Sunday, April 27, 2014

101 Color & Sing Bible Stories by Stephen Elkins

I am always eager to review anything by Stephen Elkins because I absolutely love the books I have gotten by him! This book was completely different from some of the others I have reviewed of his but I think this one may just be my favorite yet!

Not only does this Bible storybook include 101 Bible stories that are perfect for preschool age, it also includes a song and a coloring sheet to accompany each story! Making it the perfect resource for homeschooling momma's like myself, or even as a curriculum for Sunday School or Mini Church!

This book is aimed at 3-6 year olds, but my 2 year old already loves it. It is the perfect amount of writing for children of such a young age, and the illustrations are adorable! The songs that go along with the stories are very simple- most of them are only one or two sentences, so it's very easy for children to remember. The CD that comes with the book also includes printable coloring pages. You can see examples of each coloring page with each story.

I was super excited to review this book, and I was definitely not disappointed! This is an invaluable resource that I will be using for years to come. To purchase a copy, please visit Tyndale! I would highly recommend this book to anyone who works with preschoolers or who has children of that age. I rate it as 5 stars!

I received this book for free from Tyndale book publishers in exchange for my honest unbiased opinion.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Made By God Curious Creatures: 4 Books in 1" Review

"Made By God- Curious Creatures: 4 Books in 1" Published by Zondervan" is an adorable Level 2 reading book! This is one large hardcover book approximately 9 x 6.6 inches and includes four separate books:

Rainforest Friends
Jungle Beasts
Polar Pals
Curious Creatures Down Under

Each animal section includes photos of real life animals with bonus facts to go along with each animal description. The pages are easy to read and perfect for early readers. The book is 123 pages long and includes information on 21 different kinds of animals.

I think this book is adorable for a wide variety of children! My two year old loved looking through the pages and asking me to read it to her, and my 7 year old (although a bit beyond level 2 reading) enjoyed reading about the many different types of animals. I think this would be an excellent resource to use as a read-aloud in homeschooling preschoolers, and also as a fun Science book for 1st-2nd graders depending on their reading level.

There are certain aspects of this book that I would not read to younger audiences (ie my two year old). For example, in the section on Anacondas, it explains how the snakes catch and squeeze their food until it stops breathing. It also goes on to say that the snake swallows it whole. Perhaps necessary information for older readers but certainly not toddlers or preschoolers.

I rate this book as 4 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Promise in Pieces by Emily T. Wierenga

This lovely book "A Promise in Pieces" by Emily T. Wierenga is the story of a young woman named Clara Wilson who volunteered herself as a nurse in World War II much against her parent's advice. She remains a War nurse until the war ends and sends her back home. Before she heads back to her hometown and greets the parents she isn't sure even want to see her, she must travel to New Orleans to deliver a letter to a woman named Mattie, who lost her husband in battle. She had promised the dying soldier that she would deliver this last message to his wife, and it was a promise Clara intended to keep.

Clara is surprised by Mattie when they meet. Although Clara was delivering a letter to Mattie, it seems like Mattie is the one comforting and helping Clara through her troubles. She requests that Clara take a large baby quilt with her, since she won't be using it to wrap any future children in now that her husband is gone.

When Clara returns home to her parents, she is surprised by what she sees. Her father quickly embraces her even though growing up, he showed her very little physical contact or any attention at all. He seems to sense that life is fleeting and that he needs to let his daughter live her own life and make her own decisions. Clara also sees that her mother's health has taken a turn for the worse since she left and her father doting on her mother, trying to get her to eat, drink or even talk.

After a few months of life getting back to normal, Clara decides it's time for her to look for a job and get out on her own. She finds out that although she is not the least bit interested in having children of her own, she is an excellent midwife and learns to birth many babies. She ends up using the quilt that Mattie gave her as sort of a tradition for each baby born. She even hand stitches each child's name into the quilt.

Eventually, Clara begins to wonder whatever happened to Mattie, and even begins to think that God has more in store for her than just delivering babies.

