Friday, February 15, 2019

Sequin Sparkle and Change Bible: Pink from Thomas Nelson, 2018

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The pink Sequin Sparkle and Change Bible is sure to be a hit with girls! This fabulous material is on everything from pillows to t-shirts. The "mermaid" sequins change color right before your eyes. Girls will love the design and will want to carry the Sequin Sparkle and Change Bible everywhere!

Sequin Sparkle and Change Bible features a cover with pink sequins that change color depending on which way your child swipes. It's double the fun! It's perfect for kids ages 6 to 10 to take to Sunday school, read with the family, or study on their own.

The ICB, the first Bible translation created specifically for children, is easy for children to read and understand with a third-grade reading level and is typeset in a large, readable font. The Bible text is set in ten-point type, with bold in-text subject heads that help kids easily find the passages they are looking for. Also included are boldface words that correspond with a dictionary and concordance entry to explain word definitions. A great new feature in this updated setting is more than 300 key verses that are highlighted throughout the Bible for kids to read and learn. The beautifully illustrated insert pages are in a style that children love and will delight their imaginations, including topics such as:

A Bible timeline
A presentation page
A place to keep favorite Bible verses
Bible maps
Articles on topics such as how Jesus loves them, knowing Jesus better, and how to pray, etc.
Your little girl will love herSequin Sparkle and Change Bible!

(1,312 pages)

Okay, I have to admit that I haven't exactly read this book cover to cover. I mean, I've read the whole Bible before, but not this particular one. In fact, I really haven't spent much time reading this Bible at all, other than to flip it open and see that it does, indeed, contain the text of the Bible and that the font is a pretty good size. I assume the ICB translation is a nice one for kids.

But just because I didn't read much of this particular copy doesn't mean that I didn't keep it very near me for a while. I did, in fact. Why? Because those sequins are just so addictive! I could sit there and run my fingers over the front of the book, turning the picture from light pink (almost matching the rest of the cover) to the hearts design and back again over and over. It's such a soothing feeling on the fingers.

It wasn't just me, either. My siblings (including one of my brothers!) kept trying to steal it just to sit with it and run their fingers through the sequins. It's a strange thing, but it's strangely addictive. And I suspect that's a very good feature for a Bible to have, because the longer a kid spends stroking their Bible the greater the correlations they grow in their head between happy sensations and the Good Book. Then, at some point, some adult can actually open the book for them and help them read it.

I very much recommend getting a copy of this Bible, in whatever color best suits your needs, either for yourself or for a child in your life. If you do give it to a kid, though, just be aware that it will probably become a bit worse for wear over time.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 11, 2019

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz, 2019

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Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is but the keeper of his bees and the woman he is hoping will provide a tincture that might help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Yet even when all hope seems dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony, it may be that in this New World the two of them could make a new beginning—together.
(400 pages)

I have fairly mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it's a fluffy escapist romance novel half set in Scotland, one of my favorite countries, and highlights an immigration perspective (Scottish prisoners exiled to America) that I hadn't yet had the pleasure to explore.

But then on the other hand it's quite cheesy, and character actions are fairly unrealistic and/or overly convenient to the plot at times. Plus the descriptions of Scotland are beautiful but don't really ring true to my own experiences living in a small Scottish town (though I'm sure a university town would have different vibes from an island). And–most painfully to read–Magnus falls into a fairly awful "white savior" role as the manager of a slave plantation.

Obviously all of these crimes are not equal. I list them more in the order of occurrence, because I became more and more frustrated with the story as it progressed. By the time Magnus was getting the slave plantation in order, I wasn't invested enough to be as horrified as I otherwise would have been.

I hate to sound so negative, because I actually did pass a few peaceful hours reading the book. I was rooting for the main characters to get together already, and I genuinely liked the new angle on the familiar immigration story that Frantz took, even if she didn't stick the landing every single time. I also really loved a later storyline where Lark sort of adopts an orphaned baby on the ship over, because it's a super sweet (if ocasionally over-milked) storyline.

But, setting aside the gasp-inducing slave plantation storyline which was problematic for obvious reasons, the parts that I found most disappointing were the Scottish depictions. For one thing, it was really obvious to my ear that Frantz is an American. I can't point to any wording in particular, but there's just a certain pattern of speech that was missing from the dialogue as well as the narration. I was also a bit sad to see Edinburgh so completely written off as "a big ugly city," because in my experience it's one of the nicest cities on the planet. I do realize that it was a different time and Lark is a very different person from myself, though, so I can just about let that one go.

The other major authenticity issue I have with the book has to do with alcohol. Namely, both of the main characters seem to feel like drinking might not be a very moral thing to do. Now I'm not sure exactly what time period this is supposed to be set in, and it is true that there was a fairly brief period in time when temperance had some supporters in Scotland, but Frantz did not get across just what a massive part of Scottish culture drinking really is. It's practically a national pastime around here. I seriously doubt that two random Scottish people, almost completely isolated from any society but that of a bunch of rural islanders in an alcohol-fueled society, would feel any compunction to avoid it in any way. I suspect it's more Frantz superimposing her own moral compass onto her characters, which is fine I guess but just pulls away a bit from the authenticity.

