Thursday, December 31, 2015

God Is With You Every Day - Max Lucado

Confession time.

I've actually only ever read children's books by Max Lucado. With the onslaught of college and my delightful diving into fiction since graduation I just never got around to him.

The collection of children's books he has written though never fail to delight me, so when I had the chance to look at Lucado's new 365 day devotional so close to the new year it seemed like a good fit.

God is with you every Day by Max Lucado is a 365 day devotional meant to easily kick start or end one's day. As the release says

God Is With You Every Day is a brand-new 365-day devotional from Max Lucado, and his first new devotional since the creation of the Grace for the Moment® line. Max’s signature reassuring and encouraging voice, paired with the practical, relevant, and personal message that God is with you every day, makes a great way to start each day of the year.

Overall I found that to be a fairly accurate explanation of this little book although, as always, I had a few opinions to flesh it out.

I was actually surprised how nervous I was accepting this book for review. Lucado is a well known name and can bring out strong opinions. This was a good thing as I was also able to recognize my own preconceptions going into the book. 
Given Lucado's reputation I think I expected more consistency within the book itself. Some days just seemed to simplistic, to rushed through in an effort to make sure each day had something written. This was a let down for me given my familiarity with his children's literature which has such impact with it's message within the story. 

On a positive note, the book was also easily accessible. Each day's reading was short and to the point. Easily read in 5 minutes Lucado seems to have striven for and achieved a book where a busy schedule could be put forward as an excuse not to read. This devo is streamlined and compact enough for any schedule.

I was also pleased with the construction of the book itself (I know a seemingly little detail). However, ever since our second little arrived I'm finding simplicity adds to success. Having a sturdy construction so a book can survive my bedside table (toddlers are so creative and resourceful) as well as a built in bookmark is a huge plus. Now if they could just make books a bit more waterproof for the teething infant I usually have attached to me these days.

I can see Lucado having a lot of reach with this book. His stories are easy to relate too, his writing seeks to connect with his readers hearts, and he speaks simple truth. I was disappointed that sometimes the stories seemed too simplistic but, keeping that in balance with my love of academics, realize I may be the minority on that.

Easily accessible, relatable, and simple truths.
3.5 stars out of 5

 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.”

Friday, December 11, 2015

Good Night Little Love

Looking for a new bedtime story to share with your little ones? Good Night Little Love may  just be what you're looking for.

Good Night Little Love follows the journey of two bunnies as they get ready for bed and explore all the adventures they plan on having the next day.

This book has a lot of positives that are sure to attract the attention of younger children in your lives. The illustrations, wonderfully crafted by Anna Currey, fashion a beautiful world that is simultaneously intriguing (my two year old loves pointing out all the pictures with multiples and gleefully getting me to count them out loud) while still capturing the soothing and familiar style that just fits with a pre-bed story.
The attention for detail means that kids can connect and discover new things even after multiple reads (which lets face it, if you have kids you are going to read that story over and over again).

The story itself is fairly simply. Each page opens with the same line "Good night little love" which build in some wonderful familiarity (which I've been hoping to use for our sons echolalia) while using the following line to expand and branch out into the bunnies anticipated adventures.
This format really helped my son engage with the book as the repetition keyed him for a new page while the variation helped keep his curiosity and engagement.

My only negative with the book is the length. With my son's love of repetition each story is read 2-3 times in a sitting, however, this book is just long enough that my son just hasn't reached a long enough attention span to sit through a book this long twice. This Mama also felt the pages got a little draggy at the end. That's a pretty easy fix though with some creative page turning we get a slightly different book each time and my two year old is great at creative page turning ;)

4 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.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Painter's Daughter - Julie Klassen

If you like historical fiction with some Christian romance you really need to be reading Julie Klassen and her new book The Painter's Daughter is a great place to delve in and fall in love with her work for yourself.

The Painter's Daughter follows the story of Sophie Dumont, daughter of a reasonably well-known artist with undiscovered talent of her own. Following a whirlwind romance with the charming but immature Wesley Overtree, Sophie finds her future a frightening mixture of unknowns until Wesley's younger brother Stephen steps in and offers her a way out, but is Stephen's rescue more favourable than Wesley's abandonment?

I've sat and pondered just what it is about Klassen's work that keeps drawing me in.

At first I wondered if it was the length of the book. 
Klassen's work often feels more substantial than some of her contemporaries and doesn't hold the same loose ends feel that many authors in this genre seem to favour. 
I really appreciate how plotlines weren't just discarded for convenience or page number. From Sophie all the way down to Winnie each character got their own moment to shine. This really allows the characters to grow into themselves.
Obviously, Sophie and the Overtree's were natural characters to grow but I was pleasantly surprised to see the care given to Winne, Ms. Blake, and Mr. Keith as well. It's become a personal pet peeve in novels of late to see characters short changed in the name of space and I love that Klassen bucks this perceived trend.

I also find myself drawn in through Klassen's creation of atmosphere within her novels. There is something in the way Klassen crafts her settings and character that make it far easier to become absorbed into the story than to tear yourself away and The Painter's Daughter is no exception. The characters stayed with me long after the book was finished and the landscapes of Overtree Hall and Castle Rock were vivid enough to spring to life in my head.

The plot itself did fall on some familiar stories: the honourbound solider, the rascal brother, the ex, the wise woman, intrigue, etc . . . but Klassen fully commits and breathes life into her novel making it a worthwhile and satisfying read.

Highly recommend this book and there's still time to get this one under the tree for the reader in your life!

5 out of 5 stars!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Nuts About Books  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Every Little Thing - Deidra Riggs

Every once in awhile I come across a book that is hard to review. It's unique, it's necessary, and it really does take reading the book to discover how special it really is. As far as I'm concerned, Every Little Thing by Deidra Riggs is something special.

It's also hard to describe as a book. Some sections don't read like a book at all, they feel more like Mrs. Deidra Riggs has popped over and you've found yourself in the middle of a good conversation. Other sections are meant to be shared, read over and read aloud to get the full impact (something my husband will confirm though it may come with some mutterings about reading in bed at 11:30 pm, oops) Still other sections brought me back to my college days with the depth of the subjects Deidra dove into while still maintaining a beautiful simplicity this tired Mama could grasp at midnight.

