The Biggest Story by DeYoung and Clark

biggestBeautiful. Connected. Clear.

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden
Written by Kevin DeYoung
Illustrated by Don Clark
Crossway
August 2015

Don Clark does an amazing job illustrating this children’s story book of the big picture of redemption. His artwork is angular, colorful and full of allusions about deeper things than the words express. The bold colors are vivid and hold the attention of children very well.

Kevin DeYoung isn’t known for his children’s books or even topics that would be safe for children. (The last book I read of his was What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? published in April 2015, for example.) Reformed and a prominent voice at the Gospel Coalition, I was taken aback by the way he so minimalizes and then stretches the Gospel in a way that children can fully understand.

I am a teacher and preacher myself and also have been blessed to teach Kindergarten children for most of the last decade so I know first hand the simple but clear way that the huge truths of the Bible have to be expressed to children. This isn’t the end of their studies. DeYoung doesn’t have to go into the Trinity, explain sacrifice and atonement or justification, or even spend much time at all on sanctification or eschatology. A simple, “We haven’t seen the end of the story -not yet. We live in the beginning of the end of the story… we know it’s not the end because we haven’t made it back to the garden” (p 120) fully expresses the hope of eternity without systematic theology. And kids love this because they get it. We follow the first Adam or the second Adam (p 129) makes sense. It plants seeds for us, other teachers and their own studies to grow over the years.

This is a fantastic book. An amazing, beautiful, poignant, simple, clear and deep book. And it’s for every Christian tradition. What an accomplishment by DeYoung. I highly recommend it.

Congratulations to Jessica B. of Smyrna, TN for winning a copy of this book!


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Unmaking by Nordeman

unmakingVanilla. Safe. Same.

The Unmaking
by Nichole Nordeman
Sparrow
August 2015

This is a perfect album for fans of soft pop, safe for the whole family, vanilla Christian music. There isn’t anything wrong with the songs, but there isn’t anything great about them either. Fans will love this EP, while newer listeners will wonder at the inflated ratings.

There are a couple songs on this album that will certainly get airtime. Unmaking, the title track, is the only mostly upbeat song and it’s easy to sing along to. Slow Down fits in great with other nostalgic patent songs like Cinderella and Butterfly Kisses and will be a favorite for many.

All six flow easily together without changing much and definitely not challenging the artist. Nichole Nordeman is a very good singer and could do so much more with her voice than these songs ask of her.

Congratulations to Mary A. of Menifee, CA for winning a copy of this album!


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This album was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Taken by Iserles

the-takenFROM THE PUBLISHER: The first book in a thrilling fantasy trilogy starring one of the animal kingdom’s most hunted heroes. Foxcraft is full of excitement and heart, and a touch of magic.

The Taken
Foxcraft #1
by Inbali Iserles
Scholastic Press
September 2015

Isla and her brother are two young foxes living just outside the lands of the furless — humans. The life of a fox is filled with dangers, but Isla has begun to learn mysterious skills meant to help her survive. Then the unthinkable happens. Returning to her den, Isla finds it set ablaze and surrounded by strange foxes, and her family is nowhere in sight. Forced to flee, she escapes into the cold, gray world of the furless. Now Isla must navigate this bewildering and deadly terrain, all while being hunted by a ruthless enemy. In order to survive, she will need to master the ancient arts of her kind — magical gifts of cunning known only to foxes. She must unravel the secrets of Foxcraft.

REVIEW: A fox, Isla, returns to her home one day to find it destroyed and her family missing. So she goes in search of them. To find them she will have to gain new magical abilities (Foxcraft). While this is a pretty straight forward premise, this story diverges from the expected by placing the world of the magical foxes firmly in contemporary human society (think muggles). This isn’t just about fantastical creatures who live in a fantasy setting and I appreciated that. Personally, I found the book to be a little slow at times and ended up skimming some chapters to get to better ones later on. By the end, there was a satisfying set up for the next book in the series. I found it a fun, interesting, easy fantasy read. But I’m not the target audience.

Here’s what my 12 year old daughter thought: “This book is absolutely amazing! It’s so full of adventure and mystery. I really loved the idea of foxes and how the story was laid out. I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and how they acted differently towards each other. I think everybody will enjoy this book a lot for those reasons! And many many more!” So satisfied target audience: achieved.


Sunshine is a 12 year old avid book reader who we love to ask what she thought of the books she reads so we can share a young reader’s perspective with you!

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Soundless by Mead

SoundlessWith four Young Adult readers in our home, I was very excited to dig into Richelle Mead’s new book series. After all, she is the author of the Vampire Diaries, a series that several of us in my home read and enjoyed. The problem with this book isn’t that Mead did a poor job writing it or that it didn’t have a compelling plot or characters. The issue is that we’ve already read almost this same book – Princess Academy by Shannon Hales).

