Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ezekiel Made Clearer

Mark Hitchcock offers this brief, fact-filled book for the Christian (or anyone) who wants to make sense of what is happening in the Middle East today.  He identifies the nations in Ezekiel’s prophecies and gives historical context.  Hitchcock also shows how emerging events align with the prophet’s writings.  What role will Iran, Russia, and other nations play in the end times?

As a visual learner, I always appreciate that Hitchcock includes charts to summarize the vast amounts of information he presents.  This book is accessible to any reader familiar with the Bible.  No theology degree or Hebrew proficiency is required, as everything is presented thoroughly and in terms understandable by an educated layman.

I received a free review copy of The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel through Blogging for Books.

Magical Mathematics for Preteen Readers

Alex is an only child with parents who have demanding jobs and are seldom able to spend time with her.  Because her father’s engineering skills are in demand all over the world, Alex also moves often.  She is not the best at making friends, either.

When Alex goes to her first day of middle school she stands up to some bullies.  They throw her into a closet, where she hits her head and wakes up in another world.  Archimedes (yes, that Archimedes) greets her and shares that he, too, just appeared in this world many years back.  While Alex has never been fond of math, she learns that in this new world, math is “magical.” Archimedes takes her under his wing, convinced that math can eventually get Alex home again.  Alex meets some of Archimedes’ students and works with him, learning that he, like her father, uses math to help people.

Latin and math are presented in this novel as exciting tools rather than dull textbook topics.  I highly recommend this book for preteen readers.

I received a free review copy of Libellus de Numeros for my honest assessment.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Help Kids Learn to Tie Knots

Nellie Knows How to Tie a Neck Scarf: A Children's Book Review

This beautifully illustrated book has an appealing character in Nellie, a girl who loves to dress in beautiful clothes.  After donning a dress, tights, and hat, she finishes each outfit with her favorite accessory: one of her lovely neck scarves.  Nellie has a fun story that helps her remember the steps for tying her favorite knot, too.

Not only does this book teach manual dexterity skills, it also includes natural-sounding sentences instead of stilted, controlled-vocabulary sentences.  The book sounds more like Beatrix Potter than a textbook, making it fun to read aloud while a child follows the rhyming directions.

Nellie would make a lovely gift, especially wrapped in a box full of colorful scarves for practice!

I received a free review copy of this book for my honest assessment and endorse it as a parent and a librarian.

A Fresh Look at Hadassah (Esther)

Esther: A “Dangerous Beauty” Novel by Angela Hunt

Lovers of historical fiction will appreciate this version of the story of Hadassah.  A beautiful Jewish orphan girl is raised by her uncle, a scribe in the court of the Persian king.  When the king seeks a beautiful young woman to be his new queen, Hadassah is among those rounded up--and must hide her Jewish identity for her own safety.

Hadassah becomes Esther, who wins the heart of the king and saves her Jewish people at the risk of her own life.  Angela Hunt fills in the Biblical account with her own imagination, informed by research into Persian culture and history.  This inspiring story is an encouraging reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people.

I received a free review copy of Esther: Royal Beauty from NetGalley.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Starr Chronicles Book 1: A Review

Jeffrey Day offers young readers (tweens and teens) a cast of appealing characters and a plot that has some interesting twists on the "gifted kids go to space" story.  Readers who enjoyed Ender's Game will want to check out this novel.  Children and teens alike love stories of smart young people overcoming obstacles--especially when they get the best of some evil adults.

Sonny Star is selected along with other highly gifted kids from around the world for a spot in the United Nations' special space academy.  Five teams of children around eleven years old are training for deep space flight.  One team, however, has been hand-picked for a suicide mission without their (or their parents') knowledge and consent.  Will the manipulative leaders at the U.N. and the academy get away with their unethical human experiment?  Sonny (the pilot) and his team will need all their skills to survive this adventure--and skill may not be enough...

I received a free copy of Sonny Starr Versus the Spacetime Conspiracy from the author in exchange for my honest review.  As a librarian, parent of six, and Purdue engineering graduate, I heartily recommend this interesting story for preteens through adults.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Complete Guide to Starting an Online Store: A Book Review

It’s refreshing to read a book that lives up to its name.  When the authors say “complete” they are serious.  Four areas are covered in detail:  starting, building/setup, marketing, and maximizing revenue. How detailed is the information given? This book cover details many newcomers would not even think were that important.  From choosing your business name and domain name, setting up phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and selecting a logo to accounting, this book delivers.

There are many online services and platforms vying for your attention.  This book helps you weed through all the options and find the best tools for each business task.  If you need to know what to do and how to do it, this book offers the checklists you need and links you to tools that make the process less daunting. I highly recommend How to Start an Online Business to anyone considering an internet-based business.  Although the focus is on online stores, many of the recommendations could also help indie authors, affiliate marketers, and other entrepreneurs. 

I received a free review copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Great New Mystery Series: The Man from the Yard Trilogy

Dark of Night is a thriller that has an eclectic cast of characters.  One woman is tormented by a teenage prank that still haunts her and seems to be catching up to her.  Can she be saved by a brilliant Englishman who became an American sheriff in a small town?  Perhaps there is hope if he enlists his comrades: a Native American, some young men eager to make their mark, and a good old boy from a neighboring town, for starters. 