The book opens with a quote about finding the extraordinary how it's here, how it's hidden in plain sight in the ordinary. Over the course of 9 chapters Riggs takes her readers through the ordinary, pointing out the pitfalls that can hinder us and the truths that can lift us into that extraordinary in the every day.

As a flipped through the pages (especially in sections 1 and 2 as the book is split into 3 sections) it was like having a conversation with Riggs. I'd sit and go "yes, that's nice but" and the next page would dive right into my unasked questions. Riggs honesty was refreshing and her humour delightful. Having started to come through the other side I alternated with giggles and knowing nods during her recounting of the first seven years in Nebraska (a definite highlight).

This book is timely and because of that, some people are not going to like it. For some, the combination of Riggs' honesty and the subject matter will be too painful. For others this book will be the breath of fresh air they've been looking for. Personally, I'm wondering how hard it would be to turn this into a book study. It's that good! Riggs writes from what she knows and that's part of the books appeal, her topics are the questions I hear over and over again: what to do with the lies, when we miss the mark, when we don't want to go, are we hearing right.
This is a book about life in all its moments.

5 out of 5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Nuts About Books  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Until The Dawn -Elizabeth Camden

A new month means new books and there's nothing like diving into some historical fiction as a way to get a new month started off right. (Not to mention I may be a wee bit stressed and any type of relaxing is most welcome in my books!)

Until the Dawn, introduces readers to Dierenpark, an abandoned mansion - save the loyal staff who maintain it and one Sophie van Riijn who makes their meals and maintains a weather station on the roof. When the long absent owners return following an unexplained tragedy 60 years prior, life at Dierenpark and the surrounding village faces an uncertain future due to the Vandermark "curse".
For Sophie, the curse bears far more personal implications as she sorts out her relationship with the foreboding Quentin Vandermark.

Overall, this was a fun read.

It had the marks of a standard historical fiction - including the innocent young maiden who retained her faith in light of hardship and the dark brooding man who enters her life. The addition of Pieter was a welcome one as his sweet and innocent conversations with Sophie provided room for character growth, depth, and faith based conversations to feel more natural and less contrived.

For myself, Until the Dawn moved into memorable territory thanks to the depth of these characters, Camden's willingness to show their pain and confusion, and a lovely plot the complete ending of which did surprise me in the end.

Although the character types are familiar to this genre, I really did enjoy the trio of Sophie, Quentin, and Pieter. The characters all showed growth over the course of the story and held strongly memorable personalities within their given roles.

Also, I found these characters believable within their environment. Sophie wasn't just the Vandermark's guide but the readers, sharing her childhood haunts with the readers. Pieter, in turn, gave readers a voice within the pages as his discovery of his new world matched pace with the readers unveiling.

My only concern with this novel was the pacing. While the first three quarters felt natural and progressed at what felt to be natural speeds, the last quarter felt rushed jam-packed in a jarring way.
It struck me like a college essay that realized they were nearing their word count and were desperate to cram in all in. Unfortunately, this meant that areas such as Quentin's self-exploration, the heart of the Vandermark curse, and the events of the final chapter felt under-explored and more tacked on. I would gladly have taken extra time reading to see these event more fully fleshed out and the characters given a more natural unfolding.

All in all this was a solid read and a definite consideration for anyone on your Christmas list with a taste for Christian/historical/women's fiction.
4 out of 5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Nuts About Books  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech

It's pretty hard to spend time in the evangelical church and not hear about Hillsong, however, this was my first opportunity to go beyond the songs and gain some insight into someone behind the songs.
Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech explores the author's understanding of the how and why we are called to worship.

Overall, Zschech presents a varied compilation in her approach to worship looking at everything from marriage, child-rearing, to work, to self. This was an interesting approach compared to other books I've read on the topic which tend to focus on a specific track or audience. Darlene, in comparison, seems to be aiming for a general overview which any reader can find a point of connection with.

That doesn't, however, remove the balance of the book. While there is no less emotional points than I would expect from something associated with Hillsong I was also pleasantly surprised to find many quotes and references from familiar names within church history, supplementing her position.

Surprisingly enough, given the author's personal journey over the past year with cancer, I did find myself disagreeing with her on her views regarding suffering, feeling that her view leaned a little too close to the church's tendency to gloss over or rush through painful times that may defy explanation. The nice thing is you can disagree with a chapter and still find value within a book of this nature.

I believe that this book would be of most interest to those with an interest in books which are easily accessible revolving around worship and Christian living or those who have an interest in Hillsong and their music.

I would rate this book at 3.5 stars out of 5. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Nuts About Books  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Making it Home

Making it Home by Emily T. Wierenga is a memoir- a fact I didn't realize until I was well into the book, perhaps because it doesn't feel like one initially. Honestly, I'm still not sure  I'd classify it as such and true fans of the genre may not like that classification either.

Instead I'd rather liken Emily's writing to glimpses into the soul. Where some may read her words and cringe at the seeming passivity in her voice. I found myself drawn in by the honesty and vulnerability, the realness of someone seeking themselves through the lens of faith and life.

When I began reading Emily's book it was the tagline that drew me in "Finding my way peace, identity, and purpose". In fact, as I cuddled up to being reading I muttered to myself how much I'd love to find that because life with two under two is crazy and messy, and illness is tiring, and the last thing I wanted to read was something sad about cancer. Emily doesn't pull any punches though. She's honest about life with 4 littles, the struggles of old hurts that still seek to lure us back, the pain of loss and death. Everything I didn't want in a book.

But also everything I needed . .  because Emily is equally open about those little glimpses of God she finds in the middle of that chaos. She's opens the door for readers to meet with her in the midst of her pain and rawness because that's the path that is taken on her journey home and the journey is necessary - it breathes truth and leads to life.

As someone who hasn't always fit in I have a love/hate relationship with this type of book. I hate when books can touch so close to home because it hurts, it brings to light the struggles I read to escape. Yet I love the reassurance that there are kindred spirits out there, people who aren't afraid to struggle and be real and find life in the mess.