So far I haven't found a book in the Quilts of Love series that I didn't like, and this book was equally as exciting as all of the rest! For one thing, I love the way the story of Clara is told. The book actually begins as Clara telling her life story to her grandson Noah on a long car ride.  I love the way she speaks as if she's reminiscing, and the chapters alternate between the present and the past. I had a very hard time even putting this book down! I kept wanting to read more and more of it to see what happened. This is a book I will most definitely be reading again, and would highly recommend it to others!

I rate this book as 5 stars. I received this book for free from Litfuse in exchange for my honest unbiased opinion.

10% Happier by Dan Harris

"10% Happier by Dan Harris"  is the story of how one man went on a journey to reduce stress in his life by searching out different religions and stress-relieving methods. He was able to do it from a journalistic standpoint since he was a news anchor for GMA and Nightline News. In fact, under Peter Jennings direction, he was given the job of researching religious stories despite the fact that Dan Harris himself was an agnostic.

If you are not familiar with the name Dan Harris, a few years ago, he had a major meltdown on National TV. Despite everything he had going for him, he had resorted to doing drugs to ease the stress in his life. Little did he know, that the drugs just made it all the more obvious to everyone around him how big his problems really were. This is when he decided that there must be more to life than drugs and getting high every weekend. He knew he needed to make a change in his life, but since he didn't believe in God or any type of religion, he had no idea what that looked like.

He soon began his journey of interviewing different religious types in an effort to find out what he was missing. He interviewed self-help experts such as Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra and eventually Mark Epstein, a Buddhist teacher. He found that meditation was the answer he was looking for, and began practicing meditation multiple times a day as well as going on "Meditation Retreats".

For a lot of reasons, I did not enjoy this book. However, although it was difficult at times, I did finish this book in it's entirety hoping that it got better near the end. It didn't. I found it ironic that he was a religious reporter despite the fact that he was an agnostic. At one point after delivering Eckhart Tolle's book to his boss, Dan refers to himself as "the crazy guy handing out religious tracts on the street." I found it completely absurd that he could criticize the same things he was reporting about and sometimes giving a good report on.

He writes about Christians as if they're nothing more than judgemental hypocrites, and writes about one evangelical Pastor who was so deeply into sin, that he lost his church, his riches (which were quite a lot as he was the Pastor of a mega church), and ended up living in a small apartment with his wife and children. This same Pastor openly criticizes James Dobson (Popular Christian book writer, Pastor and counselor) saying that Dobson is a hypocrite.

I am not a fan. I think Harris is an arrogant news reporter who uses his celebrity status to gain what he wants. I rate this book as 1 star. I received this book for free from Litfuse in exchange for my honest unbiased opinion.

Mom Seeks God by Julia Roller

Initially, I was super excited about reading and reviewing this book. The back cover describes it as a Mother's journey to growing in her faith as she deals with the chaos of becoming a new mother.

After Julia Roller gave birth to her first son, she found that her life was much busier than she ever expected. Not only was she a stay at home mom, but she also worked from home, which didn't leave much time to herself. She found that she was rarely if ever devoting any time to a quiet time with God.

So Julia decided to devote the next year to focusing on 10 areas of spiritual discipline: prayer, fellowship. submission, study, simplicity, silence, worship, fasting, service and celebration.

While I felt that Julia did make some excellent points, most of the time I just felt like I was reading about something that Julia failed miserably at. I also felt that for many different reasons, I couldn't always relate to the author. She is a working mother and at times, it seemed like she was quick to brush off her child just to get work done, or to reach a deadline. I received the impression (and I could be wrong here...this is just how I perceived it) that her job was just as equally important to her as her child was. I have a hard time understanding that concept because I feel as though motherhood is the greatest callings I could ever have.

In other ways, I found it difficult to relate to the author. As I read further into the book I found that we don't agree 100% on theology and the Bible, so obviously that is going to make it harder for me to get into the book.

