Bright Against The Storm

Thursday, January 28, 2010
Today's book is a new fantasy book, not even available in the stores yet. To get a copy, go to the author's website at and follow the directions for purchasing there.

#1 - Bright Against The Storm by Ari Heinze, Hopewriter Publishing 2009
Genre: Fantasy
Target Audience: Boys and girls, though probably primarily boys, 14 and up
Subject: Faith in God, obedience to His calling even when it's hard, salvation, mourning for the lost, faithfulness to others
Summary: The threat of war looms and the people of Karolan are filled with rumors, but one young knight knows nothing of these. For some reason, since being adopted as a ward of the king and queen he has been sheltered in his training. The time for sheltering is over though and he is sent on a journey filled with mysteries. The king gives very little information as he sends him on his way. Then come those rising up to oppose him claiming the king's name even though the young knight knows it to be false. His companion, the son of the maker of the king's swords is chosen to accompany the knight on his journey. The young man, having no faith in God, but raised by those who did, comes with values a plenty. He's a great companion to the knight, but he is in much greater danger. His loved ones ache with the pain of knowing that if he dies, he is lost forever. Despite everything he sees he continues to persist in the belief that there is no God. However, this journey has the potential to shake up everything either one of them has ever believed.
Notes: Looking for a new fantasy series? Check out the Epic of Karolan series! It definitely has the elements of a fantasy book:
- paragraph after paragraph of descriptions (think about how much time Tolkien spends simply describing hobbits!)
- grand adventures
- a kingdom, a king, a queen, a prince, a princess, a knight, a maker of swords
- history
- hints of romance
- companions becoming close friends on a difficult journey
The book almost feels like allegory, but describes God as God and humans as humans and earth as earth. It's just set in another reality.
The author's writing style begins with letting the reader discover for themselves what the character thinks and feels, but merges into more of a narration that makes it feel more forced. Outside of that one weakness, it is a very good book: adventurous, fantasy like, and very very spiritually challenging! I recommend it.
Recommendation Scale: 4.5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Safe In Jesus Arms

Monday, January 25, 2010
Well, soon I will have a new link for you. The blog will move to my website, sort of. It will still be here, but it will be framed in my own site along with the database. In the meantime, keep checking this link to find good reviews. A few publishing companies are sending me some new books to review so you'll have some more brand new books soon.

Today's book is a really old one, but one unlike anything else I've read. You might just find it interesting, especially if you're into missions.

#1 - Safe In Jesus Arms by Aud
Saeveraas, Ausburg Fortress, 1989
Genre: Realistic/Multicultural
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 14 and up - adults will enjoy this just as much as teens
In a small village in Ethiopia, Selamnesh is part of a family and a culture focused on appeasing spirits. A religion steeped in fear and terror, it isn’t hard to believe they have angered the spirits when a plague sweeps through the village, killing most everyone, including Selamnesh’s parents and five of her six siblings. Then comes great-aunt from far away. She takes Selamnesh and Gennet away with her. There they learn about the big God who made the world and didn’t abandon it, but loves and cares for it. Selamnesh and Gennet soon learn about and come to know and have a relationship with the big God who loves them. Soon Selamnesh has a chance to share that love with others.
This is based entirely on the true story of a young girl in a mission school in Ethiopia. It’s a unique look at what life is like for young children in such cultures.
Recommendation Scale: 5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Here's Lily!

Saturday, January 23, 2010
Today's story is reviewed by a guest! A man in my Bible Study group read this story in order to understand his granddaughter's world better and have some idea of what books he might recommend to her. Here's his review:

#1 - Here's Lily by Nancy Rue, Zonderkiz, 2000 AND Thomas Nelson 2012
Here's Lily! (Young Women of Faith: Lily Series, Book 1) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls AND BOYS 11-15
Subject: Identity in Christ
Summary: Who is Lily? Her dad is an amazing English professor. Her mom is a great coach. Her older brother is destined to be an incredible musician. Her younger brother is an impressive athlete. But who is Lily? This book is the beginning of a 14 book series of Lily trying out various things to see who God wants her to be.
Notes: Impression: Easy read, compelling, engaging, good story line, lots of reality, life lessons well documented, had to read straight through
Author has a good handle on young kids problems. Struggles of family & school are well documented. Lots of reality. I was drawn into the story emotionally. Would HIGHLY recommend this for boys and girls. Life lessons can be learned for all. Boys need to see that they should never treat a girl this way.
Rating A++
Recommendation Scale: 5
Reviewer: Marlowe

