Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts by Maja Safstrom

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts by Maja Safstrom is a new gift book featuring lively cartoons of animals alongside interesting facts and trivia.  This small sized hardcover book is the perfect book for anyone who likes animals or unusual facts.  This little niche book would make a great gift for anyone who is eccentric.  The black and white cartoon art is well detailed and reminiscent of  the detailed drawing in an adult coloring book.  For anyone who has a little time on their hands, in a waiting room, in the hospital or an airport, this is the perfect distraction- a book that takes little to no mental energy or thought.  It is simply a simple entertaining little book. This lighthearted book is a good diversion from the seriousness of life.  Unlike the fact and trivia science genre for younger readers- this book makes a better choice for an adult.  The  vintage style of the book with its black and white art will appeal to older readers who want to be reminded of their childhood.  Younger readers are more accustomed to bright, colorful, magazine styled graphics and full color spreads.  As a blogger I received this book published by Potter/ Ten Speed press, for the purpose of writing this review.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I Can Learn to Pray by Holly Hawkins Shivers

I Can Learn to Pray by Holly Hawkins Shivers is a new devotional book for parents to read to their children. This small sized hardcover book features full color illustrations and graphics throughout.  The thicker pages and bright cartoon are great for early readers.  This book features 52 different devotionals.  Each topic is based on a bible lesson or theme such as "Praying in Secret", and topics such as sin, troubles, being busy, faith and thankfulness.  This is a great book to introduce young children to the idea of prayer and it is the perfect book to jump start the prayer life for children.  As a blogger for Booklook I received a copy of this book published by Tommy Nelson publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Under The Sea Holy Bible New International Readers Version (NIrV) bible

Any child that loves the Ocean theme or the popular movie, Finding Nemo, will love to receive this new  Under The Sea Holy Bible New International Readers Version (NIrV) bible. The beautiful and vibrant cover featuring vibrant sea creatures with bright smiles will certainly draw in young children and kids of all ages to open the cover to take a peek.  Inside this bible are colorful themed inserts as well, to introduce children to basic bible concepts such as the books of the bible and the Ten Commandments.  A quick peek as this beautifully designed bible is certain to impress any parent or gift giver.

While I was impressed at the beautifully designed cover, I was underwhelmed after I actually took a look inside.  Once you open the bible, you will find a pretty standard pew-like bible with its tiny black print on standard white pages.  Lacking any graphics, and  with its space saving small font, this is enough to  detract from the readability of the bible, which is a large drawback for a bible marketed for young readers. Although I was greatly impressed by the cover and the color insert pages, I would pass this bible up as I can not picture any young reader actually wanting to read the text of this bible.  I am left puzzled and perplexed at why the publishers chose to use such a tiny sized font and as to why there was no spot color or graphics included within the text.  In the end I was disappointed  with this particular bible when considering all the other choices of full text children's bible which include accent colors and graphics. I feel the publishers could have integrated the aquatic theme throughout the bible.  I do not feel enough was done with this bible to make it unique or easy for a young child to read. Although I love the fact that this is the NIrV version, young readers will struggle to trudge through this bible due to the super tiny font and the lack of graphics or art to break up the large chunks of monotonous text.  As a blogger I received a copy of this bible published by Zondervan for the purpose of writing this review.

I Can by Kathryn O'Brien

I Can by Kathryn O'Brien is a picture book for children featuring brightly drawn illustrations side by side the beloved bible verse from Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”.  Using repetition and rhyme, the story brings this bible passage to life to entertain as well as empower young children.  The art will hold the attention of young readers- even to the small details such as the teeny tiny ladybug that appears hidden throughout the pages. This is the perfect story for a toddler and preschooler to read and re-read.  O'Brien makes the bible accessible and relevant for today's generation of readers: for young children and their parents alike. This book would make a great gift.  I also feel that this story would be perfect  as a board book for young babies as well.  As a blogger for Tyndale I received a copy of this book published by Tyndale for the purpose of writing this review.   

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Being a Captain is Hard Work: A Captain No Beard Story by Carole P. Roman

Captain is Hard Work: A Captain No Beard Story by Carole P. Roman, illustrated by Bonnie Lemaire is another picture book in the beloved pirate series for children  Watercolor styled art perfectly accompanies the nautical pirate and marine themes. The detailed cartoon art is fast paced and the expressive cartoons will capture the attention of young children.

