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7 Lessons From Heaven

Thank you Roslan & Campion for sending us this book to review!

Mary C. Neal, M.D. drowned in a kayaking accident in 1999. She was unresponsive for a half hour and vividly recalls her loving encounter with Jesus and shares her experiences and advice with her fresh perspective on life, death, and eternity. I have not read her previous New York Times best seller, To Heaven and Back, but I do appreciate the detailed recap of her near death experience.

Dr. Neal is an orthopedic surgeon and I really enjoyed the scientific analysis of her near death experience and how it could not have been her imagination, a seizure, oxygen deprivation, or a DMT trip. Not only are her experiences shared, but there are several other quotes from people who have also had near death experiences or encounters with the heavenly realm.

As a Christian, I appreciated the many Bible references throughout the book and hearing about her judgement or "life in review" process. It’s comforting to know that it’s not as bad as many fear. The main emotion felt in the afterlife is love and even the painful experiences are shown from various perspectives. One of the goals in the "life in review" process is fact finding instead of fault finding.

The first lesson taught in this book is that circumstances make sense from heaven’s lens. God’s grace should be freely given as it is to us. There’s probably a reason that someone may be in a foul mood and it’s best not to judge them unless you know what they’re going through.

I won’t spoil any of the other lessons taught as they should be read first hand. I told my daughter about this book and she started reading it and got to chapter five in her first sitting! In total, there are eighteen chapters in this 274-page book. It sells for less than $11 on Amazon and I highly recommend checking out if you’re curious about the afterlife.


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NIV Inspiring Words Holy Bible

NIV Inspiring Words Holy Bible
Published by: Zondervan
Price: $24.99

Thank you Zondervan for sending us this Bible to color and review!

Kids and coloring books have gone hand in hand for as long as I can remember. Recently adult coloring books have taken off and not long ago we reviewed Inkspirations: Fruit of the Spirit which has thirty-two Bible verse themed pages to color. The NIV Inspiring Words Holy Bible is attractive to both adults and kids who like to color and provides fifty-two verses to color.

My daughter took an interest in this Bible right away and I promised it to her if she colored in one of the verses. She agreed to these terms and has been taking this Bible to church with her since. The coloring pages are noticeably thicker than the Bible pages and this is a good thing. The Bible pages are thin (like most Bibles) and prone to tearing if too much pressure is applied while coloring.

One of the first coloring pages has the verse Joshua 1:9 which says: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid.” That inspiring verse was the one that my daughter colored. The items to color really don’t match the verses too well in my opinion. This one in particular has a sunrise/sunset and flowers all around. The coloring page for Luke 6:27’s “Love your enemies” is filled with donuts and popsicles. I guess you can show love to your rivals by raising their cholesterol and weight. Despite the odd themes, these pages are pretty well detailed and bound to entertain artists for some time.

NIV Inspiring Words Holy Bible

As a Bible, this one is easy to read and I like how the words that Jesus spoke are highlighted in red. Another cool feature is the table of weights and measures in the back that translates Biblical terms with modern day equivalents. For example, a cubit is equal to 18 inches.

There is a lot to like about this Bible. The only problem I have with it is the translation used. There has been some controversy regarding the 2011 NIV translation and this Bible does use the gender neutral verses. So if you look at the verse John 15:6 “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers...” The new NIV changes it to, “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers...” The classic Proverb 27:17 is changed from “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” to “…so one person sharpens another” .

If you enjoy reading the NIV translation and like coloring, then you’ll want to check out the NIV Inspiring Words Holy Bible. The hard cover sells for less than $25 on Amazon and that’s a pretty reasonable price. If you’re in need of coloring pencils, we have a review of those too!



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Learn to Program With Small Basic

basic

Thank you No Starch Press for sending us this book to review!

Learn to Program With Small Basic: An Introduction to Programming With Games, Art, Science and Math is 317 pages long and written by Majed Marji and Ed Price. This book teaches you how to program with Small Basic, a programming language created by Vijaye Raji designed to teach children how to program.

Learn to Program With Small Basic teaches you the different features of Small Basic and how to use them. It has 19 chapters, each one covering a different feature of Small Basic. The first chapter introduces you to the language while the rest have you coding in it. It teaches you how to use features like if/else statements, subroutines, events, etc. To enforce these topics, code examples are given and there are named programs they want you to save. At the beginning of a program, you can tell if you need to save it if it says the name of the program as a comment. In the later chapters, you top most of them off with a game that uses the feature taught in that chapter. One of my favorite programs I made is the image viewer that lets you view pictures from Flickr.

Sometimes the book will show you a possible output of a program you wrote. There are also (optional) program ideas labeled in boxes that say “Try It Out.” After you write a program, there are sections explaining how the program works. For some of the larger games you would program, the book breaks the program up into steps, then explains what each step does. Sometimes the steps are small, and other times the steps are larger. Occasionally there will be a picture shown to help you understand the concept better.

