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Godfit: Through Love Serve

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Thank you Bohlsen Group for sending us this book to review!

John Hayden is a Christian certified fitness trainer that uses his skills to train others to stay fit and glorify God.  The goal of Godfit is to challenge believers to be both spiritually and physically well.  If believers stay healthy, they can live and serve others longer.  This 117 page book is broken down into a six week program that has both exercise routines and devotional questions.

Before you begin, you should make sure you have the required equipment including dumbbells, kettlebells, and a Bible.  The book also recommends using a photo of yourself for inspiration.  There's a core strength assessment that is highly recommended to complete in order to gauge your fitness level.   There is a spiritual questionnaire to evaluate your religious life as well.

Each workout is between twenty and thirty minutes long.  There are various warm-up and cool down routines to choose from.  If you're unsure of how to do an exercise, there are video examples on http://www.godfit.com.  The videos are password protected but the password is in the book (page 5).

Each week has a spiritual theme including: Solitude, Meditation, Prayer, Simplicity, Study, and Service.  There are many convicting devotional questions to make sure you are growing spiritually as you tone your body.  There are prayer examples as well to give you the strength and the faith to become a better follower of Christ.  Praying for strength is a good idea since the exercises get more challenging throughout the book.  Thankfully the book gives you a list of ten exercises and lets you pick which ones to do with the option of skipping a couple.

I like the included list of energetic Christian songs to work out with.  I was happy to find out that many of them were free to listen to with my Amazon prime membership.  :)  Towards the back of the book there are some healthy meal and snack ideas.  There is also a leadership guide with outline and group activity suggestions.  

If you looking to workout by yourself or with a group, Godfit offers a unique approach that will help you strengthen both your faith and your body.  The Godfit website sells the book along with shirts and stickers.  You can get the book on Amazon for the same price, but the shipping will be cheaper if you're a prime member or have other items to buy to qualify for free shipping.


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Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation

Thank you HarperCollins for sending us a copy of this book to review!

The videogame industry is a huge multi-billion dollar industry.  It started and flopped in the early eighties with notable failures like Atari burying between 700,000 to three million copies of ET in a landfill.   Nintendo and Sega continued on and started a battle that defined a generation.  Console Wars is a 576 page book written by Blake J. Harris and weaves the history of these two companies based on over two hundred interviews from family, friends, and former employees of Sega and Nintendo.    

In 1990 Nintendo was dominating the videogame market with its 8 bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and soon to be released 16 bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).   Even though Sega's Genesis was the first available 16 bit console, it didn't get much recognition and as a result it failed to sell very well.  That changed when Tom Kalinske was personally recruited by Sega of Japan's president to become the CEO of Sega of America.  

When Tom started at Sega, he didn't know much about videogames, but he did know how to market things with huge successes including Barbie, He-Man, and Flintstone multivitamins.  He specialized in uphill battles and this story is no exception. It's so good, a feature film is being made about it!

The book goes into the humble beginnings of Sega, Nintendo, and eventually Sony's endeavors into the videogame industry.  Nintendo has an interesting past with their playing cards origins and briefly owning a hourly rental hotel.  They definitely became more family friendly later on which gave Sega a target for their aggressive commercials aimed at slightly older gamers.  Sonic the Hedgehog gave Nintendo and their mascot, Mario, a run for their money.  

While I enjoyed the book and look forward to the upcoming movie, I must caution parents thinking about letting their kids read or see Console Wars.  There is a lot of language (including F bombs) throughout the story and in the Foreward by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

For mature gamers, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out this book to learn how Sega briefly toppled Nintendo with their aggressive marketing but ultimately lost the war once Sony's PlayStation came into the market.  Even though Nintendo's side is fairly represented and respected, the story focuses more on Sega's viewpoint.   I could not help but root for the underdog while I read Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation.


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Extravagant Graces

 Thank you Bohlen Group for sending us this book to review!

