Saturday, August 30, 2014

Before Amen by Max Lucado

Before Amen by Max Lucado, author of You'll Get through This and many other books is among the most uplifting and practical books on prayer that I have  read. Max Lucado books will never disappoint when you are expecting encouragement in times of severe distress or looking for motivation. This book specifically helps those who are enduring really difficult times, to endure and persevere. This book is for those who need to be convinced on the effectiveness and importance of prayer. Max Lucado address real issues- job loss, terminal illness, grief and loss. This book is designed to help those who are suffering from extreme circumstances as well as every day circumstances.   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 appointment 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 with an image of a $6 cappuccino or a photo of a quaint Martha Stuartesque vase of garden blooms.  But, if you truly suffer from life's heartaches, if you truly need to depend on prayer as if it is your lifeline, then this book  will offer the comfort and help you need.

The cover is peaceful, serene and typical of devotional and Christian self- help books.  But don't let the mainstream cover decieve you.  This book preaches faith and the practical and miraculous power of prayer. Even the most apathetic of reader will be moved to prayer and with great faith to boot.

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.  He talks about real personalities and heroes from the bible and applies them to the modern day.

Lucado speaks truth to those in desperate need using poignant yet practical advice -which addresses the distress can drain our emotional, physical and spiritual resources.  Even the most discouraged and distraught reader will respond! He breaks down prayer, simplifies it and dissects it, without taking away its truth and meaning.  Lucado has an amazing way of taking something and redefining it for the modern reader without detracting from truth.  This book dissects line by line a simple prayer, "the pocket prayer", dedicating one chapter to each line starting with "Father..." and ending with "Amen".  He breathes new life into overused words that may have become devoid of meaning.

His animated language is known to draw in the reader who needs a quick burst of thought.  From other works- "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 in this book and his conversational tone, make it so that biblical truths are memorable and meaningful to the average modern reader. 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 empowerment to live a selfless life style. Max makes use of personal anecdotes as well as bible stories to illustrate the importance of depending on God rather than on the material things of this world .He talks about divorce, stillbirth, incarceration, cancer, job loss and any other tragedy you might experience.  I am sure any reader can relate to at least one of the anecdotes of dire straits that Lucado shares.  If you are  looking for an apologetic defense on the purpose of defending God in the face of general evil then this book isn't for you. But, if on the other hand you are looking for bible based motivation and a relief while enduring extreme dire circumstances in a heartless world that centers in  materialism, selfish ambition and competition, then this book is perfect.

This book is the perfect spiritual salve for those experiencing intense pain and grief!!!  This is a book to read and return to- it won't collect dust on a book shelf. The ending includes guided questions for reflection for greater interaction and study.   As a blogger for Litfuse publicity I received this book, an ARC, from Thomas Nelson publishers in exchange for writing an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bend Your Brain by The Minds Behind Marbles: The Brain Store

Bend Your Brain by The Minds Behind Marbles: The Brain Store is a brand new puzzle book written to challenge your mental skills.  Games and puzzles are not just for children.  Video gaming systems are now marketing thinking and memory games for adults.  In this generation of media, there is a new adult market for "games".

This 189 page book will certainly draw the attention of eccentric readers or consumers who follow the latest trends.  This book would make the perfect gift or stocking stuffer for the middle aged relative or friend that is normally difficult to shop for. For the person that seems to already have "everything", this makes a unique and unexpected gift.

This book is well organized into game categories as well as difficulty levels.  For example categories include visual perception, word skills, critical thinking, coordination and memory.  Within each category there are various levels of difficulty ranging from easy to very difficult.  Ironically, the instructions to this book are presented graphically in simple black and white symbols or pictures.  This deceptively simple graphic style conceals the underlying frustration and challenges to come.

This book is more of a gimmick or marketing tool rather than a diagnostic test or IQ exam.  For example, some items depend on pop-culture and media.  Rather than a test of brain skills, it is more an indicator of one's media consumption- which will be difficult to those not well versed in popular culture, movies, television, magazines and popular entertainment media.  For this reason- these puzzles will be completely irrelevant or useless for some traditional readers.  For example, only those individuals well versed in entertainment media will be able to identify "Whose Mouth It Is" on page 38, a puzzle that tests visual perception.  This particular puzzle is considered to be the most challenging at a level of 5.  The inclusion of this is to make this book more appealing to the mainstream, and to draw in readers who may not normally work on puzzles, rather than Menza hopefuls. First and foremost, this book is intended for entertainment purposes, and it is not a diagnostic tool nor is it a study aid.  I imagine many readers will simply flip through the book, and attempt a few of the puzzles; the average reader probably won't complete this book, cover to cover. Most readers these days don't have the time to dedicate to a "puzzle" big.  I imagine this book might be a good way to kill time in a waiting room, at the DMV, or on a long flight; it certainly would be appropriate to display in airport newsstands- and who knows, maybe the reader will actually flex the muscles of his brain as well.

