Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Giveaway & review of "Isle of Shadows" by Tracy L. Higley

Isle of Shadows


Originally published as Shadow of Colossus, Tracy L. Higley's fabulous book set in 227 BC returns with a new cover and name of "Isle of Shadows". Tessa of Delos lives on the Island of Rhodes, and has served for ten years as a hetaira, a high-priced Greek courtesan, to a wealthy man involved in politics. Although she experiences every luxury available, she is held captive to her position, serving at her master's whim, until his sudden death offers her an unimaginable opportunity. Tessa joins forces with a Jewish house servant and a Greek slave, seeking to hide his death until she is able to escape from the Island. Soon Tessa is embroiled in far more than she'd counted on, as she collides with secrets and a conspiracy that threatens the stability of the Island.

Isle of Shadows is a thoroughly enjoyable read set in a fascinating time period that the author captures with vivid detail. The characters are unique, and I guarantee that within only a few pages you will find yourself completely sympathetic to Tessa's situation and rooting for her to obtain freedom, not only from her life as a courtesan, but from the hurt she's bottled up inside. I found that the plot unfolded as a masterful pace, keeping me glued to the pages as I raced to see how everything would turn out. As with Higley's other books, I also greatly appreciated how she has woven faith into the tale, and I find myself in awe of God's marvelous ways. I'm so glad that the publisher has chosen to release this book for a new readership to discover, because it is a tale worth reading!

Readers who have enjoyed previous books from Tracy L. Higley will definitely appreciate this novel, and I am sure it will garner her new fans as well! I highly recommend this book and award it 5 out of 5 stars. 

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson, and the Booksneeze program, for the purposes of this unbiased review.


about the author...

Image of Tracy L. HigleyTracy L. Higley travels the world, brings back adventure and writes novels that transports readers to ancient times and places.

Visit her website at TracyHigley.com or meet up with her on Facebook at facebook.com/tlhigley.





Buy the Book

From Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com






AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY....



I am giving away 1 copy of "Isle of Shadows" to readers from the U.S. and Canada, courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson.

You can get 1 entry into the giveaway for each task you perform:

1. Become a follower of my blog (through Google Followers or Networked Blogs) then leave a comment confirming you became a follower. If you are already a follower, just leave a comment that you already follow and I'll give you 1 entry for that.

2. "Like" my Facebook page, and let me know you did so in a comment. (The link is at the top of the webpage). Let me know if you've already liked it, and I'll give you an entry.

3. Post about the giveaway on your own blog or on twitter or facebook and leave me a comment. You get 1 entry for each method of spreading the word!

AND/OR

4. Leave a comment answering the following question: "What is your favorite period of history that you like to see a fiction book set in?"


++ Please include your email address in your comment so I can contact you to arrange to get the book in the mail to you.

That's all there is to it. Contest Ends November 15, 2012.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Absolutely, positively perfect!! My review of "Food, Faith and Fun: A Faithgirlz Cookbook"

Food, Faith and Fun: A Faithgirlz! Cookbook



Now a days, cookbooks seem to be a dime a dozen, but the new Faithgirlz! Cookbook absolutely stands out from the pack. Aimed at tween-aged girls, but with the ability to appeal to girls as young as 4 or 5 (with plenty of supervision of course), Food, Faith & Fun is a fantastic collection of recipes. The book has been divided into 6 main categories of recipes, including Munchies, Drinks, Salads, Main Courses, Sweets, and Holidays. Each section then contains about 20 recipes for everything from Peanut Clusters to Caramel Popcorn, Homemade Lemonade to Mango Chicken Quesadillas, Blackened Chicken to Peppermint Brownies. The book starts off with the "Faithgirlz Promise" to focus on inner beauty and is followed by a brief "Cooking Tips and Instructions" section, before diving into the fabulous recipes.

My children and I are truly excited about this cookbook, because the recipes are just so appealing to children's taste buds, and are accompanied by the best spread of photos I have ever seen in a cookbook - seriously! Even the headings of each recipe are colorful and eye-catching, and the photos look so delicious that I practically start drooling just looking at them. One of my main criticisms of many cookbooks aimed at adults is they either have no pictures at all, or very few. However, every single recipe in this book is accompanied by a photo, and  for a generation that is all about visual media, this book is an absolute winner! My daughters love donning an apron, and the directions for the recipes are easy enough for them to follow in creating a food item they can have a sense of accomplishment about. My daughters love doing "daddy dates" with me, and I can tell you that this book is going to be featured for many of them as we take on the task of cooking or baking our way through the book!

I am being absolutely honest when I state that this book is simply the perfect cookbook for girls (and even their brothers may find themselves using it too!). If you are looking for a Christmas gift idea for your own daughter, niece, or granddaughter, then I urge you to get this book! I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Zondervan, and Charleen Famiglietti of DJC Communications, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

For more information, check out the Zondervan Product Page here.

Buy the Book

From Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com

Monday, October 29, 2012

Congrats to the winner of Lynn Austin's "All Things New"

All Things New

Congratulations to Sarah, who won a copy of All Things New :)

Thanks to everyone who entered, and stay tuned for my next giveaway, which will be posted soon...


Isle of Shadows

One of his best yet: My review of "The Sanctuary" by Ted Dekker @TedDekker

The Sanctuary



about the book...


THE SANCTUARY is the gripping story of vigilante priest, Danny Hansen, who is now serving a fifty year prison term in California for the murder of two abusive men. Filled with remorse, Danny is determined to live out his days by a code of non-violence and maneuvers deftly within a ruthless prison system. 

