Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Believe Storybook Edited by Randy Frazee

Believe StorybookThink, Act, Be Like Jesus Edited by Randy Frazee, with Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton. Illustrated by Steve Adams is based on the newest series of books, Published by Zondervan.  This "Believe" brand includes the original for adults, and versions for every age group followed: teen, school aged and preschooler.    I don't think anyone could mistake this hardcover volume for a traditional children's bible story book.  The front cover features a peaceful, serene, yet secular image of children playing within a larger image of a playful child. If anything, the image is more mystical or new age rather than Christian.  If it were not for the subtitle "Think, Act, Be Like Jesus", it would be hard to deduce this book as Christian. I was pleasantly surprised to see this children's book full of substance. The stylized art is high quality.  Abstract, yet true to its spiritual subject- depicting solemnity, as well as the dignity the bible merits.  This is a vast contrast to the superficial, cartoon like drawings often seen in Children's bible story books.  This book is a work of art.  As far as the content, spiritual topics are addressed- not just storytelling. Side by side with bible stories are bits of theology written in easy to understand, simple to digest chunks, perfect for young children. If you are looking for an alternative to the superficial bible story books that saturate the market, this is the book for you! As a blogger for BookLook, I received a copy if this book for the purpose of writing this review. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Aunt Susy's Boarding House by Joy Swan

Aunt Susy's Boarding House: The Story of a Girl Growing Up in Maine by Joy Swan is a newly published memoir of her life. This eclectic mix of anecdotes, is certain to be a treasured  piece of family history for Joy Swan to pass down for future generations of her family.  The reader can take a peek through time at the intimate details: the ups and downs of Swan's family history.  Beginning with the historical account of her family line during the time of the Mayflower, to the present time, the reader can follow the ancestry of the family tree and its eccentric family.

There is the painful story of infant loss of baby Simon, as recounted in chapter 3, "First Tragedy". After reading this vague account I was left with more questions than answers.  As a reader I wanted to know more information, but perhaps the details were unknown to the author who had been a child at the time. A brief chapter, one paragraph in length, "How I came to Be", is a lively excerpt of the author's own entrance into the world. ".....Mama, you have to let me marry Fred now. I am chick would be pregnant!...Yes, she would have to let her marry Fred Savage now! Her last chick would be leaving the nest before she even learned to fly!" (Swan, 2015 p.41) In the chapter "Hemorrhoid and Panties", Swan recounts the humorously tragic story of how Aunt Susy's husband died as a result of a surgical complication during a procedure for his hemorrhoids. In her grief, Suzy had too much to drink and was swinging her underpants in the boarding house. (Swan, 2015 p. 106) This is just one of many anecdotes shared of medical related tragedies making me feel that a good subtitle for this memoir would be medical mishaps at the turn of the century.  As a nursing student I wanted to know more behind the medical side of the medical tragedies and death the family experienced.  Overall, this 159 page book contains 63 short chapters-  short colorful anecdotes and selected poetry of the author's life memorialized in book format for future generations of her family. It would be wonderful if every family could have a treasure like this to pass on, as so many family stories are lost over time.  This quaint book is easy to read and simple in its conversational grandmotherly tone.

In the author, Joy Swan's own words, from the excerpt on the back cover: "I have learned that getting old means you can get away with a lot of things and be forgiven them as you get old. I can now break wind in public and keep right on walking without a hitch.  The lady behind me keeps right on walking without a hitch also- she thinks: that lady is old she doesn't know any better.  She doesn't know how much knowledge I have gained after living eighty four years and learning something new every day! Enjoy your book. "

In a courtesy author interview Joy Swan states that her book is "a true story from the 1800s through the 1940s. Old fashion[ed] Thanksgivings. Aromas of country cooking coming from Aunt Suzy's Boarding house would lead any hobo to Aunt Suzy's door.... Reading my book you will be with the folks... I have such a good memory and my different life deserves to be written down....Readers will not get board reading my story."

This book is available on Amazon and is published by Outskirts Press. As a blogger I received a copy for the purpose of writing a review.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Adams' Chart of History

Adams' Chart of History
the Adams SynChronological Chart or Map of History

Adams' Chart of History or the Adams SynChronological Chart or Map of History, is a replica of a the "Adam's Map of History which is a vintage  time-line of history originally published in 1871. This massive hard cover volume featuring an expansive fold-out chart features detailed, full-color illustrations depicting  historical events starting with Adam and Eve in the bible book of Genesis, all the way to the late 19th century.  This epic volume is a beautiful historical replica which takes the reader back to the 19th century perspective.  More in-depth than a simple text, this book is as virtual reality into the past as you can get.  This physical memento is a window into the 19th century customs, literature and social norms. 
The book opens with an antiqued image of a stylized 19th century depiction of a world globe.  The colors and textures take the reader back to vintage printing and history.  This book is like a history book produced as a wall chart.  Events in secular history as well as biblical history are set side by side chronologically, depicted with illustrations. The book comes with a booklet replica - Key to Adams' Synchronological Chart of Universal History.  This 60 page, authentic replica in cream and sepia accompanies the chart providing background historical information to go with the chart. This book would be perfect for any historian, student, or history professor.  This book would make a beautiful centerpiece in any home library or classroom.  This book deserves to be the focal point in any classroom or library.  It is a work of art, suitable for display in a museum.  If you are looking for a beautiful gift for yourself, a history enthusiast or an authentic learning experience, this book is perfect for you! As a blogger for MasterBooks I received a copy of this book available for purchase at 

Available at New Leaf Press

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Flag For the Flying Dragon by Carole P. Roman

A Flag For the Flying Dragon by Carole P. Roman is the newest edition to the Captain No Beard series of children's picture books. Bonnie Lemaire's watercolor styled illustrations  perfectly accompanies the nautical pirate and marine themes. The detailed cartoon art is fast paced and the expressive cartoons will capture the attention of young children. This newest story focuses on teamwork and including others.  Familiar characters,   Fribbet, Captain No Beard, Mongo the monkey,  Cayla as well and Hallie are back again as well as a new character, Zachary.  Children will love the pirate ship touches and expressions like swabbing the deck, and "shiver me timbers".

