King’s Folly

Monday, May 23, 2016
“Everton staggers!” The man’s voice was raspy yet full of authority. “Armania is falling; the king’s words and deeds oppose Athos, defying his glory. He parades his sins, does not hide it. Five Woes to him! He has brought disaster upon himself and all of Armania. Justice will come from the hand of Athos. Stop, Prince of Armania, and answer for the crimes of your father.”

Book: King’s Folly by Jill Willamson, Bethany House Publishers, 2016

Genre:  Speculative Fiction
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 16+
Subjects: Truth, Judgment, Love, Loss
Summary: Whole towns just gone. Yet the earthquakes continue. More and more human sacrifices are offered to the gods yet the earthquakes continue. Prince Wilek longs to be king. Yet, his father refuses to name his heir. All Wilek can do is try to stay on the good side of the monster who sacrificed his little brother to one of his five gods. Treven
assumes he will never be king and focuses on his studies until the beautiful companion to his brother’s betrothed catches his attention. It soon becomes obvious that something more than just earthquakes is happening. Brutal murders occur. Long held secrets begin to be revealed. And rumors increase of the coming of the Five Woes that have long been prophesied. Some want to change the world. Some want to find hope again. Some merely want to survive. All look for truth in a world where the truth has been long suppressed.
Notes: King’s Folly is actually three books combined into one volume. The three were originally released as separate e-books. Now Darkness Reigns, The Heir War and The End of All Things, together make up the first book in the Kinsman Chronicles series.  
This series would be classified as a mixture of fantasy and apocalyptic. The characters are facing the end of their world. There are strange beings and creatures that have supernatural abilities. It’s not really fantasy animals as much as it is two supernatural powers – one good and one evil. And these supernatural powers grant power to humans. The evil power indwells like a demon possession. The good increases an ability beyond what is natural.
The storyline is about the slow unveiling of a one true god who created their land and now brings judgment on it for turning its back on its Creator. It works out the story through two princes trying to survive their father’s impulsive decisions to elevate one son above another at any given time and worse still his willingness to offer as a sacrifice to the gods anyone he is currently displeased with – including a prince.
The story does not yet contain a huge spiritual focus – the characters are just discovering the truth. It is clear that it is developing that way though.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 3/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Romans 2:5 – But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I enjoyed it!

God in the Rearview Mirror

It was the best job I’d ever had. I had enjoyed the last year so much! My class of 21 first and second grade students at the private Christian school was what I thought my goal was. I thought I had achieved the best a Christian teacher could ask for! And apparently the administration thought I was a pretty good one for the job because at the end of the year, they not only renewed my contract, they gave me a raise! The next school year came and I was even more ready this time! Since it was a combined classroom, I already knew half the students and boy was I prepared! Until Friday on the very first week of school when I was called into the office at noon at told I was hired! WHAT?!? I was shocked, confused, horrified, devastated. I pleaded for another chance (not even sure what I had done wrong or what I could change) but the administrator refused to budge. The board had met on Tuesday and voted I would lose my job. Reasons given were: Not using the curriculum correctly (in the first 2 days of school?), and not being “unified” with the staff and administration (huh?). So much for a dream job! Oh the doubts and questions that came. How could I have done enough in two days of school to lose my job? With the help of others connected to the school I put together the pieces and realized it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with money. With a master’s degree I was the highest paid of the teachers hired the year before. A new teacher wasn’t hired, instead one of the two preschool teachers was forced to either quit or move up to my classroom and teach and all the preschool students were shoved into one classroom. But what on earth was God doing? Why did this have to happen? I knew I would never get a job that good again. My days of teaching from a Biblical perspective were over. I’d probably have to go back to being a para-professional in public school again.
Those were my Friday, Saturday, Sunday & Monday thoughts.
By Tuesday everything exploded. Parents arrived after Labor Day to drop off their students and found their children’s teacher gone with no explanation. Getting no answers from the school, they frantically called me wanting to know what was going on. I explained I had been fired and cited the excuses I had been given – excuses that made no sense to the parents (or me). Upset, one of the parents blurted out, “I wish we could just pay you to teach our kids!”. Hmm… actually… that IS legal in Nebraska. All of a sudden I had another classroom, one with six students – in my own home! Not only could I teach from a Biblical perspective, I could even teach using differentiated instruction the way I had been taught! No restrictions on curriculum, no rules about keeping students at a certain pace. I could teach each and every kid exactly what they needed to learn, when they were ready to learn it and in a way that worked for them! And I could make the Biblical education a huge focus! Soon we were learning to rollerblade in my driveway or taking bike rides to the ice-cream shop as a reward for good behavior or laying under a table painting like Michelangelo! We visited the local library once a week. And students from unchurched homes were memorizing whole passages of Scripture, identifying a summary of all 66 books of the Bible, attending Awana, getting exposure to popular Christian children’s music and reading Christian literature! Our “reading instruction center” was my couch. No more getting up early to make a 30-45 minute trip. No more hauling heavy teacher guide textbooks back and forth every day.

