Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Does anyone actually read my blog.... get your free book or bible

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You need an email address.  Once you sign up you will get a confirmation email.  Follow the link in your email and it will start you out with 25 points.  Earn more points by doing a few quick surveys and signing up for emailings. Within 10 min you will have enough points for a book or bible NIV or NLT.   Personally I can't afford to buy anything beyond necessities much less books.  I get my books for free by doing surveys or reviews. Ironically if you ever go into a Christian book store, you will see that new bibles are very expensive.   If you sign up I will get 10 more points towards another book or bible.  I used up my points on a book about the Psalms and another book about the Lord of the Rings.  Now I am trying to get a bible.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

If You Were Me and Lived In Mexico.... A Child's Introduction to Cultures Around The World By Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived In Mexico.... A Child's Introduction to Cultures Around The World By Carole P. Roman is a new picture book introducing young readers to a new country. This book is first in a series of picture books focusing on a particular country.  The young reader will learn about the geographical location of Mexico and will be briefly introduced to historic buildings, coinage, tourist attractions, local foods, national holidays, sports and other social norms. Full color, simply drawn cartoon drawings compliment the text. The drawing of the market for example, features traditional patterned blankets, authentic local foods as well as vague unidentified gray colored objects hanging from a string.  I imagine these are either fish or animal pelts.  Apparently in Mexican shops there is no attempt to separate produce or meat from the nonedible items and textiles that are also for sale.  On the page that shows a boy watching "futbol", the TV screen has an actual photographic image of an actual game.  This is a unique and unexpected touch which will be certain to surprise the reader.  The last page includes pronunciations of some of the words used in the book.  I feel this book would be suitable for the school market for grade school children.  Although it clearly isn't a text book it would make an appropriate quick story to supplement a geography lesson. It would also be a good book to read to children before a family vacation to Mexico. As a blogger I received this book for the purpose of writing this review. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Your Road to Damacus by William Y. Higgins

Your Road to Damacus: 6 Biblical Secrets for an effective Job Search  by William Y. Higgins is an not the typical step by step manual to getting the perfect job. There are plenty of resume guides and job search guide books  on the market.  What makes this book stand out is that it is not simply a job search guide but a hybrid volume combining a job search guide with devotional and self help elements.

The stories of  notable heroes of the bible such as the account of Paul's conversion and missionary work  in the New Testament, and Joseph in Egypt in the old testament serves as a springboard to illustrate the biblical and spiritual parallels with a job search.  Each chapter or secret focuses on a different element of job searching such as resumes, interviews, negotiation and skills assessment and relates it to a particular story or lesson in the bible.  This book is the perfect solution for any believer who finds himself out of work.  Nevertheless, this book isn't just for Christians but for every frustrated job seeker.  The calming spiritual references provide comfort and support as well as direction for those who feel as if they have exhausted their  financial and emotional resources. Background of the biblical and its significance is  provided right in the first chapter.  The author uses anecdotes from his own experiences, and weaves them with biblical principles to provide guidance and motivation for a weary job seeker.  In today's economy, with the high rates of unemployment the job search is often discouraging.  Higgins addresses this issue, providing spiritual as well as practical guidance.

This is not simply a self help book, or devotional book but a job seeking tool. This book is also a work book in that there are a number of self assessment tools and worksheets for the reader to fill in and complete. It is clear the author has a background in psychology because the author incourages the reader to access not only his skills but mental fitness as well.  There is also a how to guide for the  process of creating a resume and on going on interviews. Also contained are strategies and templates for email and thank you letters.  This single volume contains everything that is needed for the entire job seeking process.  This book is so extensive that it is a complete curriculum in of itself.  It is like an introductory course to job searching with a biblical perspective. This isn't a book you simply read.  It is an interactive hands on book with actual assignments to lead the reader to a job.   The author has created a new way to use and apply the bible.  Rather than dread reading yet another job search, resume book, I found this book a pleasure to pick up and read.  As a blogger I received this book published by Mindware for the purpose of writing this review.

Persecuted by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, Nina Shea

Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, Nina Shea is s newly published book that brings to light the persecution of Christians worldwide- often overlooked by those who take Western freedoms for granted.  Who would imagine the punishment that people endure simply because they are Christians.  Even more incredible is that these faithful believers endure it, rather than to renounce their faith.

Persecution of Christians did not end in ancient Rome with the apostles and early converts.  widescale persecution: torture, imprisonment, rape and execution still occurs in countless countires all over the world.  This books systematically covers those nations that punish and persecute Christians.  Anecdotes and stories of these persecutions is provided to. This is not simply a book of facts, although numbers and statistics are included.  This book covers stories of real people and families, with their names and where they live.  This book is about real people and events occurring right this very moment.  It is not about past history, but current events that you will never get to hear about in the newspaper. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular region such as the post communist countries formerly known as Russia, South Asia, Muslim countries and Africa.  More indepth attention is dedicated to the Muslim countries going into detail about government policies and terrorism. This is the one resource to turn to for any information on Christian persecution. Extensive notes provides sources adding to the validity of the material for those critics. This book is not casual reading although it is written so that a layman can understand.