The Long Way Home

Friday, January 22, 2010

Book: The Long Way Home (The Homelanders Book 2) by Andrew Klavan, Thomas Nelson, 2010


Target Audience: Boys 14+
Subject: Identity
Summary: I promised God I wouldn't stop trying. But am I the good guy or the bad guy?
Charlie wakes up one morning with no memory of the events of the last year. Now he's on a run for his life from both the bad guys and the good guys. The bad guys say he is one of them. The police say he killed his friend. His other friends say he didn't. How in the world is he supposed to know who's side he's on? And will he even stay alive long enough to find out? A group of terrorists are trying to take over the country and they want Charlie to believe he's one of them. Charlie has no memory to rely on. He has to learn to trust in something even deeper than memory. He has always stood up for what is right before all this started. Now he has to decide if he is going to do so again. With hired assassins coming after him with knives and races against police cars there isn't much time to stop and think about it though. Charlie determines to learn the truth about his friend's death and about himself. But doing so puts him even more at risk.
Notes: This book is definitely suspenseful. I found myself wanting to be naughty and skip pages to find out what happens! There is violence and talk of drugs. As for the overall spiritual theme, partly it would be apologetics, partly it is trust in God, mostly it's just a thriller novel though. Charlie doesn't do much turning to God for help. He takes all matters into his own hands rather than praying for wisdom or help. If it were a secular novel it would get a high rating and it is well-written, but for a book that's supposed to show people how to live a life of faith, it doesn't do as well.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 2/5

I review for BookSneeze

Sophie's First Dance

Thursday, January 21, 2010

#1 - Sophie's First Dance by Nancy Rue, Zonderkidz, 2005

Sophie's First Dance (Faith Girlz Sophie Series 5)
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 11-14
Subject: Dating, dances, bullying, and a slight look at anorexia even though it's not even named
"We don't HAVE to dance with any of those boys though, do we?" "No way! We'll have nothing to do with those blackguards!"
And so the girls promise each other that they won't go to the dance with boys. They'll just get pretty dresses and go together. But pretty soon, one by one they start breaking the pact when boys start asking THEM! First Kitty, who is going a little boy crazy anyway breaks the pact. Then someone asks Darbie. It makes you feel kind of special when a boy asks you and you don't know how to say no. That's what Darbie says anyway, and Sophie and Fiona soon find out that she's right when two boys ask them! The problem is that no one has asked Maggie! Everyone has broken the pact and Maggie has no date for the dance! Sophie is ready to call the whole thing off and just go with Maggie, but she would hurt Fiona's feelings if she did. And before Sophie can even decide, the decision is made for her. That's not all though. Not only is Maggie without a date, the Fruit Loops are making fun of her and calling her fat, to the point where Maggie won't even eat anything! How can the Bible help with this one? Sophie can't even seem to pray right now!
The issue is God - It isn't so much that she's letting the dance come between her and Jesus, it's more that she herself is standing in the way, letting her guilt stop her from turning to the only One who can help her solve this problem!
The Sophie series is about a 12 year old girl in 6th, then 7th grade who, along with her friends, the Corn Flakes, is trying to live the way Jesus wants in the midst of middle school drama. Between bullies, grades, parents, siblings, and boys life can be pretty difficult. The Corn Flakes are known for their big imaginations and create videos of the things Sophie dreams up. I highly recommend this series, not just for young girls, but for anyone who wants to be challenged spiritually or just enjoy a great story!

Recommendation Scale: 5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Fighting Settings

I'm battling the formatting/layout of my page at the moment. So if it looks messed up for a while, be patient with me. I'll get it fixed eventually. If anyone knows of a way to put a hits counter on the blog let me know. I'd like to know how much traffic this is getting. Today's books will be up soon.
~ J:-)mi

Lights, Action, Lily!