Why this long story on a blog that is supposed to be book reviews?

Because that’s what this book is about. Not my story specifically, but about looking back and seeing “God in the Rearview Mirror”. Losing my job was the worst thing that could have happened to my career… for 4 days. Then it became the absolute best thing that could happen to my career. I can look back and see how God paved the way for an incredible experience for me. What I thought was going to ruin my life actually enriched it and made it more wonderful than I could have imagined! If I continued the story, you could see how that one horrid moment has continued to lead to some amazing experiences.
LaVila Henry has experienced that too. Many a time. She shares in her book how over and over again in her life, things don’t make sense at a certain moment. Sometimes they are merely confusing. Sometimes they are frustrating. Sometimes they seem downright horrible or disastrous. Yet, when she looks back in the “rearview mirror” she can see how God was at work, using the situations to accomplish His will!
Not every event in our life leads to us getting to see how God is working in the midst of it. Some things we may never know until Heaven. And sometimes, the results of sin rear their ugly head and life-altering tragedies happen. We don’t always get to look back in a rearview mirror and see how bad led to good. But those times we can help strengthen our faith and remind us that even in the most horrific of situations, God is still in control. He’s still good and is still completing the work He began in us.

Reading God in the Rearview Mirror is encouraging as you read stories of LaVila Henry’s life. Even more encouraging is when it inspires you to look in your rearview mirror and see examples of what God has done in your own life.

Thanks to my friend Katie for getting me a copy of her aunt’s book!

That’s Not Hay In My Hair

“We are just going to have to take care of the ranch ourselves now!” Mom whooped like a coyote – a very sudden change of attitude.
“What?” I exclaimed.
Now who is going to protect us from the coyotes?
Who is going to rescue us from a stampeding pack of wild hugs?
What is Mom is bitten by a snake in the middle of the night and has to go to the hospital… who is going to drive us?

Book: That’s Not Hay In My Hair by Juliette Turner, Zonderkidz, 2016

Genre: Adventure
Target Audience: Girls 11-13
Subjects: Prayer, Fear
Summary: Twenty-Five, count them, twenty-five thousand pound longhorns. And three horses. And five dogs. And no help caring for any of them. This is the life fourteen year old Jules and her mom left New York City for. When she’s not running from bats or snakes, she’s chasing runaway longhorns or riding out of control horses. School is forty-five minutes away, and that’s after a morning chore routine. One thing is for sure: life could not possibly get any more different from her life in New York. In fact, it could not possibly get any more crazy!
Notes: Written by a seventeen year old, That’s Not Hay In My Hair is a telling of adventures one girl faces moving to a Texas ranch. The focus is the comedic nature of the events Jules faces as she adjusts to her new life. Most of the characters are a little quirky and the situations are twisted to look crazy as well. Things that might be normal occurrences on a ranch are portrayed in such a way as to look comical. There really is not much of any spiritual emphasis in the story. There are a couple references to pray, but the focus isn’t to make a point, the story is merely meant to entertain. In fact, the main character does not know much of anything about the Bible. When asked to identify a favorite verse, she does not know of any.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 1/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 118:6-8 – The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Brave Girls Beautiful You Devotional

Thursday, May 12, 2016

When I look at myself as Jesus does, I see myself - and the world around me - in a while new light. I see beauty in myself and others where I have never seen it before, and it makes me want to celebrate and to help others see their beauty too. So this section is to help you see yourself as beautiful - just like our Savior, Jesus does.

