Friday, March 21, 2014
Out here, even Ratho might start to feel my attentions. It would definitely end our friendship as well as challenge him to report me in order to protect himself. After my religious outburst, he probably would! Chamber of Verities, what has happened? I vigorously rub my face without regard for the rough sand on my hands. Maybe entertaining attraction dulls my amulet? Maybe giving in and enjoying wrong impulses has impaired it more and more? Or swimming in moonlight. The Madronians insist the moon is female. Oh, what have I done? Have I drained most of its strength?

Book: Firstborn: A Novel by Lorie Ann Grover, Blink (Zondervan Publishers), 2014
739303: Firstborn: A NovelGenre: Dystopian
Target Audience: Girls 18+
Subjects: Murder, Sex-Role, Occupation of Enemy, Religion, Friendship, Family Relationships, Survival
Summary: She’s not female! She’s not! The amulet will protect her… won’t it? Born into a country taken over by superstitious enemies, all firstborn females are to be killed. Her father, desperate to save her life declares her a male and the authorities agree. As long as she never shows any sign of femininity they will let her live. So she trains for the same assignments as the males and lives her life squelching any feminine urges or tendencies. Now she is of age. Her rapion has hatched and bonded with her and she is sent out on patrol with the other young men. But the more she grows and develops the more she doubts. She may dress and act like a male, but inside she very much feels like a female… especially when her friend Rathon is around. If the amulet squashing her femininity ever fails her though, it will be instant death.
Notes: Patterned after books such as The Hunger Games, Firstborn puts one female in a position to fight against any extremely corrupt society. She must “play the game” as her father words it, pretending to be in perfect obedience to the authorities. But inwardly she rebels against everything they demand. Her people are portrayed allegorically as the Christians, worshipping the “Creator Spirit” whereas the enemy has a religion believing their god conquered other gods, making him the most superior god and the one to worship. Tiadone’s father illegally hid some of the books teaching of the Creator Spirit and taught her to worship and follow Him. She’s one of the few who do though. The catcheism taught to all young people has taken a strong hold on her people. She has to strengthen her own beliefs, fight against the servants of the false god and their torment of her people and all the while pretend to be totally obedient – and male.
This book did clearly convey some spiritual elements – one scene in particular has Tiadone finding a hidden cave of worship to the Creator Spirit, solidifying her confidence in His existence as the one true god. The front cover almost sums it up the best with a quote that reads “Sometimes fate has a different plan”. There’s not a all-powerful being who is in control of the world. It’s more of a deistic view of God – He created, He exists, but He isn’t really all that involved in day-to-day life.
It’s very clear though that the book is not meant to be beautiful. In some places it is very crass. There are a lot of details given as to how Tiadone is clearly a female despite being declared male. The author doesn’t spare details of things that are dirty or private but just lays it out for the reader.
I’m assuming this to be book one of a series because it ends on a note of minimum survival, not true triumph. It doesn’t leave the reader with a lot of hope or joy, just acceptance that this is the best it gets.

It felt as though there was this big idea dreamed up - a female being declared male - and a story was forced around it, a story that didn't quite work, didn't quite fit together and definitely did not finish strong.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 2/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Timothy 4:4 – For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,

Psalm 139:13-14 – For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

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

Running Lean

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Six months ago he’d felt like part of him had been buried with Michael. Then Stacey stepped up to fill that gaping hole inside him a little Not fully, and not in the same way, but she’d brought him to a place where he could smile again.
And then…and then… the anorexia, like a bony finger clawing, clawing, clawing, scratched Calvin’s scars, reopened the wound until he could feel the pain pouring out again.
I can’t do this. I need her.
 It was his fault. He’d been pushing her, making demands of her, expecting her to change
 – to save her life!