Friday, January 15, 2010
"Mom was right. It's hard to hate the people you pray for"

Book: Lights, Action, Lily by Nancy Rue, Zonderkidz, 2002
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 11-15
Subject: Praying for those who hurt you
Summary: Imagine starring in a love scene with your worst enemy. And being ordered by your teacher to do so. Pretty terrible huh? That's what Lily thinks. She's all for starring in a Shakespeare scene, ready to give 100% to it like she does everything. But having to co-star with Shad Shifferdecker is a recipe for disaster! He hates her! And he seems like he wants to be stupid! He can't even spell Shakespeare, let alone memorize lines from one of his plays! The teacher refuses to consider having anyone else do Shad's part. And if one of the two fails, the whole scene will be dropped. And to make matters worse, another enemy of Lily's - the popular girl of the school: Ashley, thinks she is "going out with" Shad and is extremely jealous of Lily. She is making all kinds of threats to get Lily to not do the scene. But Lily's really excited about doing this! How in the world will she get out of this mess?
Lights, Action, Lily! (Young Women of Faith: Lily Series, Book 7)Notes: With all the hate going on, Lily's mom encourages her to pray for those who hurt her. Lily's not sure that's so easy, but she does desire to do what Jesus wants, so she keeps trying it, even though it seems to get her nowhere. Shad is rude to her, Ashley is threatening her, and the other kids in the drama group are making fun of her. And even Reni is hurting her feelings right now. Yet, at the end of the book, the drama group, including Shad decides to stop making fun of Lily and seem to appreciate who she is. Reni has realized she was being rude and apologized. Of course Shad only comes halfway around, he's still pretty quick to want to rattle off an insult. And Ashley still hates her. However, the book ends with "Mom had been right. It was hard to hate people you prayed for", showing that the real change isn't in Shad, the drama group, Reni, or Ashley, but in Lily herself.
The Lily series is a 12 book series about a young 12, then 13 year old girl trying to figure out what makes her unique. Her mom's an expert basketball coach, her dad lives in the land of English literature and has students begging to get into his classes at the university. Her brother Art is amazing at band, he's destined to get a scholarship for his music skills. Her younger brother Joe lives and breathes athletics. Lily can't figure out what her "thing" is. Each book has Lily going all out with a latest interest in an effort to determine who God wants her to be. 
Recommendation Scale:  5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

The Book of Names

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
What do Christopher Paolini, Madeline L'Engle and today's author all have in common? They all focus on identity being centered around names. Each one of them has this unique emphasis on "naming" and "finding true names". To know who someone or something truly is, you must know their name, their real, true name. This is what their books teach. D. Barkley Briggs is one of these.

#1 - The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs, NavPress, 2008
The Book of Names: A Novel (Legends of Karac Tor) 
Genre: Fantasy/Alternate Reality/Adventure
Target Audience: Boys 14-19
Subject: Identity, Identity in Christ, How to deal with pain and despair
Summary: Mom is dead. Life will never be the same again. It will never again contain peace and joy. That's the general mindset of Hadyn Barlow. His dad is making him hack through the branches of the briar patch, huge briar patch on their farm. Then comes the Call. Brought by a raven from another world, the Call comes to him. As he heeds it, his younger brother Ewan secretly follows. Soon they find themselves in Karac Tor, a land of tragedy, a land where identities are being stolen. Through making the most of pain and despair, Nemisa is raising an army of the nameless, those who have ceased to exist. She's convinced them that names hold meaning and that just holds pain and despair. The solution is to be free of all pain by freeing yourself of your identity. As you can imagine, she's not pleased with the Barlow brothers' interfering. Can she cause them to join the army of the nameless or merely destroy them? Or can their gifts overpower her despair?
Notes: This book is amazing! D. Barkley Briggs is not the first to come up with the concept of naming and it's value. Madeline L'Engle is quoted as saying: “all the animals, fish, fowl and land beasts had to be named in order to be. And we cannot name ourselves alone. Before we can love each other, before we can dialogue, each one of us has to be named by the other and we have to name in return. …When we respond to our names or call someone else by name, it is already the beginning of a community expressing the image of God. To call someone by name is an act of prayer. We may abuse our names, and our prayer but without names we are not human” (“And It Was Good” pg. 60-61). Then along came Christopher Paolini and the idea that everything had a "true name" and that by learning that "true name" you could control it.
D. Barkley Briggs runs with the same concept:
"Everything, living and dead has a name. We use the names to help us make sense of the world, to separate and identify. Rocks, birds, you, me. Common names are easy... and forgiving. A form of grace. I know you as Hadyn and you know me as Sorge. Outlander. Elder. Boy. Man. All these words start the process of knowing. They are useful. But deeper still lies our true name." "Like a secret?" "In a way. We all yearn to know and be known. It goes to our core. Most true names have been forgotten. Only the wise know them now, and only a few at that. To know a name is to know a thing for what it truly is, not what it appears to be. It is essence, connection, vitality, the difference between surrender and mastery."
And here's a look at the negative side of it:
"What does love give?" "Love names us," Shameface said bitterly. "It gives identity" "And where does identity lead?" asked the witch. "To foolish hopes." "Why is hope foolish?{ "Because it is the soil of dreams." "And what do dreams cause?" "Shame." "Because?" "Because the weight of dreams always collapses. Love is faithless when tested. It cannot be fulfilled. It promises what cannot be achieved. It remembers wrongs. Love must be earned. it is never given." (the exchange goes on discussing how the speaker has gained nothing despite working hard for love. Then the witch continues:) Be a slave to no man, no woman, only yourself. Serve no one but your own desires. When you do this, when nobody matters to you, you will matter to nobody. Your nothingness will be complete. Since they cannot own what doesn't exist, you will finally, truly be free. This is the gift I offer."
Recommendation Scale: 5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Staying Pure

