Friday, March 31, 2017

The Ragamuffin Gospel

As other contemporary readers, I too have heard of The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, often referred to as "the Classic Meditation on Grace".  I've never actually read it until now with the reprint of this Special Anniversary Edition.  Unbelievably I met Brennan Manning's niece in the most unlikely of places- after I started a new job in a sub acute facility as a new RN. Who would have even imagined that I'd befriend a relative of The beloved and well respected contemporary Christian author, Brennan Manning's niece.  And she turned out to be everything you would expect from the legacy of Brennan Manning.  She was full of stories and anecdotes about her youth, her family and her Uncle.

Brennan Manning, an ex- Franciscan priest,  challenged much of the hypocrisy and legalism of mainstream churches.  He rejected the strict legalism  and man-made tradition of the Catholic church much like Jesus rejected the hypocrisy and legalism of the Pharisees and other religious leaders.   Manning's message is the perfect outreach for those rejected by rigid, mainstream  religions built on tradition and man made rules rather than the inspiration of God.  For example, Manning uses the example of how the Catholic church will prohibit a divorced woman who remarried from receiving communion.  In contrast, he points to the New Testament where Jesus would reach out to sinners.  In fact, just as in bible times during Jesus' ministry, those labeled as "sinners", and "unclean" were the first to repent and receive the Good News.  On the other hand, the "pious" and hypocrites were to rigid in their practices that they neglected the concepts of mercy and grace.
This book is for anyone who feels rejected by mainstream religion as well as those prideful individuals who feel they are "too good" to associate with those they feel don't meet their criteria of piety.  Manning has an important message and his book is the perfect outreach to draw in countless people to the Good News of the true gospel message.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Multnomah publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Raising A Hand: A Photographic Music Festival With a Cause

Raising A Hand is a brand new book raising awareness for a rare degenerative genetic disorder that affects young girls.  This book is a virtual concert, captured in photographs featuring a variety of musicians. For those who love music and musical history, this will be a treasured volume.  This book is part of an effective and unique outreach program to raise awareness of the little known  Rett Syndrome. The artists included in this book give a voice to the cause of young girls who otherwise would have no voice.

This book is produced from the combined efforts of dedicated individuals whose mission it is to find a cure and treatment for Rhett's.  Dave Clements' life was changed with the diagnosis of his daughter with Rhett's Syndrome.  Clements is the executive director of Raising a Hand, inspired by his daughter.  Together with Kevin Black, whose daughter was also diagnosed with Rhett's- they were inspired to create a one of a kind campaign to raise awareness.   The photographic compendium is a virtual music festival, featuring authentic, vibrant still shots of musicians "raising a hand" during their performances.  This well made hardcover volume is certain to become a collector's edition- perfect for the library or the coffee table. The minimalist modern design of this book, as well as the sharp photographs make this a musical time capsule- the perfect gift for anyone who loves music.  Any serious music enthusiastic needs a copy of this book.  The book features a wide variety of musical artists from all genres and time periods: Chubby Checker, Connie Smith, Brian Black, Peter Noone, Randy Travis, Paul McCartney, ZZ Top and many more.  There is an Artist Index in the back so that the reader can quickly find his favorites.

For more information or to purchase the book please visit their website at

If You Were me and Lived in the Mayan Empire by Carole P. Roman

If You Were me and Lived in the Mayan Empire by Carole P. Roman is the newest of the Romans' picture book  series introducing readers to a variety of civilizations from various time periods.

The Ancient Mayan culture is mysterious to many readers.  Most people have some popular knowledge of the ancient Mayans but this book dispels myth from reality. Roman's picture history book sheds light on this mysterious ancient, yet taboo culture through the eyes of a young child growing up in a typical Ancient Mayan home.   The ancient culture is presented in its raw, uncensored entirety  As an educator and historian, Roman reports the culture as she sees it, without omitting even the distasteful elements of the culture.

The  various books in this series depict the art of different illustrators.  This particular volume features the art of the talented illustrator Paula  Tabor.  I especially enjoy her artwork.  Her bold illustrations in the foreground, with textured, photographs of various scenes are vivid as well as unique.  The textures of the grassy huts, and other textures of the building materials, foods and natural environment transport the reader to a new culture. The reader  will feels transported back into time- with the detailed authentic elements incorporated into the art.

Although this is formatted as  a picture book, it is much more than a simple picture book in its content and detail.  This new hybrid book concept blends the best of a picture book and a history book.  What is created is  a full sized  history book.  Though the pictures make it seem like a picture book for kids, the content is more appropriate for older students who are able to grasp the darker nuances of ancient cultural practices no longer deemed morally acceptable or legal today. This book may stir up some controversy and by other's it will receive a warm reception.  Either way this book is a springboard for lively dialog debates.  Either way this is a book that will illicit a reaction from many parents and educators.

 Additional books in this series include Elizabethan England, Ancient Greece, and Colonial America and are available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

If You Were Me and Lived in...Germany: A Child's Introduction to Culture Around the World by Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived in...Germany: A Child's Introduction to Culture Around the World by Carole P. Roman,  illustrated by Kelsea Wienrenga is the newest book in Roman's illustrated culture series. This edition on Germany is especially of interest as my teenager is in her fourth year of German Language in school. The art contained in this newest book about Germany is a combination of mixed media- colorful cartoons superimposed with beautiful, full color, picturesque photography.  Without a doubt,  each book in the "A Child's Introduction to Cultures Around The World" series offers the reader new surprises each time.

When reading about Germany, the photograph of the castle on the hill in Fussen jumps out at the reader, against the backdrop against a cloudy  blue sky and mountains  in the distance.   Other authentic  details and textures add appeal and beauty to the simplistic cartoon scenes. The back contains a glossary of German words.