As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Three Rivers Press, a trademark of Random House LLC.

The NIV College Bible

The NIV College Bible is one of the NIV themed bibles published by Zondervan.  Its attractive college styled cover, makes this a good gift for any college student.  The durable hard cover will last as its carried to bible study or on a dorm book shelf.  This is a minimalist, yet a good, reliable choice for a bible.  There are applicable devotions for adult readers of all ages- young and old alike,  The devotionals are based on specific passages and they shed light on the meaning of God's word.  They are general enough to apply to any reader and not so specific to school life- which you would find in a teen devotional bible.

 Other than that, there isn't much that stands out visually, other than the graphics on the removable dust jacket. Under the dust jacket, the traditional college themed hardcover resembles a standard pew bible.  This subtle, unassuming bible features the new revised, gender inclusive 2011 NIV bible text. 
The text is easy to read, and standard with bold chapter titles. There are some two tone  graphics or other visual elements. I would not consider this a study bible as it lacks even the basic chapter introductions or maps that even many minimalist bibles have. What isn't standard is the unexpected dark cadet blue font.  The font looks like a shade between dark grey and blue.  Its nondescript shade isn't as bold as a black font and may make some readers question their eyesight- especially older readers with vision problems, or an astigmatism. 

Other than the Nevertheless it is a high quality standard bible that looks sturdy enough to stand up to daily use. Basically this is a pew bible with some good devotionals included.  Overall, with all the bibles on the market with greater study features, I would neither endorse this bible, nor reject it. There are better choices depending on your needs.  Regardless, this bible would be perfect if it were available in school bookstores.  This bible would be a good outreach opportunity if colleges and universities carried this bible in their stock.  In my opinion, it is appealing enough visually that I imagine many college students would pick this up for themselves even if just out of curiosity.   I feel that this bible gives a minimalist, tasteful, clean, contemporary feel- nothing to distract the reader from the word of God.  As a blogger I received this bible published by Zondervan for the purpose of writing this review.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Richard Boles- What Color is Your Parachute 2015

Known as "the world's most popular job search book", Richard  Boles' bestseller, What Color is Your Parachute  has been updated for 2015.  This book has been around since the 70s with yearly updates to provide job seekers and career changers guidance and encouragement while job hunting.  This book has been updated to reflect the difficult job economy incorporating relevant new strategies to job hunting as well as encouragement for the unemployed. Part how to guide and part self helpbook this book covers the whole spectrum of being unemployed from the emotional perspective as well as the financial hardships.  The author addresses each aspect of unemployment offering encouragement, spiritual help as well as practical steps and insight into looking for a job.  This book I believe will be effective in empowering the struggling reader who is at the end of his emotional and financial resources.  In this difficult economy this is a timely book.  Personally experiencing prolonged unemployment, this book offers new perspective from interviews tips and job hunting advise which will serve to eliminate fruitless wasted hours and effort to practical hints to get one's personal life and space in order. As a blogger I received  this book published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC,  I would suggest this book to uplift the spirits and motivation for even the most discouraged unemployed job hunter.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Wonder Within You by Carey Wickersham

With all the pregnancy books available in the bookstores these days, The Wonder Within You by Carey Wickersham sets itself apart in this broad genre by incorporating faith and biblical insight.  It is hard to categorize this hybrid book as its part "coffee table" book, gift book and personal journal all rolled into one.

This book features beautiful images of 3d ultrasounds corresponding with each week of pregnancy.  A simplified overview of the corresponding gestation is covered as well.  The first person account of fetal development from the unborn baby's point of view is a powerful statement to show the humanity of each unborn baby.  There are also practical "nutritional nuggets" as well as links to additional content available on the web which can be addressed by a website or through a smart phone reader app.  This book integrates the high tech direction that media is entering.

