Under the Sea Bible from Zonderkidz: An Excellent Bible for Young Readers (and a Giveaway!)

There's nothing like having your very own Bible when you are a child. Although our family has plenty of Bibles on the shelves, each child really appreciates having his or her very own. Several of our Bibles for kids are the New International Reader's Version (NIrV). If you are familiar with the NIV version of the Bible, this is similar except that larger words have been broken down into simpler words to lower the overall reading level of the Bible. I recently had the opportunity to review the Under the Sea Bible from Zonderkidz. It's a NIrV Bible especially for young kids.

Children's Bible from Zonderkidz


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The Under the Sea Bible is a bright and colorful hard cover Bible. The bright blue, shiny foil like cover is filled with colorful fish and under the sea illustrations. The Bible itself isn't a story Bible or only parts of the Bible. It's the entire Old and New Testament.

There are not many illustrations throughout the Bible, but there are a few colorful inserts:

  • An explanation of prayer with the Lord's Prayer written out
  • An insert with the Ten Commandments on one side and an explanation of 1 Corinthians 13- the love passage- on the other
  • A page with a listing of famous children of the Bible on one side and the ABCs of salvation on the other
Other than these three inserts, there are no illustrations. The back of the Bible contains a small Bible dictionary and a listing of well-known Bible stories and their location in the Bible.

The really good...


I loved the bright, colorful cover and the few colorful illustrations inside. It's very appealing to little ones.

The New International Reader's Version is excellent for young readers. We have a few of these belonging to various children, and I really do like the way that it maintains the translation of the NIV but makes the reading level more accessible to kids who want to read the Bible for themselves.

The not so good...


The print is very small. I do have "old eyes" and perhaps a child could read it easier. But, in my experience, young children always do better with larger words and fewer words on a page. I think the word size is pretty intimidating for young readers even if the Bible itself is on their reading level.

I wish there were more illustrations. Yes, I'm glad it's a complete Bible and not just stories and pictures, but the pictures are so beautiful, colorful, and appealing that the cover draws the eye of kids. But then you read to find only three other pretty, illustrated pages.


All in all, this is a cute Bible that will appeal to little ones. If they can overcome the small words, younger readers will be able to claim this Bible for themselves and actually read it! You can find out more about the Under the Sea Bible from Zondervan here. And you can purchase the Bible from Amazon here, Family Christian here, Walmart here, and Barnes and Noble here.



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You can win your own copy of the Under the Sea Bible by entering the Giveaway Tools below.







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Review of If I Run: An Awesome New Thriller from Terri Blackstock

I've always been a fan of Terri Blackstock's mystery/suspense/thriller reads, and I was very excited about her newer book If I Run. I had heard good things and expected another great thriller. I wasn't disappointed.

Christian fiction suspense


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Casey Cox is on the run. She found her best friend dead, and she's worried that she'll be prosecuted for his death. This is because she knows secrets. Her friend was in the process of investigating what she knew when he was killed.

Dylan Roberts in an honorably discharged veteran who was also a very good friend of Brent, the victim. He is hired by Brent's family to find Casey. But as he searches and gets to know more about her, he begins to wonder, too, if there is more going on in the situation. And he begins to question Casey's guilt.

The book is extremely fast-paced. I've always loved the fact that Terri Blackstock writes in short chapters. Because of this, I find myself reading and reading and not wanting to put the book down.

The characters are extremely compelling. I found myself really liking Dylan and Casey and thinking about what they were doing and if they were safe even while I wasn't reading. (Don't laugh. If you're a reader, you'll understand.)

I won't spoil anything, but If I Run ends in a tremendous cliff hanger. There has to be more coming. I don't always like dramatic endings, but I do admit that it makes me want to come back and read another book!

I loved If I Run. I give it 5 stars and a PG-13 rating for violence and criminal activity. You can find the book on Amazon here.




