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Tuesday, August 8

Hot New Reads! Part I

It's summertime, and I read A LOT in the hot dog days of this month, we're bringing two posts of the summer's hottest new books!  This week, it's children's books and non-fiction.  Look for some fantastic, new, fiction reads next week.....

PS - Pop in tomorrow for a great book GIVEAWAY!


In 27 Days (Alison Gervais)
Hadley Jamison is shocked when she hears that her classmate, Archer Morales, has committed suicide. She didn’t know the quiet, reserved guy very well, but that doesn’t stop her from feeling there was something she could have done to help him. Hoping to find some sense of closure, Hadley attends Archer’s funeral. There, Hadley is approached by a man who calls himself Death and offers her a deal. If Hadley accepts, she will be sent back 27 days in time to prevent Archer from killing himself. But when Hadley agrees to Death’s terms and goes back to right the past, she quickly learns her mission is harder than she ever could have known.  Hadley soon discovers Archer’s reasons for being alone, and Archer realizes that having someone to confide in isn’t as bad as he’d always thought. But when a series of dangerous accidents starts pushing them apart, Hadley must decide whether she is ready to risk everything—including her life—to keep Archer safe.  From award-winning Wattpad author Alison Gervais (HonorInTheRain) comes In 27 Days, a story of redemption, first love, and the strength it takes to change the future.

This is the first in a series of young adult novels - and I have mixed feelings about it.  It's got an interesting plot, and tackles real issues that many teens are seeing today, but at times I felt that it was a little too adult-ish for young teens.  In spite of the very adult issues, the characters come across as childish at times (although, I guess that's what being a teen is, right?  caught between being a child and adult...), and I had a hard time thinking that anyone could change someone's mind and attitude that much in a short span of time.  You've got characters like Death and Havoc, which are concepts brought to life, to contend with, as well as a whole host of characters to keep straight.  It's chaotic; it's crazy; and it's interesting.  Your teen will probably like it more than you do.  Oh, and it's clean, so you won't mind him / her reading it.

5-Minute Adventure Bible Stories (Catherine DeVries)
Children will love these timeless 5-minute Bible adventures, featuring classic stories of Noah’s ark, Daniel and the lions, the birth of Jesus, and more! With text and art from the bestselling Adventure Bible brand, more than 30 stories come alive with bright, colorful illustrations and fun, interactive elements. Each of these stories can be shared in just five minutes, making this collection perfect for families on the go, children learning to read, and bedtime.

This is a perfect length for bedtime stories.  You can hold their attention just long enough for one - or two, if it's a wound-up night - and then set it down.  There are also several different ones, so even if you read it every night, it will take a while before you're re-reading stories.  This covers the classic Bible stories, and is beautifully illustrated.  It would be a wonderful addition to any bedtime box.

The Bedtime Book (Mary Engelbreit)
New York Times bestselling author Mary Engelbreit presents The Bedtime Book, a beautifully-illustrated picture book that pairs sleepy time text with Mary’s beloved, timeless art. From endearing poems and snuggly stories to sweet blessings and precious prayers, each page of The Bedtime Book features ways for you to read your little one to sleep.

Just like her other stories, Mary Engelbreit brings beautifully-done illustrations that will delight your young reader!  This is a wonderful book for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers -- it makes for a good snuggle-time read at night.  It's also good for beginning readers, since they will recognize some of the stories (although there are some difficult words).  There are rhymes and short stories - some are classics and some are new.  They are all inspiring, but without being too exciting for your child pre-bedtime.


**Screen Schooled (Joe Clement & Matt Miles)** (RECOMMENDED)
As two veteran teachers who have taught thousands of students, Joe Clement and Matt Miles have seen firsthand how damaging technology overuse and misuse has been to our students. Rather than becoming better problem solvers, kids look to Google to answer their questions for them. Rather than deepening students’ intellectual curiosity, educational technology is too often cumbersome and distracting, causing needless frustration and greatly extending homework time. Rather than becoming the great equalizer, electronic devices are widening the achievement gap. On a mission to educate and empower parents, Clement and Miles provide many real-world examples and cite multiple studies showing how technology use has created a wide range of cognitive and social deficits in our young people. They lift the veil on what’s really going on at school: teachers who are powerless to curb cell phone distractions; zoned-out kids who act helpless and are unfocused, unprepared, and antisocial; administrators who are too-easily swayed by the pro-tech “science” sponsored by corporate technology purveyors. They provide action steps parents can take to demand change and make a compelling case for simpler, smarter, more effective forms of teaching and learning.)