As I went through the book, I found it fun at first, but then I lost interest about half-way through it. (That seems to happen with all of the programming books I tried.) Despite that, I’d say the book is pretty good. It’s very thorough on making sure the point gets across. The paperback version sells for $25.49 USD on Amazon. Surprisingly, the physical copy is cheaper than the Kindle version!


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The Marijuana Project: A Story Of Medicine And Morality

Thank you to Ascot Media for sending us this book to review!

Sam Burnett is a self-employed security consultant, highly respected in his field. Sam came from humble beginnings and built a successful consulting firm through hard work and determination. Sam’s services range from security risk assessments to designing physical and electronic security systems for private companies.

One day Sam receives a phone call from MedLeaf, a medical marijuana manufacturing facility seeking a license in the state of New Jersey. Sam’s reputation in the security industry results in MedLeaf reaching out to Sam for help in designing and implementing a multifaceted security system to protect manufacture of the controversial drug. Sam, however, is married with two children and a conservative. He wrestles with his morals, faith, and the legality of marijuana. His world is turned upside down in a compelling story that weaves not only comprehensive information on security systems but serves as a great introduction to the marijuana debate that continues to polarize our country today. 

The Marijuana Project is a fictional novel written by Brian Laslow (pseudonym). It chronicles Sam’s uneasy decision to work with MedLeaf over a two-year period that becomes increasingly demanding. At first, Sam battles with his conservative values whether or not to work with MedLeaf because he is against all types of marijuana, legal or otherwise. He seeks advice from his wife, friends, and business associates. Sam concludes that since marijuana is a highly priced commodity, it still needs protection regardless of his personal views. MedLeaf is eventually granted a license to produce marijuana, allowing Sam to begin developing the complex security system that will protect the manufacturing facility. 

Admittedly, I did not know much about marijuana other than it’s a drug that can produce a “high” due to its THC content and that it kills brain cells. Regarding medical marijuana, I knew that it is beneficial for people dealing with pain and is helpful for cancer patients. Laslow provides a wealth of information about marijuana that ranges from its addictive qualities, to whether it’s a gateway drug and laws regarding the legalized sale of marijuana to the public. Besides the information about marijuana, the author clearly demonstrates his knowledge of security systems with comprehensive attention to detail. This includes the physical protection of the manufacturing facility, the product, the transfer, and its employees in addition to policies, procedures, and protocols. 

In the story, Sam also researches medical marijuana and its effectiveness in treating patients with medical issues. Once more, Laslow provides a bulk of information regarding the different types of strains used in treating patients with a variety of health-related complications.

There were two issues I had with the book. Sam is portrayed as a conservative Catholic. Sam’s use of profanity occurs a few times in the story. I originally dismissed it as stress from the situations Sam was experiencing. A story from the Bible, however, is taken out of context to justify Sam’s choices. In another example, Sam reminisces about an experience he had while serving on a Catholic school board. I was dismayed at his use of language and approach to dealing with a diocese. Although Sam has a strong will and determination, I viewed him as someone driven by pride who wasn’t afraid to show it more than a man led by God.

The second issue I had with the story was the ending. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched too many action movies or read too many of those types of books, but it was disappointing because I expected something more extravagant. Although the ending made sense, it did not seem plausible, as the buildup to the climax was intriguing and kept me hooked. Nevertheless, I applaud the author’s style of writing. It was clear and concise and left no holes. Further, Laslow remained objective throughout and only provided facts ultimately leaving it up to the reader to decide whether marijuana has merit in the medical industry today. 

With the wealth of information from the book, I researched many of the marijuana facts on the Internet and discovered they were correct. It also led me to read about security for the protection of marijuana manufacturing facilities and the types of crimes that can occur here. I can clearly see Laslow did a great job in providing an authentic fact-based fictional story about security systems and medical marijuana. I learned a lot and I highly recommend The Marijuana Project for readers looking for a thrilling ride as well as those interested in learning about marijuana in a fictional setting.

 


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I come here after quite a while since 2016 and entire this term i have miss the chance to get information from a bonafide source y... Read More
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Miracles We Have Seen

Thank you HCI Books for sending us this book to review!

Miracles We Have Seen is a collection of short stories from doctors around the world retelling their most memorable experiences throughout their medical careers.  Since there are many authors, divvying up the royalties would be a pain and it’s nice to know that 100% of the profits are going to various charities nominated by the contributing physicians.  Not only are you guaranteed to read some touching stories, you’ll be helping various non-profits as well!

There are many inspiring stories as well as tragic tales told throughout this book. In each of the eighty plus short essays you’ll see the date(s) they occurred and they range from World War II to this decade.  It’s sad to read about the deaths of those who suffered from now curable ailments.  For example, one of the stories is about JFK’s prematurely born son, Patrick, who only lived a couple of days because of his underdeveloped lungs.  Thanks to modern medicine, premature babies have a much higher survival rate. There are several stories involving AIDS, detailing the historic lack of and modern progress towards drugs that keep HIV patients alive longer than a couple of years.

