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1. So what do we think? Heaven in her Arms

Hickem, Catherine. (2012). Heaven in Her Arms: Why God Chose Mary to Raise His Son and What It Means for You. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-1-4002-0036-8.

What do we know of Mary?

 What we know of Mary’s family is that she is of the house of David; it is from her lineage Jesus fulfilled the prophecy. Given the archeological ruins of the various places thought to have been living quarters for their family, it is likely the home was a room out from which sleeping quarters (cells) branched. As Mary and her mother Anne would be busy maintaining the household, with young Mary working at her mother’s command, it is likely Anne would be nearby or in the same room during the Annunciation. Thus Mary would not have had a scandalous secret to later share with her parents but, rather, a miraculous supernatural experience, the salvific meaning of which her Holy parents would understand and possibly even witnessed.

 Mary and Joseph were betrothed, not engaged. They were already married, likely in the form of a marriage contract, but the marriage had not yet been “consummated”. This is why he was going to divorce her when he learned of the pregnancy. If it were a mere engagement, he would have broken it off without too much scandal.

 Married but not yet joined with her husband, her mother would prepare her by teaching her all that she needed to know. This is further reason to assume that Mary would be working diligently under her mother’s eye when the Annunciation took place.

 We know that her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy was kept in secret for five months, and not made known until the sixth month when the Angel Gabriel proclaimed it to Mary. We know Mary then rushed to be at her elderly cousin’s side for three months (the remaining duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy), and that this rushing appeared to be in response to Elizabeth’s pregnancy (to congratulate her), not an attempt to hide Mary’s pregnancy. Note how all of this is connected to Elizabeth’s pregnancy rather than Mary’s circumstances. As Mary was married to Joseph, he likely would have been informed of the trip. Had the intent been to hide Mary, she would have remained with Elizabeth until Jesus was born, not returned to her family after the first trimester, which is just about the time that her pregnancy was visible and obvious.

 So we these misconceptions clarified, we can put Mary’s example within an even deeper context and more fully relate to her experience. We can imagine living in a faith-filled family who raises their child in strict accordance of God’s word. The extended family members may not understand, and certainly their community will not, so Mary, Anne and Joachim, and Joseph face extreme scandal as well as possible action from Jewish authorities. But they faced this together steep in conversation with God, providing a model for today’s family.

 Although sometimes scriptural interpretations are flavored with modern-day eye, overall this book will be more than just a quick read for a young mother (or new bride, or teen aspiring to overcome the challenges of American culture, or single parent losing her mind). It is a heartwarming reflection with many examples that open up conversation with God. As an experienced psychotherapist, the author’s examples are spot on and easy to relate to. We do not need to have had the same experiences to empathize, reflect, and pursue meaning; we see it around us in everyday life. As such, a reflective look upon these examples can help one overcome an impasse in their own relationship with God and also open the reader up to self-knowledge as Hi

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2. BOOK OF THE DAY: The June 2012 List!

BOOK OF THE DAY-June

Plan in advance for father’s day! The month of June is dedicated to books for dads and boys…don’t worry, a few dads & daughter books thrown in too! Good list for reluctant readers as well as summer vacation. Enjoy!

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3. BOOK OF THE DAY: February 2012 List

BOOK OF THE DAY-February

No need to wait until the end of February for the complete list. Here it is–plan ahead! Click on the link above, and also follows us on Facebook at Litland Reviews http://facebook.com/Litlandreviews

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4. BOOK OF THE DAY: The January list!

BOOK OF THE DAY-January

Here it is! The book of the day challenge, to recommend a new book or related media every day in 2012. January is complete, and attached for handy download–just click on the above link. February is on the way! “Friend” Litland Reviews on Facebook to see daily recommendations as they post. http://facebook.com/Litlandreviews

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5. Book of the day: April

BOOK OF THE DAY-April

The full April list is here. Get a sneak peak at the 2nd half of the month and stock up for summer vacation too!

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6. BOOK OF THE DAY: The May 2012 List

BOOK OF THE DAY-May

In celebration of Mother’s day, moms, women and daughters, recommendations span ages and areas of interest. Great for summer vacation reading too!