Extravagant Graces is written by Jeanette Chaffee, a survivor from the TWA Flight 840 that had a bomb detonate in mid-air. She goes into detail with her story and how she believes that a guardian angel was among the passengers to spare the structure of the plane and many of the lives within it. Upon sharing her story over the years, she has chronicled twenty-two other stories that defy luck and show God's grace in the midst of chaos.

There are two plane crash stories and two stories of martyrdom. Many people are familiar with the five missionaries who were speared to death by the Ecuadorian Acua tribe in 1955. Not only does this book retell that story, but it goes into details about the lives of the widows and how the Auca tribes people heard the musical score from the 2005 movie, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, before it was even released!

In the 1960s Phyliss and Phil Masters went to Dutch New Guinea to reach out to the cannibal Yali tribe. After converting several tribesmen, including the shaman's son, there was some hostility. This cost Phil his life in 1968. Amazingly, Christianity still thrived within the tribe and when a plane crashed nearby later that year, the only survivor was a nine year old boy that the tribe took in as an attempt at peace.

Not all of the stories are heavy hearted, like the one of Shirley Dobson leaving her hometown of thirty years to move to Colorado Springs. Her husband, James Dobson, joked that she left drag marks from California all across the Rockies. By their faithfulness, their ministry has flourished and is still going strong today!

Extravagant Graces is available on Amazon for less than $14 and is emotionally impacting and worth reading. The garden gnome story made me laugh out loud. In all seriousness, this book shows how God powerfully works in people's lives, even during hardships and suffering. God is always in control and has a plan for everyone. It's awesome when we get to witness our part in His grand plan. 


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Kaitlyn Gress
Hey, I'm reading that book and its really good. My fave story is the one where the author meets a guardian angel. But still, it's ... Read More
Sunday, 24 May 2015 18:00
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Sweet Gentle Rain

Thank you James Samuel Gutshall for sending us a copy of your book to review!

Sweet Gentle Rain is a collection of poems and short stories that the author has written and gathered together since the mid 1980s.  In 2006, he received a trophy from the International Society of Poets for reciting his poem "Breakers" in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Inside this twenty-seven page book, you'll find poems about thankfulness, hardships, wonder, searching, time passing, grandkids, and annoyances. 

Some of the poems are light hearted while most of them are thought provoking.  Almost all of them are spiritual in nature and give thanks to God, our wonderful creator.  Each of the poems are accompanied by photographs or paintings.  All of them are fitting, but some of them are higher quality than others.   

As a mother of three, my favorite poem was "Ladybugs and Squirrels" talking about the curiosity and short attention span of his grandson, Nicholas.  My ten year old daughter enjoyed reading this book as well.  Sweet Gentle Rain can truly be enjoyed by young and old alike.  There is one alcoholic reference in the book and sadly it contains a grammatical error on page 19, "And drank way to[o] much wine".

 Sweet  Gentle Rain  is self published through Xlibris and is available online for over  $18.  I find that price too steep for my liking.  Fortunately,  the kindle version is more reasonably priced at $3.99.  

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Alvirithian Archives: The Rogue Knight

Written by: Benjamin K. Corum
Published by: Tate Publishing and Enterprises, LLC
Released: February 10, 2015
Price: $21.99

Thank you, Benjamin Corum, for sending us this book to review!

As an aspiring writer, I've spent quite a bit of time looking into the publishing industry and what it takes to get a novel published. One of the things I have learned from well-established authors is that publishers will pay you for your works. If you write it and write it well, then a publisher would publish it. Or it's possible that you can submit it to an agent, and they will find a publisher for you.

Although rewarding, this can be a difficult and challenging road to take. Publishers – especially those that take submissions from authors themselves, without an agent – receive thousands of submissions a year. Some submissions never even get read. 

In these days of the Internet, though, it is possible to publish a novel without a publisher. Companies like Amazon's CreateSpace or Lulu give an author the power to present their books to the digital marketplace for anyone to purchase. However, not all of these books will be of quality. Without the filter of agents or publishers, anything could be listed, and if there's any truth to Sturgeon's Law, 90% of it will barely be worth your time. 