It would help greatly if they knew exactly what they were up against, but the murderer they seek is unlike anything they’ve ever encountered.  It will take logic, faith, and courage to figure out the truth--and to confront the murderer before he/she/it kills everybody!

I found this book refreshingly free of gratuitous sex and violence, while full of suspense and likeable characters.  The murders are gruesome, but not described in unnecessarily graphic detail.  The writing is well-paced and the story moves right along--a real page-turner.  I also appreciated the respectful treatment of faith in the story: skeptics, Native American spirituality, and Christian faith are all part of the story and none are ridiculed or maligned.  They are simply part of the journey made by the various characters.

I received a free review copy of Dark of Night by Marios Savva, and am happy to recommend it for adult and young adult readers who enjoy mysteries.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - A 30-minute Instaread Summary

I have seen Gillian Flynn’s books in stores and wondered if this was an author I would enjoy.  It seemed a good way to decide would be to check out an Instaread Summary of one of the books, since I have found those summaries helpful in the past.

The broad overview of the book indicates that it is written with chapters alternating between the present and flashbacks from various characters.  I enjoy reading books with this element, as I have never been a linear thinker--I like to see the big picture from many vantage points instead.  A woman survived the home invasion that resulted in the murder of her mother and two sisters and the conviction of her brother.  As a child, she couldn't have known anything about betrayal, murder-for-hire, or other dark forces at work in her own family.

From the chapter summaries I can see that Dark Places is a murder mystery with a number of twists: a family member who may have been wrongly convicted, a child witness/survivor, and a club full of people who investigate old cases and resolve them if possible.  I was also informed, however, that none of the characters were particularly likeable.  This may be a deal-breaker for me, as my fiction reading is driven by well-developed characters who exhibit flaws, grow, and achieve some sort of satisfactory resolution of their conflicts.  I might find this novel disappointing.

I received my copy of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - A 30-minute Instaread Summary free for my review.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Compassion Does Not Require Compromise of Biblical Truth

This excellent book covers the issues churches and individual Christians face now and increasingly in the future--how to deal with homosexuality within and without the church.   From loving neighbors to handling a kid your children's ministry with two "dads" or 'moms" this book offers practical advice and sound spiritual teaching.

Adding credibility to this book is the fact that one of the authors was involved in a homosexual lifestyle before Jesus.  He can identify with struggles and offer hope for others.

I received a free review copy of Compassion without Compromise from Bethany House Publishers.

Meet the Kurds

Stephen Mansfield, the author, fell in love with a people who trace their roots back to the ancient Medes.  These hearty warriors live in the mountains of what is now northern Iraq.  They have survived generations of atrocities, including Sadaam Hussein's vicious chemical weapons.  Despite their hardships, however, the Kurds are building a modern nation.  As Mansfield states, Kurdistan is becoming what America had hoped Iraq would become.

I enjoyed reading the stories of Kurdish hospitality.  It is refreshing to know of a mostly Muslim people who welcome Jews, Christians, and religious minorities of all sorts.  It was sobering to read of the many times Kurds have faced extermination.  The world is fortunate such resilient and determined people of goodwill exist, as the Kurds could show the rest of the Middle East a better path--if only they would take it.

I received a free review copy of The Miracle of the Kurds from Worthy Publishers.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Susie's Hope: Movie Giveaway!

Susie's Hope is a movie about survivors.  Donna Lawrence survived an attack by an abused dog in her neighborhood.  Susie survived being beaten and set on fire by a human abuser. Thanks to the Guilford County Animal Shelter and many in the North Carolina community who donated money and prayed, Susie survived.

When Donna and her husband, Roy, adopted Susie, they couldn't have known how they would be used to change animal cruelty laws in North Carolina.   They couldn't have known how much Susie's story would inspire people to give, educate, and adopt.  As you will see in the movie, however, Donna and Susie healed more than each other.  Today Susie's Hope teaches about responsible pet care, advocates for abused animals, and teaches children about safety around strange dogs.

The movie was done with plenty of input from Donna and Roy.  Emmanuelle Vaguer does an excellent job of capturing Donna's beauty--inside and outside.  While some details of the story were changed for the movie, the main story line is there in painful detail.

I am happy to recommend this movie to anyone.  My own review copy will be placed in the library at Life Community Church, where many know and love the Lawrences--2-footed and 4-footed!  Some scenes are disturbing, particularly Donna after the attack and the photos of Susie's actual burns.  Truth, however, is a powerful teaching tool.  Just be aware that young children will need to watch it with a parent who is ready to discuss the problem of evil in our world and offer positive things a child can do to help animals.

See the trailer, then get your own copy of the movie on DVD.

Comment on this blog post below to get a chance to win a drawing for a free copy of Susie's Hope.  One reader will win, so comment now!

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Crumbles Chronicles: A Children's Book for Dog Lovers

Those of us who have adopted shelter pets love to hear stories of rescued animals.  Crumbles is a dog with some hang-ups and eccentricities.  His family loves him, though, and he loves his family.

The story uses Crumbles himself as the narrator, so we get to see things through his eyes.  Paper bags become a menace to his family and must be destroyed.  Crumbles will need some help, but he's fortunate to have some good neighbors like Napoleon, the dog next door.

Rescue dogs are not perfect, but they can still be great family companions.  Laura Scott Schaefer has done a good job of telling this engaging story as a short chapter book for children.

I received a free review copy of Battle of the Paper Bags for my honest review.