This is a book that probably won't be appreciated fully unless you are willing to be vulnerable, vulnerable enough to see life from another's eyes and appreciate the strength it takes to let others in while having the strength to use the book as a chance to reflect on your own journey.

4.5/5 stars

Disclaimer - I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion from Nuts About Books. The views expressed are my own.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Road to Becoming - Jenny Simmons

Everyone has had a dream die.
Not everyone knows what to do when they do. We don't like talking about the lost dreams, the crashed and burned dreams, the abandoned dreams. We're told to work hard and persevere,taught to dream big and achieve. 
This means that when the inevitable happens, whether they were big dreams, life dreams, or everyday dreams we can feel lost because who wants to admit they've failed and if we don't talk about it how do we learn, grieve, and grow?

The Road to Becoming is one part lesson, one part memoir, and all excellent storytelling (which really is one of the best ways to learn).

When I started Jenny's book, I confess, I wondered what in the world I had started reading. College enforced my love of clear direction and thesis, much like the author I enjoy my books and movies neatly tied up in the end with a big red bow. So as I meandered through the first few chapters I almost put aside the book and moved on. 

I'm so glad I stuck with it though because once we moved through "The Dreaming and Destruction" this book packed a punch. Divided into "The burying," "The Lostness," "The Waiting," and "The Becoming" I found myself confronted by a woman who knew about the loss of dreams, the pain and confusion not only of that loss but of the emptiness that fills the dreams prior space and the journey back from that grief.

I was struck with Jenny's openness about her faith while she walked through her desert and her ability to highlight not only the sparseness in that environment but also the life that can slowly draw you back in if you're willing to learn to listen.

I would adore seeing this book used in a women's group. Honest, I think it would be painful and hard at times because who wants to talk about loss and grief when it involves the intangibles of dreams (as if their existence merely in thought lessens the loss) but Jenny's book provides enough humour, honesty, and faith to make this a wonderful vehicle for exploration of self and a topic often under acknowledged.

4.5 out of 5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion through Nuts About Books. The opinions expressed are entirely my own

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Plans I Have For You

The Plans I Have For You by Amy Parker takes kids through a colourful journey regarding what they can do with their lives. Presented with bright, fun, and engaging pictures Parker explores what kids can do with their lives seemingly anchoring the book on Jer. 29:11.

At first glance I was excited by this book. the pictures were instantly captivating and whimsical which is always nice for this Mama since we're firmly in the "let's repeat this book as many times as possible before Mama makes me go to bed" stage. Not to mention that as our gorgeous leaves start falling from the trees and cloudy weather ushers in cooler temperatures it's nice to find bright and sunny colours somewhere.

When I read through the book with my son I could quickly see how many people would gravitate towards this book. The passage is familiar, the story easy to read and easy to follow for pre-readers, and the lesson is easily expounded upon in real life - I'm just not sure of the message.

The book could easily read as find your passion and pursue it because God has this big plan for your life. The problem is I know so many people who followed their passion only to have it change, or fail, or discover twists and turns that slowed them from their ultimate goal. Many of them did well and found peace in living their lives by faith. However, the ones who struggled the most were the ones who had bought into the idea that God has a great plan for you to find your passion and excel in that path, that road brings no flexibility, less chance for growth, and less room from input from anyone other than self.

Maybe I'm reading too much into a children's book but kids are so perceptive and I want my boys to have the freedom to fail, the ability to not find their identity in passions/skills/job, the wisdom to know that their calling may be cleaning bathrooms but still being the smiling face a young student needs to see to get them through the rough patches.

3 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.”

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Imposter - Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Stoltzfus family has seen their fair share of trials over the last few years but as Katrina Stoltzfus reached adulthood things seemed to be looking up with new love and direction in her life. 
However, between church politics, family antics, and a few bad choices Katrina's life is getting more complicated by the day.

Once again I've jumped into a series mid-plot ( a habit i'm starting to become accustomed too) so I was pleasantly surprised to find this story stood reasonably well as a stand-alone with prior book references merely strengthening my desire to go back and become better acquainted with the Stoltzfus family.
This was an even bigger surprise as Amish fiction (my husband and I debated this but i'm convinced Amish fiction is its own sub-genre) is not my go-to genre.Suzanne's characters are so lively and honest that they transcend their genre to be simply warm, inviting, and intriguing characters who beckon readers into their world.

That said, I feel that The Imposter would find its most loyal fans among those who appreciate Amish fiction, Women's fiction, or even coming of age stories thanks to the character of Katrina, Jesse, and  Birdy (the latter may be arguable given Birdy's age but her plot felt as much of a coming into her own as Katrina's did). Fisher's book finds it's strength in it's wonderfully written relationships, characters, and emotional turmoil (not to mention a cup of tea and a cozy blanket).

For myself, I found myself drawn in by the characters. A novel without characters is just a retelling of facts or a poor essay. Novels need living characters to breathe life into them and Fisher has some good one.

Katrina was a wonderful character who surprised me with the decisions she made and her strength of character.I particularly enjoyed her interactions the widow Thelma (who really should have a story of her own!)

Jesse was another fascinating find. I loved Fisher's honesty with this teen who wasn't sure how to settle down. The relatability that Fisher was able to craft into the various Stoltzfus members really  shows her skill as an author.

I also found The Imposter  capable of holding my attention thanks to its varying range of dilemma's (no spoilers but range from the hilarious in my opinion to the honest and raw) as well as its ability to showcase differing sides. Throughout the book readers are gifted the chance to see things from the Stoltzfus children's perspective and their fathers, Katrina and Andy's point of view. I love that even though the story keeps returning to Katrina readers aren't left to understand merely from her perspective (a good technique but one that would have cheapened this story).