Although the book recognizes that there are a number of Christian denominations ranging from Roman Catholic, to protestant to non denominational evangelical churches, distinctions are not made when Christian persecution is an issue as members from all denominations are persecuted indiscriminately at the hands of tyrannical regimes, governments and terrorist groups.   "Christian worship services vary and traditions are stunningly different... our churches are united in belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior" page 5 As part of the ecumenical movement to focus on what unifies the various denominations, this book is not biased against one denomination or another.  The author's recognize that when it comes to persecution, it is not a time to be divisive about theology.  As a blogger for booksneeze I received a copy of this book published by Thomas Nelson for the purpose of writing this review.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Tower of Babel by Bodie Hodge

For additional links and information, please scroll down

Tower of Babel by Bodie Hodge is a new hybrid volume combining the best of archeological evidence with the bible.  Viewed by many as simply a fable, the author gives credibility to the scientific facts of the tower of Babel as depicted by the book of Genesis in the old testament. Even though at first glance this may appear to be a book on a narrow subject, the author reveals how broad this topic really is.   This encyclopedia-like book covers in detail, the erroneous claims and inconsitencies of anti biblical research in light of archeological, historical and scientific evidence.  This science- history book is comparable to the scholarship and professional research of that of any scholarly text, and I believe libraries and schools should acquire a copy of this text to enable students access to the information that so frequently is omitted from secular and college texts. In one volume, so many pieces of the puzzle are put together- so that the reader no longer is left with disjointed conflicting bits of information.  This is the perfect apologetic book to help Christians defend their beliefs with a scientific view.  Common questions and myth surrounding the tower of babel as well as Genesis is addressed in detail.  Each of the 29 chapters addresses a specific issue in extensive detail using historical evidence and scientific evidence.  The author addresses every issue in painstaking detail. 

This book serves to dispel commonly held myths with facts and evidence! Traditional secular texts leave out important archeological findings and often times, religious denominations simply ignore the issues of evolution entirely.  While the evolution as presented by most scientists and schools is a theory- not supported by the fossil evidence- many scientists, students and laymen accept it as truth. 
Furthermore, the common threads in ancient mythologies and various religions do not disprove the authenticity of the bible.  In fact, these common stories of the flood, or creation or the dispersion at the tower of Babel, point to one unified origin or source- and are simply distortions of the one true story as told in the bible.  These varied religions and stories all point to the fact that all religions stemmed from the one original truth of God, which underwent various distortions. The author digs deep and corroborates the information with additional ancient texts such as the widely accepted writings of Josephus. There is extensive research presented into the origins of language and ethnicities as well.  For anyone into geneology, this is the upmost in scholarship.

This book contains a number of black and white photographs, charts and graphs of the various archeological pieces of evidence and the historical contexts. The evidence is provided in order to allow the reader to discern the truth rather than simply blindly accepting a theory.  In contrast to other non professional "in-house" attempts that are often seen by creationists or within certain religious groups, this book relies on actual, concrete evidence- which isn't simply mentioned but also pictured alongside the supportive text.  In a number of places, the reader is pointed to test the information of the book against scriptures- just as in the tradition of the new testament believers and students. The only thing that could improve this book is if it was presented in full color and made into a textbook rather than a trade paperback.  I found there was way too much information, condensed into this paperback.  As a blogger I received this book, published by Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

Additional Links & Information:
published by Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishers: http://www.newleafpublishinggroup.com/index.php


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Friday, April 19, 2013

Limitless by Nick Vujicic

Limitless by Nick Vujicic is a new inspirational devotional book.  This author is best known as a motivational speaker, born without limbs - who travels the world to spread encouragement as well as the gospel message.  He is the author of two books, and this easy to read devotional is a compilation of his two previous books: Unstoppable and Life Without Limits. 

The devotional book genre is a growing new trend. Vujicic has incorporated material from his previous books repackaging them in an easy to digest format for a new generation of readers.  For those who are not inclined to sit down and read a lengthy book, this is the perfect inspirational resource.  For those overwhelmed by illness, disability or grief, this book offers simple bursts of encouragement to motivate the reader to persevere.

I can not imagine anyone more qualified to speak to youth about self esteem and disability as well as the sick and aged about terminal illness and grief.  The author captures a wide audience, from the young student to the older reader as well as everything in between.  This book is a very good outreach opportunity for those new to the gospel as well as for those who are familiar with the bible.

Nick draws on his own personal experiences throughout his life and overcoming a  handicap.  Basically is message is an encouraging one that tells the reader if he can do it, so can you regardless of your circumstances.  I believe this simple, short to the point format makes it so much easier for the reader to glean truth and encouragement in contrast to a full length book.  This book contains 50 devotionals each ranging from 1-2 pages.  The introduction leads with a specifically selected bible verse. These bible verses are very relevent.  It is apparent that they are not randomly chosen token verses as these selected verses discuss true pain, and grief.  2Corinthians 4:16-18 is an example of a verse that speaks to those readers overwhelmed with grief and tragedy.  Another interesting element is his ability to intertwine humor in a challenging or painful situation. His ability to make light or to see the lighter side of an overwhelming experience can offer the reader a new coping technique.  For example, Nick recalls the time he rode the luggage carousel at the airport in the entry 15, "Enjoy the Ride". "Off I went with the rest of the bags and cases.  I rode the carousel making like a statue wearing sunglasses and drawing shocked stares, pointed fingers, and nervous laughter from the other passengers."  He goes onto state that sometimes we all need to give "adulthood a rest".  I can imagine tired weary readers breathing a sigh of relief knowing it is okay to lay aside your burden and have some child like fun regardless of seriousness of your situation. At times his writing seems as if it is taken out of his own personal journal.  The advice her offers seems to also be written to encourage himself, especially on page 46.  When he talks about the importance of hope he states, "If you didn't have hope, would you ever plan to start a family?  Without hope would you ever try to learn something new?"  I can imagine these questions were part of his own pep talk when faced with apprehension about trying to surf or getting married. 

I believe this devotional book is a very good outreach for all readers.  I would like to see this author write more devotional books as he has a unique qualification and ability to speak to all audiences from  older readers who are suffering as well as young teens who simply need some motivation and support. As a blogger I received this book published by Water Brook for the purpose of writing this review.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Second Chances by Max Lucado

Second Chances by Max Lucado is the newest compilation of  of Lucado's writings. Almost all of Lucado's works are inspirational and worthy of re-reading. This book is filled with short stories of people, real, imagined and biblical in order to offer readers true hope and empowerment.  In essence each of these stories is like a modern day parable- a retelling of Jesus' own parables and the events and miracles of the New Testament.    Although most of the material in this book is not new, and selected from his previous works- much of what Lucado writes can be re-read- especially in times of great spiritual need.  I have found that when I read Lucado's writings, I will find many noteworthy and inspiration ideas and passages- which I do mark so that I can return to at a later time.  I have noticed that his most recent books are shorter, more intense and focused.  Perhaps this is in response to a greater urgency to share the gospel truths to a new generation that is less inclined to read.  Each chapter of this book is a story in of itself and stands on its own merits.  Readers regardless of their past will find real inspiration and support.

