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The Crimson King

The Crimson King

Written by: Tristan Williams
Published by: Self-published 
Released: November 16, 2019
Price: $5.99 Kindle, $13.99 paperback
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Thank you, Tristan Williams, for submitting a copy of this book to the site for review!

*Advertising disclosure* - Before this review was posted, Tristan Williams became an advertising partner. This review is not influenced by this relationship.

The Crimson King is the first book in a series titled the Butterfly Chronicles, written by Tristan Williams. This is the first book by the author from Louisiana, and was inspired in part by the tabletop games that he plays.

The majority of the novel focuses on a young man named Oslo Orlov, who has a devilish appearance and starts the novel trying to hide from his criminal past. He is soon joined by Anna, a green-skinned sylph-like creature who works as a bounty hunter and also is one of his oldest and most trusted friends. They travel together to explore his future and his role in a prophesy presented by the deity of fate, Othren, also known as the Great Butterfly. Along the way, they meet up with other people who also are trying to learn their place in the world, as run by a king driven insane by the loss of his sons.

The novel progresses at a rapid pace, and alternates between the present and flashes of Oslo's past behavior as a bandit, as well as the leader of a vicious tribe of bandits. The dialogue is solid and many of the characters well-developed. The book reads quite well, and serves as quite the page-turner, with enough action and drama to prevent the book from getting dull. The narrative focuses a lot on Oslo's depression and eventual desire to atone for his past and try to make the world better. The setting is very well-done, too, and made me want to learn more of the world these characters find themselves in.

The book is a great read, but it does have a few flaws. There are a smattering of grammatical errors, but not glaring mistakes. And while some of the characters are well-developed, others come off as a bit shallow. For example, even though the character of Anne starts out interesting enough, she quickly pales into a somewhat static, predictable sort. Speaking of predictable, some of the scenes and actions of the characters can easily be anticipated well before they occur.

From a moral perspective, the book has a few things to consider. As is typical for a fantasy novel, there is a theology that consists of a pantheon of deities. However, aside from the Great Butterfly, none of the other gods even seem to make a difference, let alone appear. There are a few instances of the word b****rd, but they are used in the proper context in the book. The biggest moral concern I found was the gratuitous, sometimes gruesome violence. Although I have certainly read worse, this aspect alone would give me pause before suggesting it to my younger kids. However, these are the only things I've seen that may be potential issues to Christian readers, so many will find this book to be quite entertaining.

When it comes to reading the works of independent authors, sometimes it can really be hit-or-miss to find a quality one – and sadly, the results tend to be a miss. It's easy to see why many of these authors don't get published by a larger house. However, Tristan Williams' book is a pleasant deviation from the usual dreck of self-published titles. The Crimson King is an entertaining read from start to finish, and promises to be a great introduction to what could be a quite memorable series. Authors tend to improve as they refine their craft, and with the way Williams starts here, he may turn into an author to watch closely.

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100% Unofficial Fortnite Pro Guide

Thank you Quarto Group for sending us this book!

This is a book that teaches Fortnite players how to become a pro at the game. It teaches players the art of speed building, how to build a good base, the best strategies, and much more.

This book tells the readers about emotes. It shows what they look like, and when to use them. It also talks about a lot of epic things that happened in the history of Fortnite: Battle Royale. It will explain you many ways that you can bend the rules. It tells you that you can play the game however you want to play the game, so that you can have fun as well as everyone else who is playing with you.

The only problem with this book is that it is outdated. Fortnite is one of those games that changes or has something added or removed every few weeks, so that makes this book incorrect in some of the things that it says in it. When this book was made, it was season 7. As of this review, season 10 just came out. It is a little more up to date than the first book (the 100% Unofficial Fortnite Essential Guide), which was made in season 5. Other than that, the book is great.

I think that any Fortnite players that want to become a pro (probably all of them) should read this book. If they just want to become a master builder, then this book would help them. If they just want to know how to properly raid an enemy base, they are covered. This book covers stuff from battle tactics to just organizing your inventory. This book is very useful, but I still think that you should read the first book before reading this one, that the first one covers the basics, while this one contains more advanced things.


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Bluefall Vol. 1

Thank you Kelley & Hall Publishers for sending us this book to review!

Bluefall is a graphic novel written by Andrew Trainor and illustrated by Dillon Snook. With inspirations from a few different stories, one of the major ones being Ready Player One, this sci-fi novel takes place in the year 2045. The man who created a virtual world by the name of Circus has been murdered, right along with his son. The job to find the murderer falls into the hands of Julian Ambrose. But something else is going on behind the scenes.

This graphic novel spans about seventy pages and is a quick read. This being the first volume, there seems to be quite a bit of world-building taking place. Some of this world-building explains the stock system of the virtual world, as well as other things, like pending updates and such. This makes the story very engaging, and it is very well written. The art is good, too, but being an artist, I can tell when art looks sloppy or rushed, and some of the art looks quite rushed. (The copy I received may or may not be a prototype draft in order to show the reviewers what the story is like.)

