Friday, December 2, 2016

One to Ten: Squirrel's Bad Day by Carole P. Roman illustrated by Mateya Arkova


One to Ten: Squirrel's Bad Day by Carole P. Roman illustrated by  Mateya Arkova is a new children's picture book that teaches young children how to cope with bad days and life's disappointments. The brightly textured watercolor art by Arkova is inviting for children of all ages.  The animated characters and their friendly, and sincere personalities will draw in the young readers and they follow along.  This story addresses common challenges little ones face- cancelled plans, bad weather, embarrassment, bad grades, divorced parents and the loss of a beloved pet-  to name a few. Using a technique to relieve stress and to decrease anxiety, squirrel learns a new coping technique  based on numbering the problem on a one to ten scale. The story ends with a few wise words that will have a lasting impact on children of all ages.   "In the event that something happens, and you feel your world fly apart, recall this conversation; remember the one to ten chart.... Once you give it a number... the problem doesn't feel so big, and somehow you'll know what to do." (Roman, 2016) Parents can use this story with their children as a springboard to address life problems and situations. Once again, Carole P. Roman shows her versatility as a children's writer.

Miscarried Joy: Moving Beyond Incredible Pain to Extraordinary Faith by Tanika Fitzgerald

In her new book, Miscarried Joy: Moving Beyond Incredible Pain to Extraordinary Faith, Tanika Fitzgerald ministers to women experiencing the grief of pregnancy loss and stillbirth.  Tanika herself experienced the grief and isolation of miscarriage in 2015.  She opens her book with the candid account of her own experience of miscarriage.  She reaches out to the grieved reader as a personal friend and mentor.  For many women, the solace and comfort received from Tanika's book might be the only companionship during their own pregnancy loss journey.  As Tanika points out, miscarriage and pregnancy loss is more common than many believe.  But, because of the stigma surrounding pregnancy loss, many women must grieve alone.  This book is a resource to read multiple times, and to have handy by the bedside for sleepless nights and times of grief.  There are plenty of scripture verses as well as bible anecdotes that are used to help guide any grieving mother when facing the loss of her child no matter what stage in pregnancy the loss occurred. This is the perfect book for anyone experiencing pregnancy loss.  And for those painful times when there are no other words of comfort- this makes a comforting resource.  One of the best most poignant aspects of this book is that it is written from a point of view of incredible faith.  Tanika wrote this book despite the fact that she currently does not have any living children.  She writes from the point of view of patience and in a time of uncertainty which makes her words even more powerful and applicable.  Not every mother has a happy ending or a baby here while on Earth.  The fact that the author has written this powerful book while still patiently waiting on God -serves as a reminder that if this type of faith is possible for her, that maybe it is also possible for those who have not been able to have children either.    As a blogger for Litfuse publicity, I am providing an unbiased review.

Beyond Suffering Bible NLT: Where Struggles Seem Endless, God's Hope Is Infinite by Joni and Friends, Inc.

The Beyond Suffering Bible NLT: Where Struggles Seem Endless, God's Hope Is Infinite - is a new bible produced by Joni and Friends, Inc.

Joni Eareckson Tada of Joni and Friends Christian Institute on Disability, is known best by many readers, as an inspirational hero of faith who suffers from quadriplegia as a result of a diving injury suffered at the age of 17.  I first learned of Jodi Eateckson Tada's story as a college student when I read her inspirational autobiography.  Over the years I found myself drawn to her story and example when life became difficult with various trials. 