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The Long- Awaited Final Book in the Christiansen Family Series From Susan May Warren

I've been slowly but surely reading through the Christiansen Family series by Susan May Warren. Although I've read and loved her books before, I particularly loved this recent series. It features a family with six grown children. Each book has focused on the life of a particular family member, although all of the stories have been interwoven. There was also a Christmas novella featuring the Christiansen parents.

Christian fiction

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I love so much about these books:

  • The beautiful setting of the family resort in Wisconsin- Although the cold would kill me, I'd love to live in a resort like Evergreen.
  • The fact that the series focuses on this large family with grown children- It makes me wonder what our family will be like someday.
  • The authenticity in the characters and stories- No one is perfect, and their family is messy. It's so much more "real" than some books where every character always seems to do the right thing  and where any bad thing is met by Scripture reading and prayer from the parents. 
  • The prevailing theme of God's grace- Over and over Susan revisits this. The books aren't preachy at all, but it's clear that, underlying all the characters face, God is there.
  • The family relationships throughout the stories- Again, the books are real. The characters love each other, but they also have definite moments of arguing and fighting. The events in the book are reminiscent of real life.
In this latest installment, we finally get the story Owen- You're the One That I Want. Throughout the books, Owen's story has been threaded. He's the youngest son- although there's a younger sister- and he was a hockey super star- playing for a professional team and basking in his accolades. He was already going off the tracks when his eye was severely damaged in a drunken brawl. Full of anger and angst, Owen left a trail of damage in his family and ran away. He's been referred to in the other books as each Christiansen sibling has faced his or her future and sought to follow God's plan.

And now it's Owen's turn. In a story that involves Owen almost dying as well as falling in love with Scotty, the brusk, harsh daughter of a crab fisherman. The story follows Owen back to Deep Haven- his family town- as he seeks to make peace with his family- especially his brother, Casper, who has been so hurt by Owen's past actions. But Owen also has to make peace with God and himself. And, throughout the adventures, he's falling more in love with Scotty.

This book may possibly be my favorite in there series- although I might have said that every time. By the middle of the book, I was already in tears, moved by Owen's story. I almost expected to dislike Owen because of what he'd done in the other books. But Susan wove her magic once again and created an awesome character who comes face to face with God's grace.

And, of course, there is a sweet, sweet love story. It's not an "easy" story where everyone always does the right thing and slips simply into "happily ever after." But the story does give us hope and a desire for the love of God and love of family.

Don't miss the entire Christiansen family series. I'm sad it's over, but I'm so glad to have read it. Below I'll share my reviews of each and their links on Amazon. For many of the books, I was on Susie May's launch team. But I purchased this last book for myself.











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Looking for a Wholesome Read for Teen Girls? Review of The Last Ride: an Andrea Carter book from Susan K. Marlow

We've enjoyed reading and reviewing several of the Andrea Carter books by Susan K. Marlow. The book series, which begin with the Circle C Beginnings when Andrea is a little girls, continue on through Andrea's growing up years with the Circle C Adventures, and are culminating in a series based on Andrea as a teen in the Circle C Milestones. (Susan also has a series for boys called The Goldtown Adventures.)

Wholesome Christian fiction for teens

The Andrea Carter books follow the life of Andrea, a girl growing up on a ranch in California in the l870s. Andrea- called Andi as she's growing up- is quite the tomboy and is a good deal younger than her older siblings. Her three brothers and sister alternately baby her and frustrate her- especially when they want her to act like a lady.

Andrea's father died when she was very young, and her oldest brother, Justin, has been the head of the family. Her other brothers- Chad and Mitch- can be annoying to Andrea, but they are also quick to come to her rescue when trouble finds her- as it often seems to. Her sister, Melinda, is a perfect lady, despite growing up on a ranch, and she wants Andrea to look and act ladylike as well. Andrea, on the other hand, prefers wearing overalls and riding the ranch on her beloved horse, Taffy.

