Revenge of the Red Knight by Marianne Hering and Paul McCusker

Book description:

In this Imagination Station adventure, Patrick and Beth find themselves as guests in a beautiful castle in 15th-century England. Through a series of events, the steward of Lord Darkthorn’s castle finds the cousins with three artifacts collected in their previous adventures: the stone, the cup, and the golden tablet. They are accused of being thieves and locked in jail. Beth escapes and discovers the identity of the real thief, leading to a jousting contest with a surprising outcome. Set during the War of the Roses in England, Revenge of the Red Knight will teach readers about the Crusades, the integrity of knights and the vows they took, and why men would choose to risk their lives to fight for Christianity.

My review:

I am a big fan of the Imagination Station series.  One thing I have always loved the most was that one could read the books out of order, even though it is a series.  This is the first one that I thought I might have enjoyed it better having read the previous ones first.  However, it is a tiny, tiny, criticism.

This book delivers what all the other ones do, excitement, accurate history, and a great message.  Young readers come away with an idea of what life might have been like in 15th-century England.  They learn about the Crusades and the courage and bravery of knights.  I think this one has even more action that some of the other books in this series, which might appeal more to some young readers.

I love the way the illustrations help to keep younger pre-readers engaged in the story.  It makes the book great for independent beginning chapter readers, or for a read-aloud for younger readers.

If you are looking for a Magic Tree House type book with a positive, Christian message, this series is just what you are looking for!

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Overwhelmed by Perry Noble

Book description:

Stressed out? Anxious? Overwhelmed? Good news—you’re not alone!

No one ever said life was going to be easy. Between financial struggles, marital issues, health scares, and the regular, run-of-the-mill problems of everyday life, it’s easy to feel weighed down and trapped by your circumstances. In times like these, it’s tempting to just throw in the towel and quit. Well, don’t do it!

Perry Noble has stood at the edge of the abyss himself, and in Overwhelmed, he shares the keys to unlocking the chains of anxiety and despair once and for all. Building on the premise that when we shift our focus from our circumstances to Christ, everything changes, Perry walks readers through a life-altering plan for overcoming stress, worry, depression, and anxiety so we can be free to enjoy the abundant, joy-filled lives we were created for.

God knows we’re frustrated. He knows we’re tired. He knows we’re struggling. But He also knows how things are going to turn out. He is greater than anything you are going through . . . so don’t give up on God. After all, He’s never given up on you.

My review:

I have mixed feelings about this book.  I was excited to read about strategies to cope with struggles of daily life – the busyness, stress, never ending to-do list, and juggling of responsibilities.  I found that I could identify with Noble as he shared his struggles of depression and being overwhelmed.  So I was hopeful that this would be one of those books that I would get a lot out of and could chew on for some time to come.

However, I found that there was not a whole lot of information in this book that I hadn’t already read elsewhere.  While it is good to be reminded of the fact that God is present for us and loves us and knows what we are going through, I was hoping for more concrete information that I wasn’t already aware of.

Perhaps this book wasn’t as helpful to me as it could be for others because I am not significantly overwhelmed at the present.  I can see how this book could be helpful to some readers in the midst of a great struggle.

For me, the most positive part of the book was the writer’s engaging writing style.  I found that he has a very light, conversational tone that is easy to read.  Although the topic of the book is heavy, the book itself is a quick read.

If you are looking for a book to remind you of truths that might uplift and encourage you, this could be a good choice.  If you are looking for a groundbreaking book that will change your life, you might want to look elsewhere.

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Tattler’s Branch by Jan Watson

Book description:

Lilly Corbett Still has grown to love her life as the small-town doctor of Skip Rock, a tiny coal community in the Kentucky mountains. Though her husband, Tern, is away for a few months at a mining job, Lilly has her hands full with her patients and her younger sister visiting for the summer.

Lilly turns to her good friend and neighbor, Armina, to help keep things in order—until a mysterious chain of events leaves Armina bedridden and an abandoned baby on her doorstep. Lilly works to uncover the truth, unaware of what a mess she’s found herself in until a break-in at her clinic puts her on high alert. As she struggles between what is right and what is safe, Lilly must discover the strength of her resilient country neighbors, her God, and herself.

My review:

This was a very nice book for an afternoon of reading.  At first, I was a little confused because there were a lot of characters introduced very quickly at the beginning of the book, but eventually I sorted out who everyone was.  I hadn’t read the first book in the series prior to reading this one, so perhaps if I had, I would have had a better idea of the characters right off the bat.

This is the first book I have read by Jan Watson, and I have to say that I really enjoyed her writing style and plot structure.  The plot keeps moving and Watson has a knack for not giving away too many details too quickly.  As the book progresses, readers are able to piece together the clues without it being too predictable.  I also enjoyed reading about various medical treatments and ailments of the time period.  I always enjoy learning something while I read!

Another thing I really enjoyed about the book was the characters.  I was impressed with the way that Watson made a bad guy sympathetic to readers.  I found myself rooting for them, even though they had done terrible things.  It is a rare author that can pull that off for me.

If you are looking for a nice, easy afternoon read, this is a great choice.  Although it is part of a series, it is not necessary to have read the first book prior to this one.  Just take your time at the beginning to get a good grasp on the characters, and you will be fine.

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Believing Out Loud by Kimberly Wright

Book description:

Fear and low self-worth can prevent people from answering God’s call on their lives. But courage and dignity are found at the cross. When people accept God’s invitation for an adventure, they will have great stories to tell. And who doesn’t love a great story?

Many people believe fear is something with which they just have to live. However, God’s Word contradicts that belief. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.”

