Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Bevy of Bibles for the New Year

By Lauren Yarger
It's that time of year, and many of you have contacted me for recommendations about last-minute gifts of bibles. It's also the time of year when many plan a new year's resolution to read through the entire bible or to spend more time in the word. Fortunately, I received a bunch of new bibles from Zondervan to review. I already have recommended a bunch of them to those of you who contacted me via email. All of the bibles mentioned here are New International Versions. Here's a wrap-up of what I found:

The NIV Thinline bible is compact and ideal for throwing in a travel bag (the entire New International translation is contained in a volume that is less than one inch thick. I have used this model myself for years and gave it as a gift for Christmas this year. This updated version (with a purple grape and orchid motif on the faux-leather cover) offers a font called "comfort print" which allows the smaller text size (9.4 point) to be read with relative ease.

The text is formatted in two columns with the words of Jesus are in red. The volume lies flat for study.

ISBN 978-0-310-44890-7

The Jesus Bible. with a light blue imitation leather cover, comes boxed and includes a custom reading experience app. Louie Giglio is editor in chief of a large editorial staff which composes and compiles information throughout the volume including essays from Giglio, Max Lucado, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias and Randy Alcorn around the theme that all of the books and stories in the bible are about Jesus.

Information about certain passages is highlighted on the side of the text. Other pages with commentary on topics, such as people of the time, what their lives were like, how the law affected them, etc., are interspersed on pages before and within the text. These informational additions are abundant (more than 300 full-page articles and 700 sidebar pieces are included) and offer quite a lot of insight into the scripture.

The biblical text itself, formatted in a single column, is pretty small to make room for all of the commentaries, timelines and blank spaces on pages for notes. The volume packs a wallop of information and is a helpful tool for those looking to do more intense study.

ISBN 978-7803-10-44469-5

The Beautiful Word Bible is available in several formats, including a coloring version that offers hundreds pf versus to color in for those embracing the adult coloring book fad. I even received a large-print version of the latter which might just inspire me to take up the hobby. It is large sized and hard cover with cloth. The print is very easy on older eyes and the journaling and art work you can add to the volume make bible study a personal experience.

The non-coloring version has plenty of room for notes. It comes with 500 beautifully illustrated, full color verses (and the one I examined comes with a very attractive, Italian-style taupe and cranberry leather cover which would make a beautiful gift). The single-column text is small, but the volume is compact.

Leather non coloring version: $49.99 ISBN 978-0-310-44427-5

Large-print Coloring Bible: $49.99 ISBN 978-0-310-44705-4

Journal the Word bibles are just what they say: the scriptural text with lined space in the extra-wide margins of each page for your notes.

Hardcover with pink floral cloth.

ISBN 978-0-310-445166-6

The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, edited by John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener, is a treasure trove of biblical culture. The leather-like covered volume, with a sage/leaf motif, comes boxed for attractive gift-giving, but bible study lovers might want to hold on to a copy for themselves. It is loaded with helpful information about the laws, politics, geography, literature and culture of the bible as mentioned in scripture. Color photos bring passages to life. The new and old testaments start with introductions that include key concepts and background information. The Old Testament includes a chart to help readers understand terms.

The text (small) is formatted in two columns, with detailed notes at the bottom of each page to explain the nuances of each verse. The amount of information in this volume is impressive and would be a handy tool for anyone who teaches bible study or for pastors as they prepare sermons.

Checking out these bibles was like an early Christmas present. I realized it has been a while since I have upgraded the bible I use for study. You can benefit from these samples too -- I have some to give away to my readers after the new year. Stay tuned for details!

ISBN 978-0-310-08095-4

Copies of the bibles mentioned here were provided by the publisher without expectation of a review -- positive or otherwise. If you are a publisher or author and have books that fall into the Christian or Arts non-fiction genre and would like a review, contact us for information on how to submit. We don't review self-published books.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

American Pride Calendars Support Hillenglade's Ministry to Veterans

Visit this link for a video message from spokesperson  Jennifer O'Neill.