The story begins on the Flying Dragon as they approach an ominous sky with a strange cloud formation.  The approach of a storm prompts the captain and crew try to identify the cloud types. Young children can follow along with the educational conversation about identifying clouds in the sky.  Children will be eager to hear what follows next as the crew sails the rough stormy weather.  The end of the book includes a guide to identifying the different cloud types. This is a great story book for children of all ages, and even for those who are unfamiliar with this series.

As with the other books,  this book centers around essential  messages about kindness and compassion.   Captain No Beard has wisdom that can apply to all audiences, the young, the old, parents as well as children.  In other stories of the series, we find more Captain No Beard words of wisdom:   "problems can weigh you down like a heavy anchor. When you share your load with others, it's never too heavy to carry."

Ironically, these pirates with their pirate ship have more morals and ethics than the traditional pirate in children's literature. The lesson transcends age, and will leave a lasting impression long after the book is put down. As a parent, this is certainly a story I would share with my children ages 15, 10, 3 and 19 months.  Roman is an effective children's author that threads wisdom and morals throughout her fictional stories, and has mastered the plot twist adding an element of surprise that even parents will appreciate as they read this story to their children.

        The books of this series belong on the bookshelf of every pirate enthusiast. There is more to this series than meets the eye- beyond the pirate theme are tales of morals and inspiration.  Any parent navigating the endless choices in the children's picture book genre should take a look at this quality series. This has become one of my favorite series for children. This book is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as a Kindle edition.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Brood X by Phillip Michael Cash

Brood X: A Firsthand Account of the Great Cicada Invasion is Phillip Michael Cash's first horror novel.  The author's emergence as a horror writer started here with this book.  Ironically I have read all of Cash's novels-  my favorite fiction author, except for his very first novel.
 This horror story has everything I have come to expect from a Cash horror novel.  This authentic story tells the real-time account of the modern day apocalyptic cicada plague.  In  fact the reader might even imagine this is a true account of a real wide-scale disaster. In the beginning of the story, emergency personnel obtain a video recording which chronicles the detailed account of the Cicada crisis from the point of a young newlywed couple expecting their first child.  In the context of a home video- the tragic and horrific account of the cicada invasion unfolds.  The social unraveling of society in the face of an epidemic is authentic and disturbing.  Even more disturbing is the graphically descriptive details provided by Cash, of the monstrous and lethal swarms of cicadas  with their "protruding red eyes...thick black body... well veined wings... shivering body" that make their presence known by deafening roars and rattles.  Local towns were decimated under the literal weight of tons of cicadas.  The death toll mounted as the nightmarish insects pierced their victims, filling their helpless flesh with countless larvae.  I do not see what would stop Michael Phillip Cash's horror masterpiece from becoming a bestseller.  Cash is a contemporary horror writer whose attention and passion for grotesque detail and human emotion  is reminiscent of Stephen King.  If you are unfamiliar with Cash, and enjoy fast paced contemporary horror- Brood X will not be a disappointment. I could
imagine that this story would make a successful transition to a full length horror movie. This book is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

If You Were Me and Lived In... Egypt by Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived In... Egypt, is the newest volume in  Carole P. Roman's "A Child's Introduction to Cultures Around The World"  series . The art contained in this volume on Egypt is impressive. The books in the series keep getting better and the  original art is full of surprises.

The mixed media cartoon art combined with beautiful scenic photos bring Egypt to life in an entirely new way for young readers.  These books take only minutes to read cover to cover but they will give any child a comprehensive view of the geography and culture of a particular country.  This volume about Egypt follows a similar format as the other  books in the series including  Italy, Mexico, Hungary, Peru, South Korea,  and France as well as many others.

When reading about Egypt, the photograph of the ancient yet majestic architecture jumps out at the reader, as it serves as the backdrop against bautiful vibrant skies, featuring a glowing rainbow of colors. The well known tourist areas are included.  The city of Cairo is majestic against a peaceful clear blue sky. The ancient pyramids and the Great Sphinx are adorned with original artistic touches, and cartoons.  The scene of the iridescent sunset with the palm tree drawing is beautiful.