Her faith and resilience in the face of disability and tragedy is an inspiration and model for all Christians and especially for those facing tragic circumstances and disability.  One may wonder where Joni finds her strength and how she maintains her strength and faith. For true inspirational devotionals, side by side with the full text of the bible- this bible resource is where to turn. Unlike many devotional bibles on the market- this bible is truly dedicated to those readers who are actively suffering.  This bible provides the tools needed to empower and inspire even the most apathetic and depressed of readers. Whether you are facing the grief of loss, terminal illness, disability or even the loss of a job- this bible is certain to provide comfort- not only with the inspired words of scripture, but also with the articles and devotionals that help bring the word of God to life.  The devotionals focus on scripture but also help the reader to see how God's word can be practically applied when facing a crisis, or tragedy or even a chronic illness.  As a blogger I received a copy of this bible published by Tyndale for the purpose of writing this review. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Read and Share Look, I'm Reading! Bible Storybook By Gwen Ellis


Look, I'm Reading! Bible Storybook By Gwen Ellis is a new story book bible for young children featuring picture codes within the text.  This book is perfect for emerging readers and pre-schoolers.  By replacing key words with graphics, the child can fill in the story by looking at the picture which represents the missing word.  The cartoon like drawings are simple- similar to a doodle.  The child becomes an active participant of the story by looking at the image and by completing the sentences. This book is yet another way to add variety to bible storytelling.  As a blogger for Booklook I received a copy of this book published by Tommy Nelson for the purpose of writing this review.

Red-Blooded American Male: Photographs by Robert Trachtenberg

Red-Blooded American Male: Photographs by Robert Trachtenberg is a  modern book of photography featuring  photoshoots of actors, musicians and other well known media figures.  It is difficult to categorize this eccentric book into a specific genre. While it features known faces and figures from popular culture and modern media- the selection of subjects as well as  the themed photoshoots seem to be aligned with a smaller niche of readers.  Possibly the term "Red- Blooded American Male" is a euphemism that may be appreciated by some readers.   The varied mix of eclectic fashion ranging from complete nudity, to partial nudity to extravagant costumes and women's wear add an unexpected element.  This book challenges gender roles and stereotypes as well as the traditional perceptions of well known celebrities by creating a mix- up like none other.  Ironically, in the preface, the author addresses the question as to who would actually "pay good money" to buy this book.  Ironically, I feel the shock value of this book is what will drive readers to invest in this book.  This book of photography may be considered art by some readers and to others- part of a social movement to reject traditional roles and values. In the end, the best way to describe this work is a book of alternative art and photography. At least for those traditional readers- if you pull off the full color jacket featuring a reclining male in fishnets dressed in grey in a room with color coordinated decor-  you will find the glossy black binding, and contemporary yet minimalist cover to fit very well with the books on your book shelf.     As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Amphoto Book for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

NIV, Journal the Word Bible

NIV, Journal the Word BibleReflect, Journal, or Create Art Next to Your Favorite Verses

by Zondervan is a beautiful new bible that is made to not only accommodate personal journaling, but it also a beautifully bound hardcover with a cloth design that will appeal to readers of all ages. The thick cream colored pages, with light lines on the margins leave ample room for writing and even small drawings.

There is a new trend of bible journals and bibles with journal space on the market these days. Creativity is a new way to express faith while also building one's knowledge of the word of God.  This bible can easily become a treasured keepsake, passed down generation to generation, once it is personalized.

Generous sized margins feature ample space for writing notes, or even for creating your own doodles.  There is no limitation to this bible as it allows flexibility for anything.  To get some ideas of how to decorate or personalize a journaling bible there are many videos on the internet.  This bible will appeal to a wide audience including scrap bookkers, artists, journalists  and writers.

One feature is its smaller size text and size in general. Depending on who you are, this may or may not be a positive feature.  This bible is portable and light- and easy to read while holding in one hand.  Unlike heavier, bulky bibles, this bible is easy to read sitting up in a chair, or with one hand right before bed.  With its portable size, comes a smaller font.  The text size is slightly smaller  than the standard font size of Zondervan bibles.  The font is still readable, just not as much as the standard font.  Once again this is to allow extra wide lined margins on just about each page to allow for personal journal entries and notes.   This is not a devotional or study bible.  There are no extra articles or devotions which is a good thing as nothing stands between the reader and God's word.