However, this isn’t a novel for kids. In fact, it’s anything but. There are countless swear words, ranging all the way from **mn to the F-bomb. There are a few sex scenes, and full frontal nudity is shown for both male and female characters. Even though the scenes aren’t extremely detailed in their execution, their presence immediately bumps this novel into the mature section.

Bluefall ends on a cliffhanger with a To Be Continued. It’s clearly designed to be a multiple volume series, and its short length reflects that fact. It is unclear how many volumes will be written, but while being very well written and executed, this series is one for the adults.


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100% Unofficial Fortnite Essential Guide

Thank you The Quarto Group for sending us this book to review!

This book is a guide to Fortnite players who had just started playing the game. It provides lots of tips and tricks to help you survive a good amount of time in a match. If you don't already know, Fortnite is a Battle Royale game, so the tips that this book gives are very nice to know when you are being attacked by another player.

This book is very useful, but it is also very outdated. When this book was made, it was in season 5 of the game. As of this review, it is in season 10. That does matter a lot, because the creators of Fortnite have removed and added some weapons and features since then.

This book helps you decide what gaming platform you want to play Fortnite on, learn the controls, helps you decide if you want to play Battle Royale or Save the World mode, and so much more. It tells you what to do when you encounter another player, stumble into a build battle, and how to use your weapons and conserve your ammo. It tells you what building materials to use, their advantages and disadvantages, and also what every item and weapon can do. It provides a description of a weapon, how easy or hard it is to find, and where to find them. It also tells you how to build a base and how to invade other bases as well. It also describes each location and tells the reader how many players usually land at that location.

I think that this book is very useful and whenever I play Fortnite: Battle Royale I use these techniques and I use the hints and tips that it gives me. There is also another book like this one called the 100% Unofficial Fortnite Pro Guide. If you read this one and use it, then you should also read the Pro Guide.



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Finnian and the Seven Mountains

Thank you Philip Kosloski for sending us a digital copy to review!

Finnian and the Seven Mountains is a 25-page long Christian comic about a man named Finnian who wants to find a lost sword because his village was raided by vikings. He wants to get revenge, so he asks a man who was fishing for a boat. He says that if Finnian helps him fish, he would show him where a boat is. Finnian helps him fish, and ironically, they caught so many fish in their nets that they could not carry them all. Finnian gets in a boat, and starts paddling. Weeks later, he arrives at an island that is supposed to have the sword. He gets hit by a giant wave but someone on the island named Brendan grabs his hand. Brendan takes him to an old man named Abba, who is a very wise man who the people on that island seem to speak to for help. Somehow, Abba knew that Finnian would come. He showed him around the island, and Finnian stayed there for a while, but when he had to leave, he slipped and almost fell into the ocean! He grabbed on to the cliff and climbed up. But when he did so, he loosened a rock and it fell down. Under that rock was a container. Inside that container was a map. It was a map that led to the sword he was looking for! But little did he know that vikings had another version of that map, but they only had half, but they were still going to the same place as Finnian...

I think that this book has a good art style which fits the book very well. It has a similar art style to a Marvel comic, except it doesen't have any action bubbles because there isn't any violence for those to fit in to.

I really enjoyed this story, and I think that my favorite part was the fishing, because it was obviously a reference to the Bible. I think that any Christian people who like comics would really enjoy this one. I am really looking forward to the second issue, and I think that anyone who reads this one would feel the same way.

 


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The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Volume 2 (N-Z)

Author: Brett Weiss
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing
Hardcover book
464 full-color pages
Over 375 games covered
MSRP: $49.99

Thank you Schiffer Publishing for sending us this book to review!

As I mentioned in my SNES Omnibus Volume 1 review, I was blessed to grow up as video games did, and played tons of Atari, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and got my Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in what was probably early high school. Based on the release date of Super Mario All-Stars as mentioned in this book, I believe it was 1993.

This book celebrates this generation of gaming by devoting one or two pages to each and every game in the SNES library. This volume covers every game in alphabetical order, starting with ‘Natsume Championship Wrestling’ and ending with ‘Zoop’. I highly recommend you check out Volume 1, as well as this one.

The first few pages include a foreword, where the technical specifications of the SNES are discussed, as well as a brief summary of the competitive landscape surrounding the system’s release. There is also a preface, where the author talks a bit about his love for the SNES, along with his rationale for making the SNES Omnibus series into two books, rather than one. The game compilation itself starts on page 12.

Each page is in full color, with the title, publisher, developer, game type, and release year all notated at the top. Under that is the box art, a picture of the cartridge, and a general description and summary of the game. If it’s particularly good or bad, you might find some commentary there, too. Sometimes they will compare the game with its Sega Genesis counterpart, if there was one. There are also screenshots, and some titles may have promotional art or a picture of an ad as well.

