Calico Spy by Brownley

CalicoCan a Sheriff and Pinkerton agent work together to catch an elusive murder and work out their feeling for each other.

Calico Spy
Undercover Ladies #3
by Margaret Brownley
Shiloh Run Press
January 2016

Katie Madison, a Pinkerton operative, is sent undercover as a waitress to Calico Kansas. Her new assignment is to investigate the murder of two Harvey House restaurant waitresses . Branch Whitman as the town’s sheriff is mad at the fact that a Pinkerton is sent to solve the case. He is stunned at the fact that the beautiful waitress that frequents his thought is the Pinkerton operative sent to help. When a secret from the past threatens to tear away what the sheriff holds dear he must decide to trust Katie or risk losing it all. As they face challenges together they can feel the growing attraction between them and don’t seem to know what to do about it. Will they be able to work together and catch the elusive murderer and figure out their feelings for each other?

The Calico Spy is the third book in the Undercover Ladies series. I really enjoyed this book. Once I started it I had a hard time putting it down. I loved the vivid description that brought the story to life. The descriptions of the waitress protocol had me cringing and feeling sorry for Katie while laughing during the funny parts. It had me guessing what was going to happen throughout the whole book. The characters and their antics were very refreshing. The author wove the western, mystery and romance elements beautifully. I would highly recommend this book to historical romance lovers or someone who loves a good mystery. I will definitely read the rest of the series.


Myra Ovalle is your average typical girl. She loves to read. Her favorite types of books are historical fiction, biblical fiction and action adventure fiction. She would love to share her love of books and all the wonderful books she have read with you. Check out her new blog: From a Book Worm To You

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Winick

HiloWhimsical. Clipped. Fun.

Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth
by Judd Winick
Random House Books for Young Readers
September 2015

D.J. isn’t special at all. Not like his four siblings or his former best friend Gina who are all great at something. When a meteor falls to the earth, D.J. is the first on the scene and the first to meet Hilo, a naked (except for underwear) boy who isn’t familiar with earth or humanity. D.J. invites Hilo to his home and the friendship is born.

Shortly after Hilo shows up things take a darker turn. More meteorites fall from the sky – this time with dangerous creatures. Hilo – although he doesn’t remember much – knows that it is his job to stop them. As more and more attacks come we start to find the answers to both where the bad guys are coming from and where Hilo is from.

This is part one in a series and looks to pick up the pace as it goes. Judd Winick does a good enough – if uneven at times – job on the art, thanks in large part to Guy Major who’s coloring really fills in quite a lot of the gaps in drawing. It is standard but fun fare for young readers and with the colorful art and science fiction story it’s worth reading.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Nooks & Crannies by Lawson

nooksFlavia. Wonka. Fun.

Nooks & Crannies
Written by Jessica Lawson
Narrated by Susan Riddell
Dreamscape Media
June 2015

Tabitha Crum, an abused (although she doesn’t know it) and neglected child, is selected to visit a prestigious manor and a reclusive benefactor, Countess Camilla DeMoss, but doesn’t know why. Five other kids are brought as well as their parents for an unknown reason, with unknown possibilities. When someone turns up dead, this shy girl turns full Clue and sets out to solve the case.

This story is very much Flavia De Luce (by Alan Bradley) and the Chocolate Factory. The roadmap to the story has been done again and again. Child detective (from England, of course,) solves a mystery and passes tests for an unknown, but important rich person with a new future in the balance. That said, Jessica Lawson does it well. Tabitha is very likeable and easy to empathize with. The children are interesting. Her pet mouse, Pemberley, is cute and different. All to say that, while this is familiar, it is worth reading.

Susie Riddell does a great job as the reader. She hits just the right notes to bring alive the inner life of Tabitha and her cheekiness as well. Characters are easy to differentiate and the story moves quickly.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Blessing by Lyn Cote

blessingCan two seemingly opposite people unite together to face the danger that seems to lurk everywhere?

Blessing
Quaker Brides #2
by Lyn Cote
Tyndale House Publishers
June 2015

A chance encounter at the Seneca Falls women’s suffrage movement leaves Blessing Brightman and Gerard Ramsey hoping to never cross paths again. Blessing is the Quaker widow of a difficult man whose death left her with wealth and a high standing in society. Gerard Ramsey is the son of a wealthy Boston family who craves independence and respect from his father. As Gerard’s best friend decides to court Tippy, Blessing’s best friend, he decides to dissuade him and moves to Cincinnati. There he gets to know Blessing for who she is. A simple Quaker woman with a passion to help those nobody deems worth helping. As he decides to enter in a business venture that will seemingly give him the independence he seeks from his father, nothing is as it seems. Someone wants to ensnare him with deceit, while the past Blessing has tried so hard to overcome seems to come back and taunt her. Things start to escalate as racial tensions start to give way to violence. As they fight their way through everything the feel themselves falling for each other but their past and their need for independence get in the way. Will they work their way through their problems and feelings?

