Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lemon Bee and Other Peculiar Tales

A A collection of haunting short stories featuring elements of wondrous fantasy and gothic horror, redeemed by messages of hope. Patricia Lynn Dompieri's tales capture the surreal logic of dreams. Featuring keen perceptions shaped by fears and desires, these richly written narratives mix eerie imagery with insightful commentary. Poetic and descriptive, charged with deep symbolism and nightmarish elements, the stories make you think as well as
shudder. The characters described reach revelations that put a new perspective on life. The intensely imaginative and unpredictable storytelling is enhanced by mysterious illustrations by Michele Bledsoe.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NIV Ragamuffin Bible

NIV Ragamuffin Bible: Meditations for the Bedraggled, Beat-up & Brokenhearted, is a good, reliable choice for a bible for anyone in need of extra inspiration and guidance.  It is a  themed bible published by Zondervan that includes the additional material of Brennan Manning.  Other than that attractive, parchment graphics featuring devotionals and meditations, there isn't too much that stands out visually, other than the graphics on the cover and removable dust jacket.  This subtle, unassuming bible features the new revised, gender inclusive 2011 NIV bible text. 

The text is easy to read, and standard with bold chapter titles. The reader will not have to squint to read it. There are no graphics or other visual elements other than the parchment styled text blocks. This is a devotional bible, rather than a study bible as it lacks even the basic chapter introductions or maps that even many minimalist bibles have. Because this bible does not have a concordance or chapter introductions, I would not recommend it for anyone as first or  their only bible.  But if you do already have a bible library, then the Ragamuffin bible would make a great addition.  Unlike most devotional bibles, the reflections and devotionals by Manning are truly inspirational and uplifting.  They are simple and brief, yet the messages are timeless.  There are messages on suffering, grace and vocation.  A mix of topics on faith and Christian life They deal with common issues, hardships and grief. All readers, men and women as well as all age groups will be able to get spiritual inspiration from Manning's writings unlike many contemporary writers whose devotions alienate groups of readers.

Other than the inclusion of the devotionals and quotes, I found this to be  a very minimalist bible.  I might have expected a little more visual appeal for a themed bible.  In that respect this bible is a little bit of a disappointment. Yet the content of Manning's writings make this a worthwhile bible, especially for anyone going through hardship or trials.  I just would feel added visual appeal, as well as a concordance and  book introductions would do this bible more justice.  Nevertheless it is a high quality standard bible with a beautifully designed cover that looks sturdy enough to stand up to daily use. Basically this is a almost like a pew bible with some devotionals in tribute to Brennan Manning.  Overall, I would endorse this bible  for the encouraging works of Brennan that are included. This bible takes poignant and relevant verses and passages and focuses on them in its reflections and devotions. The title "Ragamuffin" may be a little offsetting for some traditional readers and may even deter some readers.   I feel that this bible gives a minimalist, clean, contemporary feel- nothing to distract the reader from the word of God.  As a blogger I received this bible published by Zondervan for the purpose of writing this review.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman

The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman is the newest edition to the "Quilts of Love" series. Even though the novels in this series are written from different authors, the themes are similar as they center around courtship, marriage, friendship and a special, meaningful quilt.  In the very first pages we are introduced to Annie and her close friend, on their shared wedding day as they become sisters in law. The two innocent, young girls have high hopes for their lives as they anticipate new life in marriage and starting families of their own.  This story, a novel in the "Quilts of Love Series", Where Every Quilt Has a Story- is not only well written, with authentic local  details of the peaceful, Amish and Mennonite communities and lifestyle,  it is a refreshing piece of modern fiction that focuses on a solid story line leaving out the R- rated language and adult themes that have become so commonplace in most modern fiction and romance novels.  Common themes about family, romance and Amish are pretty common themes in contemporary Christian fiction. This book will certainly appeal to fans of Amish fiction- with a twist- the incorporation of a special quilt with a significance that goes beyond the quilt itself.  The sprinkling of German in the conversational dialogue of the characters is an added authentic detail that readers will enjoy.  This book will likely appeal to those readers who enjoyed  Disney movies and fairy tales with beautiful princesses and happy endings as a child.  Basically, this novel is like a grown up version of a fairy tale, where truth and honesty prevail- the story is honest and wholesome and the ending is a happy one.