Other than the general overview, each page also includes a ‘Notable Quotable’, which is typically an excerpt from a review, sometimes modern and sometimes classic, or a comment from a famous YouTuber, game developer, or industry veteran. Some games also feature one or more ‘Insider Insight’, which is a story of how that game impacted one of the many contributors. There are eighty-seven people listed as contributors on pages 453-457. Having been recently honored by an entry in the Superstars of 2019 Walter Day Trading Card collection, it was really neat to see other Trading Card holders mentioned in the credits. There are also articles that go in-depth about the Super Game Boy, which is an accessory I treasured since I also loved playing Game Boy games on my TV, and Super Metroid, one of the greatest games of all time. There is also a bibliography.

Reading through this lovingly crafted archive, I was reminded both of the many great games that shaped my adolescence, and also the many that I remember looking at fondly but never having the chance to purchase for myself. I had a job in high school, so I worked for my games – but no kid can afford everything, so something always had to give. Thankfully, I often had great success scouring the used games at my old Blockbuster Video, which no doubt saved me a pretty penny in these early days before GameStop (as FuncoLand was the only used game store around).

A few notable games that I either own or owned, or borrowed from friends which are covered here include:

Pocky & Rocky (big garage sale win!)
Rampart (played at a friend's house as a kid)
Robotrek (love this game!)
Secret of Evermore (recent acquisition!)
Secret of Mana (one of the best games on SNES)
Shadowrun (borrowed from a friend - love this game!)
Soul Blazer (a friend of mine had this game when I was young. If anyone is willing to sell for a reasonable price, please let me know!)
Star Fox
Star Fox 2 (SNES Classic only)
Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (I have so many wonderful memories of this game!)
Super Castlevania IV (SNES Classic/Wii VC)
Super Double Dragon (garage sale find)
Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts (I played this at a friend's house, and now own it on SNES Classic)
Super Mario All-Stars (my SNES came with this and I loved it!)
Super Mario Kart (I love all of the sequels, but this one never really worked for me)
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES Classic only)
Super Mario World (love this game! I got all 96 stars)
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (mind-blowingly good game!)
Super Metroid (one of the best games ever. Borrowed a friend's copy as a kid. I never owned a cart, but I own it now on SNES Classic and Wii VC)
Super 3-D Noah's Ark (Okay, I never played the SNES version, but we reviewed the Steam re-release!)
Super Punch Out!! (borrowed it from a friend as a kid, now own it on the SNES Classic)
Super R-Type (I remember playing this at a friend's house)
Super Scope 6 (never had one, played it once, but it looked really cool!)
Super Star Wars (played at a friend's house, and years later it was a garage sale find!)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (I never owned this, but have good memories playing with friends)
Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety (garage sale find)
Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits (a friend gave me an unopened copy!)
Wing Commander: The Secret Missions (I played a friend's copy. Great game, but even better on PC!)

And, of course, the awesome Super Game Boy, which has a dedicated article about it.

As an aside, many, many games of that era would call themselves 'Super' if they were on the Super Nintendo. If you want proof, pages 228 through 312 all deal with games that start with 'Super'.

This book is an excellent retrospective, and reminded me of several games that I wanted to pick up when I was younger, but never had the chance, as well as some new ones I hadn’t heard of. I had no idea Paladin's Quest was a good game. I had no idea that the NBA Jam games were popular because they were good (I've never been a sports game person). I ended up getting some new-to-me SNES games recently, including Secret of Evermore, thanks to reading more about them in this book. I'm sure my wife is thrilled!

If you want to be tempted to hunt down old games, or simply long to read about more games from arguably the greatest video game console of all time, then you owe it to yourself to check out The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games Volume 2. If you are a collector, or simply love the SNES, then I highly recommend that you pick up this book and its companion volume. It may be pricey, but it’s worth every penny.


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Unofficial Minecraft Life Hacks Lab for Kids: How to Stay Sharp, Have Fun, Avoid Bullies, and Be the Creative Ruler of Your Universe

Thank you Quarry Books for sending us a review copy!

Minecraft Life Hacks Lab for Kids is a book that teaches kids some things about communication skills, building self-confidence, and much more. It has some stuff to do and build in Minecraft, and some stuff to do in real life.

There are two chapters: Life Hacks: Acquiring Skills and Life Hacks: Applying Skills to Projects. Chapter one teaches children skills (hence the name) like emotional empathy, problem solving, and much more. Chapter two teaches children ways to use those skills. For example, you would make an animated movie in real life, as well as a short film in Minecraft.

This book has twenty-four labs (twelve in each chapter), which are things that you can do. In every chapter, there are 6 in game labs, and 6 labs to do in real life. Most of the things that you have to do in real life have something to do with what you do in-game. As an example, you had to draw a map of a house, and then building the house you drew in Minecraft. It made you build your character as well, and it had you fill it with positive messages to gain self-confidence. A lot of the things you do in Minecraft relate to the real world. It makes you build a farm, but the farm has to be the same style of farm that you can find in the real world. It also had you build a democracy, which was interesting. My favorite thing to do was building a roller coaster that described me. I put lots of work into it, and it turned out very well.

