Monday, February 24, 2014

The American Manual by Citizen Number 139,138,337

The American Manual by Citizen Number 139,138,337 aka Citizen Lee Berger has authored a book with simple step by step instructions of everything you need to know to be a responsible citizen.

The intriguing, simple yet futuristic cover art is certain to draw in the reader.  The anonymous nature of this work which is written by a cryptic nameless author, known only as Citizen Number 139,138,337, makes a powerful statement about the lack of individuality.   (The author is indirectly identified via a reference to the cover design and web site ) The lack of identity on the cover itself,  implies that in America, we are in fact faceless, nameless citizens and the point of this book is to be a step by step guide to the successful  impersonal assimilation required to be responsible members of American society.  It is ironic that the cover is both retro, yet futuristic at the same time.  Perhaps this reflects the duality of opinion as expressed by Citizen Lee Berger.  It is an undeniable fact that much of the opinion represented in this book is based on traditional, mainstream ideas and common sense- sprinkled with some modern, "enlightened" or revolutionary ideas of government, social responsibility and the environment as well as a bit of  conspiracy theory on the side. 

Retro- styled cartoon illustrations at the start of each chapter, depict vague representations of humanoids. One can also imagine this to be a manual on citizenship 101 to educate unassimilated or alien life-forms as well as immigrants with a basic elementary insight into modern society. What makes this book accessible is the fact that Citizen Lee Berger writes his ideas in a simple to understand style that any reader regardless socio- economic status will understand.  Most political science commentaries and books are elitist in that only political scientists, politicians and college graduates have the ability to grasp the concepts.  In contrast, this book is written for the masses in that a college education is not required to understand the concepts of this book.

This book covers absolutely everything.  Just about every issue imaginable in modern society is covered in brief detail- everything from exercise, the environment, the role of government, racism and even spirituality.  This book is a handbook- a literal manual in that it gives a step by step guide with simple instructions and advice with respect to each topic covered.  For example, in the chapter "Moderation", Citizen Lee Berger offers helpful basic advise about eating and dietary choices as well as tobacco usage. In simplistic terms, he uses the word "treats" to cover any non necessity that has the potential for abuse which includes anything from sugary sweets to coffee and cannabis.  In moderation, cannabis is depicted as acceptable, while hydrogenated oils in any quantity is equated with poison. Some mainstream readers will find this point of view challenges that of their own traditional views.  I think many readers will differ with Citizen Number 139,138,337's opinion that hydrogenated oil or refined sugar is more harmful than occasional, moderate cannabis usage.  In this sense- one would imagine that Citizen Berger is a political liberal or libertarian.  Citizen Berger's concept of "Moderation" is equated with the concepts of "Virtue" and "morality" and in a sense becomes a religion in of itself. 

 The author attempts to appeal to every reader without alienating any specific religious or social belief system.  The ideas of "God" and "nature" are used interchangeably. The chapter on God is basically an opinion about the problem of hypocrites in contrast to advocating one religion or another.  He uses the chapter as a springboard to share his opinion in that belief in a specific deity or religion is not as important as a general sense of goodness, integrity or honesty.  Nevertheless, even with regards to morals, there may be some disagreement about what is a moral standard and what is not- and he does not address the issue of relativism.  One would almost feel Citizen Number 139,138,337 believes in an objective standard of morals, yet he does not go into any discussion other than some generalities of traits that a responsible member of society should follow.  While no one would disagree with the need to be honest or good, various religions and belief systems have their own ideas of what constitutes integrity or goodness.  In his attempt to avoid confrontation in this area, and avoiding the need to define these concepts,  he will gain the support of moderate, non religious individuals and agnostics but will alienate the passionate religious fundamentalists and believers, as well as the staunch atheists.