The reader is introduced to the two heroines on their wedding day. Fast forward two years later, into the second chapter, like clockwork, Leah is seven months into a pregnancy and Annie is four and a half months along who spend their naïve, carefree lives together relishing upcoming motherhood.  Yet, some unexpected challenges are introduced into their simple, idealistic lives.

 One common  theme, that is found in many romance novels and Amish fiction, as well,  is also found in this book:  this story encourages the traditional,  antiquated, yet strongly held belief  in traditional societies that a woman's self worth and value is based on a man.  A woman's happiness is usually tied to a man and if she happens to be single, it is always her choice, (at least temporarily- until she comes to her "senses").  There is always a suitor to provide the heroine with a life of security, whose own life is on hold,  as he patiently waits for her approval and acceptance in marriage. Some modern, more educated readers might not appreciate the traditional values and traditional courting  themes represented by this storyline.

 Anyone who simply loves the significance of handmade quilts, will appreciate this new edition to the Quilts of Love series. There is true socio-cultural insight, as the author delves into the mind on traditional cultures and their perception of family and honor and morals.  Most of all, the gospel message of salvation is integrated into the story line. This book shares with the reader important life lessons.  Despite the picturesque, peaceful simple Amish setting, life does not always work as expected.  Leah experiences complications with her twin  pregnancy, pre- eclampsia, premature birth and c-section.  Modern life and tradition meet as well as merge. Her tiny babies require oxygen and other interventions in the neonatal unit.  Nevertheless, Leah and Annie's maintain their solid faith in God's will and purpose.  Despite the protective environment, the Amish community is fertile ground for a strong and deliberate faith as the character's draw on lessons from the bible to persevere even the most difficult challenges and fears. Just as jesus teaches the valuable lesson to become like children- the childlike, pure untainted faith of Leah and Annie shine through even when they don't understand everything.  In this complex modern world where many demand answers and control for security, these simple characters teach the reader much about faith and prayer and God's soverignity nature. Chapman's writing is poetic, and the characters are very likable.  Their moral personalities compliment each other overall.  An added cultural touch is the glossary of German words in the back.  This book would be a good choice for any reader who enjoys idealistic, fiction with a purpose.  This is a peaceful, relaxing book to read for those who want to escape the pressures of modern life or less than ideal circumstances.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Abington Press. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Aloha Rose by Lisa Carter

Aloha Rose by Lisa Carter, is a well written novel certain to capture the reader in the first chapter.  From the very first pages the well developed heroine, with her vividly real, raw emotions,  Laney Carrigan, comes to life- and is certain to strike a chord with the reader. This story, a novel in the "Quilts of Love Series", Where Every Quilt Has a Story- is not only well written, with authentic local  details of the peaceful, tourist setting of Hawaii it is a refreshing piece of modern fiction that focuses on a solid story line leaving out the R- rated language and adult themes that have become so commonplace in most modern fiction and romance novels.  Common themes about reuniting with long lost biological family, family secrets and intrigue, relationship as as well as military life and its lifelong impacts,  will capture the interest of a varied readership.  This book would most likely appeal to those readers who enjoyed  Disney movies and fairy tales with beautiful princesses and happy endings as a child.  Basically, this novel is like a grown up version of a fairy tale, where truth and honesty prevail- the story is honest and wholesome and the ending is always a happy one. But one major difference is that the main heroine is not naïve or submissive, but strong,  intentioned and driven.

One all too common underlying belief, that is found in many romance novels and fairy tales, as well,  is also perpetuated in this book: at times this story encourages the common antiquated, yet strongly held theme in society that a woman's self worth and value is based on a man rather than her own self worth.  A woman's happiness is usually linked to a man and if she happens to be single, it is always her choice, (at least temporarily- until she comes to her "senses").  There is always a suitor around the corner as a fall-back option to provide the heroine with a life of security, whose own life is on hold,  as he patiently waits for her approval and acceptance in marriage. This book is not an exception as the end results in a religious conversion for Laney's suitor, and ends in a fairy tale "tropical wedding fantasy"- a Hawaiian themed wedding complete with ukulele wedding music, and tropical flowers as she lives happily ever after as she finds "her forever home at last with her wonderful, tall, dark and Hawai'ian cowboy". page 231. 

