Book Review: Gospel Reset

Gospel Reset
by Ken Ham

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian living

Ken Ham explains in this book that, “The gospel message hasn’t changed, but the way in which it needs to be presented in a secularized culture does need to change.” Since reading Already Gone a few months ago, I’ve started to wonder how our church can better present the truth of the Bible to the youth that attend. Last month, my husband and I went to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum and came back with some books that my husband wanted to read, including this one, and after reading Gospel Reset, he’s started to have similar thoughts to those I’ve been having.

The book rehashes some of the information presented in Already Gone, but obviously not everyone who reads it will have read the other book (my own husband, for example). To me, the value of the book lies in the comparison of Peter and Paul preaching to Jews and Greeks (respectively) in different chapters of Acts to the culture of America past to America present. Though many of us today already recognize that the culture is a lot less open to hearing about the Gospel than it has been in the past, it’s helpful to have this comparison to the Bible and the early church.

I found most of the illustrations unnecessary (and sometimes confusing), but overall, the viewpoint presented and resources at the end can provide some helpful insight into a big problem facing Christians today.

Find out more about Gospel Reset and Ken Ham’s ministry at Answers in Genesis

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Hardcover Release!

As a self-published author, I’ve long been thankful that KDP is pretty easy to use, but I was always sad that there wasn’t a hardcover option. But now there is! And I’m so happy to have a hardcover of my first novel!! I’ll eventually have one for the sequel, Outcast, but it’s a slow, somewhat costly process to get one ready and make sure it looks good. For now, I’m ridiculously thrilled to have this in my hands!

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Book Review: The Alamo

The Alamo
I, Q #4
by Roland Smith & Michael P. Spradlin

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Children’s spy thriller

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the previous books in the series, starting with Independence Hall.

New step-siblings Q (short for Quest) and Angela continue to trail a ghost terrorist cell along with SOS, a team made up mostly of retired operatives from the CIA and other organizations. Angela’s mother is climbing her way toward the top of the ghost cell, but the danger is getting higher all the time. Meanwhile, something strange is going on with Boone, and is Q’s dad friend or foe?

Here we have part 4 of the series-long story, the kind of series that you really need to start from the beginning. This is the first book that is co-written by another author, but it’s not super noticeable to me. Though I will say that this is the first book that starts with a list of all of the characters and a recap of past events, which my aging memory appreciated. Overall, though, it doesn’t feel particularly new. None of the questions from the last book are answered and are really only muddied more. The characters gain a very small amount of ground, and some of the plot points feel like a rehash.

There’s still a lot of action, and I like the way that the series moves around the country to different major locations. I think there are some discrepancies regarding the relative placements of the Alamo Plaza and the San Fernando Cathedral, an area I’ve studied recently for my job (, so that brought me out of the story a little. However, I’m still really interested in seeing where the rest of this series goes.

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Notebook Collection, part 12

It’s official. I have a sickness. I had planned to get caught up on new notebooks with this post, but then, I bought 3 more. And then last week, my husband and I took a trip, and I came back with SEVEN notebooks! Even for me, even though buying notebooks on vacations is common for me, seven is a lot. Now it’ll take me 2 more posts after this one to be caught up. I know I say this often, but I really need to stop buying notebooks.

Past posts about the collection I have so far: Post #1  |  Post #2  |  Post #3  |  Post #4  |  Post #5  |  Post #6  |  Post #7  |  Post #8  |  Post #9 | Post #10 | Post #11

Now and then, I buy a notebook for which I can’t really explain my interest. As soon as I saw this in a local bargain store, though, I knew that I had to buy it. The unique design that made it interesting to me will make it difficult to actually use, as the pages inside are split the same way the cover is. But since I have so many notebooks and won’t use most of them for a really long time (if ever, as sad as it makes me to say that), it’s easy to disregard the potential difficulty. The pages, both top and bottom parts, have images of various food on them too. I really wonder who the creator(s) of this notebook had in mind when designing it.

This notebook came from the store in our area that’s only open at Christmas time. Curious George was a major favorite show of both of my kids, now 20 and 12, so it will always hold a special place in my heart too.