Overall, this book was fun to work on and I loved building some of the things, and then testing to see if they work, and then fixing them if they don't work correctly. The only thing it had wrong was the estimated time that it takes to build something. The book said it would take one to two hours to do something, but I was able to do it in ten to fifteen minutes. Other than that, the book is great and I think that lots of people who enjoy Minecraft should read it and use it as well.


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The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity

Thank you Blue Sparrow for sending us this book to review!

The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity is written by Matthew Kelly who is an author of books translated into twenty-five languages, acclaimed speaker, and business consultant at his company, Floyd Consulting. This book is fifteen chapters long and only 128 pages. It’s a pretty quick read if you want to learn how modern culture is robbing billions of people of happiness.

If you’re looking for the answer to the title’s statement, you’ll have to read through the first few chapters of fluff. In fact, much of the book is filled with statements that I was already aware of. For example, the second chapter discusses happiness and the author shares insights like “Lying never makes me happy” and “It is impossible to be grateful and unhappy at the same time.” The fifth chapter discusses various lies about Christianity including: Jesus did not exist, the resurrection is a myth, Christianity preys on the weak and ignorant, Christianity is anti-intellectual and anti-scientific, and Christianity is anti-sex.

The biggest lie is uncovered in chapter six, claiming that holiness is not possible. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 is referenced and used to state that “God wants us to live holy lives, grow in character and virtue, and become the-best-version-of-ourselves.” I bet you’re wondering how this is possible! Through what this book calls holy moments. Everyone else knows them as pay it forward. There are some nice examples of kindness like a guy taking care of his neighbor’s lawn while recuperating from a broken leg or nurses agreeing to take on an extra shift for years to cover the salary for their co-worker who is battling cancer. Those are some significant tasks that surely make God proud and bring joy to others, but even simple things like recycling are holy moments according to the author.

Even if I don’t see eye to eye with what qualifies as a “holy moment”, I do agree with the author that our world does indeed need changing and we as Christians should get off of our collective butts and do something about it. The thirteenth chapter uses some fascinating math on how if we impact three people that can multiply to one billion people if each of the three people we inspire bring three more and continue the cycle. In the end, The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity has some good stories and ideas, but I’ve already heard them all before.

 


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The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Volume 1 (A-M)

snes omnibus

Author: Brett Weiss
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing
Hardcover book
416 full-color pages
Over 350 games covered
MSRP: $42.99

Thank you Schiffer Publishing for sending us this book to review!

I was fortunate enough to grow up with video games and technology as it did. Being born in 1978 (and recently turning forty), I was fortunate enough to play the Atari 2600 long before I went to kindergarten, played tons of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) through elementary school, and got my Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in late jr. high or early high school (I don’t remember exactly when; it was early in the system’s launch, but I doubt it was year one).

I had gotten a PlayStation maybe a year after that released, and enjoyed it, but I always felt like the SNES was a perfect storm of available technology and maximum creativity that led to some of the best games of all time, and many remain timeless and revered to this day. (It also helped that I had more time to play games in high school rather than the busier early adulthood that occupied my time shortly after I got my PlayStation.) This book celebrates that generation of gaming by devoting one or two pages to each and every game in the SNES library. This volume covers every game in alphabetical order, starting with ‘3 Ninjas Kick Back’ and ending with ‘Musya: The Classic Japanese Tale of Horror’. Volume 2, when it is released in 2019, will cover game titles starting with N-Z.

The first few pages include a foreword, where the technical specifications of the SNES are discussed, as well as a brief summary of historical context about the system’s release. There is also a preface, where the author talks a bit about his history with gaming, and what led to him writing this book. All of the action starts on page ten.

Each page is in full color, with the title, publisher, developer, game type, and release year all notated at the top. Under that is the box art, a picture of the cartridge, and a general description and summary of the game. If it’s particularly good or bad, you might find some commentary there, too. Sometimes they will compare the game with its Sega Genesis counterpart, if there was one. There are also screenshots, and some titles may have promotional art or a picture of an ad as well.

Other than the general overview, each page also includes a ‘Notable Quotable’, which is typically an excerpt from a review, sometimes modern and sometimes classic, or a comment from a famous YouTuber, game developer, or industry veteran. Some games also feature one or more ‘Insider Insight’, which is a story of how that game impacted one of the many contributors. There are ninety people listed as contributors on pages 404-410. There are also brief articles about the console wars from the era, the historical and preservation value of emulation, and a bibliography.