For those who appreciate ancestry and family trees, the authentic details of the ancestral quest will be easy to relate to.  For those readers whose lives have been personally touched by adoption, Laney's quest will have a personal connection.  And lastly, anyone who simply loves the significance of handmade quilts, will appreciate this new edition to the Quilts of Love series. The setting of Hawaii adds an original touch as the authentic details of culture and even clothing will be appreciated.  There is true socio-cultural insight, as the author delves into the mind on traditional cultures and their perception of family and honor and morals.  Most of all, the gospel message of salvation is integrated into the story line as Kai finds his heart changed and becomes a true believing Christian.. A special added touch is a Hawaiian glossary of words in the back of the book.  This book would be a good choice for any reader who enjoys idealistic, fiction with a purpose.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Abington Press. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

The New Answers Book 4: Ken Ham

The New Answers Book 4: Over 30 Questions on Creation/ Evolution and the Bible by Ken Ham, general editor, is the newest edition to the Bible Answers series.  This collection of essays on topics about creation and evolution, in light of the bible are the perfect apologetic tool for educated Christians and students who wish to defend their faith.  Perfect for high school students, college students and laymen, these books will strengthen the faith of any reader who finds their faith is attacked.

This scholarly volume is simple enough that the layman or student can understand, yet sufficiently detailed to engage any educator or science professional.  Each question is answered in essay format- and is very thorough providing technical and detailed information based on scientific facts, sociological and archeological findings.  For example a question addressing the existence of dragons does into extensive detail about the evolutionary parallels of ancient creatures that fit the scientific descriptions of dragons in the bible and other ancient references.  Fossil evidence illustrates that such creatures did exist and were comparable to dinosaurs.  Photographs of dragons in art as well as photographs of fossils are provided for the reader to investigate and weight the evidence for himself rather than passively reading the information provided. The extensive scholarship contained in each article can stand the scrutiny of any secular college or university course. There is an issue addressing the issue of cavemen in light of biblical truth and genetics.  It is refreshing to see the idea of creation as presented by the bible can stand firm in light of science and that science: genetics, archeology and other disciplines support biblical creation.  There are questions and essays on earth age, young creation, the fossil record, canopy model, the flood, climate change, environmentalism, starlight models and the efficacy of GMOs.  It is obvious that these essays are scientifically advanced and in some cases technical- worthy for inclusion in technical scientific journals. 

This book is like a text- a complete course in of itself.  This volume as well as the first three volumes are essential reading for any student in anthropology or biology. The authority of this book and the scientific scholarship it represents is impressive.  The information contained in some of the answers to the questions presented require more than just a casual reading to assimilate the information.  The variety of contributors gives years worth of education, knowledge and work at the reader's disposal.  This is a valuable resource that belongs in every high school and university library.

The author provides theological background for this book as he explains that evolution and atheism in of itself is a religion as it is a set system of beliefs.  At times the tone is somewhat defensive in the final chapter, as the reader can sense Ken Ham's passion in ministering to atheists.  The foundations of evolution and its wide acceptance can be traced to atheistic assumptions and thought. Contrary to what atheists claim, their rigid acceptance of their atheistic belief system which rejects the idea of God, constitutes a religion.  Furthermore, Ken Ham explains, point by point, the inconsistencies of the atheist world view in that atheists accept social practices, morals  and norms that are biblical in origin. Using logic, Ham presents the logical inconsistencies of atheism as well as the pessimistic and hopeless nature of such a negative believe system in and open letter to all atheists. As a blogger for NLP I received a copy of this book published by Masterbooks and imprint of NLP for the purpose of writing this review.