As with the other books,  this book centers around essential  messages about kindness. The reader will learn about caring, and problem solving.  "Everyone has to be included. That's our rule"- wise words that will have a lasting impact on young readers.  "This ship can't sail if we don't all work together", states Captain No Beard.  A parent can't resist a pirate with timely wisdom "problems can weigh you down like a heavy anchor. When you share your load with others, it's never too heavy to carry."  Sharing, team work, compassion..... Ironically, these pirates with their pirate ship have more morals and ethics than the traditional pirate in children's literature. The lesson transcends age, and will leave a lasting impression long after the book is put down. As a parent, this is certainly a story I would share with my children ages 14, 9, 2 and10 months.   My two year old picked this book up as soon as she saw it, captured by the colorful pictures.  Roman threads wisdom and morals throughout her fictional stories, and has mastered the plot twist adding an element of surprise that even parents will appreciate as they read this story to their children.

        The books of this series belong on the bookshelf of every pirate enthusiast. There is more to this series than meets the eye- beyond the pirate theme are tales of morals and inspiration.  Any parent navigating the endless choices in the children's picture book genre should take a look at this quality series. This has become one of my favorite series for children.  As a blogger I received this book from the author for the purpose of writing this review.  I'd like to see all these stories eventually published into one larger, hardcover  pirate treasury. This book is available on Amazon and B&N as well as a Kindle edition.

Life Is ________. By Judah Smith

Life Is ________. By Judah Smith is meant to be "fun... practical.... And it will be a little random". (Smith, 2014 p. xix).  This is an entirely new book by the author of Jesus Is __________.  Find A New Way to be Human written for today's modern generation.  For those readers who don't have a PHD in  theology, and want a down to earth, accessible book on God's purpose for your life, then this is the perfect book.  The colorful minimalist yet modern cover speaks out to a new generation of seekers and believers while incorporating spiritual biblical teaching.   The theme of this book explores four priorities of life that Judah Smith has identified: 1. to be loved and love, 2. trusting God, 3. finding peace with God and yourself and 4. enjoy God.  Using personal anecdotes, as if modern day parables, Smith illustrates how the following points apply in all our lives.  This book introduces both the non believing reader as well as the Christian to a new way of thinking about God and His purpose for us. This book challenges the strongly held traditions and misconceptions about the bible that many people hold onto. 

As the title indicates, the author, a young pastor of a large church, invites the reader to think about life and what it means.  The reader is challenged to fill in the blank with what he or she feels it means.  Additionally, Smith takes the reader on a journey that focuses on the traits of God and how the reality of Jesus as depicted in the bible stands in direct opposition to the myths that society and traditional religions have created. Smith's down to earth analogies bring meaning to the bible.  For example, he compares God's "illogical" life for us to the love we have for a pet. He goes on to discuss God's love for us and sacrifice so that we may have eternal life. The message is not watered down by the modern packaging.  Judah Smith's points are in alignment with scripture but made to be easily assessable with simple stories and simple words. He draws from scripture to apply concepts to the modern day, making the bible relevant to all readers.

The book is divided into several sections based on a specific purpose of Life.  In a personal tone, Smith actually speaks to the reader in easy to understand language that is true to biblical teaching. he combination of biblical accuracy as well as the personal conversational tone is sure to draw in readers of all ages: believers and nonbelivers alike.  In fact, the format of the book encourages the reader to fill in the blanks with his own options as well- as the adjectives listed by Smith are just the beginning of the possibilities. The mnemonic in the beginning is a spring board to aid the reader in understanding the message of the bible, the teaching of sin and of sacrifice and loving one another as God loves us.

As a blogger for booklook I received this book published by Thomas Nelson publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Let the Journey Begin By Max Lucado

Let the Journey Begin Finding God's Best for Your Life

By Max Lucado

If I was going to judge a book by its cover, I would not hesitate to pull this book from the shelf.  Its serene night time moonlit cover and fireflies are nostalgic and beautiful.  The cover itself looks like a piece of art, something I would even download as a background wallpaper on my computer.  Beyond the cover, this short little devotional book would make a great gift for any high school graduate - or any college graduate. This would make a great gift for anyone who has just been accepted into a college, technical school or even for someone who may need a little insight or direction when facing a change such as a move to a new home or school.  This book contains excerpts and selections from Lucado's
previous books.  Each excerpt is placed on its own devotional page.  The devotionals are themed around future goals, and are motivational for any young person starting a new phase in life.  Anyone familiar with Lucado's writings know that he is a very inspirational writer and he can inspire even the most apathetic or depressed of readers into action.
 Nevertheless, whenever excerpts are taken from his books to form a new compendium, I find that it looses some of the impact.  The devotionals are a little watered down, and do not necessarily address the grief, hardships and trials his books normally address. For anyone looking for lighthearted inspiration, or inspiration this book makes a good choice.  No matter if you are a young adult, or a mom embarking on a new career change, this applies to any change. Maybe for those in dire need facing life and death issues, such as those facing a terminal illness, divorce or loss of job- they may need something more spiritually solid in embarking on their journey.  As a blogger for Booklook, I received a copy of this book published by Thomas Nelson publishers for the purpose of writing this review.