Monday, April 14, 2014

The Chronological Study Bible: Explore God's Word in Historical Order

The NIV Chronological Study Bible: Explore God's Word in Historical Order, Thomas Nelson Publisher, hardcover.

The Chronological Study Bible in the New International Version presents scripture in the order in which the events actually happened. Included within the chapters are notes, articles, and full-color graphics and maps that help the reader understand the the culture of Bible times in their proper historical and chronological context.

This bible is divided into epochs, each of which represents a period of time that is characterized by peculiar features or events. For example, Epoch 8 is about the life and ministry of Jesus and includes the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with the accounts of Jesus' acts arranged in chronological order, meaning that the chapters from the four gospels are mixed together. In other words, you won't read the gospel of Matthew from start to finish without some chapters from the other gospels mixed in so that the chronological order of the actual events is intact, as witnessed by each of the disciples.

This arrangement takes some getting used to as it is different from the traditional order of scripture. It takes a little more effort to find specific scriptures but the extra commentary that this Bible includes makes it worth the adjustment. As the contributors explain, the goal was not to replace "the time-honored canonical arrangement, but instead to honor time as the setting in which the biblical record appeared" and becomes a tool to equip readers with the historical and cultural perspective of the time in which various scripture was written.

The helpful features throughout this bible include lots of illustrations as well as notes on politics and government, cultural practices, science and technology, and arts and literature that influenced people during certain time periods, all of which help the reader understand the context from which scripture was written.

Over all I think this is a very helpful resource for students of the Bible as it keeps scripture intact while providing an historical and chronological perspective.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ladled: Nourishing Soups For All Seasons by Kimberly Harris

Ladled: Nourishing Soups For All Seasons by Kimberly Harris, Victory Belt Publishing, $29.95 list price, paperback.

From the publisher:
A hearty stew on a cold winter night; a light, clear soup as a start to a meal; a spicy pho soup to warm the body and soul…It’s hard to imagine a more comforting, nourishing food than a homemade soup or stew. And it is even harder to find a food more steeped in history. The art of creating homemade stocks and soups has known no borders, leading to such delicacies as Scottish yellow broth, Vietnamese pho soup, Indian lentil soup, and English pea soup. But these types of tantalizing creations, once a part of most households, have been largely replaced with canned foods or overly salted and MSG-laden restaurant fare. With homemade soups and stews being nourishing, delicious, frugal, and simple to make, this has been a great loss indeed.

Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons seeks to rekindle a love for making soups and stews at home, with instructions for every part of soup making. It details how to create a wide variety of stocks and how to salt a soup correctly. It describes how to create soups and stews both simple and complex, offers a detailed shopping guide that helps you find fresh ingredients, and breaks down all the healthy benefits of making your own homemade stocks.

As a busy mother, Kimberly Harris shares many soups that are simple enough to enjoy on an everyday basis and shows you how to integrate this traditional art into a busy modern lifestyle.

In Ladled, you will visit the past, travel the globe, and help revive a lost form of art.


This is a wonderful collection of soup recipes I'm happy to add to my family menu planning. Not only can soups and stews be economical, but when homemade they are also very healthy without all the added salt and MSG found in canned and restaurant versions. This cookbook also makes soup unintimidating and easy to make, using ingredients readily found in local grocery and health food stores.

There is a chapter of recipes for basic broths and stocks that can be eaten plain or as a base for other soups. Other chapters include Simple Soups with Eggs, Soups With Noodles, Creamy Vegetable Soups, Soups Centered on Legumes and Grains, Hearty Soups and Stews, Seafood Soups, Chilled Soups, and Garnishes.

I especially enjoyed the beautiful photography throughout the cookbook, which for me serves as an inspiration to actually try the recipes. Another unique feature is that the recipe index includes thumbnail photos of each one, organized by chapter.

