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Illusion
Illusion
by Frank Peretti
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.89
40 used & new from CDN$ 0.48

4.0 out of 5 stars Decent, Not Great, Oct. 21 2012
This review is from: Illusion (Hardcover)
When I was asked to review a PDF copy of Frank Perretti’s latest release, Illusion, how could I say no? It was Perretti after all. It was essentially accepted sight (and plot) unseen and unknown. In all honesty, I was a bit surprised.

When stage magician Dane loses his wife Mandy and magic partner of forty years, he is understandably devastated. What is less understandable however, is when he meets a young woman who so deeply resembles his wife when he first met her that its frightening.

Dane soon finds himself plunged into a mystifying world of cutting-edge, secretive science research (read: science fiction) as he tries to unweave the tangles surrounding the arrival of this young woman in his life. I can’t really say more than that without doing some major plot reveals, but let’s just say it’s pretty out there.

Long-time readers of Perretti might be surprised by the main-stream writing style that is present throughout the book – there isn’t a lot of faith thrown into the mix, as with his previous works.

In all honesty, I’m not sure I would have accepted a review copy if I’d known so much of the book would revolve around stage magic, tricks, theatrics, and the like. At times it even seemed a bit occultish (but don’t worry, there is a sci-fi explanation for the events, even if it is complicated and hard to follow even for an experienced sci-fi reader).

The writing is still engaging, mysterious, with a good dose of, “What’s going on here?” It’s a clean read, but not one with a significant spiritual message.

My First Handy Bible
My First Handy Bible
by Cecilie Olesen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 12.18
18 used & new from CDN$ 8.62

4.0 out of 5 stars Love the Format, Oct. 20 2012
This review is from: My First Handy Bible (Hardcover)
Opening with Creation and closing with the promise of happiness in heaven, My First Handy Bible presents 23 micro-Bible stories in chronological order over a total of 61 pages.

These brief Bible story re-tellings for toddlers range from three to five sentences in length in most cases and come with a verse reference if you’d like to dig deeper into the event being retold with your children.

I absolutely ADORE the design of this first Bible storybook – it comes with a sturdy, bright plastic handle, a clip to hold the pages closed, and sturdy board book pages. We’ve been stuffing this book into our church bag every Sunday for our little ones to flip through during the service.

We’ve also read it together as a family where I had an enthralled audience of my 22 month-old, four-year-old, and six-year-old (who would often beg me to keep reading). The very short stories are well suited for tiny attention spans, and we’d often read more than one at a time.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t keen on the artwork throughout – characters who should be portrayed as adults were instead shown as preschoolers and young children (though some were shown at appropriate ages as well). Adam and Eve were tiny children, and Joseph was shown as a young lad even during his time in his position of power in Egypt for example. Jesus is depicted as a fairly typical storybook Jesus – a man with straight, long hair.

That aside, all of our girls have really enjoyed this storybook Bible, its concise stories and illustrations featuring young children.

Helping Hand Books: Matthew and the Bullies
Helping Hand Books: Matthew and the Bullies
by Sarah Duchess of York
Edition: Hardcover
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Story About Bullying, July 22 2012
The Helping Hands series of books is designed to help you guide your child through difficult times of learning and adjusting in his life (new baby, bullying, strangers etc.) Meant to be read by a parent to a child, the books also contain ten helpful tips at the end of each title by a child psychologist for parents ' to help them know how best to support their child.

Thanks to our homeschooling experience our girls haven't had to face bullying (thank God for homeschooling), but since I was sent Matthew and the Bullies randomly to review, I thought I'd read it to my girls and see what they thought. While the main characters are boys, they really enjoyed the story about how Matthew struggled with bullying at school and how he (and very importantly ' the adults in his life) worked together to solve the problem peacefully.

The artwork by Ian Cunliffe is cheerful and child-friendly, and while the story is a bit wordy, the fictional writing style keeps children engaged with the story ' my girls have asked for repeat readings. What I appreciate the most is the emphasis on encouraging children to turn tot he adults in their lives for assistance, and the emphasis on not fighting back, but looking for a peaceful solution.

Christian Writers' Market Guide 2009
Christian Writers' Market Guide 2009
by Sally Stuart
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 31.99
17 used & new from CDN$ 1.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, July 16 2012
The Christian Writers' Market Guide is without a doubt, the most comprehensive reference for breaking into the Christian writing market out there. This thick, directory-type book includes contacts for many markets (adult fiction, children's, cartoons), contact information for getting in touch with libraries, magazine article markets, and even photography. Literary agents are included, poetry markets, and even writing contests.

With 560 pages and 1000+ markets, the listings are comprehensive, including: annual printing volume (or submission acceptance rates), royalty rates, turn around time, guidelines, contact information, and many other pertinent details if they apply. A CD is also included with all of these details available digitally if you'd like to speed up the search process.