New Leaf Publishing Group

Three volume set: Answers from Master Books

The Answers Book Volume 4

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Hanging Tree by Michael Phillip Cash

The new book, The Hanging Tree by Michael Phillip Cash is a fictional- historical horror piece.  This 73 page "novella" is significantly shorter than a traditional novel yet a bit longer than a short story, and can be completed in one sitting.  Incorporating  historical details of the mid-evil days of witchcraft, the author transports the reader into the past to the days of the witch hunts, witch trials and hangings. With authentic styled dialect, and  traditional characters reflecting the rigid and superstitious social norms of a past era, the reader is transported from the modern setting to the past. For example, the authentic details of midwifery and painful, complicated childbirth will leave readers wanting  even more historic details.  History enthusiasts as well as readers who thirst for authenticity, will appreciate the different time periods represented by the various spirits as well as the scene changes that transport the reader into different times.

  Modern day teenager, Arielle finds her fate mixed up with the mysterious, eclectic mix of spirits that inhabit a cursed tree.  In an ironic twist, the churchgoing folk and preacher are deemed as intolerant, superstitious, murderous  hypocrites, while the old witch is portrayed as wise, enlightened and misunderstood.  The townspeople turn against the old midwife, after the death of a mother during childbirth.  From that point on, every local mishap is blamed on the witch and witchcraft.  With her dying words, the righteous old witch releases a curse on the reverend, "I accuse thee... Not only that, I curse thee, thy children and thy grandchildren, and their children after that... Until you right this wrong, until you clear thy soul, thee and thine shall be cursed". Page 40. In a role reversal, where the religious and pagan community shift roles,  a witch takes on the role of moral authority as she meets justice against a man of the clergy. These spirits act as a protector for the teenaged girl. In turn, there is a redemptive element of mercy when the curse is lifted - showing even the most virulent and hateful of sins can be forgiven.  "A Harmond caused the curse, and a Harmond released the curse.... She risked her own life to save someone dear to me", the spirit of the witch proclaims as she finally finds peace in releasing the hatred and desire for revenge which held her as well as her targets prisoner. Page 74.  As an additional authentic touch, the "Author's Note" in the back of the book provides details about the "Hanging Tree" local legends and where to find the infamous tree. 

Although the backdrop of the story may seem stereotypical with two young teens on a date that has gone sour- a rebellious teenaged girl from a broken family, avoiding the advances of an aggressive boyfriend, the supernatural tale which transports the reader back in time is unique and unexpected.  As a blogger I receive this book for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

another dream

The air was stagnant; oppressive
The dark earthy scent wafted through the air.
Dust particles float listlessly in the blinding sunbeams that creaked through the rotted boards.
In the dim, moldy, cavernous space, where darkness contrasted with the noonday sun, oblong boxes, trunks and corrugated cardboard containers were haphazardly stacked in neglected cobwebbed corners.
Unwholesome seepage staining the floors, darkened black pools of tainted liquefied muck-
An eerie warehouse; these strange boxes containing corpses of various states of decay,
abandoned,  without explanation, nor answers.
freshly, unearthed ground, in mountainous heaps,
saturated as a quiet, forgotten, condemned, forlorn community coughed up its dead
Every house, and structure converted to a grim warehouse -
bodies slick, bloated and pungent;  corpses leathered and petrified; remains dry, parched, withered, brittle, and decomposed,
Remains, lifeless shells, empty husks, chaff,
in pieces, rests
Dust particulates drift aimlessly,
a flakey layer of soot,
slowly swirling, falling downwards, down to rest
an eerie snowfall,
coats the yellowed window pane
everything is buried with
Bone and dust-
only remains
rest in pieces

The Answers Book For Kids Volumes 5 & 6

The Answers Book For Kids Volumes 5 & 6 by Ken Ham & Bodie Hodge are the two newest volumes in the Master Books Answers series for children.  As with the previous volumes in the series, each volume is dedicated to a particular topic.  Each book can be read independently because they address specific topics in question and answer format.  These pocket sized books, with full color phtot0graphs and lively graphics rival the scholarship and quality of other mainstream books in the children's science genre.  The science and fact genre is increasingly popular for kids books as any school book fair or bookstore will testify.  The new trivia and fact books are especially popular with kids these days, in order to make learning fun.  The authors, Ham and Hodge integrate this popular genre in order to make learning bible truths fun.