I've only tried a couple of recipes but plan on making many more. The Italian Zucchini and Sausage soup was great and I substituted turkey sausage for pork with good results. I also made a version of the French Lentil and Vegetable soup using the veggies I had on hand, also with good results. Many of the recipes lend themselves to substitutions which makes this cookbook all the more usable for a home cook.

This is a collection of recipes that will become staples in my family menu planning and one I recommend to anyone who loves the comfort and nourishment of homemade soups.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Distortion by Terri Blackstock (Moonlighters Series)

Distortion by Terri Blackstock (Moonlighters Series), Zondervan, $15.99 list price, paperback.

Juliet Cole has spent most of her adult life as a devoted wife to a successful doctor and mother of two sons, but her world changes forever when she witnesses the murder of her husband of fifteen years. As she deals with the trauma of the loss and tries to make sense of what she believed was a random shooting, she discovers a threatening voicemail message on her deceased husband's phone, hinting that his death was in fact a planned execution, and that she and her sons could now be in danger as well.

Juliet turns to her family to help find answers as she finds herself the focus of questioning from the FBI as the details of her husband's secret life in the drug world come to light and the devastation of betrayal consumes her. As if this isn't enough, she must also fight to protect her family from an enemy who will stop at nothing to retrieve the drugs and money they believe she has.

This is the second book in Blackstock's Moonlighters Series and for me, was even better than the first. One thing I like about this author is how she builds the suspense even when we know who the bad guys are, bringing it to an exciting end with an element of surprise.

This book is of the Christian Fiction/Suspense genre and I appreciate that the references to faith fit in naturally with the characters while not being preachy or compromising, and in a way that would also appeal to non-Christians who just want a great suspense storyline. Blackstock also isn't afraid to be realistic with the characters and storyline, and doesn't hold back on addressing real issues. Sometimes difficult people remain flawed, good people get hurt and even die, and justice isn't always realized, but in the end the one thing that remains true is faith in God despite the challenges, which is as it should be in real life.

Fans of a good suspense mystery will enjoy this series in general and this book in particular. While it always helps to have read previous books in a series, enough background information is given in this one so as not to confuse the first time reader.

Inherit the Word: A Cookbook Nook Mystery by Daryl Wood Gerber

Inherit the Word: A Cookbook Nook Mystery by Daryl Wood Gerber, Berkley Prime Crime (a division of Penguin Group),  $7.99 list price, trade paperback.

Jenna Hart has moved back to Crystal Cove, California to find a fresh start after the death of her husband David, and to help her Aunt Vera run The Cookbook Nook, a culinary bookshop and café. The shop is hosting the town’s upcoming Grill Fest, an annual competition pitting local amateur chefs against each other. This year the challenge is grilled cheese, which seems simple enough, but the competition heats up before the first sandwich hits the grill with grudges from the past resurfacing between two chefs, leaving one of them murdered in the alley behind the café.

Jenna's friend Lola was the murdered chef's fiercest competitor and therefore the most likely suspect. As Jenna works to clear Lola's name, she discovers others had motives for the murder but the local police chief seems to have her mind made up that Lola commited the crime. Another mystery surfaces when a broken figurine that was a gift from her late husband reveals a key, some gold coins, and a note that were hidden inside.

As if solving two mysteries isn't enough, Jenna is also starting to have feelings for Rhett Jackson, owner of a local sport supply store, but feels guilty about moving on after being widowed.

This is the second book in the Cookbook Nook series but the first one I've read. There were enough details divulged about how Jenna became a widow and her relationship with Aunt Vera and other characters that I wasn't confused but as with most series like this, it is probably helpful to read the first one. I am looking forward to future titles in the series and wonder if Jenna's husband David is really dead since his body was never found. It is an interesting possibility for a future storyline.

There are a few recipes included which fans of culinary mysteries will enjoy. Overall I do like the series and characters and recommend it to cozy mystery fans.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sweet Tea Revenge: A Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs

Sweet Tea Revenge: A Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs, Berkley Prime Crime (a division of Penguin Group), $7.99 list price, trade paperback.