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book: Staying Pure by Stephanie Perry Moore, Moody Press, 2000
Staying Pure (Payton Skky Series, 1) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 16-19
Subject: Sex before marriage, faithfulness in dating relationships
Summary: "If you love me, you'll give me what I need" - the rallying cry of someone wanting sex out of a relationship. Payton has no desire to lose her man, no way! So she prepares herself to give up her virginity and disobey God. Before she can, a new girl cuts in on her and convinces Dakari he doesn't lose Payton anymore. Devastated, heartbroken, hopeless, Payton rejects her friends, her brother and her God. That's part 1.
The 2nd part is after she's made peace again and is in a new relationship, this time with a strong believer who absolutely refuses to even go into intense kissing, let alone sex! Their dates are full of passion, but not as much physical passion. However, the new girl has gotten tired of Dakari and thinks Payton's new boyfriend is pretty hot. And what she wants, she gets. Will Payton lose a second boyfriend to Starr? Will she make right choices? And then there's her friends who have boyfriends messing around behind their backs, and teen pregnancy facing the group. You know, this senior year isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Notes: I really like the character of Tad and his role in the story! He's human, with real physical desires for Payton, but he chooses to restrain himself and Payton's description of their dates is awesome. The author portrays characters who have discovered that saying "no" to physical lust and spending time together in the Word can truly make for a fulfilled, passionate relationship. It's pretty awesome.
Also, to give credit, this book is a "joint imprint of Institute for Black Family Development and Moody Press".
Also, note that this has been published twice, once in 1997 and once in 2000.
Recommendation Scale: 4
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Anything But Normal

Saturday, January 9, 2010
Today's book is one I am reviewing for Revell Publishers. It's a new Melody Carlson book, to be released in February and one you'll definitely want to get your hands on!

#1 - Anything But Normal by Melody Carlson, Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2010
Anything but Normal: A Novel 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 16-19
Subject: Teen Pregnancy
Summary: Sophie's life has just ended. A simple little item from a drugstore has ended it: A pregnancy test. Sophie took a purity vow - fully intending to keep it. But when the cute buy at camp started kissing her and touching her, well one thing led to another and now she's pregnant. Sophie begins exploring the issue of teen pregnancy from her position of editor of the school newspaper. Her first article slamming teens who get pregnant leads to an exploration of the teen pregnancy center and some insights into the situation. It doesn't change anything though. Sophie is still pregnant and in high school. She still has to figure out how to tell everyone or let go of her convictions and abort it. How in the world is Sophie going to survive her senior year of high school?
Notes: Anything But Normal takes a very interesting look at teen pregnancy. Through Sophie's work on the school newspaper as well as her relationships with people at Church, Sophie sees both sides of the issue. The Church ladies want to shut down the school pregnancy center, feeling it's encouraging girls to get pregnant. The girls at the center are thankful for anyone who doesn't act like they have a contagious disease. Most of the girls in the stories are victims though, in some form or another. While this book does an amazing job covering a few sides of the issue, the one side not covered is the guy's perspective. The males are seen to be primarily to blame and able to move on without suffering any negative consequences of their actions. It might be neat to see a male author write a book about that guy's side of the whole issue. However, that aside, Anything But Normal does an excellent job with the sides it covers.
Recommendation Scale: 4.5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

The Zero-G Headache

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Book: The Zero-G Headache by Robert Elmer, Bethany House Publishers, 2000

Zero-G Headache, The (Astrokids)
Genre: Adventure/Science Fiction
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 10-14
Subject: Spiritual gifts
Summary: In the year 2175 living in space is quite common. The Astro kids live on space station CLEO-7. When a rock band with about the strangest lyrics imaginable - "Jelly lasers aimed at chorpoo stars..." comes to the station, most of the kids are going nuts. ZeeBee is worried about something quite different though: her homework assignment to make a drone - that has malfunctioned twice now! She's out of parts and out of time. Can the appearance of the band as well as her violin playing cousin solve her problem as well as entertain?