This was historical masterpiece. It explored two of the major movement of that time, women’s suffrage and the anti-slavery movements. It also brought a sense of intrigue and danger I was not expecting. The book was well researched and was masterfully written. The author wove the historical, intrigue, and romance elements together very beautifully. I loved it and will recommend and read the rest of the series.


Myra Ovalle is your average typical girl. She loves to read. Her favorite types of books are historical fiction, biblical fiction and action adventure fiction. She would love to share her love of books and all the wonderful books she have read with you. Check out her new blog: From a Book Worm To You

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

ESV Men’s Devotional Bible

ESVElegant. Helpful. Wooden.

ESV Men’s Devotional Bible
Crossway
November 2015

This is a beautiful Bible. The text inside is tight, sharp black text with gold headings and highlights. Devotions take up a page (and if there is left over room it is left blank, making it obvious that this is not a part of the Bible.) Each devotion ends with directions to the next. The devotions are excellent as well. Each is theologically sound (from the evangelical perspective.) None that I read were overly simplistic in content or wording and none were overly positive, self focused either. Well done in my opinion.

According to Crossway, the publishers of the English Standard Version (ESV), this translation is “word for word” rather than “thought for thought” (like the NIV), which the translators of the ESV believe relies more on the interpretation of the scholars, thus making it less “essentially literal” than the ESV. There is no way, however, to translate idiom, cultural syntax and grammar without the interpreters having to be relied upon. Have you ever heard a joke from another country? If someone who was a native speaker and who also understood English had to interpret it for you then you understand that all translations – if they are to actually convey what the original writers meant – will have to have interpreters of thought as well as words.

An example 2 Peter 3:10-11 (the random passage/ verse of the day):

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives. (NIV)

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, (ESV)

While essentially the same words, the interpretation of the NIV correctly conveys the point of the passage: that judgment is coming and when it does how you lived will be judged. So you should be living holy and godly lives. The ESV is less clear in the resolution or focus of the passage (how we should live), in my opinion.

All that to say that the ESV, in my opinion, is a little too wooden literal and isn’t as good a translation as the NIV for those who want to read the Bible and understand it easily. But it isn’t a bad translation at all. The evangelical scholars involved did a good job in translation based on their criteria.

Win A Copy: Propeller Consulting is providing an opportunity to win a copy for yourself! Simply make a comment here or on Facebook to be entered. One entry per family. Winners cannot have won another Propeller/ FlyBy contest within the last 30 days. BookGateway.com will select the winner by random drawing to be fulfilled by FlyBy. We are not liable for lost or damaged products. This contest will end December 4.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This movie screener was provided for the purpose of evaluation.

CEB Deep Blue Kid’s Bible

CEBDeepBlueColorful. Engaging. Themed.

CEB Deep Blue Kid’s Bible
Common English Bible
August 2015

There are a lot of things to like about this children’s Bible. It is full color throughout, has a cast of helpful cartoon characters that pop up from time to time in normal reading and is themed so that all the helpful tools fit together in a nice package. The Sailboat talks about character traits, the Umbrella talks through emotions during tough times, the Lighthouse talks about the basics of faith, and the Life Preserver helps with tough to understand passages.

There are other helpful tools as well like devotions, trivia, memory verses and my favorite, Bet You Can! where the young reader is challenged to read a passage in a short amount of time. This mimics some of the homework that readers in third through fifth grade do. There is also a checklist of memory verses that the young reader can start with, including page numbers, to help build up their Biblical knowledge. There is a lot of great stuff for young readers to really dive in.

A note about the Common English Bible: readers of the NIV or especially the NKJV/ KJV will likely be surprised by some of the changes that the CEB makes. Like other newer “modern” translations, the CEB attempts to make the Word readable and understandable for those who speak modern, American English. If a reader has grown up in a church tradition they are likely to remember certain phrases, names, verses or passages in the translation that they came from. Phrases you’re used to like “In the beginning God created…” are changed to “When God began to create…” (Gen 1:1-2). Angels are called “the Lord’s messenger” which is actually the correct way to say that. “Happy” is exchanged for “Blessed” in the beatitudes likely because people don’t normally say “blessed.” Scribes are now “legal experts,” which is also accurate. These are all easy to understand and digest.

