Monday, December 30, 2013

"A Queen Named Esther" & "David Battles Goliath" Reviews

A Queen Named Esther is a soft-cover children’s book that tells the story of Esther from the Bible. The illustrations are taken from The Beginner’s Bible, also from Zondervan.

This little book is an excellent retelling of the story of Esther. It stays true to the biblical account but is told in a way that is easily understandable for children. The characters are drawn in a cartoonish fashion, but I think this keeps the story more relatable for children.

The story of Esther is a hard one to tackle for children, since it is so intricate, but this version does a good job of explaining how Esther became queen and how she had to choose whether or not to be willing to stand up for and help save her people.

The recommended age group for this book is 2-5. I think this is very appropriate. My four-year-old daughter really liked the pictures in the book, and she also said that she liked the queen.

A Queen Named Esther is a wonderful Bible story book that tells of the courage of Esther and the love of our great God.



David Battles Goliath is a children’s book that tells the story of David and Goliath from the Bible (1 Samuel 17). The illustrations are taken from The Beginner’s Bible, also from Zondervan, and it is a soft-cover format.

My four-year-old daughter is very familiar with the story of David and Goliath (mostly from VeggieTales), but she still enjoyed this book. The illustrations are colorful (if a bit cartoonish), and the story is told in a way that is easy for little ones to understand. It also handles the violence that comes along with this story in a way that is truthful but not too frightening. (There is a picture of Goliath lying dead on the ground with David standing over him, but even that picture is not too upsetting).

The recommended age group for this book is 2-5, and I feel that it is appropriate. Younger ones will enjoy listening to the story, and beginning readers will be able to use this book to start reading more on their own.

This retelling of the story of David and Goliath focuses on David’s great faith in God. David believed that the Israelites would be delivered from the Philistines, and this book is written as such in an exciting and uplifting way.



I will give both of these books ... 4.5 BookWorms.










A Queen Named Esther & David Battles Goliath
by Kelly Pulley
Zonderkidz
Publication date: September 24, 2013






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zonderkidz. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, December 27, 2013

"Stranded" Review

Darcy St. James thought her undercover journalism days were over. But then her best friend Abby convinces her to join her in an investigation on board an Alaskan cruise ship. When Darcy arrives on the ship and discovers that Abby has disappeared, Darcy’s task becomes even more difficult.

Gage McKenna and his siblings love doing their job of taking tourists on various Alaskan excursions. When the McKenna family is approached about running the off-board activities for an Alaskan cruise ship, Gage decides to head it up. He thinks this job will give him the opportunity to get Darcy St. James – a girl who he thought he might be able to care for but who abruptly left his life – out of his mind.

When Gage realizes that Darcy is doing publicity for the cruise ship, he is stunned. And when he finds out that Darcy is actually undercover, he is dismayed. Gage is attracted to Darcy, but he is not interested in being with someone (again) who is not completely genuine.
As Darcy searches for the truth of what happened to Abby, she and Gage are thrust into the middle of something even more sinister than they believed.

Stranded is the third book in the Alaskan Courage series by Dani Pettrey. You can read my reviews of Submerged and Shattered also.

In usual Dani Pettrey fashion, this book starts off with a bang. You could probably read this novel without having read the first two in the series, but it might be a bit chaotic in the beginning if you are not already familiar with the characters. It took me a bit to remember who all the characters were and to get familiar with them.

The story starts off strong with the disappearance of Abby and with Gage and Darcy ending up working together to find her. The suspense portion of this novel is done very well. I was interested in the mystery surrounding Abby’s disappearance, and it was fun to follow all of the twists and turns along the way. The only thing that kind of got in the way of the suspense was that although I appreciated Darcy’s dedication to finding her friend, I sometimes thought the way she went about it was either na├»ve or a bit over the top and reckless.

As for the romance between Gage and Darcy, it pretty much followed the same pattern as the previous novels. Gage and Darcy did seem to be meant for each other, but the romantic conflict seemed rather more limited in its scope than it could have been. It was a bit tiresome that Gage kept having to rescue Darcy all the time (see the previous paragraph on her being reckless...) - I mean, he 'saved' her, what? Three times, I think? Just a bit much.

