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Christ Centered Gamer Blog

This blog contains non-gaming related reviews and random ramblings

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

cover

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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Living The Christian Life

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

John F. Hunter, the author of Living The Christian Life is a pastor, evangelist, chaplain, and a missionary.  He put together an eighty-eight page book that nicely summarizes the basics of Christianity without going over people's heads.  There are plenty of life stories, analogies, and scripture references to back up the fundamentals of living a God honoring life. 

There are thirteen chapters  discussing salvation, baptism, communion, praying, serving, and reaching out to others.  I like the analogy of the hub, spokes, and rim being all part of a tire much like God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all integrated into one God.  The author recommends spending some alone time with God and listening to what his purpose for your life is.  Though I'm not sure if I would spend a couple of weeks in the wilderness like he did and deal with ticks, raccoons, and thunderstorms.  To each their own.  

Some of the other life stories are fascinating as well including a vivid dream he had about his unborn daughter and got to meet her nine months later and the mysterious person/potential angel that helped his family out when their truck's engine threw a rod in the desert.  When they got their truck looked at, nobody knew of anyone by the helpful person's name.  

Since I was raised Christian, I can't really say that this book has changed my life much.  I have put into practice many of its teachings including: prayer, fellowship, Bible study, witnessing, worship, and giving.  However, I do recommend this book to new believers and those who are curious to what Christianity is all about.  The language is pretty easy to understand and the concepts are straightforward and easy to follow.  Because this book is so short and I was able to finish it in two sittings, I recommend getting the $3.99 digital version as opposed to the $15.99 paperback.  Unless of course, you're getting it as a gift for someone you love.


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What Is Salvation

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

Many Christians often wonder if they are truly saved and many non-believers wonder what salvation is all about.  Is it simply praying a prayer and apologizing for your sins, or is there more to it?  Can a person lose their salvation?  Pastor Bill Parker has spent over thirty years studying the Bible and has put together a comprehensive guide for true salvation.

The book What is Salvation contains eight chapters and is 101 pages long.  It looks at salvation from the eternal realm,  legal realm, spiritual realm, and from the glorified realm.  Each of these realms have four common truths.  All four of them are of the Lord, all of them are necessary for the salvation of God's people, and they are all founded upon the Lord Jesus Christ as the salvation of His people.  According to this book "...Salvation, including faith, is a free gift that comes by the sovereign will, power, mercy, and grace of God, not by the sinner's will." (page 60)    The passage this statement is based on is Romans 9:15-16.  

There are many bold statements made by this book and each one of them is backed by scripture.  Many believers debate about the possibility of losing one's salvation.  The stance this book takes is that "Truly saved people can never be condemned or lost again" and that "the reason so many believe salvation can be lost is because they believe salvation can be gained/and or maintained by some condition(s) sinners meet, at least in some way, at some stage, to some degree."  (page 68)  Those quotes are based on passages like John 6:37-40, John 10:27-30, and Romans 8:31-39.  The whole passages are displayed which makes this book a little easier to read without having to crack open the Bible every five paragraphs to look up the reference verse.  

With that said, this book is very thorough and I could only read a chapter or two a day to have enough time to let the information absorb into my non-seminary student brain.   While it wasn't exactly a page turner for me, I did find it well written and relatively easy to follow.  The asking price is a reasonable $7.99 on Amazon and I recommend looking into it if you have any questions about your or any loved one's salvation.


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Godfit: Through Love Serve

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

John Hayden is a Christian certified fitness trainer that uses his skills to train others to stay fit and glorify God.  The goal of Godfit is to challenge believers to be both spiritually and physically well.  If believers stay healthy, they can live and serve others longer.  This 117 page book is broken down into a six week program that has both exercise routines and devotional questions.

Before you begin, you should make sure you have the required equipment including dumbbells, kettlebells, and a Bible.  The book also recommends using a photo of yourself for inspiration.  There's a core strength assessment that is highly recommended to complete in order to gauge your fitness level.   There is a spiritual questionnaire to evaluate your religious life as well.

Each workout is between twenty and thirty minutes long.  There are various warm-up and cool down routines to choose from.  If you're unsure of how to do an exercise, there are video examples on http://www.godfit.com.  The videos are password protected but the password is in the book (page 5).

Each week has a spiritual theme including: Solitude, Meditation, Prayer, Simplicity, Study, and Service.  There are many convicting devotional questions to make sure you are growing spiritually as you tone your body.  There are prayer examples as well to give you the strength and the faith to become a better follower of Christ.  Praying for strength is a good idea since the exercises get more challenging throughout the book.  Thankfully the book gives you a list of ten exercises and lets you pick which ones to do with the option of skipping a couple.

I like the included list of energetic Christian songs to work out with.  I was happy to find out that many of them were free to listen to with my Amazon prime membership.  :)  Towards the back of the book there are some healthy meal and snack ideas.  There is also a leadership guide with outline and group activity suggestions.  