This notebook and the one below were picked up in the Dominican Republic when I went down there for a week to visit my sister’s family and bring my daughter back, who visited for a month. I knew the one souvenir I wanted to be sure to get was a notebook of some kind that would reflect the culture down there in some way. In particular, I was hoping for some Spanish (which I don’t speak) as a reminder of my time there. Though both of these notebooks were picked up at La Sirena, a big-box store similar to Walmart here in the states, I really liked the look of them, inside and out. They seem to be geared toward students, based on the pages inside, like this one:

Also from the DR, I particularly liked some of the pages inside this one, info from various subjects, all in Spanish, of course. Below are a couple of examples:

I saw this one at Half Price Books and really liked the look of it. At first glance, it looks like the inside of a geode, but the more I look at it, the more I see other things in the cover. I can imagine it being different kinds of liquid swirling together. Or even a nebula up close. It’s like a Rorschach test in a way—maybe what someone thinks it looks like says something about their personality.

I have to laugh when I realize that at the end of my previous notebook post, I said I may have even bought a single new notebook by the time I get to writing the next post about them. Because in fact, I’ve bought ten more since then. One is the last one from this post, and the other nine, I’ll split into two posts. Even though it’s laughable to say this by now, I really am going to try to reign myself in going forward.

Do you collect anything related to reading or writing? Feel free to share!

Book Review: Treasure Hunters

Treasure Hunters
Book #1
by James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein
read by Brian Kennedy

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Children’s adventure

The Kidds are a family of treasure hunters. They live on a boat, traveling the world, recovering various kinds of items from shipwrecks. But after the separate but equally mysterious disappearances of both of their parents, the Kidd children are left on their own to deal with a band of pirates who want their treasure and local authorities who don’t want them to be left on their own. Then some clues surface that point at evidence to what really happened to their parents, and the adventure really begins.

I’m a bit torn on this book. The overall story was fun and adventurous and ends with a promise of more of the same. The main cast consists of 4 kids: the oldest is Tommy, then Storm, and twins Bick and Beck (short for Bickford and Rebecca). Bick is the narrator of the book, and Beck draws the illustrations along the way. I had to borrow the ebook to be able to see the illustrations, and I liked them, even one part when they were drawn by a different character.

However, I wrote more notes while listening, of things I wanted to remember for later, than I have for any book I’ve ever read. Not all of these notes were of issues I had with the story. For example, there was a gang of pirates that were basically surfer dudes, and the way they were voiced by the narrator gave that part of the story a major 3 Ninjas vibe, which I quite enjoyed. The narrator did a good job of sounding like a 12-year-old boy most of the time, but sounding like older characters when needed, too. Now and then, he seemed to put the emphasis in the wrong place, but overall, I liked the narrator.

What most of my notes boil down to are things I didn’t like about the way characters are presented or written. Tommy was probably my favorite of the Kidds. He’s uncomplicated and smarter than he seems. Storm is a fairly stereotypical, way-too-smart-to-be-believable character, even to the point of being overweight and socially awkward. It seems a little too much like the author(s) enjoys shaming fat people, not just because of this character (and it had to be pretty deliberate to make her this way, since it’s unlikely to me that someone living the way this family does would become so overweight), but because there are two other characters in the book that are described as ridiculously obese, and the narrator, who knows how much his sister hates to be teased about her weight, is not remotely kind in his descriptions of those characters.

Then we have Bick and Beck and their “twin tirades,” which are quick argument “squalls.” After a few of these, I realized that they’re really just a way for them to discuss opposing views, but they start out already angry. They mostly feel forced, and frankly, their parents should have put a stop to them a long time ago, insisting instead that they find a calmer and more healthy way to communicate. Also, all three of the kids were far too cavalier about the perceived deaths of their parents. They moved on so fast, it was as if they weren’t very attached to them.

This is the first of anything by James Patterson that I’ve read, but I have enjoyed books by Chris Grabenstein before. I’d really like to see where this story goes and hope that some of what I didn’t like about this book will be lessened in the future, as the series continues.

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Book Review: Behind the Lights

Behind the Lights
by Helen Smallbone

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Memoir

Helen Smallbone is the mother of seven children who are all adults now, three of which are well-known in Christian music—Rebecca St. James and brothers Joel and Luke of for KING & COUNTRY. In this book, she shares the story of her family, from moving from Australia to the US where everyone pitched in to keep them all afloat, to working together to put on Rebecca St. James’s shows once she got into the music industry, and to how for KING & COUNTRY got started.

One of the things I liked about this book was that way it was so conversational, like she’s telling her story in person. And she’s not afraid to talk about the mistakes made by her or anyone else in her family. I appreciate the way she ties every lesson learned into God and the Bible. Though very little of her incredible life is very relatable to me, I was still quite immersed in the book and was carried along with the ups and downs.