But when Renee Gilmore, the woman he loves, receives a box containing a bloody finger and draconian demands from a mysterious enemy on the outside, Danny must find a way to escape.

They are both drawn into a terrifying game of life and death. If Renee fails, the priest will die; if Danny fails, Renee will die. And the body count will not stop at two.



my review...


Ted Dekker is at the top of his game with "The Sanctuary", delivering a masterfully written read that unfolds at a breakneck pace. I was immediately drawn back into the world of Danny and Renee, the characters first introduced in "The Priest's Graveyard", and Dekker cleverly interchanges between the points of view of Danny and Renee, while hurtling the reader towards the exciting conclusion. As with the prior book involving these characters, I am again blown away by Dekker's ability to take two characters who I should feel only disgust for due to their horrific deeds, and yet instead I find myself sympathetic to their plight and absolutely rooting for them. Danny utterly intrigues me as a character, a former priest who killed those whose crimes were escaping notice of the justice system, and someone who has now taken a vow of non-violence. The way that he is tested in this book is simply fascinating, and I should note that some of the scenes involving him are totally gruesome (especially regarding how he's tested) and will turn off some readers. But for those readers who don't have as sensitive of stomachs, this book should be at the top of their "must read list". It is completely entertaining, while leaving you thinking about human nature, about whether our justice system actually rehabilitates criminals, about our flaws as human beings and how we all have the capacity to be driven to act in ways we hope we never will. This book makes me thankful for God's grace, as we try to navigate an evil world and how to respond to it.

This is truly one of my favourite books from Ted Dekker thus far, and I give it my highest recommendation and 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Hachette Book Group/Center Street, for the purposes of this unbiased review.


about the author....


Image of Ted DekkerTED DEKKER is a New York Times bestselling thriller author. Heralded as a "master of suspense" by Library Journal, Dekker has sold millions worldwide, establishing himself as one of the most widely recognized author brands. He began his career writing fantasy novels that explored spirituality (Black, Red and White) and has since become a major force in the mainstream fiction arena with his recent thrillers, "Adam," "Thr3e," "Skin," "Obsessed," "BoneMan's Daughters," which landed in the #10 on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list in 2009, and "The Bride Collector". Dekker has been honored with a Christy Award as well as a Gold Medallion Award for Best Fiction. "Thr3e" and his novel "House" became feature films.

Ted Dekker's fans are comprised of readers of all ages, backgrounds, and belief systems who love his compulsively readable stories, authentic characters, and universal and relatable themes that he explores from a unique point of view. He resides in Austin, Texas with his wife and children. You can find him at Teddekker.com and Facebook.com/teddekker.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Completely captivating: My review of "To Whisper Her Name" by Tamera Alexander

To Whisper Her Name


about the book...


Olivia Aberdeen, destitute widow of a man shot as a traitor to the South, is shunned by proper society and gratefully accepts an invitation from "Aunt" Elizabeth Harding, mistress of Belle Meade Plantation. Expecting to be the Harding's head housekeeper, Olivia is disillusioned when she learns the real reason Elizabeth's husband, Confederate General William Giles Harding, agreed to her coming. Not finding the safe haven she expects, Olivia is caught off guard by her feelings for Ridley Adam Cooper, a Southern man who seems anything but a Southern gentleman.

Branded a traitor by some, Ridley Cooper, a Southern son who chose to fight for the Union, is a man desperate to end the war still raging inside him. Determined to learn "the gift" that Belle Meade's head horse trainer and former slave, Bob Green, possesses, Ridley harbors secrets that threaten both their lives.

As Ridley seeks to make peace within himself for "betraying" the South he loved, Olivia is determined to never be betrayed again.

Set at Nashville's historic Belle Meade Plantation, the most influential thoroughbred stud farm in America's history, To Whisper Her Name weaves the struggles of real people of the post-war South with the journeys of a man and a woman scarred by betrayal.



my review...


Tamera Alexander has succeeded, once again, at completely captivating me by one of her historical reads. "To Whisper Her Name" is a well-written book filled with delightful characters. I have to say that, although the main characters Olivia and Ridley are indeed interesting and well-rounded, my favorite characters of all were the numerous African American servants populating the novel and bringing their own spice to the story. Former slave Robert Green was especially a favorite of mine, and I found myself wishing that he was someone I could go meet now! What a fascinating piece of historical detail that he actually did hide his owner's horses during the civil war and saved them from capture by the enemy army!

The novel is filled with plenty of drama that kept the story moving along, though both my wife and I thought the book may have benefited from being shortened up a tad bit. The conclusion is utterly satisfying, though not surprising, and I closed the book feeling like it was time well spent. Readers who enjoy historical romance stories will also enjoy the relationship that unfolds between Olivia and Ridley, providing for some highly entertaining and humorous scenes between them. 

I am looking forward to what's coming next in the Belle Meade Plantation series. I award this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Zondervan, and PR By the Book, for the purposes of this unbiased review.




about the author....


Image of Tamera AlexanderTamera Alexander is a bestselling novelist whose deeply drawn characters, thought-provoking plots, and poignant prose have earned her devoted readers--and multiple industry awards. Among them, the Christy Award, the RITA Award, the Carol Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader's Choice Award, the Bookseller's Best Award, and the acclaimed Library Journal's Top Pick for Christian Fiction. Tamera also enjoys a devoted international following with her books being translated into German, Dutch, and Turkish.

Tamera's first seven novels are set against the rugged backdrop of the Colorado Territory (1860-70s), but she's recently turned her heart--and her pen--toward "home" and is writing about her own Southern heritage.

