War For The Waking World

Thursday, October 29, 2015
"Aaah!" Archer cired out. "Aaah, that hurts! What is this? Master Gabriel? What are you doing to me?"
"It is not what I am doing to you," the master Dreamtreader snapped. "It is what you have done to yourself. I say once more, be silent. Archer! You stand accused of violating Dreamtreader law. Though it grieves me to do so, I hereby place you under arrest."

Book: The War for the Waking World (Dreamtreaders) by Wayne Thomas Batson, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2015

Genre: Speculative/Fantasy
Target Audience: Boys 12+
Subjects: Dreams, Family Relationships, Decisions, Love For Others, Trust in God, Truth
Summary: Trapped in prison while the world is falling apart. People’s dreams – even nightmares – are coming true. But no one knows it. A sort of veil has been placed over everyone’s senses so they are unaware of all the danger and trouble. And as it happens, instead of out helping, dreamtreader Archer is in prison awaiting trial for the crimes he has committed as a dreamtreader. His only hope is to tell the truth and fall on the mercy of the judge.
Notes: War For The Waking World is the third in the Dreamtreaders series. The premise of this series is the idea that dreams are essential to human beings, that there is a separate world, a dream world and there are creatures that live and exist only in this world. If someone enters it Lucid Dreaming it starts to tear a rift in the fabric of the dream. If this fabric is destroyed the two worlds will merge, causing things from the dream to exist in the waking world and destroy it. Dreamtreaders are three young people chosen from each generation to guard and protect the Dream. In this book Archer has finally been humbled. As all of his mistakes are played out for a judge and jury to see, Archer has to accept that he can not fix everything himself. It still does not get into actually trusting God though. There really isn’t much for spiritual references.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 2/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

James 4:10 – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Thank you to the publishers and Litfuse for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 
Here is a link to the blog tour: http://litfusegroup.com/author/wtbatson

Never Said

If your mother doesn’t protect you
you have to do it yourself.
That’s what I have found.
Found you can’t always rely on the people you should be able to rely on.
Like your father.
Your father should know better.
So it’s better than nothing that I check
on Sarah and I have been checking
for months now.
No one else does.
No one else will.
I’m scared.
Scared of what I can do.
Of what someone else might do.
Scared for my sister.
For me.
For me.

Book: Never Said by Carol Lynch Williams, Blink, 2015

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 16-18
Subjects: Sexual Abuse, Sibling Relationships, Parent Relationships, Fear
Summary:  There’s a secret. No one knows it except for Sarah and she doesn’t know what the secret is, only that there is one. Annie has changed and it’s not an accident or some kind of weird phase. Something is going on, something that even in her own pain, Sarah can recognize in her twin sister. Annie is afraid, but even in her fear she sees the pain of her sister and wants to protect her. The problem is that neither of them are powerful enough to stop what is causing this pain and fear. And their parents are blind to it.
Notes: This is a drama of two sisters fighting to get through their difficulties. Annie has been raped by a grown married man who is a co-worker of her fathers – multiple times. As a result she has attempted to destroy her beauty by gaining as much weight as she can in a short time and chopping off her hair. Sarah’s boyfriend, the only person who wasn’t blind to her, who actually encouraged and supported her, has broken up with her. She’s no longer just anti-social due to shyness, but now due to heartbreak as well. Each sister has to find enough love for the other to face their fears and help each other. Sarah in particular finds two opportunities to stand up for her sister. The story rotates behind being written from Annie’s point of view – in the poetry style shown in the quote above, and Sarah’s point of view – in more narrative form. There really isn’t any spiritual content in the story. The answers for the characters come in caring enough about their sister to do what they fear. At the end Sarah concludes that Annie can do anything and maybe she can too. It’s all about finding the answers within oneself, not from an all-powerful deity.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 1/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 27:1-3 – The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.