Theodosia Browning’s best friend Delaine Dish is getting married and has asked her to be a bridesmaid. That is a challenge in and of itself considering Delaine's demanding ways but when the big day arrives, things go wrong that are out of Theodosia's control. A massive storm is settling in, key guests are late for the ceremony, and in the ultimate case of cold feet, the groom ends up murdered.

As Theodosia comforts her devastated friend, she begins to investigate possible suspects and discovers there are many to choose from. She gets the usual help from her tea shop employees Drayton and Haley, and unexpected aid from a group of ghost hunters who happened to be at the wedding venue - an old historical mansion - filming a documentary on haunted houses.

Of all the series in the cozy mystery genre, this one is my favorite. The author does a good job making the storyline entertaining with just enough twists and turns to keep me guessing "who done it." I also enjoy the characters. There are several but it isn't difficult to keep track of their relationships to each other. Yes, Delaine can be a bit irritating but Theodosia, Drayton, and Haley balance her out with their realistic, common sense personalities.

Fans of cozy mysteries or culinary mysteries will enjoy this latest Tea Shop Mystery with the added bonus of recipes and tea facts at the end.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mark of Evil by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall

Mark of Evil: The End Series #4 by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall, Zondervan Publishing, paperback.

Millions of people have mysteriously disappeared from Earth, taken up in the rapture prophesied in the Bible. Among those gone are Joshua Jordan and his family. Left behind is Joshua's protégé Ethan March who has now become a Christian and is part of a group of believers called the Remnant who are trying to avoid the Global Alliance police.

The world is falling apart economically and politically while technology is increasing with robotic police units, drone-bots, and mandatory microchip implants that are designed to control the lives of all citizens. Ethan and others in the Remnant understand that all this is paving the way for the anti-christ to take over - someone who won't hesitate to eliminate anyone who gets in the way of his plan to dominate the earth. The Remnant works to thwart his plans while fighting for their own survival.

I enjoyed the first three books in this series and likewise enjoyed this latest installment. Whether one agrees with the authors' interpretation of scripture concerning the rapture and end-time prophecy or not, this final book in the series has all the excitement and suspense of a good political thriller. It is fiction but presents a believable scenario of how the tribulation and return of Christ could unfold in light of today's headlines and according to Bible prophecy.

It helps to have read the previous titles in the series. Although some background concerning events and characters that happened in the previous books are mentioned in this one, I think first time readers would be lost as to the relationships of the characters to each other and their importance to the overall storyline.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Moving Target by J.A. Jance

Moving Target: An Ali Reynolds Novel, J.A. Jance, Touchstone Books (Simon & Schuster Publishing), $25.99 list price, hardcover.

Police academy-trained former reporter Ali Reynolds is stressed with wedding plans and welcomes the opportunity to accompany her friend and assistant Leland Brooks on a trip to England where he hopes to face his estranged family. While there, details of Leland's past emerge that involves the decades old unsolved murder of his father and Ali finds herself investigating on his behalf.

Back in Texas Ali's fiance and computer security expert, B. Simpson, has also become involved in investigating a crime against teenage computer genius Lance Tucker who is serving time as a juvenile for hacking into the San Leandro School District’s computer system in protest of the school's proposal to require a GPS chip on every student and faculty member. While decorating the facility's rec room for Christmas, Lance is set on fire and severely burned. Police conclude it was self-inflicted but B. Simpson, who helped put Lance in jail, believes he was targeted and feels obligated to find out who is behind the attack and why. Before his incarceration, Lance had developed computer software that would allow users to surf any part of the web completely undetected - technology that would be invaluable to criminals and B. suspects this is why Lance was targeted.