 The cartoon tour guides will certainly capture the attention of all young readers as well as parents and educators. I believe the "Carlesque" styled mixed media illustrations with the simple line cartoons in her   books are  an unexpected treat.  Mixed media illustrations are very popular and appealing for young readers as evidenced by the popularity of Eric Carle's kids' books.  By combining geography with mixed media- I believe that Roman will generate even greater interest and attention for her educational series. This sets her books apart from cartoon only illustrations. Children will stare in wonder at the blend of cartoon drawings with photographs- it adds a magical- surreal appeal.  The pronunciation guide  at the end of the book is also a glossary and introduces the child to native language. Of all the cultural books on travel and geography for children on the market- this series is the best and the most comprehensive.  Children will be entertained and captivated as they read about a new country.

   This book as well as the other books in the series is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. As a blogger I received this books for the purpose of writing this review.

Cave Kiddos: A Sunny Day by Eric Jay Cash

Cave Kiddos: A Sunny Day by Eric Jay Cash, is a new picture book perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.  This short story features vibrant cartoons of children from pre-historic times in

order to teach children to speak their first words.  The featured vocabulary word for this book is water.  Phonetically pronounced, a young child can sound out the syllables as he or she follows the story.  The end result is being able to pronounce a new word! This book would  be a great resource for early intervention teachers who are teaching speech delayed preschoolers and toddlers to talk. In fact, I plan to show this to our early intervention speech teacher.  This book is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Tasting Rome:Fresh Flavor & Forgotten Recipes From An Ancient City by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill

Tasting Rome:Fresh Flavor & Forgotten Recipes From An Ancient City by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill is a new niche cook book in the growing genre of the hybrid travel- cooking book.    One might wonder why in this modern day anyone would purchase an expensive cook book when there are so many free recipes available on the internet.  There are still some people out there who prefer a physical cookbook that they can shelve in their kitchen rather than a collection of printed out recipes.  This book is a beautifully bound hardcover with full color photos of exotic looking meals.  It is a work of art- which it needs to be- in order to compete with the convenience of online recipes.  This book would make a great gift for a chef or as a housewarming gift.  Anyone who wants to explore their Italian heritage and foods will enjoy this cookbook as well.  As far as recipes- this book is for the advanced chef who feels at home trying new meals and new variations of authentic Italian cooking.  This book isn't about plain old pasta and pizza.  This book is for daring individuals who dare to prepare the  exotic sounding foods like verdue gratinate al forno or pizzette- which is a pastry puff pizza or hraimi con couscous which is spicy fish with couscous.  There are also some unpleasant recipes such as fegatelli di maiale which is grilled pig's liver and animelle con marsala- which is sweetbreads with marsala wine.  Sweetbread is the thymus gland of veal and lamb.  Having taken anatomy and as a nursing student, I'd know never to eat a thymus gland even if you paid me. In fact I would not eat a grilled pig's liver  or even a beef tongue.  I couldn't care less if the beef tongue was smeared with Salsa Verde, a garlic-rich parsley sauce.  I still wouldn't eat it even if you paid me. I guess I am not fancy enough for these recipes, but I am sure there are some fancy upscale Italians who are.  There are holiday dishes as well as fancy Italian desserts included.  This book is an instruction manual too in which step by step preparation instructions and techniques are provided as well as the photos of the preparation process.

In addition to recipes there is also tourist information as well as general information about the ingredients commonly used it Italian recipes.  This book combines artistry and upscale ingredients with a variety of meat and ingredients.  The book goes over the step by step process of the recipes even the history of the recipe as well.  There is a lot of background and supplemental information to make the reader an expert in this cuisine .  As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Potter publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

God is Watching Over You by P.J. Lyons

God is Watching Over You by P.J. Lyons, illustrated by Tim Warnes is a quick board book perfect for toddlers and pre-schoolers.  This short story features a little lamb going to bed as the message "God is watching over you", is reinforced throughout.  The story line is simple, and rhymes and will hold the attention of young children.  The cartoon illustrations capture the familiar nightime of many young children. The board book is sturdy and will hold up well with heavy use. As soon as my toddler saw this book, she wanted me to read it again and again.  This is the perfect book to read over and over.  As a blogger for booklook I received a copy of this book published by Zonderkidz for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Angels in the Bible Storybook By Allia Zobel Nolan