Fire On The Mountain

“Pompeii?” Ethan cries. “That guard says we’re in Pompeii. Isn’t that the town destroyed by a tornado?” “That’s right,” agrees Spencer’s familiar voice from a dim corner of the shadowy cell, “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”
“Let’s have it all,” Ethan sighs wearily.
“In about twelve hours Vesuvius is going to blow it’s top, and we’re going to see the most amazing fireworks display or all time. That’s the good news,” Spencer explains. “The bad news is that we won’t live long enough to see the end of the show.”

Book: Time Crashers: Fire on the Mountain by Michael Brewer, Legacy Press, 2014

Genre: Adventure
Target Audience: Boys 12-16
Subjects: Power of God, Love, Friendship
Summary: Attempt #2 to find dad. Destination: Pompeii. Date: One day before a volcano erupts. As they arrive in the city, they quickly learn a few things: Christians are not welcome so keeping your faith quiet is important, killing is not only acceptable but required if one chooses to participate in the games in the arena and thirdly, getting a lazy servant in trouble with his master can be hazardous to one’s health. It doesn’t take long before Ethan, Jake and Spencer all three find themselves, one at a time, each for unique reasons, thrown into jail. It’s a little challenging to look for Ethan’s dad or run from a volcano when you’re trapped in jail. Thankfully, they have some time to make some friends as well as enemies and if they make the right choice, they may just escape with their lives.  
Notes: Fire On The Mountain is the second in the Time Crashers series, a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure series. The idea of the series is that Ethan and his two friends will travel to different places and times in history looking for Ethan’s dad who is stuck somewhere in time. The book also contains numerous illustrations – simple grayscale pencil drawings, but lots of them. The spiritual elements are definitely prevalent in the story. The characters put their trust in Jesus to help them through their difficult situations. Ethan looks to the Bible for insight on what decisions to make. It is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book so it’s harder to weave a strong spiritual thread throughout the course of the book, but the author does a good job putting in quite a bit. The book also contains little activities and puzzles after each chapter. They have the reader looking up Bible verses to solve the puzzles. In this book they deal with the issue of being Christians in a culture where Christianity is unacceptable and those who are Christians have to be careful how they share their faith. When in a scary situation, Spencer uses Scripture to comfort himself and his friends. God is given credit for an aspect of His creation that helps the boys. A fellow Christian they meet shares that she became a Christian due to seeing her brothers die as gladiators and deciding she wanted something more of out life – something she found in her faith. Being a Christian gives one side character the courage to stay in the city to help others even though he knows he will die if he stays. Spencer faces a test when asked if he knows Paul of Tarsus – the apostle Paul and has to choose whether or not to lie in hopes of being accepted into a Christian gathering. I would highly recommend this book to Choose-Your-Own-Adventure fans.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Isaiah 43:1-2 – But now, this is what the LORD says-- he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

The Big Pig Stampede

Saturday, October 10, 2015
“He got the word that Jesus was leaving Capernaum. He saw all the people who were leaving with him. And he decided to put his Jesus Financial Strategy into operation.”
“So that’s what he’s calling it now?” I asked.
Bug laughed. “Yeah, it gets fancier the more he thinks about it. He’s absolutely convinced if we set up shop wherever Jesus goes, it will make him a rich man.”

Book: The Big Pig Stampede (Goat Boy Chronicles) written by Bob Hartman and illustrated by Amerigo Pinelli, Tyndale House Publishers, 2015