Anyway, all in all it's a pretty mixed bag. There were aspects I loved and others I . . . well, didn't, If you've read my review and still want to read it, go for it and let me know in the comments so we can compare notes. Otherwise, I think you can pretty safely skip A Bound Heart and continue on your way.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100 Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson, 2019

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The sequel to Jonas Jonasson’s international bestseller The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

It all begins with a hot air balloon trip and three bottles of champagne. Allan and Julius are ready for some spectacular views, but they’re not expecting to land in the sea and be rescued by a North Korean ship, and they could never have imagined that the captain of the ship would be harbouring a suitcase full of contraband uranium, on a nuclear weapons mission for Kim Jong-un …

Soon Allan and Julius are at the centre of a complex diplomatic crisis involving world figures from the Swedish foreign minister to Angela Merkel and President Trump. Things are about to get very complicated …

(448 pages)

I am going to start by stating that I haven't read the first book, so I have no frame of reference to compare it to. And also I have no idea what might be a spoiler. So consider yourself warned.

I chose to read The Accidental Further Adventures because it looked like a fun, wandering book that just sort of made jokes with all the most serious political situations going on. Some irreverent fun sounded exactly like what I needed, honestly. I'm pretty sick of serious politics.

And at first, that's what it was. I was a bit put off by the occasional foul language, but moving beyond that (and ignoring the backwardness of these men's moral compasses), I rather enjoyed the first bit. It was fun to see them stumble into North Korea and figure out a way to slip back out. The sense of humor isn't entirely my style, but I still found it humorous and enjoyed watching things play out.

Really, I stopped enjoying it as soon as they get to America. When President Trump appeared and acted like an utter imbecile, I got uncomfortable. When the gag is stretched out, and everyone keeps agreeing that it's best to keep him in the dark about everything, and a massive political issue is basically just shoved under the table to Angela Merkel and the Europeans are basically like "it's better to just sort this among ourselves," that's when I went from uncomfortable to offended. I put the book down and googled, and sure enough, the author is a Swede. And I'm always happy to read books from diverse perspectives. I'm all for getting the international angle on things. Thus the fact that I am typing this in my Scottish dorm room. But I get enough smug Europeans looking down their noses at American politics during the day, I don't need it in my literature as well.

And really, I started skimming from that point on. I dipped back in when they got invested in a coffin painting business, because that was an interesting quirky storyline, but that quickly soured for me as well once the extended plot device/gag about an order for a Nazi graffiti coffin started. I'm sorry, I just can't get behind the use of literal Nazism and white supremacy for a quirky plot device. And I realize that may just be the difference in American vs Swedish senses of humor, but for me it was the last straw. I skipped to the end and was done.

I do not recommend this book. I did not really enjoy this book. But if you have read my review and think that none of the things I've mentioned would bother you, then go ahead and read it. See what you think for yourself. Maybe let me know in the comments if you get something out of it that I don't.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Spin by Lamar Giles, 2019

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Sixteen-year-old Paris Secord's (aka DJ ParSec) career--and life--has come to an untimely end, and the local music scene is reeling. No one is feeling the pain more than her shunned pre-fame best friend, Kya, and Paris's chief groupie, Fuse. But suspicion trumps grief, and since each suspects the other of Paris's murder, they're locked in a high-stakes game of public accusations and sabotage.

Everyone in the ParSec Nation (DJ ParSec's local media base)--including the killer--is content to watch it play out, until Kya and Fuse discover a secret: Paris was on the verge of major deal that would've catapulted her to superstar status on a national level, leaving her old life (and old friends) behind. With the new info comes new motives. New suspects. And a fandom that shows its deadly side. As Kya and Fuse come closer to the twisted truth, the killer's no longer amused. But murdering Paris was simple enough, so getting rid of her nobody-friends shouldn't be an issue...

(400 pages)

I think it's pretty well-established on this site that I am a fan of murder mysteries. Usually Agatha Christie's novels are my poison of choice (pun intended), but I'm always game to try out new authors. I am often very interested to see how different books approach the mysteries from different angles, either focusing on the personality of the victim or on the character of the detective or just treating the mystery as a puzzle to be solved as an intellectual pursuit.

Spin takes an interesting approach by making the two main characters be the victim's current and ex-best friend, who don't like each other and in fact begin a social media war in the aftermath of her death. We learn more and more about Paris's story as the book goes on, and it's very interesting to see the process of ascending to fame and the pain and torn relationships that came with it. All of the characters in Spin are multi-dimensional, and the story is full of nuance. I really appreciated that.

I also liked watching the social media and technological aspect of the story, because Giles does a good job really making it feel like a realistic aftermath of the murder of a celebrity. There are some aspects of the dark web that seem to be pushing reality a smidge, but overall the details about Paris's fans, her social media presence, and the issues with her publicist, all seem very honest.

At this point I have to be honest: it's been a few months since I read the book, so I can't comment much more on the details or language. I do know that the story and characters have stayed with me much better than those of many other books do, so I can vouch that it's a fairly memorable book. Overall, I remember having some issues with it (and getting really ticked off at Paris at one point, though again that's part of the realism of the book I suppose). At the end of the day, it was a compelling and entertaining read that I enjoyed having access to. If you want to read it, I say go for it!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.