But then there are some publishers that are a bit dodgy in their practices. They offer authors a chance to get their works edited, published and even advertised... for a price. Sometimes a very steep price. They aren't looking to actually sell books or help authors – merely trying to get as much as they can out of people desperate to have their names on a published book. These scammers provide about as much quality control as the self-publishing route, but unfortunately fleece the aspiring author in the process. 

While I'm not saying Tate Publishing falls into the latter category, it's one of the few reasons I can find as to why an established publisher would release a book of such poor quality as “The Rogue Knight.”

The novel details the adventures of a young princess named Sara. Her abusive fiancee seems to be controlling her father, the king. With the help of a mysterious rogue assassin named Johnathan Black, she travels to several other kingdoms to try and build an army to battle her father's forces. She meets other allies and trainers, learns how to use her mysterious magical powers, and takes lots of baths. The overused plot of the guarded princess falling in love with her bodyguard is here as well. The only unpredictable aspect would be determining if they will live happily ever after, or if Johnathan will die at the end, trying feebly to make it a tragic romance. I'll leave the ending a surprise for anyone who wants to try to suffer through the novel.

The book is filled with grammatical errors, typos, plot holes and more tired cliches than you can shake a stick at. (Yes, that was intentional.) The writing style is amateurish at best. This feels more like a second or third draft of a novel, rather than a finished work. If the author or the publisher paid for an editor, they may want to get their money back. If it wasn't for my desire to make the review as comprehensive as possible, I would have stopped reading after the second or third chapter. 

There is some merit to the novel, though. It's clear that the author loves the setting he created, and it is an imaginative approach combining ancient technological beings known as “synthetics” with a standard fantasy setting of forest-dwelling elves, underground-dwelling dwarves, and expansive humans. The theological system that Corum uses is a monotheistic one, with obvious influence from Christianity. Although some of it does feel shoehorned in – such as the communion-style opening to the elven feast – it's a nice attempt to create a fantasy setting that doesn't focus on polytheism. For the most part, the book is actually pretty good in terms of moral considerations. There is some graphic violence as many characters get killed in a variety of gruesome – but quick – ways. But there are no language issues, and no “adult situations.” This is a valiant attempt to make a “clean” fantasy novel that wouldn't meet very many objections in terms of amoral content.

Overall, though, the attempt fails due to the clumsy writing style. While some of the errors in the book do make the novel humorous (for example, when two of the characters battle at the end of the book, one decides to time his strike during his opponent's “most venerable time” (p. 286)), the humor is clearly unintentional, and doesn't make up for the sheer amount of other flaws. 

Many outside the Christian faith tend to look down on Christian media, viewing it as subpar with secular works. “Alvirithian Archives: The Rogue Knight” actually helps to reinforce this sentiment, because this work definitely qualifies as “shoddy.” It's a valiant attempt on the author's part, but the book is in serious need of an editor, and never should have gotten to the point where it was published. In short, if you're looking for an entertaining fantasy novel to read, your time would be better spent looking elsewhere.

One final word of advice for the author – if you intend to continue this series, invest the money into a solid editor instead, and listen to his or her advice. Then use CreateSpace or Lulu to upload the book and sell it. You'll find that to be a much better use of your funds, and it may help you become a better author. Because if you intend this to be your chosen career, you'll really need more help.


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Putting Tradition on Trial

Thank you Bohlsen Group for sending us this book to review!

Many Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25th and Easter on a Sunday in late March or Early April.  What if our traditions were proven to be wrong?  Patrick Cavanagh is Putting Tradition on Trial using astronomy and ancient Greek texts as evidence against an Easter Sunday resurrection.

I recently did (and highly recommend) a Bible Study called The Life of Jesus Christ Love. Life. Message. Mission. with my small group at church.    It's a great study that's easy to read and one of the chapters had a nice day by day break down of the last week of Jesus' life on earth.   Most Christians accept that the Last Supper was on a Thursday and that he was captured later that night and put on trial and to death on Friday.   Traditionally, Christians believe and celebrate Jesus' resurrection on Easter Sunday.  

