The Guardian & Heart Chaser

Thursday, December 31, 2009
#1 - The Guardian by Bill Myers, Tyndale House Publishers, 1995
The Guardian (Forbidden Doors, Book 5)    Invisible Terror: The Haunting/The Guardian/The Encounter (Forbidden Doors 4-6) (Also available in Invisible Terror collection)
Genre: Supernatural
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 15+
Subject: Spiritual Warfare
Summary: Rebecca, her brother Scotty and friend Ryan are being used by God to bring His light to those ensnared in the darkness of the evil one. In The Guardian, Rebecca's friends from school are asking demons who appear to be angels of light to come and inhabit them. One has had a near-death experience and thinks that the being calling to her is from God. Rebecca tries again and again to warn them that these beings are not from God, but not only will they not listen, the demons have convinced them that Rebecca is the evil one and must be stopped. Even Ryan begins to doubt what he knows to be true. After all, God is supposed to be loving right? Rebecca is the only one who knows the truth, but she's tried and failed. She'll only get hurt worse if she keeps trying.
Notes: Bill Myers communicates clearly the power that Christ and His followers have over the powers of the evil one. He also clearly communicates the dangner of being involved with such powers. Characters face life threatening situations, eternities are at stake. It is truly a susepenseful story. The Guardian is the 5th book in the Forbidden Doors series
Recommendation Scale: 4.5

#2 - Heart Chaser by Thomas Locke, Bethany house Publishers, 1997
Heart Chaser (The Spectrum Chronicles, Book 4) 
Genre: Fantasy
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 13-18
Subject: Spiritual Gifts, Talents and Skills
Summary: Consuela and Rick are ordinary kids from our world. Rick is the popular football player. Consuela is the opposite, she's from the poverished single parent home. Both know something is missing in their life. They both have big dreams. Then one night at the fair, they disappear and find themselves in a new world. Here they are gifted with gifts from God. They have to learn to use the gifts He gave them to serve His people. This results in space adventures - traveling through space at great speeds, learning to operate weaponry, sending signals across the galaxy, hunting down space pirates, searching shadow lanes, and more.
Notes: This book is the fourth in the Spectrum Chronicles series, books focused on characters learning who their identity is. The main characters struggle with who they are, who others think they are, and who they should be. Through the adventure, romance, danger, and excitement in the fantasy world they develop into who the Lord wishes them to be.
Recommendation Scale: 4

Bad New Girl In Town & Spiked

Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Well, apparently I failed to identify all the various genres when creating my database. There's Sports Fiction too. I gotta admit, not being a sports fan, these are hard to read! I get lost in all the technical terms and game descriptions! The other genre that deserves it's own category is Manga. The stories could be another genre, but it's kind of hard to label today's story realistic fiction when the artwork is anything but realistic. The story line definitely is, just not the art. So two new genres today: Manga & Sport Fiction

#1 - Bad New Girl In Town, Art by Min Kwon, Created by Buzz Dixon, Original Character Designs by Drigz Abrot, Realbuzz Studios, a division of Barbour Publishing, 2005
Bad Girl in Town (Serenity)
Genre: Manga/Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 13-18
Subject: Outreach to non-believers, Friendships, Dating Relationships
Summary: Blue haired, cussing, skimpy dressing Serenity is the new girl in town. And she's determined to hate every minute of it. If she had her way, she'd be expelled the first day. But she has some competition. The Prayer Club is determined to win her to Christ. Well... at least most of them are. When she starts flirting with Kimberly's boyfriend, Kimberly's ready to dump the whole idea. Will the Prayer Club be able to break through Serenity's toughness and show her how much God truly loves her? Or will Serenity's attitude push everyone away?
Notes: If you enjoy Manga/Comic Books and that sort of thing, you will probably enjoy this story. The exaggerated graphics, the simplicity of the story, the humor in it, they work together to make it a quite enjoyable story. This is the first in the Serenity series.
Recommendation Scale: 3.5