Ultimately, I feel as though Julia Roller has an excellent way with words, and is a great writer, but I just did not care for this book in particular. I felt that we are just two completely different people with two completely different ways of looking at things, so for that I will rate this book as 2 stars.

I received this book for free from Litfuse to give my honest unbiased opinion.

Monday, April 14, 2014

All In {Student Edition} by Mark Batterson & Parker Batterson

In "All In: Student Edition" by Mark Batterson and Parker Batterson, the main idea is to get students to see that if you don't hold out on God, then God won't hold out on you. Father/son duo, Mark and Parker dive deep into what it means to go "All In" for God and how nothing on this Earth belongs to you...not even You.

Perhaps the most compelling quote of the entire book was made at the beginning by Mark when he said "When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things? Jesus didn't die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous."

This book makes many good points, but for a few different reasons it just didn't sit well with me. For one thing, this is the Student version of All In, and I have not read the original version so I cannot compare this to it, but it almost seemed like the author was trying a little too hard to get to a teen's level. In some areas, Mark makes comments like "Get off your butt" or at certain points makes crass comments about what he thinks Jesus should have done in that moment. He does go back to say that he was always wrong for thinking those things, but I just was a little uncomfortable that he would say it in the first place.

I have read one previous book by Mark Batterson, called "Draw The Circle" which I absolutely loved! Just because I disliked this book, it will not deter me from reading any of Mark Batterson's other books in the future. This book was simply not for me. For that reason, I rate it as 3 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hope Runs by Claire Diaz-Ortiz & Samuel Ikua Gachagua

"Hope Runs" by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Samuel Ikua Gachagua is the story of an African boy named Sammy who is opened up to a world of possibilities through the orphanage matrons God places in his life, and also through two unlikely heroes: Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Lara Vogel. Claire and Lara are travelers. Throughout their early 20's, they rarely stay in one place for too long. They visit Alaska, Mexico, Italy, and many other places before they end up in Africa, where they will eventually end up spending an entire year and then visiting many times after.

When Claire and Lara meet Sammy, he is a 15 year old boy who has already lived at the Imani Children's Home for several years. His father died when he was just a small boy, and his mother struggled to make ends meet. Finally, one day when he was about 9 years old, Sammy's mother left and never came back leaving Sammy and his older brother, Muriithi to care for their 4 year old sister Bethi. Bethi eventually was taken in by family, but the boys were sent to an orphanage as their family did not have enough food for all of them.

Claire and Lara quickly form a bond with Sammy and see something extraordinary in him. They find a way for him to finish his high school years in America, and somehow become his guardians even though they don't live anywhere near him. It is under somewhat strange circumstances as Claire and Lara are not old enough to adopt him themselves, but yet they are responsible for him as mother figures.

To me, Claire and Lara seem like such an unlikely pair of friends. Claire is a Christian. Lara is not. In a way, I feel like this could be very confusing to Sammy as he does not understand how a lot of things work. The girls have to teach him many things about life as he is understandably somewhat naive.

Another thing I thought was really interesting were the differences between Claire and Sammy's cultures. You really don't have any idea how different they act and think until you hear them speak from their point of view. For instance, Claire once asked Sammy in front of a group of people if he was in the 8th grade. Of course Claire didn't mean anything by what she said, but to Sammy it was highly offensive. To him and the other 9th grade boys in their culture it meant that he was immature and not yet a man.

Another interesting difference occurred when Claire and Lara brought over 100 pair of shoes for the students so that they could get involved in running. Many of the orphans were grateful for what the girls had done, but many of them refused their shoes because they felt those shoes were not the best and they wanted to have the best with what little they did have. To you and I, we may think that sounds crazy. They have so little. Shouldn't they be thankful for what they have? It is just another one of the differences between our cultures. They view things differently and may not be able to express all of those reasons in ways we understand.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and afterwards I found myself thinking about it often and asking myself questions. Wondering why certain events turned out the way they did, or what motivated some of the girls' choices. It was truly an inspirational read that I would recommend. There wasn't an incredible amount of spiritual content as I would have expected, and I wondered if that had something to do with Lara not being a Christian, but I could be wrong. The book also ends with Sammy returning to Kenya. I will be curious to hear more about him in the future to see what God has in store for him.

