The Catnapping Caper

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Book: The Catnapping Caper (Elizabeth Bryan Mysteries) by Vicki Berger Erwin, Concordia Publishing House, 1996

Genre: Mystery
Target Audience: Girls 10-13
Subjects: Friendship, Forgiveness, Step parents
Summary: ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE DOLLAR? There’s no way Elizabeth can afford to pay that much for the book – even if it is a birthday present for her mom! But thankfully, the bookstore owner makes a deal with her: Elizabeth can be her delivery girl and earn the money for the book. The trouble starts when Elizabeth does more than deliver books. Soon she is putting up lost cat flyers all over for the owner as her prize-winning cat has been stolen. And whoever the thief is, he doesn’t like Elizabeth interfering!
Notes: The main issue in this book is friendship. Another girl, Amy, begins to show friendship to Elizabeth and because Elizabeth is not rude to Amy, Meghan, Elizabeth’s best friend is mad and hurt. Elizabeth chooses to not like someone else though simply because they like someone she loves: the man who is dating her mom. Elizabeth learns a lesson about accepting others when she sees his kindness to her just as Meghan learns a lesson about accepting others.  There is also one short paragraph that takes a really good look at forgiveness, pointing out that Jesus even forgave those who nailed him to the cross.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

A Better Tomorrow

Monday, April 28, 2014
Janet went out to check the snake, and suddenly she knew how she would take her revenge. And soon.

Book: A Better Tomorrow (Chronicles of Courage) by Dorothy Lilja Harrison, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1997

Genre: Historical Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 10-14
Subjects: Showing love to enemies, Friendship, Trust in God, Relationship with parents
Summary: The Great Depression has brought hard times to everyone but right now Janet is feeling downright tormented! The home they are renting belongs to an elderly lady who believes children are to be seen and not heard. She won’t even let their cousins come visit on Sundays! And she’s mean to Janet’s friends, allowing prejudice to influence her attitude. Finally Janet has had enough. She’s determined to get revenge on this mean lady, but if anything goes wrong, their family will be evicted!
Notes: This is a look at some of the issues children might have faced during the Great Depression including parents working away from home for long periods of time, racism against various people groups and waiting in lines to get basic necessities at relief headquarters. The spiritual lesson in the book is loving your enemies and respecting your parents. Janet has been told multiple times to follow all of the landlord’s rules, but chooses to not only disobey, but actually play a mean trick on her. A friend challenges her, asking if her minister has ever talked about loving your enemies and encourages her to find out why the landlord is mean and show love to her.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Matthew 5:44 – But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Samantha Sanderson On The Scene

Saturday, April 19, 2014
Tears burned Sam’s eyes. Both Mom and Dad had valid points, but what was worse was they were arguing. Over her. Sam couldn’t take it anymore. “I’m sorry. Please stop fighting.”
Mom and Dad went silent, turning to stare at her.
“I’m sorry I got suspended. I’m sorry I can’t tell you who she is, but I’ll try to get her to let me tell you at least, Dad. Her parents know and think the bully will move on to someone else soon. I’m sorry I can’t tell who traced the IP address.” Sam’s voice cracked. “Just please, please quit arguing.”

Book:Samantha on the Scene by Robin Caroll, Zonderkidz, 2014
742470: Samantha SceneGenre: Realistic Fiction/Mystery
Target Audience: Girls 11-15
Subjects: Family Relationships, Bullying, Truth, Evangelism, Friendship
Summary: This time Sam has a chance to make a difference in someone else’s life with her stories for the school newspaper. A fellow student is being bullied by someone unknown and the only one who knows all of it is Sam. The student’s parents believe in the “ignore it and it will go away” principle. Some agree with the bully. Some just want to know how Sam is getting her information. Her principal is a part of the latter group. He’s determined to get Sam to reveal her information, threatening her with suspension if she doesn’t. Things aren’t so great on the home front either. There’s something weird going on with her Mom and when Sam finally learns what it is she realizes there’s a good reason she felt like something was wrong. Exposing a bully and fighting for her mom takes a lot out of a middle school investigator!
Notes: This is the second in a series about a middle-school girl with a passion for cheerleading and investigative writing. She is a strong Christian who takes her faith seriously. She turns to God with all of her problems, truly looking for His guidance and direction. This book is a part of the faithgirlz imprint – books for girls 5th-8th grade that specifically focus on helping their grow in their faith.
I highly recommend this book.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 94:16 – Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?

Samantha Sanderson At The Movies

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sam stared at her article, then stood and paced again. She needed to make it good… strong. Something Mom would be proud of her for writing.