 Perhaps the devil's advocate may believe that the publication of this book is simply another attempt to make even more money on previously published books, while putting in minimal effort.  While this may be true, in part, this book is worth reading for those familiar with Lucado's books as well as for those readers new to his works. Any book by Max Lucado proves itself to be among the most uplifting books that I have recently read. This book specifically helps those who are enduring really diffcult times, to endure and persevere. The author address real issues- job loss, terminal illness, grief and loss. This book is designed to help those who are suffering from extreme circumstances.  This book offers real help!  If 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 apointment for your pedicure, or your favorite coach bag sold out before you reached the mall, then this book isn't for you.  What you need is a fluffy, superficial, condescending, feel- good, women's devotional book.  But, if you truly suffer from life's heartaches, then this book will offer the comfort you need.

In true Lucado fashion, Max writes in an animated, easy to understand style that communicates biblical truths to the reader. His books bring bible stories and biblical truth to life in an inspirational way that speaks out to the reader. "Catch God in a bad mood? Won't happen. Fear exhausting his grace? A sardine will swallow the Atlantic first. Think he's given up on you?" ..... Lucado's use of colorful language and his conversational tone, make it so that biblical truths are memorable and meaningful to the average modern reader. You need not be a theologen, educated in an expensive seminary or college to understand Max Lucado's books. This inspirational book will be certain to leave the reader with a lasting impression. In today's self centered society, without offense Max Lucado illustrates the importance of living life based on biblical principles. After reading this book, and really meditating on the biblical truths communicated via Max Lucado, one can feel a renewed sense of embpowerment to live a selfless life style. Max makes use of personal anecdotes as well as bible stories to illiustrate the importance of depending on God rather than on the material things of this world. If you are a theologen, looking for an apologetic defense on the purpose of depending on God then this book isn't for you. But, if on the other hand you are simply looking for bible based motivation and a relief in a world that takes pride in materialism, selfish ambition and competition, then this book is perfect. As a blogger for booksneeze, I receive books from Thomas Nelson publishers in exchange for writing an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

My Turn

My Turn.....

There are so many who suffer- sick and in pain, whose bodies fail and who silently endure the isolation and shame.  Terminal illness, chronic illness, injuries, disease and age- there is no one who chooses to be sick or ill or in pain.  There are countless  numbers who needed assistance to perform even the most basic of functions- their sense of dignity and independence gone, overwhelmed with humiliation and shame.   How many times would I see the silent condemnation of those who were smug, self centered and more able bodied.  Sometimes, less frequently would be the looks of pity.  

When I worked as an EMT I would see so many hurting people imprisoned and betrayed by their failing bodies. It was not a life they choose, and it was not their fault as so many heartened hearts would like to believe.  One memory that comes to mind was a widowed woman - a  double amputee as a result of diabetes, as well as a cancer survivor.  Yet she was alert and in good spirits- clearly she had a great amount of strength and perseverance. I accompanied her on a follow up visit with her doctor.  She had survived cervical cancer.- the final cancerous cells were eradicated months earlier after chemotherapy treatment.  Her cheerful spirits were quickly replaced with anxiety and apprehension when the doctor explained she needed an internal exam.  She did not want to be subjected to the humiliation of yet another internal exam- not now, not ever, much less in front of a stranger- that being me.  I did my best to convince her to do the exam; explaining that it was better to get it over with and out of the way and that it needed to be done.  She reluctantly agreed, her face and eyes vacant in an attempt to distance herself from the unpleasant situation.  The exam was quick and relatively painless.  Yet for her, it was another blow to her dignity.  Nevertheless she wasn't alone.  In that clinical examination room, Jesus was present. God did not need a temple, sanctuary or altar.... a simple, sterile examination room was sufficient for His presence.  Jesus was no stranger to pain, shame and humiliation either. This woman had survived a double amputation and cancer treatment, but the humiliation of an internal examination was just simply too much.  I did not have to go through what she had to endure- at that time.  It was easy for me to stand there and offer my support.  But my turn was coming. 

It helps when I direct my thoughts were drawn to Jesus - and that long, dark, lonely night he spent in the garden of Gethemsane. Jesus was God in the flesh, divine in spirit. Yet, at the same time Jesus was fully human- with a body subject to the same pains, discomforts and sensations as the rest of us. Though he was God, he was also a man. He was subject to human emotions: pain, grief, fear, thirst and foreboding. With his divine nature, Jesus knew exactly what he was about to endure- a torturous death on the cross filled pain, suffering, humilation, shame. In fact the pain he was yet to experience in a few short hours was described in explicit detail by David in the Psalms and the prophet Isaiah! The torurous, sensations of drowning in one's own fluid filled lungs, in a prolonged death of asphyxiation, stretched out on the cross, was described by David. Isaiah and David foretold of the nakedness, shame, and humilation and abandonment that Jesus was yet to face at the cross. The sensations of thirst, pain, flesh stripped to shreds- to the bone, and even the shame- all fortold! Jesus was fully aware of what he would endure. Jesus was griefstricken, sickened, lonely, and axious. And who wouldn't be in the face of death on the cross? We complain and bellyache about much less! Jesus, in his despair and pain pleaded with God to take the cup of suffering away- three times! Jesus asked his apostles to have the strength to remain awake. But they could not remain awake. They simply did not have the strength. Blood stained sweat dripped from Jesus as he fervently prayed. (Whoever painted those santised, artistic renditions of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, depicting Jesus wearing a freshly pressed and laundered white robe, with a pensive yet peaceful look, in Italy in the 1400s, probably never read the actual biblical account. ) Yet, God gave Jesus- the supernatural strength he needed to persever, and Jesus responded "not My will but Your Will."

