apostle Paul then you are probably already aware that this is a series I think highly of.  Get to Know Jesus doesn't disappoint and is just as good, if not better, than the others I have reviewed.

Sanders covers the life of Jesus in 10 chapters, but don't let that fool you.  This book is chock full of great information for the young Bible scholar.  I love that in the first chapter Sanders walks us through the history leading up to Jesus' birth, what the world was like that Jesus lived in, the history of His people, and their desire for the Messiah to arrive.  She sets the stage perfectly for the birth of God's Son and helps young readers to understand the importance of it.

Like all of the Get to Know series, this book is full of paintings, pictures, maps and photographs to help the reader visualize the important places and events.  The timeline also helps the reader to reconcile the events in Jesus life with the events of the world.

Another great addition to my child's library!  I'm sure it will be for yours also!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Power Bible Review

Power Bible: Bible Stories to Impart Wisdom - Complete Set (10 Books) 

It's the most exciting story ever told, filled with exhilarating adventures, awe-inspiring stories of faith, and the greatest news you will ever receive. It s a love story so amazing that it leads to the ultimate act of personal sacrifice. It s the bestselling book of all time: the Bible.

The Power Bible is a ten volume series that presents the Bible in a comic book format which appeals to all ages. From Genesis to Revelation, the Power Bible tells the truths of God's Word in a fun-to-read format that kids will want to pick up again and again!

Our team has fact checked and researched to make sure the Power Bible is faithful to the truths of the Bible, but it is not intended to be a substitute for the Bible. We encourage you to use this opportunity to engage your children and read the Bible together.

God is powerful and His word is equally powerful! So, power up your child with the power of God's word with the Power Bible!

My Review:
This is a great introduction to the Bible for the child that is not a fan of reading. Full of bright and colorful comic strip/anime images the stories hold true to the Biblical account and will give the reader an overview of key points, although it obviously can't delve deep due to the format. The publisher stove to "help young kids learn basic biblical principles in a format that is fun and easy" and I believe that they have accomplished their task.

 My 5 year old, who has very little exposure to anime, was excited to see a Bible that "actually looks like a comic book" and although she is a beginner reader, she was quick to identify some of the characters (especially Jesus) without help by simply looking at the pictures. My 14 year old, who LOVES to read, liked it as well. "It's really cool!" So definitely kid approved in our house. As a parent, though, I really feel like you can't use this as a primary text (which by no means am I claiming that is the publisher's attempt) and it would work great in conjunction with the actual text.

I've found that it really has helped with Bible study for my children. They read something in the Power Bible and ask, "did it really happen like that?" and we pull out the Bible to compare.

I was given the opportunity to look at volume 1: From Creation to the Story of Joseph, and volume 10: An Eternal Kingdom, which focuses on Paul's ministry and briefly covers parts of Revelation. I do wish that they were a bit clearer on who some of those portrayed in the accounts are. We are given an introduction to the major players at the beginning of each book, but in volume 10 there were parts that had so much going on and I just wasn't sure who the other people were.  For example during the scenes of the Jerusalem Council no one other than Paul and Barnabas were identified. This left me wondering who the dissenter was as I didn't remember there being one. I went back and read the passages in my Bible and realized that he was supposed to represent a Pharisee. (Did I mention that these were good for making you pull out your Bible for comparing {wink wink})

Given my children's overwhelming approval, and that they are currently arguing discussing who gets which volume, I expect we will be adding more of these to our library.  :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Get to Know King David review

Get to Know King David Description:

A shepherd and a king, David lived an adventurous life. He protected his family’s sheep from lions and bears. He fought a giant with just a sling and stone. He even spent years hiding from men who were trying to kill him. And eventually, David became a great king. But David was also a man of God. Learn more about this hero from the Bible and his exciting place in history. Discover what it was like to grow up in ancient Israel and then be a king of God’s people. King David - part of the Get to Know series - will teach you everything you need to know about an imperfect young man whom God used to do great things!

My Review:

I love that Sanders begins by explaining that David is not a myth, or a story, but was a real, live person-and gives evidence to prove it.  So many children grow up hearing the Bible stories but mentally place them in the same category as Greek mythology or tall tales.  I also like that she states, point blank, "the Bible is a reliable historic document".

Sanders account of David draws from various sources, The Bible (of course) as well as The Works of Flavius Josephus, various archaeological texts, and texts concerning the manners and customs that prevailed during those times.  She is careful to note areas that are supposition (i.e. "What did David think about and do all day when he was watching his father's sheep?  We don't know for sure. But......" p. 19) which is a huge plus in my book.  She also includes references to specific Bible verses to allow the reader to read for him/herself.