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7. Infinite Space, Infinite God II: Frankie Phones Home

  12 Days of Sci-Fi, Day 11:

 Having stories centered either in outer space or on earth, we now have both. Frankie in space returning to earth…

 Frankie Phones Home by Karina Fabian

 Responsibility

  Editor’s comment: “God’s calling or no, she should have honored her parents by telling them personally what was going on…”

Rather than a story, this is more of an amusing intermission. Carrying on from the story first presented in ISIG volume I, we are to imagine its main character, Frankie, finally returning home. Imagine, after a two year absence in outer space, what it would be like to call mom and try to explain it all to her…well, I’ll let you read for yourself in Infinite Space, Infinite God II http://ow.ly/4F48e .

 (Karina Fabian writes a wide variety of fiction involving characters with faith. Her first anthology, Infinite Space, Infinite God I, won the EPPIE award for best sci-fi. Her humorous fantasy involving a dragon and nun detective team, Magic, Mensa and Mayhem, won the 2010 INDIE for best fantasy. She’s also written a small devotional with her father, Deacon Steve Lumbert, Why God Matters. Visit her website at http://www.fabianspace.com .)

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8. So what do we think? Waking Rose: a fairy tale retold

  WAKING ROSE: A FAIRY TALE RETOLD

 Doman, Regina. (2007) Waking Rose: a fairy tale retold. Front Royal, VA: Chesterton Press. ISBN #978-0-981-93184-5. Author recommended age: 16 +. Litland.com also recommends 16+.  See author explanation for parents at http://www.fairytalenovels.com/page.cfm/cat/116//

Publisher’s description: Ever since he rescued her from Certain Death, Rose Brier has had a crush on Ben Denniston, otherwise known as Fish. But Fish, struggling with problems of his own, thinks that Rose should go looking elsewhere for a knight in shining armor. Trying to forget him, Rose goes to college, takes up with a sword-wielding band of brothers, and starts an investigation into her family’s past that proves increasingly mysterious. Then a tragic accident occurs, and Fish, assisted by Rose’s new friends, finds himself drawn into a search through a tangle of revenge and corruption that might be threatening Rose’s very life. The climax is a crucible of fear, fight, and fire that Fish must pass through to reach Rose and conquer his dragons.

Our thoughts:

It is difficult to capture the essence of this story coherently because it touches upon so many aspects of life. There is the mystery, of course, and continuing depth of family loyalty amongst the Briers. The craziness of those first years experienced when young adults leave their nest and venture into the outer world of college life, whether as newbie freshmen or advanced graduate students. Unlikely friendships as the strong nurture the weak with Kateri mentoring Donna in her mental illness, and Rose guiding Fish through abuse recovery. Fish’s loyalty to Rose, taken to the extreme, becomes unforgiving. But then self-denigration turns into enlightenment and hope.

And after all of that is said, we are left with the relationship of Fish and Rose finally reaching a neat and tidy conclusion :>)

The girls have progressed in the series to young adults. Blanche just married Bear and Rose is off to college. Fish continues in his college program too. Doman shows us the challenges young adults face when they first enter the world on their own, particularly in making friends and exploring crushes. We can imagine ourselves engaged in the chit chat and horseplay typical in budding relationships. Important also is the picture implanted in our mind of courtship.

Throughout the story, we can see the existence of three pillars: faith, family and friends. Whenever one of these pillars is weakened, internal conflict and unsafe situations arise. Maintaining the balance, we see Rose’s keen ability for discernment that has been honed as a result of consistency in faith life, family home “culture, and choice of friends. Her discernment is key to good decisions, keeping safe, etc.

Going beyond stereotypes, the dialogue paints a clear picture of the perceptions held by non-Christians against Christians, countered with a realistic portrayal of the passionate young Christian student. Previous books portrayed ac

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9. So what do we think? Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Genesis young adult book review  Beckett, Bernard. (2006) Genesis. London: Quercus Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84724-930-2. Author age: young adult. Litland recommends age 14+.

 

Publisher’s description:

The island Republic has emerged from a ruined world. Its citizens are safe but not free. Until a man named Adam Forde rescues a girl from the sea. Fourteen-year-old Anax thinks she knows her history. She’d better. She’s sat facing three Examiners and her five-hour examination has just begun. The subject is close to her heart: Adam Forde, her long-dead hero. In a series of startling twists, Anax discovers new things about Adam and her people that question everything she holds sacred. But why is the Academy allowing her to open up the enigma at its heart? Bernard Beckett has written a strikingly original novel that weaves dazzling ideas into a truly moving story about a young girl on the brink of her future.