I remember going to the hospital months after my late term pregnancy loss- stillbirth.  In all my years- I was fortunate to never experience any health problems.  Despite my age, I was in perfect health- that is until my later term loss. In my years I took some degree of pride in my physical health and strength- those na├»ve and carefree days were over.   From that point on it went downhill.  My body had betrayed me.  And I found myself once again back in the hospital, stripped with nothing more than a flimsy, clinical gown to cover my shame.  I was wheeled into the operating room, with very little to cover my nakedness, filled with anxiety, stinging tears of anger and most of all humiliation as if I had not already been through enough.

The power of the Holy Spirit is very real. The Holy Spirit is here and alive and ready for us. Not many people meditate on the significance of the Holy Spirit. Yes it is true, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity. Intellectually many people are aware of the fact. Every Sunday morning, we are reminded. Yet the significance is enormous! When you consider the Holy Spirit- which is in fact God (just as Jesus is God and the Father is God), then the true meaning and significance become more apparent. It is nothing short of miraculous! God is with us through the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit of God is no less real than the presense of Jesus Christ in ancient Palestine, or the presence of God, the Father in his throne in heaven. All three are God, and the Holy Spirit is essentially God with us- here right now. It is the Holy Spirit that gave Jesus the strength to endure his fate on the cross. It is the Holy Spirit that helped Jesus survive 40 torturous and lonely days & nights in a dry desolate dessert, parched and hungry in the face of the devil's temptations. It is the Holy Spirit that gave a band of unlearned men. the apostles, the strength and wisdom to persevere and spread the good news of the gospel message. This same Holy Spirit strengthened the early believers to face a painful death, being torn to shreds by wild animals, as the were marytered for entertainment at the hands of the ancient Roman government. That same very Holy Spirit can help each and every one of us, infusing us with supernatural, spiritual strength to persevere, even when our minds and our bodies fail us. This is not about our own will power. It isn't about keeping a new years resolution or being tough and independant. This is not simply another self help type of advise that is contained in countless dieting, and relationship and other self helpbooks. This isn't like having a voice in one's head telling us what to do or what not to do. This is about the power of the Holy Spirit that helps us, when we are at our weakest. We don't muster this strength on our own merits, but rather by placing our faith in God.

Jesus explained that we must not live by bread and food alone but by the word of God. The word of God is more important than the food and water we need for our daily sustainence! Certainly food and water keep our physical bodies alive and functioning, but there is something much more important than the physical body- and that is the spirit. Our spiritual health is more important to true life than merely our physical state. And, even when our bodies betray us, when our physical bodies fail us and shame us, we can find renewing and refreshing strength that we need from the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has the miraculous life changing power to renew each and every one of us spiritually. Replace the expression or term "Holy Spirit" with "God" and it will become clear that God himslef has the power to renew and restore our spirit in order to give us the strength we need to endure and persevere. With God at your side, who needs a counselor or physchologist? Pills, doctors, drugs and medications pale in comparison to the power of God himself through the Holy Spirit! Everything is second place- money, prosperity, career, selfish ambition- its all a counterfit when it comes to the power for peace and strength. You can spend hours in psychotheraphy, you may spend lots of money shopping, or to go on drinking binges, or mind- numbing outings at bars, parties, clubs, sports and other entertainment- all these things may numb the pain or provide diversion- but none of these things can heal. Only God can heal. The power of the Holy Spirit can heal the sick and weak spirit. The power of the holy Spirit can changes lives- no matter how many days you have remaining before you- whether its one day or 70 years. We don't need to be vampires to live for ever, nor do we need superheros like Superman or Spiderman to save us.

And then suddenly in the middle of my pain and grief - from no where I felt a bit of hope, and peace and thankfulness. God did not take away my problems-they are still there. But, sometimes God's answer to our requests and problems is simply "no", yet I was offered spiritual strength and peace. It is through trials and storms we gain spiritual strength and the ability to persevere. I've been shortsited- overcome in my own personal grief and anxiety. Paul had the thorn in his side, that God chose not to take away and in his weakness he found strength. When Jesus pleaded with God in Gethemane to take away his cup of suffering he was given strength and peace to proclaim, "not my will, but yours." I have the spiritual strength to go on another day, and the peace to lay aside my worry and anxiety. God has the power to grant hope and change lives- God has been there for me in the past to pull me through and will do so now.


Friday, April 12, 2013

That Cat That God Sent by Jim Kraus

The Cat that God Sent by Jim Kraus is a second novel in the new series of books of talking animals. Fantasy is normally reserved for Children's novels, but Kraus delivers an imaginative tale, thoughtfully and intelligently written for adult readers.  Starting with his first book The Dog that talked to God, Kraus has started a new genre in Christian literature breaking free from the Amish and Western romance novels that saturate the Christian fiction market. In his books, domestic pets enter into the life of a spirtually confused character in the midst of a crossroads in life.  in the first book it was a dog named Rufus.  In this novel, the common sense talking animal is in the form of a cat.  The animal acts as a personal  conscious -giving advice based on common sense and spiritual principles. I imagine the pet featured in subsequent novels may include a reptile of some sort or a small animal such as a bunny or guinea pig.  A pattern in his books is that the dilemma faced by the character involves relationships and courtship and faith. Much like most other Christian fiction novels- yet Kraus delivers an interesting twist.