#2 - Spiked by Stephen D. Smith with Lise Caldwell, Standard Publishing, 2006
Spiked (Game on for Girls)
Genre: Sports Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 13-15
Subject: Competition, Relationships with Parents, Friendships
Summary: Volleyball means everything - absolutely everything to Katie. She's team captain and is planning on playing professionaly when she graduates. However, that passion for the game gets her into some tight spots when she loses patience with those not taking it as seriously as her. Yelling at team members isn't the most effective way to build relationships. So when someone takes advantage of a secret told during Truth or Dare and uses it against her, Katie isn't sure which one did it. All she knows is that multiple people have reasons to dislike her and someone got revenge. Now she's off the volleyball team, her parents don't trust her, and she can't hang out with her best friend.
Notes: There is a strong theme of building trust with parents running through this book. Katie makes one mistake, but a major one, and because her brother lied about it, they assume both children have been lying for quite some time. Now when Katie is framed, they're certain they can't trust her. They get desperate in their actions - taking away her phone, guarding her e-mails, denying opportunities for socializing, all in an attempt to keep her away from anyone or anything that might cause her to drink alcohol again. This book is the first in the Game On! series - a focus on young athletes overcoming obstacles.
Recommendation Scale: 3

Grasping at Moonbeams and Pitch Black

Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Today's books both take a serious look at very extreme issues. Grasping at Moonbeams discusses witchcraft and Pitch Black addresses suicide.

#1 -
Grasping at Moonbeams by Jane Vogel, Focus on the Family Publishing, 2002
Grasping at Moonbeams (Brio Girls) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 14-19
Subject: Witchcraft
Summary: Becca's heart is breaking. She want so bad for her best friend, Solana to become a Christian. Becca knows the consequences of not choosing Christ, but after all these years, Solana continues to refuse faith. Then after getting trapped in a dangerous situation, Solana opens up a little more. Someone on the volleyball team convinces Solana to attend a spiritual gathering event. Becca, thrilled, joins her. However, when it turns out to be a group of girls devoted to Wicca, Becca is confused. Isn't that witchcraft? Isn't is evil? This looks so much like her own faith. Can it really be bad? Is it really that different? They pray, they do good works, they confess their sins, follow a rule of "Harm no one", all things Christianity teaches are right. So what's the difference?
Notes: Grasping at Moonbeams takes a very honest look at Wicca and modern Witchcraft. Many still picture old ladies with broomsticks and pointy noses when they think of Witchcraft. But those who choose the religion of Wicca are often ordinary people. And the things they do and say can look similar to Christianity. The difference is who the faith is put in. Wicca is about putting your faith in yourself, and if carried to the extreme, spirit powers that can be from Satan. Christianity is recognizing your lack of ability to save yourself and putting your faith in the only one who can: Christ. Wicca looks appealing. The power and control it offers can seem inviting. It is a real religion, as real as Mormonism or Hinduism. Grasping at Moonbeams does a good job showing this and pointing out why it is different than Christianity.

#2 - Pitch Black by Melody Carlson, NavPress, 2004
Pitch Black: Color Me Lost (True Colors Series #4) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 14+
Subject: Suicide
Summary: Morgan's best friend is dead. It sure seemed like Jason had it altogether. His family was well off financially, he attended youth group, he did good in school, he was kind to everyone. If he of all people found no hope for life, why should Morgan or anyone else? Pretty soon, suicide pacts are spreading around the school. Life is just hopeless it seems. If Jason checked out, maybe they should just follow his example and join him. Some try to say stuff about God or faith, but life is just so messed up...
Notes: This book is depressing. It's supposed to be that way. It's real, very real. And it has good points. When someone who seems like they've got good stuff going for them commits suicide, it seems to say to others "there's no hope" and "if they couldn't get it together, you certainly can't". Morgan, Seth, Grace, Micah and the others are desperately searching for hope. They think they'll find it in death. It is only after alot of pain and struggling that any of them can come to the point of choosing to make a pact to live instead of pact to die. But they do! By the end of the book, all but Seth have made a choice to live and the others have gotten Seth's parents to take them seriously and get him some help. Jason's parents reveal that before he died he apologized and confessed that he only wanted to get his dad's attention, he didn't really want to die. I recommend this book for any who have come to a point of questioning whether or not there's any hope, whether or not there's anything to live for or if death would be better. It's so brutal however, I don't recommend it to younger readers unless they need it. In other words, I recommend it for helping struggles only, not for entertainment. Also, I don't feel that the adults in the story were good role models. Very few of them took the teens seriously and did not address the hurt and pain and depression the teens were feeling. They just tried to make the teen promise not to commit suicide, leaving the teen with no solution to the depression they felt.
Recommendation Scale: 4

School's Out! Rachel Yoder - Always Trouble Somewhere

At the Church library back in my parent's town I picked up a children's Amish fiction book. These have lately become so popular with the adults that Christian Book Distributors has labeled it as it's own genre on their website. And rightfully so as more and more authors are trying their hand at it.

