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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.