This biography was provided by the author or their representative.




Friday, October 26, 2012

Guide your kids through a Sex-Crazed Culture: My review of "Straight Talk with Your Kids About Sex"

Are you at a loss about how to help your kids make sense of sex in an overly-sexualized world?
Then read on for a preview and review of the book you have been looking for:




It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:


Josh McDowell has been reaching the spiritually skeptical for more than five decades. Since beginning ministry in 1961, Josh has delivered more than 24,000 talks to over 10 million young people in 118 countries. He is the author or coauthor of 130 books, with over 51 million copies distributed worldwide, including Experience Your Bible, The Unshakable Truth®, Evidence for the Historical Jesus, More Than a Carpenter (over 15 million copies printed in 85 languages), and The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, recognized by World magazine as one of the twentieth century's top 40 books. Josh continues to travel throughout the United States and countries around the world, helping young people and adults strengthen their faith and understanding of Scripture. Josh will tell you that his family is his ministry. He and his wife, Dottie, have been married for over 40 years and have four children and five grandchildren.

Dottie McDowell has been married to Josh for over 40 years. She has written several children’s books with her husband, and she and Josh are enjoying their four adult children and numerous grandchildren as he continues to travel worldwide in his ministry. Dottie and Josh live in Southern California.

Visit the authors' website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Utilizing up-to-the-minute research from Josh’s “The Bare Facts” resources and their experience with four children, the McDowells give readers encouragement and solid information in the sometimes-awkward process of guiding their child into a healthy understanding of God’s gift of sex and sexuality—within a biblical context of relationship to Him.


Product Details:
List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736949925
ISBN-13: 978-0736949927


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Just One Click Away

Sex. To some people it’s a dirty word, to others a beautiful one. And to still others it’s a provocative word…something they’re not comfortable talking about. Whatever your attitude, sex is a sensitive yet immensely important issue. For those who believe it’s a marvelous but powerful force that should not be misused, such as parents or leaders working with youth, the idea of sex—sexual activity—among young people is loaded with plenty of concern.

So how concerned would you be if a stranger was slipping into your child’s bedroom every day? What if this intruder was systematically teaching your child a distorted and perverted concept of sex? And what if this “sex education” your child was receiving led them down a path to immoral sex? You would no doubt be frightened and infuriated that the mind and heart of your child was being violated by this menacing intruder.

But before we go on to explain this danger, let us say this. We (Josh and Dottie), as parents who have raised four children of our own, are not here just to alarm you, although you have reason to be alarmed. We also want to equip you with a clear strategy to counter what your kids are facing. Even more at the heart of what we want to do, we hope to supply you with effective tools to raise your kids with a healthy (godly) understanding of sex.

After all, sex is great. It’s marvelous. It’s so wonderful that it can’t be put into words—because God has made it that way. You no doubt want your children to grow up understanding and embracing his design for their sexuality so they can delight in sex as he meant it to be delighted in. And if an immoral intruder were to cause your kids to misuse God’s wonderful gift, you would be angry and heartbroken.

Studies have shown that the number-one fear among Christian parents and Christian leaders is that a secular worldview and sexual immorality will somehow capture the hearts and minds of their kids. We certainly had that fear for our own children. To address that fear, many parents have helped open and develop more Christian schools. They have formed more networks to homeschool their children than ever before. Many have sent their kids off to Christian summer camps. Families have started attending megachurches with top-rated youth programs in unprecedented numbers. The hope of these parents has been to counteract the negative influences of a destructive culture in the lives of their children.

However, these positive steps may have actually caused many parents and educators to drop their guard. It’s natural to assume that kids are largely insulated from the influences of a corrupt culture if they live in a Christian home, are involved in a good church, are getting a solid Christian education, and are participating in monitored activities.

Actually, though, our kids are far more exposed to destructive cultural influences today than kids were even ten years ago. The reason for this is because right now we are in the midst of a social-media revolution that is allowing a corrupt and twisted morality to have direct access to our children at much earlier ages than ever before, even in the privacy of our own homes and in their bedrooms. This is the intruder we have been talking about.

The Social-Media Revolution

The culture influenced the previous generation through various media such as radio, TV, videos, magazines, and so on. If a parent monitored what his or her child listened to, watched, and read, there was somewhat of an assurance that a child could be insulated from the negative effects of a destructive culture. However, today’s social-media revolution has changed everything. Our culture intrudes upon your children through channels that barely existed a decade ago. For example, compare media growth (based on the general U.S. population) over the last decade.


In 2000

In 2010–2011

2.7 hours per week spent online by the average person

18 hours per week spent online by the average person

100 million daily Google searches

2 billion daily Google searches

12 billion e-mails sent daily

247 billion e-mails sent daily

12,000 active blogs

141 million active blogs

0 iTunes downloads

10 billion iTunes downloads

0 tweets on Twitter

25 billion tweets on Twitter

0 YouTube videos seen daily

4 billion YouTube videos seen daily

0 hours of YouTube videos uploaded every minute

60 hours of YouTube videos uploaded every minute

0 people on Facebook

845 million active users on Facebook

0 articles on Wikipedia

20 million articles on Wikipedia



More than 250 million new people were added to Facebook in 2010, with 30 billion pieces of content shared each month. If Facebook were a country, it would have the world’s third-largest population.

Approximately 20 million minors are on Facebook. Of those, 7.5 million are younger than 13 years old, and 5 million are younger than 10 years old. It is estimated that Facebook will soon reach 90 percent of all social-network users and 57.1 percent of all U.S. Internet users. By 2013, 62 percent of Internet users and half of the U.S. population are expected to be on Facebook.