Soundless
by Richelle Mead
Razorbill
November 2015

The Chinese setting and cultural distinctives are new to YA I’ve read and are appreciated. I also appreciate that there isn’t a love triangle! (So thankful!) But almost everything else is strongly reminiscent of Hales’ Princess Academy. Consider the setups:

Fei lives on a mountain. She wakes up to find she’s the only one in her village that can hear. She has a male friend who she has liked since they were young, but because of her social class does not act on her feelings. She finds out that there is peril because the people who live down the mountain who normally feed her people are not sending as much food as they used to so goes on an adventure.

Miri lives on a mountain. She finds out that someone in her village is a princess (and it may be her). She goes on an adventure to an academy to learn how to be a princess. She has a male best friend who she has liked since she was young but hasn’t acted out on her desire. She finds out that there is some peril from bandits and goes on an adventure.

I’m not suggesting that Mead stole the ideas here. What I’m saying is that almost any YA is starting to sound like another one already written. I was excited to read the Chinese aspects of this but they play very little role in this very straight forward story. And if that’s the distinctive and selling point (other than this author’s fan base,) then I’m left wondering why I would read more in this series.

Unfortunately, I don’t recommend this series. I really thought I’d love it but it fails to stand apart from the dozens of other YA titles that are released every month.


Arieltopia, Young Adult Editor, is an 15 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult, Teen Fiction, along with adult fiction: an actual teenager’s perspective.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Kaplan ACT Premier 2016

act premiereI have found that nothing is more stressful to a college bound high schooler than taking the ACT. My oldest is a junior and has taken the ACT and taken practice ACT through her school and each time it’s a lot of prep and stress. I got this book to help with the stress, but I found that this book will intimidated the heck out of her! Adding to the stress, rather than diffusing it.

Kaplan ACT Premier 2016
2nd Edition
Kaplan Publishing
June 2015

This book is gigantic, complex & frankly contains way too much information. It’s several years worth of schooling crammed into one huge tome. If a poor kid tried to read this start to finish, let alone attempted to complete all of the practice tests, it would require most of a whole school year. This is NOT a last minute thing, this should be considered additional tutoring for your student while they are in class every day. For the fastest results, I recommend setting up practice tests once a month with study time in between and even that will take you 9 months.

What I do like about this book and the online portions is that this book will give a good insight as to what to expect as far as what the exam may look like, and provide clear areas of focus to improve scores, but I found that you’re seriously going to freak your kid out even more if you plop this behemoth down in front of them! (Yes, my daughter, 16, who is a high achiever at a magnet school was so intimidated by it that she wouldn’t even pick it up on her own for most of the last month I’ve had it and been working through it.) I would recommend taking one of the practice tests (if your kid hasn’t yet) and then flipping through the book to that portion to do the practice and worksheets to improve that area. Maybe retake once, but I don’t know if I recommend doing this 8 times.

On the whole, I agree with my daughter that this massive book and 8 tests is overkill. But it is useful, even if you don’t use all of it.


Arieltopia, Young Adult Editor, is an 15 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult, Teen Fiction, along with adult fiction: an actual teenager’s perspective.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Wizard World Comic Con Nashville is Coming!

wizardworldnashville-300x243Wizard World has held a Comic Con in Nashville for three years – and for the third year BookGateway.com will be there! We will be live blogging the events, sharing pictures here and on our twitter account @BookGateway and publishing videos of events and interviews. Check it out in September!

PRESS RELEASE

Jewel Staite, John Schneider, Erik Estrada, Lori Petty Among Top Celebrities Scheduled To Attend Wizard World Comic Con Nashville, September 25-27

Tom Wopat, Catherine Bach, Jim Cummings, Adam Baldwin, Larry Wilcox Also Headline Guest Roster; Talented Comics Creators, Variety of Exhibitors, Cosplayers, Robust Programming At Music City Center

NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 27, 2015 – Wizard World, Inc. (OTCBB: WIZD) continues its 2015 schedule with its third visit to the Music City Center at Wizard World Comic Con Nashville, September 25-27. Jewel Staite (“Firefly,” “Stargate: Atlantis”), Lori Petty (“Orange is the New Black,” A League of Their Own), the “Dukes of Hazzard” trio of John Schneider (“Smallville”), Tom Wopat (Broadway hits “Guys and Dolls,” “Chicago”) and Catherine Bach (“The Young and the Restless”), the “CHiPs” tandem of Erik Estrada (“Sealab 2021”) and Larry Wilcox (“Lassie”) and Jim Cummings (“Winnie the Pooh,” “The Lion King”) headline the roster of celebrity guests scheduled to attend the pop culture extravaganza.

