Friday, April 18, 2014

The Amazing Spiderman 2 Discussion Guide {a FlyBy Review and Giveaway}

With a house full of boys, superheroes are certainly a part of our lives.  My favorite Superhero has always been (well, maybe not always, but all my adult life anyway) Spiderman.  He wasn't born with superhuman abilities, he didn't spend his way to technological superhero status, nor was he some government experiment.  Instead, ordinary everyman Peter Parker happened to just be in the right place at the right time (or the wrong place?) and he suddenly found himself in possession of superpowers.

Now what?

That's the burning question underlying almost all Spiderman stories.  We're doing a whole lot of literature studies right now, and while all superhero stories, Spiderman included, have great Man vs. Man conflicts (superhero vs. the archvillain) and some have Man vs. Society conflicts (misunderstood superhero fighting against the community), Spiderman almost always features great Man vs. Self conflicts.  Who wins?  Peter Parker wants a normal life, with "the girl" and a good job and people who value him for who he is.  But the role of Spiderman calls out to him, as he knows he can protect people, right injustice, and serve his society.  Usually, the main conflict is that it is impossible to do both.  He cannot have the Peter Parker life he desires and do what he feels called to do as Spiderman.

My kids love Spiderman for completely different reasons than that, however.

With The Amazing Spiderman 2, however, I now have the chance to talk about some of that with my kids.  Because... there is a really cool discussion guide available, and it is simply fantastic.  Here's how it was described to me:
The discussion guide for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a great resource for families to discuss a range of important themes that include the relationship between personal choices and destiny, living a life that counts, sacrificing yourself in service to others, and the nature of power. This guide will help parents start (or continue) conversations with their children that will inspire them to think outside themselves and challenge them to live lives that matter. The conversations that will result from using this guide will reveal that even the most explosive summer blockbuster can leave lasting, positive impacts on its young viewers.
There is a half to full page of commentary and discussion questions (and Bible verses!) for the following topics:
  • The Nature of Power
  • You are Somebody who is Needed
  • Time is Luck and Life is Precious
  • Live Your Own Life and Make It Count
  • Choices and Destiny
  • Sacrifice
We love the tone of this guide, and this has led to some amazing conversations.  I have a couple teens who really do enjoy those deep, thoughtful conversations and debates.  This is some perfect fuel for that.

Are you interested in a copy of the Discussion Guide?  I can send you a pdf copy if you just let me know!

I have the chance to give away a Prize Pack (t-shirt, paper mask and phone case) to one of my readers!  US or Canada only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising): Many thanks to Propeller, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chronological Study Bible {a Book Look Bloggers review}

I'm a sucker for a new Study Bible, and I have particularly loved working through chronological ones in the past.

So the opportunity to review the Chronological Study Bible from Thomas Nelson was something I had to take.

The publisher describes this Bible this way:
The Chronological Study Bible presents the text of the New International Version in chronological order—the order in which the events actually happened—with notes, articles, and full-color graphics that connect the reader to the history and culture of Bible times and gives the reader a dramatic, "you are there" experience. Features include full-color illustrations of places, artifacts, and cultural phenomena, contextual articles that connect Biblical times and world history and culture, daily life notes, time panels and charts that show the flow of Biblical history, and in-text and full-color maps.
My thoughts:

I settled down to read the introductory section, which talks about how they decided the chronological order.  That was fascinating.  Then I flipped around a bit, looking at things here and there.  I was impressed with the number of notes, and the variety.

One thing I really love is that there are "transition" sections, particularly where the text jumps from one book to another (like inserting one of the epistles into the Acts narrative).  These help to ease you into new material, and I found myself flipping through pages to find transition notes just to read those.

We are currently studying 1 Corinthians at our Christian Education Night at church, so I flipped over to read through that book.  Even though we've worked through roughly two-thirds of the book in our classes, I found the notes fascinating.  A couple of weeks ago, there was a huge argument about passages in 1 Corinthians 7 regarding divorce and remarriage.  The explanatory notes here were terrific:
In using the phrase "not bound," Paul was echoing the exact language of ancient divorce contracts, which spoke of marriage as "binding" a woman to her husband and divorce as "loosing" or "freeing" a woman for remarriage.  Such divorce terminology appears in Jewish texts, such as the Mishnah, and in actual 1st-century Jewish divorce contracts that have been recovered.  Ancient readers would have understood "not bound" as Paul's permission for an abandoned person to remarry.

A page or so later, one of the notes talks about 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, relating to running the race and getting the prize.  It had never really occurred to me that this is a direct reference to the Olympics, which took place 75 miles west of Corinth.  Of course, athletes would compete in other races too and not just the Olympics.  But for whatever reason, until this note, I never read this paragraph and thought about the Olympics.

