Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Book Review: Junie B Jones First Ever MUSICAL Edition!

This cd set includes the audio book Junie B., First Grader (at Last) and 15 songs from Junie B. Jones, the Musical. We recently listened to the entire thing as a family on our road trip. I'll talk about the book in the first paragraph and the musical in the next.

The book Junie B., First Grader (at Last) is a cute story about a little girl starting 1st grade, and the problems that arise when she realizes she is having trouble seeing the board. My 7 year old enjoyed the story, and asked if we could get another one like it to listen to. My 5 year old said it was boring, but that's because she's more a visual learner and likes looking at pictures. I don't know what the 3 year old, 2 year old, or baby thought, but they were quiet throughout the whole thing! I think the lady who read the story did an excellent job making all the voices for the different characters, and there was only one part I didn't like: when one of the children said "shut up." (But that's because it's a "bad word" at our house). 

The musical was very... well, it definitely sounded like a musical. The music was catchy and the lyrics fit well and the voices were good. However, it really bothered me that a story about 6 year olds was sung by adults, especially when you have men singing little boys' parts. Also, none of the songs sounded particularly unique or memorable. All that being said, all my kids enjoyed the musical (though their daddy, who hates all musicals, breathed a sigh of relief when the song was over!).

To learn more about the author, click HERE

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Book Review: The 100 Most Encouraging Verses of the Bible

Troy Schmidt has compiled 100 encouraging Bible verses from Genesis to Revelation in this little book. Most of the verses are from the NIV, and each one is on its own page, followed by a few paragraphs of commentary by the author. 
I like things to be orderly, and so I appreciate that the verses are listed in order of how they appear in the Bible. Also, I think it's great that they are listed numerically, 1-100, instead of by date as in many devotional books. Often I get behind in my devotional readings, and it's discouraging to be reading devotionals for August when I'm in December! And if I skip ahead, I'll miss a lot! So it's nice to be able to take this book at my own pace rather than try to rush to keep up with a predetermined schedule. The criticism I have is that several of the commentaries are shallow, and I would prefer to go into greater depth in searching out the Scriptures. But all in all, a good little book to set anywhere someone might have a few moments to pick it up and read.  

To learn more about the author, click HERE. 

I received this book from Bethany House for this review.

Book Review: Storm

Note to self: When requesting a book for review, make sure the book is NOT book #6 in a series. 

Now on to the review. Selah and her friends are still in mourning after losing their loved ones on the Mountain, and now Selah must complete the Third Protocol before she fractures completely. She and a group of followers begin their journey west as they continue to face new threats. 

Does all that sound confusing? Well it did for me too. 

Author Bonnie S. Calhoun has created a fantastic distopian world, and like Harry Potter or the Hunger Games, one cannot easily slip into the middle if it without being a bit confused. The action is fast paced, the violence is a bit... umm... brutal (if you like that sort of a thing), and the characters are interesting (although I was irritated on more than one occasion by all the secrets people kept keeping from one another). All in all, a good read, but would've been better if I had known more of what was going on!

To learn more about the author, click HERE.

I received this book from Revell Books for this review

Book Review: The Bad Habits of Jesus

Ever think about how uncouth Jesus was? He was offensive to many people and frequently went against cultural norms. Here are some examples: He procrastinated, He hung out with bad people and partied, He spent time with children and women, He broke the rules and he told stories that didn't make sense. Jesus was a difficult Guy to understand! Author Leonard Sweet explores all of these "bad habits" and discusses some of the reasons behind Jesus' "bad" behavior. 

This is such a great book that I'm late in posting the review! I kept re-reading sections that I wanted to think about and pray over, and still haven't finished the last chapter (but the book sits next to my bed, where I can grab it each evening!) The only downside to this book is that the author says that he wrote the book in 6 weeks, and there is much evidence that this is true! There are several confusing parts that needed better editing. Though I don't agree with all of his conclusions, most of what he says is good, but how it is put together is not always clear. 

To learn more about the author, click HERE.

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers for this review.

Book Review: Wild Montana Skies

Pilot Kacey Fairing is just returning to Mercy Falls, Montana from a tour in Afghanistan where she experienced a traumatic crash. Country music star Ben King returns to Mercy Falls to help run PEAK Rescue while his dad recovers from an injury. Kacey and Ben end up in a situation where they must work together, and they begin the process of working through the injuries of their past.