Hillenglade in Nashville, has provided hope and healing to armed forces, veterans, first responders and their families since 2010.

Hope and Healing at Hillenglade Equine-Assisted Programs and
Events offer a safe place to:


To find out more about Hillenglade's, visit

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Book Review: Bible Stories Gone Crazy

Bible Stories Gone Crazy
By Josh Edwards
Illustrated by Emiliano Migliardo
Candle Books, 2015

By Lauren Yarger
When I review young children's books, I always do so with a mind toward whether one of my little nephews might enjoy it. After all, the test of a kids' book is whether or not kids like it as much as I enjoy reading it with them.

"Bible Stories Gone Crazy" is a winner, because all three (ages 6 and under) can enjoy it together or separately. A larger sized hardcover book, "Bible Stories Gone Crazy" offers a sort of "Where's Waldo" learning environment where kids can enjoy finding goofy mistakes in drawings depicting bible stories.

"Did Noah have electric tools and cement mixers? Did the Israelites really have surfboards," asks the book. But among the silliness and the complex, colorful drawings are some more serious questions bordering the pages, like, "how many pairs of animals are there?" or "Do you know why the king threw Daniel into the pit of Lions?" that teach kids math and reasoning skills as well as some bible history.

Stories highlighted include Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Exodus, Joshua and the Wall of Jericho, David and Goliath, Daniel and the Lion's Den, Jonh and the Whale and the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. There is quite a lot packed into this book for hours of learning fun.

One complaint. Perhaps I received a damaged copy, but several of the plastic-covered pages were creased and the stitching binding the book together doesn't allow pages to lie flat to facilitate exploring the drawings for hidden mistakes.

A copy of the book was provided by the publisher.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Christian Women in Media Events to be Held in Five Cities

The Christian Women in Media Association (CWIMA) will host five regional connection events across the country this Thursday, Sept. 17 in Dallas, New York City, Nashville, Hollywood, and Minneapolis. Each regional event will feature a keynote speaker as well as a media seminar.

The purpose of CWIMA is to advance professional Christian women in TV, radio, internet, film, publishing, music, the arts, and entertainment. The organization uses the regional connections as a way to provide opportunities for industry networking, professional equipping, and spiritual refreshment.

 "I am excited about the A-list platform we are providing this year," said CWIMA President Suellen Roberts. "It's new and fresh and it will be of great benefit to all who attend!"

The Southwest/Dallas CWIMA regional connection will start at 5:45 p.m.with a Mix and Mingle in the Bent Tree Country Club, 5201 Westgrove Drive, Dallas. At 6 pm award-winning film producer Cheryl Wicker, president of Premier 1 Studios, will share her expertise on social media during the media seminar. At 7 pm dinner will be served and KCBI FM radio Assistant General Manager and Outreach Director Sharon Geiger will speak to the group on God's work through Christian radio/media. Recording artist Bridgette Hammers is the musical artist for the evening.

The Northeast/New York City CWIMA regional connection starts with a Mix and Mingle at 6:30 p.m. at the Shelter Studios and Theatres, 244 West 54th St., New York. Makeup artist Jacqui Phillips will do a media seminar 7 pm, followed by April Lee Hernandez and the keynote address.


The Southeast/Nashville CWIMA regional connection will be held at The Historic Carriage Lane Inn at 337 East Burton St., Murfreesboro, TN. It starts with a Mix and Mingle at 6pm. At 6:30 p.m. Jody Powers, the founder of the nonprofit Amelia's Closet, will lead a media seminar called "Saying Farewell to Insecurity." She will show participants ways to deal with insecurities that keep us in our comfort zones and paralyze us from taking action. Then at 7:15 pm dinner, followed by Channel 4 News Anchor Holly Thompson with the keynote speech "Sisterhood: We Need Each Other." She will show women how they can find balance in life while they are being pulled in different directions. Recording artist Jme Medina will sing some musical selections.