I had the opportunity to review the newest book in the Circle C Milestones series- The Last Ride. In this book Andrea learns the power of forgiveness when her delinquent cousin comes to stay with her family on the ranch.

From the book's synopsis:

Andi's newest adventure may be more than she can handle--even with her family's help Andrea Carter is turning sweet 16 and life could not be better. She's about to finish school, her sister Melinda is getting married, and her older brother Justin has a new baby to spoil. 

There will be plenty of time to work with the colt of her treasured palomino horse, Taffy, and best of all, Andi will finally get to work full-time for the ranch she loves. There's just one problem: a city-slicker cousin named Daniel. Left there by his father, with a cryptic warning that New York City life has done damage to the young man's character, Daniel wants nothing to do with the ranch. He ignores Andi's lessons, walks away from responsibility, wrecks valuable equipment, and even runs away to San Francisco. The Carter family is in a frenzy trying to keep Daniel under control. 

When Andi discovers a horrifying secret about him, he forces her to stay silent. But all that changes when Daniel's actions put lives in danger. Andi's anger over her loss threatens to destroy not only Andi but her entire Circle C world. Can anyone break through the wall around Andi's bitter heart and help her find healing? 



As always, I enjoyed this Andrea Carter book. This series will be great for teen girls looking for a more grown up story but one that has good values and a good view of relationships. Although Andi is older and the situations she encounters are more mature, the reading level of the book is still pretty simple, and even reluctant readers can probably handle the short chapters.

Girls who enjoy horse stories will appreciate the love Andi has for the ranch and for her beloved horse, Taffy. My girls have enjoyed this in the Andrea Carter books we've read.

You can learn more about the Andrea Carter books and about Susan K. Marlow here. You can find The Last Ride on Kregel here and on Amazon here.






Review of The Calling: a Futuristic Fiction Novel by Rachelle Dekker

I've read several books by well-known author Ted Dekker, so I was excited to see this book- The Calling- by his daughter, Rachelle Dekker. I found out that it is really the second in the Seer novel series after The Choosing. I hadn't read the first but was able to pick up on this one pretty well. The author does a good job with a character list at the beginning of the book as well as some backstory when needed.

The Calling is a futuristic novel taking place after a devastating worldwide event has drastically changed things. Without the first novel, I didn't have the whole story, but I was able to catch on to the idea. The book has a dark tone, but it's set in a dark time. In this post I'm sharing about the book as well as my thoughts and a Question/Answer section with author Rachelle Dekker.

Review of a futuristic novel by Rachelle Dekker

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From the book's synopsis:

Remko Brant had never been so sure of anything as escaping the Authority City with Carrington Hale. But bravado comes easy when you have nothing to lose. Now a husband, father, and the tactical leader of the Seers, Remko has never had so much at risk. As he and his team execute increasingly dangerous rescue missions inside the city, they face growing peril from a new enemy. Recently appointed Authority President Damien Gold claims to be guiding a city shaken by rebellion into a peaceful, harmonious future. But appearances can be deceiving. In order to achieve his dangerous ambitions, Gold knows he must do more than catch the rebels—he must destroy the hope their message represents . . . from the inside out.

With dissension in his own camp—and the CityWatch soldiers closing in—Remko feels control slipping through his fingers. To protect those he loves, he must conquer his fears and defeat Gold . . . before one of them becomes his undoing.

My thoughts...


The book has great character development. Even without having read the first book, I was immediately drawn to Remko- the central character- and to other strong characters. There is a really good balance of character reflection and action, although the characters are often very introspective- especially Remko.

Action in the book moves steadily with occasional peaks. The theme of the book with the rebel group and the constantly plotting city leaders means there is constant action. This made me want to keep reading and kept me wondering what was going to happen next.

As I said earlier, the book has a dark tone. It was fitting with the book's theme, but the dark tone is the one thing that sometimes made reading difficult for me. This is not because it wasn't well done, but just because it was a "heavy" book, and I felt I occasionally had to stop to process things.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book. I would like to go back and read the first.