I’ve seen hints of at least Joel & Luke’s involvement in Rebecca St. James’s concerts, but the overall story of the entire family working at their oldest sister’s concerts and growing into their roles was the most interesting to me. It gives a lot of insight into what I’ve said since pretty much the first time I saw fK&C in concert—they put on some of the best live shows I’ve ever been to. And now I can see how their talent as performers had early roots. I’m really glad I read this book, and think that fans of Rebecca St. James and/or for KING & COUNTRY will enjoy it, as well as people interested in the behind the scenes of the Christian music industry (though I was fairly disappointed by some of what I read about that).

Thank you to Netgalley and K-LOVE Books for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about Behind the Lights and for KING & COUNTRY
Publication date: April 12, 2022

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Book Review: The Silver Chair

The Silver Chair
The Chronicles of Narnia #4 (original order)
by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Children’s classic fantasy

Not only is this the first book without any Pevensies, but it sure does delve into new depths (pun intended). Jill and Eustace are an interesting combination of characters—they’re the first to go to Narnia who aren’t related to each other in any way, not that being unrelated kept them from bickering. While parts of the story were quite predictable, I still enjoyed the way it played out.

Puddleglum, though, now he’s my kind of character. He expects the worst, yet never gives up. He has 100% faith in and devotion to Aslan, and I absolutely love his words and actions when facing the evil witch of this story. I really appreciate the way C.S. Lewis brings out truths about following God in the midst of these fantastical stories.

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March in Review

I read 9 books last month, a little lower than the first 2 months this year, but I’m not surprised. I was away for a week during March, and even after coming back, didn’t manage to get back to normal for almost another week. Though I did bring plenty to read while I was gone (and during the long travel times), it was difficult to focus on it like I’d expected. What’s sad, though, is that my average rating of books was really low—just above 3 stars, and that’s considering that 2 of the books were my own that I re-read, and, of course, I gave 5 stars to.

Here are the books I read in March:

Pithea by Kristi Drillien (5 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (4 / 5)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (2 / 5)
Outcast by Kristi Drillien (5 / 5)
Journal 29 by Dimitris Chassapakis (2.5 / 5)
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (2 / 5)
The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket (2.5 / 5)
The Conference of the Birds by Ransom Riggs (3 / 5)
Islands and Enemies by Marianne Hering (3.5 / 5)

This list includes 1 ARC and 4 re-reads. I started 0 series, continued 3 series, and finished 0 series. My ever-changing short list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads. Despite my almost too-long TBR list, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Book Review: The Conference of the Birds

The Conference of the Birds
Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #5
by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: YA fantasy

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the previous books in the series.

Find V. Keep Noor safe. Avoid war between American peculiar clans. Of course, Jacob can’t do all of this alone, so it’s a good thing his friends are willing to overlook his stupidity and bring him back into the fold. But then the prophecy rears its ugly head, almost literally, and Jacob may not have what it takes to save the future of peculiardom.

This was my least favorite book of the series so far, though the story itself was good overall, about as good as the rest, to me. But I feel like either Ransom Riggs is getting more lazy or I’m just noticing it more. The most glaringly obvious is Noor. I was never a fan of Emma and Jacob’s relationship, so I don’t care that Jacob has a new romantic interest. However, Noor herself, and the development of their relationship, is like a rinse and repeat of Emma. Riggs seems to have no imagination for major female characters, especially those of the love-interest variety. And in this book, Jacob remarks that his relationship with Emma was “chaste,” to which I respond, “Compared to what?!” This is quite a ret-con of the earlier books, during which Jacob and Emma were definitely fairly physical. I really don’t understand the author’s thoughts in all of this.

This is not the only example, though, as a prophecy that was written in many different languages and cobbled together into English just happens to rhyme in English (and this happens again later with a shorter text). A loop that is locked just happens to let 2 people in, but keep all others out (nothing nefarious or planned, simply no explanation given). And the climax seems like it should be impossible (not saying more to avoid spoilers), but no explanation is given to make it more believable.

I think Riggs has done something decent here with this series, though I do wonder if he should have stopped at the first trilogy. Or perhaps made the second trilogy more of a removal from the first. A lot of people don’t really care for the villain in this 2nd half, and while it doesn’t really bother me, I get the frustration. I don’t know if he plans to continue with more books or not, but even though this book was less fun for me, I’m still looking forward to reading the culmination of this 3-book arc, and possibly of the entire series.

Find out more about The Conference of the Birds

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