Tag Archives: Tyndale House

Book Review: Oath of the Brotherhood by C.E. Laureano

Title: Oath of the Brotherhood
Author: C.E. Laureano
Publisher: Tyndale, TH1NK
Published: May 2014
Series: The Song of Seare, Book 1
Genre(s): Fantasy, Christian Fiction

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

In a kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man’s worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword, Conor Mac Nir is a scholar, a musician, and a follower of the forbidden Balian faith: problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.

When Conor is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom, he never expects to fall in love with the rival king’s sister, Aine. Nor does he suspect his gift with the harp (and Aine’s ability to heal) touches on the realm of magic. Then his clan begins a campaign to eliminate all Balians from the isle of Seare, putting his newfound home in peril and entangling him in a plot for control of the island that has been unfolding since long before his birth.

Only by committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he’s meant to play in Seare’s future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything—even the woman he loves—to follow the path his God has laid before him?

My Thoughts:

Oath of the Brotherhood is the first book in C.E. Laureano’s The Song of Seare fantasy trilogy. Featuring relatable characters, dire circumstances to challenge those characters, and a vividly described storyworld with a mediaeval Celtic feel, this book does a great job drawing readers in to the series.

Conor and Aine make likeable leads. Clearly their hearts are in the right place, but we get to see a lot of character growth over the course of this book, and I look forward to seeing where the rest of the series will take them. Romance readers will enjoy the way Conor and Aine are drawn together even when separated by circumstance, and adventure fans will appreciate the story’s suspenseful backdrop of good vs. evil magic and of clan warfare.

Both Conor and Aine grapple with waiting for God’s timing (He’s referred to as Comdiu in this allegory), and preparing themselves to use their talents when called to do so. A large portion of this book is devoted to exploring Conor’s training with the Fíréin brotherhood in music and military skills, which sounds like it could be boring, but which I actually found to be quite fascinating.

I thought the Celtic-sounding names for people and places were a nice touch, lending authenticity to the storyworld. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover the glossary and pronunciation guide at the back of the book until I had finished reading it. Oops! Never would’ve guessed “Eoghan” sounds like “OH-in” or that “bean-sidhe” sounds like “BAN-shee,” although those pronunciations do make so much more sense than what I was saying in my head. LOL! I’ll be sure to consult the glossary as I read the next book so I can get those names right.

For anyone else just starting to read this series, you’ll be happy to know that you won’t have to wait for Books 2 and 3. Beneath the Forsaken City and The Sword and the Song are both available now, so you’ll be able to read the trilogy in its entirety with nary a pause between books if you wish.

Thank you to Tyndale House for providing a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | About the Series | Author’s Site

Book Review: My First Hands-On Bible from Tyndale House Publishers

Title: My First Hands-On Bible
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Published: September 2015
Edition: Pretty Pink deluxe edition
Publisher’s Suggested Age: 3-6

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

This Pretty Pink deluxe edition of My First Hands-On Bible is the preschooler version of the popular Hands-On Bible, which has sold nearly one million copies. Jesus taught with hands-on lessons and illustrations; My First Hands-On Bible uses the same experience-based learning to communicate God’s Word in an active, understandable way.

My First Hands-On Bible is a fun and simple, yet meaningful way to engage preschool, prekindergarten, and kindergarten children (ages 3–6) with the Bible while helping them build a solid faith foundation. Each lesson focuses on a specific Bible point through a variety of activities in order to reinforce and help young children remember the stories and lessons. Using common household items, you can help your children have a “hands-on” learning experience while engaging them in 85 key stories from the Bible.

My First Hands-On Bible doesn’t just retell the Bible stories; it also includes actual Scripture from the easy-to-understand and easy-to-read Holy Bible, New Living Translation. In addition to the stories and activities, there are fun illustrations, prayers, and a special Jesus Connection feature.