Staite, Schneider, Wopat, Bach and Estrada will appear Saturday and Sunday, September 26-27; Petty, Cummings and Wilcox will attend all three days.
Other well-known guests at Wizard World Comic Con Nashville include Adam Baldwin ( Full Metal Jacket, “Serenity”), Lou Ferrigno (“The Incredible Hulk,” “King of Queens”), Jason David Frank (“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”) and Chris 51 along with the cast of “Epic Ink.”

Wizard World is also the home of the most creative comics artists and writers on the planet. Artist Alley at Wizard World Comic Con Nashville will feature Michael Golden (“Spider-Man,” “Daredevil”), Howard Chaykin (“New Avengers,” “JSA”), Ken Kelly (KISS Album covers, “He-Man”), Larry Elmore (“Magic: The Gathering,” “Dungeons & Dragons”), Sara Woolley (“Los Pirineos the Mostly True Memoirs of Esperancita Gomez,” “Charlotte and the Quiet”), Chris Stevens (“Skull Kickers,” “Hulk”), Genese Davis (author, The Holder’s Dominion), Victor Dandridge (Vantage: Inhouse editor in chief), Danny Fingeroth (group editor, “Spider-Man”), Greg Horn (“Marvel: War of Heroes,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”), Renee Witterstaetter (“She Hulk,” “Avengers”) and many others.

In addition, all full-price Wizard World Comic Con Nashville attendees will receive a limited edition exclusive variant cover “The Walking Dead #1” comic, drawn by one of Wizard World’s talented artist guests (to be announced shortly). Comics will be issued at registration while supplies last and VIP attendees will receive an additional black & white sketch version.

Wizard World Comic Con events bring together thousands of fans of all ages to celebrate the best in pop-fi, pop culture, movies, graphic novels, cosplay, comics, television, sci-fi, toys, video gaming, gaming, original art, collectibles, contests and more. The 19th of 24 events currently scheduled on the 2015 Wizard World calendar, Nashville show hours are Friday, September 25, 3-8 p.m.; Saturday, September 26, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, September 27, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Wizard World Comic Con Nashville is also the place for cosplay, with fans young and old showing off their best costumes throughout the event. Fans dressed as every imaginable character – and some never before dreamed – will roam the convention floor and participate in the famed Wizard World Costume Contest on Saturday night.
For more on the 2015 Wizard World Comic Con Nashville, visit www.wizardworld.com/home-nashville.html .

About Wizard World (OTCBB: WIZD)
Wizard World, Inc. (http://www.wizardworld.com) produces Comic Cons and pop culture conventions across North America that celebrate the best in pop-fi, pop culture, movies, television, cosplay, comics, graphic novels, toys, video gaming, sci-fi, gaming, original art, collectibles, contests and more. A first-class lineup of topical programming takes place at each event, with celebrity Q&A’s, comics-themed sessions, costume contests, movie screenings, evening parties and more. Wizard World has also launched CONtv, a digital media channel in partnership with leading independent content distributor Cinedigm™ (NASDAQ: CIDM), and ComicConBox™, a premium subscription-based monthly box service. Fans can interact with Wizard World on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media services.

The 2015 Wizard World Comic Con schedule is available at: www.wizardworld.com/wizcon.html .

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

harrietchanceHarriet Chance has always taken a back seat in her life.  As described in the novel, she’ “cheap” with herself.  She decides to take a chance on a trip, not knowing that she’ll soon discover everything she’s known is turned upside down.

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
by Jonathan Evison
Algonquin Books
September 2015

Harriet Chance just spent the last two years of her life caring for her husband during his rapidly declining mental health.  Two years after his passing, she gets a call telling her he’s won a cruise to Alaska.  Against what’s normal for her, she decides to go and invites her spontaneous best friend on the trip.

At the last minute, her friend backs out.  Sending a cryptic letter explaining the absence.    What follows are glimpses into Harriet’s past and the way that Harriet has justified her life and treatment from Bernard during their marriage.  The picture painted is very different than what Harriet has created in her mind.

The tale that Jonathan Evison weaves in this novel is in turns hilarious and tragic.  You meet Harriet’s adult daughter and learn things about Harriet that change your view of her.  Overall, I think younger generations get the idea of the “cute little old lady,” and Evison tosses that to the wind.  You get to know Harriet as an individual, you see how she’s treated as a senior citizen, and you are challenged in the way YOU treat those in generations before you.

As the novel unfolds, Evison uses flashbacks that are tied to what’s occurring in Harriet’s present.  This is the PERFECT way to incorporate flashbacks into a novel.  It’s relevant to what you’re reading, and it doesn’t feel jarring like flashbacks used in other novels I’ve read recently.