Our lack of self-worth will dictate what we do or do not do for God, as well as how we treat those around us. It will allow us to compromise our moral values to feel loved or accepted. You have value because God says you do—not because of what I or anyone else says. Learning to identify ourselves in Christ doesn’t happen overnight—it is a journey of steps forward and sometimes backward.

Obeying God’s calling on our lives will lead us on a miraculous adventure. We will burst with stories to share with others. God wants to give you those kinds of stories. He wants to blow your mind and let you experience his miracles. You may feel like the most unlikely choice for God to use in a mighty way; but remember, we don’t operate on feelings, we live by truth. Let God take you on an adventure and live a great story.

My review:

This is one of those books that took me a long time to read, just because I wanted to mull over each chapter before moving on.  Each chapter ends with discussion questions to personalize the information covered in the chapter.  The questions were great to meditate over and study the verses dealing with the topic at hand.

I found I could identify a lot with Wright as she shared her struggles with fear, so this book was really beneficial to me.  I thought it had just the right balance of talking about the problem and then sharing effective strategies on ways to make it better.  Furthermore, sometimes non-fiction books can be a little dry at times, but Wright’s writing style is so engaging that I felt at times I was listening to a good friend give me advice.  It isn’t easy to find a book like that!

On a side note, I love the cover of this book!  The picture is so beautiful and the colors are quite soothing.  I don’t always notice covers, but this one really stood out to me.  It also gives a good glimpse into what is inside, a lovely woman throwing her fears to the side to follow God’s will for her life.

If you struggle with fear in your life, this book might be just the key to unlock an adventure with God.  I think it would also be a great book to use as a short study with a small group of friends. 

I received a complimentary copy of the book from ACU Press/Leafwood Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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How Will the World End by Jeramie Rinne

Book description:

Christians believe that history is moving towards a dramatic conclusion – that one day Jesus Christ will return in glory to judge the living and the dead. But there seem to be so many different views about how this will happen, and when it will take place. How can we make sense of it all?

This short, readable book explains clearly and simply the liberating reality of what the Bible is actually saying about the return of Christ and the end of the world.

My review:

I really enjoyed this short book.  It is a very quick read, but filled with information.  What Rinne does so well is discuss the end times without interjecting his opinion.  I’ve read a lot of books on the subject of eschatology and found that I frequently either agree or disagree strongly with what the author is saying.  However, Rinne successfully avoids engaging in arguments and focuses on what the Bible has to say about the end times.

I found this book very easy to read and understand.  I think it would make a great book for someone who is just becoming interested in reading about eschatology.  It doesn’t go too in-depth or get too technical, but is a great resource.  Rinne does a great job in explaining his ideas of what will happen and providing a Biblical reference for his opinions and conjectures.  I particularly liked the way he encouraged readers to not focus so much on the when, but on the preparedness.  I think it is a wise piece of advice.  I also really enjoyed his view of the argument of the Rapture.  It was brilliant!

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in eschatology or has questions about the end times.  I look forward to reading other books in this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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Battle for Cannibal Island by Marianne Hering and Wayne Thomas Batson

Book description:

It’s 1852 and cousins Patrick and Beth sail to Fiji on the HMS Calliope under the command of Captain James E. Home. They arrive at the islands to find that the Christian Fijians are at war with the non-Christian Fijians. Missionary James Calvert is trying to make peace and suggests that the captain allow peace negotiations on board the British vessel. Patrick and Beth learn about sacrificial living when they observe Calvert’s determination to live on Fiji despite the dangers and impoverished conditions and that he is willing to risk his life to live as Jesus would.

My review:

This series continues to be a great way for young readers to learn about history and historical figures in an interesting, age-appropriate way.  Hering and Batson deliver an exciting plot and interesting illustrations that pull children into the story.  What I think is the best thing about this book is that it gives children an idea about who James Calvert was and what he did so that when they study him later as they grow and learn more in-depth history, they will already be familiar with him.

This was one of my more favorite books of the series as I appreciate the message in the book and the conversations it sparked as we read it together.  If you are looking for a great book for beginning chapter readers or as a read-aloud for younger children, this is a great book.  The Imagination Station series continues  to provide historically accurate, engaging stories with great messages.  On a side note, even though it is a series, the books do not have to be read in order, which is a big selling point for me!

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Annison’s Risk by Paul McCusker

Book description:

A game of hide-and-seek takes Maddy Nicholaivitch to Marus, where she is taken in by a beautiful princess who has just married the conquering king. After overhearing the secret plans of the king’s most trusted advisor, Maddy must decide if her loyalty to the princess is worth the price of her life. Based on the biblical story of Esther, Annison’s Risk takes readers on a journey with a queen who is willing to risk her life in order to save her people. Any fan of Tolkien will appreciate this fantasy story, and with a new cover and interior graphics, it’s better than ever!

My review:

McCusker has a gift for bringing Bible stories to life in a way that is easy for younger readers to read, understand, and enjoy.  Younger readers might read the story of Esther in the Bible and not identify with her.  However, Maddy seems like a regular girl that many readers might identify with and then be encouraged and motivated to read the real story.  Alternately, readers might read this story first, and then at a later time encounter the story of Esther and be excited to make the connection between the two stories.

I’m not a huge fan of fantasy writing, but this book is easy to follow and appreciate.  The characters are interesting and endearing, and the plot keeps you on your toes and makes you want to keep reading.  I think this story will pull in even the most reluctant readers.

If you are looking for a book with a good message for tween readers, this is a great choice!  Be aware that this is book three of the Adventures in Odyssey series, and while it is not necessary to have read the first two to enjoy this one, I think it makes the story better if you have already read them.

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