 Our thoughts:

 Irregardless of whether you are an evolutionist or creationist, if you like intellectual sci-fi you’ll love this book.  How refreshing to read a story free from hidden agendas and attempts to indoctrinate its reader into a politically-correct mindset.  And while set in a post-apocalyptic era, the world portrayed is one in which inhabitants have been freed from the very things that sets humans apart from all other creation, including man-made. Once engulfed in the story, the reader is drawn into an intellectual battle over this “difference” between man and man-made intelligence. The will to kill; the existence of evil. A new look at original sin. And a plot twist at the end that shifts the paradigm of the entire story.

 Borrowing from the American movie rating scale, this story would be a PG. Just a few instances of profanity, it is a thought-provoking read intended for mature readers already established in their values and beliefs, and who would not make the error of interpreting the story to hold any religious metaphors. The “myth” of Adam and Art, original sin and the genesis of this new world is merely a structure familiar to readers, not a message. The reader is then free to fully imagine this new world without the constraints of their own real life while still within the constraints of their own value system.

 Genesis is moderately short but very quick paced, and hard to put down once you’ve started! Thus it is not surprising to see the accolades and awards accumulated by Beckett’s book. The author, a New Zealand high school teacher instructing in Drama, English and Mathematics, completed a fellowship study on  DNA mutations as well. This combination of strengths gives Genesis its intrigue as well as complexity. Yet it is never too theoretical as to exclude its reader.  See our review against character education criteria at Litland.com’s teen book review section.  And pick up your own copy in our bookstore!

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10. So what do we think? The Wild West: 365 days

 

 The Wild West: 365 days

 

 Wallis, Michael. (2011) The Wild West: 365 days. New York, NY: Abrams Press. ISBN 978-0810996892 All ages.

 Publisher’s description: The Wild West: 365 Days is a day-by-day adventure that tells the stories of pioneers and cowboys, gold rushes and saloon shoot-outs in America’s frontier. The lure of land rich in minerals, fertile for farming, and plentiful with buffalo bred an all-out obsession with heading westward. The Wild West: 365 Days takes the reader back to these booming frontier towns that became the stuff of American legend, breeding characters such as Butch Cassidy and Jesse James. Author Michael Wallis spins a colorful narrative, separating myth from fact, in 365 vignettes. The reader will learn the stories of Davy Crockett, Wild Bill Hickok, and Annie Oakley; travel to the O.K. Corral and Dodge City; ride with the Pony Express; and witness the invention of the Colt revolver. The images are drawn from Robert G. McCubbin’s extensive collection of Western memorabilia, encompassing rare books, photographs, ephemera, and artifacts, including Billy the Kid’s knife.

 Our thoughts:

 This is one of the neatest books I’ve seen in a long time. The entire family will love it. Keep it on the coffee table but don’t let it gather dust!

 Every page is a look back into history with a well-known cowboy, pioneer, outlaw, native American or other adventurer tale complete with numerous authentic art and photo reproductions. The book is worth owning just for the original pictures.  But there is more…an index of its contents for easy reference too! Not only is this fun for the family, it is excellent for the school or home classroom use too. A really fun way to study the 19th century too and also well received as a gift.  I highly recommend this captivating collection! See for yourself at the Litland.com Bookstore.

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11. So what do we think? Wally the Cock-Eyed Cricket

  

Wally the Cockeyed Cricket

 

 Brown, Bea (2011) Wally the Cockeyed Cricket. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61777-106-4.  Recommended age 8 and under.

 Publisher’s descriptionWhen Wally the Cockeyed Cricket finds himself trapped in Mrs. Grumpydee’s kitchen, he sings a sad song and Mrs. Grumpydee’s locks Wally in a jar. When the jar is knocked over and shatters, Wally the Cockeyed Cricket sings a different tune.

 Our thoughts:

 Read it—see it—listen to it! The great thing about books from Tate Publishing is that you do not need to choose between print and audio formats because books have a code that permits you to download the audio version on MP3 too! The print version has beautifully captivating illustrations. Yet the young man (ok, he sounds young to this old reviewer!) reading the audio does an excellent job at it. A great enhancement to teach reading to little ones :>)

 Of course, the most important reason to consider adding this book to your child’s bookshelf is because they will enjoy the story! As evidenced by its title, Wally looks a little different than most crickets. He doesn’t think anything of this difference and is happy as can be. Until, that is, he unfortunately wanders into Mrs. Grumpydee’s kitchen! Captured, bullied and made a public spectacle, Wally never loses courage or confidence. Helped with the aid of a complete stranger, he is rescued and makes a new friend. Virtues exhibited are courage, justice and friendship.  A feel-good story where the good guys win! Great parent-child sharing, Pre-3rd grade class or homeschool, bedtime reading, gift giving, therapy use, and family book club! Grab your copy at the Litland.com Bookstore.