Now that I have this bible, the hardest thing is to figure out what to do with it since there are so many possibilities.  I can not decide if I should take notes, draw doodles, highlight passages or add stickers- or maybe all these things.  As beautiful as this bible is, I may just want to leave it as it is and not add anything. So, I'm probably going to take a few days reading this bible until I decide if or how to personalize it.  Maybe I will watch a few more videos for inspiration.   As a blogger I received a copy of this bible published by Zondervan.

Classic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites, from Pfeffernusse to Streuselkuchen by Luisa Weiss

Classic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites, from Pfeffernusse to Streuselkuchen by Luisa Weiss is a new cookbook dedicated to baking and desserts.  This authentic cookbook features actual German recipes: Friesentorte (Plum Cream Torte), Butterkuchen (Butter Almond Cake), Schwarz- Weiss Geback (Checkerboard cookies) and many more.  The book features sections for cookies, cakes, yeasted cakes, Tortes, breads and even Christmas.  The last section is on the very basics- Quark (Sour Fresh Cheese), Streusel and more foundation recipes.  This comprehensive volume in perfect for every level of baking- from the beginner to the advanced chef.  This beautiful hard cover volume features thick sturdy pages, and detailed quality photographs.  Background information and commentary is provided for all the recipes as well.  I am giving this cookbook to my teenager who is in her third year of German language class- as she also enjoys baking as well.  This cookbook will transport the reader directly to Germany!  As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Ten Speed Press for the purpose of writing this review.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Lords Prayer illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson

The Lords Prayer illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson is a new hardcover picture book featuring the traditional King James Bible version of the Lord's prayer with commentary by Rick Warren.  Warren's prose is the perfect compliment to go side by side, the beautiful art of Watson.  This combinations brings to life, the ever popular Lords's prayer from the bible.  This board book will stand up to years of use by small toddlers.  The bold colors and illustrations will hold the attention of young readers even if they can not fully grasp the message of the Lords prayer.  This is a book that children and even adults will enjoy.  As a blogger for Booklook I received a copy of this book published by Zonderkidz for the purpose of writing this review.

Far Afield: Rare Food Encounters from Around the World by Shane Mitchell

Far Afield: Rare Food Encounters from Around the World by Shane Mitchell is a one of a kind hybrid book- a cross between a travel and culture book and and a cookbook.  Looking at the cover and title- one might think this is a sociology or book on geography.  The subtitle reveals the true extend of this book- a collection of recipes.  This recipe book features regional and traditional foods in the context of a documentary or article of a particular geographic area or culture.  This book features an eclectic mix of cultures including the Day of the Dead celebration, Fishermen of Kenya, impoverished refugees of France and primitive tribes of India- just to name a few.  In an ironic plot twist, impoverished, third world cultures are portrayed as authentic and natural as serene and impressive photos are set side by side photography and recipes for their local ethnic foods.  Impoverished and simple cultures are portrayed as having rich cultural roots with a complex mix of foods.  The author turns basic, simple, tribal living as upscale, mysterious and even exotic.  The reader will think twice about any longstanding stereotypes and preconceived ideas of different cultures.  The vivid photography brings faraway places and people close to home.  I found this more than just a cookbook, but more of a cultural experience- a glimpse into faraway and overlooked societies.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by 10 Speed Press for the purpose of writing this review.  

THE RADICAL BOOK FOR KIDS BY CHAMP THORNTON

THE RADICAL BOOK FOR KIDS by  CHAMP THORNTON is a new simplified theological textbook that brings the bible and faith to life with full color graphics, photos and art.  This book is a wonderful resource that can be used as an entertaining tool to introduce your child to theology or even as a religious studies textbook.  Thornton portrays faith and the bible in one comprehensive picture in order to provide a complete yet simple to understand foundation of faith for young readers of all ages.  Even adult readers who read this to their children, may find their understanding of theology to be more complete after reading this book as well.  Each page features impressive full color graphics, photos or other visuals, drawing in the attention - readers of all ages.  In this age of multi media, and bold graphics- this book reaches out to today's generation of young readers and their parents.  This book is divided into short lessons and an index provides a useful starting point if you are looking for something specific.  I found this book to represent a vast array of research on the part of Champ Thornton.  Most of all, the author's ability to package the material provides an outreach opportunity to share the gospel and theology basics to children as well as their parents.  As a blogger for Lifuse publicity, I received a copy of this book published by NG Press for the purpose of writing this review.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bedtime Read and Rhyme Bible Stories by Bonnie Rickner Jensen and illustrated by Robert Dunn