This was a great read: Action, adventure, romance, and even a bit of mystery. The characters are realistically flawed and yet likeable. The action part is especially exciting, as the reader gets to experience life on a search and rescue team. Mostly though, I was drawn into contemplating the disaster that ensues when we fail to communicate effectively with one another, and how much hurt can be caused by ignoring a relational problem.

To learn more about the author, click HERE.  

I received this book from Revell Books for this review.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Book Review: Photographs from the Edge

From the 1980s to the present photographer Art Wolfe has traveled to exotic locations to capture people, animals, and scenery. In this compilation, each photo is set next to the story of how the photo was came to be. There are also two mini sections. One is entitled "The nature of the photo" and has facts about the location. A photograph for lava, for instance, says: "All Hawaiian islands were formed by volcanoes coming up from the ocean floor."  The other section is called "Photo tip" and contains advice for photographers, like, "To balance flash with existing light, you need to understand that essentially you are creating a double exposure--one for the existing light and one for the flash."

Here are a few examples of his photography:

This is such a beautiful book, and my husband and children have even enjoyed flipping through it. Perfect for a coffee table or a waiting room. 

To learn more about photographer Art Wolve, click HERE.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Book Review: French Country Cooking

About a hundred years ago a woman named Plantia Pautard lived with her husband, a baker, in St Yzans, a small village in the Medoc region of France. She was a formidable, renowned cook, fascinated by food and driven by ambition. Her talents, it seems, were not limited to the kitchen, for she was also the mistress of the richest man in town, Monsieur Brion, the town's mayor. It was all, as they say, very French.

Thus begins French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from a Village in the Vineyards. This stunning book contains stories, recipes, and beautiful photographs. Just look at how vibrant these are!

I cannot say anything but good things about this book: The beautiful cover, the sturdiness of the book itself, the ribbon bookmark, the recipes, the photographs, the story. All are excellent and flipping through the pages transports the reader to rural France. Imagine an old house in rural France, with 7 children running about in the sunshiny garden and family and friends gathering to open a restaurant. As I read I wanted to travel to France, to visit a country market, to garden, to start cooking with fresh ingredients and to open up a restaurant! 

Even my children enjoyed looking through this book. The only downsides: It doesn't come with a ticket to France, and some of the more exotic ingredients may be a challenge to find locally or inexpensively. 

To learn more about author Mimi Thorisson, click HERE

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Book Review: Keeping the Fire

...when we have lost our motivation and our hearts run dry, we go back to what it is that we value most. When love starts to grow cold, we seek God's face. When we are in need, we trust in His supply. When we are at the end of ourselves, we go lower still and to the least of these. When faced with hardship and persecution, we choose not to lose our reward by retreating. And we resolve that our boundless joy will supply us with all the energy and direction we need. 

Author Rolland Baker, founder of Iris Global shares the heart of revival: Jesus. Within this context. he discusses his organization's five core values: 

1. Find God
2. Depend on miracles
3. Go the least
4. Suffer for Him, if necessary
5. Rejoice in the Lord

This book challenged me in both positive and negative ways. The negative challenge was that I do not agree with all of his theology. And at some points it seems as if he is saying, "Jesus is the only Way... but if you want to get there you have to take these steps to success." However, I think most of the problem is that he is unclear in some of his explanations. The positive challenge was that I was forced to consider what I believe God is capable of doing. Is He still the God of miracles? Baker suggests that one reason that God does not do many miracles in the United States is that perhaps our focus would be on the miracle rather than on Him. All in all, this is an excellent read if you want to be challenged. 

To learn more about author Rolland Baker and his ministry, click HERE

I received this book from Chosen Books for this review.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Testimony in a Nutshell

I know my parents prayed for me even before I was born. When I was 8, my grandmother explained the Gospel to me in a way that "clicked," and I was convicted of my "badness" and asked Jesus to come and help me; to be my Lord and Savior. My dad (who was my pastor) baptized me, and I began this crazy journey of faith. As a teenager missionary kid in Guatemala, I had a crisis of faith and wanted to walk away. But instead God drew me close, and He became more than my Savior. He became my best Friend. Two weeks after graduation from college I began a new adventure called "marriage," and 8 years and 5 children later I can still say that my husband is one of the greatest gifts God has given me. I still stumble in so many ways. But I am not paralyzed by my failures as I once was. Because of the work Jesus did on the cross on my behalf, I know that when God looks at me, He loves me. I am pure. Sure, It's a major hassle to die to myself every day. In fact, I dislike it so much that I spend more time enjoying my sinful state more than seeking to live through the Spirit. But Christ is my All. I am amazed that He chooses to use me; that His strength is made perfect in weakness. Well guess what? My middle name is "Weakness." There is Hope yet for me.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Book Review: Shadow of the Storm

"There will always be storms, Shira. There will be loss in your life, sometimes devastating loss. But if you let the wind and the rain overcome you, then you will never fulfill the purpose for which you were born, the reason Yahweh gave you breath and brought you to this time, to this place. There will be times when there is nothing you can do but survive, to place one foot after the other into the driving rain... You can tuck your head under your wing for a while, Shira, and wait out this storm. But you will fly again." 