A Chronological Bible shouldn't be the only Bible you own, as it is rather difficult to find specific verses.  It is a great resource, though, to help you get events more in context, especially when reading books like 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles.  It is also really nice when reading through Acts.

If you do not already have a Chronological Bible, this is a really nice choice.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Goldtown Adventures #3 and #4 {a Kregel Book Tour review}

We read the first two books in the Goldtown Adventures series a while back, and wow, did I ever enjoy them.  Susan K. Marlow does a great job with adventurous fiction, set roughly in Gold Rush days in California.

This series is actually set in the 1860s, just past the Gold Rush days, and the main character is Jem, a young boy who is just a delight. 

I had the chance to review books 3 and 4 in this series.  Canyon of Danger has Jem as the man of the family while his father is away.  He thinks that is going to be a grand adventure, and he does take his role seriously.  But a wolf getting one of the calves is just the start of one serious mishap after another.  Most of the time, Jem is making reasonable decisions -- but trouble comes along regardless.  I'd try to summarize the plot, but I think that would make it sound like a bad country song.  It is one thing after another, after another.  Jem learns a thing or two along the way, as does the reader. 

We're introduced to a former Pony Express rider, so a bit of history and explanation of how that worked is woven into the narrative.  What was really great is that there are free Enrichment Guides available, and I would highly recommend these.  The guides do have some "schoolish" activities that could be great if you are using this in a homeschool setting.  But for Book 3, it also gives more information about topics such as the Henry Rifle, medicine of the 1860s, animal tracks, the Pony Express, and Life Zones in the Sierra Nevadas.  Those sections are great for anyone just reading the book -- or it can be used to do more of a unit study.

Book #4 is River of Peril.  This finds Jem and his family heading to San Francisco, only their little vacation turns into a string of adventures. Of course. 

This time, readers learn more about the Civil War and how that impacted people way out in California.  The Enrichment Guide again gives some fantastic additional information, mostly transportation related -- stagecoaches, steamboats, and paddleboats.

Both of these books quickly get you into the action, so you are pulling for Jem (and his family) to get out of whatever scrape they are in right away.

These books are intended for ages 8-12, and I do think that is a good range for them.  These are books that I think are perfect for a little reluctant-reader boy.  Grab a book, start reading out loud.  Get a chapter or two into it, and determine that you need a rest.  Then leave the book out, with a bookmark, and don't have time to get back to it.

Those first couple chapters ought to help establish pronunciation of some of the names, and it definitely leaves you wondering how Jem will get out of this mess...

For a couple more days, you can get a deal on the Kindle, Nook, or Google Play versions of the books:

I'd definitely recommend them. 

Disclaimer:  I received these books through Kregel Blog Tours.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.   

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Illustrated Family Bible Stories {a Moms of Master Books review}

Illustrated Family Bible Stories published by New Leaf Press (a division of New Leaf Publishing Group), has been a joy to read and review.

This hardback book is roughly 250 pages, and they are colorful and informative. 

I've been reading aloud from this book to all the kids, who range from 8 to nearly 17, and they are all enjoying it.  The "story" portion is definitely geared towards the younger two, but there are great illustrations -- realistic illustrations, not cutesy, silly ones.

There are also lots of extra little historical notes, archaeological notes, cultural notes, etc.  Those are what interest my big guys.

I like that I can sit down and read a section like "God's Chosen People" and get plenty of information for everyone.  This two-page spread talks about patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, with about a paragraph for each.  There are sections titled Tent dwellers; Places; Travel, trade and commerce; and Customs.  Those each get about a paragraph too.

Illustrations include a mosaic from the royal tombs at Ur, drawings of Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac, Isaac blessing Jacob, Joseph interpreting dreams, and Hagar, the mother of Ishmael.  There is a photo of a Bedouin tent dwelling and of camel trains in the desert.  There is an illustration of a plastered skull found at Jericho.  And there is a half-page map that shows the region and the important cities for this lesson.

The publisher describes this book as follows:
Help Bible history come alive for children as well as new believers so they know these true events that changed the world forever.
We live in a visually oriented society where people learn from a blend of both text and images. This collection of events and teachings from Scripture explores selected chapters verses, and provides additional highlights into:
  • More than 200 Biblical accounts, psalms, proverbs, prophecies, laws, and letters
  • The daily life of people living in the Old and New Testament times, as well as plants, animals, and Bible landscapes
  • Who's who in the Bible, maps and diagrams, a Bible quiz, and more!
With the help of maps, photographs, and diagrams, the ancient cultures of the Bible are set in a context that can be readily understood. In addition, specially written teaching helps to educate today's young reader in understanding the Bible's meaning and its relevance for everyday life.
I think that is a good description.  I always like when the description actually describes the book, don't you?

You can also check out this trailer:

I think this title is best for elementary ages, but it is certainly not babyish for a big brother or three (in our case) to be listening in as well.