Bedtime Read and Rhyme Bible Stories by Bonnie Rickner Jensen and illustrated by Robert Dunn is a new bedtime themed book of short bible stories written especially for young children. There are many children's story book bibles on the market, but this fills a unique nich as it integrates the bed time story theme and rhymes as well.   Vibrant, colorful art, featuring well known bible characters and heroes such as King David, Daniel, Noah, Paul and Jesus, reinforce bible themes in a bedtime story setting.  The bright illustrations, and the cozy nighttime theme will appeal to young children and are perfectly suited for a bedtime storybook.  This perfect sized hardcover book, with its short, comforting and happy stories are the perfect bedtime story for young boys and girls,from toddlers, preschool ages and  up to grade schoolers

 Unlike a typical bible storybook, the purpose of these stories is to entertain and reinforce bible truths through rhyme and repetition.  I found the stories to hold the attention of young children.  The catchy rhyme format is almost like a song- and sticks to the essential spiritual truths for each story.  This book would make a good first introduction to popular bible stories for children unfamiliar with the bible.    This is a good choice for a casual, lighthearted bedtime book.  These simple stories could also be used as a springboard for a discussion of the bible account from the bible as well. I can imagine the lively discussions that could be started with older children contrasting the actual bible accounts with these stories.  If you are looking for a fresh unique way to capture your child's interest- this makes a great choice.  As a blogger for Booklook bloggers I received this book published by Tommy Nelson for the purpose of writing this review.  

Earth Psalms: Reflections on How God Speaks through Nature by Francine Rivers

Earth Psalms: Reflections on How God Speaks through Nature by Francine Rivers, is a beautiful full color devotional book featuring a variety of nature inspired photographs.   This hybrid book - part devotional and part photography- has full color, vibrant nature photography side by side scripture and biblical devotionals.  This book, by Rivers, is a unique, one of a kind way to start each day with a moment of spiritual relaxation and inspiration.  It teaches the reader to take a break and ponder the greatness of God through the creative world that is all around.  Even in the midst of stress or suffering or day to day work and responsibilities- this book shows the reader that God's glory can peer through anything that we may face with our daily struggles or busy lives.  This book will appeal to all readers.  Even those who are not nature enthusiasts will find peace and relaxation when integrating this book as part of their daily prayer life and biblical study.  As a blogger for Tyndale I received a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review.

Earth Psalms: Reflections on How God Speaks through Nature by Francine Rivers

Earth Psalms: Reflections on How God Speaks through Nature by Francine Rivers, is a beautiful full color devotional book featuring a variety of nature inspired photographs.   This hybrid book - part devotional and part photography- has full color, vibrant nature photography side by side scripture and biblical devotionals.  This book, by Rivers, is a unique, one of a kind way to start each day with a moment of spiritual relaxation and inspiration.  It teaches the reader to take a break and ponder the greatness of God through the creative world that is all around.  Even in the midst of stress or suffering or day to day work and responsibilities- this book shows the reader that God's glory can peer through anything that we may face with our daily struggles or busy lives.  This book will appeal to all readers.  Even those who are not nature enthusiasts will find peace and relaxation when integrating this book as part of their daily prayer life and biblical study.  As a blogger for Tyndale I received a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The new adult coloring book, David Bowie, Retrospective and coloring book, by Mel Eliott

There is no way that anyone in this  modern era of social media could have missed that the news that the infamous artist, David Bowie died three days after turning 69.  Not only that, he left an intriguing new album released on his birthday- just three days before his death. Without a doubt this music video release was planned to coincide with his imminent death as the artist had been fighting a private battle with cancer.