Reading through this lovingly crafted archive, I was reminded both of the many great games that shaped my adolescence, but also the many that I remember looking at fondly but never having the chance to purchase for myself. I had a job in high school, so I worked for my games – but no kid can afford everything, so something always had to give. Thankfully, I often had great success scouring the used games at my old Blockbuster Video, which no doubt saved me a pretty penny in these early days before GameStop (and FuncoLand was the only used game store around).

A few notable games that I either owned or borrowed from friends which are covered here include:

ActRaiser
Breath of Fire
Chrono Trigger
Clay Fighter: Tournament Edition
Contra III: The Alien Wars (my cartridge is gone, but the SNES Classic delivers)
Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf (borrowed from a friend)
Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest (spelled wrong in the book: it's supposed to be Diddy's Kong Quest!)
Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!
Earthworm Jim (I have this and Earthworm Jim 2 on PC also!)
Final Fantasy II
Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest
F-Zero (SNES Classic only)
Gradius III
Inindo: The Way of the Ninja (my cartridge is gone, and makes me very sad!)
Jurassic Park (actually haven’t played it, but apparently it’s quite excellent! Garage sale find)
King of the Monsters 2 (another garage sale find, haven’t played it yet)
Kirby Super Star
Kirby’s Dream Course (SNES Classic only)
Lagoon
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals (I thought I had a copy of Lufia 1, but my memory must be hazy)
Mario Paint
Mega Man 7 (I played it on the GameCube collection)
Mega Man X (I played it on the SNES version, but ended up beating it on the rare PC version!)
Mortal Kombat (I think I played a friend’s copy)
Mortal Kombat III (I played the arcade version much more)

This book is an excellent retrospective, and reminded me of several games that I wanted to pick up when I was younger, but never had the chance, as well as some new ones I hadn’t heard of. Who knew that one of the better RPGs on the SNES had a name as wacky as Brain Lord? I had no idea the Michael Jordan video game was actually decent. Apparently the Disney games were all fantastic. Did you know that Blizzard Entertainment met the team that eventually became Blizzard North who created Diablo though their early work on SNES games? All of this, and much more, is lovingly detailed in The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Volume 1. If you are a collector, or simply love the SNES, then I highly recommend that you pick up this book ASAP. It may be pricey, but it’s worth every penny.

 


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The Ultimate RPG Backstory Guide

Thank you Simon and Schuster for sending us this book to review!

The Ultimate RPG Backstory Guide was written by James D’Amato and features 100 prompts to shape a Dungeons & Dragons player’s character as well as that character’s world. The prompts go deep into areas that most would never explore when creating a character or its world. The book has three parts: the first part is exploring the origins of the character, the second part is describing their experiences when they have been adventuring for years, and the third part is probing what they are like and what happens to them when they are powerful and famous.

When I was reading this book and filling out (the majority of) the prompts, I noticed that this book is clearly aimed for adults that don’t hold Christian values, as it explored deities that could possibly be in this world, and made several sexual references. I also noticed quite a few references to drunkenness, as a decent amount of the narratives involve alcohol in some way. For example, there is a propmt asking you to figure out your current predicament after waking up from a drinking session. Of course, being designed for creating a fantasy D&D world, there are also countless references to magic in some form or another. This was something I expected, just seeing the title.

As I worked through it, the RPG Guide provoked thought upon aspects of the character in the making that I never would have thought of. There is a section where the guide addresses things that your character brought but shouldn't have, and even a prompt to help you figure out details about their formal wear. There are also some prompts to determine some details of the world, which are clearly directed towards the game’s Game Master (or GM). The GM controls the game’s monsters and helps create and advance the story. These prompts explored many different things, like a wizard’s college. This prompt explored almost everything that could be explored, and it was really in-depth, as all of the other prompts were.

This book, all in all, is great for those who would like to create a D&D character and the world they live in. I enjoyed working through it, and I now have a really in-depth character who I would like to use in a D&D game that starts from scratch. If you enjoy Dungeons & Dragons and are looking for a guide to create a really in-depth character, then this book is for you!

-Kittycathead

 


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Reflections of God's Grace

Thank you WestBow Press for sending us this book to review!

Reflections of God’s Grace is written by Michelle Hanna, and features 72 different devotions focusing on different topics of life. These devotions offer unique illustrations to make their point, and at the end of each one, there are assorted Scriptures to back up the message of the devotion. Each devotion is only a few pages long, but they provide deep, inspiring messages to bring God’s wisdom into your life and help Him influence your decisions each and every day.

The book as a whole is 179 pages long. While it generally focuses on making your relationship with God better, the devotions help to focus on various areas where your personal friendship with God can be improved upon. All of the sections are influenced by something that happened in the author’s personal life that struck her heart. For example, a section could be influenced by a song the author heard, an event that happened, or simply just a passage from the Bible.

Each devotion ends with a blessing and a wish that the author wants you to pray for in your daily life as you grow with your relationship with the Lord. After this blessing, the aforementioned Scripture is there to back up the passage. Usually there are four to nine pieces of Scripture after the original message of the devotion.