In regard to video content, eMarketer estimates that of the 50 million U.S. children under 12, nearly 12 million—about 25 percent—“were online video viewers in 2011.” The estimate skyrockets to 70 percent by 2015. According to Harris Interactive, in 2010, the number of children under 12 years old who spent at least one hour a day online increased from 61 percent to 76 percent.

The Internet has surpassed TV as kids’ media of choice. A study by the U.S. Department of Education shows that 27 percent of all four- to six-year olds are on the Internet. Today kindergarteners are learning on iPads, not chalkboards.

The social-media revolution is connecting us in positive ways never before imagined 10 or 20 years ago. Yet all this ability to connect and have people connect to your children may cause you to feel uncomfortable. And it should. There is an alarming downside to the instant accessibility this culture has to your children.

Intrusive Immorality

As parents and Christian leaders, we want our young people to embrace a biblical sexual morality. We want them to enjoy sex as God designed them to enjoy it within the context of marriage. And just 10 or 15 years ago, we as parents, pastors, or Christian educators had a good measure of control over what type of things our young people saw or heard that shaped their view of sex. We could say, “We don’t watch those kinds of TV programs in our home; nor do we read those types of books.” There were certain controls we could put in place to insulate our children from damaging influences. When our children wanted to visit neighbors or friends, we tried to limit it to people with our same convictions.
But today we have, by and large, lost control of the controls. That is because a perverted morality is just one click away from our children. With just one keystroke on a smartphone, iPad, or laptop, your child can open up some of the worst pornography and sexually graphic content you can imagine. Just a few decades ago pornographic magazines were sold behind store counters and placed in paper bags. Most adult men didn’t even want to be seen carrying such a magazine out of a store. Today pornography is available to anyone, including your kids and teenagers.
Immoral sexual content is reaching many, if not the majority, of our children. According to research from Family Safe Media, the average age of the first Internet exposure to pornography is nine years old.12 And there are plenty of sites to be exposed to. There are over 5 million pornographic sites available today with over 68 million search requests daily. More than 2.5 billion porn e-mails are circulated every day.
A 2009 survey of 29,000 North American university students confirmed that 51 percent of males and 32 percent of females first viewed pornography before their teenage years. A journal article, “The Nature and Dynamics of Internet Pornography Exposure for Youth,” reports that 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls are exposed to Internet porn before they are 18 years old. Eighty-three percent of boys and 57 percent of girls have seen group sex. Sixty-nine percent of boys and 55 percent of girls have viewed homosexual or lesbian acts. Thirty-nine percent of boys and 23 percent of girls have been exposed to sexual acts depicting bondage.

According to a study cited in the Washington Post, more than 11 million teenagers view Internet porn on a regular basis. A Focus on the Family poll revealed that 47 percent of families said that pornography is a problem in their home. These were largely Christian families responding to the poll.

Who Is Concerned About This?

In contrast to the situation several decades ago, most of our young people see little or no problem with viewing pornography. Overall, studies show that 67 percent of young men and 49 percent of young women 18 to 26 years of age consider viewing pornography as acceptable behavior.

Of course, as a concerned parent, you no doubt warn your children and teens to stay away from “sex sites.” As a responsible and proactive parent, you may even install Internet filtering and monitoring software on your computers, as you should.

Yet what happens when your children visit their friends and they turn on their cell phones? Do the parents of your children’s friends have sexually explicit material blocked from all their electronic devices? The problem is that sexually oriented and perverted material through cyberspace is everywhere, and it is difficult to avoid, even when you try to block it.

Further, more than 1.5 billion pornographic peer-to-peer downloads occur each month, and most are not detected by “family filters.” (Peer-to-peer is from one computer directly to another computer.) An entire pornographic video can be downloaded by a child, often without detection by parents.

Because of the massive amount of sexually perverted material available today, the sheer overexposure, no matter how infrequent, tends to desensitize a young person. Rather than gaining an understanding of what sex is really for, why it comes with boundaries, and how it can bring intimacy and joy in a committed marriage relationship, young people tend to think everyone is doing whatever they want sexually without consequences. This is clearly the impression given through cyberspace.

Most young people have been so desensitized to sexually explicit material that they see no problem with joking, posting, or texting about provocative sex. Do you realize that 4 out of 10 teens are posting sexually suggestive messages? And another 39 percent of teen boys and 38 percent of teen girls say they have had sexually suggestive text messages or e-mails—originally meant for someone else—shared with them.

No doubt, it seems to our kids that the entire world around them, including their peers, is into premarital sex. We, of course, know that not everyone is “doing it;” yet our kids’ perception becomes their reality. The irony is, many Christian adults tend to think none of their kids are involved sexually, while their own kids think everyone else is “doing it.” These contradictory viewpoints are widespread.

Recently, I (Josh) did a two-hour seminar on “The Bare Facts: The Truth Bbout Sex, Love, and Relationships” at the staff conference of an evangelical organization. At an afternoon session, 1800 people showed up with their kids. In the next three days, ten different staff members told me that one of their children (all under the age of 14) had confessed to them that they were addicted to pornography on the Internet. Each parent expressed amazement and had never suspected a thing.

During a recent pastor’s conference I was addressing the same topic, and five pastors approached me after a session with their stories:

• Pastor #1: “I just found out that my two sons (ages 14 and 18) are struggling with pornography on the Internet.” Then he confessed that he had been addicted to pornography himself for 11 years.