I rate this book as 5 stars. I received this book for free from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for my honest unbiased opinion.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Uncovered by Rod Tucker

While doing outreach to the homeless in the inner city one day, Rod and his fellow leaders were surprised that they had overlooked one of the people they were there to reach out to. Because he wasn't dressed like a homeless person, they completely missed out on helping this man. No one saw him or even talked to him. All of the Christians were so completely preoccupied with their ministry that they missed out an another incredible opportunity.

How is it that we, as Christians fail so miserably at the one of the most important things we are called to do? Reach out to and love others?

This book is all about honesty. How honest we are with ourselves, with others and most importantly, with God. One of the examples that Rod Tucker uses is Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve knew they had sinned and knew they were naked yet they tried to hide it from God. Seems kind of silly since God already knows anyway, but we react the same way when we sin.

This book is not a very long read as it is only 156 pages with large spaces in between. It was super easy to read and comprehend and a reader would easily be able to finish it in one to two nights. Included in the end of each chapter are discussion questions to read through. I found that even though it was a short read, it was still packed full of information and is definitely a book I would recommend.

I received this book for free from Kregel in exchange for my honest unbiased opinion.

Friday, April 11, 2014

KnowOrphans by Rick Morton

"KnowOrphans: Mobilizing the Church for Global Orphanology" by Rick Morton is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to adopt. Not only does Rick Morton dive into why families should adopt, but also what the church's role should be with so many orphans around the world. Namely, how the church is responsible for equipping and supporting families before, during and after the adoption process.

The Bible calls Christians to care for the orphans of this world. So as believers, why aren't we doing more? Rick Morton is quick to point out that adoption is not for everyone, but you can still care for orphans without adopting.

What I like best about this book was that Rick Morton offers many ways that we as Christians can help take care of orphans. There are many options available besides choosing to immediately adopt although that would ultimately be the best option in the long run.

Personally, I really enjoy reading books on topics of orphans and adoption because my husband and I both have an immense desire to adopt in the near future. We feel that God is leading us in this direction, although we don't know how or where it's going to happen yet. Books like this one are excellent resources to families like my own, with adoption in their future.

I received this book for free from Litfuse in exchange for my honest unbiased opinion.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Miss Brenda and The Loveladies by Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell

After Brenda Spahn nearly went to prison herself, she felt God calling her to prison ministry. After just a few visits to the Tutwiler Women's prison in Alabama, she knew God wanted her to do more...she just didn't know what. She found that many of the women she ministered to in the prison were repeat offenders. Meaning that soon after they got out of prison, they were back to their old habits and ended up right back at Tutwiler. Brenda thought this was ridiculous and looked into what type of programs were available for the women once they were back onto the street.

What she found surprised her. There were little to no programs available for these type of women. There were halfway houses that provided a bed and 3 warm meals a day, but they didn't offer any kind of counseling, or rehabilitation to get back on their feet. The women that entered these halfway houses often went back to their old friends, old ways of life, and eventually back to prison. Brenda knew there was a better way.

Her husband, Jeff was in real estate and Brenda owned a Tax company, so money wasn't really an issue. She and her husband had plenty to spare even though they had planned to use that money to retire. So Brenda decided to open up one of her homes to house the first 7 ex-convicts. This is where the book turned a little humorous at times. Like the time the first 7 women showed up to Brenda's house and she refers to one of the women as "Shaved Head" because she was so stinkin scary looking! She thought for sure she had made a terrible mistake and these women were going to kill her in her sleep.

But throughout the first year, she learned so much from these women. She learned that yes, she was helping these women get their lives back, but they were showing her something about herself that she never would have known about. And most importantly, Brenda learns the importance of letting God direct her paths instead of her just doing what she wants. After just a few years, Brenda's program is helping 450 women and children per day! What an incredible ministry!