Some will struggle with other changes like “repent” becomes “change hearts and lives” (Mark 6:12). The biggest issue I’ve read about is the change from “Son of Man” to “The Human One.” Neither title make much sense without studying them in light of Scripture, but people are used to Son of Man. If this is an issue for you then go with the NIV.

In my opinion, I would have preferred the benefits of the Deep Blue tools and resources to be added to an NIV Bible than the CEB because I prefer that translation. However, the CEB is accurate and readable and with these tools for kids I think it’s very well made and worthy of recommendation.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This movie screener was provided for the purpose of evaluation.

Growing in Faith, Hope, and Love NIV Bible for Teen Girls

teengirlsbibleHelpful. Insightful. Perfect for her.

Growing in Faith, Hope, and Love NIV Bible for Teen Girls
Zondervan
October 2015

When reviewing a Bible I think it’s important to differentiate between the content of the Bible translation and the additional content added to make it specific. The NIV is one of the most trusted and most scholarly translations available and has been for several decades. What I’m reviewing today is the additional content added specifically for teen girls and whether or not I believe it adds value. The short answer is yes.

Another short answer on why I think this version is value added: I’ve never seen my 12 year old daughter get into a Bible as much as she has been with this. There are a dozen book marks and after only about 3 weeks she’s made this book look very well used. We both love the full pink pages with excepts from books called Growing in Faith Hope Love, which are short devotionals based on passages in the book that is being read. For instance, my daughter has book marked “You Are Enough” from Jeremiah 33:3 where she read about how, like the Prodigal, so-called friends may abandon you but we shouldn’t accept the lie that they left because we weren’t enough. God says you are valuable. You are enough. (The passage is from a Zondervan book The Bare Naked Truth by Bekah Hamrick Martin (2013).)

I also like the memory verses that are highlighted in the text (like Psalm 139:16) and the chapter start pages that answer important questions like when it happened who was in the book, key passages and a quick overview. NOTE: the dates are taken from majority late dating standards, which many scholars may not agree with. For instance, Revelation shows A.D. 90 as the date it was written when many scholars believe, like I do, that Revelation could not have been written prior to A.D. 70. Whatever. It’s still a great resource and most of the dates aren’t make-or-break issues anyway.

Any Bible that actually grabs the attention of the intended audience and gets them reading is a winner in my opinion. This book does it for my daughter and so I’m sold.

Win A Copy: Propeller Consulting is providing an opportunity to win a copy for yourself! Simply make a comment here or on Facebook to be entered. One entry per family. Winners cannot have won another Propeller/ FlyBy contest within the last 30 days. BookGateway.com will select the winner by random drawing to be fulfilled by FlyBy. We are not liable for lost or damaged products. This contest will end November 6.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This movie screener was provided for the purpose of evaluation.

Galaxy Buck: Mission to Sector 9

galaxybuckOutstanding production. Lesson learned. One gap.

Galaxy Buck: the Mission to Sector 9
by Phil Vischer
Jellyfish Labs
October 2015

Buck Denver, a Gospel Galaxy with Pastor Paul call center representative, feels like he isn’t doing any good. He doesn’t want to be a “tote bag guy,” he wants to be a “big thing guy.” When he takes a call from Sector 9 that is suffering a service interruption, Buck decides to take the issue straight to the top – to Pastor Paul. The two repair ships are out and it will be weeks before someone can fix the transponder. Fortunately, Buck has been studying to be a ship captain – on an app – and just needs a chance to take the third ship and repair it himself. Why? Because “God wants us to do big things!” Quickly selecting a crew, Buck takes a ship and the adventure is on.

This new story by Phil Vischer, best known as the creator of VeggieTales, uses his popular Buck Denver character from What’s In The Bible. The Phil Vischer Podcast is one that I follow and listen to regularly. I’ve also read Vischer’s book, Me, Myself and Bob (2008), about the rise and fall of his Big Idea Entertainment (the company that owned VeggieTales prior to its sale to DreamWorks Classics.) All this to say that I’ve been hearing about and looking forward to this 40 minute show for most of this year. Overall, I’m very happy with the final product and look forward to showing it to my children.

The production looks outstanding. Vischer filmed his puppets on green screen and digitally inserted the really built sets and very good digital effects. Each puppet is really well animated and looks great. The voices will be recognizable as variations of Vischer’s other characters.

This science fiction story includes quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek references and Easter eggs for fans of both Star Trek and Star Wars. The ship, uniforms, how they solve issues and even the lens flares are all Trek (including Abrams’ Trek). There is a scene under water that is very reminiscent of the underwater scene on Naboo from Star Wars Episode 1. Even the scene wipes are Wars. When Buck finds an Obi Wan-like hermit, he finds someone to break the monotony of his simplistic non-stop “God wants me to do big things!” message.