#1 - School's Out! by Wanda Brunstetter, Barbour Publishing, 2007
School's Out (Always Trouble Somewhere Series, Book 1) 
Genre: Amish Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 11-13
Subject: Relationships with parents and siblings
Summary: Rachel is a young Amish girl in the midst of summer. She dreams of things that move fast like skateboards and the forbidden automobiles. She is tomboy all the way - climbing trees, frog racing, wading in the creek and playing with the animals. She has to learn how to say "no" to some of her ideas though for the sake of obeying parents. In general, moms aren't going to be pleased if you try skateboarding in the house or letting frogs loose in Church.
Notes: This book is written for the purpose of portraying life amongst the Amish people. It is written in English, but adds a few Amish words in here and there to try to feel more Amish. The book simply feels forced. It's as if the author is trying too hard to make it Amish or to communicate that Rachel gets into trouble. The story doesn't build on itself as much as it could. Most of it is just multiple events in a chapter. It has a neat ending with Rachel making peace with the brother she has been at war with all through the book though.
Recommendation Scale: 2

Drawn By A China Moon

Monday, December 28, 2009
Today's story is about 2 young girls, and what happens when God's call to preach the Gospel to all nations becomes uncomfortable.
#1 - Drawn By A China Moon by Dave & Neta Jackson, Bethany House Publihsing 2001
Drawn by a China Moon: Lottie Moon (Trailblazer Books #34) 
Genre: Historical Fiction
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 10-15
Subject: Missions
Summary: Ida & Mollie are best friends, growing up together, dreaming of attending college together, saving up their money to buy matching dresses together, raising money for missionary Lottie Moon together, and attending Lottie Moon's presentation together. But soon it is time to mourn together as Ida's father realizes he and his family have been called by God to leave and go to China. Ida and Mollie are soon an ocean apart. Through the years as they write letters back and forth, Ida's heart for the Chinese people grows but her health becomes so poor she is unable to minister to them through nursing as she desires. The need for nurses and good health care is strong but Ida's own health simply won't allow her to meet the need. Finally Mollie's heart is opened through Ida's letters and she realizes she too wants to help others in need.
Notes: Drawn By A China Moon is #34 in the Trailblazers series, a series designed to introduce readers to famous missionaries throughout history. The authors always have young characters who interact with the missionaries and who the story is centered around. These characters often are helped by the missionary, then learn to understand the heart for the lost themselves.

The Sword, The Ring, & The Parchment

Friday, December 25, 2009
Book: The Sword, The Ring, &; The Parchment by Ed Dunlop, Cross and Crown Publishing, 2006
Genre: Allegory
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 10-15
Subject: Salvation and faithfulness to following Christ
Terrestria Chronicles -- The Sword, the Ring, and the ParchmentSummary: This book portrays the experience of someone becoming saved in full allegory. Josiah represents an ordinary person before salvation, enslaved to Argamor, who represents Satan. Josiah is trapped in the weight of guilt and the chains of iniquity. But as his punishment for trying to escape the dungeon of condemnation draws near, King Emanuel, in His coach of grace, pulls up and demands that Josiah be given to Him, as He has paid the price and bought Josiah's freedom. King Emmanuel adopts Josiah as His own and makes him a prince in his kingdom. He entrusts Josiah to Sir Faithful and Lord Watchful and leaves to prepare a place for Josiah in The Golden City of the Redeemed. Josiah learns to be faithful and follow King Emmanuel's instructions as written in the book, his sword.
Notes: This is an excellent allegory. It is written in very simple language and includes a guide at the end explaining the way of salvation. It is ideal for someone wanting a summary of the Gospel message.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Sierra's Story

Thursday, December 24, 2009
" Revenge is best when served slowly"

#1 - Sierra's Story by Dandi Daley Mackall, 2004, Thirsty, a division of Tyndale House Publishing
Degrees of Betrayal: Sierra's Story
Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Teens 14+
Summary: Sierra is in her senior year of high school, she's got a great boyfriend, a great best friend, and plenty of money to spend on her passion: great shoes. Life is perfect. Until... she overhears a conversation in the restroom at a football game. Her best friend and her boyfriend have been sneaking around behind her back. Sierra gets angry: VERY angry. In the process all three are in a car accident, and Sierra temporarily loses her memory. When she regains it, she begins a process to make her friends pay for what they did to her by sneakily taking away what matters most to them.
Notes: Sierra is careful, calculating and very cold. This book is VERY realistic fiction. It's not really a fun read. It makes you think though. Sierra's hurt at the betrayal is so real. Anyone who has experienced that kind of hurt can relate to her feelings. It's very well written.
Recommendation Scale: 4.5

Backstage Pass

Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Tonight's 1 book is a surprisingly good one! I hadn't expected to enjoy it so much!
Let me know what you think of it!
Those who are local to my area, the library has the whole series!

