Never Been Kissed

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I tell myself this is all a bad dream, and anytime soon, I should be waking up. But then Detective Lewiston and Office Jones come in. "We'd like to get a statement from you." the detective tells me. "Unless you'd rather wait to have an attorney present." Officer Jones interjects. "My statement is that I’m not guilty," I tell them.
Never Been Kissed: A Novel
Book: Never Been Kissed by Melody Carlson, Revell Publishers, 2010
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 15-18
Subjects: Dating relationships, Purity, "Sexting"/Pornography
Summary: Almost 16 and Elise has never been kissed. However, maybe things will soon change. She just changed schools and there is hope. A guy, a popular guy at that, seems to be quite interested in here. The only trouble is that he currently has a girlfriend. But that's ok, he has figured out how to have a relationship with her secretly through e-mail. Elise is ok with that at first. Eventually though, it gets tiring to wait for him to break it off with his current girl and acknowledge her in person too. The real trouble comes though when he sends her a pretty hot photo of himself and asks for a more revealing photo of her as well. She refuses of course, but somehow he gets one anyway - and everyone knows it! The whole school has seen the photo she swears she didn't take - of her completely naked.
Notes: This book gets into some pretty blunt issues. Sending pornographic photos of oneself as a minor is illegal and so the police take interest in her when the word gets around about this photo. Even though Elise did not commit an actual crime, she made choices that led to her downfall. Rather than waiting on God's timing, she tried to rush and force things to happen for herself. The lesson in the book is that God has a plan and waiting on His timing is a lot wiser than taking matters into our own hands. 
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Timothy 2:22 – Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue faith, love, and righteousness, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Wild Lies And Secret Truths

As he drove away, he wondered how life could become any more complicated and tragic than it had that week. Tears welled up in his eyes as he thought about it.

Book: Wild Lies and Secret Truth by Matt Tullos, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999
Wild Lies and Secret Truth (Summit High Series) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 15-18
Subjects: Dating Relationships, Friendship, Sexual Purity, Teen Pregnancy, AIDS, Trust in God
Summary: She agreed!! After months of dreaming of Jenny, Clipper has finally asked her out and she’s agreed! He’s got all the plans figured out, all the arrangements made – and he’s a nervous wreck! But it goes so much better than he even imagined. He knows he’s in love. Yet, all of a sudden Jenny breaks it off with him. Shortly thereafter ugly rumors start flying around the school about Clipper and Jenny. He’s crushed. This girl meant the world to him, and this is what he gets for it? Autumn is as busy as usual. Her latest goal is to use Felix as a summer project: tutor him to be able to pass the GED test. But maybe everyone was right about Felix. Maybe he’s not smart enough for it. Justin and Kandi are as close as ever, but are hurting for their friends. Troy is dying, not just someday, but some day soon. AIDS is taking his life much faster than he expected. He has so many regrets, but at least he has accepted Christ and been forgiven and his future his secure. All that is happening could pull everyone closer to each other and closer to Christ, but instead, it seems to be pulling them farther apart.
Notes: These characters face some very difficult things, especially with a friend dying of AIDS and a teen girl becoming pregnant. They have to learn to rely on Christ during it or else they just sink into despair and hopelessness. Clipper especially has to learn the hard way to lean on Christ. When he first hears the rumors he turns his back on everyone. He won’t even go to the youth conference he paid good money for. He wants to go experience the other life instead. He pulls out alcohol and cigarettes and tries to throw everything he has believed in away. It takes a good friend and hearing the truth for Clipper to realize that God has His hand on this situation just as much as the rest of life and wants to use Clipper to make a difference, something he can’t do sitting at home feeling sorry for himself.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Proverbs 3:6 – Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.