Genre: Adventure, Historical Fiction
Target Audience: Boys 9-13
Subjects: Loss of loved ones, Miracles, Friendship, Biblical History, Sibling Relationships
Summary: It’s a great plan for the two businessmen! Just follow this new rabbi around and sell to all the crowds that follow him. At least it’s usually a great plan. It didn’t work so good that day the rabbi miraculously turned their 1 basket of food into enough food to feed the whole crowd… for free. It worked great the time the second time the crowd tried to get him to do it though. Gideon and Bug’s fathers made plenty of money that day! Gideon and Bug are fascinated to be so close to the action. They got to see the dead boy raised to life. They got to help chop up the roof when Bug’s cousin wanted to get his friend into the house. They got to see Rock Girl right after Jesus brought her back to life. They got to watch the pigs stampede into the lake – not quite as much fun as the trip across the lake where Gideon’s brother got seasick, but entertaining nonetheless. Bug’s cousin, Lump, keeps running off and listening to the teachings of Jesus and the things he claims this rabbi says are certainly intriguing!
Notes: The Big Pig Stampede is the first in the Goat Boy Chronicles, a series about a young boy whose family follows Jesus around, giving him chances to witness the miracles and teachings. In this first book, “Goat Boy”, Gideon, is introduced. He has lost his mother to death, despite plenty of prayers by his family, so his family does not believe in miracles. It greatly upsets his father to hear and see the things Jesus did. Why is He healing and raising to life others, but not Gideon’s mom? The story does not end with answers, just with the conclusion that to get answers, they’ll have to keep following. The story starts at the wedding in Cana and goes to Jesus walking on the water. Lump, Bug’s cousin is viewed as “weird”, almost like someone we would today assume to have a small touch of mental illness or disorder that makes him unable to connect socially in the same way the majority of people do. Lump is used to show the teachings of Jesus and how to apply them. He quotes things he has heard from Jesus to Bug and Gideon’s family when things happen.
Of note, the author applies a hint of the Geronimo Stilton strategy – he illustrates some of the text, making it much more appealing for younger or disinterested readers! At one point he puts the words into a maze. He puts speech bubbles on most pages. There are simple actual drawings on a lot of pages. The story also moves fast and contains highly entertaining chapter titles. Everything about it is designed to make reluctant readers pick it up and give it a chance.
I highly recommend this book!
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

John 21:25 - Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Viking Attack

When the boys keep through the branches, they see a thickset man swaggering toward the beach. Black hair dangled below an iron helmet. He wears baggy pants and chain mail. A sword hangs at his belt, and his right hand clutches a spear. Bethany, draped over his shoulder, struggles and pounds his back.
“Is that… is that a Viking?” Spencer asks.
Rachel nods grimly. “A Northlander,” she agrees.
“What incredible timing,” Spencer says in an awed voice. “Rachel, is today June 8?”
“I think so,” she snaps. “What difference – ”
“The date of the first Viking attack in Europe,” Spencer tells his friends.

Book: Time Crashers: Viking Attack by Michael Brewer, Legacy Press, 2014

Genre: Adventure
Target Audience: Boys 12-16
Subjects: Power of God, Love, Friendship
Summary: A time machine – that works! Ethan should be thrilled, but he’s not. Because of the reason he knows it worked. It caused his dad to vanish. Now it’s up to Ethan and his two friends to travel through time and find his dad. The boys prepare, the machine is set and… they vanish… and arrive in Northumbria in 793! Finding Ethan’s dad isn’t the only challenge they face. First they are mistaken for witches, then they have to fight off a crew of Vikings who have come to attack the local monastery, then they have to find a way to get back to the exact point they appeared. Oh yeah, and maybe fight off an angry mother wild boar and a pack of wolves on the way. All in only 30 minutes from the moment they arrived, or Ethan’s dad won’t be the only one stuck in time!
Notes: Viking Attack is the first in the Time Crashers series, a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure series. The idea of the series is that Ethan and his two friends will travel to different places and times in history looking for Ethan’s dad who is stuck somewhere in time. The book also contains numerous illustrations – simple grayscale pencil drawings, but lots of them. The spiritual elements are definitely prevalent in the story. The characters put their trust in Jesus to help them through their difficult situations. Ethan looks to the Bible for insight on what decisions to make. When they are accused of being witches, their choice to sing hymns is what convinces their jailer they are Christians. When their enemies seek treasure, Ethan tells them of the Bible – the greatest map to be found. In multiple scenarios, they boys witness to the Vikings. It is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book so it’s harder to weave a strong spiritual thread throughout the course of the book, but the author does a good job putting in quite a bit. The book also contains little activities and puzzles after each chapter. They have the reader looking up Bible verses to solve the puzzles. I would highly recommend this book to Choose-Your-Own-Adventure fans.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Chase The Dream

Alison never forget his expression. He had decided, and he would see it through, no matter what the cost. His look was the one that, in time, she came to have also.
“If you decide to be best in the world, Alison, you can never go back. No matter how much pain or practice or time it takes, and even if it means leaving your friends, your home, your family to do it, you’ve got to do it… if that’s what you decide.”
“I did decide. I want to race. to be…the best.” A beautiful woman on a fast horse. Alison’s head filled with visions of dream riders. “The best in the world.”