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12. So what do we think? Abe’s Lucky Day

Abe’s Lucky Day

 

 Warren, Jill. (2011) Abe’s Lucky Day. Outskirts Press Inc. ISBN 978-1-4327-7305-2. Age 8 and under.

 Publisher’s description:  Any day can be a lucky day.  Abe is a homeless man who lives in the alley behind a bakery and winter is coming. What will happen on his lucky day that will change his life? 

Our thoughts:

 Introducing us to the varied faces of distress and homelessness, Abe’s Lucky Day reminds us that , while food, warm clothes and dry beds feel great, helping others feels even better. Illustrations permit the child to imagine themselves in the story, and so can feel the heartwarming rewards of selflessness…definitely good for your Litland.com family book club or a preschool classroom. Part luck and lots of kindness, Abe’s Lucky Day infuses a desire for kindness and generosity into its reader’s mind and heart, and is sure to strengthen bonds within the family reading it as well :>) Great for gift-giving, pick up your copy in our Litland.com Bookstore!

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13. So what do we think? Just Fine the Way They Are

Just fine the way they are

Just Fine the Way They Are

Nordhielm Wooldridge, Connie. (2011) Just Fine the Way They Are: From Dirt Roads to Rail Roads to Interstates. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek of Boyds Mill Press. ISBN 978-1-59078-710-6. (26 pgs) Author recommends grades 4-6; Litland adds excellent for younger advanced readers.

 Publisher’s Description: Change. Who needs it? We do! Mr. John Slack, the keeper of a tavern beside a rutted dirt road in the early 1800s, thought things were just fine the way they were. So did Lucius Stockton who ran the National Road Stage Company in the mid 1800s. So too, did the owners of the railroads when the first model T appeared in 1908. Yet with each new innovation, Americans were able to move around the country more quickly, efficiently, and comfortably. Connie Woolbridge offers an informative, yet light-hearted look at how the dirt roads of the early 1800s evolved into the present-day U.S. highway system. Richard Walz’s gorgeous paintings capture both the broad sweep and the individual impact of change and progress.

 Our thoughts:

 What a great overview of American history focused on transportation! Told in a folky style, the narrator’s storytelling voice reminds us of sitting on the front porch and listening to elders of the family recount the same stories over and over again. And even though we already knew the story, we enjoyed hearing it once more. Only for 8-11 year olds, these stories will be new :>)

 Just Fine the Way They Are has lots of potential uses:

 * reluctant readers, particularly boys, will find an easy and entertaining style holding their attention.

* a discussion tool for talking about feelings or conflict, making it great for family book clubs or class discussions.

* illustrations are brilliantly eye-catching—I was sitting in a diner reading this, and the waitress walked over saying “What a cute book!”. As such, it would surely keep the students’ attention if read to the class, whether reading to a traditional classroom or homeschool kids around the dining table.

* While intended for 4th, 5th & 6th grades, it also would be great for accelerated students writing their first book report.

 An added touch: it comes complete with a historic timeline, bibliography, and list of relevant websites. Plus the author (a former elementary school librarian) has lesson plans on her website too (see http://conniewooldridge.com/ )!  This is one of those unique books that provide diversity on the bookshelf, catching the eye of the reader looking for something a bit different, and being enjoyed many times over :>) Pick up a copy at our Litland.com Bookstore!

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14. So what do we think? The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (Flavia de Luce)

The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

 Bradley, Alan. (2010) The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. (The Flavia de Luce Series) Bantam, division of Random House. ISBN 978-0385343459. Litland recommends ages 14-100!

 Publisher’s description:  Flavia de Luce, a dangerously smart eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders, thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey are over—until beloved puppeteer Rupert Porson has his own strings sizzled in an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. But who’d do such a thing, and why? Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What about Porson’s charming but erratic assistant? All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head? (Bantam Books)

 Our thoughts:

 Flavia De Luce is back and in full force! Still precocious. Still brilliant. Still holding an unfortunate fascination with poisons…

 As with the first book of the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, we begin with a seemingly urgent, if not sheer emergency, situation that once again turns out to be Flavia’s form of play.  We also see the depth of her sister’s cruelty as they emotionally badger their little sister, and Flavia’s immediate plan for the most cruel of poisoned deaths as revenge. Readers will find themselves chuckling throughout the book!