Notes: The Zero-G Headache was a very appropriate, moral book. However, the "Christian" elements were not all that prominent. There was a mention of God designing the universe and a mention of Him giving different gifts to all His children. A bonus feature, an activity, at the end of the book included looking up a Bible verse as well. However, if you're looking for a book that boldly communicates a message, this won't be it. It's primarily wholesome entertainment. Zero-G Headache is the 2nd book in the Astro Kids series.
Recommendation Scale:
Reviewer: J:-)mi

The Trouble With Skye

You've already noticed there are now bars on the windows or locks on the doors. You're free to run, but running will never solve your problems. If you face them head on you can conquer them. That's why you've been sent here, so you can get the help you need. If you do run, I promise we will find you. The only way you'll ever leave here is if we decide it's time for you to move on to something better. Until then, you are our official daughter, and we'll treat you that way - no matter what.

#1 - The Trouble With Skye by Marsha Hubler, Zonderkidz, 2004
The Trouble with Skye (Keystone Stables) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 14-19
Subject: Adoption
Summary: Skye is in big trouble this time. The judge has had it with her. Skye's record is about the worst the judge has ever seen! Skye has been kicked out of so many foster homes, gotten into so much trouble at school, gotten caught doing so many extreme things, the judge has given up. Skye's going to the correctional center and there's nothing she can do about it, however Eileen Chambers has something to say. She and her husband run a ranch and take in troubled foster care children. She has decided to take Skye home with her. The judge is convinced she's nuts, but allows it out of respect for the Chambers. Skye is NOT thrilled. Rules, rules, rules, and more rules! And all the God-talk! And smelly large animals that scare her! Will the Chambers' love be enough to melt Skye's heart or will she just run away again?
Notes: Skye is presented as a majorly troubled girl, defiant, stubborn, on drugs and a hardened heart. However, despite her original fear of horses, she falls in love with a horse at the ranch and will do alot to keep riding privileges, even pretend to be sorry in counseling - until someone pushes the wrong button and gets punched. However, Skye follows most of the rules (not all - she sits in the bathroom letting the shower run just to defy the rules) and generally isn't as much trouble as her reputation would indicate. It is somewhat simpler than what often seems to be reality. However, the approach that the Chambers take seems effective and wise. And those who are troubled, who have been in and out of foster homes can relate to Skye and her distrust of anyone and everyone, as well as her attitude that "rules are meant to be broken".
This is the first book in the Keystone Stables series.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

John 1:12 - Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. 

The Ghost of KRZY

Friday, January 1, 2010
Well, based on what books I randomly impulsively grabbed from my parents' Church library, you get Bill Myer books 2 days in a row!

#1 -
The Ghost of KRZY by Bill Myers, Bethany House Publishers, 1997
The Ghost of KRZY (Bloodhounds, Inc #1) 
Genre: Mystery
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 11-14
Subject: Fear vs. Trust in God, Bullying vs. Loving those different than you
Summary: Ghosts aren't real. Of course, we know that. When a person dies, they face judgment and go to Heaven or Hell. They don't stay on earth and haunt people. But if that's true, why is equipment from their dad's radio station disappearing when only he and one other know the security code and are locking it up tight each night. Sean and Melissa have decide to start a detective agency and are on their first case: figuring out who the ghost of KRZY is. In the meantime, they and the neighborhood kids are having a hard time not judging and bullying the weirdo in the run-down house.
Notes: Bill Myers does a great job communicating truth as well as creating realistic characters that doubt, even though they have been told the truth. The truth is always proven in the end, but the situations prove that faith is necessary because sometimes it isn't easy to believe what you know to be true. This book has a unique writing style in that the author randomly inserts himself as a narrator talking to the readers, making jokes or comparing the characters to the reader.
Recommendation Scale: 3.5

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