Angels in the Bible Storybook By Allia Zobel Nolan, illustrated by Alida Massari is a beautiful book.  This children's bible storybook is adorned with beautiful illustrations.  The artwork by Massari alone make the book worthwhile to purchase. The art and especially the angels are vibrant and beautiful- adored with beautifully adorned wings and gowns.  The textured artwork jumps out at the reader The storytelling is unique in that the focus of the bible stories place emphasis on the angels without detracting from the message of the bible story.  This bible story book tells the well known stories of the bible from a new and unique perspective.  I believe this is a well worthwhile addition to your library even if you already own other childrens' bible storybooks.  This book is a work of art, and the stories as retold by Nolan are true to the bible's message.  Inserted are simple selected bible verses- perfect for young children and even their parents.  I can see another use for this book as well- I feel this volume would brighten the day for any adult who needs some cheer for their spirits.  I can imagine this would also make a wonderful gift for anyone who is sick or in need of a reminder of what heaven has in store.  I can not say enough of this beautiful book- I believe every parent should buy a copy.  I think the parents will secretly enjoy it for themselves too.  As a blogger for Booklook I received a copy of this book published by Zonderkidz for the purpose of writing this review.  

Keep Calm and Ask On By Michael Samuels

Keep Calm and Ask On  By Michael Samuels: A No Nonsense Guide to Fulfilling Your Dreams- is the third volume in the trilogy that relates the well known "Law of Attraction" to everyday life.  Anyone who is not already familiar with Samuels' motivational self help books will enjoy this volume- even without having read the earlier two books which include: Just Ask The Universe and The Universe-ity.  All three volumes are available online on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Unlike the theoretical Rhonda Byrne book, The Secret, Samuels actually helps the reader to achieve actual goals addressing life issues such as confidence, co-dependency, attitude and materialism.  He also covers the common traits of happy and successful people and compares them with the qualities observed in bitter and unhappy people. Samuels keeps the reader engaged with his vibrant and personal writing style.  One would almost imagine he is speaking directly to his or herself.  He writes with humor and knows how to lift the spirits of his readers who may feel burdened with the trials and disappointments of life.  On page 74 he tells the reader to imagine "dancing leprechauns farting gold on rainbows" whenever one feels discouraged or beaten down.  The power of humor should not be underestimated.  It is a good diversion tactic that works.  Keep in mind that although this is a secular book about achieving one's goals, there is a spiritual or supernatural element.  For some readers, this book, as well as the others in Samuels' self help series,  may serve as a spring board to the inner workings of spiritual world. If you are looking to try a new outlook and you find you have exhausted all the traditional self help strategies from the bookshelves of your local library or bookstore- this book will be something new.

Have you read Samuels' other books, also available @ and Barnes and Noble? 

Just Ask the Universe: A No Nonsense Guide to Manifesting Your Dreams by Michael Samuels, is the first book in a self- improvement trilogy.  The trilogy which includes: Keep Calm and Ask On and The Universe-ity, provides practical advice based on the concept of "The Law of Attraction".  Some readers  may have already been introduced to the idea of  "The Law of Attraction" through Rhonda Byrne's well known book, "The Secret".  Samuels' book, Just Ask the Universe draws upon this concept and expands upon it a a more precise, matter of fact, style of presentation.  He introduces the reader to the spiritual concept of "The Universe" and gives the reader practical advice on how to apply the "Law of Attraction" in order to find success and happiness in life and in achieving goals.  Based on a quasi- scientific explanation that rationalizes the conglomeration of ideas which incorporate the eastern philosophy of Karma, and the telepathic bond the human subconscious mind has with the Universe, Samuels provides  a plausible model in which a person's thoughts and wishes can be transformed into reality.