Book: Chase the Dream by Constance Colson, Palisades, 1996

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 16+
Subjects: Dating Relationships, Family Relationships, Salvation, Alcohol
Summary: Dreams. Al has them. Jen has them. Forest has them. Tom has them. To win the rodeo, the highest level possible is a dream on all of their minds. But finding someone to love them is not far behind for any one of them. When cousins Al and Jen meet Tom and Forrest, friends who have grown up together, attraction blooms fast and strong in every one of them. For a time couples are established and some measure of happiness is achieved. It’s fleeting though, in the way happiness often is. One night of tragedy and the dreams of love are torn to shreds. The couples are disassembled and each goes their own way, pursuing dreams of happiness in other ways. When circumstances reunite them, things have changed. One has found something more lasting than fleeting happiness. One has fallen further than any of them would have imagined. One has nearly given up on everything. And one has concluded that rodeo is the only thing that will ever bring any happiness. Will they discover something truly worth chasing?
Notes: Chase The Dream is one of the romance novels released in the nineties. It’s almost like the harlequin or love-inspired books, but full sized novels. Chase the Dream is even longer than the average Palisades books. It’s tells the story of four young people over the course of quite a few years. The story begins when the characters are upper elementary and ends after one of them has had time for four years of college. It’s very focused on the romance between the different characters. It also is a very strong picture of the emptiness that comes from pursuing happiness. Only when the characters become Christians do they find any peace. It actually ties together early Christian influences in the characters’ lives with what encourages them to finally put their trust in Christ.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Romans 9:16 – It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.

Jennie’s War

Friday, October 9, 2015
Jennie prayed for her brother every day, but sometimes she wondered how God handled this war business. What if the Italian and German families were praying for their soldiers to defeat the Americans at the same time that the Americans were praying the opposite? What would God do? She was finding out that war was more complicated than the good guys against the bad guys like in the movies. The family had received a letter yesterday from the Tanakas. They were still in the internment Camp in Idaho. Jennie hadn’t been especially close to the Japanese family, but she knew they were loyal Americans. It was hard to understand why they should be locked up. Mr. Romano’s brother still lived in Italy and Jennie could see that her Italian neighbor was very worried about his brother. Jennie knew that he wasn’t one of the bad guys if he was as nice as Mr. Romano. God has His work cut out trying to solve this mess.

Book: Jennie's War: The Home Front in World War II (1944) (Sisters in Time #23) by Bonnie Hinman, Barbour Publishing, 2005

Genre: Historical Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 9-15
Subjects: World War II, Sibling Relationships, Trust in God
Summary: Competitive. If there’s one word that can describe Jennie Fleming, that’s it. Whether it’s mopping the floor, running a race, collecting scrap rubber or gardening Jennie wants to win. Very little is as important to her as beating her brother in their many competitions. Sometimes it seems their war efforts are just creating a war in their home? Will an encounter with a real enemy finally force them to work together or will they let their chance slip away fro the sake of winning?
Notes: Jennie’s War is the twenty-third in the Sisters-In-Time series. This series features young girls living at various key points in American history, particularly around the wars. It always places the girls right at the edge of the teen years, coming of age.  The concept of the series it to not only show a glimpse of history, but to help young girls feel that the people back then weren’t that different than the people today.
Jennie’s War takes place in 1944 and focuses on the work those back in the United States did to support the war effort. It shows the characters raising food, collecting scraps and anything else they can to help. It shows the main character struggling to understand how to think of the war, particularly in spiritual terms.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Proverbs 21:1 – The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