I mentioned in my reviews of the previous novels in this series that they both had a clear message of grace and forgiveness that comes through, and that is true for this novel as well. Gage is really struggling with questions that all of us ask at one time or another such as why would a loving God allow bad things to happen, especially to children? This portion of the novel was difficult for me to read, but it was written with a sense of hope and continued faith in God with the focus being clearly on Christ.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of characters in this novel. This is mostly due to the fact that this is the third book in the series, which is to be expected. I actually think that one of the best parts of this book was how it set up the story of Jake that will hopefully be told in the next book. I have been interested in his story since Submerged, the first book in the series, so the next novel is going to have a lot to live up to!


Overall this book was a good continuation of the series. The setting of the Alaskan cruise ship was really interesting, especially since I would love to go on an Alaskan cruise someday. I just hope I don't have to deal with the things these characters did on that cruise!


I will give Stranded ... 3.5 BookWorms.



 


Stranded by Dani Pettrey
Alaskan Courage #3
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: September 1, 2013





Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, December 23, 2013

"Christmas in Apple Ridge" 3-in-1 Review

Experience the holidays with the Plain folk of Apple Ridge, Pennsylvania, in these touching novellas centered around love, romance, heartache, and restoration from best-selling author Cindy Woodsmall.

The Sound of Sleigh Bells
Beth Hertzler is unable to let go of a past tragedy, but when she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth’s soul responds. Determined that her niece meet the gifted artist, her aunt tracks him down, but it’s not that simple. Will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she’s always dreamed of and a second chance at real love?
 
The Christmas Singing
Mattie thought her childhood sweetheart adored her until he abruptly ended their engagement on Christmas Eve. Brokenhearted, Mattie moves away and pursues her longtime dream of becoming a cake decorator, and even finds a new beau. But when Mattie is forced to return home three years later, will learning the truth behind Gideon’s rejection restore her Christmas joy – or open the door to even deeper heartbreak?
 
The Dawn of Christmas
Sadie enjoys her freedom away from home and her mission trips to Peru, but after four years, her Old Order Amish family insists it’s time to come home and settle down. Levi, a bachelor who distrusts women after a family heartbreak, also has no desire for romance. To keep their families from meddling in their lives, Sadie and Levi devise a plan—but soon discover that the walls around their hearts are breaking down. Can they let go of their prejudices, learn to trust each other, and embrace a future together?


For more information click here. You can also read Chapter One here.


About the Author: Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA best-selling author of numerous works of fiction and one of nonfiction. Her connection with the Amish community has been featured widely in national media. She lives in the Foothills of the North Georgia Mountains with her family. - See more at: http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/


My Take:

Two years ago I read and reviewed the second of these three novellas - The Christmas Singing - and it was a very nice read for the Christmas season. So I was looking forward to reading the other Apple Ridge Christmas novellas as well.

In the first novella - The Sound of Sleigh Bells - I was immediately drawn in to the story of Beth and Jonah. I liked both of them as characters, and I was rooting for them to get together the whole time. I also liked how they communicated through letters, even though it was kind of strange that neither of them completely knew who they were writing to. I was interested in Beth's past very much, but I did think that it got to be a little drawn out that the reader didn't know for so long what actually happened in Beth's past. I think her development would have been even better if I knew exactly what she was struggling with through at least half of the novella instead of just having it be revealed closer to the end.

Since I have already reviewed The Christmas Singing, I won't rehash it here. You can read that review here.

As for The Dawn of Christmas, I think it was my favorite of the three. I was truly rooting for them to get together throughout the course of the novella - maybe even more than I was rooting for Beth and Jonah in the first one! Sadie was such a realistic character, and even though the reason Levi had "sworn off women" seemed a little far-fetched, I still was sympathetic towards him. The Dawn of Christmas was probably the most humorous of the three as well, which helped to endear it to me.

I also liked how the characters from the first novella were in the second and so on. It was neat seeing these characters "later on" in the story.

For a nice, heartwarming read at Christmas, Christmas in Apple Ridge is a good bet.