 While this work incorporates these different elements of a pregnancy wellness book, gift book, and pregnancy journal  into one volume, it does not distinctly fit into any single category.  For example, while there is space for journaling in each week covered, the space is limited and based on focused questions.  There is also a blank calendar in the back to personalize for your nine months as well as stickers to highlight special pregnancy milestones which were a special added feature. Nevertheless I found that some of these generic milestones don't apply to everyone, and for some moms- largely irrelevant.  For example not everyone sets up a nursery, registers for gifts, or shops or has a birth plan or prenatal class.  These stickers seem to advertise the worldly material aspects of pregnancy and may in fact alienate some moms to be in less than ideal socio-economic situations. Overall a significant number of the stickers were superficial, celebrating the material worldly aspect of pregnancy. The inclusion of this, and its focus in part negates the faith based aspect of this book.  Nevertheless, this book still brings faith to the mainstream, and into the sphere of motherhood and pregnancy.  This book isnt so theological as to scare away the secular reader and is in fact a good outreach attempt to tap into the market of pregnant women who are so eager to spend their money on anything pregnancy or baby related.  As a blogger for Tyndale I received this book published by Tyndale- which is also  Focus On The Family Resource.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

NIV Spiritual Renewal Bible

NIV Spiritual Renewal Bible with notes by Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop- Experience New Growth and Transformation in Your Spiritual Walk, is yet another themed bible published by Zondervan.  With the textured mat finished book jacket, and its low key green tree themed graphic, this sturdy hardcover bible is made to be durable. Under the dust jacket is a brown, glossy pew-like cover.  The book is modern yet minimalist in design. 

The attractive, yet simple nature inspired color theme has positive and negative aspects. The interior muted green text accompanies the muted green tones of the book's theme,  but is too light as to be easily readable.  In contrast to a black font, this font resembles what one may see if he or she had cataracts or an astigmatism.  The red letter texts of Jesus' words is not very distinct from the low key green text making this a poor choice for the colorblind or anyone who is visually impaired or older. The interior looks faded or washed out. Even those with good vision may question the need to see the eye doctor.

As far as the articles and content- this is a great study bible and devotional bible rolled into one volume.  There is a wealth of study notes on the bottom of the page and each book opens up with a study spread including a book introduction, book profile and outline.  Within the book are truly motivational and inspirational- full of substance. In contrast to many devotionals that seem superficial or fake- these powerful bits of inspiration will empower the reader in any need.

As far as content, this bible is a great choice.  I just wish the publishers used a more bold font in black.  This bible is more of a strain on the eye and for tht reason alone, it is not one I will be able to use on a daily basis.  The Zondervan publishers should throw away this font color and retire it.  As a blogger for Booklook I recieved a copy of this bible published for Zondervan for the purpose of writing this review.

Monday, August 18, 2014

SpiritLed Promises for Spiritual Warfare

SpiritLed Promises for Spiritual Warfare is a small pocket sized book featuring scripture verses for a variety of topics.  This book features the MEV- Modern English Version, a new translation available- written in the King James tradition according to the publishers.  This book is the perfect resource for every bible believer.  This book is divided into eight different sections or categories ranging from opposition, deliverance, miracles and more.  The section on breaking free has particular verses addressing various addictions as well as hardships such as illness or financial issues.  This book is like a manual or a reference book.  It is literally an expanded where to go for help section found in some bibles.  The distinction is that this is a more exhaustive listing of applicable bible verses and also the focus is on spiritual warfare.  The bible verse is listed in its entirety so you do not need to page through a separate bible.  The only thing is that for most readers, who are more familiar with mainstream translations such as the NIV, NLT, NKJ or king James- this is an entirely new bible version.  This is a bible version that few readers are familiar with and it is available from Passio Publishers.  This is a literal translation so anyone who has trouble understanding may want to cross reference the passages with a translation they are more familiar with.  This pocket sized book is handy to carry in a pocket or purse or backpack for on the go inspiration.  As a blogger for the Booketeria I recieved this book for the purpose of writing this review from Passio publishers.  For more information on the MEV please visit

The Life- Seek, Find, Give

The Life- Seek, Find, Give is a full color, pocket sized booklet featuring excerpts from the New Testament as an outreach method for teens.  This glossy pages, magazine styled booklet is directed towards teenagers to introduce teens to the bible and the gospel message.  This is the perfect resource to give to those who are either new believers or who are not yet believers.  This is perfect for teens as well as young adults who have never read the bible.