#1 - Backstage pass by Cheryl Crouch, Zonderkidz, 2007
Backstage Pass (Chosen GirlsĀ®) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 13+
Subject: Friendships, prayer
Summary: Mello + Harmony = Best Friends Forever.... until Trinity moves into the neighborhood. Now Mello's not so sure, is Harmony HER friend or Trinity's? Before Mell know what what's happening Trinity has the girls forming a rock band, wearing a new style of clothes and she's trying to convince Mello to dye her hair! But somewhere along the line the girls begin to learn a few lessons about friendship and about taking their concerns to the only One big enough to handle them.
Notes: What starts out as "so a teenage girl book" develops into a story that I didn't want to end! The characters develop alot as the story progresses and the way another one of Mello's friends uses their experiences to show them an important lesson about trusting God is amazingly creative! Backstage Pass is the first in the Chosen Girls series, created and illustrated by G Studios.

Twister and Shout, The Secret In The Woods & The Mystery of the Birthday Party

Monday, December 21, 2009

#1 - Twister and Shout by Bill Myers, Tyndale House Publishers, 1989
Twister & Shout (McGee and Me! #05 Book) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction + a bit of Fable
Target Audience: Boys 12-16
Subject: Fear, Trust in God, Sibling Relationships
Summary: The chance every boy waits for: parents are gone, friend is over for the night, plans are already in motion to torment older sister. But the evening turns scary when a tornado warning is issued for their county. Nick and his cartoon friend McGee have to rely on God to give them the strength to do what's right when danger threatens.
Notes: This book is based off the movie series, McGee and Me, by Focus on the Family. Parts of the story are from the perspective of McGee and his imaginary world, parts of it are from Nick's perspective in his real world. The story is clearly based off of the movie, it isn't as well written as it could be. It is still a good story line though, one boys can definitely relate to.

#2 - The Secret In The Woods by Lois Gladys Leppard, Bantam Books, 2001
The Secret in the Woods (Young Mandie Mystery Series #5) 
Genre: Mystery
Target Audience: Girls 11-14
Subject: No spiritual subjects discussed
Summary: Mandie takes a shortcut home through the woods one day. When she does, she hears a strange noise. That's mystery #1. Then one day as she and her friends are walking past the schoolhouse at a time when no one is supposed to be there, they hear music coming from the new organ. Mandie determines she has to solve the mysteries and ropes her friends into helping her.
Notes: This book is part of the newer Mandie series called "A Young Mandie Mystery", stories that take place before the time period in the original Mandie Books. Unlike the older series, this one does not contain the spiritual elements of her quoting her verse or asking God for help in all of the dangerous situations she gets herself into. It is just like the older series in that Mandie turns every question in life into a mystery to be solved and refuses to listen to any suggestions or commands to ignore it. For those who are big fans of the original Mandie Books, this glimpse into Mandie's earlier life can be fun.

At The Edge of The Dark Sea Of Darkness

Friday, December 18, 2009
Book: On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson, Waterbrook Press, 2008
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: Adventure. Peril. Lost Jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree. (The Wingfeather Saga) 
Genre: Fantasy
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 12+
Summary: "
Adventure. Peril. Lost Jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree" is actually a subtitle of the book. The Igiby children must overcome great danger in order to discover who they really are and where the lost jewels are as well as why their mother and grandfather are risking their lives for these jewels.
Notes: This book reads like a classic, or maybe more like a reference book. The author makes all these awesome footnotes referencing other things of his imagination. He explains history and culture and uses imaginary references as his sources for these! It makes the book feel real even though it's filled with fanciful elements! This book is fun, exciting, and even thought provoking! I highly recommend it!

Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 3/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Hangman's Curse

Thursday, December 17, 2009
Today I'm reviewing the two stories in two different posts. Here's your first story:
#1 - Hangman's Curse by Frank Peretti, Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2001
Hangman's Curse: The Veritas Project - Volume 1Hangman's Curse - The Veritas Project Volume 1
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 13+
Summary: Imagine these two kids: she's wearing black lipstick, hair dyed black, both dressed in black, earrings in his lip, spikes on his neck. It's rumored Ian & Crystal are witches. How would you feel if these two approached you? Now imagine these two kids: He's wearing the school letter jacket, she's wearing the latest fashions, they are about as stereotype as you get. He's the star football player, she's the new girl in school - the one the guys are taking notice of. How would you feel if Blake & Elisha approached you? You have no idea what either couple wants, but they are approaching you, what do you feel?