This book includes the same great additions I mentioned in my review of Get to Know Apostle Paul, such as Did You Know?, Bible Hero, definitions included on the same page as the word was used, maps and full color pictures.  I also enjoyed the Student Resources section at the end that included several suggested books for those who want to dig a little deeper.

While this book is being marketed to upper elementary students, I found the information and the visual layout appealing as an adult and my 14 and 16 year old children did too.  Definitely a great addition to your Christian library!

Look for my review of Get to Know Jesus in the near future.

Nancy Sanders currently has four books in the series.  Check them out below:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Get to Know Apostle Paul review

Apostle Paul (Get to Know) Description:

Apostle Paul—part of the Get to Know series—is a unique biography about Paul. Focusing on the life and character of this Biblical hero, using color photographs, maps, and other visual resources to tell the whole story, young biography fans will come to learn more about this man of the God, his writings, his impact on the early church, and the role he plays in history.

Featuring a bibliography and scriptural references throughout, this is sure to become a favorite for young readers and for first book reports.

My Review:

Written for ages 6-10 by the author of many of the Imagination Station Series from Adventures in Odyssey, this is a title that you will want to add to your bookshelf.  Not only does it give an account of who Paul was and what he did, but it is chock full of extras like the "hero" notations of other people such as Ananias, Barnabas, and Amos.  Or the "did you know" sections full of interesting tidbits.

The photographs help the reader to really picture what things may have been like during Paul's time, the maps help us to keep all his travels organized, and the artwork opens a door for some great conversations. (What do you think Paul may have looked like?  How do you envision the scales falling from his eyes? etc)
There were few minor things that rang as wrong with me, such as, "Jesus taught that the traditions of the Jews were not as important as the Scriptures said." on pg. 27.  I never read anything in Scripture that said traditions were important, and such a statement comes across as Jesus contradicting Scripture which was not the case.  Still, they were very minor and probably wouldn't even come to a child's attention.

I look forward to reading the rest in the series and adding them to my child's library.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NIV Adventure Bible Review

Adventure Bible for Early Readers, NIrV Description:

Ready for Adventure?
The Adventure Bible for Early Readers takes you on a fun, exciting journey through God’s Word. Along the way you’ll meet all types of people, see all sorts of places, and learn all kinds of things about the Bible. Most importantly, you’ll grow closer in your relationship with God.

Here’s a quick tour through the features:
Life in Bible Times - Articles and illustrations describe what life was like in ancient days
People in Bible Times - Articles offer close-up looks at amazing people of the Bible
Let’s Live It! - Hands-on activities help you apply biblical truths to your life
Did You Know? - Interesting facts help you understand God's Word
Words to Treasure - Great verses to memorize
Twenty special pages - Games and other Bible fun, all with a jungle safari theme
Book introductions, a dictionary, and color maps

Includes the complete New International Reader’s Version (NIrV), perfect for children learning to read and explore the Bible for the first time on their own.

My Review:

I admit, I like the NIrV translation for my youngest daughter.  It draws from the NIV version, which is one of many literal translations of the Bible.  (For more on literal translations visit here.)  This means that the NIV text is a word for word translation of the original Greek and Hebrew texts with the intent of conveying the literal meanings rather than attempting to capture and interpret the thoughts and meanings that the original texts were attempting to convey.  The NIrV takes the NIV text and uses smaller words, even including definitions of more difficult words within the text, shorter sentences, and they broke the chapters up into smaller sections in order to assist young readers.  (Click here to read more about the adaptations of the NIrV.)

More than just an easier to read text, this Bible is colorful and engaging.  Each page is colorful, with either colored chapter numbers, section headings, text boxes, or illustrations.  The Bible is full of "Did You Know?" titbits, "Words to Treasure" memory verse suggestions, and "Live It" ideas.  I like that the pages, while thinner than a typical child's story book, are not tissue paper thin as most bibles are.  I love that the words are spaced in such a way that a new, independent reader can easily read them without getting lost in lines spaced to close together.

I love the book introductions that include who wrote the book, why it was written, what we can learn about God in the book, important people, when and where it happened and the stories included in the book.  But what I like best is the my daughter loves having and reading her very first "real" Bible.  This is a great was to transition from Bible story books to the true word of God.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to Start a Riot review

How to Start a Riot: Support Your Local Jesus Revolution Description:

A story about shipwrecks, snakebites, beatings, meetings, and other church events.
When was the last time you saw crowd control at a church?