If you’re looking for something to help you expand your friendship with God, this is the book for you. Containing Scripture to back up each of its messages, it is biblically based and contains unique illustrations of Scriptural concepts that will help you grasp what each devotion is trying to tell you. Again, if you’re looking for something to help you get closer to the Lord, then this book would be a good one to add to your collection.

-Kittycathead

 


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Reducing Your Cancer Risk (A Holistic Approach)

Thank you Carl O Helvie for sending us this book to review!

Carl O Helvie is currently eighty-five years old and a forty-three year lung cancer survivor. When Carl was diagnosed, he was only given six months to live. He has incorporated many holistic lifestyle changes and techniques and has shared them in this 152-page book. Not only is the advice for quitting smoking mentioned but steps of how to do so successfully are also shared. Along with Carl’s advice and sixty years of nurse practitioner experience, several interviews with doctors, and case studies are also provided. Although I normally prefer hard copies of books, because of the amount of links to interviews, products, and websites, I would recommend the digital format which is nearly half the price of the paperback edition.

As new case studies come out, the author plans on revising the book and the digital version is easier to update than the physical copies. Hopefully, future revisions will fix a couple of the typos I spotted. Aside from the typos and drawn out doctor bios, this book is easy to read, informative, and hard to put down.

Most of the advice I was aware of such as avoiding sugar substitutes, pesticides and GMO enhanced produce. Avoiding excess minerals like fluoride requires some changes like switching to a toothpaste without it. I like how this book recommends several brands and where to purchase them. Avoiding EMF waves is trickier since I doubt my family will be up for disabling the WiFi at night. When possible the claims are backed up by case studies and interviews with physician specialists. There is some safety lingo stating that this book is not meant to be used in lieu of visiting a doctor and so on.

One bit of advice was a bit contradictory. It’s well known that fish, especially larger ones contain a lot of mercury. It makes sense to avoid eating too much salmon yet the book recommends eating it twice a week in another section.

I like how faith, serving others, prayer and meditation are all recommended for a healthy lifestyle. Many faiths are represented and there are quotes from the Dali Lama and President Monson from the church of Latter Day Saints. Many Bible verses are referenced in the prayer section so I was happy to see those there.

Overall, Reducing Your Cancer Risk (A Holistic Approach) has some great advice and lots of information and web links to check out. Reading the interviews takes more work in the physical format, but it’s not impossible. Most of the information can be found at the author’s website: www.HolisticCancerFoundation.com.

 


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The Rational Bible: Exodus

Thank you Regnery Faith for sending us this book to review!

Dennis Prager has studied and taught the Torah for fifty years and has hosted The Dennis Prager Show on radio. This book is written for people of all faiths or lack thereof. According to the author, “The Torah either has something to say to everyone or it has nothing to say to Jews.” The Rational Bible: Exodus is 520 pages long and goes through each verse and adds commentary to explain them further as needed.

Each chapter of the book focuses on a chapter in Exodus and the longest chapter by far is the 20th one which focuses on the Ten Commandments. That chapter alone is over fifty pages long. Along with the verse explanations are various essays that are thought provoking. Some of the major topics covered are slavery, abortion, and the “eye for an eye” concept.

When the Bible was written, slavery was much different than slavery during the Civil War. Most of the slaves in Bible times were slaves by choice or circumstance and not by kidnapping/stealing. In fact, human trafficking is punishable by death according to the Bible. Many Jews became slaves to pay off debt and they had many rights that American slaves did not have. Along with guaranteed food, clothing, and freedom after seven years, they were not required to work on the Sabbath, and even had marital rights.

While not tolerated or recommended, slave abuse is also covered in Exodus. Any injury that involved the loss of a tooth, limb, or an eye, freed the slaves from their abusive master. If a slave was killed by their master, their death must be avenged and treated as a murder. Beatings are not harshly punished though they are counterproductive and if done too severely, sets the slave free.

Many controversial topics are covered in this book and I cannot recommend it enough. I only wish that a thorough verse by verse explanation book was available for each book in the Bible. The $25 asking price is very reasonable and worth considering if you want an in-depth explanation of the Ten Commandments and the reasoning behind them.


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My Prayer Journal

Thank you Quiet Fox Designs and Fox Chapel Publishing for sending us this book to review!

“My Prayer Journal” is a guided journal meant for recording your heartfelt prayers and keep track of important dates in the lives of people you are praying for. In this book you’ll find the beautiful illustrations and hand lettering of Joanne Fink ready to color next to perfect places to jot down your prayers. The first few pages consist of a huge list of empty spots where you’re supposed to write the date, specific person you’re praying for, and the reason they need God’s help.

Once you fill up that whole list, you’ll enter a new section of the book (happens to be the longest) that’s more like a journal. These pages feature prayer prompts, inspiring scriptures to color, and reminders to check your prayer calendar at the beginning of the book.