This book should be required reading for all parents, teachers, and administrators.  Don't drink the kool-aid!  As a former public school teacher, I had a really hard time believing that schools had fallen this far, until I began asking around to some of my friends who are still teachers.  I currently homeschool my children (and am that 'mean mama' who won't let her kids have a cell phone or even play on the tablet regularly...and our desktop is in the kitchen, where we all share it) -- and I am so glad that we have made the choices we have.  I see a lot of screen schooling even within a segment of the homeschooling population, and it just makes me sad.  Which is not to say that I'm perfect because, after all, I read this on my e-reader and am typing this up as my children watch some B&W tv...but no one's perfect.

Collateral Damage  (John Chirban)
Approximately fifty percent of marriages in the United State fail. Add to that the increasing number of couples who never marry, have children together, and later go their separate ways. In all of these scenarios, children suffer greatly—often in silence, as parents do not know how to effectively guide their kids. When the sorrow and emotional issues of children are not addressed, the cycle of divorce is likely to continue for them and in generations that follow. In addition, while children may appear to be resilient and adjusting, without proper support children of divorce are more prone to drug and alcohol abuse, criminal behavior, mental and physical illness, and suicide. How can parents manage their own hurt, shock, anger, and despair so that they can provide their children with what they need?  While Collateral Damage does not advocate divorce, it does sound a wakeup call for parents. It identifies the landmines inherent in the dangerous terrain of divorce and equips them to help their children not to feel abandoned or unheard. Topics covered include:
  • Building the family—not losing it
  • Tuning into your kids
  • Stabilizing childhood
  • Maintaining parent/child roles
  • Avoiding the parenting handoff
  • Keeping kids out of the war zone
  • Instilling trust
  • Keeping open lines of communication
  • Attuning to guiding, spiritual resources 
The unfortunate failure of a marriage does not mean the end of the family. Providing a stable, supportive, healthy relationship with your child demonstrates what a loving relationship looks like, better preparing them for intimate relationships and marriage as an adult.

As the adult child of a pretty ugly divorce, I probably had a different perspective on this book.  Children are definitely the collateral damage of something they didn't ask to be a part of, and it's life changing.  Without good support and a strong heart, it can turn into a multi-generational affair.  There were parts of the book that made me really angry and sad, as I relived scenarios, but just like the authors, it all comes out in the wash in the end.  I think this is something that all parents who are having struggles, and even considering a divorce at all, should be required to read.

How We Love (Milan & Kay Yerkovich)
Are you tired of falling into frustrating relational patterns in your marriage? Do you and your spouse fight about the same things again and again?  Relationship experts Milan and Kay Yerkovich explain why the ways you and your spouse relate to each other go back to before you even met. Drawing on the powerful tool of attachment theory, Milan and Kay explore how your childhood created an “intimacy imprint” that affects your marriage today. Their stories and practical ideas help you:

* identify your personal love style 
* understand how your early life impacts you and your spouse 
* break free from painful patterns that keep you stuck 
* find healing for the source of conflict, not just the symptoms 
* create the close, nourishing relationship you dream about

Revised throughout with all-new material, additional visual diagrams, and a revised accompanying workbook, this expanded edition of How We Love will bring vibrant life to your marriage. Are you ready for a new journey of love?

For some reason, I've reviewed a lot of marriage books this year...which on the one hand leaves me a bit unsettled (is God sending me a sign?), but on the other hand leaves me feeling like I can handle any issue that arises in our marriage with a lot more strength.  This is not only a marriage book, but a workbook as well.  It offers insights into you, your spouse, and your relationship, and then provides a work space for further learning and self-improvement.  There are parts on love styles, personality types, and how they mesh (or don't mesh) in a marriage.  There is a section on the past and how it affects your present, as well as how to break out of negative patterns.  There is something for the couple at any stage of marriage, from those considering marriage to newlyweds to those with twenty years under their belt. 

The Fix (Jonathan Tepperman)

We all know the bad news. Our economies are stagnant. Wages are flat and income inequality keeps rising. The Middle East is burning and extremism is spreading. Frightened voters are embracing populist outsiders and angry nationalists. And no wonder: we are living in an age of unprecedented, irreversible decline—or so we’re constantly being told.  Jonathan Tepperman’s The Fix presents a very different picture. It identifies ten pervasive and seemingly impossible challenges—including immigration reform, economic stagnation, political gridlock, corruption, and Islamist extremism—and shows that, contrary to the general consensus, each has a solution, and not merely a hypothetical one. By taking a close look at overlooked success stories—from countries as diverse as Canada, Botswana, and Indonesia—Tepperman discovers practical advice for problem-solvers of all stripes, making a data-driven case for optimism in a time of crushing pessimism.

Surprisingly, this book combines world events, political history, and global affairs in a very non-dry way.  The author takes ideas and actions that are often so big that they overwhelm your average Joe, and puts them on a layman's scale - making it easy to comprehend and learn from them.  At its essence, this is a collection of case studies from ten different places (nine countries ; one city), and how these places used out-of-the-box thinking to overcome issues such as poverty, immigration, and radicalism.  As each of the chapters is its own case study, feel free to jump around and read the ones that interest you first!