Q and A with Rachelle Dekker:


1. The Calling is the second book in The Seer Series. Does it pick up right after The Choosing leaves off? 

No, a year and a half has passed when we rejoin the characters in The Calling

2. This book is written from Remko’s perspective. Did you face any challenges writing from a male point-of-view? 

There was definitely a looming pressure as I started to write the book. As a woman writer, I wanted to make sure Remko felt masculine and authentic, so I was constantly aware of how he sounded, and how he reacted. Once I got into a flow with his character though, it started to feel more familiar I didn’t have to think about it as much.

3. Remko struggles with his anger often throughout the book. Is this expression of anger connected to his fears? If so, how?
Anger is just a natural reaction to the circumstances Remko faces. Sometimes being afraid can stir up anger because it makes us feel weak or out of control. This is definitely true for Remko in The Calling.

4. Do you think men and women express and handle fear differently? If so, how?
I believe people handle fear differently, and that gender doesn’t always play a role. I believe more often than not we are all the same, and that we should be encouraged that we never really face anything alone.

5. In the book you talk a lot about surrendering to fear. What does this look like and how does this help us to not be afraid?

I think sometimes the natural reaction to fear is to hide from it, or try and push it away. It’s the idea that if we can’t see it then it must not be there, but we all know that unless dealt with the unseen things often come back to bite us. The only way to face fear is to walk through it; surrendering to Father God and letting Him reminder us of our true identity. Only then do we really see that the light within us is always greater than the fear we face.

6. Carrington struggles with the pain that comes from watching Remko miss the Truth that was so clear to her. What encouragement would you give to others that have loved ones who do not yet share their faith?

Everyone needs to take the journey. For some, truth comes more easily, and others have to struggle to see it. It can be incredibly hard to watch someone you love miss the truth right in front of them, but don’t forget that the Father is still God, and He holds them in His hand. So love those that struggle restlessly and trust that the Father is ever-present, even in the darkness.

7. The theme of identity from The Choosing continues in The Calling. Carrington reminds herself, “When you know who you truly are, you realize there is no war left to fight at all.” How does this statement apply to our Christian faith?

For me this is simply a reminder that God is still God. Regardless of my circumstance or how I view the world, the Father is constant and hasn’t changed. He has already won the fight, already conquered death, already set me free. It’s only when I forget who He calls me and who He is that I feel the need to fight against life instead of surrendering to Him and letting Him be God.

8. Do you relate to any of the characters in The Calling in terms of how you’ve faced and handled fear in your life? How so?

Of course, every character I write ends up having some reflections of things I’ve faced personally. You can only write what you know, as they say. I, very much like Remko, have the tendency to be in “my head” too much when faced with fear, and I struggle to let go of the need for control and simply surrender. That’s one of the main reasons I decided to write this story.

9. What do you hope readers will take away from the story?

I hope they take a moment to see themselves as children of the Father. I hope they see that true freedom and fearlessness rest in surrendering, and that when they stand with the Father than nothing can stand against them. There is incredible peace in that truth, and I hope, like I am beginning the experience, that readers feel that same peace.

10. What can readers expect in the final book of the series?

Characters they know and some new ones I hope they’ll love! More questions of identity, and fear, but the characters will also be looking at forgiveness and letting go. I’m really happy with the way the final book played out, and I’m hoping readers will be as well.

Learn more about the author...

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You can find The Calling on Amazon here.


Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.



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Review of The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith: A Mystery Set in the "Roaring Twenties"

The Jazz Files is the first is what I think is going to be a great new series about Poppy Denby, a girl living in London in the 1920s. I quickly fell in love with Poppy and thoroughly enjoyed this mystery, so I'm looking forward to the others.

