Saturday, March 29, 2008

Book Reviews for March 2008

A Huge Story of Redemption
Title: Woman Redeemed
Author: Christine Blake
ISBN: 978-1-4327-1583-0
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
Paperback Price/Currency: $13.95 USD
Pages: 271
Reviewer: Barbara Milbourn (2/08)

It was during Christine Blake’s pursuit of her masters in Cross-cultural Teaching at the University of San Diego that a book idea began to emerge. Now, in her historical novel, Woman Redeemed, she transports us to the rich and colorful region created and dominated by the Romans in the first century, and introduces us to Mary Magdalene in first person.
We meet Mary in a small boat with her brother Lazarus and her sister Martha as her story cleverly unravels in a series of remembrances that occur as she looks upon the disappearing shore of her homeland.

As a child, Mary believes she’s vastly different from her sister, her mother, and the other women in the fishing village of Magdala. She’s curious, with “too much spirit to satisfy [herself] among the required duties of [her] sex.” She gravitates to the marketplace like her father, and idolizes Cleopatra for her power and allure.

Three significant meetings occur in her childhood that will change the course of her life: One on a stop in Nazareth during a return trip from market, when she is given a wooden box by an elderly carpenter. Another, during Passover in Jerusalem, where she meets the mother of Jesus telling stories to a gathering of children, and finally, during this same time she meets Jesus, who is around the age of her brother.

Christine Blake, through Mary Magdalene, tells the story of every woman’s self-doubt, temptations, pain, and startling experiences against a backdrop of political ambition, splendid architecture, industry, and traditions. She brings together the intersecting lives of the Jews and Romans, fishermen and prophets, women in community and women rebels. She plants us for a while in lands and seas whose names have changed but whose struggles continue. She revives the Bible stories of our youth and stays historically accurate to both Roman and Jewish records.
While this book may look small on the outside, Christine Blake has no problem delivering a huge story of redemption on a grand historical and societal stage. Celebrate womanhood in Woman Redeemed.

Deception’s Legacy
Jacqueline G. Randolph
Fultus Corporation (2008)
ISBN 9781596821026
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (1/08)

I think that whenever an author commits to writing a series, they really have to work hard to try to make each one better than the previous one. Jacqueline Randolph has managed to do this again with “Deception’s Legacy.” I was blown away at how well she managed to capture my attention with this story. As a matter of fact, I was held captive whenever I wasn’t working, so that I could keep reading!

Deception’s Legacy” once again revisits the family of Skye and Rhys. The story covers three different time periods. The Spanish Inquisition, in the 1400s, is introduced into the story. An evil Spanish family that was involved with the torture of non-Catholics holds roles from this time on through the 2030s. Another part of the story follows what happened in 1966 when US nuclear aircraft mysteriously crashed in Spain. Members of Skye’s family are actually introduced at this time. They are heavily affected by the evil family. The effects carry forward to the year 2030. Skye is now 64. Her son Tristan has followed in her footsteps as a DEA agent. He is still a rookie at this time. He is sent to Seville to help solve an intriguing mystery regarding the same Spanish family’s influence on events that are happening at this time.

A series of events reveals a huge family mystery to Skye. Her mother is unwilling to provide her with answers that she is desperately seeking. As she ventures out to get answers on her own, she discovers links between her family and the evil Spanish family, and ties to historical events. Discovering that their son Tristan may be involved with more than he can handle, Skye and Rhys once again go undercover to unofficially assist the case.

Having read the first two books in the “Deception’s” series, Skye and Rhys have felt like family to me. I was thrilled to be able to read more about their lives, especially now that they are nearing the end, and their children are taking on their own roles in the story. You can read this book alone, and you will understand everything, but I believe that if you read the books in order, you will be more affected by the emotional intensity of the storyline. The characters will be much more known to you.

I really admired how Randolph was able to tie in the different time periods without making the story too convoluted or confusing. It was absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend “Deception’s Legacy!” I eagerly await the upcoming fourth book in the series.

Poodles, Tigers, Monsters & You
L.W. Lewis
Red Pumpkin Press (2007)
ISBN 9780971157217
Reviewed by Maya Landers (age 10) for Reader Views (12/07)

“Poodles, Tigers, Monsters & You,” by L. W. Lewis, is a funny book full of poems that both my brother and I enjoyed fully. Humor is prevalent throughout the book, making it an entertaining read.