My Thoughts:

When I first saw this Bible, I was drawn to the adorably pink cover. [Note: it also comes in blue imitation leather as well as standard paperback and hardback editions for the less pink-enthusiastic among us.] I presented it to my four-year-old daughter, who was thrilled to have her own Bible, and even more excited that it was pink. With the imitation leather cover it looks like a “real” Bible, versus a storybook, which makes her feel all grown up.

We’ve been reading this Bible together for a while now, and my daughter recognizes the pictures of Pockets the kangaroo (who appears in the margins with her hands folded in prayer), and tells me that it’s time to pray. Too cute. The prayers are well-written, short and sweet with easy vocabulary and sentence structure. Best of all, they relate the story we just read back to the child’s life. I read a short phrase at a time and my daughter repeats it after me. I think this may be our favorite part of our Bible reading time.

For the most part, the hands-on activities included within the story (and marked in the text with a colorful handprint) are pretty simple, fun, and easy to incorporate. We’ll do some and skip others (or save them until the end of the story) depending on my daughter’s level of engagement at the time and what’s involved. Examples include pretending to be animals, rocking like you’re on a boat, identifying/counting things in the illustration, making sound-effects, acting out parts of the story, etc. They’ve been great for keeping my daughter actively involved.

This is the first Bible I’ve owned in the New Living Translation. This version does seem easier to read and understand than many other translations, as advertised in the product description. And I love the fact that this is a children’s Bible that goes verse-by-verse using big sections of a standard translation of the Bible to tell the individual stories. That said, it’s not uncommon for us to come across words and phrases in the text that are unfamiliar to my four-year-old, and I find myself pausing to explain or rephrase. I would’ve loved to see simple definitions of some of these words included in the margins alongside the hands-on activities. Not a deal-breaker in my opinion, but maybe something to consider in a future edition?

I look forward to continuing to read this Bible with my daughter on a regular basis. And I’m thinking of getting a blue copy of the Hands-On Bible (meant for older kids, ages 6-12) for her big brother. If you’re in the market for a children’s Bible, My First Hands-On Bible could make a great choice.

Thank you to Tyndale House for providing a complimentary copy of this Bible for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | Publisher’s Web Site

Book Review: By Your Side by Candace Calvert

Title: By Your Side
Author: Candace Calvert
Publisher: Tyndale House
Publication Date: February 2015
Genre: Medical Romantic Suspense
Series: Crisis Team, Book 1

About the Book (from the Publisher’s Web site):

ER nurse Macy Wynn learned essential, gritty lessons in the California foster care system: land on your feet and trust no one. She’s finally located the fellow foster child she loves like a sister, but the girl’s in deep trouble. Macy’s determined to help, no matter what it takes. Her motto is to “make it happen” in any situation life throws at her—even when she butts heads with an idealistic cop.

Deputy Fletcher Holt believes in a higher plan, the fair outcome—and his ability to handle that by himself if necessary. Now he’s been yanked from Houston, his mother is battling cancer, and he’s attracted to a strong-willed nurse who could be the target of a brutal sniper.

When everything goes wrong, where do they put their trust?

My Thoughts:

Here’s a romantic suspense novel with lots to love – witty banter, sigh-worthy romantic moments, great descriptions, and a suspenseful storyline to draw you in and keep you engaged. This is the first book I’ve read by Candace Calvert, and I look forward to reading more.

We meet Macy and Fletcher in the midst of a dangerous situation, and get to know and like them more and more as the story goes on. They’re both caring professionals out to make a difference. They each have a heroic side, and yet they come across as real people with flaws, histories, and challenges.

My favorite part of the story was the development of the romance between them. Sweet romantic moments lightened the mood between more dramatic and suspenseful incidents, bringing a smile to my face. Likewise, numerous examples of witty banter between the characters made me laugh with delight. “I’m a cop. We have great flashlights,” from page 197 was among my favorite lines of dialogue (though you kind of have to read the scene to fully appreciate it).