The new adult coloring book, David Bowie, Retrospective and coloring book, by Mel Eliott, meshes together two popular genres: adult coloring book and the David Bowie trend. David Bowie fans will not be disappointed.  For every fan, this is a must have book.  This book features a quick synopsis of his life and music, and eccentric drawings of David Bowie in each phase of his musical career starting from the 1960s, to the movie Labyrinth all the way to his most recent Blackstar album.

In fact, this book will be given as a gift to my teenager, although music fans of all ages are certain to enjoy this book even if they aren't into coloring.  I received a copy of this book published by Watson-Guptill for the purpose of writing this review.

My teenager inspired me to do the following commentary after a philosophical debate about Bowie and the meaning behind his works.  Although I am unfamiliar with most of David Bowie's works, aware of the musician from the sidelines, listening only when others played his songs on the radio during long car trips, I could not help but find myself intrigued and drawn to his newest release by the title of "Lazarus".  I could only imagine Bowie's giddy anticipation as he knew he would be leaving the world this complicated, musical tidbit of packed to the brim with symbolism for the fans, critics, religious leaders and psychologists alike, to interpret, discuss and dissect long after his death. To describe this last album as a "parting gift" to his fans seems fitting.

The opening scene of the musical video, Lazarus is poignant as Bowie is confined to a hospital bed: empty, devoid and clinical.  His disheveled colorless hair, shiny diaphoretic skin, and the tortured blue vasculature of his distended aged veins are clearly visible as he writhes around in bed, experiencing terminal agitation as well as spiritual distress, engulfed in regret and longing.  The absence of medical equipment normally seen in the hospital setting as well as  the chipped antique metal framed bed, the pilled salmon bedding, the dingy off white tile floor, the antiqued solid wood wardrobe and the threadbare yet ornately ruffled vintage nightshirt suggest that he is in a nursing home.  Confined to bed, deprived of sensory information as he has a band of gauze wrapped around his eyes, his only sensory input is enabled by two tiny pin sized holes provided by the carefully placed metal rivets. 

An ominous dark female figure slinks out of the heavy wooden wardrobe and finds herself underneath the bed grasping hesitantly upwards.  Ironically, while confined to bed, Bowie apparently rises a few inches off the bed- just enough to suggest levitation, but not enough to allow him to escape the confines of his bed reflecting his imprisonment, emotionally, spiritually and physically. 

As a nurse, it is important to allow the aged and terminally ill opportunities to reminisce as they approach the end of life. Bowie accomplishes this literally and figuratively throughout the piece.  In a scene change, from the sick- bed, Bowie is depicted in an eccentrically patterned, form fitting pair of black long underwear.  He finds a burst of energy, dancing as he continues to reminisce and reflect.  His alter ego is energetic and frantic as he pours out his story. His scissor like movements are quick and frantic in an attempt to release excess energy after having been bed bound for an indeterminate amount of time. This burst of energy is short lived, nevertheless.   In a quick change, his animated facial expression goes blank in mid- song. His eyes  become glassy as they stare off into the distance, detached, in an attempt to disengage from the reality of this world, in preparation for his inevitable death.   Adapting a mechanical, repetitive form of movement that can barely be classified as dancing, his song becomes more forced and structured.  The animated,  emotional piece is short lived as Bowie seamlessly retreats into a devoid expressionless human shell.   From that point the only animated personality is confined to the bed as depicted by Bowie's grandiose gesturing and wide range of intense facial expressions ranging from intense pain, regret and anguish as he grimaces and writhes in the bed.