The hero is an overly confident, spiritually immature,  luke warm, young pastor- regretably, an accurate reflection of the times.  The cat's personality is well developed.  The author gets inside the mind of a cat giving the reader a unique glimpse into what a sentient cat's thought processes would be.  Not only is it a miraculous thinking cat, this cat takes on the role of a prophet In that he is sent from God. The cat also takes on the role of a psychiatrist as he analyzes his owner, Jake's behaviors.  In contrast to the first novel in which there is a question of the dog being simply a figment of the imagination of the heroine- the reader is treated to insight of the cat's thoughts independently from the hero. Ironically Jake, a pastor, supposedly an expert on spiritual truth, is the one who needs ministering; and of all things- truth comes from a cat. Unlike Rufus the dog, Petey the cat communicates through mental telepathy to Jake. Some of the other characters I found to be irritating and annoying such as the attention seeking pregnant 19 year old Tassy.  She passes through town putting up a charade of innocence like a stray kitten. The desperate Emma's attempts at getting the pastor's attention are also too sterotypical.  At one point Emma's efforts to convince Tassy to abort are thwarted by the cat. At first it almost seems as if this book morphed into a soap opera drama.  Yet unexpectedly, Emma recieves the forgiveness and healing she had been seeking all her life as a result of lasting guilt from  an abortion she had years ago.

 I'd like to challenge a writer to write a fiction novel leaving out the romance and drama part entirely.   Personally I feel its an over used topic.    To the authors credit, this is an entertaining and wholesome book with a strong message of forgiveness. I hope yhe author turns this type of book into a series.  I'd like to see what talking prophetic animal he thinks of next.   As a blogger I received this book published by Abington press from Litfuse publicity.

The Cat That God Sent  Litfuse publicity tour information

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Dog That Talked to God by Jim Kraus

The Dog That Talked to God by Jim Kraus is simply more than a contemporary fiction novel.  Ironically, it is an intelligent  work of fiction written for adult readers about a talking dog.  It is about time that a unique fiction story was written for adults as most wholesome writing is either reserved for children and most Christian fiction centers around Amish or Western Romance.  The tale begins in a Charles Dickens-like fashion and is written in the style of other better works of literature. I imagine those readers who normally appreciate the literature classics will enjoy Kraus' writing style. In this novel, the grieving middle aged widow who lost her son and husband to a tragic accident, Mary Fassler, adopts a dog in order to fill the void in her life and her heart. 

The novel is uniquely written in the first person point of view, allowing the reader an intimate glimpse into the heroine's thoughts and feelings.  The character of Mary character is well developed, so much more so than the typical two dimensional characters seen in most modern fiction.  I imagine that many of Mary's traits are based on the author's own personality and life.  Just like the author, Mary is also involved in the publishing- writing business.  In fact the fictional character Mary mentions her own characters are patterned after people she knows.  In light of this I wonder how much of this character is actually autobiographical- which reminds me to make a mental note to never bake Jim Kraus homemade cookies.

 Kraus creates a plausible a  story as if to answer what would it be really like if a dog could actually communicate.  In fact, the author reflects on her own sanity and questions the issue for herself.  At times the main character takes on the role of her own counselor or psychologist as she questions and scrutinizes her talking dog Rufus as well as her own responses.  Even more remarkable is the fact that Rufus communicates advise that Mary would otherwise be too stubborn or brokenhearted to heed.  Apparently she finds it easier and less threatening to open up to an animal than to other people.  And this is very accurate and realistic.  In the safe context of a  talking dog, painful truths can slowly be communicated to the hurting, grieving Mary until eventually she is able to move forward in life.   Krause delves deeply into the mind of a dog, imagining what the world would be like from an innocent observant dog's point of view.  The cleverly chosen dog's first words to Mary, "Why do you break my crunchy in half?" page 54- accurately reflects  a canine's preoccupation with food yet inquisitive, trusting personality.  Apparently he has done his research as his book provides authentic details and insight into the life and habits of a dog and dog ownership. The dog does not actually communicate directly with God.  Rather, the fog asks as a Christian conscious encouraging Mary to reflect on her diminished relationship with God,

In the safe context of a  talking dog, painful truths can slowly be communicated to the hurting, grieving Mary until eventually she is able to move forward in life. After Mary is reconciled with her grief and is able to move on, and after meeting a good moral man in a new relationship, the dog's job is complete.  Convinced Mary has finally found happiness he simply states "I'm going to stop talking now" at the end of the book.  Christian literature usually does not offer too many choices for readers and is often repetitive and bland unless you are into romance books.  Readers are sure to enjoy the entire book, beginning to end.  Although typical "fairy Tale" ending where the heroine get married, I find that unlike other fictional characters you read about in novels, that Mary really deserved  a good ending.  Everytging seems to end a little too perfectly. Yet with her opinionated and overbearing nature i cant imagine any marriage lasting long.This novel is sure to appeal to many readers, pet lovers, readers experiencing grief and loss as well as those readers who enjoy imaginative fiction in general.  Possibly those who are experiencing loss might find some biblical truths communicated to them as they read- in this case the book makes a good outreach opportunity. As a blogger I received this book published by Abingdon press for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

God Used A Tick

How God Used a Tick........

 With perfect divine timing, God intervened with a tick and saved me and my new baby Angelina born February 1, 2013.

Not the actual tick.........

We spent many of our summer weekends having picnics and long walks in the park trails- Samuel, Rose and I.  My ipod was filled with countless scenic pictures of  tall forests and peaceful  lakes and we had even become familiar with a duck family that lingered by the pond.  Some afternoons were spent watching the schools of tiny fish in the murky water. We were successful in catching one tiny silver colored fish with a butterfly net.  We were going to bring it home to live in our sea monkey tank but changed our minds- for the sake of the sea monkeys which would surely be consumed by the fish, and also for the fish who would be doomed to a life of solitude in a small container. 