• Pastor #2: “I learned last week that my 17-year-old son just got his girlfriend pregnant and my 15-year-old daughter is also pregnant. What do I do? I’m going to have two grandchildren soon!” He shared that his son regularly viewed pornography.

• Pastor #3 (a youth pastor): “My 14-year-old daughter has been giving oral sex to the boys at her [Christian] school.”

• Pastor #4: “I just found my 8-year-old son watching pornography on my office computer.”

• Pastor #5: “My 5-year-old son has been looking at pornography since he was 4 years old.” The pastor was crushed.

These five conversations happened in the 20-minute time span it took me to get from the podium to my car.

Before I could get into the car, a desperate teenager gripped my arm and said, “Dr. McDowell, would you please pray for me? I’ve been struggling with pornography for three years and it is destroying me!”

Several years ago, I was invited to speak on sex and relationships at one of the largest and most prestigious evangelical Christian schools in North America. The administration appreciated that I came to speak on that subject, but they made the following request: “We don’t want you to mention anything about oral sex,” they said, “because we don’t have that problem here. If you mention it, our kids will simply start thinking about it and want to do it.”

I thought their request was absurd and naive, but out of respect, I honored it. The moment I finished speaking, dozens of kids crowded around me to ask questions. Nearly every question was about oral sex. “Is it sex?” “Is it wrong?” “Can you get an STD from doing it?” and so on.

I wished the school headmaster had been standing there to hear his students. As I walked outside, three guys and two girls, all sophomores, approached me and asked, “Why didn’t you talk about oral sex?”

I avoided telling them that I had been asked not to talk on the subject. Instead, I asked them, “Why? Is oral sex a problem here?” And they said, “No, not really.” I replied, “That’s good,” to which they responded, “No, it’s not a problem for kids to do, because everyone is doing it.” (This was an exaggeration.)

I asked them to explain. “Well,” they stated, “at our school when a guy wants oral sex, he walks up to a girl and says, “Would you like a taco?” That was their code word for oral sex. They went on to explain, “If she agrees, they go into some room right here at school and perform oral sex. But then the boy is obligated after school to take the girl to Taco Bell to buy her a taco.”

According to these kids, oral sex was commonplace. According to the school leadership, “We don’t have that kind of problem here.” The disconnect between what many parents and Christian leaders believe their young people are doing, and what kids are actually doing, is vast. Sure, we don’t want to think our sons and daughters are involved in sexual activity of any kind and are being brainwashed with a distorted view of sex. But the truth is, if we are not proactive to counter what our kids are exposed to, chances are they will be captured by a destructive culture.

So What Can You Do?

It seems that it would be ideal if we could reverse the social-media explosion. But we can’t, nor should we even try. In fact, in the last 12 months, some estimate more than 200 million people were confronted with the claims of Christ on the Internet. Social media themselves are not the real culprit here. They are simply the vehicle that can bring either positive or destructive influences into the lives of our kids.

Escaping to a remote island where only committed Christians live might seem like a definitive solution. Then we could raise our kids where no secular culture could influence them. But that isn’t a realistic alternative any more than reversing the media revolution we are experiencing. So what can we do?

1. We must acknowledge the reality that kids are being negatively influenced with a distorted view of sex by the culture. We can’t live in denial of what is really happening. It is like one young mother said, “It feels as if we are trying to raise our kids in the center of Las Vegas.” So the first step to a solution is seeing the problem as it truly exists.

2. We need to counter the distorted and perverted views about sex our kids are hearing and seeing with the correct and healthy understanding of sex. Let’s say you are among those parents who have one or more children over the age of seven. And let’s say you are just now getting around to talking to them about sex. By now your kids have already got their sex education from the outside culture. And in all probability their understanding of sex is distorted and quite different than what you had hoped.

In this case, you will need to reintroduce your kids to a whole new concept of what sex is and why God created it. In many respects you will need to deconstruct the distorted concepts of sex they have adopted and represent an understanding based on God’s design. If your children are much younger you may still have time to get to them before the culture does. But you must start with them at a very young age.
Teaching kids God’s idea of sex means that we as parents and Christian leaders must first clearly understand why he created us as sexual beings in the first place. We must know the real purpose of sex, what sexual purity actually means, why there are boundaries around sex, and how a loving relationship is the cornerstone in teaching God’s view of sex. With this type of foundational understanding you will have a biblical context for introducing or reintroducing your children to what sex is all about. This will give you the biblical basis to raise your family to embrace a healthy (godly) perspective of sex. And that is what we will address in part one of this book, “Sex Is God’s Design.”
3. We must actively guide, lead, and instruct our kids in God’s perspective of sex. And to do that we offer you valuable and practical tools in part two, “Tips and Ideas for Your Conversations.” These short chapters have insights, examples, answers, and ways to deal with so many issues that you either have encountered or soon will encounter. We will discover together the wonderful opportunities to introduce or reintroduce God’s wonderful gift of sex to your kids.
As parents we (Josh and Dottie) didn’t do it perfectly. Perfect parents don’t exist. But we are grateful for the wonderful opportunity we had to impart to our children God’s plan for sex. All four of our kids are married now and have children of their own. And it is thrilling to watch them successfully passing on a biblical view of sex to their own children—our grandchildren. Be encouraged—your biblical values on love and sex can be passed on to the next generation. And we hope the pages that follow will help you in your effort to do just that.