Overall. I was impressed with The Imposter and easily put it near the top of other Amish fiction I have read.
4.5/5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion through Nuts About Books. The opinions expressed are entirely my own/

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Goodnight Manger

Every once in awhile  I stumble across an author who becomes a "go-to" for our family bookshelves.
Most recently, we've fallen in love with the stunning pairing of Laura Sassi and Jane Chapman.
A few weeks ago, I had the joy of reviewing Goodnight Ark which has become a fast favourite in our home, so I was equally excited to have the chance to dive into their newest offering Goodnight Manger.

Goodnight Manger follows the story of Baby Jesus' first night on earth. All snuggled up in the manger it's time to sleep except . . . things are way too noisy. How is anybody supposed to sleep?

First of all, I love Jane Chapman's illustrations. She has a knack for finding a balance between friendly and appealing for children while still be inviting for the parents who get to read their children's books over and over again. I loved how warm and vibrant the images were, leaping off the pages in a way that complements the story perfectly. Chapman also showed some brave creativity by not conforming to norms when it comes for illustrations in a Christmas book. Her lively angels and appropriate ethnicities were a welcome change.

The story itself was exactly what I expected. Geared towards ages 4 through 8 younger siblings will be equally charmed by the fun, rhyming pattern through which the Christmas story is unfolding in a unique way. Much like their earlier Goodnight Ark, Goodnight Manger uses lots of action and movement in its words allowing parents to come up with their own actions to make story time as interactive as they choose (a valuable tool in our house as we work to overcome our son's speech delay and actions are currently our best tool!)

Christmas is one of my favourite times of year but I can easily see Goodnight Manger being requested no matter the month.

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.”

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Taming the To-Do List by Glynnis Whitwer

As a point of interest, I put off reading this book for a few days because of my to-do list.

When I did get the chance to start reading it (after the kids and husband were asleep) I found myself doing an awful lot of nodding, wincing, and whispering ouch. Some books just hit a little too close to home for comfort.

Whitwer's book on procrastination is interesting. As she points out throughout her book, time management is a highly covered topic in today's market. There are enough takes and opinions on time, procrastination, and efficiency to cause decision fatigue. For the most part, however, I found Whitwer to be a refreshing new insight.

What I loved.

I so appreciate Whitwer's ability to bring multiple causes and roots to the front of awareness in her book. Let's face it my procrastination can have a few causes (most notably perfectionism and choice fatigue/overload) and I appreciate Whitwer's ability to take different causes and give each their own voice. This felt like it would be particularly helpful for those who have never reflected on the reasons for their own procrastination and may require help for this inner reflection.

I also appreciated Whitwer's writing style. The book is definitely geared towards a female audience (although my husband enjoyed a few selections I chose to read aloud) and in that Whitwer has taken on an honest and almost conversational tone in her writings. Whitwer is honest with her own journey away from procrastination even admitting to having procrastinated on writing this very book. The made the book so much easier to connect with.

Things I liked less.

There were times that I felt the book was more repetitive than I would have liked. Some of these were Whitwer reintroducing or expanding upon a story or idea that had been introduced earlier in the book. This has always been a personal pet peeve however and would not detract from most readers.

In the end, I think this book would actually be a great option for a women's book group. I could see how with Whitwer's breakdown of chapters as well as the homework option at the end of each section this could easily transition into a group study allowing participants to hold each other accountable and share their tips as well as encourage others in their group.

4 out of 5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion through Nuts About Books. The opinions expressed are entirely my own/

A Noble Masquerade - Kristi Ann Hunter

Lady Miranda has a few secrets.

First she's not naturally very lady-like. Although Miranda may be the daughter and sister to  Dukes, her lady-like skills have come through years of unending lessons from her mother.
Second, she deals with her less lady-like qualities by allowing them to run free in letters she has written from girlhood to her brother's school friend the Duke of Marshington, knowing she is safe from breaking any societal rules since each letter stays safely tucked away in her closet.
When her brothers strange new valet accidentally ensures one of Miranda's letters makes it's way to the long-lost Duke Miranda finds herself caught in an entirely new world.

I love the chance to find new-to-me authors and Kristi Ann Hunter is just one of those. I am fully confident that should I find another historical fiction by Hunter on a trip to the local bookstore it will quickly be coming home to my library!

I really did love this book and ended up reading it cover to cover in one sitting.
Hunter's characters were vibrant and personable. Miranda and her family, Ryland, Jess, Price, and Jeffreys were easy to bring to life in my head thanks to the personality and quirks unfolded by Hunter throughout her pages. I would easily and delightedly dive into a sequel that expanded upon this wonderful world. Miranda was easily my favourite character and I found myself laughing at her brother's protective streak and sympathizing with her as she traveled down the rocky road of figuring out who exactly Miranda was.

The pace of the book was also an unexpected surprise given my familiarity with the genre. Thanks to the espionage and the center of the action plot there was a quick pace with enough mystery to keep me hooked. Although I was able to guess where things were going Hunter managed to keep the climax a surprise (with some lovely humour and romance to balance things out) and the full nature of who was and wasn't involved did take a fair portion of the book to unravel thanks to Hunter's ability to balance action with romance and character building/growth.

 Also, while the book does end in a way that is not unexpected for the genre. I was pleasantly surprised to see a Christian fiction wrestling with the idea of singleness for women. Miranda's honest pain at being unmarried during her sister's first season. her back and forth with the idea of being single, and her willingness to start accepted her worth as a single woman was a definite change from what I usually see in Christian fiction and I loved it (although I also really loved the ending and was rooting for it since the halfway mark in the book)

Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion through Nuts About Books. The opinions expressed are entirely my own/

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lumiere by Jacqueline E. Garlick

Eyelet's world changed the night of the Great Illumination.

Not only did she lose one of the two people she could trust not to betray her but, following the great flash, her world was plunged into a seemingly eternal twilight.

Now, years later, Eyelet's world changed again as her mother is sentenced to die for a crime of which she is innocent while Eyelet finds herself convicted for the crime of being her daughter. On the run with dangers inside and out, will Eyelet find the safety she seeks?

Actually I'm not sure on that last one because - Trilogy alert! On a side note, am I the only one who finds discovering recently published trilogies bittersweet? Sweet as you get the joy of devouring a book without spoilers and bitter because answers are in yet to be found books 2 and 3 (okay, okay I may be a bit impatient).