 I was completely oblivious to the unwelcomed souvenir that I brought back with me one Sunday afternoon.  In fact I had not noticed it until it was well over 24 hours later on my commute home from work the following Monday.  Driving home I noticed a  tick attached to my leg! Its deep reddish brown body was engorged with my blood.  The swollen bloodsucker had been feeding for at least 24 hours.  It was the size of a small raisin.  Adrenalin rushed through my body as I plucked it off and stared in shock and disbelief.  Fears of lyme diseased loomed heavily. To add insult to injury I was forced to hold onto the tick because Al wanted to stop the car to release it for fear that if I dropped it in the car, he'd become the next victim.  He quickly pulled the car off the highway to the nearest strip mall parking lot.  Within seconds, in a blur of activity the passenger door was opened and a stealthy hand reached over and quickly flicked the tick from my unsuspecting hand and into the parking lot.  The tick was gone- no where to be seen as it blended with the black pavement.  I was upset as I had wanted to keep the specimen to have it tested for lyme disease.

I went about life as usual.  This tick incident occurred in the aftermath of a late term pregnancy loss and in the context of some physical problems I was experiencing for an unknown period of time.  Coincidently, my symptoms progressed: extreme fatigue, chills, bloating and weight gain as well as intestinal disturbances.  Along with these distressing physical feelings, I just had a generally gloomy and depressed outlook.  I was prone to mood disturbances and lethargy.  Finally I found myself completely bedridden.  I felt as I was living with a looming  fog- mentally and physically.  I assumed I had contracted lyme disease from the tick and that was the cause of the fatigue.  As far as the weight gain, bloating and depression- I just figured it was hormonal imbalances in the aftermath of my loss.  The abdominal and intestine disturbances were common symptoms for colon cancer- but I just dismissed that worry as being overly paranoid.  The depression and  mood problems- I was told was depression- which was to be expected for what I had experienced.

After a few days of physically being unable to get up from the couch I decided to make an appointment with the doctor to look into the possibility of lyme disease.  I was convinced I had it.  I went to a doctor named Debbie*, who worked in the same office complex at work and shared my suspicion with her.  She was doubtful of my conclusion, nevertheless took my symptom of fatigue very seriously and apparently tested me for a number of conditions that I didn't know about. From her medical detective work,  I learned that I had an undiagnosed thyroid condition and I was on the brink of thyroid failure.  My underactive thyroid was responsible for the fatigue, and also other seemingly unrelated symptoms such as weight gain, chills, depression, digestive issues and mood swings.  I was also told that untreated thyroid problems could possibly cause pregnancy loss and stillbirth- a possible cause of my late term loss.  This problem was discovered at the perfect time as I was once again about 6 weeks into a new pregnancy.  Without quick treatment I would have gone on to lose my new baby.  I think back to how God intervened at one of the most difficult times of my life, and helped me with an undiagnosed thyroid condition by an unexpected means.  I cannot say with any certainty how long I had my thyroid condition.  But it is more than likely, if left undetected and untreated it would have caused another pregnancy loss or stillbirth.  With perfect divine timing, God intervened with a tick and saved me and my new baby Angelina born February 1, 2013.

Debbie Quintana PA works at Fischer Family Medicine.  Without her investigative care I would have certainly lost my unborn baby.  I truly believed I had Lyme disease.  Although lab tests were negative for Lyme disease, unknown to me Debbie tested for other conditions based on the seemingly unrelated symptoms I shared.

Beyond the Power of Love by Janice Romney

Beyond the Power of Love by Janice Romney is an autobiographical account of the abuse that the author endured beginning with her early childhood.  Yet, this book is more than an autobiography, it is also a self help book in that it offers the resources for a victim of abuse to recognize the problem and to seek help. For this reason, this account may be described as a hybrid genre of self help- autobiography.  For those faint of heart readers, this book will be difficult to read as it is an accurate, true to life account of the years of torturous physical and emotional abuse the author endured. Yet if this book is vivid enough to be painful to even read, it is difficult to imagine how much more so for the author.  The author originally wrote this book in 2004  as a part of her healing process.  In 2012 she made the bold decision to have it reprinted as a testament and reaffirmation to her healing.  Miraculously, she retained her faith in God, despite the hypocrisy of the Mormon church and its condemning judgmental leadership. In writing this book, and reissuing it, she gives a voice to countless other who silently endure years of abuse, that are kept in submission due to guilt and shame.

One thing I'd like to point out is a distinction that should be made in the subtitle- " A Woman's Journey Through Betrayal of Religion and Spousal Abuse" - while accurate, it should be clarified that this story is in the context of a cult-like Mormon community.  In fact the manipulation, secrecy and isolation of cult type of setting is usually a fertile ground that enables the continuous cycle of physical, emotional and spousal abuse in which victims, cut off from the world suffer in silence, shame and fear.  She and her first husband grew up and were raised in Mormon families.  Nevertheless not all her abuse is simply attributed to this fact alone.  Yet the context of the Mormon religion was an enabling factor that led to her submission to years of spousal abuse. She felt betrayed and was "disfellowshipped" when she was seeking help and support.  After opening up the adjudicators, she received condemnation and punishment.  The cycle of shame and guilt kept her enslaved and obedient. Matthew 23:27 comes to mind when Jesus states-  "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean." NIV   The Mormon church that fueled Romney's abuse may have looked good on the outside with its ceremonies, beautiful temples and its pious leaders, but on the inside it is filled with deception, depravity and every vile thing. 

Romney is very self aware at the though processes of a victim of abuse. Objectively she can reflect on how the mind puts up defense mechanisms to bury abuse deep in the sub conscious.  She is candid about her codependency in an abusive relationship and her deep rooted feelings of shame and guilt which contributed to her silence.  Simply the action of giving voice to her feelings as well as the account of her abuse will offer the hope of healing to countless readers, and not only her own.  It chronicles the long road to recovery and its impact on her own children as well.  The author exposes everything, her life is an open book for all readers as well.  She discusses the ongoing after affects of abuse including depression and drug abuse.  She goes into detail her divorce and the painful custodial and judicial battles.  Not only does she delve deeply into the emotional impact of abuse but also the practical day to day impact as well.  This too will help equip readers who are in the midst of their own trials.  Miraculously the author is able to use God's word and to heal and to offer forgiveness.  The family portrait with Janice Romney as well as her daughter and granddaughter adds more of a personal connection with the reader.  It is a powerful testament to be  open in light of her experiences. The book offers simple resources and helps for a reader who may currently be experiencing abuse.