The main characters have different but parallel faith and life journeys that tie into the book’s overarching theme – trust. I thought those journeys were believably and beautifully rendered. Regarding trust, there’s one line of dialogue from page 245 that I simply have to share because it asks such a great and challenging question:

“Now is the tough part. When you’re forced to ask yourself that hard question: Do you fully trust God, or do you simply trust him not to let something bad happen?”

Wow! What a question, right? Definitely one that bears thinking about.

Many secondary characters, including Taylor, Seth, Charly, and Andi, also felt well fleshed out with their own problems, perspectives, and growth over the course of the story. I enjoyed the glimpse into emergency services and crisis chaplaincy afforded by this story and its characters and I look forward to seeing more as the Crisis Team series progresses.

Occasional scenes from the villain’s viewpoint added tension and foreboding to an already intense story. I’ll admit, there was one point in the plot where coincidence played a bigger role than I was expecting, but that factor didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the story. In the end, I thought the epilogue did a really clever job of wrapping things up while calling to mind some delightful scenes from earlier in the book.

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for providing a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Web Site | Discussion Guide

Find this Book: Goodreads | Amazon

Audiobook Review: Mark of Distinction by Jessica Dotta

Title: Mark of Distinction
Author: Jessica Dotta
Narrator: Amanda McKnight
Audio Publisher: Oasis Audio
Audio Length: 12 hours, 47 minutes
Print Publisher: Tyndale House
Published: May 2014
Series: Price of Privilege, Book 2

Thoughts on the Story

If you haven’t read the first title (Born of Persuasion) in this three-part series yet, go read that review (and that book or audiobook) before this one, because you HAVE to read this series in order. It’s all sequential like one extra-long story with intermissions between the acts. And once you do read that first one, trust me, you’ll know if this series is for you, and I really doubt there’s much I could say, pro or con, to change your mind about whether to continue with the second book.

That said, here are my thoughts on Book 2 (Mark of Distinction) anyway. Because you’re here. And because I want to share.

In short: Fascinating. Completely and utterly fascinating.

The longer version: Like the earlier book, this one features complex characters, vivid settings, hidden motivations, shifting political and social alliances, and surprising plot twists and turns, all against the backdrop of Victorian society.

I enjoyed seeing Julia’s faith journey continue to play out in this book, as questions and doubts war with personal experience, and she considers the implications faith would have on her future choices. I like the way this aspect of the story is integrated into the tale as a whole, arising naturally from the events taking place in her life.

If Book One had a love triangle, then this one must have a love quadrilateral (Is that even a thing?), making things that much more complicated for Julia and for the reader. Gotta say, the new guy, Lord Dalry is all-around amazing, though the handful of scenes with Edward are some of the best scenes in the book (in my humble opinion). And then we can’t forget the dangerous and alluring Mr. Macy with the potential to spoil everything.

The ending, while satisfying for now, feels like a stopover on the way to the real ending still to come. There are already hints of problems to be faced in Book 3 (Price of Privilege), and I’m intensely curious what else the author will do to shake up her characters’ lives in the final installment and where they’ll end up when it’s all played out. Must. Keep. Reading. :)

Thoughts on the Audio Edition

I have thoroughly enjoyed Amanda McKnight’s performances thus far in this series and I am pleased to see she’s the narrator for Book 3 as well. Her lovely voice and British accent complement the characters quite well, particularly Julia, our heroine and first person narrator. I’ve enjoyed the distinctions between the voices of various characters, as well as the way “stage directions” included in the text are followed in the reading. My favorite example from this book is when Forrester garbles his words around a mouthful of food. A very nice touch on an already excellent performance.

Thank you to Oasis Audio for providing a complimentary copy of this audiobook for review purposes.

Quick links:  About the Book (from Oasis Audio) | Author’s Web Site | Audio Sample

Find this title on:  Goodreads | Audible | ChristianBook.com | christianaudio