The Map Across Time

Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Well, I know of a map that leads across time. Adin, it is a very ancient, magical map, and it has been kept safely hidden for centuries. Whoever uses this map will find their way back in time.

Book: The Map Across Time by C. S. Lankin, AMG Publishers, 2011
Map Across Time:Gates of Heaven Series (The Gates of Heaven Series) 
Genre: Fantasy
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 13-19
Subjects: Faith, Love, Relationship with Family
Summary: Adin has always been the weak one, his sister defending him, fighting for him. But now, the time has come for him to stand and lead the way. He goes off on his own seeking the legendary phoenix, but instead, finds a strange old cottage with an old man and a talking pig of all things! The stranger gives him a map that will lead him across time where he may be able to change some things if he can face the challenges that await him there.
Notes: This book started very interesting, with some interesting concepts. However, by the end of it, it got so confusing and complicated that a sci-fi fan would go for it! Time travel is always an interesting subject, but C. S. Lankin has just shown how complicated it can truly be! As for spiritual content, it quotes verses from the Bible throughout it and the main characters are learning a lesson about faith. Their father had turned to greed to find comfort and security and peace. The children could not find it there and Adin sets out to find what will change the kingdom. The spiritual element was not as strong as it could have been, but there was definitely a spiritual element present.
Recommendation Scale: 3/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Ecclesiastes 3:11 – He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

A Summer Secret

“You still would have gotten in trouble.” “Not as much trouble as we’re gonna get in if the found out about this.” He walked to the other side of the barn and sat down on a hay bale, blowing out a long breath. “So what are we gonna do?” Mary Beth followed him. “I guess the only thing we can do is tell Mami and Daed.” He frowned. “You have another suggestion? Like one that won’t get us grounded until next year?”

Book: A Summer Secret by Kathleen Fuller, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010
A Summer Secret (The Mysteries of Middlefield Series) 
Genre: Amish Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 12-16
Subjects: Amish way of life, obedience, relationship with siblings, showing love to others, foster care
Summary: Mary Beth is so sick of her brothers! They’re always getting into trouble and if she’s not careful, they’ll drag her down too! When she finds an opportunity to make a secret hide out in an old abandoned barn she seizes it – never mind that she’s been forbidden to go in. It is the perfect place to get away from her brothers. The trouble is that someone else seems to think so too. Her food is disappearing, her things are being moved around. Someone is obviously thinking the same thing as her and ruining her chance to escape. That’s not her biggest problem though. Soon she and her brother find themselves keeping multiple secrets from their parents, secrets that could put them and someone else in great danger.
Notes: This book follows the style of the adult Amish fiction books – very focused on the family relationships, the danger of secrets, and decisions about life direction. It teaches good lessons about showing love to others and about obedience to parents.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi
James 2:16 – If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

The Secrets Beneath

He slammed her down in a chair. "Don't move!" She couldn't have moved if she wanted to. Fear clawed at her, making her mouth numb and her hands ice cold. Please, Lord, help me. I promise I'll never snoop again. Just send somebody here to save me!

Book: The Secrets Beneath by Kathleen Fuller, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010
The Secrets Beneath (The Mysteries of Middlefield Series) 
Genre: Amish Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 12-16
Subjects: Amish way of life, obedience, relationship with siblings, showing love to others,obedience to parents
Summary: Bekah just can't help her curiosity! It gets the better of her every time! She's been told not to snoop, not to eavesdrop, and not to spy on neighbors from her upstairs window many times. Yet, that's exactly what she does, again and again in this story. Her cousin Amanda has come to live with them and no one is saying why so Bekah feels a need to eavesdrop to get the information she wants. A new neighbor has moved in next door and is digging holes all over his yard, but Bekah can't figure out why. So she spies from her bedroom window and even goes over to his house to snoop around. When finally she gets caught and the consequences come crashing in on her, will she ever be the same again?
Notes: This book follows the style of the adult Amish fiction books – very focused on the family relationships, the danger of secrets, and decisions about life direction. It teaches good lessons about showing love to others and about obedience to parents. 
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi
1 Thessalonians 4:11 – Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you,

Annison’s Risk

Maddy didn’t understand what any of it meant. All she knew was that the princess of her dream was real in this strange world, and now she’d lost sight of her.