As a blogger I received this book published by iUniverse for the purpose of writing this review.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton by Warren L. Woodruff

Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton by Warren L. Woodruff is more than a simple fantasy novel for young readers.  With his Ph. D. in Musicology, Dr. Woodruff incorporates his expertise and love of music as well as history in order to create an entire new world for the reader to enter.  This imaginative tale goes beyond the typical two dimensional novel.  The author creates a three dimensional world, complete with its own unique philosophy, history and even a quasi spiritual- musical belief system.  With the insertion of lively imagery, authentic historical details, history comes to life as the reader is introduced to Mozart, Bach and other well known historical figures- including Einstein himself!

The classic good against evil plot is reinvented with a music themed twist.  Drawing from various religious sources, Dr. Woodruff creates his own credible music themed, alternate reality. This is an entirely newly invented world that  integrates prophecy as well as a unique music based "creation" tale with the elements of the supernatural and magic.    Armed with magical instruments, the five young children agree to go on a dangerous mission to save the world from evil.  They are led by the eccentric, dramatic, mystical, kind Dr. Fuddle. These young children are the "messiahs" who fulfill ancient prophecy.  They eagerly take on the role as the "Messengers of Music".  Motivated by his dying mom's cryptic final message, young Tyler and his younger sister are  convinced that this mission is what he had been waiting for.  In this new world, past and present are joined and there exists no barriers between the physical and imaginary realm.    Evil is represented by a dark musician Jedermann (similar to either Satan or Darth Vader from Star wars).  This evil anti musical menace uses his sinister minions, the Seirens, to carry out his attacks. The attacks aren't just physical, but emotional and spiritual as well.   These Seirens have the ability to disguise themselves and cleverly deceive their victims through temptation and doubt. This is especially evident in the scene where two Seirens disguise themselves as two of Bach's children.  Taking advantage of their frustration at not having the ability to play their instruments, they tempt Leonard and Kathy into exchanging their magical instruments for counterfits.    This is so similar to the tactics of Satan as described in the bible.  In fact in the bible there are numerous stories of Satan tempting and deceiving people, beginning with Adam and Eve.  Strangely enough the children's willingness to believe and participate in the unbelievable, and convince others to do the same  is reminiscent of a textbook case of cult behavior. The dynamic, eccentric leader, Dr. Fuddle,  gains the trust of Tyler and his younger sister when they are most vulnerable, after his mother's death.  In turn, Tyler's dedication to the mission, fueled with a promise to help his sister, and save the world, gives him motivation to convince the rest of the gang.  Peer pressure, and  the offer of purpose and adventure,  are effective in  winning over the rest, including the skeptics.  Obviously this story isn't about a cult, nevertheless these elements add plausible explanation of how well adjusted teenaged children are so willing to embark into an unknown adventure.

This book is sure to appeal to a wide range of readers. To address the skeptics, Leonard Lang, an A student who looks for the logic in everything, provides plausible quasi- scientific explanations for the unexplainable mystical and supernatural events. For  example, he discusses the possibility of a worm hole to explain their entry into a completely new world.  Kathy is the level headed, fashion conscious teenager, and Antonio is the typical loud, obnoxious, extroverted teenager.

This book contains some illustrations by Donna Burtch.  The cover art and jacket illustrations look professionally designed and make the book very inviting.  The book contains as illustration of each of the main characters,  labeled beneath with the name of the character - reminiscent of the portraits in a school yearbook.  Considering the richly imaginative world created by the author, it would have been nice if more art depicting scenes from the story, were included within the text.  The "portrait" styled illustrations would have been more suitable either in the front of the book or the back rather than within the text itself.  In the back of the book is a glossary of musical terms. 

It is clear that to Woodruff, music is not simply a hobby.  Music becomes a science and a religion.  This is especially reinforced with the climatic ending.  There is no doubt as to the spiritual significance of music for this author.   The parallels with religion are striking.  In the end the children become apostles as they are entrusted with the mission to "pass this joy to the next generation".  Dr. Fuddle's true identity as a deity is revealed, as he gives the children his final words- "This is the day the universe has infused your souls with music! Let us rejoice forevermore!" (page 211)As a blogger I received this book published by The Story Merchant, from the author for the purpose of writing this review. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Advice For Seekers by Charles H. Spurgeon

Advice For Seekers by Charles H. Spurgeon is now available as a reprint by Attic books, a division of New Leaf Publishers.  The 1896 classic is reproduced word for word in this new antiqued edition.  The cover is a vintage reproduction as well as the ragged styled edge.   This reprint of a classic will be a perfect edition for any collector or library.

This work by Spurgeon is analogous to the modern Christian apologetic writers, such as C.S. Lewis or contemporary writers such as Max Lucado.  While the writing is written in nineteenth century English, its message is still applicable and its delivery is pretty much the same as that of the great modern day Christian writers.

The first chapter discusses how it is impossible to earn salvation based on our own merit.  The second chapter discusses how Jesus is very approachable and came to save everyone- not pious hypocrites, but real people who are imperfect and need a savior. Spurgeon also covers the healing power of the cross, and obstacles to faith.  Basically the entire message of the gospel is presented in easy to understand terms.  The words of this book spoke to many readers in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  This same message is still delivered in countless sermons and books. 