The Healer’s Apprentice

Saturday, January 22, 2011
 O God, I am a miserable wretch. I vowed to remain pure for my betrothed, but my feelings for Rose..." He closed his eyes. "Forgive me. I will conquer this. I can't avoid her, but I will think of her only as a sister. I will, God. And she is blameless. Forgive me, God. I will try not to think about her and I will never touch her again. I will marry Lady Salomea. I cannot, now or ever marry Rose."
The Healer's Apprentice
Book: The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson, Zondervan Publishing, 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 16 and up
Subjects: Trust in God, honor, relationships
Summary: Rose knows her future. As a daughter of a woodcutter she can either please her parents by marrying someone wealthy or she can continue being the apprentice to the town’s healer. Considering that the men her mom is choosing for her are either old or crude, she has no desire to wed any of them. Her future as a healer is certain. Then comes the day her skills are first tested to the extreme: the day the future duke comes in needing stitches while her mentor is absent. It’s bad enough that anyone would come in needing stitches while her mentor is gone. For an apprentice healer, Rose isn’t too good with blood or injuries. But to have one of the lords be the ones needing healing, and worse still, having it be the one she is struggling with an attraction to, well, Rose can barely manage to keep her composure, let alone give him the proper medical care he is seeking! She knows she is just a woodcutter’s daughter and Lord Hamlin is betrothed to the mystery woman no one has ever seen – or will see until either her eighteenth birthday or the day the evil Moncore is apprehended so he can stop his threats on the lady’s life. Lord Hamlin is struggling himself. He knows it is important to guard his heart and stay committed to his betrothed, even if he has not ever met her. Yet, he finds Rose so attractive, unlike anyone he has ever met. Meanwhile, his brother, who is not betrothed has developed an attraction to Rose as well and his intentions may not be that honorable.
Notes: This was an interesting story, it contained a tiny hint of mystery and some honorable characters determined to do what was right no matter how much they suffered for it. Both Rose and Lord Hamlin fought attraction to each other from early on in the story, but both resisted giving in to it, especially Lord Hamlin. And when Rose was offered the desires of her heart at the cost of others, she chose to deny herself. It’s primarily just a beautiful story, but the characters are admirable and their choice to pursue honor above their own desires is a good example to follow.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Swept Away

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
 “Well. . .” Principal Warner turned the monitor back around to face himself. “Even though it looks like you could both qualify for it—which is an amazing feat—there’s only one car to give away.”

Book: Swept Away by Nicole O’Dell
SCENARIOS 5 & 6--Swept Away: 2 Interactive Stories in 1 (Scenarios for Girls) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 13-18
Subjects: Cheating, Friendship, Money, Relationship with Parents, Sex
Summary: Amber’s family is not all that rich, in fact, her dad just lost his job and is having a lot of trouble finding a new one. That means no new clothes, generic brand pop in the refrigerator and most noticeable of all: continuing to drive a run-down, falling apart, old car that is a definite embarrassment to Amber. Her friend Brittany however, has plenty of money. Whatever she wants, she can get it. Her dad keeps getting promotions and raises. Then comes the contest: the student in the graduating class with the best grades will get a brand new car. The two students competing are Amber and Brittany. At first it’s not a problem, they can study together and help each other out and have a friendly competition. But all of a sudden things explode and it’s each girl for herself. Amber knows she NEEDS that car but how far will she go to get it? You decide.
The other story in this book: Essence of Lilly is about Lilly’s struggles to find true love. Her home life is a mess with a verbally abusive stepdad and a cowering mother who has lost all of herself and lets her husband decide everything. So when her boyfriend really steps up and shows care and concern for Lilly, it’s natural to turn more and more to him. How much will she give to keep him though?
Notes: This is a “choose your own ending” kind of a novel. You read the story to a certain point, then pick one of two endings – the right one or wrong one. Amber gets offered a chance to guarantee her grades by cheating – someone will give her a copy of the test answers in advance. She has to choose between friendship and a new car. Lilly has to choose between sex and keeping the one stable relationship she has felt like she has in her life. The “choose your own ending” is interesting. It’s pretty obvious there is a “right” and “wrong” option, not just two equal possibilities.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Proverbs 23:23Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding.

Horse Cents

“You better figure out what’s wrong with that horse”, Maggie said. “I know what’s wrong with Ham, Maggie,” I said. “I told you. It’s Carla. She’s edgy and worried about something. Her horse picks up on it even before she does.” “Then you better figure out what’s wrong with Carla.”