The following statement taken from the chapter "Information", suggests the idea of a conspiracy theory and a general distrust in governments and institutions.  "There are already laws being passed to squelch the obtaining of public information by the public.  What do those who have passed these laws have to hide? We should also ask ourselves what these people are afraid of and what events do they want to hide?" Page 141  While many will most likely agree to this without hesitation, nevertheless, I found as a reader wanting to know more specific evidence to back up the statement such as examples of specific laws in place which restrict the dissemination of information. 

At the end of every chapter are selected quotes from various well known historical personalities: political and religious figures as well as an eclectic mix of other famous names as well.  Not only do the selection of quotations give this book a universal appeal it is an effective tool in which the author shows the reader additional support for the various opinions and perspectives he shares. In the end, the author presents himself as an objective, well adjusted, balanced citizen - not too na├»ve with just the right amount of skepticism, who desires to share his ideas and knowledge informally with the reader.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Treasure of Snake Island - A Captain No Beard by Carole P Roman

The Treasure of Snake Island - A Captain No Beard by Carole P Roman is the newest edition to an emerging  new, vibrantly illustrated children's book based on the popular pirate theme.  Watercolor art perfectly accompanies the nautical pirate action. The art is fast paced like the untamed adventurous seas where the stories take place. This story includes Captain No Beard and the other familiar heroes of the original book.     During the story children will learn an important message about the treasures that books hold. Books- often overlooked, are given a prominent place as they are equated with mystery and with valuable treasure.  This book reinforces important lessons- repackaging them in the context of a fictional pirate story.  The surprise ending is unexpected and entertaining as it is not the typical outcome that one might expect.  Roman has mastered the plot twist adding an element of surprise that even parents will appreciate as they read this story to their children.

This inviting new book series introduces  children to the friendly pirate named Captain No Beard, and his frigate as well as the host of friendly talking animals.   This is the  perfect introduction to pirate literature - like pirate literature 101 complete with the typical pirate talk and pirate cliches.  There is a pirate reference on every page of these books such as the Jolly Roger, crossbones flag, pirate slang and nautical terminology . The consistency of this series will appeal to young children.  The surprise ending will capture the readers attention and encourage their imaginations. This book encourages role playing- where one's bedroom can become a new world, and blankets can become an ocean.   Parents and children alike will be entertained by the  pirate slang, vibrant pirate themed illustrations as well as the inviting bold text.  The books of this series belong on the bookshelf of every pirate enthusiast.  As a blogger I received this book from the author for the purpose of writing this review. This book is available for purchase on Amazon and B&N.

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

If You Were Me and Lived In... India... A Child's Introduction to Cultures Around The World By Carole P. Roman is the  newest picture book introducing young readers to a new country.   This book follows a similar format as the first books in the series about Mexico, South Korea,  and France. Yet in this newest edition, the author makes greater use of a variety of textures and mixed media in producing the illustrations. This book is also significantly longer than the previous editions in this series with notably longer passages of text.  This will draw in a wider range of ages including older elementary readers. 

The book starts with a simple illustration of India and its capital. This is followed by a simple cartoon of a globe depicting the relative location of India.  It is far from an exact drawing and is very stylistic.  The simplicity aids in memory retention. The cloudy sky image  textures, photographic in quality, add instant appeal to an outdoor city illustration of New Delhi.  The dusky twilight sky backdrop against the illustration  of a simple cartoon of a traditional Indian family makes for a beautiful and unexpected presentation.  The beautiful sunset and authentic fabric pattern and  texture adds an authentic appeal and beauty to a simplistic scene. The taj Mahal two page spread is impressive and visually appealing.  The bold text over the full color page spreads gives a busy atmosphere.

