Saturday, October 15, 2016

Review: "A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue" by J.A. Myhre

When a reluctant Kiisa goes off to boarding school, her father surprises her with an unlikely gift - a talking bird, a fabled "messenger" that is able to talk to humans. Kiisa and her bird Njili are destined to save lives in a dangerous rescue mission brought about by African rebels. Along the way Kiisa learns about forgiveness, bravery, and evil's role in this world. Girls overcoming cultural barriers and prejudices is also a commonly addressed theme.

A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue is a 130-page juvenile fiction, magical realism book with a Christian underlay.
The Christian elements of the book are subtle, mostly represented through the animal messengers sharing knowledge about what evil is, and how it take many forms.

It is set in Africa, representing a fictionalized version of real events and real places. Author J.A. Myhre uses her experience living in Africa to provide an accurate representation of a culture many young readers will encounter for the first time, including using words in the Luwendigo dialect such as kodi and milembre in greetings. These words and other words that may cause confusion for young American readers (football meaning american soccer, etc.) are all defined in a short glossary at the end. Key scenes were illustrated in full-page black and white sketches, which I thought added quite a bit of value, especially for young readers tying to imagine a different part of the world.

The plot was engaging and moved at a good pace. There were odd moments in the story where time seemed to be of the essence, but the protagonist was spending time bathing, cooking chicken, and sleeping, with no sense of immediacy. The rebel antagonist story line was quite dark, but not unrealistic or necessarily inappropriate. There were subtleties that younger audiences might not pick up on, such as the protagonist wondering why the rebels would kidnap a young girl - perhaps for a cook, perhaps something "more sinister" - and thinking that if it were her in that situation, "she would be dreading nightfall" (97-98).

A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue is the second book in the Rwendingo Tales series. The first followed Kiisa's brother and his messenger animal in A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest. I haven't read the first book yet, and I did not see any reason that you would need to read it first in order to appreciate this book, since though the family and setting are the same, the stories seem to be completely independent.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

TV Adaptation Announced: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

I just finished reading Ben H. Winter's World of Trouble, third book of The Last Policeman series, only to find out the series is being turned into a TV show! Briefly, the gist of the series is that despite the imminent threat of an asteroid heading toward Earth, detective Hank Palace is determined to retain his identity as a law enforcement official, continuing to solve cases that no one else can be bothered to think about with the end of the world so near. Here's a trailer from the book:

I haven't found any info about when to expect the pilot to air, but I'm looking forward to seeing it.

The Last Policeman: Existentialist Sci-Fi Comes to TV

NBC Nabs ‘The Last Policeman’ Sci-Fi Cop Drama From Ben H. Winters & Neal Moritz

In case you missed it, here are my reviews of the first two books of the series:

The Last Policeman
Countdown City

Friday, September 16, 2016

"Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal"

 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
PSALM 91:4 

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal is a hardcover journal that opens flat to easily color and write on both sides without having to worry about pictures in the crease. Each two page spread has its own topic with related pictures to color, a journaling activity, and sometimes a prayer and Bible verse.

The prayers were well written and connected well to the Bible verses. Coloring each spread gave me time to reflect on the theme and think about what I might want to write in reflection. The amount of coloring on the pages varies quite a bit, so it's nice for when you want a quick devotion time or a more detailed coloring experience.

I wish that there was a table of contents listing the topics since each page is titled. It would help if you were looking for some specific comfort. Personally, I chose to jump around to pages that I wanted to color as a way to select what to do next. 

The overall message is positive and encouraging. I found doing the activities both relaxing and reinvigorating. It's a well put together book and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a new type of devotion to try out.

 FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Review: "Punderdome" Card Game

Punderdome is a creative card game for at least three pun-loving people. Players can compete as individuals or small teams, as long as there is always at least one person or team to be the "Prompter" while at least two other individuals or teams can compete in the round.

Each round begins with a warm up question, where the first team to answer with a pun that fits  receives an extra 30 seconds to come up with their pun that round.

A suggested answer is provided, but any answer that fits is accepted and encouraged.

The round itself is played with the Prompter revealing a white card and a green card with which the teams have 90 seconds to combine into a pun and write it down. The Prompter votes on the best, and the winner becomes Prompter for next round. First team to 10 round victories wins the game.

This one took me more like five minutes than 90 seconds, but I'm proud to finally say my response to this is: Kung-Fu-cianism (Confucianism). I found it quite challenging to come up with something, so I could see wanting to play in teams especially at first, though you would need at least 6 players to do even teams.

An example given in the rules is Exercising Furniture:

  • You can only run sofa until you need to take a break!
  • Come on in here, pull-up a chair!
  • I never go to the gym--I'm more of a La-Z-Boy.