Lumiere  is book 1 of 3 in The Illumination Paradox series, written by Jacqueline E. Garlick. Focusing on the characters of Eyelet and Urlick the mysterious man Eyelet meets while escaping from the upper class Brethren.

What I liked:

I found myself increasingly drawn to Garlick's characters - especially as the supporting cast allowed readers access to different facets of Eyelet and Urlick.

Urlick's initially offsetting manner was tempered by Iris who quickly became a personal favourite once she revealed her surprisingly feisty and loyal personality where as C.L and Pan helped soften Eyelet and give her depth where it was needed. Actually, upon reflection I think Pan was a brilliant addition to the cast and I'm excited to see how she plays into the next two books (since I hate spoilers and Pan has a doozy that's all I'll say).

The world was also fascinating in its potential. The ranked society has always proven a fabulous playground for my imagination and the contrast between the Brethren, the Gears and the follies not to mention the secretive Limpidious. Garlick did a great job setting up the later two areas to be potentially important plot points that I would love to see revealed.

I think that's one thing I appreciated the most in this book. Garlick has hinted and wonderfully teased out clues for which features will be important later in the series. Where some trilogies I've read feel barely connected, Lumiere feels almost sadly incomplete at times as characters and mysterious are (hopefully) temporarily discarded until the characters catch up to wear the reader's knowledge has allowed them to go.

Things I didn't like:

I was sad not to see more of Sebastian. He seemed like a great little character and had a lot of potential as an ally for Eyelet in an area where she has few. I would easily revise Sebastian to a plus if he reappears later :)

My only other question with the book was the turned. Now, admittedly Lumiere does not allow us to go beyond the characters understanding of the vapours. However, the criminally while the criminals were a suitably creepy foe and the Brigsman were a natural foe from the Brethren. The Turned just didn't hit me in the same way. They seemed almost too fantastical for their preferred method of dealing with their prey.

In the end, I found Lumiere to be a solid introduction to Garlick's world and will be interested to see how this story unfolds

4 out of 5 stars

I received this book from NetGallery in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Thank you Lord for Everything by P.J. Lyons

It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is only a month away.

Thanksgiving is one of those weird little holidays for us that is usually pretty laid back and ends up looking a lot like our regular extended family dinners.However, the central theme of thankfulness is one I certainly appreciate as well as the opportunity to help ingrain a spirit of thankfulness in my kids.

I'm grateful that Zondervan has a wide selection of books on thankfulness that tie in beautifully to this upcoming season and their newest offering from P.J Lyons and Tim Warnes is no exception.

Thank You Lord for Everything follows a young bear throughout his day - from waking up in the morning, to having breakfast, and going out to play with his friends.

I really enjoyed Lyons style in writing this book (and the more I become re-introduced to children's literature the more I'm convinced that good kid's book have their own styles, rhythms, and compositions to separate the good from the bad.) Every page, no matter what topic is being discussed though always presented with a fun rhyme and rhythm, ends with the phrase "Thank you Lord for everything",  The repetition is brilliant for helping little ones remember and definitely fits in with my son's developmental level (we're repeating all sorts of things these days).

The sentences are short - fitting in with an average toddler's attention span and because readers get to follow our main bear throughout his day the story also helps to emphasize just what it means to be thankful in everything.

The illustrations by Warnes are warm and compliment the story  beautifully, giving life and movement to the story. I especially enjoy how the colours are bright and cheerful without being "in your face" as the wrong bedtime story in our house can liven up a certain toddler rather than help him prepare for bed.

Overall I'd give this story 4.5/5 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, August 27, 2015

Thankful by Eileen Spinellii

One of the issues I spent many hours mulling over when I first became a mom was how to teach the intangibles, things like kindness, respect, patience, and thankfulness. While I recognized the value of making these life long lessons I was at a loss how to intentionally guide when language was a factor (all of my volunteer experience was with extremely chatty pre-teens - what an awesome age).
Now that our son is of an age where he is interacting more with others I'm so grateful for books which explore and illustrates concepts that we're trying to encourage in his everyday like thankfulness and this is where the beauty of Spinelli's book comes in.

Thankful by Eileen Spinelli takes a classic illustration style and walks readers through both mundane and whimsical situations that show people who are happy and a reason for that thankfulness.
The book itself is an easy read with each page holding a short statement centering on a scenario on thankfulness.
While the book doesn't explicitly teach thankfulness I love how each page can be used to tie thankfulness into real life and/or launch a discussion regarding the role of thankfulness in everyday life making it a potentially great learning tool depending on a child's learning strengths.

As far as book construction and illustration goes Thankful has the same quality I've come to expect from Zondervan. A sturdy, hardcover book Thankful offers illustrations that remind me of the classic books I would read at my Grandmother's house growing up adding a nostalgic factor that broadens this books appeal across generations.

4 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.”

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Goodnight Ark

Instilling a love a reading can be difficult when your family consists of very active little boys. Although we've worked hard to incorporate reading from day one - some days our oldest is content to cuddle and have story time while others he'd prefer to spin around, run, jump, and climb until he crashes in some way.

This is why I'm in love with Goodnight Ark by Laura Sassi and Jane Chapman.
This book has verbal movement and imagery as vibrant as my boys while still being a fun read for my husband and I if our son decides that all three bedtime stories should consist of the same book.

Goodnight Ark follows the story of Noah and his ark full of animals at bedtime. As the storm rages on outside, the animals slowly become frightened and, two by two, make their way to Noah's bed for safety but just how many animals can fit into one little bed?

Sassi has included a lot of verbal tricks and quirks to help keep kids interested while giving parents something fun to read out loud. With pages full of rhymes, alliteration, and active sounds to recite there is plenty to entice kids to keep paying attention. Chapman manages to support the narrative beautifully with colourful and engaging pictures, which was a pleasant surprise given the story was set at night (dark) and in the ark (lots of browns).
The humour Sassi throws into Goodnight Ark adds to its undeniable charm while the ending is sufficiently sweet to help usher my own kids into their nighttime routine.

