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Unknown 9: Genesis

Unknown 9: Genesis

Thank you Reflector Entertainment for sending us this book to review!

Unknown 9: Genesis is a novel written by Layton Green that was published on March 13, 2020, otherwise famously known as the day that the United States went into quarantine because of COVID-19. It’s the first in a trilogy, and the second book, Revelation, is going to be released to the public on April 13, 2021.

The premise is that a young astrophysicist by the name of Andie Robertson loses her mentor, a man by the name of Dr. James Corwin, to the clutches of death. However, the circumstances surrounding his passing are a bit strange, to say the least, and she is forced on a goose chase based off of clues he’s left behind for her to find. As she continues upon her journey that spans the entire planet, she begins questioning many facets of her own reality as she reveals clue after clue. Joining her is a journalist who has been discredited from his dream job and hopes to get it back.

The first thing I noticed when I began to read this book is the quality of writing that is present. The novel is extremely well written, and I found myself immersed in the story very quickly. It comes as no surprise that Layton Green wormed his way to the spot of bestselling author. The next thing I noticed is that the plot is definitely targeted towards adults. It contains murder, references to lust, and has several curse words of varying intensity scattered throughout. The novel also pokes at many hard questions concerning the nature of information that a child probably would have trouble grasping.

When I received the book, it was in a magnetic sealing box and had a metal coin at the bottom, which has the symbol of a prominent organization in the story. It’s clear the marketing is professional and carefully designed, as the series has an accompanying scripted podcast available on Apple Podcast, as well as a comic series taking place in the same universe.

As a result of this, I was surprised when I noticed the typos in the fully published novel that somehow slipped the editor’s eye. There are only a few, and it’s not the first time I’ve seen typos in a book that entered the market already, but to my knowledge, those authors were not bestsellers. One typo is an issue of a special character in the name of a town, and the special character is in bold for no reason. The rest of the word is printed normally. The rest of them are matters of having random extra letters that were never deleted.

Genesis also makes several references to various Internet and mathematical phenomena, one of the more notable ones being Cicada 3301. I had never actually heard of Cicada 3301 before reading this book, and when I delved into the details, I became fascinated. I’ll spare you the story, but it was basically an incredibly difficult cryptography puzzle that ends up getting expertly weaved into the world of the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Genesis, and I’m intrigued both by the premise and execution of the story. I would love to see more, and to see what direction things end up taking.

- Kittycathead


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Learn C# Quickly: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Learning C#, Even If You’re New to Programming

Thank you Code Quickly for sending us this book to review!

Learn C# Quickly: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Learning C#, Even If You’re New to Programming is a guide designed to kickstart the reader on a journey to advance their programming skills. It’s created with the intent to introduce them to the world of C#, which is a programming language developed and maintained by Microsoft. It starts by introducing the beginner’s topics, before moving into the recommended workflow of creating a program. Then, it dedicates a chapter to the more advanced topics before wrapping up with a final project: a simple software using the console as its GUI.

However, it’s not what it’s worked itself up to be. When I began working with the book, it gave absolutely no introduction to getting started with any compiler or programming software. It jumped right into the concepts of the programming language. As a result, I was incredibly confused, and my father had to jump in and help me set up Microsoft Visual Studio because Learn C# Quickly didn’t breathe a word about it.

Whenever a code example comes up, the book does a thorough job explaining the logic behind each portion. I found that to be very useful, considering the language itself can be very confusing when looked at verbatim (especially with untrained eyes like mine). However, some of the phrasing that is used is confusing, and I wasn’t quite able to decipher what the author was trying to say. There are grammatical errors and typos scattered throughout, including missing transition words and sentence fragments. Some of the typos are even present in some of the code examples.

Another thing I noticed is that there are several examples of code that do not work because of errors. Some of it I was able to fix because of Visual Studio’s debugging suggestions that said I needed to use certain packages, but the rest of the errors were ones I had no idea how to fix because of my beginner status. It’s a shame that Learn C# Quickly didn’t mention any tips for how to fix code that isn’t working due to errors or bugs, because a beginner like myself would have found that incredibly useful. When the book got to the more advanced concepts, it made the same mistake as its Python predecessor: it lumped all of the advanced concepts into a single chapter, leaving it at a hefty 48 pages.

This book would have made a great resource if better edited and tested, and it definitely has a lot of room for improvement in the way it approaches teaching a language. Unfortunately, it has a lot of work to do before it can be labeled as such.


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Learn Python Quickly: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Learning Python, Even If You’re New to Programming

Thank you CodeQuickly for sending us this book to review!

Learn Python Quickly: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Learning Python, Even If You’re New to Programming is designed to be a fast read and teaching tool, clocking in at about 150 pages. The book has twelve chapters and an index of references used in it. It covers a wide range of programming concepts, from variables to classes and everything in between. Each chapter has a varying amount of subsections, which discuss different elements of the topic. The very last chapter contains two projects to complete as a test for everything the reader learned in the book.

