The Severed Head

Tuesday, May 25, 2010
 What is the old armor buried in the Church? And why did it disappear?

Book:The Severed Head by Lena Wood, Standard Publishing, 2005
The Severed Head (Elijah Creek & the Armor of God)
Genre: Adventure, Realistic
Target Audience: Boys 12-18
Summary: Elijah and his friends accidentally stumble across some pieces of old armor buried in the abandoned Church on the land owned by the camp where Elijah lives. Soon they, especially Elijah are on a journey to discover not just where all the armor is, but what it means. Is this representative of the armor of God?
Notes: This is the the first in the Elijah Creek and the Armor of God series. It develops it all the more into something beyond realistic as the book progresses. Supernatural is the best description of the series focus. Elijah is not a believer but one of his friends is and in the midst of performing a traditional Native American ceremony, Elijah receives a message from the Spirit of God rather than the spirits he is seeking. In later books, the question of whether the armor holds some power in of itself becomes more prevalent.
Recommendation Scale: 4.5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Diamonds In The Shadow

Mattu had come to the conclusion that most Americans were extraordinarily Christian, even when they weren’t Christian by label. They all believed in that great rule: help your neighbor. 

Book: Diamonds In The Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2009
Diamonds in the Shadow
Genre: Realistic
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 13-20
Subjects: Love for others
Summary: When The Amabos family, refugees from Africa, come to stay with the Nickersons, Jared doesn’t think he likes it. He has no desire to share his house, his room, his family, his life – with a stranger! But the Amabos family is in great need and Jared and his family have the potential to help them. And the Amabos family can help them in return. All that depends on making sure one man with murder on his mind does not get to them first though.
Notes: This book is humbling. It challenges your thinking. If you call yourself a Christian do you really live it? When someone needs help are you there to help?
This book seems to develop slowly, there’s something out there all the time and you’re just waiting for it to come. But the focus isn’t on the action, it’s on the character development. And that is something the author does well!
Recommendation Scale: 5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

In Between

Don't get comfortable. It won't last. You can't trust anyone.
Book:In Between by Jenny B Jones, NavPress, 2007
In Between: A Katie Parker Production (Act I)
Genre: Realistic 
Target Audience: Girls 15-18
Subjects: Salvation, prayer, foster parents, friendships, peer pressure
Summary: Katie knows better than to get comfortable. Foster homes are temporary. You survive for a while until they get tired of you and send you back. The problem is that this new family doesn’t seem interested in sending her back… and Katie is getting comfortable in spite of herself. When some family problems start to come to light, Katie finds herself truly wanting to help. And she wonders if there is something to their religion… the “out” crowd at school has warned her away from the Church people, but thus far they don’t seem to be correct. Katie isn’t sure which crowd to try fitting into.
Notes: A story about a teenage girl in a foster home where the foster parents are believers trying to live their faith in the midst of life’s challenges. The parents are not portrayed as perfect at all, they both have their flaws and the Christian kids at school have flaws, but the author does a good job showing that it’s not about them being perfect, it’s about Jesus being perfect and completely dependable! Katie isn’t as hardened as some foster kids and is quick to feel bad for the things she does wrong, but she is still a believable character.
This book is pretty good, it does get a little carried away with some questionable humor, but other than that I would recommend it.
Recommendation Scale: 4
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Hunter Brown And The Secret Of The Shadow

“Dear friend, if you have found this book, please read it with the utmost urgency. 
It details the sequence of events that led to my unexpected death.”

Book: Hunter Brown And The Secret Of The Shadow by The Miller Brothers, Warner Press, 2008
Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow (Codebearers)
Genre: Fantasy/Allegory
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 12-18
Subjects: Faith, Death
Summary: Hunter Brown and his friends are determined to play the ultimate joke on the school bully – AND get it on video! Problem: they got caught. As they’re carrying out their punishment, however, a janitor appears and gives them a strange assignment that leads them ultimately, into another world where it seems Hunter has been chosen for something important by the ultimate power in the world.
Notes: A true fantasy/allegory, there is a Creator, His Son, His Word as revealed in writing, followers of Him, enemies of Him.
Recommendation Scale: 5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Double Danger

What is the cause of violence in the schools? And what is the solution? Live from Brentwood High is determined to do what they can to find out.