Book: Annison’s Risk by Paul McCuscker, Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1999
Annison's Risk (Adventures in Odyssey Passages) 
Genre: Allegory
Target Audience: Girls 11-16
Subjects: Growing up, faith, courage
Summary: When Maddy finds herself in Marus and meets the princess in her dream, she is sure she has fallen right into the middle of a fairy tale! A beautiful princess, being forced to marry a man she does not love, a kingdom in the midst of a power struggle, and sneaky plots to overthrow the king. However, it seems that the Unseen One has called her here in search of something other than romance and fairy tales.
Notes: This is the story of Esther told in an allegory about another world that a girl from our world finds herself in. Maddy is a young girl with dreams of romance and excitement, but from the very beginning, the characters that represent Mordeci and Esther challenge her to something higher than greater than what she imagined. Maddy learns what it means to have faith in God, even when things start falling apart. She learns to have courage to stand up against evil, even when it could mean the loss of her own life. This is the 3rd book in the Passages series, a series which correlates to Adventures in Odyssey, with Whit and Tom researching the stories of the children who have gone to Marus.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Esther 4:14b - Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?

The Case Of The Stolen Red Mary

“What’s wrong? What’s happened?” By now Tessa couldn’t speak. Mrs. Considine put her arm around the girl. “This dear child’s painting is gone,” she said. “Someone wrote her a note threatening its safety and now it looks like they made good on their threat.”

Book: The Case Of The Stolen Red Mary by Marlan Schurch, Review And Herland Publishing Association, 2001
Genre: Mystery
Target Audience: Boys 12-14
Subjects: Life after death, friendship
Summary: Justin, his friend Rico and Rico’s sister Tessa are attending the Outdoor School when Tessa’s valuable painting turns up missing. It has financial value, which explains it getting stolen, but more importantly, it has great sentimental value to Tessa as it was a special gift from her now dead grandmother. In the midst of the search some important questions about life after death are raised and Justin has to find a way to gently witness to his non-Christian friend.
Notes: I don’t agree with some of the spiritual content in this book. First off, it almost implies that being a good person is what gets you to Heaven, not putting your trust in Jesus for your salvation. Secondly it outright states and even lists verses supporting the theory, that you don’t go to Heaven or Hell or anywhere when you die. You just cease to exist until Jesus returns, and you are raised with Him. The verses they use to support their claim are: Ecclesiastes 12:7, Psalm 115:17, Daniel 12:2-3, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. I’m looking to verses like Luke 23:43 for my idea that we go to Heaven or Hell as soon as we die. And the Bible is very clear in many places such as Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 10:9-10, Acts 16:31, and Ephesians 2:8-9 that our good works aren’t enough to get us to Heaven, only trust in Christ is. When we go to be with Jesus really isn’t an issue worth arguing over but how we get there is extremely important and due to that, I am not recommending this book at all.
Recommendation Scale: 0/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Ephesians 2:8-9 –For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Dragonfly On My Shoulder

Saturday, May 28, 2011
 How could her friends hold so on so tightly to a God who clearly didn't care? All He'd done was give them glimpses of false hope - then snatch it away again, and again. Wouldn't something like this make them doubt? What keeps them going? Why pray to someone who does what He wants in the end anyway? What's the big attraction?

Book: Dragonfly On My Shoulder by Jeanette Hanscome, Focus On The Family Publishing, 2003
Dragonfly on My Shoulder (Brio Girls) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 13-19
Subjects: Prayer, loss
Summary: Solona has come closer to God a few times over the last year, but this is too much. When her uncle has an accident and the medical bills put him in financial trouble, it seems he is going to lose the ranch Solona loves so much. She can't let that happen! She and her friends start with a bunch of fundraisers, that don't make anywhere near enough money. Then she pursues a wildlife protection agency, but even that fails. She prayed, her good Christian friends prayed. God didn't listen. Her uncle is still going to lose the ranch and there's nothing Solona can do about it.
Notes: Solona is an unbeliever who hangs out with a group of Christian friends. She has heard the Gospel many times, see God's work in the lives of her friends, but hangs on to her belief that faith and science don't mix. How can God really be real? It seems that Solona takes a different perspective by this point, almost as if she's admitting God is there, but isn't willing to surrender her own ideas and follow Him yet. This book does an amazing job looking about pain and hurt and frustration that someone losing the things that matter to them would feel. It's a very realistic look at prayer and God's work in our lives. I highly recommend this to anyone struggling and doubting that God hears and answers prayer. They will easily relate to Solona's doubts.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

James 1:17 - Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Elizabeth Gail And The Teddy Bear Mystery

Sunday, May 15, 2011
Grandma suddenly sounded like a very old woman. "I'm tired of fighting with Henry. He can have the farm now that he has teddy. Nothing matters anymore. Adam said he was leaving Monday so I'll go with him and stay with Larkin a while. I won't like living in town, but I'm too tired to fight with Henry a day longer. " Grandma covered her face and sobbed.