Learn Python Quickly is generally well-written and well-edited, and speaks in layman’s terms. As I am a beginner in the world of programming, I found this incredibly useful. However, it does lapse into technical terminology every once in a while, and I would get lost in the fancy programming vocabulary that I didn’t know very much about.

There are also a few typos that I noticed throughout the course of the book, but they were things like font changes at the wrong spot and other minor issues. One sentence I remember in particular didn’t make much grammatical sense to me, causing me to reread it a few times, and I was only left with a vague impression of its meaning. Another sentence had an apparent switch of what words were supposed to be in what places. Both versions made grammatical sense, but it was in the context of the content in which the words were in the wrong.

I also had my misgivings about the structure of the chapters. The first ten chapters were short, and were straight to the point. However, when I got to chapter eleven, I was slightly daunted and annoyed that the author decided to shove all of the non-beginner concepts into a singular chapter. The entirety of said chapter amassed a whopping forty pages. After a while, I was mentally spent on that chapter, and read through it rather than trying some of the examples because of how tedious it was. The twelfth chapter was the project chapter. It was approximately twenty pages, and in my opinion could have been split into two chapters.

The book does highly value self-experimentation and creative thinking, by encouraging the reader to try to solve the problem themselves before showing them the answer (or “a possible solution,” as it is often put). However, some of the goals set seem a little far off, considering the user had just learned the concepts. Learn Python Quickly also has assignments at the end of many of the chapters, to encourage the application of the various ideas so that they can get a better idea of how they are used.

Unfortunately, there are some examples of code that are erroneous, as the syntax is implied to be different from what it actually is in Python. One example was where a break in the text was forced because the page ran out of space, but a function that was supposed to be on the same line of code as the string it was affecting was on the next line, implying that the function was supposed to be on the next line. There are also a few instances where functions called don’t actually work with the variable they’re manipulating, which I found kind of annoying, considering that at one point the bad code was trying to demonstrate a concept. The code for the final project was compiled into one archive of the program at the end of the chapter, and it was incomplete and couldn’t work as a result. There were calling mistakes in the code, as it was trying to call a variable that only existed within a user-created function.

Overall, Learn Python Quickly is okay as a learning resource, and I would advise it as more of a dictionary of concepts than anything else. It’s a quick and easy read, but not all of the code works, which defeats much of the purpose of attempting to teach how a programming language works. If anyone were to pick up this book and try to learn from it, I would suggest it for an intermediate programmer because some of the nuances of Python are blocked by the spacing of the actual code, and are not something that a beginner would immediately know. An intermediate would also have an easier time with some of the challenges, because many of them stumped me, a beginner.

There is a lot this author did right when creating this book for the general audience, but there is also a lot that needs to be improved. It’s a great start, but a fully reevaluated set of code in a new edition of some sort is definitely in order.

- Kittycathead


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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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Kim Possible

Thank you Disney Channel for sending us this movie to review!

Kim Possible (2019) follows the journey of the titular protagonist as she navigates the crazy pitfalls of her high school days – and having to save the world in between. The movie is approximately 88 minutes long, and there are no ads at the beginning, which is nice because there’s nothing that has to be skipped. It also comes with support of the FastPlay feature so that you can get right to the movie.

Kim Possible is based off of a TV show of the same name, which aired in 2002 and was popular for both boys and girls. The characters are basically the same, and it provides a small amount of backstory as to why Kim is where she is today. The movie then leads the viewer into the main plot of the story, which is attempting to teach the lesson that jealousy can destroy a friendship, and that humility is the way to go.

This movie is very much an action movie, and while the overall message is pretty good, there are some questionable scenes scattered throughout the film. One of these scenes is where a character confesses that they want to be a pooch when they grow up, and their friends wholeheartedly support them, saying that they will be the best pooch in the world. Another scene like this is when the two protagonists are late to class, and a lie saves them from detention. This scene, whether knowingly or not, promotes lying as something good that can get you out of a situation. There is also a scene where a villain character pulls a blue cube out of nowhere, and another character asks where they pulled it from. Kim Possible also has very politically correct gender roles that seem to be promoted, and the target audience is most likely female.

The plot itself is pretty predictable for anyone over nine or ten years of age. My closest friend was over watching Kim Possible with my family, and she found some of the exaggerations in this film relatable, but others annoying. She caught on to the plot pretty quickly, but everyone knew how it was to end. It’s pretty clear that this film was designed with younger audiences in mind.

Overall, the movie was decent. I would not recommend this to strictly Christian families because of some of the questionable morals promoted, but if you don’t really care about that too much and have little ones who are itching for something fun with lots of action, then this movie is for you.