I will give Christmas in Apple Ridge ... 3.5 BookWorms.








Christmas in Apple Ridge 3-in-1 by Cindy Woodsmall
Collection of three novellas
WaterBrook Press
Publication date: October 9, 2012






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, December 20, 2013

"The Perfect Christmas Pageant" Review

Hayley Hippo is so excited when she is chosen to direct the annual Christmas pageant, and she just knows that she will be able to make everything perfect this year.

But when the shepherds forget where to stand, Joseph forgets his lines, and the baby Jesus gets a baaaad haircut, Hayley is dismayed. She just knew her pageant would be perfect, and now it is a complete disaster!

Join the Everyday Zoo gang created by Joyce Meyer as they learn about the true meaning of Christmas and what should really be the focus of this special time of year.


My Take:

Our family really enjoyed the first Everyday Zoo book that we reviewed last year – Every Which Way to Pray – so we were excited to be able to review a Christmas book with these fantastic characters.

First of all, the writing and illustrations in this book are top-notch. The story is easy to read (it is written for kids ages 4-8), and the pictures just leap off the page and bring everything together. My four-year-old daughter loves the cute animals in this book, especially the little lamb that plays baby Jesus in the pageant. She says that is her favorite part.

The other thing that is so fantastic about this book is its message. Of course the message comes across that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but it’s even more than that. Hayley comes to understand that nothing in this life is perfect, but Jesus was perfect. And that is why he should be the complete focus of the Christmas season. I love the transformation of Hayley’s heart in this way over the course of this short children’s book.

The Perfect Christmas Pageant is an outstanding children’s book that emphasizes the true meaning of Christmas.

I will give The Perfect Christmas Pageant ... 5 BookWorms!









The Perfect Christmas Pageant
by Joyce Meyer
Zonderkidz
Publication date: September 24, 2013






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zonderkidz. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Veggie Tales "Knights, Vikings, and a Battle of the Bands" Review

Knights, Vikings, and a Battle of the Bands is an ‘I Can Read’ Level 1 (beginning reading) book from Zonderkidz. It’s a 3-in-1 hardback book with three tales about the many vegetables of VeggieTales.

The first story is Princess Petunia and the Good Knight, and it is a lesson in showing love towards others and putting them first.

All of the Veggies are excited for the Great Pie Games to begin! As knight after knight steps forward to show off his skill, Princess Petunia keeps noticing one particular knight who always puts others first. When it comes time for Princess Petunia to pick a winner of the Great Pie Games, who will she choose?

This story is reminiscent of the VeggieTales video Duke and the Great Pie War, but it is not the same storyline. I actually like the story and message in this book better. It’s an easy-to-read story for beginning readers that emphasizes loving others over being the winner of a game. The illustrations are vivid, and the names of the Knights are just hilarious.

The second story in this 3-in-1 is What’s Up with Lyle? This story features Junior Asparagus as Lyle in a lesson about using your gifts.

All Vikings are the same, right? They are mean and spend their time plundering and sailing around in big ships. But not Lyle – he likes to knit! The other Vikings laugh at Lyle and his knitting, but when things go terribly wrong with the Vikings’ ship, will Lyle be able to save the day?

Also reminiscent of a VeggieTales video – Lyle the Kindly Viking – this story is once again easy to read and has a good message. The message in this one does not come across as well as the one in Princess Petunia and the Good Knight, but it is still good. Lyle must decide if he will use his gift of knitting to help the Vikings who were mean to him. The illustrations in this one convey the story exceptionally well.

The final story in this compilation is Junior Battles to Be His Best. It is a lesson in having confidence to do your very best.

Junior Asparagus loves to play the tuba, but when his family and friends encourage him to join the upcoming Battle of the Bands, he says, “No way!” Junior must learn that God can give him the confidence he needs to perform in front of others and do his very best.

I can’t think of a VeggieTale video that this story reminds me of, but it is still a good story. The illustrations seem a little bit flatter in this one, but they are still cute and get the essence of the story across. My four-year-old daughter says that she likes this story about Junior and the battles of the bands the best out of all of the ones in this book. She likes that Junior plays the tuba. The message in this one is good – to work hard and ask God to help you do the best than you can in any situation.


