Sunday, February 28, 2016

Review: "VeggieTales Bible: New International Reader's Version"

VeggieTales Bible is specifically designed to be engaging and accessible to a younger audience, while still being a full Bible. It is not simply a collection of VeggieTales Bible stories.

A few key features set this bible apart:

  • Spread throughout the Bible, there are 8 full-color VeggieTales comics that tell the Bible stories through the loveable VeggieTales characters. At the end of each, it includes the page of where to read the real story in the Bible, including a page number for easy reference. I could see this feature working well as a child grows with this Bible from reading the color comics to wanting to know more and reading the full story.
  • There are frequent sidebars highlighting key verses, explaining a concept, or teaching a lesson. These always feature a VeggieTales character paired with a consistent heading such as "Truly amazing!, "Listen to this!", "Isn't it zee truth!", or "This made me look twice!".
  • Each book begins with a page that gives the reader a heads up for whats to come with things to know, what it teaches, and interesting sections to check out. Also, of course this is all accompanied by a VeggieTales character.
  • Reference materials at the back include an index to Veggie Values (be a good friend, don't be afraid, be respectful, trust God, etc), a dictionary, and a section for notes.
  • Blue text and colored chapter numbers make it more visually appealing, but a little hard on the eyes for pages of full text.
This Bible would make a great gift for a child who had seen a few VeggieTales films. For someone unfamiliar with the films, I don't think this would have as big of an impact or be as relateable. It's written at a third grade reading level, but I could see starting with it earlier if an adult reads it to the child, especially the comics. It's definitely set up in a way to grow with the children and to help them understand things on their own.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from BookLook for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: "The Newsmakers" by Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart

In The Newsmakers, serious reporter Erica Sparks lands a job at Global News Network, the fast growing news station in the country. Her determination and drive quickly set her apart as she lands the most improbable of interviews. When tragedy strikes, Erica's right place at the right time launches her career to superstardom overnight. But her instincts tell her something more is at play, and being a good journalist, she will pursue the story in a never-ending hunt for truth. When people she speaks to start to have mysterious accidents, Erica realizes her investigation has so much more at stake than her own career—possibly her life. 

Though there's not much mystery in the story, the suspense and thrill is all there, making it an exciting and enthralling page-turner. Erica is a charming protagonist, one you can really root for as she is so dedicated to her work, her co-workers that others take for granted, and the daughter she lost custody of in her recent divorce. There's also a romance brewing between Erica and her producer, Greg Underwood, but the scars of Erica's past and threats in the future make her unsure if perusing romance is the right course of action. Their relationship is very natural, and happens in the background of the plot, rather than focusing on it. 

As a book published by a Christian publisher, the main message is forgiveness. Erica has a past full of regret and she looks to God for comfort and healing. She also turns to prayer in moments of uncertainty. There is some swearing and suggestive comments, but it's not frequent or detracting. 

The story may be predictable, but it is still highly enjoyable. I definitely recommend this thriller and am interested in reading other books by author Lis Wiehl. The characters of The Newsmakers come to life and are all so unique in every way.  Sure the captivating plot was great, but these characters, from lively and devoted reporter Erica Sparks to the creepy obsessive owner of GNN Nylan Hastings, are what really sets this novel apart.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Book Look for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Review: "Cold Shot" by Dani Pettrey

When law enforcement seems less than keen on investigating a recent murder at Gettysburg, an unlikely band of friends take up the reigns to find truth and justice. Park ranger Griffin McCray discovers the body and calls in anthropologist (and love interest) Finley Scott. Griffin's grade school friends, FBI Declan Grey and crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell join in when the FBI tells Declan he's on his own for this investigation. They determine that the victim was killed by a skilled sniper and then a lab assistant is killed when someone attempts to steal the victims body. Then they realize how much danger they are in: at any moment, they could be in the killer's sights.

