Thursday, March 25, 2010

2010 She Speaks Conference

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The She Speaks Conference is here again. Have you ever had a calling to write or speak the message God has given you? Would you like to develop those abilities to be able to minister to women in the best way possible? Then, this conference is for you. It is open to all speakers, writers, bloggers, and Women Ministry leaders, and Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries is giving away a few scholarships to attend.

I would love to be a recipient. I believe God has called me to minister to teenagers. That's one of the reasons I write book reviews. As a teenager, I didn't make the best choices in regards to the books I read and the movies I watched. As an adult, the ungodly messages I received through the media affected my marriage and my relationship with God. I believed a lot of lies, but God intervened. Now, I want to share my experiences.

If you would like to enter to win one of the Cecil Murphy scholarships to attend as well, then visit Lysa TerKeurst's blog.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chop, Chop

Reviewed by: Shawna
Title: Chop, Chop
Author: L.N. Cronk
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Christian Realistic Fiction
# Of pages: 191
Publisher: Rivulet Publishing
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 3 (4-6 coming soon)
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: From book cover: Ever since Laci was a little girl she's been growing out her pretty, brown hair and chopping it off to send to Locks of Love. When Greg moves into town and finds out what she's doing, he thinks it's a great idea...so he starts doing it too! It's just one of the things that reserved, young David must tolerate as their friendship grows throughout the years. As they near adulthood, they grow not only closer to each other, but closer to God as well. David finds himself content in every way, but when tragedy occurs David must struggle to find his way back to God.

Review: From the first sentence, I was drawn into the plot. “He’s going to be the youngest person executed in our state since the death penalty was instated in 1975.” I was excited to see where the author was going to take the characters. She begins in childhood of three Christian teenagers, David, Laci and Greg, and progresses to the present, their high school years. From a life-changing mission trip to a teenage tragedy, the obstacles the teens face are very relevant and real-to-life. It was as if any Christian teen could have had the same experiences. Then, she brings you to one tragic event that rocks the teens’ faith. The only downsides are I would have liked a few more twists and turns to the author’s straight-forward story-telling approach, and I felt she could have delved a bit deeper into David’s (our storyteller) mind once the tragedy occurred. Overall, I was pleased with the story and the messages presented and would recommend the book.

Rating: 4 for violence

Positive: The main focus of the book is the teens’ Christian walk with God. We see them making good and not so good decisions along the way, but ultimately they strive to live Christ-centered lives. I like to see books exploring pertinent topics in teen’s lives and showing how even though bad things happen and you might turn away from God, He, “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV) never turns away from you. He can help you come through anything if you give Him allowance to do so. All you have to do is ask. “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24 NKJV)

Spiritual Elements: Most of the characters are Christians. Greg’s dad becomes the new youth minister at Laci and David’s church. Many of the scenes take place during their youth group trips, one of which is a mission trip to Mexico. Both David and Laci walk away from the trip changed for the better. As the book progresses, we see how each of their faiths grow and change through many obstacles. The Bible is referenced on several occasions.

Violence: The book begins with Laci and David waiting in the car with their Sunday School teacher to attend an execution of a young man. The book deals with a heavy topic (Spoiler): the shooting of two people and the repercussions pertaining to the crime. But, the issue was written tastefully and without much gory detail.

Language: Cr*p is used a couple of times. The expression, “O_ M_ G__” is used about four times, most of which takes place in one conversation between David and the girl he likes. She uses the exclamation often and he requests that she stop doing it because it takes the Lord’s name in vain.

Sexual Content: Nothing other than a kiss.

Other: None

Recommendation: I feel this book is a timely read particularly since we see a lot of teenage crime presented in the media. I especially liked how the author explains that the exclamation “O_ M_G__,” used often as an accepted way of taking the Lord’s name in vain, is in fact wrong. Also, many teens will be able to relate to the characters’ lives and will walk away with many godly truths. I would recommend the book for ages 12 and up.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate



By reviewer Greta Marlow
Title: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Author: Jacqueline Kelly
Primary Audience/age group: 9-12
Genre: Historical fiction
# Of pages: 338
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Year of Release: 2009
Part of a Series? No
Newberry Honor book
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend: Yes, I guess (but not enthusiastically)

Description: (from book cover) ”The summer of 1899 is hot in Calpurnia’s sleepy Texas town, and there aren’t a lot of good ways to stay cool. Her mother has a new wind machine from town, but Callie might just have to resort to stealthily cutting off her hair, one sneaky inch at a time. She also spends a lot of time at the river with her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist. It turns out that every drop of river water is teeming with life—all you have to do is look through a microscope! As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and learns just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.”