Book: Horse Cents by Dandi Daley Mackall, Concordia Publishing House, 2000
Horse Cents (Horsefeathers) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Horse Story
Target Audience: Girls 13-17
Subjects: Trust in God, Friendship, Judging others, Family relationships, Divorce
Summary: Carla isn’t the only one who’s Edgy. Scoop is too. B.C. is driving her nuts and because Carla – who is supposed to be her friend but isn’t acting like it, is uptight, Ham’s behavior is getting much worse. Carla’s mom is threatening to pull him from Horsefeathers stables and put him back at
Dalton’s. The stable can barely keep up payments as is. If one horse leaves, they won’t be able to afford to keep the farm anymore.
Notes: This book teaches a valuable lesson about friendship. Scoop almost ruined her chance for a friendship with Carla in the last book by jumping to conclusions too quickly and judging her. Now she’s about to do it again. Carla desperately needs a caring friend right now, but Scoop is too put off by the act Carla is putting on. In her pain, Carla is acting out in anger but Scoop needs to learn to see around that to understand Carla. This book also very lightly touches on abortion.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Peter 3:8 - Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.


You’re fond of this horse, aren’t you, Sarah?” asked Ralph Dalton. “You should see if Dotty can come up with some cash. Anyway, one way or the other, we’ll just have ‘’til the end of the month to find a home for Orphan.” He eyed the barn. “That’s when the bank note comes due. They’ll foreclose if Dad Coop can’t make the payment again.”

Book: Horsefeathers! by Dandi Daley Mackall, Concordia Publishing House, 2000
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Horse story
Target Audience: Girls 13-17
Subjects: Trust in God, Friendship, Judging others, Family relationships
Summary: Scoop is an orphan – twice over in fact. So is her horse. It’s mom died giving birth to it and when Scoop was only 3, she was the only one who got it to eat, making Orphan her horse ever since. But now, Scoop and Orphan are about to be homeless. They’ve been living on Granddad Coop’s farm, but he’s developing Alzheimer’s and can’t make payments anymore. The bank is ready to foreclose and the relatives are ready to bulldoze the barn into the ground. Scoop can’t let that happen! But she has no money, her aunt that is caring for her and her brother has no money and her friends have no money. When a new boy (who most don’t even believe exists) offers a way to help her get the money she will have to figure out how to become someone she isn’t in order to do it.
Notes: This is the first in another beautiful horse series by this author. In this story Scoop learns some extremely valuable lessons about jumping to conclusions and making cruel judgments too quickly. She nearly loses a good friend over it. It also includes a very brief salvation message as Scoop recalls the day her aunt led her to the Lord. The final lesson theme in the book is trusting in God to provide. Scoop prays, but really relies on her own efforts. In the end though, it is God who comes though and provides answers, not Scoop.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Philippians 4:6 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Found In Translation

Monday, January 10, 2011

Witnessing to the lost people of Ciudad de Plata—Silver City—with my singing, my testimony, and my modest Southern charm—I’d use that Spanish-English Bible if I needed to—would be the thrill of my young adulthood, especially when we won everyone in Silver City to Jesus in two weeks. Well, almost everyone. They might not let us visit prisoners, and they might be afraid to let us convert high-ranking government officials.

Book: Found In Translation – An Altered Hearts Novel by Roger E. Bruner with Kristi Rae Bruner, Barbour Publishing, 2011
Found in Translation: An unforgettable mission trip where faith, obedience, and forgiveness intersect (Altered Hearts) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 13-20
Subjects: Missions, Salvation, Trust in God
Summary: Kim is fully prepared for this missions trip. She has “a professional-quality hair dryer; enough matching shoes and purses to have a fresh look every day; a treasure chest of my best cosmetics and toiletries; enough clothes to wear separate day and night outfits for the next fourteen days; a steam iron and travel-sized ironing board; and a small, high-power portable karaoke system with dozens of accompaniment CDs and tons of extra D-cell batteries. Oh, and a thick Spanish-English Bible”. She’s studied evangelism at the local mission she worked at for a time. She’s ready to go… until she misses her first connecting flight and arrives late, making all but one person in the group mad at her – including the leaders. If that’s not bad enough, she learns that she missed the e-mail that told of the change in missions. Instead of doing evangelism in the city, they will be doing construction at a small, tornado-destroyed village in the middle of nowhere. All those going on the mission need a sleeping bag, pillow, work clothes that can get ruined, bug spray, sunblock and lots of deodorant. They need to be prepared to live outside for two weeks, have no access to electricity or plumbing. Oh yeah, and the translators were part of the people they would have been with in the capital city. So as far as they can tell, no one on this team speaks any Spanish. And the villagers speak no English. Kim is NOT prepared for this!
Notes: This is a growth story. Kim’s dad jokes that he wonders “if the airlines are up to our well-intentioned Kimberly.” Her reputation is having her heart in the right place, but being a spoiled, financially well-off, American teenager who is also known for being irresponsible makes her actions a tad bit off. God isn’t done with her though. He has some plans for Kim on this trip and will see that she learns them – willingly or unwillingly. It’s a lesson in relying solely on God. Taken out of her comfort zone and being put into an environment where her good intentions aren’t anywhere close to enough to be successful, Kim has to rely on the One who can make things successful.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Philippians 1:6 – Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

