Saturday, December 10, 2016

Out of the Spin Cycle by Jen Hatmaker

Out of the Spin Cycle

Alright, first things first, this blog is primarily focus on reviewing books and that's just what we're going to do.

Out of the Spin Cycle is a re-release, first published in 2010, Jen's presents 40 easy to read devotionals aimed at helping moms find peace in the midst of the chaos that life with children can be. Each chapter starts of with an analogy or story, moves  into a brief lesson, asks 1-2 questions, and ends with a recommended response.  The format is quick, easy, and at times surprisingly thought provoking. 

As a  former native speaker of sarcasm, there were times when I felt a little uncomfortable with the tone of Jen's stories. however, I was able to temper this by noting Jen's own honesty about her  weakness for sarcasm and her gratefulness for her editors  keeping her accountable in this area. It was also reassuring  to  realize that the sarcasm never traveled beyond the analogy without a clear noting of it's sarcastic undertones. When it came to teaching and scripture Jen was all business.

This really shows in the quality of the  teaching. I so wish personal timelines had allowed me to read a chapter a day to get the full effect of this book but time wasn't exactly on my side for that. However, as I read through I was struck by Jen's passion for women, especially  moms, who  are tired/stressed/and looking for Jesus. 

4 out of 5 stars
"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Prayer Saturated Family by Cheryl Sacks

Image result for The Prayer Saturated Family by Cheryl Sacks

With a fresh, flexible, real-world approach, bestselling author Cheryl Sacks shows how you can integrate prayer into your daily family life, including how to:
· Get everyone on board and involved
· Experience a fresh sense of God’s promise and purpose for your family
· Overcome spiritual opposition coming against your household
· Shift the spiritual atmosphere in your home to one of greater peace and joy
· Make an investment in your children’s faith that will last a lifetime
(Excerpt from back of book)

Prayer is one of those weird topics within the church. It's foundational, everyone has heard of it, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of teaching on the topic in my experience and most people are afraid to ask questions. This is why I love books like this. Cheryl takes readers through different styles of prayer, ways to incorporate prayer into families at all stages of life, and easy to follow "how-to's" she has encountered over her own life  and research.

I really appreciated the care Cheryl takes to go through the highs and lows of families in each of their  glorious stages from no children to empty nesters and everywhere in between. The  31  day guide at the end of the book gives a wide variety of topics and suggestions to help families practically expand their own understanding of prayer and how to become more intentional about incorporating prayer into areas that may not be naturally apparent in our busy lives.
As I said, I love useful  how-to's  and this book provides  them :)

On the flip side, I would recommend this for people who have been in the church for  some  time  and already possess a more balanced view on the role of prayer for one main reason. Cheryl's writing, at times, slips into a very "health & wealth"/  "name it &claim it" mentality that  can be dangerous. Without acknowledging that, sometimes, even prayers for what we perceive to be good things can receive an answer of no or not yet, we run the risk of turning prayer into a one way request line for a Santa Claus God. I think she  tempered this somewhat with her incorporation of worship but for someone new to faith an explicit statement that prayers are not wishes and sometimes the answer isn't what we want would have been nice to see stately more strongly and clearly.

3.5 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Monday, November 7, 2016

Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin

Waves of Mercy

Chicago socialite Anna Nicholson retreats to the Hotel Ottawa in Holland, Michigan, after breaking her engagement with her wealthy fiancé. Filled with questions about her newfound faith and troubled by a recurring nightmare, Anna finds solace in Derk Vander Veen, a seasonal hotel worker who plans to go into the ministry.
Prompted by a request from her son, Geesje de Jonge begins to sift through memories of emigrating from the Netherlands almost fifty years ago. As she writes them down for the Semi-Centennial anniversary of the town’s settlement, her story takes on a life of its own as she honestly and painfully recalls her regrets, doubts, hardships, and joys. Her story captivates Derk, who sees similarities between Geesje and Anna, and wishes to bring the two together.
(excerpt from back of book)

Waves of  Mercy is two books for  the price of one. Balancing between the story of Anna, Geesje, and Geesje youth, Lynn Austin artfully weaves a world where  characters are unafraid to address real fears and doubts while experiencing believable highs and lows within life. I will admit it took me  a few chapters  to adjust to the shifts between Anna, Geesje, and Geesje's teenage years. As a reader who gets very immersed in her books  (hence the many late nights trying to read just a few more minutes) the  shifts in time periods and characters  initially jarred me out of the  story. However, as the book progressed and I became more involved  (specifically with  Geesje's story) I was eventually able to make the first person shifts without loosing that encompassing effect.

