Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review: The Expanded Bible

I began reading the new Expanded Bible with critical eyes. Although put together by accomplished scholars, these scholars base this version on the New Century Version, which tends to make more liberal translations, especially when it comes to gender related terms. As I skimmed through The [expanded] Bible, however, I learned that you can’t judge a book by your presumptions; at least not this book. Although this version follows the more liberal New Century Version, it also includes more traditional wordings in brackets from versions such as the King James Version. The version does not leave the liberal wordings to stand by themselves, either. This version includes numerous notes, “expansions,” alternate wordings, literal wordings, references, and textual variants that allow readers to explore deeper meanings of the text.

All these notes are included within the text, however, and can get a little annoying after a while. It becomes easy to skip over the “expanded” parts and just read the regular wording of the New Century Version, which is in bold print. The version also lacks introductions to books, and it only covers the New Testament.

Overall, The [expanded] Bible accomplishes its goal of enabling the reader to study while he reads, but the version does not stand on its own. Readers should not rely on this version alone for their Bible studies.

Written for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Review: A Man of His Word

Description of Book:
Betrayed by the one man Moriah Miller thought she could trust for the rest of her life, she must face a future of loneliness. Her husband, Levi, has left her for the Yankees (non-Amish), and when he refuses to return despite knowledge of Moriah’s pregnancy, she can only wonder what might have motivated him to stay away. Will she ever trust anyone again? Especially Levi’s brother, Gabriel, who has secretly loved Moriah for years. Moriah's heart will only be safe with A Man of His Word. Meanwhile, Moriah’s brother, Tobias, struggles with his feelings for local tomboy, Rachel. Do opposites really attract?

You know that feeling you get when you know two characters would get together or when characters could solve a problem if only they were honest with each other, if only one person knew what the other knew? Well, that's how I felt as I read Kathleen Fuller's Christian romance A Man of His Word. I suppose that's the deal with most romances. You could just "kill" the characters for not doing or understanding what seems so obvious to you. You scream and shout out of frustration, but you put up with it because you know everything will comes together in the end; and you actually get enjoyment from the suspense. Who knew frustration could be a good thing?

And that frustration gets even better with detailed descriptions, lovable characters, and clever plots. Fuller successfully weaves two beautifully written story lines together, switching between plots to add to the suspense. As characters grow through their hard circumstances, readers become attached to them and the lovely world of the Amish, one not too different from the readers’ own world. I’ve often wondered why Amish novels are so “hot” on the market right now, but if all Amish novels are this lovely (and I’ve read a few that aren’t), it’s no wonder they’re popular. I can only complain about the ugly cover of A Man of His Word. It cannot reflect the beautiful, addicting, and wonderfully written contents that await every reader that picks up A Man of His Word.

Written for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Review: Sheila Walsh's Let Go

“Let go. Let God.” The famous saying populates the church, but what does it really mean? Sheila Walsh attempts to answer this question in her new book Let Go. She covers the various things in life we need to let go of in order to embrace God’s grace and blessings: prejudice, anxiety, forgiveness of self and others, self-hatred, past wounds, fear, and lack of purpose. Walsh leads readers into a deeper understanding of key issues including trust in God, finding deliverance, accepting yourself and others, hope, and realizing you are loved.

This book could go by several different names. True, Walsh covers deep issues, but her points are varied and unorganized. Her book does not flow as well as her previous books. Chapters cover intriguing topics that Walsh manages to slap together with the “let go” theme at the end of every chapter. These topics are certainly applicable to every woman’s life, but they are also issues that have been covered in plenty of other books. The themes of Let Go do not coincide with the typical meaning of “let go, let God” saying, either. Walsh’s book has no real focus. She could have pulled things together much better if she had just focused on how to let go in hard circumstances and trials, and let God take control.

Let Go does include reader’s materials such as quotes at the beginning of chapters and prayers and questions at the end of chapters. Walsh also starts each chapter off with an applicable story. Her chapters, although lacking in organization and unity, do touch hearts with their touching stories and Biblical examples. Let Go could let go of some of its contents and add more contents that would unify the book, but, in the end, it manages to make itself a worthwhile read.