Giving It All Away...and Getting it All Back Again  (David Green)
David Green believes that generosity and building a legacy based on giving can lead to getting back what you really want: a family that stays together, prays together, and shares life joyfully.  Green tells the story of caring for the small things and starting Hobby Lobby in their garage. He shares the difference between the worlds of “having and hoarding” and a world of “giving and generosity,” the principle of working for God and not for men, and that now is not too soon to consider what you want your legacy to be.  As proof of how living by those principles can change your life, Green shares that when Hobby Lobby came close to bankruptcy in 1986 and when the Supreme Court challenged the Hobby Lobby’s right to life beliefs in 2014, the company emerged with its integrity intact.  Green sees the life of giving as a life of adventure. But it’s a life that pays the best rewards personally, offers a powerful legacy to your family, and changes those you touch.
I must admit that I picked up this book on the same week that Hobby Lobby was (once again) in the public spotlight - this time for the Iraqi artifacts.  However, I tried very hard to be a tabula rasa during the reading.  The book is about family businesses, and the lessons that the Green family has learned with their business, but it's not just for those with a business - it can be useful for anyone who feels that they have something to pass on.  It provides examples of situations where you can help others, and some where you may want to pass.  There is discussion of the process of passing the family business down from one generation to the next, and how to decide which family members are to receive said business.  There is also a lot of discussion on building the business internally, with not only customer but employee satisfaction, and establishing a good moral base in the company.  Again, some of my reading was colored by current events, but it's a good read for anyone considering a family business.
The Treasure Principle (Randy Alcorn)
Bestselling author Randy Alcorn introduced readers to a revolution in material freedom and radical generosity with the release of the original The Treasure Principle in 2001. Now the revision to the compact, perennial bestseller includes a provocative new concluding chapter depicting God asking a believer questions about his stewardship over material resources. Readers are moved from the realms of thoughtful Bible exposition into the highly personal arena of everyday life. Because when Jesus told His followers to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” He intended that they discover an astounding secret: how joyful giving brings God maximum glory and His children maximum pleasure. Discover a joy more precious than gold! 

This book wasn't what I imagined a Christian-based book would be.  The author is very concerned with money and possessions, while I firmly believe that even if you have nothing, you still have something to give (time, love, etc).  The scripture quoted is skewed to fit his ideas, and is there purely to guilt the reader.  I left a bad taste that this author was SO concerned with money and materialism.  I don't think God cares how much we have, or even how much money we give, but rather that we give with a joyful and open heart and do so willingly...whether it's money, possessions, time, hands-on help, or something else.
The Only Negotiating Guide You'll Ever Need  (Peter Stark)
Everything in life is negotiated, under all conditions, at all times. From asking your boss for a raise, to asking your significant other to take out the garbage, most of us are involved in negotiations to one degree or another for a good part of any given day. The Only Negotiating Guide You'll Ever Need, Revised and Updated outlines the critical elements you need for a successful negotiation and reveals the 101 tactics to use in any high stakes business deal, or in everyday life occurrences.  In this book, you'll discover your negotiating behavioral style through self-assessment questionnaires, gain the tools needed to deal with negotiation sharks (or bullies), learn tips for recognizing and interpreting your negotiating counterpart's body language to create beneficial outcomes, and see examples on how to counter unethical and unprofessional tactics effectively--and much more.  Using their 30 years of experience as business professionals, lead negotiators, consumers, and parents, Peter Stark and Jane Flaherty provide you with the tools you need to become a successful negotiator who builds win-win relationships.

This is a great tool for all adults, from teens / young adults to those in the workforce.  It's not just about negotiating, but about understanding people and how to read them and get them to work with you.  Reading through this book may not make you a master, and hopefully won't turn you into a manipulator, but will allow you to step back and look at situations more thoroughly, from a different point of view.  You'll see past situations in a new light and be able to apply that knowledge to future situations.  Another great aspect is that you can read through it in five and ten minute bursts...without losing anything if you put it down for a couple of days.

31 Proverbs to Light Your Path (Liz Curtis Higgs)

Wherever you are on your journey, here is the wisdom you need for the road ahead. Maybe you’re stuck and want to move forward. Or you feel anxious and long to know what’s next. Or you’re ready for an uplifting reminder that God holds your future in His loving hands.  Chosen by hundreds of women as their favorite verses in Proverbs, these thirty-one nuggets of truth reveal how faithfully God honors His promise, “I will instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths” (Proverbs 4:11).  Best-selling author Liz Curtis Higgs examines each word with care and adds a sprinkling of humor through her honest stories and personal examples. For each verse you’ll find a unique “One Minute, One Step” challenge—a do-it-now task that requires one minute or less. You’ll soon discover how practical and meaningful the book of Proverbs is as you apply its ancient wisdom to your thoroughly modern life.  With a study guide included, 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path is a daily devotional and a small-group Bible study, wrapped in a beautiful gift book brimming with encouragement!