Shira has witnessed God's power as He led the Israelites out of Egypt. Now Shira and her people are parked by Mount Sinai, waiting for the return of Abraham. As the people rebel and chaos descends, Shira finds herself unexpectedly involved in helping a midwife with a birth. Shira begins working regularly with the midwife, meets a man she cares for, and helps with a difficult birth. When everything suddenly goes wrong, she must begin to work through her traumatic past and learn to trust God with her future. 

Shadow of the Storm is a well written, interesting story. It is fun to see the characters against the backdrop of the Bible story. I can tell that the historical background was well researched. But even more so, I was so excited to hear about author Connilyn Cossette! The information in her author biography resonates with me. She is a homeschool mama. I'm a homeschool mama. She is a published author. I want to publish a book some day. She has written a Biblical fiction series. My degree and postgraduate studies are in Bible. Her character, Shira, works alongside a midwife. I have had midwives for 5 pregnancies, 3 home births, and I am a doula and a childbirth educator. So I was pleased and inspired by Ms. Cossette. If she can write, perhaps I can do so as well some day... But not until I have time enough to put more than a few sentences together for a review. 

To learn more about author Connilyn Cossette, click HERE

I received this book from Bethany House for this review.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Book Review: The One Year Book of Healing

The One Year Book of Healing: Daily Appointments with God for Physical, Spiritual, and Emotional Wholeness is a devotional that reads more like a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. The stories are all about people who received different types of healing. The formula for each day is a Bible verse, a story, "Today's RX" (some advice), and a prayer. In the introduction, the author points out that healing comes in different ways. 

Sometimes, God heals us partially by removing our disease or fixing our wounds. Sometimes, he heals us completely by taking us to our forever home in heaven. Often, he uses modern medicine... to accomplish his healing. How God's healing work will be accomplished cannot be predicted--only that it will happen.

Although I agree that healing comes in different ways, I do not agree that healing will happen. For instance, sometimes people are sick or bitter for their entire lives. Sometimes people die and go to hell. 

I also do not agree with all of the comments in the RX sections. Here is a sampling:

God has the power, and the will, to snatch us from the very jaws of death.- October 18

Whether God heals us here and now or then and there, his answer to our prayer for healing is always "yes!" -July 17

When you're holding the Lord's hand, even if you stumble, you won't fall. -February 6

Depression often happens when we focus on the past. Focus on the future, and God's promises will help to brighten your day. -January 5

Expand your mind so you can know how much God loves you. -May 23

God doesn't always have the will to snatch us from the very jaws of death. People die. God doesn't always heal. Sometimes we DO fall. Depression can't always be fixed by simply focusing on the future. And extra-Biblical advice such as "expand your mind" is entering into dangerous territory. 

Most of the issues I have with this book are because of the how-to devotional format as the reader might be tempted to pick up this book in lieu of the Bible, which is all that we need to learn about God's healing. I wish the format of the book had been a simple book of testimony instead. However, I very much enjoyed reading the stories, as they serve as reminders that our God is Jehovah Rapha, the God who Heals.

To learn more about the author, click HERE. 

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers for this review.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review: Tangled Webs

Another scream propelled him into action. Moving on auto-pilot, he grabbed his compact Beretta, Ka-Bar knife, and a flashlight from the cabin, left behind the cell phone that didn't work around here anyway, and raced through the woods, every ounce of his dormant training kicking back in. 

A priest hears a dying man's confession. A sheriff is desperate to provide for his ailing wife. A man works to secure his future by operating a shady business. A man and a woman are both escaping a traumatic past. All of these stories intersect on one property by a lake in rural Missouri. 

I enjoyed this fast-paced story that is an interesting mix of suspense and romance. The characters are well developed, flawed, interesting individuals. Wonderful book to take on vacation, or for snuggling up with on a rainy day. 

To learn more about the author, click HERE. 

I received this book from Revell Books for this review.