If you ask most people--at least Western people--what they think about Christianity, they will probably give you a pretty domesticated vision of church. Almost half of Americans think that religion is at best irrelevant and obsolete, and possibly a way of making the world a worse place.

But I have a hunch most of us wouldn't like the world if Jesus hadn't been born into it. From our modern ideas of human rights, to prisons and orphanages and universities...For thousands of years the people who have followed Jesus have been a compelling force for good in the world.

The way of Jesus has always been wilder than we think and more dangerous than we'd like. This is a book about what it means to belong to the community of God--a book about how to Support Your Local Jesus Revolution.

This is why Acts of the Apostles is so important. The four Gospels are followed by a book about what the people of God did. Because the gospel leads to action. It leads to a different kind of people embodying a different way of life. And as Western Christianity becomes more assimilated into Western culture, it is good for us to notice not just what the earliest Christians said and thought, but what they did. Acts is a manifesto of a people who went all over the known world proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and that God is doing a new thing that is available for anyone.

My Review:

The title, How to Start a Riot, Support your Local Jesus Revolution excites us, ignites a desire to be on fire, to do something. Storment then proceeds to give his account of how the first century Christians turned things upside down, drawing upon the words of Luke in the book of Acts. I was revved up and ready to go when I began reading, who wouldn't be?

Unfortunately, that excitement didn't stick with me. At times he assumes we (the reader) has a bit more Bible knowledge than the average Christian does. How many people know the significance of numbers in the Bible? On pg. 36 Storment directs us to "pay attention to the number. Twelve, and she's a woman." when talking about the woman who was healed that had a bleeding disease. Yet he never explains the significance. I'm all for encouraging people to study God's Word for themselves, but if you are going to direct us to pay attention to something, then I would expect that you would explain that the number 12 signifies God's power and authority, not leave it up to a reader to seek out the answer themselves. Having to research to understand a book has the potential to dull the purpose of the book.

I was also concerned about the chapter, How to Stop a Riot, in which Storment draws from Acts 15. He discusses how the Jewish people were attempting to require the Gentiles to become circumcised and after the church leaders met they decided to simply request the Gentiles adhere to three requirements. Storment then implies that we should just "exhibit amazing generosity" towards what everyone who claims to be Christian believes. That, for me, is tantamount to saying that it is okay to just throw out the parts of the Bible that don't suit us. I don't know if this is the point he was trying to make, or if he was simply trying to remind us that our role is to love God and love people, not judge and condemn them. But we are also told repeatedly in the New Testament to call our brothers and sisters on their actions that defy God. If we are just exhibiting "amazing generosity" to our fellow Christians and their beliefs, can we really be helping each other to grow? I don't believe so.

Don't get me wrong, there are some amazing truths in this book. Being a Christian shouldn't be safe. God can take even the most messed up situations, the biggest adversities, and work them for His glory. We Christians shouldn't look like the rest of the world. Jesus ascension should remove our fear of death and allow us to live like we believe we have eternal life because we do. The truths that are shared make this a book that is worth reading, just recognize that it may not be as deep as the title implies, and you may not agree with all he writes. Then again, isn't that how a riot starts? A disagreement?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Don't Dangle Your Participle Review

Don't Dangle Your Participle Description:

Words and pictures show children what a dangling participle is all about. Young readers are shown an incorrect sentence that has in it a dangling participle. They are then taught how to make the sentence read correctly. It is done in a cute and humorous way. The dangling participle loses its way and the children learns how to help it find its way back to the correct spot in the sentence. This is followed by some comical examples of sentences with dangling participles and their funny illustrations, followed by an illustration of the corrected sentence. Young readers will have fun recognizing this problem in sentence construction and learning how to fix it.

My Review:

I wish all of the grammar rules were taught in such an appealing manner!  Seriously, where was this book when I was in school?  Oelschlager does an excellent job of explaining not only what a participle is, (an adjective ending in -ing and occasionally -ed) but she explains what it means to "dangle" those participles as well.  And just to be sure that the reader understands why this is important, she includes several humorous illustrations such as this:

My 5 year old enjoyed the story, my 14 year old "got" the story.  For the first time she really understood the concept of a dangling participle.  That makes this book a success in my opinion!