If you looking to workout by yourself or with a group, Godfit offers a unique approach that will help you strengthen both your faith and your body.  The Godfit website sells the book along with shirts and stickers.  You can get the book on Amazon for the same price, but the shipping will be cheaper if you're a prime member or have other items to buy to qualify for free shipping.


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Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation

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

The videogame industry is a huge multi-billion dollar industry.  It started and flopped in the early eighties with notable failures like Atari burying between 700,000 to three million copies of ET in a landfill.   Nintendo and Sega continued on and started a battle that defined a generation.  Console Wars is a 576 page book written by Blake J. Harris and weaves the history of these two companies based on over two hundred interviews from family, friends, and former employees of Sega and Nintendo.    

In 1990 Nintendo was dominating the videogame market with its 8 bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and soon to be released 16 bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).   Even though Sega's Genesis was the first available 16 bit console, it didn't get much recognition and as a result it failed to sell very well.  That changed when Tom Kalinske was personally recruited by Sega of Japan's president to become the CEO of Sega of America.  

When Tom started at Sega, he didn't know much about videogames, but he did know how to market things with huge successes including Barbie, He-Man, and Flintstone multivitamins.  He specialized in uphill battles and this story is no exception. It's so good, a feature film is being made about it!

The book goes into the humble beginnings of Sega, Nintendo, and eventually Sony's endeavors into the videogame industry.  Nintendo has an interesting past with their playing cards origins and briefly owning a hourly rental hotel.  They definitely became more family friendly later on which gave Sega a target for their aggressive commercials aimed at slightly older gamers.  Sonic the Hedgehog gave Nintendo and their mascot, Mario, a run for their money.  

While I enjoyed the book and look forward to the upcoming movie, I must caution parents thinking about letting their kids read or see Console Wars.  There is a lot of language (including F bombs) throughout the story and in the Foreward by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

For mature gamers, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out this book to learn how Sega briefly toppled Nintendo with their aggressive marketing but ultimately lost the war once Sony's PlayStation came into the market.  Even though Nintendo's side is fairly represented and respected, the story focuses more on Sega's viewpoint.   I could not help but root for the underdog while I read Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation.


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Extravagant Graces

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

Extravagant Graces is written by Jeanette Chaffee, a survivor from the TWA Flight 840 that had a bomb detonate in mid-air. She goes into detail with her story and how she believes that a guardian angel was among the passengers to spare the structure of the plane and many of the lives within it. Upon sharing her story over the years, she has chronicled twenty-two other stories that defy luck and show God's grace in the midst of chaos.

There are two plane crash stories and two stories of martyrdom. Many people are familiar with the five missionaries who were speared to death by the Ecuadorian Acua tribe in 1955. Not only does this book retell that story, but it goes into details about the lives of the widows and how the Auca tribes people heard the musical score from the 2005 movie, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, before it was even released!

In the 1960s Phyliss and Phil Masters went to Dutch New Guinea to reach out to the cannibal Yali tribe. After converting several tribesmen, including the shaman's son, there was some hostility. This cost Phil his life in 1968. Amazingly, Christianity still thrived within the tribe and when a plane crashed nearby later that year, the only survivor was a nine year old boy that the tribe took in as an attempt at peace.

Not all of the stories are heavy hearted, like the one of Shirley Dobson leaving her hometown of thirty years to move to Colorado Springs. Her husband, James Dobson, joked that she left drag marks from California all across the Rockies. By their faithfulness, their ministry has flourished and is still going strong today!

Extravagant Graces is available on Amazon for less than $14 and is emotionally impacting and worth reading. The garden gnome story made me laugh out loud. In all seriousness, this book shows how God powerfully works in people's lives, even during hardships and suffering. God is always in control and has a plan for everyone. It's awesome when we get to witness our part in His grand plan. 


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Kaitlyn Gress
Hey, I'm reading that book and its really good. My fave story is the one where the author meets a guardian angel. But still, it's ... Read More
Sunday, 24 May 2015 13:00
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Sweet Gentle Rain

Thank you James Samuel Gutshall for sending us a copy of your book to review!

Sweet Gentle Rain is a collection of poems and short stories that the author has written and gathered together since the mid 1980s.  In 2006, he received a trophy from the International Society of Poets for reciting his poem "Breakers" in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Inside this twenty-seven page book, you'll find poems about thankfulness, hardships, wonder, searching, time passing, grandkids, and annoyances. 

Some of the poems are light hearted while most of them are thought provoking.  Almost all of them are spiritual in nature and give thanks to God, our wonderful creator.  Each of the poems are accompanied by photographs or paintings.  All of them are fitting, but some of them are higher quality than others.   