Book Review: A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve

"Love is for today; programs are for the future. We are for today; when tomorrow will come, we shall see what we can do. Somebody is thirsty for water today, hungry for food today. Tomorrow we will not have them if we don't feed them today. So be concerned with what you can do today."

Before starting my review, I ought to point out that I am not Catholic, and therefore I acknowledge that I hold many different theological views than expressed in this book. 

The first thing I noticed about this book was that it is a beautiful book. The kind of book that you would put on a coffee table, provided you don't have small children (as I do). In fact, my three year old found my copy and "decorated" it, so it is no longer coffee table material. 

A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve contains fourteen chapters on acts of mercy and how these can be applied. A few examples are: Feed the Hungry, Instruct the Ignorant, and Pray for the Living and the Dead. Each chapter follows the same formula:

1) Introduction to the topic addressed in the chapter
2) Quotes from Mother Teresa on the topic
3) Testimonies from people who knew Mother Teresa and saw how she applied the topic in her life
4) Reflections: Bible verses and questions to encourage you to contemplate the topic in your own life
5) Prayer: A prayer asking God or Mary to help you to apply the topic

I appreciate how clearly organized the book is, for ease of reading. A reader may choose to tackle a chapter a day or a week, as a sort of devotional. I also enjoyed learning about Mother Teresa. I believe she was a sweet lady who sought to follow God. I only wish the book had provided a more balanced depiction, showing more of her fears, failures, and struggles alongside her virtues. 

To learn more about the author, click HERE

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Book Review: A Love Transformed

"I can't love her," he told himself sternly. He lowered his gaze to the floor and sighed as the truth washed over him. "I can't not love her."

When Clara's husband dies suddenly, she is released from a loveless marriage. She and her children travel to a Montana ranch, the last place where she felt truly happy. However, she does not know that her late husband's secrets will catch up to them at the ranch.

From the moment I saw the lovely picture on the front, I knew I wanted to read this story! I was thrilled that the picture on the front is the same as a photograph described in the story. I kept coming back to look at it. The back of the book drew me in further by giving me JUST enough information to make me want to know more, and then the first chapter starts off with the action immediately. Even though this is part 3 of the Sapphire Brides series, the book stands on its own (and now I need to find and read the other two!) 

There are only a few quibbles I have with the book. The "bad" characters seem to be ALL bad. I wish the "bad" characters had some redeeming qualities. That would have made them more believable. Also, in the story there are 4 year old twins. It is said that they were born because their father was an identical twin. However, identical twins don't run in families and when fraternal twins run in families, they run on the mother's family. Also, I think the 4 year olds speak more like 8 year olds. 

But I'm a bit nit-picky sometimes. I just pretended the characters were more fleshed out, ignored the part about twins passing through the father's side, and re-imagined the twins as 8 year olds. 

Overall I was very impressed and (between meals) read the book in one sitting! There are some surprising twists, quite a bit of danger, characters to loathe and love, and a somewhat predictable yet happy ending.

To learn more about the author, click HERE.

I received this book from Bethany House for this review.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review: God Gave Us Thankful Hearts

"We all have so much to be thankful for."

Little Pup has a problem. He's unhappy. As he and his mama go about their chores, join Papa for fishing and fix dinner, they talk about the antidote for his unhappiness. 


For everything Little Pup is sad about, his parents remind him how to be thankful about it. 

My husband and son both agree that their favorite part of this book is the illustrations. Just look at my son's favorite picture! So yummy!

There's only one thing I didn't care for in this book. A few lines of the dialog seemed stilted, as if the author were trying too hard to sound genuine. The result just doesn't sound right. For instance, when the Papa Wolf says something to Little Pup, Little Pup's response is, "That's crazy talk!" Perhaps other families use that type of jargon, but this and a few other sentences seem out of spirit with the remainder of the book. 

However, the flaws in this book are minor, Interesting characters, bright beautiful artwork, and a compelling story line make the reader want to continue turning the pages. Since so many children's books only include one parent, my husband and I were glad to see a complete family unit portrayed with both parents active in the child's life. And, most importantly, the story teaches children about the importance of being thankful. 

"Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6, emphasis added)

To learn more about the author, click HERE.
To learn more about the artist, click HERE

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Friday, August 12, 2016

New Beginnings

I have just begun this blog for multiple reasons:

1. To share book reviews
2. To write about various topics; such as homeschooling and homemaking and whatever else suits my fancy.
3. To eventually provide readers with printables to help with homeschooling and homemaking

What's with the title?

Here's your answer:

  1. a confused jumble or medley of things.