MY REVIEW


Josh & Dottie McDowell have written a thoroughly practical, accessible, and helpful book about talking to your kids, of all ages, about sex. The book is easy to read, and has been broken down into sensible chapters that make it a breeze to find exactly what you are looking for on a given topic. What I love is the underlying message communicated through this book - that sex is wonderful and was created by God to be great, but only within the boundaries laid out in God's word. The authors are very clear on how to help your children muddle through the confusing messages the world will give them about sex, and also how to safeguard themselves from the negative consequences of having sex outside of the safety of marriage, including exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, continual comparison to previous partners, unwanted pregnancies, etc. Parents will be given guidance on how to set up household rules around the use of internet and hand-held devices that can make access to porn all too easy, and the authors openly discuss issues like sexting, oral sex, and what age to talk about what aspect of sex with your children. In an age where kids have easier access to pornography than ever before, this book provides much-needed and timely advice indeed!

 "Straight Talk with Your Kids About Sex" is an absolutely valuable resource and one that I will be keeping close on my shelf as I guide my own children through all the different stages of development. If you are looking for guidance to help you parent your children through a sex-crazed culture, then plan on getting this book!

5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Harvest House, and First Wildcard blog tours, for the purposes of this unbiased review.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Preview & review of "My First Handy Bible"



It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:

and illustrated by:
and the book:

Hendrickson Publishers (January 31, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

My First Handy Bible aims to communicate God's character and His love to the youngest of children, ages one to three. Beautifully illustrated in bright full color, My First Handy Bible has a cheerful padded hardcover with 61 child-friendly hardback pages and a handle and clasp that make it easy for small hands to tote and manipulate. The timeless stories are retold in simple sentences by author and artist Cecilie Olesen, illustrated by author and illustrator Gustavo Mazali and designed by Ben Alex, a C. S. Lewis Gold Medal winner author and designer.

Website for Book


Product Details:
List Price: $12.95
Hardcover: 61 pages
Publisher: Hendrickson Publishers (January 31, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8772473045
ISBN-13: 978-8772473048


AND NOW...SOME SAMPLE PAGES (Click on images to enlarge):













my review....


My children quite enjoyed reading the stories from "My First Handy Bible", from the colourful and interesting illustrations to the short stories that recap many popular stories from the Old and New Testament of the Bible. As a parent, I really appreciated how each short story provided the appropriate Bible reference, allowing me to look up the full story in the Bible to share further details about the story when my children were especially interested in doing so. The book itself is a very sturdy board book, so that it will withstand rough handling by little hands, and my son especially liked being able to carry the book around by its handle. The stories themselves, while simply written, do a good job of usually capturing the essence of the story, which is hard to do with only a few lines!

I strongly recommend this version of the Bible for little ones being introduced to the Bible, and award it 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher & B&B media group for the purposes of this unbiased review.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The coolest children's Bible App ever: A review of "The Beginner's Bible" App from Zondervan

Recently, I was given a request to download "The Beginner's Bible" app that was released this year from Zondervan publishers, and try out the app with my own family. The app is currently available for the ipad only. Here's a picture of the app that comes up on your ipad:


Product screenshot of The Beginner's Bible App for iPad.


The greatest part about this app is that it is FREE. The app comes with six interactive Bible stories, six coloring pages, and a game. If you want to add additional story packs, you do need to pay an additional $1.99 for each set of six new stories, coloring pages, and games. However, even the free version is packed full of goodies! The app features the awesome drawings that are part of the book version of The Beginner's Bible, and so will be familiar to your children.

My children and I downloaded the app this past weekend, and let me just say that it is simply fantastic! My children loved the interactive nature of the Bible stories, where you choose the story and the narrator then reads the story. As the story progresses, each word is highlighted, giving beginning readers the opportunity to follow along. The interactive pictures are a lot of fun for the children. For example, in the story of Noah and the ark, if your child presses on the picture of an animal it makes a noise! In another part of the story, it gives you the opportunity to use your finger to rock the boat back and forth, or make the dove fly to the ark and back. My kids loved the puzzle game and the coloring sections of the app, and also enjoyed the simple apple game where you use your finger to make the apples explode before they settle onto the tree.

Honestly, my biggest problem with this app is tearing my children away from it! If you are looking for a fun, educational way for your children to learn more from the Bible, then quickly go download this free app for yourself!

App has been provided for free from Zonderkidz, a division of Zondervan, along with a copy of the Beginner's Bible, for the purposes of this unbiased review.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A mesmerizing read: My review of the Spirit Well by Stephen R. Lawhead (Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour)

It's time for another Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog tour! This month is featuring "The Spirit Well" by Stephen R. Lawhead. Read on for a preview & review of his latest:


The Spirit Well (Bright Empires Series #3)


about the book....


The search for the map—and the secret behind its cryptic code—intensifies in a quest across time, space, and multiple realities.

But what if the true treasure isn’t the map at all . . . what if the map marks something far greater?  Something one world cannot contain? Those who desire to unlock that mystery are in a race to possess the secret—for good or evil.

Kit Livingstone is mastering the ability to travel across realities using ley lines and has forged a link from the Bone House, a sacred lodge made of animal bones, to the fabled Spirit Well, a place of profound power.

His friend Mina is undercover in a Spanish monastery high in the Pyrenees, learning all she can from a monk named Brother Lazarus. Still determined to find Kit, she is beginning to experience a greater destiny than she can fathom.

Cassandra Clarke is overseeing an archaeological dig in Arizona when a chance encounter transports her to 1950s Damascus. There, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to the Seekers—the last living remnants of the Zetetic Society who need her help to track down the missing Cosimo Livingstone and his grandson Kit.



my review....