Most contemporary readers may find that the nineteenth century writing difficult to understand.  It is true that this does not make for quick easy reading- but that is not the book's purpose.  This book has an important message but for most readers it will simply be a quaint artifact to keep on the book shelf rather than to actually read.  I imagine this book would be very popular for today's readers if it was rewritten in modern twenty first century English for today's generation.  As a blogger I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.
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Friday, April 5, 2013

What's Your Mark by Jeremy Cowart

What's Your Mark: Every Moment Counts by Jeremy Cowart is a unique little book combining the full gospel account of Mark (NIV) translation mixed in with the creative photography of Cowart.  Photos as well as stories featuring individuals who have made an impact in the world are combined with the bible text of Mark in this hybrid full color coffee table type of book. The inspirational stories of 15 modern day individuals are grafted into the text of the fast paced account of Mark.  Each biography is quick, simple and gets right to the point.  The carefully planned photos are art in of themselves.  The title cleverly depicts the word mark in two senses.  The first as in the concept of making a difference or impression on others and secondly, as in the well known gospel of Mark.

The account of Laura Lasky, tells the reader about a woman who dedicates her time ministering to overlooked women- dancers in the street clubs  in San Francisco, giving the dancers, cupcakes as well as a listening ear.  Lasky also volunteers to help other people, those who are often looked down upon- such as homosexuals, transgendered individuals and the poor.  Just as Jesus often rebuked the Pharasees and hypocrites and ate with tax collectors and other "sinners", Lasky associates with those who many snobbish modern day hypocrites denounce.  She doesn't force any religion on those she volunteers, she does not judge.  Other featured people include more well known personalities in today's media  such as the president of Chick fil A.  He is featured as being a strong leader for the sake of the gospel.  I agree it is clear that his company stands firm and does not compromise on its moral values, yet I cannot help but feel in light of all the negative liberal attention, his inclusion in this book is a marketing attempt to counteract the negative media image.

This book is like pop culture in the context of modern Christianity with its references to social media, Twitter as well as a number of popular reality television shows and documentaries.  Clearly this book is written to the younger generation of television watching, social media consumers. It is a good marketing tool to get a sample of  the NIV version of the bible into the hands of a new generation.    I imagine much of the target readership probably has never read any of the new testament gospels in completion.  Yet with the full text of Mark, perhaps the readers may take the time to read the gospel.  Most likely, many readers will simply consider it to be quaint filler.  As a blogger for booksneeze I received this book published by Zondervan for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Captain No Beard Series by Carole P Roman  are vibrantly illustrated children's books based on the popular pirate theme.  Stuck In the Doldrums is an inviting new book in the series.  The word "Doldrums" has two commonly accepted meanings as it can refer to a physical location- an unspecified place in the middle of the ocean with squalls and winds. The doldrums can also refer to a state or period of inactivity and stagnation.  Roman cleverly integrates both meanings and weaves them into a lesson about sharing that all children will enjoy.  I can imagine this will allow a lively after story discussion between children and parents  about the ethics of sharing as well as a  science and geography lesson about the vastness of the ocean.  Two popular topics are incorporated into a story about an ethical theme of sharing. 
The first book in the series ended with a surprise twist in which the "pirates" and their pirate adventure was actually the imaginary game of a few imaginative children at play. This new edition does not hint at the surprise ending on its cover, allowing the readers more of a surprise at the end.  Only with the last scene, on the last page features the children in pirate costumes playing in a messy bed with their stuffed toys.  I feel this will encourage  children to role play and use their imaginations which is very important especially in this modern day where so many kids spend endless hours passively watching TV or playing video games.  This book will show that all it takes is an imagination and maybe a few stuffed toys to enter into an entirely new world.

Roman's new series introduces children to the friendly pirate named Captain No Beard, and his frigate as well as the host of friendly talking animals.   Basically these books are the perfect introduction to children's pirate literature - like pirate literature 101 complete with the typical pirate talk and pirate cliches with explanations as well.    Each story can be enjoyed independently as well.  The richly colored artwork is inviting for parents to read as well as children.  The talent of the artist is well reflected in contrast to simple cartoonish drawing that you see in so many kids' books these days.  As a blogger I received this book from the author for the purpose of writing this review.

Mommy Time: 90 Devotions for New Moms by Sarah Arthur

Mommy Time: 90 Devotions for New Moms by Sarah Arthur is a new edition to the popular Christian devotional genre.  What makes this book distinct is that it is written exclusively for brand new moms of newborn babies including first time moms and experienced moms alike.

The author draws from her own personal experiences which makes this book somewhat autobiographical in nature.  At times, I found myself so engrossed in Sarah Arthur's story, that I was compelled to read simply to find out what happened next as if I was following a drama mini series.  While the personal anecdotes are good because it draws the reader into her life, not all readers will be able to relate to the "perfect" circumstances of a stress free, risk free pregnancy, conceiving on the very first try after 13 years of marriage.  The fact that this first time mom is in her 30s will draw in a broader audience, and not simply the young 20- something first time moms.  Nevertheless not many moms, can relate to being married for 13 years  in a stable marriage and financially secure, yet choosing to delay childbearing. To her credit the author does acknowledge this.  Even for career minded women, to wait 13 years seems excessive, and much more so unlikely for a pastor's wife.  Any women who has experienced infertility or pregnancy loss will have difficulty relating to the author's circumstances.  Most likely the Arthurs delayed their choice to have children as a result of their dedication to their ministry.

Overall, this devotional is a very good outreach opportunity to draw in new moms into the bible and spirituality.  The author reflects on God's words in the bible and ties them into motherhood.  The book also follows chronologically, starting with the birth experience and bringing the newborn home. She covers pediatrician appointments, scrapbooking,  postpartum issues and marriage.  Just about every related topic of interest to new mom is discussed in light of scripture. The author seems to know just the right biblical verses and applies them to the miracle of life and motherhood. Each devotional begins with a biblical verse.  The passages that follow incorporate Sara's experiences and her faith.  Any reader, those familiar with the bible and those who are new to the bible will be able to get something new out of this devotional book.  Beautifully designed with a pastel themed cover and pleasing graphics, this book is very inviting and would make a good gift for any new mom or at a baby shower. The 90 day devotional format- one new topic a day for a total of 90 topical devotions is perfect for moms to read especially in the first three months of their newborn's life.  As a blogger for Tyndale I received this book for the purpose of writing a review.