Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Take a journey back to Ancient Egypt with the latest audio theater offering from Heirloom Audio Adventures: The Cat of Bubastes. Arlene has been anxiously awaiting this sixth title in the Extraordinary Adventure of G.A. Henty series and so have I! We were delighted to receive it to review as a part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew. Besides the 2 CD set, we also received several downloadable bonuses including a 47 page PDF Study Guide, a poster sized printable copy of 1 Chronicles 17:20, the soundtrack MP3, and the e-book version of the original story with new illustrations.
A snippet of simple honesty here: Arlene had the whole 2 hour audio theater listened to before I got home from work on the day it arrived in the mail. Normally our first time listening to an Heirloom Audio Productions story is together, but she had been so eager for this one to arrive that I gave her the go-ahead to listen the first time without me (after her other schoolwork was done for the day!) Since Arlene is 16, I was not concerned about anything that might be present in the story that could shock or surprise a younger listener. Since these stories from Heirloom Audio Adventures are designed for ages 6-16, but enjoyable for the whole family, I felt confident that she would learn something while being entertained.
One genuinely awesome facet of Heirloom Audio's offerings are the accompanying PDF Study Guides. They can help parents talk through the storyline and the lessons presented with their younger children, or they can be given as writing assignments for older students. If you just want to listen to the audio adventure, you will still gain a lot of understanding from the story, but the Study Guide can be used to make it a Unit Study to be enjoyed by the whole family. More on that later, now, for the story...
The Cat of Bubastes is set in Ancient Egypt. How ancient? Back when Moses was still a prince of Egypt. The story begins as Amuba and his protector Jethro are being escorted from their country to Egypt as captured slaves. We soon find out that Amuba was a prince, and his father the King was killed in the battle with the Egyptians. Because their country was so far to the north (near the Caspian Sea) they travel for months on foot to reach Egypt where they are assigned as slaves to Ameres the High Priest in the city of Thebes. Ameres shows compassion and has Amuba live as a companion to his son Chebron (both boys are 16,) and assigns Jethro to duty as protector of his daughter Mysa.
It took me a while to get used to the Egyptian names used in the story, but the listening was easy as the actors chosen for each part have unique voices that made them easy to differentiate. Since my first time listening was with Arlene and her sister in the car, I wasn't able to look at the names in print until we got home. Once I saw the names in print, it was much easier to keep the names associated with the correct characters in the story. The study guide can help you keep them straight if you also struggle with the unusual names. I also appreciated the frequent extra "Expand Your Learning" sections in the Study Guide about topics such as the Egyptian diet, crocodiles, hieroglyphs, and mummification.
The story of The Cat of Bubastes covers a lot of the parts of life in Ancient Egypt that you may not have previously been aware of: worship of gods, worship of cats, and practices like mummification. When you're going through the Study Guide, each section of plot twist in the story has a part with three sections: Listening Well, Thinking Further, and Defining Words. These three sections help you make sure that everyone listening to the story is understanding what is happening. If your children have recently studied Ancient Egypt they may not need to look us as many of the defining words, but it is still good to ask and make sure they are comprehending the storyline.
As the friendship between Amuba and Chebron grows, they encounter allies through the characters of Rabah (John Rhys-Davies) and Chigron (Sylvester McCoy.) Amuba even has an encounter with Moses (voiced by Russell Boulter,) and the whole family is both amused and then concerned by a visit from Permotep (Anthony Daniels.) I can say we honestly laughed out loud at Permotep! Of course, Brian Blessed returns to voice the amiable G. A. Henty.
Once again Heirloom Audio Adventures had created a masterpiece by adapting a favorite G. A. Henty novel into an audio adventure for the whole family to enjoy! This sixth adventure in the series does not disappoint! Full of intrigue, a devious plot to overthrow the High Priest, and rescue missions, the story is woven though out with Biblical themes that help the listener discern the right choices from the wrong ones. After all of the other sections of the Study Guide, you will find three Bible Studies to help your family with a deeper understanding of these themes: God Meant it for Good, The Knowledge of God, and Idolatry and Tyranny. The back of the Study Guide also includes a page of suggested further reading for older students and adults, as well as two pages of historical background for the story of The Cat of Bubastes.