This would be a great read-aloud book, because the rhythm is enjoyable, and there is ever-present humor in all of the verses. Also, most of the poems are short, making it wonderful bedtime book. When you begin to read a poem, it appears serious, but there is always a funny twist at the end, making the poem seem much more comical than at first glance.

The illustrations are laugh-provoking, showing the offspring of a poodle and a tiger, pictures of green-toothed monsters, and a barbequed Barbie, and many, many others, all just as hilarious.
One of Lewis’s poems, titled “The Lion and the Zebra,”goes like this:

“The lion and the zebra got married,
And the wedding turned out fine.
But they weren’t married very long,
Only until dinnertime.”

This shows how the book would also be good for beginning readers, because they could enjoy the poem without having to work too hard. Some of the poems are longer, but they are just as easy to understand.

As I read these poems, I was reminded of Shel Silverstein, because at first glance the verses look like nonsense, but then they start to make sense—not in a serious way, of course.
There is no consistent plot or character that runs throughout this book. For instance, we do not see the same characters repeating, and some poems are in first person, some in third person, and some even in second person. The characters are not consistent, but they do all have the same voice--humorous and amusing, with a communicative aspect that will please all readers.
If you have read and enjoyed “The Tickle Tree,” also by L.W. Lewis, you will love this book. I couldn’t say that it was funnier, but it was just as entertaining.

I would recommend “Poodles, Tigers, Monsters & You” to my friends as an alternative to more serious literature, or to my younger brother or one of his friends as a beginning reader book.

Count the Part that’s in my Head
Book Title: Some of the Parts
Author: Gerry Rzeppa
ISBN 13: 978-1-934478-01-1
Publisher: Sunray Publishing
Pages: 45
Reviewer: Yvonne Perry

Have you ever struggled to open one of those bottles that have a child-safety cap? Sometimes we adults have trouble opening the bottles designed to keep children from getting into something harmful; even though what is contained inside may be for their benefit if properly administered. The topic of death and afterlife is something most people do not wish to discuss with children. In fact, they do not wish to discuss it at all, with anyone.

Some of the Parts is a book written for children, but its very grown up message will not be grasped by everyone. Even though the poetic, rhyming book only takes a few minutes to get into, the benefits will last a lifetime—and not just this lifetime. The book is about life after death told in the form of a riddle that creates an entertaining story. Maker allows us free will to choose our own path. Maker shows us wisdom to guide our daily lives. Maker is there for us when we leave this body of dust and ash and will teach us what is really important.

The illustrations in the book are simple but they help to convey the meaning, or perhaps they are there to hide the secrets of the soul. What are the chips of tile supposed to represent? Who is the old fool? What tray is furthest to the south? What are the staff, cape, and beard supposed to mean? Can you solve the math problem? Was the storm real or imagined? Whatever your interpretation of the message, you can rest assured that you will take from the pages more than your logical mind can absorb. Its message speaks to the ever-living spirit.

Even the book’s title is a play on words. If said aloud, “Some of the Parts” could be heard as “sums of the parts.” The book is divided into parts: first part, second part, third part, the sad part, the better part, and the future part. The message is the sum of the parts.

That’s not all that is concealed in the book. I love the hidden picture of the baby boy. It only took a few seconds before his sweet face appeared. The face is that of the author’s son. He was born to him by his wife when she was nearly 60 years old. That in itself is a mystery—a miracle to remind us that anything is possible to those who think it is.

Some of the Parts is a deep, intricate work of art. The expensive stock and quality printing provide a backdrop that allows Rzeppa to tell a story, without telling the reader what to believe. He only tells what is possible. He allows the reader to make up her own mind about death, life and all its mystery.

Even if children do not understand the entire story, they will be touched by the spirit of love in which it is written. “You’re never by yourself, my son, as long as you are known. That which never dies is fashioned out of thought.” Our loved ones are only a thought away.

It's a beautiful hardcover book I will want to read again and again. Its rhythmic and lyrical style is fun to read aloud. I can't wait to share it with my grandson and hear what he has to say about it. To a child, so much is taught; from a child, so much is wrought.

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