The version of the guide that I have is a 2009 copy, but an updated 2012 version is also available for only a few dollars more, and it includes updated contact names and information.

If you are SERIOUS about writing in the Christian marketplace (and aren't interested in going the blogging/self-publishing route), then this is one book you'll certainly want on your shelf. This is really a one-of-a-kind resource for Christian writers.

Vigilante
Vigilante
by Baker Publishing
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.95
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking, July 15 2012
This review is from: Vigilante (Paperback)
Robin Parrish always writes stories with interesting premises (though there is one in particular that I did not appreciate), so I was excited to read his latest ' Vigilante. Once again, Parrish certainly doesn't disappointed with a cookie-cutter plot or one that has been rehashed too many times in Christian fiction circles.

Instead he delves straight into the action with a military hero ' Nolan Gray ' who stages his own death and sets up his own hidden, secret underground lair that he sets out to use to not only enforce his views of justice and righteousness. He also uses this base and his support personnel to wage carefully planned publicity aimed to stir up the general populace to set things aright in a society gone wrong.

With plenty of super-hero action, high-tech gear, and intrigue, Parrish also manages to add just the lightest hint of romantic interest without it being inappropriate or taking over the storyline. While the story may not provide an open and shut case for any specific position, it does encourage readers to ponder questions of justice, revenge, punishment, and others.

Like quite a few of Parrish's offerings Vigilante makes a great read for men and anyone who enjoys high-action reads. While holding to the clean writing style of Christian fiction and encouraging readers to think about God, it never bogs down in overt sentimentality or the strongly romantic themes that can often be prominent in the Christian marketplace in general.

Reviewed at quiverfullfamily.com

Aedyn Chronicles: Chosen Ones
Aedyn Chronicles: Chosen Ones
by Alister Mcgrath
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 13.59
32 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Lackluster, Magic Content, July 14 2012
When Peter and Julia discover a mysterious silver garden outside of their grandparent's home on a summer visit, they are swept away into a world, which appears beautiful, but hides dark secrets of slavery. Called to think beyond themselves and offer themselves up as leaders of an in-progress revolution, the two siblings discover they possess mysterious powers that they must learn to harness to help those in need.

Fantasy is tricky for a reader like myself who feels that good characters shouldn't use magic due to the Bible's admonitions to avoid it at all costs. Unfortunately the characters in Chosen Ones (book one of the Aedyn Chronicles) are definitely skirting the boundaries of my comfort levels. While the gifts the children possess could be seen as supernatural giftings, their guide ' a holy man of sorts ' pretty much admits to be using a type of magic near the end of this first short novel for young adult readers.

If that wasn't enough to discourage me from reading the rest of the series, I'm afraid the rather awkward writing style would ' McGrath's skill with the pen just isn't enough to keep me interested in the rest of the series (even if the magic wasn't an issue).

The Christian allegorical undertones are clearly present ' the slaves worship a Creator God who they remain loyal to while being dominated by demonistic man-beings and the children are called to free them so the land of Aedyn can return to glory ' there are enough points against this book to put it in my giveaway pile.

Esv Grow! Bible
Esv Grow! Bible
by Crossway Books
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.31
21 used & new from CDN$ 21.30

4.0 out of 5 stars Nicely Done for Confident Readers, July 14 2012
This review is from: Esv Grow! Bible (Hardcover)
The ESV Grow! Bible is a full Bible containing the complete ESV translation of both the Old and New Testaments along with helps for young readers from 8-12. This is the regular ESV version presented in two columns ' no simplification for younger readers ' so your child will need to be a confident, independent reader to be able to read this Bible.

Spread throughout the text are information boxes tackling the big 'W's' ' Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How to help your child dig into the facts presented in the Bible and to help your child go deeper by making connections and providing additional information. 4U boxes help your child personally apply certain sections of scriptures to your child's life. Cross Connections boxes help to draw connections between scriptures and how they point to the gospel of Christ ' both prophetically in the Old Testament, and more directly in the new.

Six section introductions are provided along with an introduction for each individual book of the Bible (fairly standard book introduction information but a mini-timeline for each book is included at the bottom of the page ' which is super-neat). A helpful glossary is included along with colorful timelines, maps, articles, and charts, to help your child explore the Word of God more deeply. Illustrations are included throughout, but respect the growing sensibilities of tween readers by using photo-realistic art in most cases, for a more 'grown-up' feeling.

I LOVE the mini-maps that are included in the 'W' boxes as appropriate ' like 'Where is Nineveh?' included right at the start of the book of Jonah with a helpful illustrated map. The illustrated family trees, timelines, drawings of notable buildings, descriptions and explanations of certain cultural traditions that are foreign to most modern readers, and other inclusions are all excellent and truly helpful additions.

In a few instances, our family doesn't agree with the '4U' sections because we don't hold to many institutional church traditions (Christmas, Easter etc.), that wouldn't be a big concern for us ' we always encourage our children to ask us any questions they have or if they are confused.