We give The Cat of Bubastes four hearty thumbs up! We took it along with us on our vacation and all four of us enjoyed it. Kurt was trying to figure out the plot twists, and occasionally stopped the CD to ask us if he had guessed correctly. You can order your own copy of this wonderful audio adventure for only $29.97 plus shipping, or order the four pack set at a discount and give them as gifts! If you'd like to read more about the previous titles from Heirloom Audio Productions, you can read our past reviews: Under Drake's Flag, In Freedom's Cause, With Lee in Virginia, The Dragon and the Raven, and Beric the Britain.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Powerful. Humbling. Challenging. Encouraging, Christ-focused and God-honoring. These are my first thoughts upon completion of the new book The Pray-ers / Book One Troubles by author Mark S. Mirza. Other thoughts about this book from CTM Publishing Atlanta include: impactful, comforting others with the comfort we have received, and for our good and God's glory. How many times has God used a book to radically change your life? Other than my Bible, only a few. This book will be added to that short list. God knew I needed it, and He had been preparing me for its arrival. Before and during this review our church has been studying Christ's teachings on the Christian life, and specifically prayer, from Matthew 5 & 6. The week before it arrived I had simply asked God to show me where I needed an overhaul.
The Pray-ers is not a devotional, but rather a historical fiction book about prayer in the lives of the character's. It focuses on God-honoring, Scripture-centered prayer and how it can be done in our own lives. This book challenges the reader to be transformed by the Holy Spirit from someone who prays their own prayers into someone who prays Scripture while truly seeking the heart of God.
The Pray-ers / Book One Troubles is the first in a planned trilogy that introduces us to the main characters in three time periods. Before you begin reading it is critically important to read through the Preface where the author, Mark S. Mirza, outlines not only why he felt compelled to write the book, but also his deviation from common English Grammar rules on names, as well as pointing out where the focus of the book should lead his readers. Trust me, you need to read the Preface! I found his notes here immensely helpful. The text of the book includes footnotes whenever a Scripture is referenced. In his Preface, Mr. Mirza stated he hoped these would be helpful for subsequent re-readings of the book. I found them helpful on my first reading, as I often found myself pausing in the story to look up which text was referenced, either in my Bible, or on the Bible App on my phone.
In The Pray-ers, the portrayal of the Spiritual world and the continual battle between the demons and angels over the minds of humans reminded me of how Chuck Black described this battle in his War of the Realms series. For fans of Chuck Black's writing, The Pray-ers / Book One Troubles should be at the top of your "to-read" list. It is rare to find an author who can work the complexities of Spiritual Warfare into a book without losing the flow of the storyline, but Mark S. Mirza has done a seamless job of it.
The three eras covered in the book are the First Century (early church,) the Nineteenth Century (after the Civil War,) and the Current Era (about 2013.) Although most of the characters are fictional, they do come to life on the pages of The Pray-ers. I found myself saying "Amen!" alongside them to many of the joys and struggles of everyday life. Thales is the focus of the First Century plot line, and we see watch him go from young and overly ambitious to slightly older and more God-focused. The Nineteenth Century plot line focuses on just a few days in the life of an itinerant preacher in central Georgia, Alexander Rich. Brother Alexander lives a life focused on God, shepherding his various small flocks, and spending much time in prayer for them. The Current Era focuses on the lives of Dr. Dale Riley, a college professor and track coach, and his wife Margie.
In each time period, the main chapters find them selves with "Troubles," as a result of something God is using in their lives, or the lives of their friends or colleagues, to bring people to Himself. I could tell you more of the storyline, but I won't because you need to be impacted by reading it yourself! Whether you are a young Christian, a more mature believer, or someone who is searching for God, this book should make a difference in your life! I have already told both of our daughters that it will be required reading for them for this Fall. I would recommend it for ages 16 and up. I often stopped to ruminate on how a character handled a situation and asked God for His wisdom in specific areas in my life that He brought to mind.
The Pray-ers / Book One Troubles is available in both softcover ($23.95) and e-book ($4.99) versions. Book two in the trilogy is expected to be out by Christmas of this year. I am definitely putting it on my wish list!
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