I always enjoy reading a book by Stephen Lawhead, for the sheer ability to savour the way he forms words and sentences together into a mesmerizing read. The Spirit Well is an excellent addition to the series begun with Skin Map, well-written and difficult to put down, filled with intrigue and mystery and fantastic locales. 
I continue to especially love the plot line that follows Wilhelmina. Ever since the first book in the series, when she awoke from her stupor of coasting through life and managed to turn her circumstances to success in the creation of the coffeehouse, I’ve enjoyed watching her beat all expectations in her journey through life. Her refusal to allow others to determine her circumstances is a refreshing attitude to see in a character, and she has surprised me time and again throughout the story. I also continue to feel an affinity for Kit, as he seems to almost stumble about making discoveries but also manages huge strides in his own development.  All of the characters in The Spirit Well collectively make for an entertaining lot, and I highly enjoyed revisiting them in this third installment in the series. 

If you haven't yet given this series a try, I recommend you start with the first book in the series and read all the way through to The Spirit Well. You are in for a treat! I give Spirit Well a high recommendation and rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson, and Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy  blog tours, for the purposes of this unbiased review.



 about the author....

Image of Stephen R. Lawhead
Stephen R. Lawhead is a prolific and bestselling author of mythic history and imaginative fiction. He is best known for his King Raven trilogy, a re-telling of the Robin Hood legend, and Pendragon Cycle, centering on the King Arthur legend. Other notable works include the Song of Albion, Celtic Crusades and Dragon King Trilogies, Byzantium, Patrick, Avalon, and the works of science-fiction Dream Thief and Empyrion saga. Lawhead makes his home in Oxford, England, with his wife.



Author Website - http://www.stephenlawhead.com/
Author Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/StephenRLawhead




Wait! There's more:


Be sure to check out other bloggers who have read The "Spirit Well" through the CSFF tours by checking  out the links below:



Ready to buy?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Preview and review of "The Amish Family Cookbook" by Jerry & Tina Eicher

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Tina Eicher was born and married in the Amish faith, surrounded by a mother and sisters who were great Amish cooks. At fellowship meals and family gatherings, Tina’s dishes receive high praise and usually return empty. She and her husband, Jerry Eicher, author of several bestselling Amish fiction titles, are the parents of four children and live in Virginia.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


From bestselling author Jerry Eicher (more than 350,000 books sold) and his wife, Tina, comes this warm and inviting peek into an Amish kitchen, complete with recipes, Amish proverbs, and a dash of Amish humor. Readers will laugh, pray, and eat robustly with The Amish Family Cookbook at their side.



Product Details:
List Price: $ 14.99
Spiral-bound: 272 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (October 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736943773
ISBN-13: 978-0736943772



AND NOW...A FEW RECIPES FOR YOU TO TRY (CLICK ON PICTURES TO SEE THEM LARGER):














my review...


The Amish Family Cookbook is a valuable treasure trove of recipes, well-organized into sections with everything from Appetizers to Breakfast foods, Cakes, Cookies, Dessert, Main Dishes, and Breads. There is truly something for everyone in its pages. The recipes are easy to read and easy to follow as well. I quite enjoyed the layout of the book, where recipes have been accompanied by cute little sayings and the occasional and appropriate quote from one of the Eicher's books. What I most appreciate about the cookbook is the peek it offers into the Amish culture, with many a surprise along the way. For example, for some reason I expected the Amish to cook much more with strictly natural ingredients. Yet what a surprise to learn that one of the favourite things for the Amish to eat after church is "Amish Peanut Butter", a mixture of peanut butter, marshmallow creme, and maple syrup. Who knew the Amish like marshmallow creme? And I must say that this recipe must be an acquired taste! The only thing that would have made the cookbook even better would have been the inclusion of pictures of at least some of the delectable recipes contained within its pages.

I award this cookbook 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Harvest House, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Free fiction ebook: In the Shadow of Lions: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Ginger Garrett

Today, publisher David C. Cook has made a fiction ebook free for download for a limited time:


Epub From Christianbook.com for your Kobo, Nook, Sony ereader, etc:
(currently free as of this posting)

                                   13697EB: In the Shadow of Lions - eBook In the Shadow of Lions - eBook
By Ginger Garrett / David C. Cook



From Amazon.com:
free as of tomorrow Oct.22/12

 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gun-totin' Amish folk - Who knew? My review of "The Face of Heaven" by Murray Pura

The Face of Heaven


about the book...


Following on the heels of The Wings of Morning, the first book in Murray Pura’s Snapshots in History series, comes this compelling saga of the Civil War.

In April 1861, Lyndel Keim discovers two runaway slaves in her family’s barn. When the men are captured and returned to their plantation, Lyndel and her young Amish beau, Nathaniel King, find themselves at odds with their pacifist Amish colony

Nathaniel enlists in what will become the famous Iron Brigade of the Union Army. Lyndel enters the fray as a Brigade nurse on the battlefield, sticking close to Nathaniel as they both witness the horrors of war—including the battles at Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, and Antietam. Despite the pair’s heroic sacrifices, the Amish only see that Lyndel and Nathaniel have become part of the war effort, and both are banished.

And a severe battle wound at Gettysburg threatens Nathaniel’s life. Lyndel must call upon her faith in God to endure the savage conflict and to face its painful aftermath, not knowing if Nathaniel is alive or dead. Will the momentous battle change her life forever, just as it will change the course of the war and the history of her country?






my review....