Review: I liked some of the things about this book, but I have to be honest. I thought Callie was such a brat that I had a hard time being sympathetic with her. Granted, it would be hard to be the only girl in a family of brothers, and granted, running around collecting specimens from the creek might be more fun than tatting, but Callie just grated on my nerves at times. Maybe I’m too much like her mother, ha ha.

Rating: 4

Recommend: I suppose

Positive: Callie builds a relationship with her grandfather, whom everyone else in the family seems to regard as too eccentric to bother with. He teaches her to have an interested and inquiring mind about the world around her, and together they take part in a scientific discovery that gains recognition from the National Geographic Society.

Spiritual Elements: There is a bit of a family uproar when Callie’s oldest brother wants to court a girl of a different religion. Callie’s grandfather is a big fan of Charles Darwin, and has a friendly debate with the local Methodist minister over the fossil record and Genesis. There are epigraphs from Darwin’s Origin of the Species at the beginning of each chapter, but the book doesn’t overtly push Darwin’s theories. (Actually, I had a hard time seeing any connection between the epigraphs and the content of the chapters.)

Violence: There’s none to speak of, although one of Callie’s younger brothers goes through emotional trauma when his pet turkeys are going to be used for Thanksgiving dinner.

Language: A few vulgar or objectionable words are sprinkled here and there, but they are not overwhelming.

Sexual Content: Callie experiences some jealousy when her favorite older brother begins courting. She has a conversation with a friend about kissing, which includes some mention of animals mating. But nothing is explicit or what I would consider to be objectionable.

Other: Alcohol plays a significant role in Callie’s family. For one thing, her grandfather is trying to distill whiskey from pecans, and at one point, gets Callie to taste it for him. He also offers her whiskey on other occasions, which she turns down, thanks to her first experience. I was bothered by the way he always had a flask with him and by how Callie’s mother seemed to depend on her “Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound” to handle her headaches brought on by a houseful of boys. Early in the book, Callie mentions that the tonic is 20% alcohol. I know, historically, that there probably were a lot of women who were hooked on those patent medicines that were just thinly-disguised booze, but there was just something in the casual attitude about it in this book that sort of bothered me.

Rating: 4

Recommendation: This is not one of my favorite books I’ve read for this site, but I don’t think there is anything so objectionable in it that I would suggest young readers should avoid it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Reviewed by Angi 
Author: Suzanne Collins
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Fiction
# Of pages: 400 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Year of Release: 2009
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 3
Rating: 3 (View Scale)

To read the review of Hunger Games, click here. To read review of Mockingjay, book 3 click here.

Description: From Book Jacket:
Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale hold her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.
Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost i their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.
In Catching Fire, the second novel of the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before . . . and surprising readers at every turn.

Review: Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) was a disappointing follow up to the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games was a well written book full of action and suspense along with carefully created and believable relationships. There were cute parts, funny parts, excitig parts – it wasn’t a complete waste of time. It was definetly a predictable book that unlike the cover claimed was not surprising at every turn. Catching Fire could have been so much more than just a filler between the beginning (book 1) and the end (book 2). However, it appears as though the author viewed it as just another day at the office with a payday to follow.

Rating:3

Positive:The loyalty that Katniss shows to Peeta and Gale is heartwarming and admiral.

Spiritual Elements: None

Violence: There are many intense scenes of violence and gory injuries.

Language: None

Sexual Content: There is kissing and snuggling together.

Other: Just as in the first book, many or relationships are full of deception, manipulating and ulterior motives.

Recommendation: My daughter read The Hunger Games for her book club, soon after, my book club picked it as well. After finishing Hunger Games, we wanted to read the sequel right away. Unfortunately, Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) was a disappointment to me. She liked it, but not as much. The series is not for the faint of heart, there were parts that can really gross you out. I am hoping that book three, Mockingjay, gets back to great storytelling of book one.