While united in celebrating Easter, Christians have often contemplated the year of Christ's death. Many believe it's either 30, 31, or 33 CE.    Using astronomical calculations of the full moon in 14 Nisan, Patrick Cavanagh suggests that Christ died on Tuesday, April 15th in 32 CE and that by late Friday (approximately 72 hours), the women were informed that He had risen.  These are some pretty bold statements and the author makes a compelling case for them by providing Greek text and the works of Josephus to analyze key dates and how they all piece together.  

Putting Tradition on Trial continues to assimilate other historical events like the births of John the Baptist and Jesus in 3 BCE and Herod's death in 1 BCE.  Most people believe that Herod died in 4 BCE.  The book also mentions how the former pope Benedict stated his beliefs that Jesus birth had to be sooner than the currently believed timeframe of 5 or 6 BCE.  Since I'm not Catholic, I usually take statements from the pope with a grain of salt.  

After the case for a non-Sunday resurrection is made, the author states the importance of not celebrating it and puts Christians in two camps, the Sunday keepers and the Sabbath keepers. Verses used in defending the Sabbath include Exodus 19:8, Matt 12:7-8,  24:15-21, Luke 6:5 and Isaiah 66:22-23.  

At the end of the book the author delves into current affairs and shares his thoughts on the end times and on abortion.  And yes, he believes that we are living in the end times and that abortion is indeed murder.  

Putting Tradition on Trial is not an easy or a light read, I've had to read it in small doses to absorb all of the evidence being brought forth.  Thankfully the chapters are relatively short at a few pages apiece.  In total this book has 163 pages and 20 chapters.  The paperback is relatively pricey at over $30 and the hard cover is over $47 on Amazon.  If you have a kindle and are interested in reading it, it's more reasonably priced at $4.99.


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Finding Jesus: Fact. Faith. Forgery.

Thank you St. Martin's press for sending us a review copy of this book!

CNN is doing a six-part series titled Finding Jesus and it discusses prominent figures and relics associated with Jesus and Christianity.  Finding Jesus: Fact. Faith. Forgery. is the companion book written by David Gibson and Michael McKinley.  The book covers John the Baptist's role and remains, The James Ossuary, Mary Magdalene's roles and remains,  the Gospel of Judas, the True Cross, and the Shroud and Sudarium.  

Each chapter discusses the relic or person's history, significance and authenticity.  According to the book, early churches were required to possess a relic in order to be considered credible.   The black market for Christian relics thrived then and it's still alive and well in the twenty-first century.  There are many verified hoaxes when it comes to bones of supposed prophets.  While some churches unknowingly acquired pig bones, other churches like one in Bulgaria, has a bone  from a Middle Eastern man.  Could it really be from John the Baptist?

The James Ossuary is another hot topic for several reasons.  Since Catholics believe that Mary remained a virgin, how could Jesus have a brother named James as the ossuary claims? The Catholic author(s?) suggests that Jesus had step brothers from a possible previous marriage of Joseph's.  The relic itself is a bit questionable since the inscription has two different authors and writing styles.   While the ossuary is genuine, the inscription on it could very well be fake.  The forgery was taken to court, but the accused forger was acquitted.

The gnostic gospels are brought up on two occasions with the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Jesus' Wife.  The Gospel of Judas paints the relationship of Jesus and Judas in a different light and shows them working together on the betrayal instead of it being one-sided as the other gospels proclaim.  The gospel claiming that Mary Magdalene was Jesus' wife is just as sketchy with many words and context missing from the text used to base this argument on.   While that argument isn't very convincing, the book suggests that Mary Magdalene could have been the woman who had demons expelled from her, and possibly the adulterer that Jesus pardoned.  