After you pass that section, near the end of the book is a little calendar meant for recording important dates in your life or the life of somebody you’re praying for. February has only twenty-eight days though, meaning that if an important event happens on a leap year, you can’t record it in this book.

I won’t be able to live long enough to know if the paper in this book lasts 200 years, but according to the information on the back of “My Prayer Journal” it is printed on archival quality, 200-year acid-free paper. The book itself is hardcover, and I used it for a little while to keep track of my prayers, and I found that it gives you a lot of space to write answers to the prayer prompts and keep track of special dates in the second and third sections.

Maybe you aren’t that organized, or maybe you don’t have a good place to keep track of your thoughts and prayers. Either way, I would recommend this book to you even if you are organized. “My Prayer Journal” is a title I would recommend to any Christian.

 


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Unofficial Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids

Thank you Quarto for sending us this book to review!

My kids have been playing Minecraft for several years and have spent countless hours chatting and building impressive creations with others online. Minecraft can be a great learning medium and we have reviewed several Minecraft books that incorporate learning and crafts with the popular game. The Unofficial Minecraft STEM Lab for Kids has both in-game and family projects that teach concepts in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

My son, Aaron, completed all of the in-game projects and enjoyed doing them. Like dominos, he enjoyed the chain reaction projects and showed them to his sisters and friends. One of the projects has you recreating the solar system in game. Creating an ecosystem inside and outside of Minecraft is also covered in this 114-page book. What science project book would not be complete without a baking soda and vinegar volcano eruption? You’ll be able to cause a volcano to erupt in and outside of this game.

One of my daughters, Amber, likes making slime and appreciated the glowing goo recipe found in this book. It should go without saying that some of the projects are messier than others. The only complaint is that according to my son, one of the tutorials asks the reader to craft an elytra cape which is not a craftable item. You can obtain elytras from End ships or cities. Other than that nitpick, this book is highly recommended.

This title is available digitally for $11.99 and in a physical format for $19.99. The flexible binding is sturdy and has survived the wear and tear of a ten year old completing it cover to cover. If you have multiple Minecraft lovers in your household, it should be able to withstand several read-throughs.



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Fallen Ones

Fallen Ones

Fallen Ones is a Hungarian (with English versions available) web comic series made by Lycanthrope Studios. At the time of this review there is a successful Indiegogo Campaign that is seeking funds to produce a physical 90-page edition that combines the current five issues available. The hard copy version is available for $25 while the digital only edition is $5. There are various other bundles that involve posters, autographs, digital wallpapers and more.

Fallen Ones takes place in the Unseen Domains universe in the 17th century. Magic has awakened along with the undead and plagues that have obliterated and scattered the human race. Along with zombies, there are werewolves and witches disguising themselves as humans. Needless to say, once their true form is discovered they are quickly cast out or killed.

The three main characters are Brom, an outcast werewolf, Clemence, an assassin, and Tobias a lonely inventor. Though they all have different backgrounds, they share a common enemy; a demonic dark sect that must be stopped in order to save the remainder of humanity.
Like many comics, violence is a given and there is no shortage of bloodshed in this comic book series. Almost every issue has nudity as well and female breasts, male genitalia, and rear ends from both sexes are shown. Sexual encounters are present and leave little to the imagination. Cussing and blaspheming is also prevalent in this series as well.

After the creators reached out to me for coverage, I clicked on the freely available web comics on my lunch break at work. I was shocked by the nudity and content. There should be a NSFW warning for this series. These comics are gritty, smutty, and don’t portray Christianity in a positive light. I recommend steering clear of them if you have struggles with pornography. This series certainly goes against Philippians 4:8 and I recommend any Christian considering supporting this series read that verse before doing so.

 

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God All Around Me

Thank you Fox Chapel Publishing for sending us this book to review!

This journal features art by Robin Pickens and contains 128 pages. Unlike The Beloved Word: A Scripture Journal, the pages are numbered in this book. There are Bible verses scattered throughout the journal, but the Bible version is not mentioned. There is also beautiful art on each page, and every so often you’ll find a prompt to guide you in your faith journaling.

Just like the previous journal I reviewed, this one is hardcover with 200-year paper. The illustrations are quite colorful, but aren’t an eyesore; rather, they pleasantly introduce a variety of colors to your eyes and are on almost every page. The pages are easy to write on, pen or pencil, and the book is designed to last. When I got this book, I decided to draw on the first page, and found it very easy to do so.

This book, being a guided journal, has a theme for the questions inside. In this book that theme is everyday miracles, as one could tell from the cover (it’s written there). There are questions asking about things like what people are you grateful for, where are you closest to God, etc. that are designed to increase your faith and deepen your relationship with God.