Near the end, he exhibits a pained, tortured expression as he holds up a black quill pen, as if faced with an impossibly difficult choice.  One wonders the significance of the sharp black quill pen- as if it represents an inner battle- as demonstrated by the intense anxiety on his face. While one may ponder some mundane explanations for the anxiety, I can imagine it represents him contemplating major end of life decisions.  The high pitched screeching music only intensifies Bowie frantically scrolls not only on paper but the sides of the table and the legs as he experiences a cathartic release of frantic energy.  The final scene shows Bowie's facing turning off like a light switch as his pained anxious facial expression is replaced by a stone- like gaze.  He slowly retreating back words with an unsteady Parkinson's like gait back to the oppressive, ominous heavy wardrobe- his gaze glassy and dead. His short, uneven shuffled steps end as he backs into the wardrobe and closes himself inside. 

The lengthy music video Black star is even more complicated and intricate as it explores Bowie's search to reconcile his life with spirituality. Disturbing images of  rhythmic, decerebrate, seizure activity minimally resembles dancing. Parodies of barbaric, senseless ritual activity represent Bowie's condemnation of organized religion, no doubt.  Perhaps these disturbing artists with their expressionless seizure like posturing are representing Bowie's belief that faith in the bible is the product of mindless, brain dead individuals automated by antiquated and barbaric superstition.   

For many musical performers, religion- and specifically the bible- is like the big white elephant in the room. At one point in another, in everyone's life, one must make some sort of decision as to whether to believe the bible's claims about Jesus or to reject them.  There is an in incongruency between the lyrics of the
album with the images portrayed on the video- as if the satanical parody of the cross cancels out the searching spiritual lyrics.  It is apparent that Bowie experienced spiritual anguish near the end of his life as he pondered the truths about God.  Nevertheless the message as portrayed by the disturbing images of the video suggest that Bowie rejected Jesus' claims and also the bible in favor of his own judgment and interpretation of Jesus and spirituality.  The imagery of Blackstar could not have been more evil, more vile, more disturbing, than  if it had come from Satan himself.  On the other hand, Bowie's lip service to the bible may bring out the curiosity of his fans becoming a catalyst to investigate the bible that he alludes to.  There is a quote attributed to Bowie circulating around social media "I don't know where I'm going from here but I promise it won't be boring".  I agree it is accurate, and pretty sure it stands true from his vantage point in the afterlife, but probably not in the way that he intended. 



Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Night Voyage: A Magical Journey and Coloring Book by Daria Song

The Night Voyage: A Magical Journey and Coloring Book by Daria Song is the newest volume in a series of magical coloring books designs just for adults. This is beautifully detailed coloring book for made for all ages- specifically adults who want to explore their creativity with the therapeutic pastime of coloring.  These beautiful scenic drawings in of themselves are a work of art.

The beautiful binding and removable jacket can also be colored as well.  This makes a great gift for yourself or a friend.  The luxurious quality of this book, thick pages, and elaborate art,  is unexpected considering its affordable retail price.  Its an affordable luxury certain to brighten up anyone's day. Armed with a sharpened set of colored pencils, this book can become a personalized masterpiece to treasure and even pass down.  Although it is marketed for readers of all ages, it is most suitable for teens and older due to the tiny detail. I do not feel a grade school-er would appreciate the fine detail of this book, and it would be a shame to destroy a beautiful book with scribble.  This is a coloring project that takes time, perseverance and patience.   I could imagine many readers who appreciate art will hesitate before making the first stroke with their pencils as well. One thing to keep in mind is the fine detail and repetition of tiny geometric shapes and designs that are a part of each picture.  Some of these pages can take hours to complete- maybe more than the time allowed in one sitting.  It takes patience.  Be sure to have a pencil sharpener handy when starting this book.  Don't bother with crayons or markers. The story line and theme is like a bedtime story.  I feel as if this would also make a beautiful book if it was full color rather than a coloring book.  I almost would have preferred this to  be a traditional full color story than a  coloring book.

Even the storyline behind the inspiration for this book is relaxing and entertaining.  I enjoy this artists coloring books as I am sure many readers out there will enjoy as well.  For those who have Song's earlier coloring books, this is an essential volume to complete the collection.  This coloring book will be certain to impress and to allow for hours of relaxation.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony for the purpose of writing this review.