The last chapter of the book discusses the mysterious Shroud of Turin and it's accompanying Sudarium from Oviedo.  Both of these burial clothes are cherished relics and believed to be used on Jesus's body.  The Shroud of Turin has a faint image of a bearded man with blood markings matching the wounds of the crucifixion and piercings from scripture.  When combined with the Sudarium from Oviedo, the blood markings match up perfectly.  Forensically, the Shroud of Turin hits a homerun, but when it comes to the carbon dating it's inconclusive.  Some of the carbon dating results show the samples to be from the renaissance.  This can be attributed to mishandling or repairs made to it after it nearly got destroyed in a fire.  One thing that the Shroud of Turin is not, is a photograph or a painting because of the 3D impression left on it.  

Finding Jesus: Fact. Faith. Forgery. is a fascinating read regardless if you have seen the CNN special or not.  I haven't seen it, but i have thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The hard cover edition lists for $26.99 but I have seen it for less than $20 online and even cheaper digitally.


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The Happy Christian

Thank you Thomas Nelson for sending us this book to review!

The world can be a pretty depressing place with natural disasters, murders and needless deaths occurring everywhere on a daily basis.  Turning on the evening news shows more bad news than good.  It doesn't take much for anybody, Christian or not, to lose heart with all of the negative media we're bombarded with.  

Dr. David Murray writes about ten ways Christians can be a joyful believer in a gloomy world.  To back up his claims he provides both Biblical and scientific anecdotes.    The foundation verse of this book is Nehemiah 8:10: "...for the joy of the LORD is your strength." No matter how down in the dumps we are, we can always call upon the Lord's strength.   Another verse referenced is Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."   How true is that verse?  Dr. David Murray suggests that Christians meditate on it daily.  I agree with him.  Not only can it improve our outlook on life, it can strengthen our bond with God and improve our physical and mental health. After all, happiness is 10% circumstance, 50% genetic and 40% choice.

Other suggestions from the book include forgetting the negative things and focusing on the positive influences in our lives.   No matter where we are: at church, at home, or at work.  We are to be biblical examples of being thankful, forgiving, praying, and celebrating diversity.  There is no sense in constantly reflecting on past mistakes, we are to live in the here and now and make the best of it.   The Happy Christian also tells us that we should actively praise people and to pray before criticizing people.  The healthiest balance of criticism to praise ratio is 1:5.  This is especially true in marriages and in the work place.  Positive workers have proven to be better performers.  Marriages last longer if spouses know that they are loved more than they are criticized.

Even though I consider myself pretty happy and laid back in general, I enjoyed my time in this book and learned a lot from it.  The Happy Christian is a great book for any believer who can use a little morale boost.


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The Golden Thread: A Memoir

Thank you Kelly and Hall Book Publicity for sending us a copy of this book!

Kristiane Cates was living the dream with a successful, handsome, and doting husband.  After three years of marriage they were having some difficulty getting pregnant and prayed to have children to which the Lord provided them with a boy, and later on a girl.  Things continued to go well for them - in fact too well as they had a feeling that they were soon going to weather a difficult time in their lives.  While their premonition was correct, looking back on it all, Kristiane recollects how the Lord was with them every step of the way.  It's amazing how He dropped several hints of His presence in the most trying of times.  

Just because we're Christians, we're not entitled to an easy life.  After losing her son in a car accident in which she was the driver, Kristiane struggled to cope with the grieving process and hold her family and marriage together.  It was a long and difficult journey that doesn't have a fairy tale ending.   While the book ending seems a little rushed, it was cool seeing how the Lord turned her into a powerful prayer warrior.  

There are many lessons to be learned from The Golden Thread.  Just because somebody looks like they have it all together on the outside doesn't mean that is the case.  If you're blessed with a wonderful family, do not take them for granted and thank God for them DAILY.  As a happily married mother of three, this book made me give thanks for my many blessings and it made me cry on several occasions.  While there were moments where I didn't want to put it down, other times I was afraid to pick it up in fear of it making me cry again.

 

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Gary Wilson
Wow! This is a great topic to discuss here. Thanks a lot!... Read More
Thursday, 17 August 2017 09:46
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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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