Though this book isn’t meant to be spiritual, there are a few stories that are nothing short of miraculous and the doctors are convinced that something out of this world happened to some the patients they have seen.  There’s a story about a boy who most likely caught a glimpse of heaven by the sheer look of awe on his face before peacefully passing away while holding onto his mother’s hand.  Another event was about a resuscitated toddler who was pulled out of the pool by a child not much older than he was. When asked why she went in the pool to get him despite not being able to swim, she responded by saying that a man in white told her to.    

Since many of the stories are only a couple of pages long, this is a great book to pick up and read throughout the day.  My oldest daughter starting reading this book before me and it didn’t take me long to surpass her.  The stories shared are definitely worth the price of admission at $9.99 digitally and only a couple of dollars more in paperback format.


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Days? Or Ages? The Genesis Question: A Layman Looks at Creation's Calendar

Thank you Bohlsen Group for sending us this book to review!

The author Jerry Harmon is not a bible scholar; in fact, he worked in construction until his retirement.  This book is the result of weekly meetings between the author and a couple of his closest friends as they embarked on an in-depth study of the first couple of chapters in Genesis.  Their goal was to determine if Hebrew text could shed some light on the seven literal days or several spans of time/ages debate of the Earth’s creation.  

Surely, God is all powerful and has the ability to age things like wine instantly in John 2:1-11, create life on the spot in John 21:5-11,  or to cause trees to wither on command in Mark 11:12-21.  However, science had disproved statements in the Bible that were taken too literally like the Earth being flat due to verses like Isaiah 11:12 and that the universe was  geocentric as possibly referenced from Genesis 1:16 with the moon being the lesser of two light sources.  Could it be possible that the days of creation are not literal?

All of the common viewpoints are addressed in the second chapter including sudden creation, the gap theory, the day-age theory, the intermittent-day theory, progressive creationism, the literary framework theory, and theistic evolution.  I like how each viewpoint is explained and a list of subscribers to those theories are listed as well.  The rest of the book isn’t as easy to follow, especially when it comes down to breaking down the Hebrew language.  Be sure you are alert and awake when reading this book, or much of it will go over your head.  Some of it still went over my head regardless, but I do recall some good arguments for a possibility of delayed creation.

It is argued that the sun, moon, and planets were created on the first day, but assigned their purpose on the fourth.  The passages in Isaiah 11:6-9  could be referring to Adam being formed as a child rather than an adult.  This theory would make a bit more sense because he would have to have a short attention span to be bored and lonely so fast on his first day of existence.  Also the ability to get to know and name each of the animals is quite a feat as well.

Not surprisingly, the verse Psalms 90:4 is brought up to suggest that each one of God’s days could be like one thousand to us.  In the end, Days or Ages supports the latter.  As to why, I’ll  leave that for you to read and find out in this 203 page book that sells for less than $14 on Amazon.


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Scratch Coding Cards

Thank you No Starch Press for sending us a review sample!

Ever since my son completed the book Scratch Programming Playground, he’s been hooked on Scratch and has been coming up with various challenges and games to create.  The collection of 75 Scratch Coding Cards are perfect for anyone who already has a basic understanding of Scratch and Is looking for some programming ideas.

Each of the glossy cards are broken down into three sections.  The first part is the setup and guides you though selecting the correct sprite.  The second part shows you the code pieces to drop into place.  The last section features a helpful tip to incorporate when running your newly created program. 

While the cards can be done individually, many of them are grouped together to make a bigger program.  Some of the games you will make in this set include a Pong game, a racing game, and an interactive pet.  These were some of my son’s favorites, but there were some duds and even a couple of repeats that he didn’t bother doing a second time.  

Some of the simpler programs just have a sprite make a sound or rotate when they are clicked on.  There’s a whole group of musical cards that will have programs play a rhythm, a chord, a surprise song or even allow you to record your own sounds.  Young girls may like the dress up program that lets you change the appearance of boy and girl characters.  Not only can they change their outfits, they’ll be able to customize their colors too!

There’s plenty to do in the Scratch Coding Cards set and the retail price is $24.95.  The sell for a little over $15 on Amazon and for that price I recommend checking them out for aspiring Scratch coders.  Many of the examples are freely available on Scratch’s website so be sure to check that out first.


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Lost and Found

Thank you Riverdale Ave. Books for sending us this e-book to review!

When Micky Neilson was eight months old he was kidnapped by his schizophrenic father and lived as a nomad in the desert.  He didn’t attend school until the seventh grade and his only socialization with other kids was in Boy Scouts. Although Micky thought his father’s stories and notions were strange, he loved him regardless.   

Sometimes Micky and his father would take refuge in Mormon churches, but religion didn’t last with Micky.  His life was pretty rough with being asked to steal or even point a gun at someone from a distance.  Before he was a teenager, he was in a foster home and would continue his relationship with his father via letters.

Micky goes into detail about his experience at different foster homes, jobs, serving in the Gulf War and even his love life.  As a gamer I found his experience at Blizzard Entertainment to be the most fascinating, though his pranks as a teenager are pretty hilarious as well.  I like the prank where he swapped out his boss’ telephone number with a customer's and had a new hire at the telemarketing company call him.