Murray Pura has penned a poignant read in The Face of Heaven, grabbing my attention from the first couple of chapters and holding me captive until the stirring conclusion. As with his prior book I reviewed, The Wings of Morning, I greatly enjoyed his take on the Amish community, and found it highly interesting to watch them grapple with how their community should respond to the injustice of slavery and their response to the civil war. My favourite line is when Nathaniel questions their stance not to participate in the war, when he says "Or does he want us to do something about it? Does God come in a mist and plant our corn for us? Harvest our wheat while we watch? Hitch our horses to our wagons and plows and carriages? So why do we think he will stop evil without our hands and feet and hearts?" Such a question makes me stop and think for sure, and there were many moments during the book that made me pause in introspection (and, I admit, even a scene where tears welled in my eyes!).

Nathaniel and Lyndel are wonderful characters, richly drawn and full of feeling and realism. The author has succeeded at truly bringing them to life and causing you to care about them and their story, which has been wonderfully placed in a vivid historical setting that all together makes for a compelling tale. I highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy historical fiction and Amish stories, and award it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Harvest House, for the purposes of this unbiased review.


about the author...

Murray PuraMurray Pura earned his Master of Divinity degree from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and his ThM degree in theology and interdisciplinary studies from Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. For more than 25 years, in addition to his writing, he has pastored churches in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and Alberta. Murray’s writings have been shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award, the John Spencer Hill Literary Award, the Paraclete Fiction Award, and Toronto's Kobzar Literary Award. His novels for Harvest House include Face of Heaven and The Wings of Morning. Murray pastors and writes in southern Alberta near the Rocky Mountains. He and his wife, Linda, have a son and a daughter.






Buy the Book

From Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Free fiction ebook: Leave It to Chance: A Novel by Sherri Sand

Free for download from publisher David C. Cook and author Sherri Sand is a novel, "Leave it to Chance". Download it quick while it's still free!



Grab the epub from Christianbook.com:
for your Kobo, Sony ereader, etc...

13695EB: Leave It to Chance - eBook
By Sherri Sand / David C. Cook

Single mom of three, Sierra Montgomery is desperate to find a new job to keep from having to move back home and be smothered to death by her mother's good intentions and overbearing love. So when Sierra inherits Chance, a quirky old gelding she doesn't have a clue what to do with, she thinks her best bet may be to sell the horse to cover another month's rent-a decision that devastates her children.

Enter Ross Morgan, a handsome landscaper who just happens to have an empty barn and fenced pasture which is perfect for an old horse to live out his days as the pet of three wounded kids. Ross develops a soft spot for eldest child Braden...and he just might have one for Braden's mother. But what he doesn't have is time for distractions; he's got a landscaping business to run and nursery plants to tend.

But there's just one problem. Sierra's terrified of horses and thanks to her past, wary of attractive men. Yet seeing the way her angry son idolizes Ross and adores that old horse forces Sierra to confront her fears. Will she remain distrustful and self-reliant, or will she seek help from God and those who love her?


Try Amazon.com:


Or Barnes&Noble:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dee fans, don't shoot me! My review of "Full Disclosure" by Dee Henderson

Full Disclosure


about the book...


PAUL FALCON AND ANN SILVER: A LOVE STORY

Ann Silver is a cop's cop. As the Midwest Homicide Investigator, she is called in to help local law enforcement on the worst of cases, looking for answers to murder. Hers is one of the region's most trusted investigative positions.

Paul Falcon is the FBI's top murder cop in the Midwest. If the victim carried a federal badge or had a security clearance, odds are good Paul and his team see the case file or work the murder.

Their lives intersect when Ann arrives to pass a case off her desk and onto his. A car wreck and a suspicious death offer a lead on a hired shooter he is tracking. Paul isn't expecting to meet someone, the kind that goes on the personal side of the ledger, but Ann Silver has his attention.

The better he gets to know her, the more Paul realizes her job barely scratches the surface of who she is. She knows spies and soldiers and U.S. Marshals, and has written books about them. She is friends with the former vice president. People with good reason to be cautious about who they let into their lives deeply trust her. Paul wonders just what secrets Ann is keeping, until she shows him the John Doe Killer case file, and he starts to realize just who this lady he is falling in love with really is....





my review....

Dee Henderson excels at creating characters with emotional depth and individuality that soon makes them feel like they are living and breathing. "Full Disclosure" sees her at her finest in creating fascinating characters, from Ann who has so much to admire and yet who is hiding complex secrets in her past, to Paul Falcon, who fights for justice but also seeks to put his faith and family first. The plot is an intricate one, with twists that I didn't see coming, and with lots of action-packed drama to keep things moving along. As you can see, there is a lot to like about this book.

However, I felt the book was a bit lacking on the suspense side for something characterized as "romantic suspense", because there were no real life and death situations where I feared for the character's lives. All such scenes really seemed to sit in past, historical moments, where we learned of what happened through being told about it rather than watching the characters live through it. If this book were characterized more as a contemporary drama I think I would be giving it a higher rating. Just because a book features FBI and cops who deal with murder doesn't make it suspenseful. The only thing I really disliked about the book, though, was that she made the character, Ann, the "author" of Dee's prior books like the O'Malley series. It seemed a little odd and self-serving to have characters in this story praising these books as "good solid reads" when they are actually talking about books Dee has written, not Ann in the story. I'm still not quite clear on why this aspect was added into the plot.

Don't get me wrong. Full Disclosure is overall a fairly good story, just a little different than I was expecting based on past works by Dee. Fans of Dee may be disappointed with this review, but I mildly recommend it and award it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.



about the author...

Dee Henderson is the bestselling, award-winning author of 15 previous novels, including the acclaimed O'MALLEY series and UNCOMMON HEROES series. She is a lifelong resident of Illinois. Learn more at www.deehenderson.com.









Buy the Book

From Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com