This booklet features the complete new testament gospel of John in the New Living Translation text of the bible.  The NLT bible version is easy to read and easy to understand without sacrificing fidelity to the actual meaning of God's word- perfect for this booklet.  The book of John is intertwined with the gospel of Luke and excerpts from Acts as well as other letters.  It may seem choppy to some readers but this is to place emphasis on certain important messages of the bible including salvation.  There are photographs and full color spreads just like a magazine.The reader will find it easy to note the different books featured as the text style and font size and graphics are distinct.

The introduction and its graphic diagrams, used to illustrate the intermingle between God and the reader, are reminiscent of those venn diagrams that all students should be familiar with.  Using the distinctive analogy of a friend vs a best friend, seems a bit weak.  I believe a more effective analogy could have been used.

The last section is a summary in simple words, the message of salvation. At a retail price of $4.99, this is an affordable gift to give any teenager who is unfamiliar with Christianity. With its small size, I would not classify this as a book but rather a booklet or an outreach publication. The cost may make this too prohibitive to distribute in bulk to the masses. As a blogger for Tyndale I received a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Guest Blogger: "My Nightmare"

The following was written by a guest blogger.  Her purpose is to raise awareness for missing and exploited children.  Here is her story in her own words......

My Nightmare....

I don't know where my child is.  I am living a parent's worst nightmare; MY worst nightmare. And I can't   wake up and I don't  want to wake up.  And I can't sleep, or eat or think or do anything for that matter but think of my child- but that is too painful. No, I can't go there- into the abyss of pain and speculation.  The pain is so deep, so raw, I feel as if I have a lead ball in my chest.  I can't breath, I feel as if I am drowning or going crazy.   I want to cry and scream all at the same time- I am going crazy.

I wish I was going through anything....anything but this!!! Death would be better, even a terminal disease or pain. I'd trade this for anything else.  I don't know where my child is.  I don't know if he is even alive! Or is he dead? Is he hungry? Is he scared.... afraid, hurt..... I must cut my thoughts short,  I can't even begin to imagine, I mean it is more accurate to say that I don't want to imagine.  My imagination goes wild. I can't stop it.  I can't cope; I can't do this anymore.

I hold on dearly to the bible, especially to this passage in Ecclesiastes......To Everything There is a Season
5A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun
embracing. 6A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. 7A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak.…

In particular, this verse speaks to me- calms my soul. It relieves me... 6"A time to search and a time to give up as lost"?!?  Why in the world would God put this seemingly negative command in the bible? Why would God tell us that if it were not true? Why would God include this, unless there were in fact times that it becomes neccessary to give something or someone up as lost and end the search? I am drained and have no more energy.  This verse gives me permission to take a mental break. Because in the end- it is most likely that searching is a waste, it won't help my child... if he's dead. Maybe I am over thinking this particular verse. But  I must grasp every bit of truth or comfort I can find..anything.  It's all I have.  I have nothing left.  My hope is in heaven- that in heaven I will be reunited with my child. I must believe there is a purpose to this, and that in the end God will make it better for my child and for me.  All I want is my child back!  Because the reality is this- there is nothing left in this world for me.  I welcome death as it will be a release from my pain.  I am an empty shell, a husk of my former self. I am a mother... or was.  My new reality does not include my child.

I am alone in my pain and grief.  No one understands! No one has gone through this! Your pain is not the same as mine.  Your experience of death is not the same as my torture of unknowing what has become of my child.My pain does not end. You can heal, i cant. It will never end. It is unending. 

My new bible is the publication, "When Your Child Is Missing: A family Survival Guide", written by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Child. I've read it cover to cover- soaking in its words.  I cling to its words and advice as it is written my parents like myself who have gone through the nightmare of a missing child. I hang on to the experiences of other mothers and fathers who have to live without knowing what has become of there own child. No one else can possibly understand or relate, but the pained voices of others sharing their experiences reach out to me- it is my lifeline. Yet its painful as much of it is no longer relevant now or helpful.  Fruitless searches, investigations...all for nothing.  No closer to the truth, no answers.  Nothing! How could it be, that my child has vanished.

