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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Balance of June

During the month of June, I read/watched and/or reviewed the following:

Books:
- "Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus" by Joyce Magnin. Read my review.
- "The Truth About Grace" by John MacArthur. Read my review.
- "Seven Hours Omnibus" by Mike Dellosso et al. Read my review.
- "Spark (Sky Chasers)" by Amy Kathleen Ryan. Read my review.

Products:
- "Neuschwanstein Castle 2000 PiecePanorama XXL Puzzle" by Ravensburger. Read my review.
- "Evening in Rome 1000 Piece StarlineGlow-in-the-dark Puzzle" by Ravensburger. Read my review.
- "Underwater Paradise 9000 piece puzzle" by Ravensburger. Read my review.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Book "Spark (Sky Chasers)" by Amy Kathleen Ryan


About the Book: Waverly, Kieran and Seth are in a race against time – and with the future of humanity hanging in the balance, there’s no room for mistakes…
After a desperate escape from the enemy ship, Waverly has finally made it back to the Empyrean. The memory of home has been keeping her alive for the past months… but home is nothing like she left it. Forced to leave their captive parents behind on the New Horizon, she’s returned only to find that Kieran has become a strict leader and turned the crew against Seth. What happened to the Kieran she thought she knew? Now Waverly’s not sure whom she can trust. And the one person she wants to believe in is darkly brilliant Seth, the ship’s supposed enemy. Waverly knows that the situation will only get worse until they can rescue their parents – but how? Before they have time to make a plan, an explosion rocks the Empyrean, and Seth and Waverly are targeted as the prime suspects. Can they find the true culprit before Kieran locks them away… or worse? Will Waverly follow her heart, even if it puts lives at risk? Now more than ever, every step could bring them closer to a new beginning – or a sudden end.

About the Author: Born in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Amy Kathleen Ryan is a graduate of the New School Creative Writing Program. She lives in Colorado. Visit her website at: www.AmyKathleenRyan.com.

My Review: This is the second book of a trilogy called Sky Chasers. First book (Glow) was very entertaining, and this second book is even better. But this second book cannot hold by itself. You need to read the first book to know what happened in order to understand the situation as it is presented.
This is a very well written book, telling us the continuation of the story of an expedition headed to the new earth in a far away galaxy. Two spaceships (New Horizon and Empyrean) are traveling to this new world. One of them (Empyrean) solved the problem of procreation on space while the other (New Horizon) claims sabotage when receiving the information about this solution, that prevent their females to produce eggs. This causes a major conflict between the two spaceships, ending up New Horizon kidnapping  of all the girls from Empyrean to steal their eggs and implant them into the women of their ship. The story here resumes when the girls manage to escape from New Horizon in a shuttle with the help of some of their crew, but have to leave behind some of their parents that are still alive and are prisoners in that ship. When Waverly and the other girls return to the Empyrean, she found that only the boys survived the initial attack and there are no adults in the ship and everything is not as it used to be. They make their plans to overrun the other ship and try to rescue their parents, but they soon realize there is an intruder from the New Horizon inside their ship and they need to deal with this new situation. Also there is a proposal for a peace treaty from the New Horizon that increase their hopes of rescuing their parents.
Brilliant overall, you have all the ingredients to captivate the attention from the beginning and you really start cheering for your personal heroes. You have the love triangle, you have traitors, heroes, greedy people etc, that guarantees the success of the story. All characters are developed further in this second book, showing their good and dark sides. My only complain is that the third book of this trilogy will take a while to be published.

This is a page turner and a must have in the permanent library of any  science-fiction lover.

This book was published by St. Martin's Griffin in July 2012 and Amazon.com was kind enough to provide this book for me through their Vine Program for reviewing and I was not request to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, fell free to leave a comment!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Product "Underwater Paradise 9000 piece puzzle" by Ravensburger

About the Product: Puzzle measures 76" x 54".
Puzzles are fun - on your own, or with family and friends.
Relax from your busy life and build a beautiful image and a new memory.