As with any good story,  I  quickly found myself latching onto a character - in this case Geesje. While I struggled to find  a connection with Anna until the last pages of  the  book Geesje leapt off  the  pages with  a depth that's hard to find. I loved the dimension Lynn was able to work into her character and the honesty with which she addressed Geesje's doubts and struggles as her  faith collided  with life events. 

While I quickly guessed Anna's story line, Geesje's story line kept me guessing throughout, not so much in plot points but in her reactions  and responses to those events. Austin was skillful in her ability to lead readers  through events that, while greatly  removed through time, still felt real, relatable, and successfully invites readers to enter into the story.  Love is such a powerful connector but I loved  how Austin does not rely on the traditional love story to carry Geesje along. I honestly cried along with Geesje as she  made her decisions time and time again and loved the portrayal of relationship that involved  such commitment, decision, and sacrifice.

This was a perfect way to jump in Lynn Austin's writing and would make a perfect Christmas gift for any lover of historical  fiction or true love stories on  your list.

4 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Discipline that Connects with your Child's Heart by Jim & Lynne Jackson

Discipline That Connects With Your Child's Heart

Jim and Lynne Jackson, founders of Connected Families, teach four powerful principles for discipline that shape both behavior and your kids’ hearts. You’ll learn to communicate–even when your kids are at their worst–that they are safe with you, loved no matter what, capable of wise choices, and responsible to make right the things they’ve made wrong. As you impart these messages, you’ll create strong relationships, build lasting wisdom and character, and bring God’s grace to life in your home!
(excerpt from back of book)

Jim and Lynne's book is written by parents, for parents. Filled to the brim with case studies, real life (and in some cases personal) stories of their practices and theories in real family situation, the Jackson's heart for families is evident on every page.
Mindful of this, the authors really strive to make their work accessible to the families that need it. The case studies often have more than 1 case per point which does add to the page count (just over 300) but also allows for more points of connectivity with readers.

The Jackson's style is very straightforward. Presenting their theory: Foundation -"You are Safe with me", Connect "You are Loved no matter what", Coach  - "You are called and capable", and Correct  - " You are responsible for your actions" as a pyramid allows them to constantly refer back to the interconnection and necessity of a strong foundation within their model. I appreciated how easily  the lines were drawn between the later steps with having successfully established the prior and the permission or even direction to go back and see how steps apply in the overarching family as well as in individual situations. Additionally, while the book is obviously aimed at raising children I felt one of the book's great strengths was how they addressed parental reactions and behaviours  using their modeling to affect change. So many parenting books seem to get lost in "changing children" and not looking at the parents themselves and let's face it no matter how hard we try the only personal we can truly change is ourselves.

While the book is most definitely written for parents I could easily see how some may feel Discipline That Connects With Your Child's Heart reads more as a textbook than some of the  other parenting books currently on the market. That  said, Jim and Lynne  open, honest, and heartfelt text easily makes up for the extra challenge in reading level  and the walk through appendices provide a great starting point for parents who may feel overwhelmed and unsure how to begin applying what they've just learned.

4 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson


Liz Johnson is not a writer. She is a world builder inviting readers into the lives and journeys of her characters with each flip of the page. 

I, for one, am so excited to have had the chance to dive back into the world of Rose's Red  Door Inn.
Alright, I may be biased but Liz's first foray into this series was a definite highlight in my reading calendar only marred by a lack of Caden (which I understood as she wasn't the center focus)  so I was delighted to hear Caden would be front and center for book two and neither Caden nor Liz disappoints!

Although Caden has grown since book 1 she is  still sweet, lovable Caden. Always ready to help a neighbour, still deeply in love with the wonders of her island, still a bit quirky and definitely still her sweet insecure self - Caden sort of reminds me of a more insecure Canadian Sookie (yes I may have finally started watching my tv list from a  decade ago, I fall a little behind on tv) Though Caden feels like the underdog in her town she is most definitely the girl I would hope to make friends with if I stopped by North Rustico.

On the other hand, Adam Jacobs is a man with a past, one that he'd rather forget. I loved the contrast between these two characters and the way Liz allowed them to bring healing to each other. I found Adam's guilt based story line to be a fascinating choice for the character  and one that  worked well. The journey from his parents to the hut overseas was expertly reveled throughout the books thanks in part to secondary character Levi (honestly I hope Levi and Esther appear  later in the series, I adored that  couple). having spent some time in the counselling world his grief and pain seemed so believable and again either speaks to Liz's research, experience, talent, or all three. 