Book: Double Danger by Judy Baer, Bethany House Publishers, 1994

Genre: Realistic
Target Audience: Boys and Girls are main characters, but girls might find it more appealing than guys.
Subjects: Violence, crime, Morals
Summary: A student has been killed, murdered, right here in their own school. What caused this? Why are things so severe? And what is the solution? Forbid guns? Raise taxes on guns? Stop kids from playing video games? Metal detectors at school? Forbid students to wear coasts or backpacks that may conceal a weapon? The kids from the Live team aren’t sure what the solution is, but whatever it is, they want to find it.
Notes: This book takes an interesting look at violence.  It was published in 1994. 16 years later things are even more out of control than they were back then. The students on the tv team come up with some interesting insights into what might cause some of the violence and what some potential solutions might be. Sadly, for a Christian book, it leaves out the best answer of all: Christ in your life, empowering you to live in a way that shows love rather than violence. It is a good eye-opener to teens though. I recommend it for a starting point, but there’s a lot more than what this one covers.
Recommendation Scale: 3.5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Caught Up In The Drama

Fame is never free. It comes with a price. 
The question is, how much are you willing to pay to get it?

#1 - Caught Up In The Drama by ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Gallery Books/SimonandSchuster, 2010
Caught Up in the Drama (Good Girlz)
Genre: Realistic 
Target Audience: Girls 13-18
Subjects: Friendships, divorce, dating relationships
Summary: Camille has just won a singing competition and landed a spot in a music video with a hot young male singer who is extremely popular. But this isn’t free. To keep it she needs to give up her boyfriend, her friends, her reputation and her good relationship with her mom. Is she willing to pay the price?
Meanwhile, Alexis is once again struggling with the issue of her parents potential divorce. The arguments between her dad and mom are once more escalating and she too much consider the price of getting what she wants. How far will she go to keep her parents together?
Notes: As with the other books in the series, this book teaches good morals, but isn’t really “Christian”. It doesn’t bring the Bible or God into the story at all. It also views divorce as something pretty much unstoppable, just a part of life. People fall out of love and it’s better to be apart than solve things. It’s a sad view to have of it. It does not offer the hope of commitment, of life change through Christ.
Recommendation Scale: 2.5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

The Nexus

Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Aliens are invading and P.O.D. must find the chosen one before the evil guy does.

#1 - The Nexus by Mat Broome, Zondervan, 2008
P.O.D.: The Nexus (Invert)
Genre: Graphic Novel
Target Audience: Boys 10-16
Summary: Aliens are invading the earth, destroying cities faster than anyone can stop them. P.O.D. superheroes are going to try to use their powers to stop them, but there are too many aliens. They have received a vision saying they need to find the chosen one, but they're not the only ones looking. A wicked queen, a soul snatcher, is on the lookout for the chosen one as well. Can P.O.D. find the chosen one and stop the aliens in time or will the whole world be destroyed?
Notes: This is a black and white comic book style story. From one suspense filled moment to the next, the book is packed with adventure.The characters from the Christian Rock Band P.O.D. take on the role of superheroes with special abilities in the story. There is not much for Christian or Biblical reference, just an adventure comic book story. 
Recommendation Scale:2
Reviewer: J:-)mi

It's All About Us

It's all about us: me, Gillian, Carly, Shanni, Mac. . . and God.

#1 - It's All About Us by Shelley Adina, FaithWords, 2008
It's All About Us (All About Us Series, Book 1)
Genre: Realistic
Target Audience: Girls 16-18
Subjects: Sex, sexual interactions, dating, friendships
Summary: Lissa is in love. Well, at least lust anyway. That's what her friend from back home, Katz, and her roommate, Gillian, tell her. Lust or love, she wants that boy and she's going to do what it takes to keep him... she thinks. The trouble is, keeping him may require surrender of her pledge to remain a virgin... unless... maybe she can give him sex without actually going all the way. That's his suggestion. When she asks her friend Katz for advice he tells it to her straight, but she's determined to keep Callum no matter what Katz or Gillian say. 
Notes: This book gets into it's subject, big time. It doesn't leave a whole lot to the imagination. But it explores a very real issue that teens are facing. And it shows quite clearly right and wrong without being legalistic. If your teen is out there in the world, dealing with these issues, hanging out with teens who are dealing with these issues then I highly recommend it. If your teen is sheltered, I don't recommend it.
This book is the first in the All About Us series. 
Recommendation Scale: 4.8
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Invisible by Kristen Heitzman

Thursday, May 13, 2010
Two couples and a set of sisters, each dealing with brokenness, some dealing with psychological disorders, all trying to cast off the weight cast on them by their families.