Book: Samantha Sanderson At the Movies - eBook by Robin Caroll, Zonderkidz, 2014
64281EB: Samantha Sanderson At the Movies - eBook

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Mystery
Target Audience: Girls 11-15
Subjects: Family Relationships, Rumors, Truth, Evangelism, Friendship
Summary: Her mom is a reporter, her dad is a police officer. Her desire to be an investigative reporter was simply inevitable. Since God had them conveniently located at the scene of the crime right when it was discovered Sam gets first chance at writing the article for the school newspaper. When it’s a success she gets the role of writing the rest of the series. She couldn’t be more thrilled! Her dad on the other hand is not so happy. Sam is taking this way too seriously and writing things she’s not supposed to know. He’s not the only one not happy about it though. Her suspects aren’t very pleased either! Soon Sam has received warnings to avoid these suspects at all costs because of the possible danger she could be in! She just wants to know how she can come up with good material for her articles if she can’t do the investigating she wants!
Notes: This is the first in a series about a middle-school girl with a passion for cheerleading and investigative writing. She is a strong Christian who takes her faith seriously. She encounters friends who are not Christians and makes a strong effort to not look down on them, but rather show them love and hope that they come to know the Savior she has found. When she messed up, a talk with a neighbor helps her understand the importance of confessing and admitting to having broken trust with someone. She also faces the challenge of knowing loved ones could be hurting or in danger and in a conversation with her mom, learns the importance of praying for them and trusting in God to take care of them. This book is a part of the faithgirlz imprint – books for girls 5th-8th grade that specifically focus on helping their grow in their faith.
I highly recommend this book.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Proverbs 12:18 – Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Below The Surface

If Hiro’s theory was right and Kryptsoki was a murderer, then they knew too much already. Enough to get them hurt.
He sat up shaking. This was insane. His imagination was taking him for a ride. But what if it wasn’t his imagination? What if it was some kind of internal warning system that he didn’t fully understand? He wanted to talk to Hiro. Needed to see if she felt it too. But it was way too late for that. He stretched out on his berth again and tried to calm down. Tried to think about totally unrelated things. But like a storm on shifting winds, his mind kept circling back. “You are not alone.” That was truth. And deep down, he knew that hanging onto that truth was critical. Maybe it was the only thing that would get him through whatever was to come tomorrow.

Book: Below the Surface by Tim Shoemaker, Zonderkidz, 2014
735014: Below the SurfaceGenre: Mystery
Target Audience: Boys 13+
Subjects: Fear, Crime, Friendship, Trust in God
Summary: A vacation is exactly what they all need. Cooper and Gordy want to forget what happened to them, bury the fear. Lunk desperately wants to solidify these precious, but seemingly fragile, friendships. Hiro is the only one not interested. Now that she has seen what she thought was a crime, it’s all she can think about. It’s not long at all before the boys are fed up with her “womanly intuition”. They get that she wants to be a cop someday, but spending the whole vacation trying to solve a murder that didn’t happen is taking it a bit far. To their dismay though, things keep happening and the fear is spreading. If they don’t start taking her seriously, they might just be the murder’s next victims – whether they believe there is a murderer or not.
Notes: Sequel to Code of Silence and Back Before Dark, Below The Surface continues the story of Cooper and his friends. In this story Cooper in particular is fighting a fear that seems to attack him at times. He nearly drowned in a basement in the last story and whenever he gets in dark water he starts to freak out. Lunk has a general overall fear of the water. The whole mystery plays out on the water and so both characters have to
wrestle with that fear throughout the story. Cooper in particular has to learn that burying it won’t make it go away, only turning to Jesus for strength and recognizing that Jesus will never leave him gives him the strength to do what he needs to do. After the story, the author has a page discussing the various responses to fear and how they hurt or help. Overall, there’s a lot of hinting of spiritual matters, praying to God, recognizing we’re “never alone”, but there’s not a source for this. It’s almost as if the author doesn’t want to get too “preachy” and so skims lightly over the truth without digging in too deep. There’s a lot more focus on the fear than on what Scripture says about how to deal with it.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 56:3 – When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
Hebrews 13:5 – Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

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

Avra's God

She didn’t know this Cisco. Where would this stranger go? What would he do? She sank onto the floor, her body curling around the shell fragments of fear churning in her belly.

Dear God, it feels like Jesse and I are grafted together. How did that happen? Did You do it? Do I have a choice? I can’t love Jesse. I’ve never felt warm and bubbly about him. Why are things so complicated? What now? I could use a playbook about now. God?

Book: Avra's God by Ann Lee Miller, Flawed People Press, 2012

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 18-30
Subjects: Dating Relationships, Family Relationships, Neglect, Salvation
Summary: Four young college students, two girls, two boys. Four hurting souls, three torn apart by the role their fathers did or did not play in their lives. One young girl unsure why she’s clinging to her faith and values. A wanta-be rock star, a singer with vocal coach training, a casual musician and a sound board controller. Their lives intersect and in their pain they deeply hurt one another. Only the saving grace of the God Avra clings to can restore the brokenness and bring forgiveness, healing and love.
Notes: Written for the purpose of imitating the style of Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, Avra’s God focuses on the character development of four college students. Each character is struggling in some way. But when they start dating, each of the boys breaks the girl’s heart, dumping her and leaving her feeling unloved and rejected again. One boy is the son of a priest, but has been rejecting the faith – if his Heavenly Father is anything like his earthly father, he knows he can’t measure up. A girl knows nothing of faith but gets just small crumbs from Avra, just enough to seek the truth for herself. The second boy is trying to find fulfillment in sex and wild living but God catches up to him and draws him to Himself. Avra is a Christian and holds to high morals, still protected by a loving family, including a dad that demands Cisco not have sex with Avra. When temptations come, she isn’t sure why she resists and when she loses Cisco, she falls apart, but it’s in her brokenness that her own faith is strengthened. Nothing is overly graphic in this book, but you know the characters are sleeping around and such. I highly recommend this book to all young people dealing with dating relationships of their own.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 10:14 – But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.