Book: Elizabeth Gail And The Teddy Bear Mystery by Hilda Stahl, Tyndale House Publishers, 1979
The Teddy Bear Mystery (Elizabeth Gail Wind Rider Series #3) 
Genre: Mystery
Target Audience: Girls 11-14
Subjects: Relationships with Family, Foster Care, Love for others
Summary: For some reason, that old teddy bear is extremely important to Grandma, the neighbor to the Johnsons. Then after getting to know Libby, she asks Libby to take care of the bear for a while. Libby agrees, though she doesn't know why. But when it disappears, it seems to be the end for Grandma. She's devastated. Libby doesn't understand what all is going on, but she knows one thing: she must get that bear back!
Notes: This is a book about showing love to others. Libby goes out of her way to show kindness to an older woman and finds herself in the midst of a mystery that could completely change the life of her neighbor. It's also a book about greed and selfishness as there are those determined to take that which Grandma values most, with no thought to her feelings. It's also a picture in broken family relationships, Libby being a foster child due to her mom not being able to care for her, and the brokenness between Grandma and her son and the brokenness between Grandma's great grandson and his family. 
Recommendation Scale: 3/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

James 1:27 - Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Elizabeth Gail And The Mystery At The Johnson Farm

With all her heart she wished she could stay. What good did it do to wish? She slapped snow off her mittens. Nothing ever went right in her life. Why should it now?

Book: Elizabeth Gail And The Mystery At The Johnson Farm by Hilda Stahl, Tyndale House Publishers, 1978
 The Mystery at the Johnson Farm (Elizabeth Gail Revised Series #1)
Genre: Mystery
Target Audience: Girls 11-14
Subjects: Foster Care, Friendships, Jealousy, Bullying
Summary: Elizabeth Gail is just sure this foster home will be no different than any of the others, but she’s wrong. The Johnson family is determined to love her, truly love her. They have prayed for her and are thankful for her arrival. However, not everyone is glad she’s here. A neighbor girl has taken a mean and spiteful attitude towards Elizabeth and is determined to get rid of her no matter what. Elizabeth thwarts multiple attempts to do so, but if something doesn’t change soon, the neighbor girl will get her way and Elizabeth will be gone.
Notes: This is a look at how a child would likely feel coming into a foster family at an older age, already having been through the system enough to be hardened by it. It’s also a look at what the love of Christ, working through His people can do to change a hardened heart. Elizabeth doesn’t expect the Johnsons to truly love her – or anyone to for that matter. But she can’t help but respond to the love they show. This book may be older and therefore not written with the intensity some of today’s books have, but it still does a good job covering the issues realistically, making it so you can really relate to the characters.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Proverbs 21:8 – The way of the guilty is devious, but the conduct of the innocent is upright.

Limos, Lattes, And My Life On The Fringe

Deidre laughed out loud. “What?” I said. “How much time did you spend on this? I didn’t put this much into my English midterm. I think you’ve got OCD or something.” “You don’t get what I’m trying to do?” I said. “I get what,” Matthew said. “I just don’t get why.” “Because the way it is now isn’t fair.”

Book: Limos, Lattes, And My Life On The Fringe by Nancy Rue, Zondervan Publishers, 2011
Limos, Lattes and My Life on the Fringe (Real Life) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 16-19
Subjects: Popularity, Money, Justice, Friendships, Relationships with family
Summary: When an invisible girl gets nominated as a prom queen candidate you know something’s up. Tyler has no desire whatsoever to be a prom queen. She’s part of the Fringe, the group that’s just sort of invisible. But when she gets nominated anyway, she realizes she has a chance to fight for justice. Prom shouldn’t just be for the rich kids. It shouldn’t be a popularity contest. The more she gets into it though, the more she finds herself in the midst of scorn and criticism. Life on the fringe was a whole lot easier than this!
Notes: One interesting aspect to this book was the characters who couldn’t figure out why Tyler was so worked up about Prom. Was it really worth all the persecution she was facing? The deeper Tyler got though, the more she realized that the issues she was fighting for were a lot bigger than one night a year. It was the whole issue of whether or not someone has the right to make someone else feel bad about themselves just because they aren’t as wealthy as the other person. It’s easy to relate to Tyler’s dad and his concern that she is pouring her energy into something not worthwhile. It’s also easy to relate to Tyler and the other characters who are fighting for overall justice, for school to be a safe or secure place for everyone, not just the rich and popular. It’s also about Tyler herself more than anything. As the fourth book in the Real Life series, it focuses on a teenage girl who feels like her life is falling apart and has to turn to something bigger than herself for the strength to make it through the trial.
Recommendation Scale: 4.5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 37:6 – He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