I also appreciated the reality of Adam and Caden's relationship. It wasn't instantaneous, in fact, Caden's annoyance at the invasions of her kitchen almost  got in me in trouble as I came this close to waking the kiddo's with my giggling. I also appreciated  the struggles they had to overcome due to their own assumings and hidden pasts. I felt like this just added another layer of realism  and helped breathe life into their characters. I can't stand mushy romances with no struggle there's no reality to help anchor the escape. Liz's world is so real  you can almost  smell Caden's cinnamon buns.

5  out  of 5 stars

I received this book as part of the Revell Reads book tour in exchange for my honest opinion.

Riley Unlikely by Riley Banks Snyder

Take one teenage girl, add a dream to go to Africa, stir in a lot of faith, and what do you get?
Riley Unlikely.

Riley Unlikely  is  the story of Riley Banks Snyder teenage founder of Generation Next and teenage missionary who has a heart for the children of Africa and a passion for partnering with them receive to receive the education and medical care they deserve.

I loved  Riley's down to earth style and the honest, conversational way she chronicled her own journey from a young, enthusiastic though naive teen girl  to a compassionate and talented young woman with a heart to use her talents and gifts to partner with the children of Eastern Africa. I found her writing style engaging and filled with personality. While Riley may mention her shyness and possibly introverted nature throughout the book, like so many others she shines through on the pages inviting readers to listen, learn, and find their own passion. 

I also appreciated Riley's honesty. The realities of culture shock, the overwhelming feelings when faced with need, the game changing diagnosis, and all the other shifts in plans. Although Riley comes through as a seemingly upbeat young lady she is also open and real about the struggles she has faced on this journey and the way that played out in her relationships and faith. I felt this was so important as young readers (or older readers who love a good biography) encounter those same ups and downs and the books which simply gloss over the hard give no aid or encouragement when struggle inevitably happens.

I also enjoyed that Riley included pictures, driving home the people  and the words of her story because even in the midst of the ups and downs Riley so openly describes the pictures show a young woman exuding joy while working alongside the  people who have so firmly grabbed a space in her heart.

I really did enjoy the book,  between Riley's writing, the wonderful example of faith, and the powerful message of what anyone  (even a shy, young teenager) can do when they follow their call instead of the  crowd combines for a memorable book.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> 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 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Mile Wide Trading A Shallow Religion For A Deeper Faith By Brandon Hatmaker

As a host and guest judge for HGTV and DIY Network (My Big Family Renovation, Brother v.s. Brother, Tiny House Arrest), Brandon Hatmaker understands what it takes to rehab a home. But after twenty-plus years of working with the local church (and as husband to bestselling author Jen Hatmaker), he has an even greater understanding of what it takes to rehab an everyday faith. In A Mile Wide, he helps readers see more clearly how the gospel works in us and eventually through us to transform an anemic spiritual life into a deeper, fuller, and more effective faith.

Offering fresh perspective on eight essentials of Christianity—the gospel, identity, scripture, discipleship, kingdom, mission, community, and justice—Hatmaker provides biblical insight and practical applications that tap into the richer life Christ promised his people, individually and as a community. God wants more than simply to save us; he’s also determined to transform us, restore us, and use us to reveal the coming of his kingdom right here, right now.
(excerpt from back of book)

Confession time! I totally and completely only noticed this book due to the HGTV  in the title. However, even though my motives for choosing this book were a little hazy and magpieish, Brandon Hatmaker's A Mile Wide stands to be one of the most impacting and powerful books of 2016 for this reader.

Brandon's style is honest, straightforward, and backed with scripture first then practical experience. His story-telling style with the openness he so easily displays when talking  about his love of people digging in deep to community, and areas he's personally wrestled with  on his own journey make this book engaging. I love how this book takes readers through new perspectives and, I think, that's something important to Brandon. Throughout the book assumptions are being challenged, mainly through stories be they of soccer skills, homeless encounters, or his children's reactions to television. Each story has a purpose and a lesson to share. 

Brandon openly acknowledges some readers may have issue with his views due to the tension that exists in some congregations regarding social justice vs. evangelism. I loved how Brandon built a solid foundation regarding faith in general before launching into this particularly outworking allowing it to become a natural next step and one that was defined by scripture rather than just defended.  

I would highly recommend this book 5 out 5 stars.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> 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 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.