This journal creates an environment inside that allows you to soak in God’s Word with its Scripture on so many pages, giving you space next to the verses to write your reflections on those verses, or to just write what you were writing on the previous page(s). I think it is a really good book, with lots of godly themes inside of it. It contains a broad spectrum of verses that convey lots of different but godly messages. Flipping through it, I saw lots of verses from Psalms, but there are plenty of verses from other books of the Bible too. (Example: Phillippians 4:4 on the cover.)

Once again, I thank Fox Chapel Publishing for sending us this book to review, and I look forward to seeing more from them in the future!

 


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My Faith Journey

Thank you Fox Chapel Publishing and Quiet Fox Designs for sending us this product to review!

“My Faith Journal” is a paperback 128-page guided devotional with scripture meant for use for fifty-two weeks. There are scripture pages to color and thought-provoking questions to answer in the numerous lines below. The art of Robin Pickens is found in this book and it is beautiful along with the inspiring verses it resides by.

I didn’t find it easy to run out of space while answering the thought-provoking yet convicting questions in this book. Some of these questions not only are next to scripture, but ask about certain scriptures as well, such as “Psalm 23 is often read at funerals. How can it bring peace and comfort into your life right now?” which I thought was an interesting interrogation.

Each page has a specific theme in which both the question and the bible verse(s) associate with. When I answered a question relating to the fruit of the spirit, the verse Galatians 5:22-23 “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” was on the page beside it. The question asked me to describe a time when someone showed the fruit of the spirit. That question wasn't the easiest to answer, because it took some time to think of someone I have met who shows others the fruit of the spirit.

I have used this journal for a couple of weeks, and though it is paperback, it seems pretty sturdy. The cover bends a bit of course, as normal paperbacks do. It is made with archival-quality, acid- free 200-year paper. Not that I will be able to know for sure if it lasts 200 years, but maybe someone else after me will find this devotional book intact. It’s also perfect for pen or pencil, so there is no need to write in crayon or anything.

If you are in need of either an awesome devotional journal or a ready-to-color scripture coloring book, I recommend the book “My Faith Journal” for you. This book is the best way for you to connect your faith with your creativity.

 


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The Beloved Word: A Scripture Journal

Thank you Fox Chapel Publishing for sending us this book to review!

This journal features artwork by Joanne Fink and scriptures from the New International Version (NIV) Bible. The verses are designed to encourage you to trust in God, and are dispersed throughout the book.

This journal has 128 pages (but no page numbers!) and features artwork on almost every page.
There are no guiding questions, but the inspiring verses to look at as you write in this journal are there to help stimulate your faith in God as you dutifully record your thoughts in this book.

This is a hardcover journal, and it uses 200-year paper, which I’m guessing is meant to last for 200 years, and the art in the journal isn’t black and white like it is in most books, but full color. The art is a watercolor style, so it's not so bright that it’s an eyesore, but rather it pleasantly brings color and a soft, feathery feeling into the journal. The book is easy to write in, and the paper is soft so it’s effortless for your pen or pencil to make a nice, satisfying mark.

I taped a piece of paper in this journal, and when trying to take it out, I accidentally ripped a small part of one of the layers of the paper off, even though I did it nice and slowly. Otherwise, I don’t have any problems with this journal. It’s beautifully illustrated, wonderfully colored, and just awe-inspiring to look at as you flip through each page, not to mention the awesomely picked Bible verses placed throughout the book. On the front cover, there’s Matthew 19:26. Scattered throughout the book, there are other well-known verses like Jeremiah 29:11 and Philippians 4:13.

This is an awesome book, and I thank Fox Chapel Publishing once again for sending us this journal to review.

I look forward to seeing more books from you in the future!

 


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Bless This Home – A Guided Journal for Celebrating Faith and Family

Thank you Fox Chapel Publishing for sending us this book to review!

Bless This Home – A Guided Journal for Celebrating Faith and Family is a hard cover 128-page book that provides plenty of room for taking notes about the inspiring verses and thought provoking questions found within. The illustrations by Robin Pickens are colorful and make the pages look beautiful.

I never ran out of room to write my responses to questions like “There are many, many ways—large and small—to find strength in faith and family. How do you find strength in yours? Think about it in reverse, too: how do you strengthen your family?” Not only are the questions thought provoking, but they’re convicting too!

The journal is broken down into themes with Bible verses supporting each one. Not surprisingly, in the forgiveness section you find the verse Matthew 6:14 which states, “If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” So many families, mine included, are torn apart by hate and unforgiveness. In this section is a question asking who you should forgive and ask for forgiveness from and it includes anyone alive or departed.

Since I’m relatively new to journaling, I appreciated the guided approach. I commented on all of the Bible verses, but I enjoyed answering the questions more and completed those first. The build quality of this book seems pretty sturdy and paper within is acid free and good for archiving with its 200 year rating. I won’t be around long enough to test out that claim unfortunately. Hopefully if somebody does stumble upon my completed journal in the distant future, they’ll appreciate my honest responses to these questions. If you’re looking to evaluate your family and blessings, this is a good book to pick up and put things into perspective.

 


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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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