The Answers Book for Kids Volume 5: 20 Questions from Kids on Space and Astronomy, is a 48
page, full color pocket sized book that features 2o questions on this popular subject from actual kids.  Each two page spread is dedicated to the question and answer of a popular question that will appeal to young readers.  Each question is presented by a child ranging from age 6 to 11.  On one page, the young reader is presented with the question and introduced to the child that particular question is from, with a photo, name and age.  The reader can relate to a question that actually has a name and face to it.  The following page addresses the answer in a few simple paragraphs using a relevant biblical verse as a spring board.  Photographs draw in greater interest.

While the questions presented by the featured children may not be exactly what your child would ask, they are similar to what many children have wondered and can be adapted to the universal questions that all children seem to as at one time or another.  For example on page 14, the question presented by 9 year old Becca, " Is it possible that there are living things in space?" is a variant of the ever popular question- "Do aliens exist?" which parents are more likely to actually hear.  In fact both my children ages 7 and 12 have rephrased this question asking whether aliens are real or exist rather than the more scientifically accurate, but less likely wording "Is it possible that their are living things in space".  The stereotypical alien depictions near the answer are accurate pop cultural depictions of aliens that children most likely have in mind when asking the question as to whether aliens exist.  I feel the way this question is worded in this book might be a little deeper than how most young kids would actually ask this question. Yet, as a parent, I can see why this question was phrased in this way as the insertion of the word  "alien" in the question most likely would yield a more negative response in contrast to rephrasing it as "living things" which gives a broader, more open ended response.  Eleven  year old Sean's question about the "waters above the expanse" of the book of Genesis, is one that most likely will  never be asked by most young children.  Nevertheless the answer is fascinating nonetheless, and will capture the interest of any young reader.  As far as the other question, basically the most popular space questions about planets, comets, stars and space are covered.  How many kids have asked the question "Will the sun blow up?" Finally there is a book to address it. It is refreshing to see simple, yet faithful and intelligent responses written for children.  this book is an essential tool for any parent who find themselves faced with the astronomy and space questions that children love to ask.  The back of the book has a helpful "appendix"  of yearly meteor showers as well as a planet fact sheet.  This book makes a good supplemental tool for an astronomy lesson in science.

Volume 6: 22 Questions from Kids on Babel and the Ice Age is the perfect companion to any
geography or geological science lesson.  While some of these questions are unlikely to come from secular students specifically, especially the specific questions on the tower of Babel from the book of Genesis, they do overlap with many questions children naturally have about ancient history, different cultures, and the ice age.  For children curious about anthropology and archeology, this book presents satisfying and convincing answers to questions of curious kids about the ice age and about human ecology and cultures.  In addition to a large number of questions on the tower of Babel account from Genesis, there are questions concerning the origins of human languages, ethnicities, nationalities and civilizations.  There are also several questions about the widely conjectured ice age.  This book distinguishes fact from fiction, sorting myth and reality in the context of bible truth and archeology.  The ice age is a very popular theme in pop culture and especially kids' movies.  This eye opening book provides much needed truth to the facts of the ice age which are frequently distorted by evolutionary and secular bias.

All answers in these two volumes are provided in light of scripture as well as archeological evidence.  This book shows first hand that science and the bible are not mutually exclusive, giving much needed credibility for the bible to students, parents and educators alike. These books equip parents and educators to address the tough questions that curious kids have rather than stumbling to find an answer.  For older children that can read themselves these books will hold their attention providing entertainment while sharing biblical truth. I would like to see a compendium of all six volumes available in one single, larger volume.   I received these books as a blogger for New Leaf press, published by Masterbooks, an imprint of NLP. 

Useful Links and Resources:

Youtube trailer Answers 5 & 6

Volume 5 available at NLP

Volume 6 available at NLP

Available at B&N

Available at B&N Volume 6

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Cross by Rod Parsley

The new book, The Cross by Rod Parsley has a well defined theme and purpose: to illustrate the dangers of undermining the significance of the cross of Jesus Christ.  The idea of the cross, and its focused purpose in redeeming our salvation is both shameful and offensive to many Christians as well as secularists alike.  A dangerous modern trend, even in so called Christian churches is to reduce the presence of the cross in everyday life as well as worship. Parsley explains that" Calvary's cross is the place where God's unfanthomable provision intersects with our deepest and most basic need". page 28.  Yet this symbol is associated with shame and often left out in modern worship.  As the author mentioned the cross is seen as bad marketing.