Amish Vampires In Space

Monday, April 7, 2014
My point is this: Though I have always lived by these regulations, I would be willing to throw it all away to save the people on this ship.”
“Very admirable,” Samuel said. “You would doubtless find that much of what you do is a chasing after the wind. Meaningless to what is truly important.”
Seal would give him that one, “Undoubtedly, that’s true. However, I ask asking a similar sacrifice of you. That for this present crisis, you would close your rulebook, as well.:
Mark leaned forward, placing both elbows on his knees. “You are asking us to forsake our Ordnung, correct? To commit violence. Even against our own.”
“They’re not your own anymore, I don’t think.”

Book: Amish Vampires in Space by Kerry Neitz, Marcher Lord Press, 2013

Genre: Sci-Fi, Amish, Fantasy
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 16+
Subjects: Vampires, Amish lifestyle, Salvation, Sacrifice
Summary: He’s been entrusted with a terrible secret. For generations this knowledge has been passed down with instructions of how to use this knowledge if it ever became necessary. As much as he would wish otherwise, the necessary time has come during the lifetime of Jebediah Miller. What was not entrusted to him though, was what would happen if he did use this knowledge. No one said anything about Englishers coming down from the sky and hauling the Amish to a new planet because their sun was changing and was about to destroy their current planet. No one said that to be a hero and save his people he would need to violate the Ordnung and be placed under the ban. And no one could have known that the ship sent to rescue them had something profoundly evil on it, something powerful enough to destroy every living thing on the ship.
Notes: The back story is that this book started as a joke. Author friends observing that vampire books and Amish books were selling like crazy said they, as science fiction authors, should write a book about both subjects and set it in space. However, one author actually took it as a serious challenge and wrote a book dealing with some very weighty subject matters. The book definitely does not read like a joke. It takes all the aspects of it very seriously.
The vampire part comes from scientific genetic research, trying to give humans some of the characteristics of vampire bats in order to more quickly colonize new worlds. The research goes wrong and the humans become more bat than human and after an explosion, one intern scientist is put into cryomatrix and is being sent to another planet for medical care and briefing to find out what happened with the explosion. The scientist manages to awake and infect another who infects another and on it goes until most of the ship has turned into vampire bat type creatures. This aspect of the book is not pretty. There are very vivid descriptions of the vampires’ actions.
The Amish part comes as Jebediah and the bishop both wrestle with their faith, trying to figure out what is/should be forbidden and how to make the best decisions with the knowledge they have.
The sci-fi part comes as they travel through space and use futuristic technology.
This book is also supposed to be Christian fiction though. That comes in one single character who is a Christian in the book. We find that out about halfway through the book when she’s invited to start co-habitating with a man and expresses her views a little bit. She also has a conversation with one of the Amish about works based salvation.
The trouble is that the book doesn’t conclude much of anything. The vampire part is resolved and the government system in the book is dealing with the group that was doing the genetic research. The Amish part is left very unsettled. Both Jebediah and the bishop fail to come to any positive conclusions. They still feel they destroyed their people and continue to try to measure up to God through good works. The Christian character seems to have accepted a relationship with the guy who pursued her, but there’s no indication that he even understood, let alone embraced Christianity. It’s more just a matter of a number of worldviews being presented. The vampire/scientists worldview is that survival of the fittest is the most important thing in life and any genetic alterations should be accepted if it increases man’s chance to survive physically – even if it means he becomes more animal than human. The Amish worldview is presented as trying to be good enough to please God and being good enough means blind obedience to authority, even if that authority is clearly leading you to your death. It also portrays a hypocrisy. They refuse to do anything to help save themselves or their people because that would require violence, but they have no problem with someone else doing it for them. They don't refuse to have their lives saved. The captain of the ship represents the government system’s worldview which seems to be similar to the Amish – have a huge rulebook and follow it explicitly. The difference is that he is doing it to gain rewards in this life, rather than after death. And the Christian worldview is presented as rare and a bit strange. Their view is that we can’t be good enough for God and that’s why He sent His Son to take our punishment. This of course is the Biblically correct worldview, but it’s not presented as such. It’s just yet another viewpoint that’s tossed out there for consideration. At the end of the book you don’t really know who is right other than Jebediah, the disobedient Amish man who fully believes in the Amish worldview, just sets it aside long enough to save his people.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 2/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

James 2:10 – For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

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.

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