McKenzie's Oregon Operation

She held her breath and a tingle ran up her neck as the boy continued. “I saw them. Mario and Bianca were kidnapped!”

Book: McKenzie’s Oregon Operation by Shari Barr, Barbour Publishing, 2010
McKenzie's Oregon Operation (Camp Club Girls) 
Genre: Mystery
Target Audience: Girls 10-13
Subjects: Power of prayer, trust in God, care for animals
Summary: Susie is not acting right, she’s acting sad and upset – and with good reason! Someone has stolen her pups away from her. McKenzie and Alex are determined to help the sea lion find her pups again and they think they have some clues as to who stole them. No one believes them though. The couple they suspect have a reputation for being rich and successful sea lion and seal trainers. There’s no reason for them to steal the pups. But someone stole them and the girls, with the help of the other Camp Club girls via phone, mail, and e-mail are determined to find out who!
Notes:  This book has a few notes about spiritual issues such as prayer and faith in God. It has a mini lesson on obeying adults – the girls almost get in extreme danger due to not obeying an adult’s instructions at the beginning of the book. It’s primary “lesson” though, is about caring for animals and how God expects us to do so.
Recommendation Scale: 3/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Proverbs 12:10 – A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

The Purple Door

Exotic plants…doors leading to other places…a cat who can disappear and reappear in sections…people who disappear and reappear…Wow, this is some antique shop, that’s for sure.
Book: The Purple Door by Janifer C. DeVos, Multnomah Press, 1990
Genre: Supernatural Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 11-14
Subjects: Faith, Compassion, Right from Wrong, Angels
Summary: Erin’s old playhouse has been converted overnight into an antique shop! But that’s ok because it’s still really cool and they gave her a job working there. It’s not an ordinary antique shop, it’s run by a Guardian, who asks Erin to be Guardian as well – someone who has taken a pledge of obedience and service to the King. They serve Him using the gifts and abilities He gives them. They even wear a ring as a symbol of that pledge (pg. 87). This mysterious antique shop also has a few doors in it – doors leading to other worlds! There is one door that is not used though – the Purple Door. And there is a bad guy who wants nothing more than to gain access to that door. And inside that door Erin will face her first test as a guardian.
Notes: This starts out simple, as a story of a couple kids playing, just a normal day in the life of a couple of eleven year olds. But enter the antique shop, the guardian and the doors and it reads like a fantasy novel! I gave it the genre supernatural though because the “Guardian” sounds like an angel. I’m not sure how it works – some are portrayed as angels, some guardians are portrayed as humans who have died and gone to heaven and some, like Erin, are people still living. But it isn’t a book that takes place in a fantasy world. It’s in a place on earth with un-normal things happening. They are all connected to the Almighty though, so the best term for this is supernatural. Much of it reads like an innocent adventure story, but there are some good lessons intermingled throughout it. And at the end we see a theme developing for the series – Erin’s faith being tested.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Colossians 3:12 - Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Dark Blue: Color Me Lonely

I do not know why I wasted my time coming… I think there is nothing as lonely as being alone in a crowd. And I know that I cannot take it another minute.