Written for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

Monday, August 10, 2009

Review: What's He Really Thinking? How to be a Relational Genius with the Man in Your Life

I can’t help but wonder what a man would think of Paula Rinehart’s What’s He Really Thinking? How to be a Relational Genius with the Man in Your Life. After all, a woman did write the book. What would the book be like if a man had written it? And if a man had written it, would women really read it?

Considering Rinehart’s counseling experience and extensive research for her book, I trust that she writes truthfully. And she does provide plenty of insight into the male psyche. Whether men would agree with her verdicts, I do not know, but I do know that Rinehart fills What’s He Really Thinking with what men are really thinking. Even better, she discusses the roles of both males and females as found in the Bible. Although she uses very few Biblical examples or Biblical verses for support, everything she says has a firm Biblical foundation. Rinehart’s ultimate point focuses on the fact that God made man and woman to fulfill different roles and have different types of emotions and abilities. Thus, to woman, man seems like a creature from another planet, but man and woman are actually meant as counterparts that can fit together under God’s supervision.

Rinhart also covers the male urge to “do,” why sexual identity is so important to men, the male’s need to feel adequate and needed, the female’s need to understand the background of the men in her life and how their backgrounds affect who they are, how men handle change, why men do not show emotion as much or pick up on female emotions, and how women fit into male lives.

I read Rinehart’s with my father in mind, since I have yet to date or marry a man. Rinehart makes it clear that her book is applicable to all kinds of relationships with men, but she does refer to “sex” quite often, something that may make parts of her book an awkward read for singles. We all know there’s no way avoiding the topic. My dad, himself, made a joke about how a woman took an entire book to explain a topic that men could explain in one word.

Overall, Rinehart succeeds in giving her readers just enough information to help them in their relationships with men. She could have used more facts, more research, more details (and there were certain parts she should have expanded on), but Rinehart chose to appeal to the common person with stories and examples. She hits core issues that most women deal with, and she addresses the female role and how it fits in with the male role. What’s He Really Thinking provides a short, easy read for any woman wanting an inside look at the male psyche... or for any man curious enough about the female perspective on men.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Review: So You Think You Can Dance Get Fit: Cardio Funk

So You Think You Can Dance Get Fit Cardio Funk gives viewers more fun and variety than your typical dance workout video. Most fitness workouts based on TV shows cash in on the said show’s popularity and leave the consumer with nothing to show for their money spent. So You Think You Can Dance Get Fit Cardio Funk avoids this mistake. I’m not saying Cardio Funk will appeal to everyone -- I, myself, do not care much for the “dancer’s” workout -- but this DVD workout stands high above many others. It’s not as much fun as Richard Simmons, nor is it as easy as Tae Bo, but Cardio Funk offers a fairly simple workout led by real people who actually seem to care about the viewer’s well being. Get ready to put your personality into your workout, and burn those calories!

Led by former contestants of So You Think You Can Dance, Lauren, Travis, and Courtney, the DVD includes a warm up and cool down, as well as hip-hop, contemporary, and disco workouts. The routines presented aren’t the real thing -- something you can only get with a regular practicing time with professionals and perhaps a partner -- but they follow the basic steps and general ideas of their dance styles. The routines require a lot of room to move around, and they do work viewers to the max -- thus, the name Cardio -- but they also have their own, as the title also suggests, fun Funk. The routines are also fairly simple, yet challenging. Viewers can go at their own pace (and are encouraged regularly to do so). Each dance style includes a lesson, a dance to count, and slow, medium, and fast dances to music. The music isn’t exciting, but its beat keeps exercisers on track.

Some exercisers may have a hard time with the steps, but encouragement from the dancers in the video and fairly simple steps makes it easy for the exerciser having trouble with coordination to believe in herself and to believe that with enough practice, she can do the steps perfectly. Despite how good-looking the dancers on the DVD are (which may intimidate some viewers), their encouraging words, explanations of what muscles the exercise works out, and fun personalities (along with coordinated outfits and colorful lights in the background) make this a motivating and fun workout for most everyone.