The Gift

Tears sprang to Ana’s eyes. She let them fall as she stared with increasing horror at her reflection in the mirror. How had she gotten here, all sunburned and ruined on the lavish yacht of a rich playboy? Ana’s fair skin had never seen the light of day, and now she had exposed herself like…what? Like a common harlot! Ana whirled away her the mirror pressing the heels of her hands to her eyes. In her anguish and shame she felt an overwhelming desire to talk with her mother, but that voice of wisdom was lost to her. All voices were lost. Chiveis was lost. Teo was lost. He would never want her back. Ana wiped away her tears. There was only one way to go forward. As it turned out, Vanita had been right all along. Ana decided she needed to make a home for herself in the real world, the actual world, the rough-and-tumble world in which she found herself – not the elusive world of vague hopes and empty dreams. “If I don’t provide for my future, who will?”

Book: The Gift by Bryan Litfin, Crossway Publishers, 2011
The Gift: A Novel (Chiveis Trilogy) 
Genre: Fantasy/Futuristic
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 13-19 but honestly, enjoyable for anyone older than 13
Subjects: Power of God’s Word, Temptation, Loneliness, Love
Summary: Ana and Teo are wandering outside of Chiveis, but don’t have to wander through the wilderness for long. They are taken in and Ana especially is adopted by the people of a city. It doesn’t change her loneliness for all she left behind though. The more she tries to fit in with the strange new customs, the more she fights temptation to surrender all hope in Deu. Teo is torn between his vow to never leave Ana, to always protect her, and his vow to her to find the second half of Deu’s writings. Eventually, everything must come to a head and each must make a choice that determines the direction of their lives.
Notes: The first in this series was amazing and this one is as well. It’s very realistic, with faith comes doubt and temptation and trials. Ana is portrayed in the first book as having a very strong faith, but what persecution and threat of death could not accomplish, loneliness did. Teo was the weak one in the last book, but having come through his doubts and trials, is stronger for them and is now the one clearly assigned by Deu to use his gifts and skills to find and bring Deu’s word to the people. Ana and Teo are characters we can relate to in both their strengths and their weaknesses. Another strong point is the portrayal of love. Ana and Teo have to learn, the hard way, what true love looks like.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

John 15:13 - Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Goodbye Hollywood Nobody

A red convertible pulls into the parking strip. Its driver wears a scarf and sunglasses, both of which she peels off before disembarking. The Karissa. And another thing, Jesus? Would you let me not be a jerk? Would you let me see Karissa like I see Belle, and Silas, and even Monica, even though she hasn’t said boo to me?

Book: Goodbye Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson, NavPress, 2008
Goodbye, Hollywood Nobody: A Novel 
Genre: Realistic
Target Audience: Girls 13-18
Subjects: Teen Pregnancy, Purpose in life, Relationship with Parents, Loss
Summary: It's time to find out who the Hollywood Nobody really is. Scotty wants to do Jesusy Extraordinary things. Whether that means searching for her mom, serving in an orphanage, showing kindness to a goth, holding a friend accountable, or loving a Hollywood actor that's pretty much a slut and is making a mess of her life, Scotty is willing to do it. It's not easy by any means, but no one ever claimed living for Jesus was!
Notes: Wow! I couldn't pick the issues for this one! This book covers friendships, relationships with parents, boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. It covers figuring out who God wants you to be and what He wants you to do with your life. It covers living in obedience even when it's not fun. It covers showing love to those who seem unlovable and forgiving those who have hurt you. It covers teen pregnancy and drugs. It covers abuse, foster care, and adoption. It even deals with a little bit of the downside of being a Hollywood star. Scotty seems to be involved in or have friends involved in everything! It's a fun book, although a bit sad at some points. But overall, it's truly an enjoyable read, something you don't always find in a book that feels like the characters are real!
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Matthew 5:46 – If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

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