Some of the language in the book is a bit much for children to read and there is some mature content in terms of the war experiences and Micky’s first time with a prostitute.  There are also several references of drinking and partying.  Though Micky got baptized as a teenager his faith didn’t last long and he dabbled in using the Ouija board with his friends on several occasions.  

If you don’t mind those moral issues, this book is a very good read and has a happy ending despite the turbulent childhood Micky had.  The kindle edition sells for $9.99 and the paperback is twice the price.  I highly recommend it for fans of Blizzard games or great story telling in general.  

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Learn to Program with Minecraft

Thank you No Starch Press for sending us this book to review!

All three of my kids love Minecraft and they all have learned various coding concepts from several books from No Starch Press.  When my oldest daughter heard about this book being released, she was eager to try it out and she’s glad that she did!  Not only does this book teach basic Python concepts, it puts them in an environment that kids can relate to and see their results in game instead of in a monochrome command prompt screen.  

There is a little setup involved and the first chapter of this twelve-chapter book covers installing and configuring Minecraft, Java, Python, and Spigot.  There are instructions for Windows, Mac, and Raspberry Pi setups.

The first Python concept taught is variables and the reader will learn how to use variables to teleport to different areas in the Minecraft game world.  Modules, mathematical expressions, and strings will be explained throughout the book as well.  True/False Booleans and If/Then/Else statements are also taught and with those abilities, the reader will learn how to make various mini-games.  Instant forests are made possible with While Loops.  Towards the end of the book the reader will learn about lists, dictionaries, modules, saving files, and object oriented concepts.

My daughter’s favorite lessons in the book are making moving blocks and a dance floor that changed colors.   She also liked the secret door that would open when placing a diamond on a pedestal.  There are over seventy projects to be completed and each of them utilizes valuable Python concepts. These skills can transfer over to pursuing further programming with Python down the road.    This book sells for less than $25 on Amazon in hard copy form and is available for half of the $29.99 MSRP digitally.


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Patterns of Evidence: Exodus

Thank you Patterns of Evidence for sending us this book to review!

In 2015 my husband and I were blown away by Timothy Mahoney’s documentary searching for archaeological evidence of the Biblical Exodus.  Many Egyptologists disregard the Biblical account of the exodus due to lack of evidence in the New Era Kingdom of Ramesses II.   In this 392-page book, Timothy describes his twelve-year long journey to figure out if the events in Exodus really happened or not.  His methodology is logical, scientific, controversial, and the results very convincing.  I highly recommend reading this book and/or at the very least watching or renting the film!

Timothy focuses on six events that took place in the Exodus.  The arrival of the Israelites, their multiplication, slavery, judgement of the Egyptians, their leaving (Exodus), and their conquest of Canaan.  While there is plenty of evidence of these events all taking place in the Middle Kingdom time period, archaeologists disregard it all because it’s not in the New Era Kingdom.

The origin of the New Era Kingdom is explained and picked apart for its many inconsistencies.   Throughout this book you’ll read several interviews between Timothy and renowned Egyptologists and archaeologists.  David Rohl, who agrees with this new timeline, isn’t even a Christian.  Many of the other interviewees are not onboard with altering the current Egyptian timeline.  It’s easier to throw the Biblical evidence under the bus than to change and re-write history books.

There is plenty of evidence of Joseph residing in Egypt.  He has a canal, Bahr Yusef (waterway of Joseph), named after him!  Many assume that the seven-year famine that Joseph interpreted from Pharaoh’s dream was a drought.  Planting crops is equally difficult if areas are flooded and that could have been the source of food shortages as well.  An archaeological dig site has uncovered a city named Avaris and there is evidence that a high ranking Semitic ruler lived there.  On this property with twelve columns resides an empty tomb has a statue of a man with a Semitic hair style, skin color, and a colorful robe.  Since the bones are missing as the Bible declares, there is a good chance that this could have been Joseph’s residence. 

This is just one fascinating finding out of many.  Accompanying all of them are full colored pictures, graphs, and proposed timelines.  In addition to the twelve chapters are additional interviews and other arguments for the number of Israelites, how long they were enslaved and details about their conquest.  There are several pages of end notes that state the Biblical and other book sources referenced throughout the book.

If you’re interested in reading more about archaeological evidence for the Biblical Exodus, this book can be purchased on Amazon for $30 in hard cover format or $15 digitally.  (Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Unofficial Minecraft Lab for Kids

Thank you Quartous for sending us this book to review!

Like many kids, my children enjoy building all sorts of things in Minecraft.  It’s a great outlet to encourage creativity and to interact and work with each other to create enormous structures.  If your family is new to Minecraft, the Unofficial Minecraft Lab for Kids book will go through the basics and will provide guides on building projects both inside and outside of the game.

My son learned how to make a TNT cannon and both him and my daughter also made flags and banners inside the game.  I like how the home projects correlate with the in-game ones.  To accompany these labs, my kids also learned how to make a marshmallow launcher and a Creeper face banner.   To go along with setting up a target practice inside of the game, my kids learned how to make a bow and arrow using wet popsicle sticks, dental floss, and Q-tips.  (I kept finding Q-tips throughout my house for a few days afterward.)