As a mother of three, my favorite poem was "Ladybugs and Squirrels" talking about the curiosity and short attention span of his grandson, Nicholas.  My ten year old daughter enjoyed reading this book as well.  Sweet Gentle Rain can truly be enjoyed by young and old alike.  There is one alcoholic reference in the book and sadly it contains a grammatical error on page 19, "And drank way to[o] much wine".

 Sweet  Gentle Rain  is self published through Xlibris and is available online for over  $18.  I find that price too steep for my liking.  Fortunately,  the kindle version is more reasonably priced at $3.99.  

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Alvirithian Archives: The Rogue Knight

Written by: Benjamin K. Corum
Published by: Tate Publishing and Enterprises, LLC
Released: February 10, 2015
Price: $21.99

Thank you, Benjamin Corum, for sending us this book to review!

As an aspiring writer, I've spent quite a bit of time looking into the publishing industry and what it takes to get a novel published. One of the things I have learned from well-established authors is that publishers will pay you for your works. If you write it and write it well, then a publisher would publish it. Or it's possible that you can submit it to an agent, and they will find a publisher for you.

Although rewarding, this can be a difficult and challenging road to take. Publishers – especially those that take submissions from authors themselves, without an agent – receive thousands of submissions a year. Some submissions never even get read. 

In these days of the Internet, though, it is possible to publish a novel without a publisher. Companies like Amazon's CreateSpace or Lulu give an author the power to present their books to the digital marketplace for anyone to purchase. However, not all of these books will be of quality. Without the filter of agents or publishers, anything could be listed, and if there's any truth to Sturgeon's Law, 90% of it will barely be worth your time. 

But then there are some publishers that are a bit dodgy in their practices. They offer authors a chance to get their works edited, published and even advertised... for a price. Sometimes a very steep price. They aren't looking to actually sell books or help authors – merely trying to get as much as they can out of people desperate to have their names on a published book. These scammers provide about as much quality control as the self-publishing route, but unfortunately fleece the aspiring author in the process. 

While I'm not saying Tate Publishing falls into the latter category, it's one of the few reasons I can find as to why an established publisher would release a book of such poor quality as “The Rogue Knight.”

The novel details the adventures of a young princess named Sara. Her abusive fiancee seems to be controlling her father, the king. With the help of a mysterious rogue assassin named Johnathan Black, she travels to several other kingdoms to try and build an army to battle her father's forces. She meets other allies and trainers, learns how to use her mysterious magical powers, and takes lots of baths. The overused plot of the guarded princess falling in love with her bodyguard is here as well. The only unpredictable aspect would be determining if they will live happily ever after, or if Johnathan will die at the end, trying feebly to make it a tragic romance. I'll leave the ending a surprise for anyone who wants to try to suffer through the novel.

The book is filled with grammatical errors, typos, plot holes and more tired cliches than you can shake a stick at. (Yes, that was intentional.) The writing style is amateurish at best. This feels more like a second or third draft of a novel, rather than a finished work. If the author or the publisher paid for an editor, they may want to get their money back. If it wasn't for my desire to make the review as comprehensive as possible, I would have stopped reading after the second or third chapter. 

There is some merit to the novel, though. It's clear that the author loves the setting he created, and it is an imaginative approach combining ancient technological beings known as “synthetics” with a standard fantasy setting of forest-dwelling elves, underground-dwelling dwarves, and expansive humans. The theological system that Corum uses is a monotheistic one, with obvious influence from Christianity. Although some of it does feel shoehorned in – such as the communion-style opening to the elven feast – it's a nice attempt to create a fantasy setting that doesn't focus on polytheism. For the most part, the book is actually pretty good in terms of moral considerations. There is some graphic violence as many characters get killed in a variety of gruesome – but quick – ways. But there are no language issues, and no “adult situations.” This is a valiant attempt to make a “clean” fantasy novel that wouldn't meet very many objections in terms of amoral content.

Overall, though, the attempt fails due to the clumsy writing style. While some of the errors in the book do make the novel humorous (for example, when two of the characters battle at the end of the book, one decides to time his strike during his opponent's “most venerable time” (p. 286)), the humor is clearly unintentional, and doesn't make up for the sheer amount of other flaws. 

Many outside the Christian faith tend to look down on Christian media, viewing it as subpar with secular works. “Alvirithian Archives: The Rogue Knight” actually helps to reinforce this sentiment, because this work definitely qualifies as “shoddy.” It's a valiant attempt on the author's part, but the book is in serious need of an editor, and never should have gotten to the point where it was published. In short, if you're looking for an entertaining fantasy novel to read, your time would be better spent looking elsewhere.

One final word of advice for the author – if you intend to continue this series, invest the money into a solid editor instead, and listen to his or her advice. Then use CreateSpace or Lulu to upload the book and sell it. You'll find that to be a much better use of your funds, and it may help you become a better author. Because if you intend this to be your chosen career, you'll really need more help.


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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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