I plan to add some of her other books to my Language Arts library such as:
Life is a Bowl Full of Cherries 

Out of the Blue: A book of color idioms and silly pictures
Eye to Eye: A Book of Body Part Idioms and Silly Pictures

all of which discuss idioms.

Crescent Review

Crescent (A Helium-3 Novel) Description:

Her motto is "Life is Death! Death is Life!" Can a warrior trained from birth to kill be trusted?

Crescent is a gene-tweaked mercenary programmed to fight to the death. When she's captured by Crater Trueblood, a miner turned soldier, she can't understand his kindness.

Maria Medaris, once Crater's girlfriend, has become a ruthless competitor in business and in life. When a murderous band of assassins attack, Crescent, Crater, and Maria escape to a lunar ghost town called Endless Dust. To survive they must do more than navigate the desolate moonscape and battle a persistent band of killers. They must decide what--and who--is truly worth fighting for.

My Review:

I admit, the description sounds really corny.  The video book trailer is even worse!  (You can view it here.)  But I am a sucker for a sequel and after reading Crater, I had to read this.

While the first book in this series focused on relationships, this installment touches on social issues instead.  Can we overcome our training?  How do we treat people that were raised with different morals and beliefs?  These questions are brought up, but there really isn't any depth to how the characters work them out.

The book felt as if it just stumbles from one scene to the next.  Crater never really understands why he chose not to kill Crescent, or why he decides to show her kindness.  He just meanders through the story as the guy who does good things, which really leaves the reader unsure of his motives.  I found that really disappointing, especially when Crater is confronted with "Helpers", humans bred to have less than average intelligence and trained to live as slaves to the person who purchases them.  They are disposable; when they are no longer able to help just trade them in for a new one.

The discussion questions at the end of the book felt as if Hickam was seeking reader input for his next novel.  "Crater often does what others want him to do....Do you like him better when he goes against authority?"  Is Hickam regretting this series?  Is he unsure of what to do next with it?  The ending of this book leaves me questioning where the story is going, and whether the hours I spent reading this was worth it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Red Sea Rules Review

The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times Description:

Just as Moses and the Israelites found themselves caught between "the devil and the deep Red Sea," so are we sometimes overwhelmed by life's problems. The Red Sea Rules reveals that even in the midst of seemingly impossible situations God promises to make a way for us. His loving guidance will protect us through danger, illness, marital strife, financial problems, or whatever challenges Satan places in our path.

Using the Israelites' story in Exodus 14 as an example, Robert Morgan offers ten sound strategies for moving from fear to faith. Life is hard, especially for Christians. It is certain that we will face difficulties, and that God will allow them, as He allowed the Israelites to become trapped between Pharaoh's rushing armies and the uncrossable Red Sea. But just as certain is the fact that the same God who led us in will lead us out. As The Red Sea Rules makes comfortingly clear, He is in control.

My Review:

"As I worked through the chapter (Exodus 14), ten rules unfolded like rubber life rafts, then ways of handling dilemmas and discouragements--a divine protocol for handling life when we find ourselves caught between the devil and the deep Red Sea." ~Robert Morgan

Robert Morgan draws from the experiences of the Israelites as they approached and crossed the Red Sea to create 10 "rules" for facing difficulty and adversity.  He shares them with is us this deceptively short book.  What it lacks in wordiness it more than makes up for in real life stories and practical, biblical principles.

Each "rule" redirects our focus from the situation we are in, to God's calling, purpose for us, and His nature.  With "rules" such as be more concerned for God's glory than for your relief and view your current crisis as a faith builder for the future it is hard to argue with them.  Morgan admits that it may be difficult to live the "rules" in the midst of your situation, as it was difficult for him as well, but doing so will not only help you, but it will draw you closer to our Father.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Crash the Chatterbox Review

Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God's Voice Above All Others Description:

Inside your head and heart is a chatterbox. Its lies are keeping you from realizing your God-given potential. But what can you do about them?

The Voice You Listen to Will Determine the Future You Experience 

 In Crash the Chatterbox, Pastor Steven Furtick focuses on four key areas in which negative thoughts are most debilitating:
           and discouragement.

He asks, “What great deeds are in danger of remaining undone in your life because of lies that were planted in your past or fears that are looming in your future?” With personal stories, inspiring examples, and practical strategies, Pastor Furtick will show you how to silence the lies and embrace the freeing affirmation of God. Learn how to live out God’s truth no matter what is going on in your life or thoughts. Learn how to crash the chatterbox…and hear God’s voice above all others.