Book: Running Lean by Diana L. Sharples, Blink Publishers (Zondervan), 2013
734970: Running LeanGenre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls and Boys 14-18
Subjects: Anorexia, Trust in God, Family Relationships, Dating Relationships, Friendship
Summary: He’s all she really has. Supposedly she has a friend and a loving family. But not really. He’s the only one willing to truly see her, see beyond his own selfishness, see the hurt inside of her. She’s not all she has, but she’s the one who brought him out of the pit of sorrow he was drowning in after his brother’s death. Love is a big word, not meant to be used casually. It describes their relationship though. Their relationship is on shaky ground though. Something has come between them. Something so big, so scary, neither one has any clue how to get around it. They’re getting closer and closer to empty, heading straight for destruction. And there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to turn for answers.
Notes: Anorexia is a serious issue that many young girls struggle with to some degree or another. Many feel unsatisfied with their appearance and as a result, unsatisfied with themselves overall. And many seek to control their weight in the hopes of changing who they are. In this story the young girl is desperate to be viewed as beautiful and terrified of going back to the days of her childhood obesity. It shows her struggles with self-image. It also shows her boyfriend’s struggle to figure out how to help her. He has to choose between saving their relationship or saving her very life. It also shows how blind many can be to the real issue. Her dad views it as a simple problem that a bit of discipline will get rid of. Her friend views it as an example of strength and determination to make something of herself. Calvin’s mom just assumes Stacy’s parents will take care of the problem and it’s best to not get involved. Only Calvin recognizes the seriousness of her illness and the power it holds over her. Even he doesn’t know how to help though. This book is designed to lay out a picture of all the different sides of it – bring awareness to the issue.
There are some strong spiritual elements at the end of it. Both Calvin and Stacy learn that only God can give them the strength to get through this. Stacy recognizes that she is truly genuinely loved by God. Stacy has a near-death vision of Christ saying this isn’t what He wants for her, that her life isn’t done yet.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 18:32 – It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.

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

The Silence of Murder

Monday, March 10, 2014

I can’t let them take him away. Not to prison. Not to a mental hospital. Home. Jeremy belongs at home, with me. I’m all he has. I have to find out who really killed Coach.

Book: The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall, Random House Publishers (Alfred Al. Knopf), 2011
Genre: Mystery
Target Audience: Girls 17+
Subjects: Crime, Family Relationships, Truth, Dating Relationships, Abuse, Mental Disabilities, God’s love
Summary: Jeremy’s always been special. But there was a time when the abuse got to be too much and he just stopped speaking. He didn’t cease communicating by any means, but there was no more vocal speech from him. He was close to God and encouraged Hope to grow close as well. Now the gentle eighteen year old is being charged with murder of someone he truly liked and respected and he doesn’t have the voice to defend himself. So it’s up to Hope to prove that her brother is innocent. Anyone could be a suspect, anyone but her brother that is. If she doesn’t mind out fast though her brother will be declared guilty of murder.
Notes: A mystery novel by the author of all the horse books, The Silence Of Murder is a bit unique to be coming from this author, but very well done. It contains the same strong character development as her other books. The focus of the book is the development of Hope’s character and the mystery, but there are definitely some spiritual elements to it. In this book it is focused on Hope’s relationship with God. She hasn’t tried to stay close the way her brother has. Now she feels all alone and desperate for help as she seeks to save her brother. It takes a message from her brother to help her see how much God truly does love and care for her.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 3/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 56:8 – Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll-- are they not in your record?

The Machine

He’d practically disappeared. “big…happy… family…”
And then he was gone.
I looked back to Jenny. She took a deep breath and let it out. And then another. The good news was everything in her room had turned back to normal. The bad news was it would be the last normal either of us would experience for a long long time.

Book: The Machine: A Truth Seekers Novel by Bill Myers, B and H Publishing Group, 2013
690808: The Machine: A Truth Seekers NovelGenre: Adventure/Humor
Target Audience: Boys 11-16
Subjects: Spiritual Warfare, Family Relationships, Love
Summary: “Your tickets are purchased and your passports are in the mail.” With that one sentence, twins Jake and Jen’s whole life changed. Their dad has barely spent any time with them. He’s been overseas doing his scientific projects while their mom raises them. But their mom has died and all of a sudden their dad has decided they should be together. So off they go to Israel, to a dad they don’t really know, his sort of time machine project, his rather odd crew (including a troublesome monkey), and his enemy who is determined to steal his project. Normal is now a thing of the past and crazy insanity is now their life!