My Review: I am a puzzle maniac, having assembled jigsaw puzzles from 100 to 9000 pieces (a 13200 pieces is in the queue and I am really going to the 18,000 and 32,000 pieces from Ravensburger in the future...). Some of them were 3D puzzles, like the Taj Mahal, US Capitol, Neuschwanstein Castle, Big Ben, etc. This one in particular is a very high quality product from Ravensburger (as usual), all the pieces have an excellent finishing and they stick together very well. I usually assemble this size of puzzles on plywood boards (4' x 8' x 5/32") that I pre-cut at the size of the puzzle plus 1 inch extra on each side... This is heavy and a little expensive, but gives excellent support and for this size of puzzle I need this extra support. You might be able to accommodate up to a 6,000 piece in one of those 4'x 8' (feet) boards. For this puzzle I had to cut and put together an extension on the plywood as this puzzle exceeded the 96" x 48". I am working on the puzzle for 3 weeks and I am not done. My estimate is that it will take a total of 12 weeks to finish with this puzzle.

I highly recommend Ravensburger products for the excellent quality to everyone that enjoys challenges alone or with the whole family. It is a guaranteed entertainment for hours, listening to music or talking in family environment.

 Amazon.com was kind enough to provide this product for me through their Vine Program for reviewing and I was not request to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, fell free to leave a comment!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book "Seven Hours Omnibus" by Mike Dellosso et al.

About the Book: Death comes for everyone. But what if you were given seven more hours? Would you go back and relive a previous time in your life? Or would you live those seven more hours, starting now? In this collection of seven full-length novellas, seven writers come together to tackle the questions of life, death, and time as we know it. Each author has taken the same concept, featuring a mysterious central character, and spun their own story. Stories include: All of Our Dreams by James Andrew Wilson, Whole Pieces by Ronie Kendig, Teardrop by Travis Thrasher, Escapement by Rene Gutteridge, Recollection by Tom Pawlik, Rear View by Mike Dellosso, and The Last Night of Alton Webber by Robin Parrish. 7 Stories. 7 Writers. 7 Hours.

About the Authors:
Mike Dellosso - Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. In addition to his novels of supernatural suspense he writes a bi-weekly column for his local newspaper and is an adjunct professor of writing at Lancaster Bible College. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master's Graduate School of Divinity.

Rene Gutteridge is the author of seventeen novels, including Listen,  the Storm series (Tyndale House Publishers) and Never the Bride, the Boo series, and the Occupational Hazards series from WaterBrook Press. She also released My Life as a Doormat and The Ultimate Gift: The Novelization with Thomas Nelson. Rene is also known for her Christian comedy sketches. She studied screenwriting while earning a mass communications degree, graduating magna cum laude from Oklahoma City University and earning the Excellence in Mass Communication Award. She served as the full-time director of drama for First United Methodist Church for five years before leaving to stay home and write. She enjoys instructing at writers conferences and in college classrooms. She lives with her husband, Sean, a musician, and their children in Oklahoma City. Visit her Web site at www.renegutteridge.com.

Critically acclaimed and creatively diverse novelist Travis Thrasher has made a career out of defying expectations. Writing stories that have moved, haunted and provoked readers, Thrasher has told tales in a variety of genres. His one common theme is brokenness, and his one common tactic is surprise. He lives with his wife and three daughters in a suburb of Chicago. For more information on Travis, go to www.travisthrasher.com

Ronie Kendig has a BS in Psychology and is a wife, mother of four, and avid writer. Her novels include espionage thriller Dead Reckoning, a military series The Discarded Heroes series (Nightshade, Digitalis, Wolfsbane, and Firethorn), and a new upcoming series, A Breed Apart, that launches Summer 2012. In addition to speaking engagements, Ronie is a monthly columnist at the award-winning blog, Novel Rocket, and is active with the American Christian Fiction Writers. Ronie can be found online at www.roniekendig.com, on Facebook (facebook.com/rapidfirefiction) and on Twitter (@roniekendig).

James Andrew Wilson was inspired by the magic of good storytelling from a young age and started writing his first novel when he was sixteen. He married at seventeen, became a father at twenty-one, and lives now in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and their three boys. James enjoys hiking, Italian food, board games, and celebrating the joys of a simple life. When he grows up, he hopes to be a respectable hobbit and not have any more adventures, thank you very much.