My Review:
I'll admit it.  The chatterbox chatters incessantly in my mind.  Doubt, condemnation, and insecurity have a monologue that repeats so much that when I don't hear it I feel like something is missing.  Not a proud thing for me to admit, but it's true.  But I want it to stop.  I want to not hear those voices anymore, to be able to stand on God's word and eliminate the rest.  If you are looking for the same thing, this book is for you.....but you won't find the answer that you think you want.

Pastor Steven Furtick tells it like it is, weaving his own chatterbox experiences with Scripture and sound advice.  He first discusses the different ways that the chatterbox attacks, where those voices truly come from, and what the true purpose of those negative thoughts are.  To be honest I think that there was to much time spent here.  I even put the book down for quite some time as I was tired of reading about how the thoughts were placed there to draw me from God, even if there was some truth to them they weren't Truth.

And then the second half kicks in and it makes the book well worth the read.  Let me give you my "ah ha" moment.  These voices will NEVER go away.  If anything, if I am walking with God and growing in my faith, they will attempt to become louder.  Now before you get discouraged, that's not a bad thing.  If those chatterbox voices are getting quiet it may mean that my focus isn't on God and there isn't a reason for them to distract me.  I just have to remember where to focus my thoughts, that whole take every thought captive and whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely and of good report think on these things thing.  (2 Corinthians 10:5, Philippians 4:8)

So, long book to make a simple point.  Still, I have read those two verses several times and yet I was letting the chatterbox tear me down.  I needed the step by step breakdown and the reminder that I am not the only one experiencing this.  (Even Mother Teresa did!!!)

I like that there are discussion questions at the end of the book which would make this an easy group study.  Or you can take it a step further and purchase the Crash the Chatterbox DVD and the Crash the Chatterbox Participant's Guide.  You can also watch Pastor Furtick's six part sermon series for free at this link.

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, April 21, 2014

My Bedtime Story Bible

My Bedtime Story Bible by Jean E. Syswerda


My Bedtime Story Bible focuses not only on biblical characters and stories, but also on the quiet times of those characters before sleep. Parents will enjoy reading My Bedtime Bible Story to their children just before bed. And children will enjoy hearing stories about bible characters and the truths they can learn from them---all in a manner that promotes quiet, settled moments rather than noisy, busy times.

My Review:

If you are looking for a story Bible that accurately relays the story of the Bible, this isn't it.  Not that it is inaccurate, it just doesn't focus on the stories.  Rather it focuses on the characters, such as Daniel, Adam and Eve, Noah, Joshua etc.  21 of the 28 tales are Old Testament with the remaining 7 being New Testament.

Even though the stories each focus on a particular character, it isn't as much about what they did, but about their fictional bedtime routine.  For example, the story on Nehemiah is 3 paragraphs long.  In the first paragraph it tells a party to celebrate the completion of the wall around Jerusalem.  In the second paragraph Nehemiah is looking out his window at night and contemplating the beauty of the wall, the efforts that were made to rebuild it, and that God would bless the people if they obeyed Him.  The final paragraph focuses on Nehemiah getting ready for bed - he was tired, he thanked God for the day and His help, and then goes to sleep.  Each story ends with, "Good night, (the name of the primary person in the story). Good night.  Sleep tight." and a "Tuck In" prayer starter.

It is a sweet introduction to the people in the Bible, and a neat way to help your child connect to and see them as the real people they were.  However, if you are looking for a bedtime story book to read with your child that gives them a clear picture of the story of the Bible, this is not it.  That being said, I still think it would be a great book to add to the shelf for a child, and it definitely opens doors to allow the parent to introduce God's word in a more concrete way.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Killing Jesus Review


It is the most fiercely debated murder of all time. Its symbol is worn by billions of people worldwide. Its spiritual meaning is invoked daily in time-honored rituals. In Killing JesusNew York Times best-selling author Stephen Mansfield masterfully recounts the corrupt trial and grisly execution of Jesus more than two thousand years ago.

Approaching the story at its most human level, Mansfield uses both secular sources and biblical accounts to bring fresh perspective to the human drama, political intrigue, and criminal network behind the killing of the world's most famous man.

My Review:

From the opening chapter the grisly aspects of this tale are apparent.  Pulling almost word for word from the accounts of Josephus and his description of the disease that ended the life of Herod the Great we begin the story appalled.  Fortunately, once you get past the graphic details, the retelling of Jesus last days are detailed, and yet fresh.