From the moment I saw this book was available for review, I was interested in it. I found it to be a serious book, yet it was also full of humorous stories and conversations between the women. At times, the chapters were heartbreaking as they alternated between the points of view of Brenda and some of the different women including Shay (Shaved Head), Tiffany (Suga Suga), and Stephanie just to name a few. It was horrible to think about the abuse that some of these women suffered as children. It was interesting to see how many of those women were arrested in development at such a young age. So many of the women came to look at Brenda as their own mother because they had no relationship with their own.

It was encouraging to see how much God worked in each women's life while they were in the Lovelady House. Many of them were able to reestablish relationships with their children and in a way, were able to start all over.

I rate this book as 4 stars and would definitely recommend it. I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah  Publishing Company in exchange for my honest unbiased opinion.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Maybelle in Stitches by Joyce Magnin

"Maybelle in Stitches" by Joyce Magnin is a historical fiction set in Chester, Pennsylvania in 1943 during World War II. Maybelle is a young wife, only married for a weekend before her husband, Holden left to fight in the war. In the meantime, Maybelle lives with her mother, Francine and works at Sun Shipbuilding to do her part in the war effort.

Maybelle soon receives word that Holden is missing in action. Maybelle is understandably distraught and is beside herself with worry. About this same time, Maybelle finds a quilt her mother started for her. A quilt that tells her family's history but is only half finished. Her friend, Doris convinces her to finish the quilt if only to keep her mind off of Holden. The trouble is, Maybelle doesn't know the first thing about sewing! Since Doris' husband is also away at war, they begin a quilting circle of war wives, and soon find that their circle is a healing place for all of them.

I love the books in the Quilts of Love Series and this book was no exception! It was very interesting and had no trouble keeping my attention! I felt like this author really did her research with this book. In the back of the book, Joyce Magnin explains how she learned about Sun Ship and how the character Doris was actually inspired by a real life woman, Jeanette E. Swift.

I thought this book was fascinating and not like most historical fictions I have read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I rate this book as 5 stars.

I received this book for free from Litfuse to give my honest unbiased opinion.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dancing With Fireflies by Denise Hunter

You know that one book you wait MONTHS for and can't wait to read? After reading "Barefoot Summer" by Denise Hunter, this was the book I was waiting for. "Dancing With Fireflies" by Denise Hunter is the second book in the Chapel Springs Romance series. It follows the story of Jade McKinley, the younger sister of Madison McKinley from the previous book.

Jade is back in Chapel Springs after living in the big city for a year. Everyone is surprised to see here, including Daniel, a family friend who has always been like a big brother to Jade. But she's terrified to let everyone know the secret she holds...of what happened while she was away from home.

As Jade spends more time at home, she finally confides in Daniel, albeit accidental. She plans to tell her family, but it seems like something bad happens every time she tries. Meanwhile, Jade begins seeing Daniel as more than just a big brother figure, although she refuses to admit it. She has been hurt one too many times and refuses to give her love away again. She is oblivious to the fact that Daniel has actually loved her for many years. Will Jade be able to overcome her past so that she can consider a future with Daniel?

I absolutely loved this book! It was the perfect sequel to Barefoot Summer and even periodically mentions Madison and Beckett, which I love. This was one of those books that I had trouble putting down, because it was just that good! I read it in a matter of two nights!

I have become a huge fan of Denise Hunter since reading the first book in the Chapel Springs series. I think of her as somewhat of a Christian Nicholas Sparks. She writes amazing, page-turning, glue-you-to-the-seat books but without a hint of inappropriate content. I think this definitely sets her apart as an author, as she has quickly become one of my favorites! I am most definitely looking forward to the next book in the series and wondering which McKinley sibling it will be about!

I rate this book as 5 stars. I received this book for free from Litfuse to give my honest unbiased opinion.