 To Samuels' credit, he offers clarification early in the book, explaining that the concept of "The Universe" does not represent a deity, nor does it serve as a replacement for God or religious worship.  Rather, Samuels explains that the idea of "The Universe" serves as a distinct entity or concept  that is not mutually exclusive from one's religious or spiritual faith.  In otherwords, for those readers who believe themselves to be Christian, Muslim or Jewish, the author wants to make it clear beyond a doubt, that the ideas presented in this book do not contradict religious belief.  I believe that many readers, even religious readers, will embrace Samuels' apologetic statement with open arms, wanting to justify and reconcile the ideas of the Law of Attraction with their belief systems.  It is not surprising that the author would go out of his way to provide such a statement  given the resurgence of spirituality and bible based faith.  Nevertheless, there will be readers who reject this teaching as contradictory to the spiritual message of the bible and regard it as a gnostic or apocryphal type of teaching with no biblical support. For this reason, this book is separate and distinct from the Christian self help genre- and its believe system may be more consistent with  eastern religious concepts of Karma  as well as the New Age movement.

Nevertheless, the concepts are not necessarily spiritual, but rather secular.  The concept about gratitude and acting by one's morals and conscious are commendable ideas that can only serve to help the individual as well as contribute to making the world a better place.  The idea that life is not nor should be a competition and that there are sufficient resources and gifts available to all is refreshing.  I can see how even the most apathetic and discouraged of readers might find inspiration and empowerment after reading this book.  No matter how depressed one may find himself to be, reading this book will motivate any reader to act to follow his lifelong dreams and goals. This is a unique book that points the reader to find his answers to happiness externally, rather than focusing on his own works.  If you have tried a variety of self help books in the hopes of trying to find the elusive answer that you seek- this book offers a unique solution- and a new direction to take.

Having my own useless Bachelors degree from a respected university, I attest to truth found in eye opening book, The Universe-ity and in  Michael's Samuels' poignant words, "A standard education doesn't mean you will have an abundant life". (Samuels, 2013) Samuels' words reached out to me, as we both had similar backgrounds- university degrees with no meaningful utility in achieving any goal whatsoever.  This is a book for anyone who seeks more out of life; for those who are enlightened enough to know that success does not come from only a career or a degree and that there is a supernatural or spiritual component to success and happiness.


In the context of the "universe-ity", Samuels  builds on the concepts of Rhonda  Byrne's, The Secret- a unique self help phenomena that integrates science and spirituality with the supernatural in order to help people attain their goals. In his book, The Universe-ity, he demonstrates that success and satisfaction is not lined to education or intelligence or even money.  He explains that "unsuccessful people .... have been broken in by society to live in a box.  They associate having a successful life with tremendous physical or mental exertion. " (Samuels, 2013) He goes on to share with the reader,  the "secret" behind achieving happiness.  As the reader, I had the distinct feeling that Michale Samuels was speaking to me personally.  he has a lively and charismatic writing style that makes it seem as if he is personally speaking to you one on one.  Although Samuels' book is a self help guide, it is like having a personal session with an inspirational speaker.   This is more than an introductory manual that brings the reader to the basic principles  to achieving real happiness and success.  This book is like a continuing education course in strengthening one's morals and achieving personal success in life.

The author integrates the concepts of Karma in providing a backdrop for the principles behind the inner-workings of the universe.  The idea of Karma serves as a spiritual law for Samuels.  This principal is used to explain the universal moral code.  The "Universe" is analogous to a deity in a sense and the idea of Karma becomes a theology or spiritual code.  The spiritual element of this book makes it more complex and more substantial than a traditional self help book- and serves to fulfill the human need to reach for something greater than one's self.  Using modern analogies and anecdotes to reach today's generation,  the author compare the "Universe-ity" to a large supercomputer to which all people are interconnected.  This modern idea of the supercomputer is intertwined with the ancient spiritual concept of Karma in delivering a theory of the behind the scenes mysteries on  how the world really works.

There are those readers who will have difficulty reconciling Samuels' ideas with their religious beliefs.  Michael Samuels' position is that he does not seek to discredit any religion, although some readers, nevertheless, will certainly hold fast to the belief that he contradicts established religious beliefs. For those readers who embraced "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne and the Law of Attraction, this is a great resource to expand one's learning.  For anyone unfamiliar with the Law of Attraction, this book is an eyeopener to a new thought process and a new way of seeing the world. This book is simply written and easy to digest for any reader. For some readers this book will prove to be life changing.