Minecraft is about survival and that entails foraging for food to eat.  One of the final labs gives a recipe and instructions for making mushroom stew to enjoy outside of the game.  If your kids are like mine and not a fan of mushrooms, they may prefer the cookie lab found earlier in the book instead.    Some other labs include making a simple circuit with an LED and a watch battery, or a Chinese finger trap to go alongside the in-game zombie trap.

There are lots of great ideas and fun projects to enjoy together as a family.  This book was a hit over spring break when the weather wasn’t nice enough to play outside.  The book will retail for less than $24 on Amazon when it comes out in June 2016.


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Glimmer Girls: A Dolphin Wish

Thank you Zonderkids for sending us this book to review!

This book is the second book in the Glimmer Girls series, and in it Maddie, Mia, and Lulu are swept away to San Diego for another one of their mom’s concerts. You will also find out the dad’s name - Jack.  To relax the family goes to Captain Swashbuckler’s Adventure Park, an amusement park with an ocean theme. On their first day there, the Glimmers visit the dolphins. On her way back from the bathroom, Mia overhears a conversation that revolves around the topic of illegal animal releases!

The mystery begins when the family is seeing seals and Lulu finds a slip of paper - a possible clue!  The girls think people might get suspicious if they talked about the criminal as a criminal, so they agreed on the code name Dr. Dolittle.  The girls needed to get the feeding schedule of the animals, for it was crucial to the solving of this mystery. Lulu’s slip of paper just happened to be the feeding schedule. 

When they were visiting the  seals, Lulu found a boy with a sketchbook. She asked what he was drawing, and the boy acted all secretive. He could be a possible suspect! The girls were also doing a treasure hunt throughout the park. Mia had one clue the others didn’t – the golden key. She told them about it on the last day as they were preparing to leave the park. The rest of the story you’ll have to read the book to find out.

The drawings in this book are in the same style as in the last one- cartoony and monochrome. They are typically at the beginning of chapters, and sometimes at exciting parts in this 208 page book. It was a really good story and I highly recommend it. 

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Sole to Soul

Thank you to Westbow Press for sending us this book to review!

Eleanor MacLellan and her husband, Ig, were out of options when their son Patrick began having problems. From bad grades to school suspensions, Patrick was on a road to nowhere fast. During his junior year in high school, Patrick totaled the family van in an unauthorized road trip. The breaking point, however, was when he was caught for shoplifting and thrown in jail. The end result was a change of scenery for Patrick. He was sent out of state to repeat his junior year at an alternative school for at-risk youth. 

At Hyde School, not only were students expected to perform with high standards, but parents as well. While a senior project is normal for any student entering their last year in high school, his parents learned they also needed to complete one. The goal of the senior project was to operate beyond your comfort zone while doing something worthwhile to help your community. Ig decided on a community service trip to El Salvador. Eleanor, on the other hand, embarked on creating a large canvas labyrinth to donate to her church. As Eleanor reflected on her life leading up to this as well as researching the project, she discovered the labyrinth was symbolic of life itself as there are no straight paths or dead ends such as with a maze; all the surprising twists and turns carry you on a walk towards the rose center, which represents the soul. 

With one family crisis after another, Eleanor's passage also led her to become more confident and stronger as a Christian. She didn't do it alone however. Obviously, she had her family but she also had a group of close friends who helped her with funding, designing and creating the labyrinth. Together these special companions journeyed through life's toughest battles including many hardships, pain, loss and grief. 

The author cleverly wrote each chapter chronologically in "circuits" to coincide with the labyrinth path from the entrance to reaching the center. For example, Circuit One is primarily the beginning of the story and upon entering the labyrinth, a brief description of the path is provided. Accompanying each chapter also includes a small diagram of a labyrinth. This has two shades of gray. The darker shade displays the previous path taken while the lighter shade displays the current path the chapter is about.

While the intro was interesting, admittedly, it took awhile to really get into this book. At first I found the story dry. There are small anecdotes about Eleanor's family including divorce from a previous marriage and then having to manage a blended family, her work as a trial lawyer, and church service. Although the book follows a labyrinth path, I kept wondering to myself, "Well what about the creation of the labyrinth itself?" The labyrinth is discussed in greater detail in Circuit Five. As Eleanor gets painfully honest with herself and realizes she needs help, she reaches out to five church members and bares her soul. These five women not only became her closest friends but also become known as the Labyrinth Ladies.

Although a large portion is written about Patrick's triumphs and struggles, his story becomes vaguer as the book continues. Patrick is eventually kicked out of Hyde School two months before graduation. At one point there is an occurrence of an ethics violation early on, however, no clear reason is provided for getting kicked out and not allowed to graduate. I found it odd that the author skimped on providing more information about this particular detail. 