We love the VeggieTales characters, and these three stories are really good. The words and sentences are simple and easy to read for beginning readers, and the stories teach lessons while still being entertaining.
I will give Knights, Vikings, and a Battle of the Bands ... 4.5 BookWorms.









Knights, Vikings, and a Battle of the Bands
by Karen Poth
Zonderkidz
Publication date: September 24, 2013






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zonderkidz. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"The God Puzzle" Blog Tour

About the book: The God Puzzle is a colorful, easy to use tool to help you communicate to your child the rich truths about God, His ways, His will and His love. The God Puzzle will help you address doctrinal themes of the Christian faith in a kid friendly way, present Bible lessons in an interactive way that will hold the child's attention, and deliver quality teaching with no preparation needed.

Seventy-five percent of children leave the church when they leave home. Something isn't working. Sunday School isn't doing it all. Kids need answers, good ones. And they need them from you, the parent. This book enables you to give them simple, clear answers.

What makes The God Puzzle unique?

- Ready made discussion questions for parent to ask their child in each lesson

- Can be done at any pace that works with your family . . . every night, once a week, 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there . . . it fits into realistic family life

- Puts the pieces together for a child to understand God, the Bible, and the Christian faith

- In each lesson the child responds to the truth so they understand their relationship to God is personal and life transforming

- Any parent, whether they know nothing or a lot about God, can start teaching their child today with no prep

- Deep theology put into language a child can understand

- Deeply Biblical, each lesson points to Christ

- Put in an order that starts with creation, and teaches the Bible as one story that all points to Christ

- Child stays engaged by filling in blanks, crosswords, drawing, matching and using their Bibles as they learn


Purchase your copy: http://ow.ly/r7gQh

About the Author: Valerie Ackermann has a BA in Theology and has been a full time Children's Ministry Director at Parkwood Community Church in California for over 10 years. She is also a weekly Sunday school teacher, wife, and busy mom of two boys ages 9 and 11. She has hands-on experience as a children's ministry professional, teaching and leading children of all ages. Growing up in a Christian family in a small town in Saskatchewan, Canada, she has wonderful memories of knowing God from an early age. She has a passion for kids to know the deep truths of God.

Find out more at LeadMeToGod.com.



My Take:

I am always looking for new and creative ways of teaching the Bible to my daughter. She has several coloring and activity books that are biblically-based that are pretty good, and we try to read a chapter from the Bible each day.

When I saw The God Puzzle up for review, I jumped at the chance to get it even though my four-year-old is a little younger than the target age for this book. (7-12)

What I liked most about this book was how relevant it was to children in the present day while still being completely focused on the Bible. The way the author does a wonderful job explaining difficult concepts like the Trinity, sin, and hell in a way that a child can easily understand. The gospel is clearly presented, and the entire book points to Christ, just as the Bible does.

I also liked how this is a true Bible study workbook for kids. Every lesson encourages kids to read verses from the Bible, study them, and apply them to their lives. There are some games and puzzles to complete that would keep the child engaged, but they don't take away from what is actually happening throughout this book, which is the study of God's Word. I can see this workbook starting a lot of "God Talk" between kids and their parents.

My husband liked this book as well. He teaches "Overview of the Bible" classes at our church, and he especially liked the pages at the end that showed the categories of the different books of the Bible and some verses to memorize. He also liked how the book emphasized the whole plan of Scripture and how it all points to Christ.

The only negative that I was able to see with The God Puzzle was that there were a couple of errors/typos that I noticed as I glanced through the book - things like there being too many blanks to fill in for that particular word. (Page 85, in particular).

When I first requested to be included in this blog tour, I thought that I could maybe modify the lessons in this book to accommodate my four-year-old daughter. As I looked through the book, however, I realized that this book is geared for elementary and middle-school-aged children and would be difficulty to adapt for preschoolers. This is my own fault, and I will not mark my rating down because of this. We will definitely be pulling this workbook out in the future to go through together with our daughter.

I will give The God Puzzle ... 4½ BookWorms.










Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Higher Life Publishing through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."