- Kittycathead

 


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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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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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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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Learn to Program With Small Basic

basic

Thank you No Starch Press for sending us this book to review!

Learn to Program With Small Basic: An Introduction to Programming With Games, Art, Science and Math is 317 pages long and written by Majed Marji and Ed Price. This book teaches you how to program with Small Basic, a programming language created by Vijaye Raji designed to teach children how to program.

Learn to Program With Small Basic teaches you the different features of Small Basic and how to use them. It has 19 chapters, each one covering a different feature of Small Basic. The first chapter introduces you to the language while the rest have you coding in it. It teaches you how to use features like if/else statements, subroutines, events, etc. To enforce these topics, code examples are given and there are named programs they want you to save. At the beginning of a program, you can tell if you need to save it if it says the name of the program as a comment. In the later chapters, you top most of them off with a game that uses the feature taught in that chapter. One of my favorite programs I made is the image viewer that lets you view pictures from Flickr.

Sometimes the book will show you a possible output of a program you wrote. There are also (optional) program ideas labeled in boxes that say “Try It Out.” After you write a program, there are sections explaining how the program works. For some of the larger games you would program, the book breaks the program up into steps, then explains what each step does. Sometimes the steps are small, and other times the steps are larger. Occasionally there will be a picture shown to help you understand the concept better.

As I went through the book, I found it fun at first, but then I lost interest about half-way through it. (That seems to happen with all of the programming books I tried.) Despite that, I’d say the book is pretty good. It’s very thorough on making sure the point gets across. The paperback version sells for $25.49 USD on Amazon. Surprisingly, the physical copy is cheaper than the Kindle version!


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Glimmer Girls: A Dolphin Wish

Thank you Zonderkids for sending us this book to review!

This book is the second book in the Glimmer Girls series, and in it Maddie, Mia, and Lulu are swept away to San Diego for another one of their mom’s concerts. You will also find out the dad’s name - Jack.  To relax the family goes to Captain Swashbuckler’s Adventure Park, an amusement park with an ocean theme. On their first day there, the Glimmers visit the dolphins. On her way back from the bathroom, Mia overhears a conversation that revolves around the topic of illegal animal releases!

The mystery begins when the family is seeing seals and Lulu finds a slip of paper - a possible clue!  The girls think people might get suspicious if they talked about the criminal as a criminal, so they agreed on the code name Dr. Dolittle.  The girls needed to get the feeding schedule of the animals, for it was crucial to the solving of this mystery. Lulu’s slip of paper just happened to be the feeding schedule. 

When they were visiting the  seals, Lulu found a boy with a sketchbook. She asked what he was drawing, and the boy acted all secretive. He could be a possible suspect! The girls were also doing a treasure hunt throughout the park. Mia had one clue the others didn’t – the golden key. She told them about it on the last day as they were preparing to leave the park. The rest of the story you’ll have to read the book to find out.

The drawings in this book are in the same style as in the last one- cartoony and monochrome. They are typically at the beginning of chapters, and sometimes at exciting parts in this 208 page book. It was a really good story and I highly recommend it. 

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Glimmer Girls: London Art Chase

Thank you Zonderkids for sending us this book to review!

Glimmer Girls: London Art Chase is written by Natalie Grant who many know as a four-time Grammy nominated singer.  She is now using her creative talents toward writing books that pre-teen girls will like.  As an 11-year old, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In London Art Chase, twins Maddie, Mia, and their little sister Lulu are going to London for their mom's concert tour. They have a nanny named Miss Julia who takes are of them while their parents are gone. Their mom is named Gloria Glimmer, and she is a famous Christian pop star.

While their family is packing to go to London for Gloria's concert tour, the sisters decide to hold a fashion show, as many young girls enjoy playing dress up.   Once packed, the family heads to the airport and flies off to London.  Unfortunately, Lulu's suitcase with her toys didn't make it there.  While Lulu hoped to investigate the matter, they were re-united with it after a few days.   Later in the book the whole family will embark on a case regarding a stolen painting.

In London the family gets to stay in a really nice hotel and visit the National Gallery during their free time.  They also got to visit Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London, where they were awestruck by the jewels that belonged to many princes and princesses over the centuries. On their trip the family also learned that their great-great-great-great-great grandfather founded the London police force and was knighted as a result.  Besides learning about their lineage, the girls also learned a thing or two about  solving mysteries. I won't spoil them, so you'll have to read the book to find out more!

I enjoyed this 205 page book so much I finished it in a day! It is kid-safe with no foul language and a few references to God and the Bible. It has some black and white illustrations as well. Most of them are at the beginning of the chapter, but there are some that are at exciting parts in the story. I would highly recommend this book and it sells for less than $8 on Amazon. 


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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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