The Gifted

But Cathros turned to the companions, and said in a quieter voice. “We must know.”
“Know what?” Elynna asked.
Cathros ignored her. His tone was urgent as he posed his question to the men. “When did this happen?”
“Yesterday evening,” the man replied. “As the sun was setting.”
A long silence followed as the men walked through the village and disappeared. Elynna understood all too clearly the implications of their words. Still, it was painful for her to hear Cathros speak it aloud. “Yesterday evening. After our battle. And so the Daegmon still lives. We have failed.”
“Perhaps we failed to kill it,” Cane Acquiesced. “Or there were more than one.”
Or both, Elyanna thought. The idea struck her for the first time. Maybe this creature was not alone; maybe there were more than one. And maybe they could not be killed.

Book: The Gifted (The Daegmon War Series) by Matthew Dickerson, Living Ink Books, 2015

Genre: Fantasy
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 14-18
Subjects: Faith, Good vs. Evil, Fear, Spiritual Gifts, Truth
Summary: Rejected. Denied. Disbelieved. And therefore hopeless. That’s the condition of the small band that sets out in pursuit of the Daegmon, trusting that Elyanna’s gift of sensing the enemy, Cane’s gift of being able to conjure up the Sword Flame when the enemy approaches, Cathros’ gift of Battle Strength coming upon him when facing the enemy and Tienna’s gift of healing to conquer the powerful creature who is destroying entire villages. Gifts untried, untested, untrained and in such a few number. If even the king doesn’t support them, how can they stand a chance? If only there were more knowledge of this creature! But it seems that nearly all knowledge from times so far back has vanished, along with most of the gifts and knowledge of them. Elyanna is not just fearful, she’s completely terrified and is confident they don’t stand a chance.
Notes: The Gifted is the first in the Daegmon War series. The series sets up a time when much knowledge of the past has been destroyed or hidden. Like times past, an enemy is on the land, destroying the innocent. And the Ultimate Being has bestowed “gifts” – special abilities on certain people to help fight the evil. The evil takes the form of a dragon-like creature or a man that influences the king. The spiritual element is in the struggle to have faith in the Ultimate Being, called the All-Maker. One character has strong faith in Him and sees history and current events in light of that faith. Elyanna lacks that and is ruled by fear. She doesn’t turn to that or accept it in the story, it’s just kind of there. General understanding is that the All-Maker exists and the gifts come from Him, but it’s almost as if knowledge of Him is as lost as knowledge of the enemy.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 3.5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Isaiah 40:28 – Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

The Pillow Fight Professional

I bugged my eyes out, afraid that if they closed they might only open to the realization that this was all a dream.

Book: The Pillow Fight Professional by Angela Ruth Strong, Ashberry Lane Publishing, 2015

Genre: Adventure
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 11-14
Subjects: Revenge, Relationship with Parents, Sibling Relationships, Bullying, Evangelism, Kindness
Summary: He is SO going down! No one beats up a little girl like that and gets away with it! Joey is determined to teach his sixth grade sister… and her friends… how to defend themselves. So with the help of his friend Isabelle, he sets out to teach the little girls how to win pillow fights, even when going against a teenage bully. The trouble is that the more episodes occur, the more Joey’s attitude shifts. He’s becoming less and less interested in helping the girls defend themselves at sleepovers and more and more interested in defeating the bully in an intentional, planned battle. Trouble is ahead and Joey is headed straight for it!
Notes: The Pillow Fight Professional is the fourth book in the Fun 4 Hire series. In this book, the main character learns some lessons about revenge and evangelism. Joey gets so caught up in his battle against Brock, he loses opportunities to reach out to him and share Christ with him. At the end, when Joey is having a conversation with the dad of the bully, he realizes that his focus has been in the wrong place. Thankfully, he gets things figured out in time to get another chance – a chance to show love to his sister, his friend and the bully’s dad.
This is a shorter book, focused a lot on the action of the adventure, making it good for reluctant readers.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4.5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

John 15:12-13 – My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

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