I found the subtitle misleading, as most of the Christians I know knew of the "conspiracy" behind the Roman execution.  Perhaps that is not true elsewhere though.  Mansfield follows Jesus from his entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey all the way through his horrific death.  The account is written at a level that even my middle school daughter would be able to understand the political environment and the impact that Jesus' actions had on the environment.  You don't need to be well versed in history, religion, or politics to grasp what is going on.  I like that.  It is a book for the average person.

I also liked that the book sticks to the facts.  There isn't a religious leaning, nor a push for one to come to God, making this an excellent book to share with non-believers.  Think of it as a way to open the door, Mansfield leaves the rest to you.

Something that sets this book apart from other books that rely heavily on other sources is that rather than being constantly interrupted visually by footnotes or citations, Mansfield has opted to write the book as a story and save the credits for the end.  I found that it helped me to stay in the accounting rather than feel as if there were numerous "commercial interruptions".

I found this a good book to read during this, the Passion week, and a great reminder of all that Jesus went through to open the doors to heaven for us.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Queen's Handmaid review

The Queen's Handmaid written by Tracy L. Higley


From the servant halls of Cleopatra’s Egyptian palace to the courts of Herod the Great, Lydia will serve two queens to see prophecy fulfilled.
Alexandria, Egypt 39 BC
Orphaned at birth, Lydia was raised as a servant in Cleopatra's palace, working hard to please while keeping everyone at arm's length. She's been rejected and left with a broken heart too many times in her short life.
But then her dying mentor entrusts her with secret writings of the prophet Daniel and charges her to deliver this vital information to those watching for the promised King of Israel. Lydia must leave the nearest thing she’s had to family and flee to Jerusalem. Once in the Holy City, she attaches herself to the newly appointed king, Herod the Great, as handmaid to Queen Mariamme.
Trapped among the scheming women of Herod’s political family—his sister, his wife, and their mothers—and forced to serve in the palace to protect her treasure, Lydia must deliver the scrolls before dark forces warring against the truth destroy all hope of the coming Messiah.


Mystery, romance, history - this book has it all!  Higley ties all of the historical aspects together with the fictional character, Lydia, and a secret mission to return the secret scrolls of Daniel in such a way that you can't help but be drawn in.  The fictional and suppositional aspects of the story are woven in so well you can't differentiate them from what is historically accurate in the story line.  
Higley brings Cleopatra, Herod, Mariamme and the political climate to life.  I look forward to reading more of her historical fiction! 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Berenstain Bears Keep the Faith Review

The Berenstain Bears Keep the Faith (Berenstain Bears/Living Lights) Description:

Brother and Sister Bear’s friend Ferdy Factual loves science. Brother and Sister like science too. They like digging for fossils, examining the moon through their telescope, and peering at tiny things under a microscope. But Ferdy tells Brother and Sister that he doesn’t believe God created the world. In fact, he doesn’t believe in God at all. This is a new idea for Brother and Sister. Together with Mama and Papa, they visit Preacher Brown to find out what it means to have faith and learn a lesson from Daniel who had faith in a den of lions.

My Review:

I grew up reading the Berenstain Bears, and I am pleased to be able to share them with my children as well. When both Stan and Jan Berenstain passed away I was sure the series was over.  And yet their son, Mike, is continuing the adventures.  Keep the Faith is just such an adventure.

In typical Berenstain fashion, Brother and Sister are faced with a situation that leads to a moral or Biblical lesson.  In this case, their friend Ferdy doesn't believe God created the world.  

When they question Mama about it she tells them, "Well, some folks don't believe in God the way we do," which brings about the inevitable question, "Why do we believe in God?"  This leads to having faith and a visit to Preacher Brown.

Preacher Brown uses a Bible story to illustrate what it is to have faith and the Bear family leaves the meeting with the understanding that, "their faith in God was important for them".

I have to say that a part of me was a bit disappointed in this book.  Brother and Sister were never told and never decided, how best to respond to Ferdy Factual or other friends who may not believe God created the world.  I felt like that was an important element of the story and it was just left hanging....

What I did like was the definition of faith given by Preacher Brown-trusting in God's love.  Simple and easy enough for any child to understand.  I also liked the "activities and questions from Brother and Sister Bear" at the end of the book.  It guides mom and/or dad in ways to dig a little deeper with your child.  

All in all it's not a bad book, but not a great one either.  It does leave on open door for parents to discuss a serious topic with their child but I wish the book had gone a little further than it had.