Robin Parrish is the author of seven novels including, Relentless, Fearless, Merciless, Offworld, Nightmare, and Vigilante, and a YA novel, Corridor. As a journalist, Robin has worked for About.com, CMCentral.com, InfuzeMag.com, PopCultureGeek.com, B5Media, Splashpress Media, and many more. His writing has been printed in numerous magazines and newspapers. Robin and his wife and two children live in High Point, NC.

Tom Pawlik is the Christy Award-winning author of Vanish, which also won first place in the 2006 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest. The sequel, Valley of the Shadow, was a Christy Award finalist. Tom has a BA in communication and works in the marketing field. He has also been active in Christian teaching, youth work, and music for over 20 years. In addition to writing fiction, Tom is an accomplished songwriter and musician who writes and records at his home studio. He and his wife, Colette, live in Ohio with their five children.

My Review: This is a collection of seven novels versing on the same theme. Death arrives at your door in the form of a mysterious man named Thomas Constant and proposes you a deal: you can either just die now, or you can live another seven hours during any period of your life in order to try to make right some wrong things you did or you regret. All seven stories from these seven different authors are completely different, but they explore this idea in different perspectives. Clock is ticking. What will you do with the time you have left?
All are wonderfully written stories and this book is an excellent entertainment for hours. It took me around 21 hours to read the whole book. I highly recommend it to any reader who likes to think about life, death, and time.

This book was published by Tyndale House Publishers in July 2012 and they were kind enough to send me an electronic copy for reviewing through their blogger book review program.

If you are reading this review, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Book "The Truth about Grace" by John MacArthur

About the Book: “Is the experience of God’s grace in your life a thrilling thing? Just thinking about the fact that God, by His own sovereign plan, decided to be gracious to me is overwhelming. There is nothing greater than receiving grace upon grace.” —John MacArthur
Simple definitions can make grace feel like an obvious ― even mundane ― concept. Nothing could be further from the truth. Grace is the defining feature of the Christian faith. Once we understand how undeserving we are and how much favor we’ve been given, grace becomes shocking, thrilling, inspiring, and contagious. 
Best-selling author and pastor John MacArthur illuminates this profound concept with verse upon verse of Scripture. He also shows that misunderstandings about grace have led to some of the church’s greatest problems, perhaps because grace is her most precious gift.
 For decades, MacArthur has encouraged countless Christians to develop a deeper understanding of the Bible and a greater respect for God’s truth. In The Truth About series, he now gathers his landmark teachings about core aspects of the Christian faith in one place. These powerful books are designed to give readers a focused experience that centers on God’s character and how it applies to their daily walk of faith.

About the Author: John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry. In 1969, after graduating from Talbot Theological Seminary, John came to Grace Community Church. The emphasis of his pulpit ministry is the careful study and verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, with special attention devoted to the historical and grammatical background behind each passage. Under John’s leadership, Grace Community Church's two morning worship services fill the 3,500-seat auditorium to capacity. Several thousand members participate every week in dozens of fellowship groups and training programs, most led by lay leaders and each dedicated to equipping members for ministry on local, national, and international levels. In 1985, John became president of The Master's College (formerly Los Angeles Baptist College), an accredited, four-year liberal arts Christian college in Santa Clarita, California. In 1986, John founded The Master's Seminary, a graduate school dedicated to training men for full-time pastoral roles and missionary work. John is also president and featured teacher with Grace to You. Founded in 1969, Grace to You is the nonprofit organization responsible for developing, producing, and distributing John’s books, audio resources, and the “Grace to You” radio and television programs. “Grace to You” radio airs more than 1,000 times daily throughout the English-speaking world, reaching major population centers on every continent of the world. It also airs nearly 1,000 times daily in Spanish, reaching 23 countries from Europe to Latin America. “Grace to You” television airs weekly on DirecTV in the United States, and is available for free on the Internet worldwide. All of John’s 3,000 sermons, spanning more than four decades of ministry, are available for free on this website. Since completing his first best-selling book The Gospel According to Jesus in 1988, John has written nearly 400 books and study guides, including Our Sufficiency in Christ, Charismatic Chaos, Ashamed of the Gospel, The Murder of Jesus, A Tale of Two Sons, Twelve Ordinary Men, The Truth War, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, Slave, and The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series. John's titles have been translated into more than two dozen languages. The MacArthur Study Bible, the cornerstone resource of his ministry, is available in English (NKJ, NAS, and ESV), Spanish, Russian, German, French, Portuguese, and Italian, with Chinese and Arabic translations underway. John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four adult children: Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda. They also enjoy the enthusiastic company of their fifteen grandchildren.