The only other issue I had with the book is Eleanor went to a New Age book store in order to find out more about labyrinths. It is no secret that New Age and Christianity oppose each other. The memoir occurs in the early 2000s. She could have looked in traditional bookstores and even the library. It's not to say that a labyrinth is strictly tied to New Age spiritualism. Many churches, including orthodox and nontraditional, have labyrinths on display. However, with information about any subject easier to obtain nowadays, why research in a nontraditional method especially for a Christian? 

Returning to the review, I admire her group of friends. To have close friends who you can share secrets with yet won't abandon you when you're struggling through the darkest of days is something each person hopes for but very few have. 

As with many, the completed labyrinth was a marvel to behold. It is a thirty-six foot square of purple canvas. The path was hand-painted not only by the Labyrinth Ladies but by church and Hyde School volunteers. It was a concerted effort that reinforced the concept of community. In fact part of the actual labyrinth made serves as the cover of the book. 

Probably one of the reasons I struggled with reading the book is it's not a straightforward memoir. There is so much detail to digest here. It's not only Eleanor's struggles with her family but her friends are given a fair amount of time as well. Each person you read about is real and walk their own labyrinth path, which is skillfully depicted in the book. 

If you are looking for an in-depth memoir that encompasses the many paths people take towards their own God-inspired center, please give Sole to Soul by Eleanor MacLellan a try.  It's available on Amazon for $3.99 electronically or for $24.95 on paperback. (Affiliate Link)

 

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Dynamic Studies in Hebrews

Thank you Bohlsen Group for sending us this book to review!

The book of Hebrews is not one of the easier books in the Bible to read.  Fred A. Schreeren, who wrote Dynamic Studies in Hebrews, goes over each and every verse in this thirteen-chapter epistle.  The Bible study is broken down into twenty sessions that are designed for weekly Bible studies.  Even though snacks are usually a given at a Bible study, I thought it was amusing that this study says to “assign refreshments for next week.”  

Most of the sessions are around ten pages in length and involve referencing and comparing verses from both the New and Old Testament to those in Hebrews.  Some of the sessions recommend assigning someone to read and summarize other books (God’s Appointed Times, Christ in the Passover) for the next session.

I like how each study gives you a warm up question that will set the tone for the current study.  I have to admit that I changed my point of view from the start to the end of the study on at least one occasion.  One question that I changed my mind on was: How do you normally respond to someone who gets in trouble?  While my initial answer was “Not much pity if they deserved it”, after reading and studying on how much Christ suffered on our account, I was convicted about how I’m lacking in the compassion department.  

There are some great Old Testament comparisons to Jesus being the high priest of the New Testament to the Old Testament’s Melchizedeck.  This Bible Study also goes over the necessity of the new covenant.  The author also makes the case that Paul is the author of Hebrews since he was longing to see Timothy, references believers in Italy, and last but not least, it has his signature ending: “Grace be with you all. Amen.”

For anyone who is looking for an in depth look into Hebrews that is easy to understand, I highly recommend checking out Dynamic Studies in Hebrews which sells for $23.95 on paperback or $3.99 digitally.


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Glimmer Girls: London Art Chase

Thank you Zonderkids for sending us this book to review!

Glimmer Girls: London Art Chase is written by Natalie Grant who many know as a four-time Grammy nominated singer.  She is now using her creative talents toward writing books that pre-teen girls will like.  As an 11-year old, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In London Art Chase, twins Maddie, Mia, and their little sister Lulu are going to London for their mom's concert tour. They have a nanny named Miss Julia who takes are of them while their parents are gone. Their mom is named Gloria Glimmer, and she is a famous Christian pop star.

While their family is packing to go to London for Gloria's concert tour, the sisters decide to hold a fashion show, as many young girls enjoy playing dress up.   Once packed, the family heads to the airport and flies off to London.  Unfortunately, Lulu's suitcase with her toys didn't make it there.  While Lulu hoped to investigate the matter, they were re-united with it after a few days.   Later in the book the whole family will embark on a case regarding a stolen painting.

In London the family gets to stay in a really nice hotel and visit the National Gallery during their free time.  They also got to visit Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London, where they were awestruck by the jewels that belonged to many princes and princesses over the centuries. On their trip the family also learned that their great-great-great-great-great grandfather founded the London police force and was knighted as a result.  Besides learning about their lineage, the girls also learned a thing or two about  solving mysteries. I won't spoil them, so you'll have to read the book to find out more!

I enjoyed this 205 page book so much I finished it in a day! It is kid-safe with no foul language and a few references to God and the Bible. It has some black and white illustrations as well. Most of them are at the beginning of the chapter, but there are some that are at exciting parts in the story. I would highly recommend this book and it sells for less than $8 on Amazon. 


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Teach Your Kids to Code

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Thank you No Starch Press for sending us this book to review!

Teach Your Kids to Code is a book designed for parents and kids to work together and learn the Python programming language.  The author, Dr. Bryson Payne has been teaching computer science to students of all ages from kindergarten to college age pupils at the University of North Georgia.  There are ten chapters that will cover the basics of installing Python, pygame, and learning about graphics, variables, loops, conditions, animations and accepting user input.