Perhaps most importantly is the emphasis of the additions on the gospel, continually pointing children towards God's saving love and the sending of His Son to redeem us ' to pay for our sins. A clear gospel presentation is included in the first Cross Connections Article and the Cross Connection callouts throughout the book keep reminding readers of the incredibly goodness, mercy, and forgiveness of God.

The ESV Grow! Bible presents a great balance between a straight-up Bible that includes just the text itself, and a full-blown study Bible where the commentary, notes, etc. can overwhelm the text itself and often overshadow it. Just enough helpful information is included to reveal and clarify the meaning of the scriptures themselves without getting heavily into adding layers of external meaning to the text, which I greatly appreciate. The helps it does include make this edition of the ESV a great support for young, growing Christians.

Scream
Scream
by Mike Dellosso
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.90
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat Formulaic, July 13 2012
This review is from: Scream (Paperback)
Mark Stone starts hearing a cacophony of agonizing screams when he talks with people on the telephone. These screams are followed soon after by the death of the person he spoke to on the phone. When he hears these same fearful screams when speaking to his wife (whom he is separated from) he springs into action as he tries to save her.

Though not Mike Dellosso's first novel, Scream is the first work of his that I read. Dellosso successfully weaves the strands of suspense, and redemption together into a fast-paced thriller. While some parts of the novel are somewhat formulaic (such as the spiritual tie ins) and unsurprising, he does manage to pull off a surprise twist at the end that I didn't see coming.

If you're just starting to read Dellosso though, I recommend some of his later works ' Darlington Woods or Darkness Follows (both of which I have also reviewed) in which his writing has become more polished. Both offer premises that are more unique than a kidnapping style suspense story, and are more engaging because of it. If you just can't get enough Dellosso though, this is a decent novel ' just not his best work.

Offworld
Offworld
by Robin Parrish
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.59
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, Surprising, July 12 2012
This review is from: Offworld (Paperback)
When astronaut Commander Christopher Burke and his crew return from Mars to Earth they find the planet deserted. Embarking on a journey across a bleak, abandoned landscape they search for signs of life ' for clues as to what took place. As the crew struggles to stay together and maintain some sort of order they desperately attempt to solve the puzzle of the missing populace (just as you will as you read along with their journey).

Robin Parrish has this knack of writing books with great hooks. They just keep you reading, wondering where Parrish will lead you, and trying to figure out what's going on. Offworld ' while it may not end up ANYWHERE near where you expect it to ' is a great example of this trait of Parrish's novels. I can't really say more about the reason everyone is missing without removing the suspense that is so titillating, but it's unexpected, and pretty far out there.

For people who don't like their sci-fi/speculative fiction to be mixed up with too much romance, Parrish is always a good bet as well ' while there is a very subtle theme of romantic devotion in the novel ' it's just that, very subtle, and always takes a backseat to action, adventure, and 'what's going on here?!'

In the same vein, while Parrish is classified as Christian fiction, he's pretty hands-off, keeping mentions of God brief ' so brief in fact that his work is amongst the more cross-over style titles available from Bethany House. Thankfully the writing is style is still clean (no language), but you can expect some somewhat gory fight scenes. This is a fun read for those looking for some sci-fi, adventure-style escapism without having to deal with the explicit sensuality that much mainstream sci-fi contains.

Spiritual Warfare for Women: Winning the Battle for Your Home, Family, and Friends
Spiritual Warfare for Women: Winning the Battle for Your Home, Family, and Friends
by Leighann McCoy
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.67
30 used & new from CDN$ 5.80

3.0 out of 5 stars Solid, Scriptural, But a Bit Flat, July 11 2012
Spiritual Warfare for Women is written by Leighann McCoy ' a pastor's wife, women's minister, mom, and cancer survivor. Having survived her own personal struggles with the enemy, she has drawn much of the material from her work from her own life and her experiences in ministry.

McCoy covers general spiritual principles such as God's love for us, and who the enemy is, before digging into women-specific targets that the enemy tends to focus on because they mean so much to us: marriage, children, friendships, health, and church. She then closes with encouragement by reaffirming our position in Christ ' asserting that we are already victors!

Every chapter draws strongly upon scripture to support its teachings and closes with encouragement to dig into specific sections of the Word to gain further understanding, a prayer suggestion, verses to memorize, and tips to make that memorization happen. Of course, McCoy liberally sprinkles the book with her own experiences to lend real life examples and context to her teachings.

Solid as the book is, somehow it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. It certainly does cover a good range of entry-level topics and core knowledge one needs to enter into the battle with their eyes open. Though it's hard to exactly pinpoint, I felt like something was missing a bit ' as though the book was a bit lighter and fluffier than I was expecting as opposed to giving me the real, nitty-gritty goods. That could just be my perception, but for some reason I was expecting something a bit different.

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