With laser- like focus, Parsley brings to light the significance of the cross figuratively and literally both in general life and in worship.  Churches most of all are systematically erasing the cross from its teachings and imagery.  In fact, many modern churches don't even have a cross.  Nevertheless, to deny the cross, or to simply omit the cross passively is to deny a crucial tenant of Christian belief.  It results in a watered down Christianity or lukewarm faith.  This short easy to read book is focused and goes directly to the point.  Drawing on relevant anecdotes and Christian thinkers of the past, together with scripture, the author provides a wealth of information to make the reader aware of this silent poison that is infiltrating the Christian churches.  Poignant, bold illustrations of the cross, within the text serve to re-enforce visually, the importance of the cross itself.  I believe this book will be a wake up call especially for many modern Christians.  This book is part theology- part apologetic tool- in order to expose the dangerous modern trend of minimizing the cross.  As a blogger for Booketeria I received this book published by Charisma House for the purpose of writing this review.

The Reason For my Hope by Billy Graham

The Reason For my Hope: Salvation, is the newest book by Billy Graham.  Although having reached the  old age of 95, with his white hair, wizened features, and faded eyes, he does not simply write for the old, infirm, depressed or terminally ill. He communicates across the generations- for the young and old alike and everyone in between.  His timeless writing style is not dated as with many contemporary writers or preachers who go to great lengths to draw in the younger generation integrating popculture into their works.  The Reason For My Hope is not simply a memoir or autobiography, nor is it a last attempt to produce one more book.  The fact that Graham's portrait is on the cover, personalizes his message in that he is not simply preaching to other but sharing his personal faith, strength and motivation.  You get the impression that the very faith and thought processes that helped Graham to persevere are being shared with the reader in a personal and intimate reader.  With this book he really connects to the audience. This  is a book that contains wise advise for every reader at any stage of belief- from the seasoned life long bible believing Christian, to even the young seeker. This book sums up in compact form, the gospel message and its relevance to Billy Graham's life as well as each individual life.  This books gives much needed dignity and credibility to a long forgotten- previous generation. Not only that, this book presents the gospel and serves as a much needed apologetic tool in today's worth of myth and misconception.   He dispels commonly held myths and misconceptions about hell, Jesus and the second coming of Jesus. He takes the time to actually communicate to the reader how bible truths are relevant, and how damaging it can be to ignore biblical truth.

It can not be overemphasized that Graham's writing has a broad appeal to all readers without alienating any socio-economic sector.  The words and even his anecdotes are timeless- not dated in contrast to an ever-growing number of devotional books whose audience is either women or younger readers.  The irritating modern pop culture and media references, which serve to alienate many older readers or less prosperous readers- are left out of this his writings altogether, thankfully. This book will not disappoint you when you are expecting spiritual  direction in times of distress or even everyday life. If you find you are bellyaching because you burned your husband's dinner, or the grass stain won't come out of the soccer uniform, or if missed an appointment for your pedicure, or your favorite coach bag sold out before you reached the mall, then this book might not hold your attention as this author does not commiserate with your trivial issues.  What you need is a fluffy, superficial, condescending, feel- good, women's devotional book with an image of an overpriced latte or a photo of a quaint Martha Stuart-esque vase of garden blooms. You won't find daily devotionals focused on spilled latte, long black Friday lines, or finding time to tote kids to soccer or cracked iphone screen related woes.

Billy Graham is a well known figure by religious and the secular world alike. His writing is like a spiritual compass, allowing the reader to focus on ultimate priorities with out becoming sidetracked by trivialities.  There is some comfort in knowing that he, as the author, takes time to ponder the truths of eternity and mortality and that he takes the time to meditate on the basic timeless truth of God. This is a book that goes back to the basics and foundations of faith.  Ironically this book is the perfect outreach to deliver the good news while at the same time, re-enforcing one's faith in biblical truths.   His words of strength give greater voice and credibility to the words of the bible in a world that worships the media, materialism, culture and greed. In sum- this book presents the complete gospel message- the Good News for salvation. As a blogger for booksneeze, I have received this book published by Thomas Nelson in exchange for writing this review. My opinions are my own.