 Past memories are to painful, his photos.... memories.....I can't bear to go back and relive the past, the day he was born, his first word, his first tooth,  first day of kindergarten...all those firsts.  His newborn baby blue hospital hat and booties, all tucked away in a box. His action figures, his clothes, reportcards, his spelling tests with the golden stars, his shoes, his backpack, his socks.... His bedroom.... all enshrined....Too painful to revisit or think about.  I think about where is he, is he scared or hurt? Was he? Is he alive? Where is he? Sometimes its easier to assume he is no longer alive. Because then I know he is no longer suffering.  SOmetimes its better just to assume he is in heaven.   Sometimes ITS SO painful - the thoughts that overwhelm me- about what he may have gone through or is going through- make me wish he were never born. They say to have hope, but how does that help my boy? False hope doesn't change anything for him.  Hope does not help him.  Hope is like a drug- it just blinds you to reality- it is deceptive and artificial, it numbs that pain, maybe. How will my hope change anything for my son. It is ridiculous advice from people who have never been in my situation.  Its easy for them to say when there are no other words or advise.

for more information, please visit

Monday, August 11, 2014

Harry Potter and the Art of Spying by Lynn Boughey and Peter Earnest

I have to admit that I have never read any of the books of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. My only exposure to Harry Potter was in the movie theater, as I watched the first 15 min of the movie before I was kicked out during the flock of owls scene when my one year old started to cry and make noise. I was thankful that at least I got my money refunded for the ticket purchase, but annoyed I had to wait two hours in the lobby while the rest of the family watched the movie.  It is interesting to note that this fantasy series, originally intended for elementary school readers, now has a  growing number of adults who are finding a renewed interest in childhood magic and fantasy through the Harry Potter books.  Ironically  much of my adult family who are in their late 30s and late 40s have read the Harry Potter books.   Even more ironic is the fact that my teenager who loves to read, has not yet read the books of the series either.  When I heard of the new book, published by Wise Ink, Harry Potter and the Art of Spying by Lynn Boughey and Peter Earnest, I was very interested in learning about the connection of Spying and the Harry Potter series.  Countless associations have been made with magic and even the occult in reference to Rowlings' series, yet I had not read any commentary about the incorporation of intelligence.

My attention was captured from the very first page of the very first chapter.  Despite never having read a single Harry Potter book, I was not lost at all, and was able to follow along  without any issues.The pertinent scenes in Harry Potter, used for discussion were described in sufficient detail enabling any reader to follow along .

The writing style of the book was very readable, reminiscent of the narrative style of the USA Television series, Burn Notice which I was subjected to on a nightly basis as my husband watched TV.  The authors who themselves have real life experience in the field,  inserted interesting spy and intelligence related facts throughout the text- in sidebar blocks of information distinct from the main text.  These chunks of informative, fact based information about the spy world reminded me of the narration of Burn Notice's main character when he would speak in the first person to give the audience some general background information about spying and intelligence.  The book is so authoritative concerning intelligence that it serves as an informal textbook for anyone who wishes to learn about spying and intelligence.  In fact the Harry Potter setting, serves as a case study by which the authors pull facts and scenarios from the actual Harry Potter books and relate them to actual spy strategies employed by the CIA or other intelligence agencies.  This gives the reader the impression of having access to top secret information which increases the appeal of this book even more.  This book is not only for Harry Potter fans but also for anyone who has any interest in intelligence agencies and operations.

The authors did their research when compiling this book.  This extensive 618 page work includes a glossary of spy terms as well as an appendix- like a handbook or manual about spying and intelligence. I could imagine that the authors could have also written this book in the context of the Lord of the Rings series or even the Narnia series as it is more about Harry Potter as a case study for intelligence.  AFter reading this book, the reader will see the Harry Potter series in a whole new light.  And, not only that, but the information provided about spying operations will be an eye opener for anyone who reads this book in general.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Studies in World History Volume 1 By James Stobaugh

Studies in World History Volume 1

Studies in World History Volume 1 is one of a three volume World History curriculum for junior high students. Written by the same author of the Master Books title for high school level, World History: Observations  Assessments from Creation to Today, James Stobaugh has other history titles published by Master Books.