A minor complaint that I have is that there isn’t diversity on display in the puppets. Buck, Pastor Paul and three out of four ship members are all peach/white. One is blue. The hermit is also blue and says he is from another planet. [SPOILER] The inhabitants of Sector 9 are ant-like, blue creatures. [END SPOILERS] Humans are peach/white. Aliens are blue. Children from non-white households won’t find anyone to identify with. No black, brown, Asian, islander, or native puppets exist. There are also only two females out of the 11 characters on the show and both are “other” rather than normal. One is an old lady and one is an alien. I think this could have been done just a little differently to be more inclusive. Honestly, after listening to Vischer’s podcast I’m surprised this happened.

The message of God Wants You (no: To Do Big Things!) is right on target. It is clear, easy to digest and spot on theologically. The Rule of Love is easy to appreciate.

Congrats to N. Priebe of Rockvale, TN for winning a copy of this!


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This movie screener was provided for the purpose of evaluation.

Fragile and Perfectly Cracked by Sophie Wyndham

fragilecover1 in 4 women.  25% of us.  We will walk a path no one wants to travel.  We will endure a pain no one wants to share.  We will join a club no one wants to join.  1 in 4 of us will know what it’s like to lose a child.
Fragile and Perfectly Cracked
by Sophie Wyndham
Independent Book Publisher’s Association
July 2015

In 2009, Sophie and her husband decided they were ready to start a family.  Like so many others, they don’t anticipate any problems.  They don’t yet know the statistics:  that a woman with a normal cycle only has a 20% chance of conceiving each month.   They move forward with excitement for this next stage in their lives.

Almost a year later, Sophie finds herself planning and preparing for the arrival of a son.  After not feeling well for a week, she begins to have complications.  The baby they’ve longed and hoped for will not be leaving the hospital in their arms, only in their hearts.

What follows is another try, another loss, then Sophie’s account of her journey through infertility treatments.   It is a raw, graphic, no holds barred view of what she endured.

Having traveled the same path as Sophie, it’s VERY hard for me to be objective.  The fact that she’s willing to open the pain of these moments and share with the world is highly commendable.  Sophie doesn’t sugar coat what she endured.   It’s a recommended read, but readers should be prepared for graphic details.   There are unhappy parts to any journey through loss and infertility, and Sophie doesn’t hold back.

If there’s one critique I can add, it’s that I wish it was longer.   I think opening up further could help the 75% better understand how to support a friend who might be experiencing infertility or loss.   Adding in what helped her cope best through those losses, particularly with outside support would allow a non-member of the club some insight into helping.

Overall, that’s a really small complaint in sight of the memoir.  Thank you, Sophie, for sharing your hurt.

I’m sorry you had to join this club.

 


Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at Bookgateway.com. She currently spends her days wrangling her 8 year old science nerd and 10 month old busy body.  You can visit her world of randomness at justwanderingnotlost.net, where there is no spoon.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

bonesofyouThe Andersons are the perfect family. Loving father, devoted wife, impeccably behaved daughters. Then Rosie, their older daughter, goes missing, only to be found murdered. The perfect image of their lives begins to unravel, leading to deep secrets no one is prepared to learn.

The Bones of You
by Debbie Howells
Kensington Books
July 2015

Kate learns that Rosie is missing from her friend Jo, Rosie’s mother.  In an effort to be supportive, Kate reaches out to a woman she only knows on the surface.   Kate finds herself drawn into the mystery surrounding Rosie’s death, only later to be shocked by the truth.

This novel is another entry into the category of flashback novels.  They story alternates between Kate’s present and the deceased Rosie’s past musings.  It is, sadly, a poor man’s The Lovely Bones.

I could never really get into any of Kate’s chapters.  I kept waiting for her to develop as a character, to become more than what she does.  She starts naive, trusting, unsure that what she’s learning is real.  She ends naive, trusting, unsure that what she’s learned is real.   She never develops and excuses the killer’s behavior in the end (no spoilers, I promise!).

Rosie’s chapters are better.  Unfortunately, these chapters make the disparity between the two characters even more painfully evident.  It’s almost like two different people were writing the book.  Where Kate never really changes, Rosie (albeit dead) develops and grows into her own through her narrative.

In the end, save the time.  Read The Lovely Bones instead.   This novel, sadly, left me feeling quite flat.


Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at Bookgateway.com. She currently spends her days wrangling her 8 year old science nerd and 10 month old busy body.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Your Gateway to Great Books!