This is truly a book the whole family can enjoy (my husband even stopped what he was doing to finish listening to the story.) and would make a perfect birthday or Christmas gift (yep, I went there).

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.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Say & Pray Bible by Diane Stortz

Finding books for our family is proving to be a bit more of a challenge than I counted on. With a 2 year old who wants to turn the pages himself (and shreds anything that looks shredded, goodbye pop-up books) and a 5 week old who we hope will eventually share the library books needs to be quality in content and construction.This is why we're quickly becoming fans of Diane Stortz in our home and her newest offering we've found the Say & Pray Bible.

I was excited to have the chance to review another book by Diane Stortz as her Words to Dream On has become a welcome addition to our shelves.

Before I start on this book I have to comment on Sarah Ward's illustrations! Our whole family (we're assuming the lack of crying equals agreement from our youngest) love Sarah's work in the Say &Pray Bible. The contrast on colours makes pointing and naming the pictures a breeze compared to many kid's books which seem content to jam as many images and colours onto a page as possible. Our two year old stayed engaged as we flipped through the pages delighted that Mommy named each item once instead of our usual three tries and we're out approach to figure out what he's pointing too. The pictures struck me as familiar and comforting, honestly they just make me smile with their classic feel.

The book itself has also proven to be a winner with our family. It's easy-to-read pages make it simple to pick up and read a short story when we're under the clock but the variety of stories also make the Say & Pray Bible a suitable longer read when time allows.

The labelled pictures are by far a favourite feature in Stortz's latest offering as our son has a speech delay. Since we spend our days naming and labeling everything anyway, it's an awesome addition to have a book with half the work already accomplished for us. Simple one word labels work at his level and, given his interest, we're hoping he may even pick up some words as we flip through the pages over the next weeks and months.

The content itself is geared towards it's target toddler audience with shortened stories and verses for little minds to pay attention to and (hopefully) retain.
Each story, displayed on two pages, also contains a quick prayer to help familiarize toddlers with the importance of prayer at anytime (because let's face it in most houses story time is anytime the toddler plops a book in your lap). Finally, the print is nice and large to help when reading over a new baby's head or even for helping toddlers point at words and sound them out when learning to read becomes a reality.

Overall, I'm grateful for the material Diane Stortz has added to our family library. I know her books will stand the test of my boys while providing them with fun and educational books.

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.”

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Refining Fire

Tracie Peterson has long been recognized as a leader in Christian historical fiction. Often featuring memorable female leads, Peterson weaves life int these characters while providing readers landmarks of events, places, or advancements to help anchor her stories,

Refining Fire is no different in this vein, featuring many memorable characters while centering on Militine, Thane, Abrianna, and Wade in Seattle of 1889.

Militine and Thane both have painful pasts that are, in their minds, best left behind them, not only for the bad memories but also for the potential cost to their newly rebuilding lives.
For Militine, this involves hiding out at the Madison Bridal School. For Thane, through his work as a volunteer firefighter. Neither are overly concerned with the Christian life and God their friends continually propose through word or deed.

I really enjoy Militine. I like the wounded character and by now it should come as no surprise the Militine was an instant draw in this book. Her backstory, slowly unfolded was fascinating to guess at although it's abrupt reveal did feel a little anticlimactic. Thane rounded out a wonderful pairing as Peterson captured a great dynamic. The counsellor in me cringed slightly as, in real life, this pairing and the speed with which they progressed could spell disaster but for a fictional account I was willing to simply read and enjoy without getting overly critical.

Wade and Abrianna provided an interest counterpoint to Militine and Thane's intensity. Wade's longsuffering at Abrianna's ideas and lack of awareness provided a lightness to the narrative (although at the same time couldn't be faulted Abrianna's lack of awareness did become an aggravation at times). I appreciated that the Christian models in Refining Fire weren't perfect: Wade struggled with his future, Abrianna with her . . . let's call it intensity, and the Aunt's also had their own little quirks to help them feel less archtype and more human.

Even the climactic adventure, though somewhat expected given Abrianna and Militine's friendship, provided an exciting finish that kept me emotionally invested (an element I often find missing in this genre) as I worried with Militine over her friends safety.

I would definitely pick up other books in the Brides of Seattle series and heartily recommend this to other fans of the genre.

I received this book from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Women Are Scary

Women are Scary is supposed to get your attention, make you question, make you laugh but like most  of the relationships it's describing, at the core is something necessary that has a lot of heart.

I had intended to write this review before our second little arrived, instead I ended up remembering it's pages as we spent our week in the NICU waiting for our little one to gain enough strength to come home.

Women are Scary is a truth many moms can face with the so-called "mommy wars" and the general insecurities that can accompany gaining responsibility for the life of a helpless human being.
Since welcome our oldest two years ago I've found myself battling PPD alongside the general trying to unravel just how one does make friends with other mommies. I long ago admitted I am an introvert and while I can make small talk, insecurities about social interactions along with an inability to shut up about my passions (sci-fi, adoption, counselling issues and the church) tend to make friendships a hard won achievement.

Melanie Dale's book is brilliant in it's simplicity.
I'm guessing many moms reading this will probably not be overwhelmed by new knowledge (unless teething is currently underway at home in which case most information could be considered overwhelming). Most of this book is reiterating information most of us already know but we've forgotten or simply have decided it no longer applies now that we've moved into adulthood.

For me, the strength of Melanie's book is her presentation.
Here is a book about friendship that feels like sitting down with a friend over coffee (or tea if you'rea dreaded tea drinker like myself ;) ).
I recognize that not all readers will resonate with her humour, sci-fi references, etc. . . but it's just like in real life - some people are never meant to be more than first base acquaintances and that's okay (don't worry sports don't factor too heavily into this book, even I was able to follow all the references).
In today's social media driven culture, it is refreshing to hear someone stop and point out that not everyone is going to be invited into every area of one another's life - and that's okay! Between her three bases of relationship to her chapter on saying goodbye, these practical tips and insights read as a breath of fresh air to a society that feels driven to add their brother's best friend from third grade onto various social networks.