Notes: This is the first in the Truth Seekers, a series about twin seventh graders, their dad and the machine he invented to allow people to see and experience events from the Bible as if the person were really there. There are some strong elements focused on the family relationship since the twins’ dad hasn’t ever really known them. It isn’t until the climax of the book that they realize he actually does love them. The strongest element is the spiritual warfare. Whenever the machine runs, Jen experience horrid visions and someone says an evil being is actually terrorizing her but that as a Christian she has authority over the evil ones. She has to go through a couple more trials before her faith grows enough for her to try to confront it though. Through the aid of the machine, the characters do get to witness a Bible event as well.
This book is strongly aimed at those wanting humor in their stories. Lots of comical disasters occur, providing plenty of adventure and entertainment in the story.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4.5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Ephesians 6:13 - Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids

Friday, March 7, 2014

“Secret photo shoot?”
“Yeah, the one on the river. Riley you are so lucky! I don’t blame you for wanting to be a shoe model instead of playing softball. Oh, and my dad showed me the Ready Eddys. They’re so cute! I’m gonna save up to buy some.”
WHAT was this girl talking about? Secret photo shoot? Ready Eddys?

Book: Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids by Jill Osborne, Zondervan (Zonderkidz) Publishers, 2014
742999: Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Adventure
Target Audience: Girls 11-14
Subjects: Friendship, Evangelism, Truth
Summary: What on earth is going on here? No one is telling Riley Mae anything! This running for your life business is not all it’s cracked up to be. As near as she can figure they’re somewhere in Montana hiding from their enemies. And apparently while here Riley Mae is going to do a series of photos promoting a new sandal – a series of photos going do the rapids – including over a waterfall! That’s not all though. All sorts of crazy adventures are happening – a run in with a hungry bear, a missing person search, a mysterious e-mail and a little boy with Leukemia. It’s enough to make Riley Mae quite glad she’s got the right shoes for each adventure!
Notes: The Good News Shoes series introduces a twelve year old girl who really likes softball and cool shoes. So when she gets an offer to be a spokesgirl for a company marketing athletic shoes for girls, she jumps in headfirst, not knowing she just signed up for some serious adventures. The theme verse for the series is Ephesians 6:15 - and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In this second book the focus is on the Gospel. Riley Mae meets a young boy who shares his faith with all those around him. Her friend hears more about the Gospel and makes a choice to put her trust in Christ for her salvation. She gets to attend a baptism and hear the testimony of others. It also continues the theme of peace from the last book as Riley Mae faces more dangers and challenges.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Romans 1:16 – I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

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

Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek

The thing about contacts is that once you sign them you have to do what they say or you get in trouble with…I dunno…someone important somewhere. Anyway, my contract with Swiftriver said that I had to appear at “the agreed-upon-shceduled photo shoots.” That was the schedule my mom had written on her Bible calendar. So you can imagine my surprise when instead of “Softball signups” on January 12th, the calendar said, “Swiftriver photo shoot – Fresno State University track.”

Book:Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek by Jill Osborne, Zondervan (Zonderkidz) Publishers, 2014
742944: Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Adventure
Target Audience: Girls 11-14
Subjects: Friendship, Evangelism, Truth
Summary: Shoes! Tons and tons of shoes! Pinks, purples, yellows, flowers, butterflies, swirls and best of all her name! Riley Mae is gonna be famous! She just signed a contract to be the spokesgirl for a shoe company promoting a brand new line of shoes for girls. What could possibly go wrong? Well, other than missing softball season, making her best friend furious at her, having an intruder spy on her family, and finding out that the leaders of the company are not who they claim to be, that is. It’s not long before Riley Mae is finding out exactly why the Bible says you’ll need to be ready with the right shoes when trials come!
Notes: The first in the Good News Shoes series, Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek introduces a twelve year old girl who really likes softball and cool shoes. So when she gets an offer to be a spokesgirl for a company marketing athletic shoes for girls, she jumps in headfirst, not knowing she just signed up for some serious adventures. The theme verse for the series is Ephesians 6:15 - and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In this first book the focus is on the peace and the Gospel. Riley Mae faces some very serious challenges and has to find the peace God’s Word promises. She also learns that some of her friends are not Christians and gets chances to reach out to them a little bit. The focus in this one is mainly on the adventure but Riley Mae and her family are Christians so as they go about their life, there are spiritual elements woven in.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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

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