LCH has a way with bringing Bible verses to life and giving readers a way to apply them to everyday living.  This book is no exception to that style.  Each of the Proverbs selected is dissected and broken down to it's simplest meaning.  They are done this way to make you slow down and think about what is being said, rather than just memorizing it and using it as a catch phrase.  The guide would be helpful in a women's Bible study group, or can easily be used alone, too.

NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (Craig Keener)

You’ve heard many Bible stories hundreds of times, but how many behind-the-scenes details are you missing? Sometimes a little context is all you need to discover the rich meaning behind the stories of Scripture.  That’s what the NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides. Every page is packed with expert insight into the customs, culture, and literature of Bible times. These fascinating explanations will serve to clarify your study of the Scriptures, reinforcing your confidence and bringing difficult passages of Scripture into sharp focus.  Discover new dimensions of insight to even the most familiar Bible passages as you take a behind-the-scenes tour into the ancient world.  The Bible was originally written to an ancient people removed from us by thousands of years and thousands of miles. The Scriptures include subtle culturally based nuances, undertones, and references to ancient events, literature and customs that were intuitively understood by those who first heard the Scriptures read. For us to hear the Scriptures as they did, we need a window into their world.  The NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, with notes from Dr. John H. Walton (Wheaton College) in the Old Testament and Dr. Craig S. Keener (Asbury Theological Seminary) in the New Testament, brings to life the ancient world of Scripture for modern readers.
  • The full text of the NKJV
  • Targeted book introductions explain the context in which each book of the Bible was written
  • Insightful and informative verse-by-verse study notes reveal new dimensions of insight to even the most familiar passages
  • Key Old Testament (Hebrew) and New Testament terms are explained and expanded upon in two helpful reference features
  • Over 300 in-depth articles on key contextual topics
  • 375 full-color photos, illustrations, and images from around the world
  • Dozens of charts, maps, and diagrams in vivid color
  • Words of Jesus in red
  • Additional study Bible tools: cross references, a concordance, indexes and other helps

Sometimes, when reading the Bible, it's very difficult to understand what's going on.  There are some things that people do that just flat don't make sense.  That's where a knowledge of ancient history and the everyday lives of those ancient peoples really comes in handy - because armed with that knowledge, things start to make a lot more sense.  This book provides that much-needed cultural background, for various different groups of people.  My kids love ancient history, and this book actually led them to be more interested in the Bible.  (Granted, I think the relationship is supposed to go the other way, but...)  The text includes pictures and maps - which really help the visual learner - to help clarify the lifestyles as well as the travel routes.  My only complaint with this book is that the text is teeny, so you won't want to read too much at one time.

With every sunrise we are given plenty of new examples of people “Hitting Send” and soon regretting it. Social media means what it says: it is social! Our methods of communication today allow for something to potentially be broadcast to everyone from Pekin, Illinois to Peking, China. But it’s not only Twitter fanatics who can find themselves in trouble. Every single one of us is capable of falling prey to this growing plague.  Every day we have the potential of both verbal and written blunders. It makes no difference if we are talking to a stranger over a meat counter, chatting on a cell phone with our mother, or sending an e-mail to a coworker; we can and do miscommunicate and people can and do get the wrong idea. When we don't pause long enough to think before speaking or writing, it commonly yields a misunderstanding and leads to a clash. We end up being the person who said, “You know that sphere of the brain that stops you from saying something that you shouldn't? Well, I don’t have one of those.”  This book is about preventing that misunderstanding and allowing for understanding. Said another way, preempting people from getting the wrong idea and enabling them to get the right idea! We all need work in this area in far more ways than just glancing through a checklist.  From external examples to internal turmoil, Before You Hit Send is about the four things we must think through before communicating. In all things we wish to say or write, we would be wise to ask ourselves,
  • Is it true?
  • Is it kind?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it clear?
When we ask and answer these four questions honestly, we will be thinking wisely before we speak. But to explore this fully, we need to find out a whole lot more about ourselves and uncover why we consciously and subconsciously get into these communication disasters to begin with.  You may be surprised what you discover about yourself.  Shall we begin?
THIS BOOK.  This is a book that everyone who uses social media should be required to read....including our political leaders.  How much miscommunication is there online, where there is no non-verbal language to accompany our words??  How often has each of us, myself included, found themselves in hot water for posted words being misconstrued?  Having grown up in the non-digital age, I continually struggle with making my words pass all four of these question-tests AND being taken the correct way..because your words can be clear, but the meaning behind them can still be misconstrued.  I think everyone should read this book.

I received some, but not all, of these books in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.
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