After reading Melanie's book I had the chance to put some of her advice into practice in the unique setting of the NICU. While not an obvious first choice for striking up a conversation there was a captive audience of moms in the same boat we were in - having a child needing help - who weren't able to go anywhere else. So I did as Melanie suggested - I started with a hello. Here's the amazing thing. I don't think I found life long friends but we did talk, for a few days we shared life, and in the end the other moms weren't so scary after all.

I would recommend this book for all practical, down to earth moms who are lonely and looking for some perspective.

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, June 11, 2015

The Midwife's Tale

Martha is happy with her life and work - living with her brother's family and carrying on the family tradition of welcoming the babies of Trinity into the world.
As town midwife she leads a content life secure in her place and assured of her position in town. However, when her daughter runs away and a new doctor takes up practice while she's away, Martha finds her entire existence suddenly shaken as she tries to find her footing in a shifting world.

Midwifery and doula's are of particular interest to me (especially as we hit month 9 of this pregnancy) so this book by Delia Parr seemed like the perfect way to beat some pregnancy insomnia. 

Having grown up in a smaller community I appreciate Parr's ability to stay true to life in a small town. Trinity was a highly believable setting to the cast of characters introduced, to small town relationship quirks, the power of public sentiment, and the ability of the gossip mill to turn life upside down. Trinity's ebb and flow help set the pace for the story's plot and added depth for me personally.

With a town like Trinity it wasn't hard to appreciate the characters within that setting. I know I am biased but certain characters like Martha, the sisters at the confectionery, Thomas and Eleanor, and Samuel (and boy although for different reasons) felt more relatable  as I had met people in my own small town who were brought to mind as I read the characters. Honestly, I'm not sure if these personal connections allowed me to add depth where it may not have been explicitly written or if that depth was always there in the pages but either way, I know my own experiences added to my enjoyment of The Midwife's Tale.

With so much enjoyment of the pacing, setting, and characters, I thought we were in for a clear win on this book, however, I do wonder at the ending to a degree. In all fairness, The Midwife's Tale is clearly noted as book 1 in a new series (I actually got to start a series on book 1 for a change someone write this down!) so perhaps storylines, and I won't say which ones for spoilers sake, that felt rushed and incomplete may, in fact, be slotted in for a book 2 or book 3. A highly plausible scenario given the way the last few chapters were set up.
If the book and it's characters were truly left in the situations they are in, I think some readers would have a difficult time fully enjoying the potential this tale has to offer. I reserve the right for final judgement until book 2's eventual release.

In the meantime I give this book 4 out of 5 stars and my thanks for some pleasant pregnancy insomnia filled nights.

I received this book from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion, the views expressed here are my own. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Crimson Path of Honor

The Crimson Path of Honor by M.B. Tosi follows the story of Luci Towers, a young, privileged Luci Towers who is on a mission to avoid a loveless arranged marriage that would leave her trapped in society. To escape her fate, Luci packs her bags and heads west to teach on the new frontier . . . only to be promptly captured as the lone survivor of her wagon train by a Native raiding party.
Now faced with a new people, new culture, and new life Luci- renamed Morning Star, must find a way to adapt to a foreign land while trying to understand the confusion of her new chief Golden Eagle.

I wanted to like this book. I've racked my brain thinking about this since I finished Tosi's book a few weeks ago and the premise was solid. I love historical pieces. I love strong female characters and the way that Luci/Morning Star wrestles with her faith and her heart in the midst of trying circumstances was refreshing in the honesty it portrayed rather than the clean cut version that can be so evident in Christian literature.

However, the cons sadly outweighed the pros for me in this novel. While the book opened with a preface regarding history and sensitivity certain facts were omitted to make the novel work with Luci initial overwhelming (Scalping for example was adopted from white settlers). There were also instances throughout the book where frustration and language differences were either ignored or poorly represented leaving the village looking less intelligent and more "savage" so to speak than the educated Luci. These passages just didn't seem to sit right, even after rereading them.

Finally, despite the honesty of Luci's struggle, the ending fell into a very neat pattern that left it feeling a little too formula driven for me. The last chapters were quite predictable and felt more rushed and cheapened given the pacing and wrestling of the rest of the novel - more like an afterthought than a well structured conclusion.

Overall, I give this book 2 stars out of 5.

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.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Fairy Tale Romance Collection by Melanie Dickerson

If you've been checking in here for awhile the name Melanie Dickerson might sound a bit familiar.

Last Christmas season I had the opportunity to read the last book in this collection and review it in this post .
Overall, I enjoyed the book and found it held its own as a "read-alone" given the references to prior characters and books.

However, I love stories that continue on well, giving insight into the area or secondary characters that would have distracted from the initial plot. So when I was given the chance to review Dickerson's full fairy tale collection I eagerly signed on for a lighter distraction from these darned braxton-hicks :)

Dickerson's fairy tale collection weaves it's way through 5 medieval recreations of classic fairy tales (and I've heard rumours of two more novels expected to join the series). 
Each book bares its own driving theme i.e. Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, etc. .. and, with the exception of one lone tale, have a strongly interconnected nature following the same Noble family and their town as they grow and mature throughout two generations.

Book #1 - The Healer's Apprentice ( Sleeping Beauty) follows the story of a young village girl named Rose. Rose has achieved her dream of becoming her town healer's apprentice - thereby freeing her from the obligation of marriage out of duty rather than love something her mother is more than eager to encourage. Unfortunately, Rose finds herself at a disadvantage becoming unsettled/queasy/ ill-at-ease when it comes to people who are ill, bleeding, or in need of medical help- a problem for any future healer yet one that seems far less troubling than the noble who continually crosses her thoughts and path or his brother who seems intent on finding a way into her life.

The Merchant's Daughter (Beauty and the Beast) follows young Annabel who's family has fallen on hard times through a combination of her father's death and her family's selfishness. To save the family's prospects, Annabel becomes a servant at the new master's house but who's salvation is really at hand and what circumstances really surround the mysterious new master?