Book: Dark Blue: Color Me Lonely by Melody Carlson, NavPress, 2004
Dark Blue: Color Me Lonely (TrueColors Series #1) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 13-18
Subjects: Friendship, Depression, Popularity, Salvation
Summary: For years, ever since kindergarten in fact, Kara has been Jordan’s shadow. But Jordan’s been accepted into the popular crowd due to her cheerleading skills and Kara is still on the outside looking in. Of course, being one of the popular kids means you must spend all your time with them and no time with anyone outside of that circle. So Jordan is no longer accessible to Kara, no longer has a need for a shadow and Kara is alone. No one to attend football games with. No one to go to the mall with. No Friday night plans. No Saturday plans. No one to eat lunch with. No one to share a locker with. No one to walk down the hallways with. No one to talk or giggle or whisper to. She is just utterly alone. She makes a few attempts to get new friends but even those don’t seem to be going that well. Depression is sinking in deeper and deeper and Kara needs to find a friend before it swallows her completely.
Notes: Friendship is the theme of this book. No one can truly handle being alone. A youth leader states at one point in the book that all were created with an empty spot inside of us that needs to be filled, a longing for friendship. The difficulty is when Kara tries to fill that emptiness with other people. The emptiness can only be filled by God Himself. Kara learns that Jesus Christ actually can and wants to be her Best Friend. It sounds ridiculous and corny to Kara and others at first, but a couple of the characters experience it and testify to the truth of it. They really do feel filled by friendship with God rather than another person. This book does a great job communicating that. A couple other issues are mentioned, not highlighted or discussed much, but mentioned in this book. They are alcohol, drugs, suicide, and smoking.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

John 15:15 – I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends for everything that I learned from My Father, I made known to you.

The Word Reclaimed

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Baden stood there, shivering. He slowly extended his hand with the Bible. At the last moment, he hesitated. And the room went black.
Book: The Word Reclaimed by Steve Rzasa, Marcher Lord Press 2009
Genre: Science Fiction
Target Audience: Boys 12-19
Subjects: Word of God, Salvation
Summary: The Kezek have banded and destroyed all forms of religious literature they can get their hands on – especially Bibles. So when Baden finds one in a wreck it’s a big deal. The Kezek are more than willing to kill for it. A strange man rescues Jason and claims his goal is to protect the Bible. Baden begins to experience strange things as he reads it. Meanwhile Alec, another young boy is sent on a mission with his father to a planet that openly practices and believes the Bible, or as much of the Bible as they can remember. He too is in danger from the Kezek. Shifts in politics are also making the world a dangerous place for everyone.
Notes: This is a sci-fi book set in the future with space travel between multiple planets and races. It portrays a world in which very few people know much about Christianity due to it’s being outlawed and the Bibles being destroyed. It shows the power of the Word of God, the power of prayer and just a few glimpses of the Gospel. It is the first in a series and only starts developing the spiritual elements. A large portion of this book is the battles, both from space and on land.
Recommendation Scale: 3/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Matthew 24:35 – Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Legend Of The Gilded Saber

Book: Legend Of The Gilded Saber by Sigmund Brouwer, Bethany House Publishers, 2002
Genre: Mystery
Target Audience: Boys 10-14
Subjects: Greed
Summary: Out of nowhere, Mike’s uncle calls up Mike’s mom saying that he wants to restore the broken relationships in the family and wants to start by inviting Mike and his friends to his house for a visit. As soon as they get there though, Mike’s uncle is arrested and accused of stealing valuable artifacts from the museum. After a little detective work, the boys become quite convinced that Mike’s uncle is innocent. Why then did he confess? And if he isn’t the culprit, who is? And why did he frame Mike’s uncle?
Notes: This is primarily a mystery story, but there are some good lessons about greed hidden throughout the story, as well as a character who teaches a bit about what he has learned about what really matters in life. This is the 3rd in the Accidental Detectives series, a series of books about Ricky Kidd, a young boy who often stumbles into mysteries and has to deal with a younger brother that drives him nuts.
Recommendation Scale: 3/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Matthew 6:21 – For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Grandpa's Stolen Treasure

Book: Grandpa’s Stolen Treasure by Lois Walfrid Johnson, Bethany House Publishers, 1992
Genre: Historical Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 11-14
Subjects: Faith – trusting in God rather than yourself
Summary: The greatest treasure of all is gone, stolen, right out from under grandpa’s nose. He turned his back to walk inside for a moment, came back, and it was gone! And they were so close! They’d almost made it to Kate and her family, only one train stop away. Kate and her family are waiting at the train station, but there is no sign of them. Soon they get a telegram from Grandpa asking them to come help. So Kate, Anders and Erik go to try to help Grandpa find his treasure.
Notes: This book is a lesson in trusting God. Before they leave, Mama shares a verse with the three kids: James 1:5 – If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally. Kate tends to trust in herself though and has to learn an important lesson about where wisdom comes from.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

James 1:5 – But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him

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