 And while the family does not present the best of role models (smile), our little heroine does demonstrate good character here and there as she progresses through this adventure. As explained in my first review on this series, the protagonist may be 11 but that doesn’t mean the book was written for 11-year olds :>) For readers who are parents, however (myself included), we shudder to wonder what might have happened if we had bought that chemistry kit for our own kids!

 Alas, the story has much more to it than mere chemistry. The author’s writing style is incredibly rich and entertaining, with too many amusing moments to even give example of here. From page 1 the reader is engaged and intrigued, and our imagination is easily transported into  the 1950’s Post WWII England village. In this edition of the series, we have more perspective of Flavia as filled in by what the neighbors know and think of her. Quite the manipulative character as she flits  around Bishop’s Lacy on her mother’s old bike, Flavia may think she goes unnoticed but begins to learn not all are fooled…

 The interesting treatment of perceptions around German prisoners of war from WWII add historical perspective, and Flavia’s critical view of villagers, such as the Vicar’s mean wife and their sad relationship, fill in character profiles with deep colors. Coupled with her attention to detail that helps her unveil the little white lies told by antagonists, not a word is wasted in this story.

 I admit to being enviou

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15. Infinite Space, Infinite God II: Tin Servants

  12 days of sci-fi, day 8:

 Back on earth again, we switch gears to a story with a modern day setting that seems it could be straight out of today’s news…except the humanitarian aid workers aren’t quite what they seem to be. Parents should be advised that one of the themes to the plot is the abuse of very human-like female droids as sex slaves.

 Tin Servants by J. Sherer

 Patience

 Editor’s comment: “He’d (the author) read a lot of stories about robots trying to act human, but humans acting as robots?”

 This is a solid, fast-paced action drama set in Ghana nearly 50 years from now. The trauma and tragedy of a war-torn African nation, as well as risk to the protagonist, are realistically told almost as if we were watching an award-winning film. The beauty to reading stories instead of watching them in film is that the reader has the benefit of the character’s self-talk. We sense Paul’s, a/k/a TK-19’s, yearning to help the refugees with every cell in his body. Or at least the ones that are still human…

Don’t miss out. Pick up a copy of Infinite Space, Infinite God II at Amazon http://ow.ly/4F48e .

 (J Sherer lives in Southern California and works as a marketing supervisor for a large credit union. When he’s not writing, he enjoys playing sports, catching up on his favorite stories, and working with others on business strategies and tactics. His blog, Constructing Stories (www.jsherer.com), is a place where writers of all levels can engage in meaningful dialogue about the writing and storytelling process. He also partners with Nathan Scheck to present a free online science fiction adventure experience called Time Slingers (www.timeslingers.com). J Sherer’s past publication credits include Infinite Space, Infinite God; Dragons, Knights, and Angels Magazine; and the West Wind.)

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16. Infinite Space, Infinite God II: Basilica

  12 days of sci-fi, day 9:

Once again, we’ve taken off to parts of the galaxy that even Spock and Captain Kirk never imagined! Basilica gives an interesting “take” on space ship architecture…

 Basilica by John Rundle

 Good vs. Evil

 Editor’s comment (quoting author): (Rundle) “A hero is the architect of his own salvation; that is the very definition of a hero. If a hero can’t do that, he becomes a supporting character with no one to support, an empty suit.”

 I agree with the editors: Basilica was a great story. Not a syllable wasted in description that created a fast paced adventure in a short amount of “space” (pages, not outer), the protagonist’s moral dilemma only exists because of his strong moral character. Loyalty to authority of admiralty, choosing to protect civilizations from evil even at the cost of their own lives, all of this heightens the dilemma. The characters know from the outset they must sacrifice themselves for the good of all civilizations; acting in a self-serving manner just isn’t a choice for them. As we are flooded with modern entertainment in all forms (film, book, cable, games) that simply offer “empty suits”, it is refreshing to have such a strong hero at the helm of this ship.

 Nine stories, nine excellent reads! Don’t miss them in the anthology Infinite Space, Infinite God II http://ow.ly/4F48e .

 (John “Fish” Rundle (“Basilica”): After graduating from college summa cum laude, John turned to writing fiction simply to relieve stress. It became a wonderful outlet for his imagination and he eagerly wrote first plays and then detective fiction then novels and finally short stories. A lifelong Christian, he enjoys writing religious fiction at every opportunity and is no stranger to writing for a Catholic audience. John lives a quiet life in the wilds of Arizona with Iris, his long-suffering wife of almost twenty years.)

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