The West Coast/Hollywood Chapter of CWIMA regional connection will be held at CBS Studios located at 4024 Radford Ave., Studio City, CA. Members will share time connecting and networking starting at 6 pm. At 6:30  pm the Founding Director of the Hollywood Prayer Network, Karen Covell, will lead a panel discussion on "The Role of a Christian Woman in the Media." The keynote speaker for the evening is actress, producer and director Nancy McNamara. Following dinner at 7:15 pm she will discuss "Being Comfortable with being Uncomfortable."

The Midwest/Minneapolis CWIMA regional connection will be held at The Woman's Club of Minneapolis located at 410 Oak Grove St., Minneapolis. The chapter will start its meeting at 5:45 pm with a media seminar on writing a memoir led by author Lee Blum. A Mix and Mingle is next at 6:30. Dinner will be served at 7.followed by the keynote message by inspirational speaker Nancy Holte, who will challenge you to move out of your comfort zone and into the life to which God is calling you. Dawna Johnson is the musical artist for the evening.

For more information on Christian Women in Media Association visit

About Christian Women in Media Association: Christian Women in Media Association (CWIMA) is a professional association dedicated to connecting women in purpose and vision. With a national platform focused on impacting our culture through media, our members work in the fields of social media, film, TV, radio, publishing, music, the arts, and entertainment. The organization promotes and provides opportunities for industry networking, professional equipping, and spiritual inspiration. CWIMA provides national conferences, music showcases, regional events, local networks, and international outreach.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Note: Maggie's song by Marcia Ware

 Maggie's Song, Volume 1 of the Full Circle Saga, by recording artist and radio personality Marcia Ware released today, July 28, 2015, from WordCrafts Press. Ware's highly anticipated debut novel is now available in trade paperback and all major eBook formats, and is at all major online bookstores. It is available from brick 'n' mortar retail book stores through Ingram Content Group, the world's largest distributor of physical and digital content.

Maggie sSong Cover Final
"Maggie's Song" - the debut novel from recording artist and radio personality, Marcia Ware
The novel's protagonist, Maggie West, is a single, 30-something, curvy African-American woman who makes her living as a songwriter/backup singer in the unlikely world of Country music. Ware classifies the novel as a 'clean, contemporary romance.'

"Maggie's Song is a contemporary romance written from the perspective of a woman who has lived her life outside of the safe confines of her childhood home," Ware explains. "Maggie has been on the road as a backup singer for a country star. She has been in compromising situations. She's seen life as it is and she has made her share of mistakes. I think it is an authentic story about a Christian woman who has real world experiences outside of the church.

"I wanted to make the story edgy, but to keep it clean," she adds. "I think there is a way to express romantic love that doesn't involve taking all your clothes off and climbing into bed or using certain language. There are people who actually live their lives that way. It is not a foreign concept. It is not a galaxy far, far away."

"When I first started writing the book, it was more of a lark," Ware muses. "But over the course of time, it went from being an artistic outlet to something very personal. These characters became almost real to me. It has been an amazing journey. It will be exciting, and a bit unnerving, to introduce these characters to readers."

“The way you were smiling to yourself, I figured you were thinking ‘bout your man.” Still in the blush of her honeymoon, Chrissy wanted to see the whole world in love.

“My man,” Maggie sighed. “Nope, I wasn’t thinking about him.”

Maggie’s chances for landing that elusive recording contract were dwindling by the second. The country music industry wasn’t exactly clamoring for a 30-something African American woman looking to launch a solo career. And there was the issue of image. Maggie was a woman of ample figure with curves to spare. Industry insiders suggested that she’d be more successful in the business if she dropped fifty pounds.

Then there was Richard. A handsome, prominent entertainment lawyer, they met at a Star Records fund raiser. With a subtle magnetism and a brilliant smile, Richard said all the right things. At first Maggie thought he was a small piece of heaven. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for him. Soon enough she discovered the truth. Maggie was sweet enough to love, but for Richard, Maggie was just a stepping stone to the rich and famous. She would do until someone more suitable came along.