Ali and B. are united in their search for answers as they help each other solve their respective cases while thousands of miles apart. B. tries to protect Lance as he recovers in the hospital while Ali finds herself the target of an unknown person or persons who don't want clues from the past uncovered concerning Leland's father. Both cases come together in an unexpected way that finds Ali and B. fighting for their lives.

I'm a fan of J.A. Jance and enjoy all her novels, including the Ali Reynolds series, and I think fans of both will likewise enjoy this book. This story was unique in that it involved two separate cases an ocean apart but Jance did a good job weaving the storylines together through Ali and B.'s relationship without confusing the reader and while maintaining the suspense in each plot. It was also interesting to find out more about Leland Brooks' personal and family background with the unexpected twist of facts surrounding his father's death.

Although this is the latest installment in the series, newcomers will not be lost if they haven't read the previous books.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Woman's Guide to Muscle and Strength by Irene Lewis-McCormick

A Woman's Guide to Muscle and Strength: Programs You Need For the Body You Want by Irene Lewis-McCormick, Human Kinetics Publishing, $19.95 list price, paperback.

I'm a 57-year-old woman who would like to get more fit but I've found myself overwhelmed by all the information out there, intimidated by gyms and complicated dance type exercise classes, and not interested in extreme "Biggest Loser" type workouts that make me wish I was dead instead of making me feel stronger. What I've wanted was solid, basic information about what works and a realistic workout for a woman of my age and fitness level that I could do at home and without having to invest in expensive equipment. A Woman's Guide to Muscle and Strength has provided that.

I appreciate the common sense approach the author takes while providing scientific information in layman's terms that any reader can understand. The chapter on the myths and pitfalls about strength training for women was especially helpful in addressing issues such as whether using heavy weights will develop big, unfeminine muscles; cardio vs. strength training for fat loss, and whether one can "spot reduce" through exercise. There is also a helpful chart that lists over 100 exercises, the muscle groups they target, the equipment needed (if any), and page number so that readers can customize their own workout to address specific needs. The author includes valuable information and a series of self-assessment tests to help the reader determine their fitness level, what size of weights or level of resistance to start with, how many reps are recommended, how to discern between normal soreness vs. pain that could be an injury, how to move beyond a plateau, etc.

The exercises are presented with clear photos and easy to follow instructions. I appreciated the variety of equipment used to work the same muscles, ranging from standard gym equipment to using the body's own weight for resistance, allowing readers a choice based on accessibility and budget. Most equipment featured is easily found online or in sports stores or super-stores like Walmart or Target, including kettlebells, medicine balls, balance balls, foam rollers, resistance bands, and hand weights. The book also features suspension training using the TRX suspension training. The home version of that system starts at around $200 but I purchased the Dosho Jam Gym system for less than $30 which suits my purposes as a beginner and provides a good workout for the areas I want to target.

I'm encouraged that I can use this book to develop a safe and sensible strength training workout for myself that will help me reach my fitness goals, and feel women of any age or fitness level can likewise benefit from the information it contains.

The sections and chapter titles are as follows, provided at the publisher website:

Part I Basics of Strength Training for Women
Chapter 1 Strength Training and the Female Body
Chapter 2 Myths and Pitfalls of Strength Training
Chapter 3 Essentials of Excellent Strength Training

Part II Strength Training Exercises for Women
Chapter 4 Warming Up and Cooling Down
Chapter 5 Training the Upper Body
Chapter 6 Training the Lower Body
Chapter 7 Training the Core

Part III Strength Training Programs for Women
Chapter 8 Starting a Strength Training Program
Chapter 9 Developing a Workout
Chapter 10 Beginner and Intermediate Strength Programs
Chapter 11 Advanced and Endurance Strength Programs

Photos of the Dosho Jam Gym:

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Shepherd's Garden: Tea and More From Lighthouse Trails Publishing

One of my favorite publishers in the Christian genre is Lighthouse Trails Research and Publishing. Besides the excellent books available, they also have a sister company called The Shepherd's Garden that includes an exclusive line of certified organic tea that is the best I've tasted - and perfect to enjoy with a good book which is why I'm including a review of them at this book blog!