Winning the game involves choosing one of two mystery envelopes that the Host of the game has filled secretly before the game with a slip of paper that names a prize. The game suggests that one could be a good prize ("I'll buy you a drink") while one could be a rotten prize (a used napkin). A carry-over from the live game show the card game is based on, I'm sure it could be very interesting if you have great ideas for the prizes. However, as someone who plays games often, I could see it as being a hassle, a deterrent from playing, and frankly just unnecessary. Games don't need prizes to make them fun to play! I could see skipping the prize envelope entirely and just letting winning 10 rounds be the end of the game. If you had specific plans to play Punderdome, planning ahead could make the prize envelope part more fun.

This is the live game show the card game is based off.

All things considered, this could be a really fun game with the right group of creative individuals. Like any game, knowing your audience and their game preferences is important for knowing if this game would go over well. If you have a friend that is always inserting corny puns into everyday conversation like I do, you know this game would be a perfect fit.

A final note: as a game enthusiast/nerd, I have to express my appreciation that the box has dividers for keeping the two decks of cards separate. I love an organized game box.

I received a free copy of this game in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Can't Wait to Read: "This Is Not the End" by Jesse Jordan

"There's nothing I hate like arguments in the face of overwhelming logic. There are two reasons I know more than is possible about you. The first is simply that more is possible than you comprehend. The second is that we've been keeping track of you for a very long time, because you are a very special boy. I'm sorry--young man. A very special young man. You must excuse a certain amount of unintentional condescension from those of us who are very old. In any case, what I was beginning to say is that I've been watching you. And I've been waiting for this day, when I could finally meet you and begin." (44)

The biggest congratulations to Jesse Jordan on the release of his second novel:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Review: "The Never-Open Desert Diner" by James Anderson

Working a delivery route on a remote stretch of Utah highway, Ben Jones is just an eccentric character as the residents that he serves. Ben's cash is running low from the route that isn't profitable enough to pay his bills. The first half of the book gives an interesting peek into the lives of those societal outcasts, such as Walt who owns a diner that hasn't been officially open since his wife died, a preacher who carries a cross through the desert everyday, and a mysterious woman squatting in an abandoned house in a never-developed subdivision.

The woman, Claire, is hiding out avoiding her husband, whom she is in the process of divorcing. Though she at first threatens Ben to stay away, he's drawn to the mystery of her after seeing her play the cello through the papered up windows of the abandoned house. When people start snooping around the desert, he suspects it is Claire they're after, but he can't give her up--he's falling in love with her.

I absolutely loved the first half of the book because of the detail and complexity of the residents of the desert. I enjoyed reading how each one had a particular way of interacting with Ben, and he respected and understood the residents in a way that no outsider ever could. When he met the preacher along the road, they'd pretend to smoke a cigarette together. Walt, the owner of the diner always could seem to sense Ben's presence and was never particularly nice, but Ben considered Walt his best friend.

As Ben learns more through his customers and a police interrogation, things start to get muddled for Ben as he tries to sort out the right course of action.The second half of the book definitely holds more surprises, but for all the shock value they provided, it was ultimately not as interesting to me as the first part. The mysteries are resolved through an information dump at the end to explain all of the loose connections, which was not engaging or rewarding, especially after my initial excitement with this novel.

It's a decent read for anyone who likes in-depth looks at unique characters, combined with some mystery and suspense, but some parts were a little too dark for me.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Review: "Wonderland: A Coloring Book Inspired by Alice's Adventures" by Amily Shen

Wonderland: A Coloring Book Inspired by Alice's Adventures is more than just pages to color: there's also activities and a story. The papers is nice and thick, so no need to worry about markers bleeding through the double sided pages.

The book is divided into 9 sections, each beginning with a "title page" and a few paragraphs of story. The following 4-6 pages are beautiful designs related to the story just presented. For this reason, this coloring book is unusual in that you may want to go through the coloring pages in order, to fully experience the story.

There are several activities spread throughout, such as a maze, hidden pictures, and suggesting that you add your own drawings to specific pages. You also get to solve the mystery of who ate the Queen of Hearts' cakes. I wasn't interested in the activity parts of the book, but they are not overdone or obtrusive if you're only interested in coloring.

Some of the illustrations are single pages, while others run both sides. While it's nice to have a large and complex scene to color, this book has a lot of designs that are in the fold, making it extremely difficult and testing for the perfectionist in me that doesn't want any white showing in the middle where the pencils can't reach!

Other features of note are a to/from dedication page and the removable dust jacket that you can color the inside of for an extra long coloring experience.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.