Review of a mystery novel series

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Poppy Denby moves to London from her small country town at the request of her aunt- a once famous actress and an infamous suffragette in the a time when women were certainly treated as less than men. Poppy thinks she's coming to help care for her aunt who was injured some time ago in a suffragette demonstration. But when she gets to London, she finds out that her aunt really brought her there to be able to find a career and be a "working woman."

Although Poppy is a little hesitant at first, knowing her staunch Methodist parents would object, she's also tired of the same routine and the suffering the country has known from World War 1. She begins looking for a job and- in a strange turn of events- finds herself as a reporter for a major newspaper investigating murders and blackmailing and plots involving the suffragettes that her aunt has been a part of.

Poppy is a very compelling and likable character. She's young and inexperienced in many ways, but she's also adventurous and falls into her new opportunities with enthusiasm. There is a large cast of other characters that are being developed at the same time, and they are also very well-described so that I felt as if I were getting to know them all as Poppy did.

The mystery theme of the book was extremely interesting. This was one I wanted to keep reading and reading and not put down. If I had all the time in the world to read, I probably could have read it in one sitting. It was that interesting.

I loved the setting of The Jazz Files as well. The Roaring Twenties has always been an interesting time period. At the end of the book author Fiona Veitch Smith talks about the places, events, and characters in the book that are based on real life and the ones she's made up.

Just as a disclaimer because I often review Christian fiction: This book is published by Kregel and Poppy is coming to terms with some things spiritually throughout the book. But there is reference to an intimate relationship between two women. There is nothing remotely inappropriate, and the relationship is only hinted at. But it's there- just in case that would bother some readers.

I personally loved this first Poppy Denby novel, and I'm very excited to read more in the series. I give this one 5 stars and a PG rating for content. You can find the book on Kregel here and on Amazon here.



Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.


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Review of Saints and Sailors: Christian Fiction from Pam Rhodes

I've come to really enjoy fiction written by British authors- especially stories set in quaint, English villages. I'm sure everything isn't always as cute and charming as I picture it to be. But I love to read the books anyway. One the last year I've reviewed two Kregel published books from The Dunbridge Chronicles by Pam Rhodes: Casting the Net (which is actually the second book in this series) and If You Follow Me (the third book in the series). I've greatly enjoyed both and was excited to be able to review the fourth book-Saints and Sailors.

Review of Christian fiction from Kregel

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The main character in the Dunbridge Chronicles is Neil Fisher, the pastor of a small English church in a small English village. One thing I've realized in reading these books and others with an English setting by English authors is that "church" isn't necessarily the same as my conservative, evangelical church here in the US. Doctrinally and practically people may have "looser" beliefs. But that's okay. I've come to have an appreciation for the fact that, although we worship differently and believe differently, we can have the same focus to glorify God and want to serve Him.

But I digress. In this installment, Neil and his new (from the last book) wife Claire are going on a Christian cruise. They'll be joined by members of his current church and members of the church where he previously served as curate (in the first three books). The cruise will take them around Great Britain, stopping and touring sites that are important to Christian history in England- places where saints lived and served, places where groups of believers worshipped in English history.

The characters on this crew are a motley bunch. And with their interactions with Neil and with each other, readers get sometimes humorous and sometimes touching stories. There is romance in the air, relationships on the rocks, and changes coming to people's lives and hearts.

As an interesting side note: the author writes herself into the story. She has apparently helped to lead real Christian cruises, and in this story, she and her husband are a part of the leading team.

As before, I love the characters in this book. The author does an excellent job of developing a whole host of characters in such a way that I felt as if I got to know them. They become so real that I'm thinking about them and wondering what they're up to when I'm not reading. Those are the best types of books!

There are multiple story lines going on here, but they are well done, so the reader can keep them straight easily. I loved the mix of romance, spiritual growth, relationship issues, and humorous fun going on in the stories of the characters on board ship.

This is another book in the series that I can definitely recommend. I give this one 5 stars and a PG rating for content. You can find the book on Kregel here and on Amazon here.




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