Most of the heavy lifting is done by the Python libraries turtle and pygame.  With turtle kids can learn to make programs that generate spirals and other neat shapes in various colors. After launching a turtle program or two you’ll quickly realize how it got its name as even an i7 desktop takes a few minutes to render the final product.

The coding itself is pretty straight forward and the book does an excellent job explaining what each function does and pieces it together bit by bit and combines it into a final program at the end.  One important factor that my daughter and I both learned is that spacing/indenting is critical in Python.  If a function is not properly indented, the program will simply not run and there will be no error code to assist you in the debugging process.  Typos are relatively easy to catch with the syntax errors, but indentation, not so much.  Fortunately, the source code and required media files are readily available on the book’s website.

The only other stumbling block we came across was installing the pygame library in Windows.  We installed the latest version of Python in its 64-bit format.  This worked fine until we needed to install the pygame library as the book’s obsolete version did not work.  We were able to get it working by using a custom compiled version.

Despite those hiccups, my daughter and I learned a lot by going through this book together.  While the typing was her least favorite part of the process, she was very excited to see and share the programs that she made.  Her favorite programs include a text based Yahtzee, War, and a graphical Pong game that uses a smiley face as the ball.  Teach Your kids to Code is an excellent learning tool for people of all ages that can be purchased digitally for less than $15 or in paperback for under twenty dollars on Amazon.


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Diary of a Jackwagon

Thank you Harper Collins for sending us a copy of this book to review! 

I've never heard of Tim Hawkins or the term Jackwagon before. Tim Hawkins is a Christian comedian whose humor is suitable for the whole family to enjoy, despite some whiskey references here and there.  Since I didn't get an explanation of the title in the 209 page book, I looked up the term jackwagon and discovered that it's another way of calling somebody lazy or worthless. 

Diary of a Jackwagon is a collection of humorous and random thoughts and stories compiled in a span of twenty years.  There are forty-one chapters that are typically  a couple of pages each and there is no chronological order to them.  At the end of each chapter is a "Tweet Thought" which is a short joke ideal for the likes of Twitter.  My favorite one is "Mr. Literal then proceeded punching himself in the face in an effort to fight back tears."

I must admit that I smiled most of the time when reading this book and there were several moments where I laughed out loud.  I showed a friend the Turquoise Toilet chapter and she laughed herself to tears.  I'm not sure if the story is true or not, but it talks about Tim taking his kids to Home Depot to give his wife a much needed break.  He didn't anticipate buying a toilet but felt obligated to do so after it was gently used by one of his children.  

I enjoyed the comparisons of today's playgrounds to the ones I grew up with as a kid.  I too remember the ground being made of gravel or concrete with real see-saws and slides made of steel that are both fast and HOT in the summertime.  The parody songs about junk food and home schooling are entertaining as well.  

There's a lot of good humor in this book and I enjoyed reading it.  I know my daughter is eager to read it as well and I'm glad that I can pass it along without any concern, which is rare for many comedians these days.  I'm sure Tim Hawkins fans will enjoy this book and those like me who were not familiar with him, will become new fans of his comedic style.  This book can be purchased for less than $12 in MP3 or paperback form or $8.99 on Amazon's Kindle.      


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The Mark of the Beast: Revelations 13

Thank you Bohlsen Group for sending us a copy of this book to review!

There are many theories about the end times, the anti-Christ and the mark of the beast.  I have read theories of the anti-Christ being the current or future President or Pope.  While the Catholic church is referenced as the “wounded head of Revelation,” the author, Ezra Celestin believes that the Beast of Revelations is not an obvious target.

The Catholic church got its “wounded head” from the reformation movement and the Protestants are still in the dark to the truth, unlike the Seventh Day Adventists.  E.G. White is quoted in the first chapter saying “We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn.  God and heaven alone are infallible.  Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed.  As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed.”  Despite the obvious ties with the Seventh Day Adventist church, this book was an insightful read.

I got quite the history lesson with the fall of the Roman empire, the origins of the reformation movement, the French Revolution, and World War II.  There are many Bible verses quoted to back up claims of the four great kingdoms being Babylon as the head of gold, Media and Persia are the breast and arms of silver, the belly and thighs are Greece and the legs of iron represent Rome in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision.  Daniel’s vision of the four beasts are translated as the lion representing Babylon, the bear is Media and Persia, Greece is the leopard with four wings and four heads, and Rome is depicted as the beast with ten horns.  

*spoiler alert* As for the beast itself, it’s none other than the Unites States with its calling down fire upon Japan in World War 2.  Also, if you add up the number of people in the president’s cabinet, legislative and judicial branches the number comes out to 666.  With the Republican and Democratic parties, the United States fits the description of the two-horned beast while the United Nations is the image of it.  */spoiler*

This 152-page book can be digitally purchased for $3.99 or acquired in paperback form for $16.95 or in hard cover for $24.95.


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Trimillennialism: Revelation 20 and the Final Judgment

Trimillennialism: Revelation 20 and the Final Judgment 
Author: Ritchie Way

Thank you Bohlsen Group for sending us this book to review!