As a romance story, Cold Shot does a nice job of showing Griffin and Finley's growing attraction for one another. Their trust is apparent both in dangerous situations as well as in sharing their personal lives. Both Finley and Griffin are working through a difficult time in their past and I thought Pettrey did a great job of showing how they related to one another and could really help the other to put trust in God to help find peace.

As a mystery/thriller, I had mixed feelings. I was very wrapped up in the case and it was suspenseful and intriguing. However, in solving the mystery, I felt that the author had a unrealistically complicated answer. It reminded me of watching House MD where the doctors would try to say the patient had two super rare diseases, when instead the real answer was one thing that explained all symptoms. The sniper thing was a little over done too: at the end of chapters, there was often a few paragraphs that were an unknown sniper talking to someone else on the phone about watching the characters. Later when their identities were revealed, they were filled into these "mysterious" paragraphs. I really didn't care to see what the "bad guys" were thinking -- it didn't add anything to the story and was distracting. I didn't need to be constantly reminded that there was a sniper out there watching them.

As a Christian book, there were some Biblical references worked into the story and italicized internal prayers of several characters. I wasn't a huge fan of the way the prayers were used because it often felt repetitive to surrounding text and the different characters' prayers didn't seem to have a different voice at all. I think prayer is highly individual, so it seemed unrealistic that two practical strangers happened to pray in a very similar. However, when Christianity informed a character's decisions or thoughts, that seemed more natural and effective.

After reading Cold Shot (book one of the Chesapeake Valor series) and Silenced (book four of the Alaskan Courage series), I've been consistently interested in the content and mystery of the author's books, but the writing style doesn't seem to be working for me. It's disappointing because I did enjoy Silenced and thought I would really enjoy more if a few things were done differently, but Cold Shot rubbed me the wrong way for different reasons and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit less than Silenced. It's a decent read, but not something I would want to reread, and I don't think I would attempt any others in the series.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Bethany House for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: "Cats in Paris: A Magical Coloring Book" by Won-Sun Jang

Cats in Paris: A Magical Coloring Book is an eclectic collection of drawings. The first 12 pages are the Paris pages. Though they're my favorite coloring pages in the book, they are ruined for me by having a silly line of text on the page: "Let's take a rest by the Eiffel Tower." Just let the cat be next to the Eiffel Tower - it doesn't require commentary. The cat also visits Shakespeare & Company, Notre-Dame, and Monmarte. That is actually all that has to do with Paris in the book.

There's a lot of pages, like the one above, where the cats are layered with flowers or other designs. It is an interesting concept, but I thought there were too many uses of the technique. I didn't find it particularly enjoyable to have to think about what I wanted to be the "top" layer of color. Sometimes the cats are roughly drawn - the lines don't all connect to provide an enclosed place to color. That didn't bother me too much, but I preferred the cats that had completed lines.

The coloring pages are double-sided, but the paper is good quality and even heavy marker use didn't bleed through to the other side. The drawings often cover the entire spread for 2 full pages of coloring a particular pattern. However, especially in this full-spread designs, the images almost always run through the gutter, making the inside half-inch of the book un-colorable, which is a huge pet peeve of mine. It makes the drawings look unfinished.

The last 14 pages were very disappointing. There are 6 pages of cat postal stamps that really don't appeal to me at all. That's followed up with 4 pages of hipster cats wearing glasses and bowties - also just not good looking cats that you'd want to color. The second to last spread is just paw prints all over both pages. There was a similar pages earlier in the book that also included a cat, so this felt like an overly simplified repeat. I probably won't bother coloring any of those.

Overall, I'd say I'm interested in coloring about half of these cats. Do not get this book if you are really looking forward to coloring Paris, as that's not even an eighth of the content. If overlapping cats and flowers/designs seems appealing to you, you'd probably enjoy most of this book.

The cover of the book is beautiful, but horribly misleading. If all pages were of similar quality, this would be a fantastic coloring book.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.