Special Features include a bonus dance routine using the best moves from all the exercises and behind-the-scenes interviews with dancers Lauren, Travis, and Courtney.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Movie Review: A Plumm Summer

NEWS FLASH: Froggy Doo has been frognapped! Repeat: Froggy Doo, the beloved and famous frog marionette from televisions top children’s show, has been frognapped! Officials canceled the special benefit local park appearance of Froggy Doo when they were forced to tape off the park and search for clues. Happy Herb, Froggy Doo’s faithful companion, reported that Froggy Doo was last seen safe and comfortable in his case backstage. After a short appearance, Happy Herb went backstage to escort the famous frog to his fans, but Froggy had disappeared. The innocent Montana town has never seen so much drama in one day. Local authorities are on the case, and after the recent discovery of a ransom note, the FBI has come to town. Have you seen Froggy Doo?

But the government has company in its efforts to solve the mystery of Froggy Doo’s disappearance. Elliott Plumm and his younger brother Rocky are also on the case. This will be A Plumm Summer they will never forget.

Narrated by Jeff Daniels, A Plumm Summer is one family-friendly film you won’t want to miss. You’ll love Froggy Doo! And all his pals too! But the story isn’t so much about Froggy Doo. Although writers T.J. Lynch, Frank Antonelli, and Caroline Zelder based the film’s mystery on real events, the movie actually focuses on the fictional elements of the plot – that is, the characters and how they change as Froggy Doo brings them together. The Plumms aren’t perfect, but their flaws ultimately capture the audience’s sympathy and love. True, the acting could be better, and the script could use a few more laughs and a less obvious villain, but by the end of the film, most viewers can’t help but have a “Plumm” of a time.

Chris Massoglia plays the troubled Elliott, who must deal with his younger brother’s obsession with Froggy Doo as well as all the rest of the annoying things that come with being an older brother. Rocky (Owen Pearce) looks up to his brother, who holds a heavy burden keeping his brother ignorant of their father’s alcoholic habits and helping his brother to maintain his childhood innocence. At first, Elliott thinks of his brother as an annoyance and shoves him to the side, but as he begins to solve the case, he not only grows closer to his brother, but he also becomes a stronger, more self-confident person. Any member of a dysfunctional family can relate to Elliott’s troubles, and any teenager can relate to Elliott’s journey as an adolescent.

Henry Winkler, as Happy Herb, will bring a smile to anyone’s face. The true highlight of the film, he treats Froggy Doo and his television audience like children of his own. Although it’s hard to buy the chaos that erupts out of the disappearance of a puppet, no one can question the genuine love of Happy Herb for his marionette. It’s a shame the rest of the acting couldn’t follow Winkler’s footsteps. William Baldwin barely holds up as Elliott’s father, and some of the townspeople’s dialogue doesn’t hold up to par.
Plumm Summer is director and writer Caroline Zelder’s first attempt at a movie; and it shows. With a mystery villain who’s not so mysterious, and with an ending that leaves viewers wondering what happens to the villains, the script doesn’t entertain to its full potential. The movie does stay true to the old-fashioned feeling of the 60’s era in which it takes place, however, and it does keep the viewer’s attention. The FBI agents, in particular, provide quite a few laughs, including a short at the end of the credits.

The DVD includes a good amount of features for such a low-budget film that took more than a year to come out on video. A commentary features writer/director Caroline Zelder and writer/producer Fank Antonelli, a gag reel provides a few chuckles (but nothing that will have viewers laughing out loud or rolling on the floor), three short deleted scenes (of little significance or entertainment value), and a theatrical trailer. The DVD also includes a music video with shots of action going on behind the scenes – something that those involved in the film might find interesting, but not the average viewer – and a behind-the-scenes feature with interviews of cast and friends on the red carpet of the premier. The last feature might have been more interesting if the filmmakers had made an actual behind the scenes feature and combine the footage from the music video with interviews of the cast.

The special features may not satisfy, but put together with the film, the DVD makes for a great family night. A Plumm Summer will have viewers hopping to its family-friendly tune.