The feelings, the first thoughts of most would be disgust or fear of Ian & Crystal, judgment for looking so weird, condemnation of them, who they are, what they look like.
Now with Blake & Elisha most would hope they were approaching because Blake or Elisha had noticed them. Maybe they would be invited to something, included in the "in-group". One might even feel awe that someone so cool wanted to hang out with them.

The reactions I've described are exactly what the kids of Baker High School had. Ian & Crystal were different and that cost extra at this school. Here's what happens at this school:

Some of the popular kids come up to Ian and demand his lunch money. Crystal screams, but another kid holds her off. A football player shoves Ian against a locker while someone takes the money from Ian's pocket. Ian growls "What did we ever do to you?". The football player replies "You're different and that costs extra around here". Ian and Crystal are let go. As the others walk away, Ian puts his arm around Crystal as she cries angrily at the injustice.

But the story doesn't end there, not like it did 10 years age. Ten years ago Abel Frye was the kid in this situation, just like Ian and Crystal are now. Abel Frye gave up. He hung himself from the school stairwell. Now it seems his ghost is back to haunt the school. Ian & Crystal seem to have a connection with him and can apparently make him do things to those who are against them. Three students are already gone, more are going... they are in the hospital... near death. The only connection between them? Abel Frye.

The result of this? Close the school? No. Arrest the witches? No, there's no proof of anything. Adults certainly don't believe a ghost is causing these problems. Call in the Veritas Project? Yes! The Veritas Project is a team of investigators sent to work undercover to find the TRUTH behind things going on. They work from a Judeo Christian point of view, believing there is ultimate truth. What they discover will shock you and potentially change your life.

This book is powerful, it uses elements of fear and suspense to make it's point. I highly recommend it to every teenager and recommend all adults of teenager make it required reading for themselves and their teens! ;-) I also recommend you not let young ones read it. It is too powerfully suspenseful and scary for that. Even the illustrations in the book are frightening! The book does communicate Biblical truths, but the focus is on the drama, not preaching a sermon. I think you'll be surprised and pleased with what you find in this book. It's pretty powerful!

Eat My Martian Dust & Don't Count On Homecoming Queen

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Today's books come from two different genres: one sci-fi and one realistic fiction.

#1 - Eat My Martian Dust by Michael Carroll and Robert Elmer, Baker Books, 2005
Eat My Martian Dust: Finding God Among Aliens, Droids, And Mega Moons
Genre: Science Fiction
Target Audience: Boys 13+
Summary: Up first on today's list is Eat My Martian Dust by... well by alot of authors! Michael Carroll & Robert Elmer compiled a bunch of space stories from various authors and put them in one volume. The description on the back is very good so I'm just gonna give you that:
"Fasten your seat belt! You're going beyond Earth's gravity to places out of htis world! Get ready to rappel down a Martian cliff twice as deep as Earth's Grand Canyon, stop interplanetary pirates from raiding the spaceport on one of Jupiter's moons, risk everything to supply water to the people on Mars, and along the way, experience God through the farthest reaches of this universe!"
Here's the list of authors: Sigmund Brouwer, Kathy Tyers, Marianne Dyson, Randall Ingermanson, Shane Johnson, Jim Denney, Robert Elmer, John B. Olson.
Notes: Eat My Martian Dust has some really good stories in it and some not quite as good, just what you'd expect with any compilation.

#2 - Don't Count On Homecoming Queen by Nancy Rue, Waterbrook Press, 1998

Don't Count on Homecoming Queen (Raise the Flag)
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 15+
Summary: What do you do if you're a Christian, but also a really popular and well-liked kid at school and you discover something about someone else really popular that could hurt someone if you don't tell the truth but will hurt you if you do? This is what Tobey is about to find out, along with the other five girls who are willing to take a stand at the flag pole on the morning of See You At The Pole.
Notes: This is the first in the six book series; Raise The Flag. In this book Tobey and five others show up for See You At The Pole and begin to form a friendship and prayer group. Also take note that this book covers the issue of sexual abuse in a sensitive, but still realistic and therefore, disgusting manner as would any author bold enough to present an accurate picture of what teens would face in this kind of situation. I highly recommend this book as well as the others in this series.

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