#1Invisible by Kristen Heitzman, WaterBrook Press, 2010
Indivisible: A Novel
Target Audience: Adults - women (Today I’m reviewing for Waterbrook publishers in exchange for a free copy of the book– this is not a teen book)
Genre: Realistic fiction
Subjects: Family legacy, the affect parents decisions have on the children who are now adults, still reeling from their parents choices
Summary: Jack and Tia have wanted each other for nearly ten years now, but giving into that desire one time seems to have doomed them to never having each other again. Piper and Miles are feeling the affects of attraction, but Miles can’t shrug off his childhood ordinances to “not touch” and now has Haphophobia. Liz and Lucy are as close as two sisters can possibly be. Only a few get chances to be as close as they are. That bond is weakening, Lucy is slipping away and Liz is desperate to hold on to her. Will any of them find their heart’s desire?
Notes: Much like Kristen Heitzman’s last book, a couple once loved one another, broke apart and are now so close and so far away from coming together at the same time. In the midst of their fragile attempts at a relationship, someone with psychological problems is near, threatening destruction. Exploring psychological problems in a secondary character from the perspective of a main character is a common theme of this author’s – as seen in The Edge of Recall, Echoes, Unforgotten, A Rush of Wings, and the Diamond of the Rockies series. This book, like her others, is extremely intense. It has beautiful moments, and horrible moments. Also beware, the ending for one of the characters just sort of drops off. There’s no conclusion or resolution. There’s one phrase hinting at something, but that’s it. As usual, this author wrote a very high quality story, it’s just extremely dark in some aspects. One highlight is a character learning about prayer – it’s almost childlike in it’s sincerity – very neat!
Also, an additional note is that the publishers are releasing an interview with the author about the book. You can hear it here:  
Recommendation Scale: 4
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Midnight Mystery

Thursday, May 6, 2010
What do you do when you are still holding close and cherishing a precious memory, but those around you have forgotten and moved on and expect you to be ok with that?

#1 - Midnight Mystery by Dani Daley Mackall, Tyndale House Publishers, 2002
Midnight Mystery (Winnie the Horse Gentler #4)
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Adventure, Mystery
Target Audience: Girls 12-18
Subject: Relationship with parents, loss of a parent, friendships, jumping to conclusions
Summary: Jesus Christ may be the same yesterday, today, and forever but nothing else is and that's Winnie's problem. To some extent, she is still living in the past, wanting to honor her mother's birthday the way they always did when her mother was alive. However, her dad and sister are moving on, getting involved in new things, almost forgetting the day! When a circus comes to the area, it gives Winnie a chance to gentle a performance horse that's jumpy and messing up tricks. It proves a lesson in jumping to conclusions and harshly judging people when it turns out to be sabotage messing up the horse's performance more than the horse itself!
Notes: Winnie is having a hard time accepting change in this story. She is learning to find comfort in the fact that Jesus IS the same yesterday, today and forever while everything else around her is changing. She also learns not to jump to conclusions and make judgments too quickly. The people she wants to blame may not be guilty, and the people she is convinced are innocent may not be innocent. Catman shows calmness and patience as he quietly refuses to let Winnie jump in and make accusations, but rather, silently observes and considers what's best.
Recommendation Scale: 4
Reviewer: J:-)mi

(Click on the title or cover to purchase from Amazon)

The Mystery Of The Silent Nightingale

Here is another review from one of my students! 
Please welcome Mr. Brayden and leave a comment telling him what you think of the book he reviewed!
#1 - The Mystery Of The Silent Nightingale by Elspeth Campbell Murphy, Bethany House Publishers, 1994
The Mystery of the Silent Nightingale (Three Cousins Detective Club) (Book 2)
Genre: Mystery
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 8-13
Subject: Joy, Never giving up
Summary: It's about these three kids. Sarah Jane and her two cousins want to buy a nightingale locket for their babysitter, Kelly, for graduation. One day the nightingale was delivered in a box and they have to try to figure out who sent it.
Notes: This is one of the books in the Three Cousins Detective Series, books based on proverbs, fruits of the spirit and commandments. This one has joy as the theme.
Recommendation Scale: 3
Reviewer: Mr. Brayden
(Click on the title or cover to purchase from Amazon)

A Little Help From My Friends

Steady boyfriend, the guy next door vs. Undependable, but exciting new guy in school