My Review: This is another precious book from John MacArthur.
Part of the Series "The Truth About..." that also includes "The Lordship of Christ" and "Forgiveness", this particular book goes deep into discussing Grace in all aspects, supported by Scriptures references, in  five Chapters.
It is very well written but in order to savor completely all details you might need to read it twice and also grab a Bible and read the verses referred in the text. The definition for grace I like most, he gives at the end, on his summary, saying that grace is "the free and benevolent influence of a holy God operating sovereignly in the lives of undeserving sinners".
It took me about 5 hours to read the whole book.
I recommend this book for the permanent library of any Christian home for those who want to grow in understanding grace behind the Word of God. Superb work!


This book was written by John MacArthur and published by Thomas Nelson in May of 2012 and they were kind enough to send me an electronic copy for reviewing through their Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers Program.

If you are reading this review, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Product "Evening in Rome 1000 Piece StarlineGlow-in-the-dark Puzzle" by Ravensburger

About the Product:
  • Puzzle measures 27" x 20"
  • Puzzles are fun - on your own, or with family and friends
  • Relax from your busy life and build a beautiful image and a new memory

My Review: I am a puzzle maniac, having assembled jigsaw puzzles from 100 to 9000 pieces (a 13200 pieces is in the queue and I am really going to the 18,000 and 32,000 pieces from Ravensburger in the future...). Some of them were 3D puzzles, like the Taj Mahal, US Capitol, Neuschwanstein Castle, Big Ben, etc. This one in particular is a very high quality product from Ravensburger (as usual), all the pieces have an excellent finishing and they stick together very well. I usually assemble this size of puzzles on Foam Boards. They are very light and conveniently cheap. The foam board being 3/16'' (5mm) gives your puzzle enough support. I usually cut the board (easily done with a cutter) after glueing the puzzle, leaving a border of 1'' at each side, so I can pin the board in my garage (that, at this point, is full of puzzles...). For puzzles 5,000 pieces and larger I usually go with a 4'x8'x5/32'' plywood that I pre-cut at the size of the puzzle plus 1 inch extra on each side... This is heavier and a little more expensive, but gives better support and for that size of puzzle I need that extra support. You might be able to accommodate up to a 6,000 piece in one of those 4'x 8' (feet) boards. So far I have assembled 2 x 5,000 pieces, 1 x 6,000, 1 x 8,000 pieces and 1 x 9,000, besides dozens of 3,000 and smaller. What help me a lot is that my wife and daughters also like the challenge, so we move fast. A 1,000 piece puzzle do not last a weekend, although the 8,000 piece one took us 2 months (most 2 to 3 hours at night work) to put together. This one in particular took us 5 days to put together, as it has a good amount of sky and the reflections are never easy. I highly recommend Ravensburger products for the excellent quality to everyone that enjoys challenges alone or with the whole family. It is a guaranteed entertainment for hours, listening to music or talking in family environment. 

Amazon.com was kind enough to provide this product for me through their Vine Program for reviewing and I was not request to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, fell free to leave a comment!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book "Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus" by Joyce Magnin

About the Book: Aging and recent widow Harriet Beamer insists she's getting along fine with her dog Humphrey in Philadelphia ... until she falls for the fourth time, injuring her ankle, and causing her son and daughter-in-law to cry foul. Insisting Harriet move in with them in California, they make a bet that her ankle is broken, and she foolishly promises to move if they're right. Four x-rays later, Harriet's ankle---and her heart---are broken. She packs up, ships her huge salt and pepper collection to California, and prepares to move away from the only life she knows. The only catch? She's doing it her way. Just wait till her daughter-in-law hears Harriet will travel cross country only by public transportation and alternate means. What follows is a hilarious, heartwarming journey by train, metro bus, ferry, and motorcycle. Along the way, Harriet discovers that although her family thinks it's time for her to be put out to pasture---God has a different plan.