 The cartoon tour guides will certainly capture the attention of all young readers as well as parents and educators. I believe the "Carlesque" styled mixed media illustrations with the simple line cartoons in her   books 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 sets her books apart from cartoon only illustrations.

The consistency of these geography books makes this series perfect for the school setting. An educator can count on the fact that students will be introduced to the basics. There is enough detail to make this series appropriate for middle school and even high school students as well.

  It would be great to see this series used as part of a  school geography or social studies curriculum.  It is clear that each book, though simple in design, presents a wealth of information and research.   This book as well as the other books in the series is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. As a blogger I received this books for the purpose of writing this review.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
This new reprint edition of the well known book by Mitch Albom commemorates its 20th anniversary.  This intriguing book, starts with the irresistible first line; "the last class of my old professor's life took place once a week in his house...", making the reader want to know more.  A student reunites with his beloved, yet eccentric professor and mentor after he is diagnosed with ALS, a terminal illness.  Their memorable relationship- a hybrid of a friendship, and mentor continues until Morrie, his beloved and unique professor dies.  Each session is a class dedicated to a new life topic such as love, money, hopes and dreams.  This book is a classic, that will leave an impression long after the finishing the book.  This is a story to be read and reread.  It is certain to inspire and motivate. As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Broadway books for the purpose of writing this review.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez

Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez is a modern collection of short stories depicting the harsh realities of modern life: poverty, neglect, social injustice and crime.  These eye opening stories cannot be ignored, and will not easily be forgotten.  The author, Enriquez, puts into words, thoughts and emotions that are uncensored and real.  The fictional characters seem so realistic as they tell their stories.  It is as if the reader is looking through a journal or diary as the individual and unique accounts of harsh realities and difficult and incomprehensible  events are retold.  For example, in one story, the hero tells about the horrific story of a young boy who sleeps on the street on an old mattress with his drug using mother.  She often sees the young boy abandoned and alone.  The story depicts the true to life emotional conflicts of anger and remorse that is directed not only to the neglectful mother, but the young boy.  When she learns of the brutal death of a homeless boy she feels regret and remorse at what she should have done to save him.  She describes the intense desire to seek answers and her anger toward the neglectful mother.  The reader can peer inside the mind at the realism of the story tellers thoughts and words.  In all these stories, a world of emotions and inner conflict is opened up to show that there is not so such thing as simple emotions.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Crown for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Once Upon a Time Storybook Bible by Zonderkids

Once Upon a Time Storybook Bible

 Although 100 % true, based on well known stories and accounts of the bible, this book of bible stories is packaged as a beautifully bound book of fairytales to appeal to children of all ages.

The publishers market this volume stating "The Bible is not a fairy tale. Every great story happened once upon a time." Using the beloved traditional format of all the classic fairy tales from Grimm to Anderson and even those retold by Disney, each story begins with the famous words "once upon a time", and ends with a "happily ever after".  The presentation of this book is beautiful.  The drawings and art is high quality, and similar to what one might expect from Disney art.  This is definitely a great outreach to reach a new generation of children to the bible.
As with many modern fairy tales, involving a princess and a prince, the cover art features an illustration from the Old Testament, reminiscent of the common themes in Disney stories and movies.  If you know a child that loves fairy tales and Disney movies this book is a great choice.  As a blogger for Booklook I recieved a copy of this book published by Zondervan for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

NIV Faithlife Study Bible

NIV Faithlife Study Bible

The new NIV Faithlife Study bible is like no other! I have finally found my
favorite study bible combining all the features of a full color bible together with relevant, applicable articles and notes.  Full color bibles are not a new thing.  But in the past, most of the new, impressive full color bibles had a cultural historical or archaeological theme. While impressive, the study notes and features were more scholarly focused for those readers interested in the historical context of the bible.  The NIV Faithlife bible has full color features, graphics, and illustration as well as relevant articles to address relevant issues and spiritual questions.  For example, the well known Christian author, Randy Alcorn has written an article addressing suffering. Other notable Christian writers and leaders have contributed to this bible's articles too!  In addition to articles addressing matters of faith- there are also high-tech, full color diagrams of the creation sequence as well as blue prints of the ark! This is an eye opening bible for all bible readers- from beginners to advanced readers. Whether you are looking for your first bible, or if you want to upgrade to a brand new bible, you will not be disappointed  with this choice.

As advertised, this is the perfect bible for any curious reader.  Be ready with your questions as this bible will certainly provide answers and enlightening insight.  As a blogger for booklook, I received a copy of this bible published by Zondervan for the purpose of writing this review.

UPDATE: After my initial impression after first viewing this bible, after using this as my primary bible, I have decided to provide an update to my original review. Firstly, I found the paper to be very thin.  Unlike the glossy finish of other full color bibles, the paper has a thin matte finish and curls slightly after contact with my fingerprints, after use.  Secondly, I found the color graphics, diagrams and maps to be more subdued, muted colors than I expected.  With the exception of a few  impressive graphs found in Genesis: the diagrams of the ark and the graphic depiction of the creation of the world, the colors are not bold or bright, but rather a softer set of colors- almost similar to the effect of pastels.  The coloring and detail of maps at the end of the bible are created using softer colors as well. This gives the maps a  washed out look. There are some photos of archaeological finds including ancient coins.  There are not truly in full color but appear to contain spot color- black and white with blue tones. I am still pleased with this bible overall and intend to use it as my primary study bible.  However, I found the graphics overall to be more subdued and the maps to have a  washed out appearance than the other full color study bibles I have had the opportunity to review.