In Revelation 20, there is a passage that has been debated for thousands of years. Here it is, in full:

"Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

Having read this, it's understandable that it would require significant study to truly understand what is being said here.  There are two major camps in Biblical scholarship around this passage: the Amillennialists and the Premillennialists. Premillennialists believe that it is literally describing a future event. Amillennialists believe that there will not be a literal future thousand years as described, but instead that it is symbolic of a current reality.  Both viewpoints have had major supporters, including whole denominations.  Ritchie Way believes that he has cracked this ages long issue in perhaps the simplest way possible:  

Why not both?

The author spends nearly half of the book making the case for amillennialism, explaining how the spiritual reality that we now live in very much mirrors the patterns set in Revelation 20.  After he has made his case, he goes on to explain why the more obvious reading that premillennialists believe is also true.  He then sums most of it up in this excerpt on page 154:

"Are the aillennialists right when they claim that Revelation 19 applies to this present era of gospel outreach into the entire world?  They certainly are!  Are premillennialists right when they claim that Revelation 19 "depicts the events of the consummation: the marriage of the Lamb, and the coming of Christ"?  Of course they are!  What they don't seem to realize is that their particular view does not necessarily exclude the other…"

He also covers related topics, including a few other examples of patterns in Scripture being duplicated in both other passages and in history.  He also goes on to explain his view of the ultimate destiny of the ungodly, which he believes is annihilation rather than eternal torment.

I feel that the title of this book does the author and his work a disservice.  Putting 'Tri' in the title because it's Trinitarian means that anyone else who has a similar idea would never find this book while doing research because it is not an obvious name given the subject matter.  So it will likely fall into obscurity, which is a shame.  Titles should reflect their content.  When I read this title, I wonder if the author thinks there are three millenniums, which is not the case here.

Despite this, the author does a decent job of making his case, and some of what he says has merit.  My major complaint is that there is a lot of filler and segues that make it difficult to follow at times.  He often uses these in an attempt to give God glory, and in that sense, I found the book inspiring.  But, at the same time, taking so long to get to the point means that I had many unplanned augmentations to my rest schedule.  As a result, it took me much longer to get through this relatively short 192 page book than I anticipated.


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Heaven Is for Animals Too: Hope and Comfort for Believers and Skeptics

Thank you Bohlsen Group for sending us this book to review!

When Melinda Cerisano, the author of Heaven Is For Animal Too, was ten years old she asked a Methodist minister if animals go to heaven.  He told her that they did not since they lacked souls and were not made in the likeness of God.  As a certified animal trainer, behaviorist, and accomplished equestrian, she was not satisfied with that answer and  set out on a seven year journey to prove that animals do indeed go to heaven when they die.

This 257 page book began as eight verses in the Bible that comforted Melinda and several of her friends when they suffered the loss of their pets.  After seeing how these verses (Gen 1:30, Hos 2:18-19, Pro 12:!0, Ecc 3:21, Joel 1:18,20, 2:22, Rom 8:20-21) affected her friends and even brought some of them closer to God, she embarked on her journey to write a book. While she doesn't claim to be a theologian, she does cite and reference various Bible translations, texts, and scrolls in their original language.  

The Bible translations used include the New King James Version, the Darby New Translation, the New Living Translation, the New International Version, the New American Standard Bible,  and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The Interlinear Bible is used for translating between Greek, Hebrew, and English.

I found it fascinating that most of the modern day translations replace the word "soul" for "creature" instead.  With the word soul in place, verses like Genesis 1:29-30 give animals more hope of joining us in heaven one day.  There is an entire chapter dedicated to explaining the word for word translation and its significance.  

In the chapter discussing the True Meaning of Dominion, Melinda interviewed a man with a PhD in Hebrew who shed some light on Judaism's take on Genesis 3:21.  This PhD suggested that instead of making skin garments for Adam and Eve, he clothed them with skins/ bodies that will now age and deteriorate over time.  It's certainly an interesting theory.  Animal sacrifices were required as a result regardless until Jesus became The Last Sacrificial Lamb which is the name of another chapter in this book. 

I have no doubt that God loves and cares for all of His creation as it is demonstrated in verses like Matt: 10:29 and saving animals along with humans in Noah's ark. However, I have no problems eating meat as many people in Bible times have done so.  Jesus fed his thousands of followers fish and bread in Luke 9:16.    Some of his followers were fishermen as stated in Mark 1:16.  While some of the hunters in the past (Nimrod and Ishmael) were not the best people, that certainly doesn't speak for the majority of them.  The author makes it clear that she's a vegetarian and approves of the Daniel diet (Dan 1:12) over most everyone else's.  

Despite some opinions that I don't agree with,  Heaven Is For Animals Too was an interesting read that was fairly easy to follow along with.  The paperback edition sells for less than $18 and the kindle edition is $9.99 on Amazon.  This would be a comforting book for anyone who lost a pet that was dear to them.  You might not want to give it to hunters though.


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