Book: Brave Girls: Beautiful You: A 90 Day Devotional by Jennifer Gerelds, Tommy Nelson, 2016
Genre: Devotional
Target Audience: Girls: 9-12
Subjects: Beauty, Salvation, Faith, Identity, Showing love,  Relationships
Summary: Identity is something many struggle with. Young girls are just starting to ask the question, "Who am I? Am I really and truly beautiful? Am I really and truly loved?". This book makes it a point to answer those questions according to Scripture. Devotions discuss God's love for them and how He sees them. Then then discuss how He wants them to live and treat others. It's all tied together under the theme of beauty - what sorts of things make us beautiful in the eyes of God. 
Notes: Beautiful You is part of the Brave Girls series. Each book is a 90 day devotional covering a specific topic.Each devotion includes a verse, a lesson and a prayer. Many also include a question or quiz or writing activity to cause the girls to make it personal. There is more than just standard devotions though. There are also some fun activities such as crossword puzzles, application challenges, quizzes and stories from the "Brave Girls" characters.  With all of that plus simple sketches around the pages, it is definitely a devotional that will appeal to it's target audience! 
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Ecclesiastes 3:11 - He has made everything beautiful in its time. 
Thank you to BookLook for providing me with a free review copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion. It is a delightful devotional!  

Annabell Lee

The Mute started digging in the sooty refuse that surrounded Truck’s old porch. It seemed as good a place as any to look for some new clue. Maybe something there would flash a hint, would give him at least part of the map he was supposed to have gotten from that inept CIA agent Samuel Hill. Maybe, if he worked hard into the night, if he never stopped believing… maybe he could still find the girl. Maybe he would even find her in time to save her.

Book:Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa, Revell, 2016

Genre: Suspense/Horror

Target Audience: Boys and Girls 18+

Subjects: Death, Divorce, Faith, Fear

Summary: Don’t start to get comfortable. As soon as you let your guard down, things happen. People die. That’s how life works. At least for Truck, the Mute, Samuel and the girl. Although, the girl doesn’t really know. She doesn’t remember. Her life is crazy strange, but consistent and relatively calm. Until the day her uncle shoves her in an underground bunker with a flesh eating dog. Samuel doesn’t know of the girl. All he knows is that some treasure of Truck’s is hidden and it’s his job to turn the map over to the Mute, who knows exactly what the treasure is. The Mute doesn’t know where the treasure is hidden, only that it’s his job to find it before it’s too late. Only Truck knows all the pieces. And he’s dead. Soon, they will all be dead as well if they can’t make it to the treasure that is Annabel Lee before Truck’s murderers do.

Notes: This is the first in a suspense series about a divorced couple who sort of run a detective agency. The wife still runs it, but the mystery of Truck’s missing treasures brings her husband back into the picture. It’s a very graphic book, giving downright disgusting details of the violence. The premise is that there is a group of people who believe the blood of Annabel Lee holds some unique characteristic that makes them stronger when mixed with their own. At birth she was basically a lab rat, existing just to have them be constantly taking her blood, leaving her just enough to survive to give them more. After being rescued, she was raised by one of her rescuers – Truck – but has now been found by one of the “Blood Eaters” as they are called. They killed the rescuer and are seeking her. She is trapped in the underground bunker, awaiting another rescuer. The two men Truck entrusted with part of the puzzle have to race against time and the murderers to get to her before she runs out of food and water. There are hints of spiritual elements in the story. Trudi (the ex-wife) is a believer but still so caught up in the emotional upheaval of the divorce, her faith has weakened. Annabel Lee feels very drawn to this God and is seeking Him. She finds a Bible in the bunker and she prays, and things happen that seem to be a result of her prayers. The spiritual elements are mostly questions the characters have, doubts they have, woven in amongst the dangers.

Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 3/5

Reviewer: J:-)mi

 Jeremiah 29:13 - You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

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