Volume 1  is a fully illustrated history text for seventh grade students. The photographs captured are impressive and will draw in the interest of the student.  There are photographs or graphics on each page.  This book is one of a series of a thorough alternative junior high school social studies curriculum.   The quality presentation of this book rivals that of many popular history books or public school texts.  This is the conservative answer to all those revisionist, liberal revision of history that are disguised as history books that are so common in public schools and colleges today. For those who are not traditional students, this book as well as the series, can serve as a study guide refresher on history.  For example, a book like this would be a helpful study resource for anyone needing to brush up on history for a standardized exam such as the SAT or even the history- social studies Praxis exam.

The ambitious  title of the series in of itself is rather broad- encompassing the whole of world history from the creation to the modern day. In particular, volume 1 covers the period of creation to the age of discovery- 4004 BC to AD 1500.  Chapter One begins with the fertile crescent and the final lesson ends with Christopher Columbus.  There is a wide range of coverage within this single volume. Each topic is distinct and clear, which aids in memory retention and reduces ambiguity and confusion for the student. Chapters have learning objectives and are further divided into shorter lessons.  Historical events, as well as cultural and social events are captured.   Integrated within the coverage of widely known historical facts are biblical stories as well.  There is a focus on biblical personalities and events in the context of world events and geographic locations.  This gives the student a comprehensive view of history in its entirety! The information is presented in an easy to read magazine article type of format in contrast to large passages of bland text.  Basically the student can pick up this book starting with any lesson within any chapter.  There is also a glossary of concepts at the end of the book.

This book isnt just for homeschooling alone.  Any student or history fan will enjoy this book.   The book is complete with photographs, charts and other visual material- just as any other history text. It would make a good suppliment to any public school curriculum. With a BS in History, I greatly appreciated the perspective of this book and the recognition that history is not all about relativism, but there are morals and absolutes in life and history as well.  The only downside to this book is that all the photos and graphics are in black and white and not color.  Instead of the glossy full color pages that one would expect from a modern text, this book is in black and white- which is the only feature I'd change.  I can only assume that this is to keep the costs of the book down in contrast to college and other public school texts which might cost over $75 for just one book!I also think that all three volumes should be combined into one larger volume.   This book also came with a teacher's guide as well.  As a blogger for New Leaf publishers I received this book, published by Master Books for the purpose of writing this review.

All 3 Volumes: Available at NLP

The Quick-Start Guide To The Whole Bible by Dr. William H. Marty and Dr. Boyd Seevers

The Quick-Start Guide To The Whole Bible by Dr. William H. Marty and Dr. Boyd Seevers is basically a condensed summary of the bible.  This easy to read guidebook covers every book of the bible starting from Genesis to Revelation.  This book is great for a student who wishes to get a brief introduction to the bible without actually reading the bible.  This work is most appropriate for those readers who have not read the bible or are very new to the bible.  It is reminiscent of a scholarly study guide or outline of the bible.  For those readers already familiar with the bible, the information in this book may be useful in gaining an overall perspective of the bible.

This basic book does not have any illustrations, maps or guides.  It is a simple text- only book based and its purpose is to give the reader a basic understanding of each of the books of the bible.  The format of each chapter is consistent. Each chapter covers a specific book of the bible.  There are sections to discuss the "setting", "Summary" and the "significance".  This pretty much covers the historical and geographic context of each bible book as well as the spiritual implications. The simple, minimalist modern cover depicts ornate, religious art from the great masters.  The back cover depicts two additional pieces of art in the shrunken space of two tiny squares. The depiction of these ornate historical pieces of work almost seem out of place in  this book as they contrast greatly with the minimalist narrative style of this work.  And furthermore, there are no graphics, photographs or pictures of art in the text of this book.  The stylized art may even give the reader the impression that this work is written from the theatrical Roman Catholic perspective.  Nevertheless, this is not the case as the Roman Catholic religious perspectives are beyond the scope of this book which is strictly based on the bible.

In my opinion, it makes more sense for those interested in the bible to simply get a copy of the bible or a study bible.  The time spent reading this 299 page book could be devoted to reading the bible itself, or  even individual  book introductions of a study bible. Nevertheless, used as a guide, this book will be helpful as an aid in gaining an overall perspective of the bible.  The title is accurate in that  this book and its summaries do serve as a "quick start" to understanding the historical and geographic context of the bible stories as well as the social and spiritual significance of the  bible. This book is like having a theology teacher right at your fingertips.  Overall, This book can enhance the reader's understanding of the bible.  There are many bible commentaries on the market, but this book is simple, well written and well organised.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, ofr the purpose of writing this review.