 I would like to see this trend of mixed media texture continued in future books.  I am happy to see the direction that Roman is taking with the illustrations in her geography picture books. I believe the "Carlesque" styled mixed media illustrations with the simple line cartoons in her  newest book 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 story would also be a good choice for a family that is interested in their Indian ancestry, or even appropriate for school children as part of a social studies lesson. This consistency of these geography books makes this series perfect for the school setting. An educator can count on the fact that  children will be introduced to the basics.  The predictability of the book's format will also appeal to younger readers who are familiar with the series.  In this addition to the series, the  child will learn about the geographical location of India and will be  introduced to its climate, traditional clothing, tourist attractions, theater and the local foods,  sports and other social norms. Full color, simply drawn cartoon drawings with the unique  texture accents compliment the text.   The pronunciations at the end of the book introduces the child to the native language but it would be better to have the equivalent English words listed as well and definitions to reinforce the material learned in the story.

At  some point in the future, I would like to see Roman combine all the editions of this series into one larger encyclopedia type of volume in order to create one single comprehensive text.  I would also like to see the illustrations revamped and updated in order to incorporate more of the mixed media textures as well. I believe that her loyal readers would be interested in having all these editions in one book.  To do this would be a wonderful educational and entertaining resource.  This would also make the book more accessible and convenient to educators and schools in the  public and  private sectors as well as  home schoolers.  I am curious to know how Roman determines which countries to feature and whether she will eventually cover the majority of countries around the globe.  As a blogger I received this book for the purpose of writing this review. 

The Berenstain Bears Keep the Faith

The Berenstain Bears Keep the Faith written by Mike Berenstain is based on the series created by Jan and Stan Berenstain in 1962.  Countless children have grown up reading these stories. The original series centered around themes important to children such as too much television, a new baby, working moms and bullies.  Difficult topics were approached in story format making these books very popular for parents and kids alike.  The series lives on with newly introduced books by Mike Berenstain. In contrast to the secular nature of the original stories, this series has been reinvented to approach topics of faith and religion.  For those parents who feel strongly about faith they will appreciate this revamped series has been adapted to topics of faith in order to teach children about biblical concepts.  Secular and non religious families will most likely pass on these stories. In particular, Keep the Faith, goes beyond a moral story and inspires real and concrete faith in children.  These beloved characters bring life to the idea of faith in real terms that young readers will understand.

The hallmark characters, Sister and Brother, Mama and Papa who live in Bear Country address questions about God and the bible. This book, as well as the series in general,  is a wonderful outreach opportunity to share the gospel message with young children.  Parents who themselves grew up with this series will enjoy reading this story to their kids.  My eight year old who also enjoys the series eagerly sat and listened to this story with its familiar characters and illustrations.  In simple terms this book handled a common but difficult question that kids often have about faith and the bible and how it relates to science.  This book reconciles what the world says with faith and God.  This book is simple yet the explanation is very complete.  If you feel it is important to reinforce faith and beliefs in your child's every day life- this is the perfect book.  For those families where God, faith and religion has no place, then such readers will most likely find offense with the fact that this series has been transformed into a Christian based series.  As a blogger for Thomas Nelson's Book Look Bloggers I receved this book published by ZonderKids for the purpose of writing this review.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Bait of Satan- 20th Anniversary Edition by John Bevere

John Bevere's book, the Bait of Satan, fulfills two important purposes: firstly it exposes the deadly spiritual impact of offense and secondly, the clarification of divisive biblical doctrines concerning how salvation can be lost as well as the role of spiritual gifts. This book has been newly republished as the 20th Anniversary edition.  New features include updated formatting, larger easy to read size and font and a new "Declarations" section included with each chapter.  This book is like an advanced spirituality course for those who are seeking deeper spiritual food and truth.  This book goes way beyond introductory spiritual milk and as the author mentioned- the message of this may in fact be offensive to some readers as it may challenge deep seated biases and misconceptions.

The sensational, eye opening title may sound dramatic, but it is in fact biblically accurate.  The act of becoming offended is not only very common among believers, but it an overlooked sin. It happens in just about everyone's life and in churches too!  When a believer is offended, or harbors a grudge, or is angry at somebody else, this desire can lead to a spiritual separation from God, and God's ultimate plan.