You can go see what other Moms of Master Books have to say about these Awesome Science titles.

There is a Book and a Treat Facebook party coming up later this month, April 29 at 7 pm Central Time, where you could win cool prizes -- and discuss the series too. 

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group as part of the Moms of Master Books program.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Praying for Friends, April 13

I want a record of this, I think.  So I'm going to post for myself here.

I find it interesting to see who shows up on these little photo montages.  This one is almost entirely virtual friends, which is a bit unusual.  There are only two I've met in person.

Like last week, there are a few of these people for whom I know precisely how to pray.

A couple, I have to be more general.

But wow, do I ever appreciate my friends.  It's an honor to pray for you.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Praying for Friends

So I know a bit about the evils of technology and media, and personally, I know how I get sucked in sometimes and lose track of time.

But there are some amazing things too.  It can bring us closer, it can make a difference.

One thing I started doing I have NO IDEA how long ago is to make myself a changing prayer anchor.  This week, it looks like this:

On Sundays, I go to my main Facebook page, and I just screen shot the little photo montage that Facebook puts up under "Friends."  I then make that my wallpaper on my computer, and I try to pray for each of the people there by name every day that week.  You know, when the computer is booting up or other odd times during the day.

This started for me back before Facebook did the photo thing.  There would be a semi-random list of  eight (I think) of your friends, and at some point, I committed to go check that list every day for a month and pray for everyone by name.  Since it was fairly random, that was interesting... I ended up clicking over to some of the pages to remember just who they were.

After that month, I tried to keep doing that, but it just didn't happen.

Then Facebook started doing the photo montage bits of friends, and that made a difference.  I don't have any idea how Facebook's algorithms work to choose the nine that make it into the montage, but clearly it has something to do with interaction.  The downside of that is that I don't see some of my quieter friends at all.  The upside, though, is that the people who are in there are almost always people I do know well. 

Which means on weeks like this one -- for six of the nine people pictured above, I already had some specific something I was praying for them already. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Maybelle in Stitches {a LitFuse review}

I've reviewed a number of titles in the Quilts of Love series, and I am still really enjoying these.  A new book releases every month, and so far they have all been fairly light and easy reads. I love the idea of the focus on a quilt -- "Quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings." is how they put it. 

Maybelle in Stitches is a historical fiction title by Joyce Magnin.  Set is World War II, and featuring a recently married (as in married mere weeks before her husband shipped off to Europe) young woman, this is a bit different.  Maybelle works at a shipyard, welding seams on warships.  And eventually, in the evenings, she starts working on an unfinished crazy quilt of her recently deceased mother, stitching seams.

Only Maybelle can't sew. Nor is she really any good at any of the domestic stuff.  Her mother had always just done everything, and Maybelle is left to deal with a lot -- grieving her mother, worrying about her husband, wartime rationing, worrying about her friends.

Her best friend pushes so that they start a little quilting circle, and that little group of women provides support through some of the ups and downs of wartime life.

The detail that Magnin puts into this story is fabulous.  It really comes across that she knows a bit about life on the homefront during the war.  So much is just woven into the storyline without being a big deal. 

Giving a synopsis of the story would involve a constant stream of bad news for one quilting circle member after another.  It sounds depressing, but this book is not a downer.  In fact, it is actually quite uplifting. 

So many things I've read about "The Greatest Generation" come so close to worshiping that generation.  This story just seemed more real.  Yes, Maybelle and her friends are doing a lot -- welding ships, taking care of the home front, writing to their men overseas.  Their men are off fighting in Europe (I'm pretty sure they were all in Europe anyway).  But Gagnin's storytelling doesn't lift them up as being larger than life.  They are crying themselves to sleep, they are worried, they are trying to trust in God.  But meanwhile, they keep on doing the next thing that has to be done.

Life is totally different now, seventy years years later.  And maybe we now lack some character qualities and know-how to be able to deal with rationing.  I think, though, that Maybelle taught me that it is all those individual decisions to put one foot in front of the other and just keep going that add up to make a life well lived.

You can see what others had to say about this at the LitFuse Tour Page!

Don’t miss the newest Quilts of Love book, Maybelle in Stitches, by Joyce Magnin. Maybelle can’t sew. But when she finds an unfinished quilt in the attic of her mother’s house, she gets the crazy idea to complete it.

Joyce is celebrating the release with a $200 Modcloth giveaway. Enter today for a chance to spruce up your spring wardrobe!


One winner will receive:
  • A $200 gift card
  • Scraps of Evidence by Barbara Cameron
  • A Sky Without Stars by Linda S. Clare
  • Maybelle in Stitches by Joyce Magnin
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 19th. Winner will be announced on April 21st on the Quilts of Love blog!

Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.