As for Maggie, the only reason she held on was that nagging question in the back of her mind: 
"If not Richard, then who on earth would want me?"

marcia ware headshot small
Marcia Ware, author of "Maggie's Song"
About Marcia Ware
With a resume that includes appearances at Carnegie Hall, The House of Blues in Chicago, the Grand Ol’ Opry, five European and three Australian concert tours, Marcia Ware’s musical background is as varied as it is colorful. In addition to her own celebrated solo work, she has provided background vocals for artists such as Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis, Peter Frampton, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Gospel greats Bill and Gloria Gaither and the legendary Chaka Khan. She has also been a featured vocalist with the famed Funk Brothers of Motown.

An aspiring actress, she has appeared in several episodes of the third season of the ABC drama, Nashville playing…surprise, surprise…a background singer.

Marcia counts first among her many passions her relationship with her Savior; as well as time spent with her family and her amazing boyfriend, songwriting, travel, harmonizing with the radio, good food, endless games of Candy Crush on her Smartphone, Daniel Day-Lewis movies and Ohio State Buckeyes football. She resides in Franklin, TN.

Maggie's Song is her first novel.

About WordCrafts Press
WordCrafts Press is a small, independent publishing company dedicated to the idea that there is no greater means of communicating truth than the medium of story. Great stories lift us out of the mundane, exhilarate us with adventure and passion, open our minds to great ideas, and remind us what it means to be human. We publish both novels and non-fiction.
We invite you to take a break from the daily grind, turn off the television, brew up a cup of hot tea, open a book and read for a while. Who knows, you might find a whole new world to explore.

For more information about Marcia Ware or Maggie's Song, visit

Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review: The Lost Garden by Katharine Swartz

The Lost Garden
By Katharine Swartz
Lion Fiction, 2015

Two stories set a century apart intertwine in Katharine Swatrz's "The Lost Garden," the second book in her Tales from Goswell series. In the present, Marin Ellis assumes guardianship of her younger half-sister, Rebecca after the death of their father and Rebecca's mother. Unsure what direction to take in her own life, Marin yields to Rebecca's plea to give them a fresh start by purchasing Bower House, a former vicarage in England's West Cumberland. A locked door to an apparent lost garden intrigues the sisters and they are enveloped by its history.

Meanwhile, the garden's origins and the post-World-War-I lives of the home's previous inhabitants, Eleanor Sanderson, the vicar's daughter and her sister, Katherine unfold as men return from battle and people try to resume their lives. The two tales skillfully are shared intermittently with every other chapter so that the stories unfold simultaneously, but without the jarring that sometimes can occur when the timeline shifts in novels. We also don't get a chance to forget what is happening in one story before moving on to the second.

Similarities surface in the stories as we see how the sisters learn to relate to each other and to the other people in their lives. Marin and Eleanor also have father/daughter issues to work through as well as how to work through grief. And of course there is some romance. The stories are fairly predictable, but in a pleasant way. I hadn't read the first book -- this sequel stands on its own -- but I had been drawn to the book because of its "secret garden" plot.  I wasn't disappointed. The book impressed me with its well written dialogue, often using vernacular, and Swartz's strong descriptive style with metaphor that puts us in the setting and gives clear understanding of what the characters are experiencing.

A nice example:
"Carefully she lifted her skirt and moved through the garden. She had never walked the full length of the place, and now she studied the old slate path that had been buried under the soil and which Jack had scraped clean. He'd shown her the path when he'd first cleared it . . . and Elanor had studied them scrupulously, simply to have a moment alone with Jack."

Touches of faith add to the characters, but are not overbearing. Makes me want to go read the first novel, The Vicar's Wife, also dual stories separated by decades.
-- Lauren Yarger

A copy of the book was provided free by the publisher at my request.

Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."



Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at

Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light ( and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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