The Cranberry Orange Rooibos is my favorite but the Vanilla Almond Rooibos is a close second. Other flavors include Chai Green, Peppermint, Peach White, and Spicy Red Chai that can be purchased separately (20 teabags per box for $6.95) or you can try a sampler box that includes an assortment of all the flavors. Each indiviually wrapped teabag has a Bible verse on the tag that adds a lovely note of encouragement to an already enjoyable experience.

The tea makes a wonderful gift, and the retail store also offers beautiful mugs, note cards, and music CD's. Each purchase helps support the ministry of this company.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body by Sarah Ballantyne

The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body by Sarah Ballantyne, Victory Belt Publishing, $39.95 list price, paperback.

An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from some form of the over 100 confirmed autoimmune diseases that range from life-threatening multiple sclerosis to debilitating and painful rheumatoid arthritis to the irritation of psoriasis. There are many more diseases that aren't technically autoimmune but mounting evidence suggests they could be related and brought on from the same sources.

Most people treated for autoimmune disease are given medication in an attempt to relieve symptoms but are left with little information as to the causes and what lifestyle and diet changes can potentially bring remission from the diseases. The author draws upon current medical research and her own battle with an autoimmune disorder to show how one can become symptom free the natural way.

Ballantyne believes the Paleo diet lends itself to recovery from autoimmune disease and makes the case as to why foods considered healthy such as whole grains, soy, and low-fat dairy actually contribute to the development of autoimmune disease and create inflammation in the body. The Paleo diet, in a nutshell, is gluten-free and focuses on organic sources of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit while avoiding grains, legumes, and most dairy. Ballantyne takes it a step further by helping the reader understand how certain foods may be creating inflammation in the body and increasing the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. For example, someone dealing with arthritis may discover that eliminating foods from the nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes, eggplant, to name a few) will bring relief. For others, eliminating eggs and nuts may be the answer.

For those with more complicated conditions or who simply are overwhelmed as to where to start, the author walks readers through the most useful medical tests, treatments, and supplements and which are counterproductive. While the book is not meant to diagnose or treat any specific condition or replace a doctor's advice, it is a wealth of information for readers to use as a foundation to better understand what autoimmune disease is, what causes it, and how diet and lifestyle can bring relief. Being armed with this kind of information helps readers become proactive in their own health while also opening a more useful dialogue with their physicians.

This is a substantial book both in size and information and for me, was overwhelming at first, but it is organized well and can be taken in a few pages or chapter at a time. As I first skimmed the book for an overview, I thought there was no way anyone could realistically follow the diet restrictions - and there are many. All the do's don't's at first glance made my head hurt but as I went back and actually read it one chapter at a time, and understood how certain foods create inflammation and make us sick, the list of foods to avoid made more sense. That doesn't make it easier to follow but does provide the motivation to at least make the attempt if better health is the result. Instead of focusing on what I might have to give up, I was able to see that there were still lots of good food choices that I could live with that would be preferable to being on medications with questionable side-effects. This is not a cookbook and no meal plans or recipes are included, just lists of foods to avoid and those to enjoy.

The testimonials included are impressive yet no one, including the author, claims making the diet and lifestyle changes are easy. However, feeling better and becoming healthy is a pay-off that they all agree make any sacrifices worth it.

The book is divided into two main parts. Part one focuses on the cause of autoimmune disease, dietary and lifestlye factors that contribute to it, and covers the details of the Paleo diet approach. Part two focuses on the cure and explains how digestion and the use of probiotics is important to better health, the importance of blood sugar regulation, troubleshooting the diet, and how to reintroduce foods.

Overall this is a book I think anyone dealing with autoimmune disease or who simply wants to be healthier will benefit from. It isn't light reading but contains a lot of beneficial and well-researched information.