This empowering book not only convicts the reader but offers comfort.  For anyone going through an injustice or grief, or anyone who has ever been hurt, wronged, or harbored feelings of jealousy, envy or revenge this book will sooth your spirit and offer biblical comfort.  Bevere's writing brings to focus an especially powerful and comforting point that "No man, woman, child or devil can ever get you out of the will of God" page 191.  This truth alone, can give the reader the spiritual energy to persevere.  It is powerful enough to quell any pity party, self pity or defeatist attitude. Using the examples from Old Testament heros such as Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, and King David, who refused to take seek revenge or justice in his own hands, Bevere systematically explains how it is biblical that we leave vengeance and justice in God's capable hands.  Not only that, but this important spiritual message relieves a great burden from any weary reader who faces a dilemma of whether to avenge himself even if he feels justified. It is especially comforting to know that God's will cant be thwarted or foiled by other people's actions unless we allow it.  It is empowering to know that even in the worst times when our situation seems hepless, that we do have a choice.

This book raises some important theological issues.  Firstly, the author asserts that salvation may be lost and cites some biblical passages that he believes supports the idea that a believer can possibly lose his salvation.  He refutes the ideas of once saved always saved as well as the validity of the concept if the "sinner's prayer" that many Christians are accustomed.  Secondly, the author accepts without reservation, that all believers can have the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues.  Without going into any background details of this spiritual gift, he simply mentions a brief anecdote that implies that each and every Christian can have the gift of tongues and that the gift of tongues is a proof of having the Holy Spirit.  Bevere makes a distinction between salvation, maintaining salvation and having the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, the book makes an implication that chronic or serious illness such as cancer or diabetes may be in part due to unresolved anger, bitterness or resentment.

I first read this book when the first edition was published and with the publication of the tenth anniversary edition.  This 10th anniversary addition introduced an extensive devotional supplement as well as endorsements from actual readers who have been helped by this book which are also included in the 20th edition.  One notable change from the 10th anniversary edition was the  cover is unassuming and a bit generic; I felt it does not do this life changing book justice.  Additionally, the physical dimensions of this book shrunk to a small scale pocket sized book.  The font is extremely tiny and may be difficult for some older readers to read.  I believe these printing decisions to make this book smaller, were made in an effort to reduce the production costs of the book in order to make it more widely available to more readers. These issues were corrected with the 20th anniversary edition.

I recommend this book to all bible believing Christians.  This powerful book challenges the reader to look within himself and to respond based on biblical  truth  when faced with injustice and hurts.   As a blogger for the Booketeria, I received this book published by Charisma House for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Jesus Bible

Finally there is a children's bible that actually targets its intended readers with age appropriate text as well as with colorful graphics and articles. The Jesus Bible, NIV edition: Discover Jesus in Every Book of the Bible is produced for elementary kids ages 9-12.  Unlike many kids' bibles, this bible is actually one that kids will be able to read.  The inviting brown font of the faithful yet easy to understand NIV text will encourage young bible readers to actually read this bible.  I can not say how frequently  I have seen children's bibles with tiny 6-7 point font in a hard to read NKJV or  KJV! While some readers may argue that the NIV is not as easy to read as the NLT or other more modern or paraphrased versions- of all the literal translations on the market, the NIV is probably the most accessible to younger readers.  This bible is not one that kids will quickly outgrow.  Even beyond the pre-teen years, I feel that even teens will appreciate this easy to read, inviting bible.

The bold two-tone red and brown graphics make this bible inviting to pick up and read. Highlighted verses and a magazine styled interior will draw the readers attention to the bible text as well as highlighted side bars of useful information to apply.  Full color glossy insert pages add additional bible resources.  There is a concordance and maps- resources often overlooked in many kids bibles.  This is a good choice for first time bible readers and it is a good bible that young readers will not quickly outgrow. 

This bible is a beautifully bound hardcover.  This high quality bible will easily stand up to years of use. 

Childrens bible directory

As a blogger for BookLook blogger I received a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review.