No spoilers, but the ending left me floundering.  I was expecting something completely different, and Evison threw me for a loop.  While I LOVED the novel as a whole, the end left me unsatisfied.


Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at Bookgateway.com. She currently spends her days wrangling her 3rd grade science nerd and toddler aged busy body. You can visit her world of randomness at justwanderingnotlost.net, where there is no spoon.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Galaxy Pirates: Hunt for the Pyxis by Ferraris

galaxypiratesFrom the publisher: On the night Emma Garton’s supposedly boring parents are kidnapped, she is forced to face the truth that they’ve been lying to her about many things. The most important of which? They aren’t even from planet Earth.

The Galaxy Pirates: Hunt for the Pyxis
by Zoe Ferraris
Crown Books for Young Readers
August 2015

To find her mom and dad, Emma and her best friend, Herbie, must leave Earth and enter the Strands—the waterways of space, where huge galleons ply the intergalactic seas. But a journey through the constellations won’t be easy—not with every scoundrel in the galaxy determined to find them and the pyxis, a mysterious amulet that holds the key to saving their world.

REVIEW: I really enjoyed this book! I think that there was a lot of thought put into this book, and a lot of creativity, and that’s why I personally love it so much! I was of the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading because I was so excited to find out what would happen next! It’s a very adventurous and imaginative book, so I think that anybody who likes adventure and intensity will love this. I really enjoyed reading or watching the characters really come to life from the pages. They are so well described and thought out and all their personalities are amazingly put together! When I was done reading I felt as if I knew them as real people. They felt so alive to me, after reading that book I just feel very inspired to go out and do something fun or adventure somewhere with friends. I really think this could be considered enjoyable to all ages I’d say around 12-13 and up due to some of the language. Overall all I can really say that I didn’t enjoy about it was all the bad language they used. Because the characters come out to be so young…I didn’t really expect that from them, but I guess I can’t blame them…the were basically living with pirates haha. My personal favorite part is when they go to space for the first time and they get to explore everything and they just seem so astonished by their surroundings! I wish that I could live in this book. I really hope a second one comes out soon! I just know everybody will really love reading this amazing story.


Sunshine is a 12 year old avid book reader who we love to ask what she thought of the books she reads so we can share a young reader’s perspective with you!

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

blackeyedTessa is the lone survivor of a serial killer. The only Susan to survive several brutal murders. She helped put the killer behind bars. Years later, as his execution date approaches, Tessa finds messages left for her. Is the wrong man behind bars?

Black-Eyed Susans
by Julia Heaberlin
Ballentine Books
June 2015

 At seventeen years old, Tessa was subjected to pain and torture, left blinded by psychosis, and survived the rampage of a serial killer.  She fought to put the pieces of her life back together, slowly but surely.  She’s even been able to heal enough to have her own daughter.

Many times over the years, Tessa was approached by an inmate’s advocate who questioned the guilt of the man sentenced for the crimes.  It’s not until his exectution approaches that Tessa also begins to question.  And she only questions based on “gifts” that are being left for her.

I really wanted to like this.  The premise seemed solid, as did the characters.  The flaw in Julia Heaberlin’s novel is really in the formatting.  I don’t mind flashbacks as a general rule.  However, every other chapter in this novel flashes back to Tessa’s past, followed by a chapter in present day.  This continues through the entire book.

After a few chapters, it gets cumbersome to wade through.  I want to be able to enjoy fiction and focus on the building suspense in thrillers.  For me, this jumping back and forth only served as a disruption, never really allowing that suspense to build.

In the end, it became so disruptive to me that I couldn’t finish the novel.   I wasn’t left like I NEEDED to find out what happened.

So I didn’t.


Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at Bookgateway.com. She currently spends her days wrangling her 8 year old science nerd and 7 month old busy body.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Darth Vader and Friends by Brown

darthvaderStar Wars and satire fans rejoice! Like the amazing William Shakespeare’s Star Wars books, here is another book in a series that takes what we love and pokes fun at it in a way that is never hurtful, but always hilarious.

Darth Vader and Friends
Star Wars
by Jeffrey Brown
Chronicle Books
April 2015

This collection of comics runs the gamut of “awww” (like Lando, Leah, Han and Luke sitting together watching the suns set, saying, “I’ve got a good feeling about this!”) to the silly (ghosts Yoda and Obi Wan telling Darth Vader, “Look Anakin. If you want to hang out with us you’re gonna have to take off the helmet.) Most of the comics are from the perspective of the kids and they do childish things (drawing all over attack maps, etc). Some take favorite phrases from the original trilogy and flip them on their head through the mouths of children.

This is a whimsical, easy read that makes for a perfect gift book for fans of either humor or Star Wars.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

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