About the Author: Joyce Magnin is the author of the popular and quirky Bright's Pond novels. She is a frequent conference speaker and writing instructor. When she's not writing or reading, Joyce enjoys baseball, needle arts, video games and cream soda but not elevators--especially glass ones. She listens to many kinds of music, shamelessly confesses to enjoying American Idol, has never eaten a scallop or sky dived. Joyce has three children, Rebekah, Emily and Adam and three grandsons, Lemuel, Cedar and Soren and one son-in-law, Joshua. Joyce lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania with her son, Adam and their crazy cat, Mango, where she cares for an eighty-year-old onion plant.

My Review: The author did a magnificent job creating this wonderful character named Harriet Beamer. She is a sweet old lady that lives alone with her dog (Humphrey) in her home in Pennsylvania, missing her late husband (Max) and with her son Henry living in California with his wife Prudence. After breaking her ankle and loosing a bet, she sells her house in order to move to California, to live with Henry, but she decided to take the long trip to the new home. She ships her dog and most of her belongings (that include an impressive collection of salt and pepper shakers) directly to her son's house in California and she start her trip using public transportation, instead of just taking the airplane. She goes to different places, meeting interesting people and making difference in the life of many. Her trip is assembled on the fly, depending on which ways of transport she can find. She keeps a journal where she writes to Max, and her Droid phone (Amelia) is a useful toll as it has a built in GPS to tell her the directions she wants to go, finding hotels and restaurants. She also communicates frequently with her old friend and neighbor Martha.
Being an inspiration to many old people that simply give up and live their last days "in the pasture", Harriet decided to discover her country and for the first time live a life of adventures. In a certain way this book reminded me of a movie named "The Bucket List", with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson (2007).
The author had a great sensibility in showing how Harriet's faith was increasing during her journey and how her dependence on God was giving her confidence.
I recommend this book to the permanent library of all readers how enjoy a very well written story and want to be entertained for three or four days. It took me around 11 hours to finish reading this book.

This book was written by Joyce Magnin and published by Zondervan in 2012 and the author was kind enough to give me an electronic copy of her book for reviewing, through her representative Susan from Shelton Interactive.

If you read this review, feel free to leave your comment!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Product "Neuschwanstein Castle 2000 PiecePanorama XXL Puzzle" by Ravensburger

About the Product: Puzzle measures 52" x 24".
Puzzles are fun - on your own, or with family and friends.
Relax from your busy life and build a beautiful image and a new memory.

My Review: I am a puzzle maniac, having assembled jigsaw puzzles from 100 to 9000 pieces (a 13200 pieces is in the queue and I am really going to the 18,000 and 32,000 pieces from Ravensburger in the future...). Some of them were 3D puzzles, like the Taj Mahal, US Capitol, Neuschwanstein Castle, Big Ben, etc. This one in particular is a very high quality product from Ravensburger (as usual), all the pieces have an excellent finishing and they stick together very well. 
I usually assemble this size of puzzles on Foam Boards. They are very light and conveniently cheap. The foam board being 3/16'' (5mm) gives your puzzle enough support. I usually cut the board (easily done with a cutter) after glueing the puzzle, leaving a border of 1'' at each side, so I can pin the board in my garage (that, at this point, is full of puzzles...).

For puzzles 5,000 pieces and larger I usually go with a 4'x8'x5/32'' plywood that I pre-cut at the size of the puzzle plus 1 inch extra on each side... This is heavier and a little more expensive, but gives better support and for that size of puzzle I need that extra support. You might be able to accommodate up to a 6,000 piece in one of those 4'x 8' (feet) boards.
So far I have assembled 2 x 5,000 pieces, 1 x 6,000, 1 x 8,000 pieces and 1 x 9,000, besides dozens of 3,000 and smaller. What help me a lot is that my wife and daughters also like the challenge, so we move fast. A 1,000 piece puzzle do not last a weekend, although the 8,000 piece one took us 2 months (most 2 to 3 hours at night work) to put together.
This one in particular took us 10 days to put together, as it has a good amount of trees that are never easy. I highly recommend Ravensburger products for the excellent quality to everyone that enjoys challenges alone or with the whole family. It is a guaranteed entertainment for hours, listening to music or talking in family environment.


Amazon.com was kind enough to provide this product for me through their Vine Program for reviewing and I was not request to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, fell free to leave a comment!