#1 - A Little Help From My Friends by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt, FaithWords, 2009
Miracle Girls #3: A Little Help from My Friends: A Miracle Girls Novel
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 14-18
Subject: Divorce, dating relationships, friendships
Summary: Zoe has always just sort of disappeared into the background, but now that she's developed a big more physically, she's catching the eye of the new boy in school. At home her parents are splitting up and her older brother is returning home. Zoe is having a really difficult time, but her friends seem to busy to help her out. How can she make the right decision about a boyfriend? And how can she convince her parents to give their marriage another chance?
Notes: This book is pretty much standard teen girl drama. Zoe doesn't want to hurt her current boyfriend's feelings, but she's developing feelings for the new boy and losing interest in her current one. However, the new boy is leading her on, then right as he gets ready to kiss her, he says he's still dating the other girl at school. Drama, drama, drama! It's well written though. It has another neat thread running through it though - a favorite teacher has been fired for supposedly hurting a student but the girls know it isn't true. When someone on the inside shares the secret about it, the girls rally around this person and support her as she stands up to those in the wrong. Zoe realizes that maybe the Miracle Girls isn't just the four of them, but maybe it is whoever God brings into their path. 
Recommendation Scale: 2.8
Reviewer: J:-)mi

(Click on the title or cover to purchase from Amazon)

The Ancient Omen

Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Finding not what they expected, an ancient tragedy is uncovered, shocking and scaring them

#1 - The Ancient Omen By Lena Wood, Standard Publishing, 2006
The Ancient Omen (Elijah Creek & the Armor of God)
Genre: Realistic with hints of supernatural
Target Audience: Boys 14-18
Subject: Truth
Summary: They may have lost some of the other pieces of the armor of God, but Elijah and his clan are not giving up. They have clues pointing them towards where the next piece may be buried. However, they find a lot more than they bargained for when they dig up an old well. It's time for Elijah to see why truth matters as they search for the belt of truth.
Notes: This is the 2nd in the Elijah Creek & The Armor of God series, a powerful realistic fiction book that adds in elements that hint at the supernatural. A mysterious suit of armor was found buried in an old Church, then disappeared again. Elijah's friends believe the armor represents the Armor of God from Ephesians 6. They are quick to point out that it is not the physical object that matters, but what it represents, even while there are hints, or perhaps, hopes that it holds some kind of power in of itself.
      This book does a really good job with it's point. Truth matters. Elijah isn't quite convinced when Reece tries to demand he tell the truth, but when he stumbles into something bigger than himself, he realizes the truth can set you free and takes another step down the path towards discovering Ultimate Truth - Jesus Christ Himself.
Recommendation Scale: 4.7
Reviewer:  J:-)mi

The Angel And The Sword

At the start of the day, it's quite ordinary, by the end Raphael has been robbed, stopped an assassin, gotten accused of being the assassin, thrown in jail, and denied by the one who knows the truth. What will tomorrow bring? Answers perhaps?

#1 - The Angel And The Sword by Signmund Brouwer, Harvest House Publishers, 2005
The Angel and the Sword: A Supernatural Adventure (The Guardian Angel) 
Genre: Historical Fiction/Adventure
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 12-20
Subject: Trust in God, pursuit of knowledge, trust in friends
Summary: Raphael's life as a court jester gets interrupted one morning and he wakes to find his clothes missing, leaving him nothing but his jester costume to wear. Then he finds an assassin on the roof who willingly hands over his weapon when confronted, then disappears leaving the weapon with Raphael. The next thing he knows he's been thrown into jail, denied by a beautiful girl, secretly set free from prison, then pursued again, and almost killed a time or two before his quest to know the truth behind these strange events is completed.
Notes: This book was originally called The Jester's Quest, as book 7 of the Winds of Light series. It is now edited to include modern day commentary from an angel. Every few chapters the angel who is watching over Raphael interrupts the story to share insight into Raphael, the Heavenly Father, or angels. It turns into non-fiction a bit as the angel attempts to instruct or advise readers on various issues.
In some ways, this one is just like all the other books in the Winds of Light series - a young boy knows nothing of the ways of God or of the battles surrounding him, then a beautiful young girl enters the picture telling him to trust her, but multiple times does things to prove he can not trust her. He beings to fall in love with her and desire to know the God she speaks of. As always with this series, it is a lesson in trust - learning to trust in God and figuring out who to trust amongst those around you - who is the bad guy and who is the good guy. 
Recommendation Scale: 4.5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Total Pageviews