The Fairest Beauty (Snow White) technically follows young Sophie, a beautiful servant girl who has lived all her memoried life at the hands of a vain, cruel Mistress, however, this story also gives equal time to the young Noble Gabe. With Sophie's life at risk when her Mistresses' patience finally runs out, Gabe risks everything to save the young servant who may be his injured brother's betrothed while discovering some hard truths about himself in the process.

The Captive Maiden (Cinderella) Gisella grew up the daughter of a knight and a lover of the horses her father bred. After his death, Gisella became content to care and live with her father's horses trusting their companionship over the human's who betray and mistreat her. A chance encounter in the marketplace and a snowballing series of events at the town's tournament threaten to give Gisella a  chance at a life she's only dreamed of as long as conspirators don't turn her dreams into nightmares.

Overall, I enjoyed this series. Dickerson's work is a fun read for teen's and adults who enjoy Christian fantasy or romance novels as the books maintain a steady balance between both. As someone who can't really handle romance novels (darn pregnancy hormones) I found the relational aspects of these books to be mostly balanced and well maintained. The Christian aspect is also well worth noting as some reviews I saw floating around before reading the series myself felt this wasn't marked clearly enough in the series' identifiers (I disagree) but do note some books have sections that could be labelled as "preachy" depending on the readers' background and experience with religion.

Dickerson shows a lot of potential in her books and her skill shows evident signs of growth when her books are read in order (or reflected upon in context if you're like me and stumble across book 5 before 1-4). I found this to be a highly enjoyable aspect of the series as the character's depth and growth seemed to find parallels in what felt like Dickerson's personal growth and gained confidence throughout the series.

That said, I did find the early books were the ones that held my attention the longest.
Annabel and Rose were characters who felt more resonant, making their stories more personally appealing. 
It probably didn't hurt that Beauty and the Beast is a long-time favourite story of mine either which is why I was a little sad Annabel doesn't feature in later books as other characters are apt to pop in and out as the plot allows.

Granted a target audience of Christian fantasy/romance enthusiasts I would definitely recommend this series - in order :) - for readers looking for easier reads in these upcoming summer months. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy

This month I had the opportunity to explore Donald Miller’s latest offering Scary Close.
 Donald Miller is a name that came up time and again throughout my college years, acting as a polarizing force through his works such as Blue Like Jazz. However, even among all this buzz, this was my first actual exposure to his work.

On a whole, I can understand the appeal of Miller’s work.

His writing style is familiar, comfortable. His book reads as a conversation between friends over a coffee. This style seemed especially appropriate given Miller’s focus on intimacy and relationships. It almost felt as though the style itself was another forum through which Miller was attempting to explore and express his feelings on the subject matter.

That said, after reading the book, I am still not entirely sure of Miller’s point.

On one hand, readers are introduced to a meandering journey of Miller’s relationship and intimacy issues ending in the author’s marriage to Betsy. On the other, Miller seems intent on trying to explain life lessons about intimacy as related to this journey.

While there were high points where Miller conveys important work (I particularly enjoyed the chapter with him ending a lecture by jumping in a lake), I almost felt like the point of Miller’s work was buried under the emotional connection he worked to form with the reader through the biographical narrative. In my case, the “so what” of the book got lost between personal growth retreats and fixing up broken down locations for the long awaited wedding.

Although I love the stated topic and have read avidly on the subject before, I couldn't shake the feeling the Scary Close was not written with someone of my gender (female) or life stage (young mom) in mind. I did get the distinct impression this would have been a much discussed book had it been around during my college years.

Overall, I give this book 3 out of stars mainly because I can see its potential given the right audience.

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.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Blessings For the Morning by Susie Larson.

With life swirling messily around  a toddler, a pregnancy, and a big move it can become all too easy to get lost in the chaos of it all.
Big things just seem to make way for more big things, large tasks just seem to get more complex. Our to-do lists seems to have little elves that magically lengthen it while we sleep.

In the middle of all this mess, I try (and admittedly often fail) to remember baby steps.
When our son took his first steps it was, obviously, a huge milestone. Yet, looking back, I think, as adults, we often forget how much those first steps cost.

To take baby steps requires venturing into the unknown, coordinating things that have never worked in that manner before, to learn and master skills previously unknown while looking on at others who have already made that step.
Looking back baby steps are building blocks - simple, foundational. In the middle of our chaos baby steps can be a looming possibility.

Throughout our craziness I was grateful to be asked to review Susie Larson's newer devotional Blessings for the Morning.

Right out of the box I knew Susie had put together something exceedingly helpful for those, like me, in a busy stage of life.
Blessings offers a sturdy, smaller size perfect for storing by bedsides, by favourite chairs, or in purses where it can be easily accessed in the morning. There is even a ribbon bookmark to help the more distracted (like me) find my place the next day!

The material itself is beautifully presented with photo-based backgrounds that, I find, consistently draw me in, often before I even begin reading the daily text.This has had the unexpected benefit of helping me distance myself mentally from the busyness in our home, something I have struggled with for years when trying to find quiet times.

The reading itself is simple.
Larson presents a verse, a theme, and a series of promises, ideas, and challenges with which readers can direct their focus for their day. Keeping in mind the busyness of her target audience, these readings can be done quickly or used as an introduction to a longer time of prayer and reading depending on the needs and schedule of the reader.
Either way, lack of time is certainly not a reasonable excuse for skipping out with the user-friendly method Larson has compiled.

I do understand that some may be seeking a morning devotional with more depth and substance for Biblical learning. That is not Larson's endeavor with this book and those who wish to use this material for sole academic studying will be sorely disappointed. In all honesty, when I first started exploring Blessings the first thing that came to mind was - baby steps.

Blessings can help readers in times of life where quiet time is a challenge due to any number of circumstances re-enter into a daily space with their Creator. These easy to access daily meditations can serve as a way to wet the appetite as readers re-learn what it means to spend time daily doing devotionals- baby steps.

All in all I am impressed with Larson's book and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest review the opinions are my own.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Words to Dream On by Diane Stortz

I still remember when our son was born and we started to leave the hospital.
There were pamphlets, how-to guides. nurses visits, home visits, everything to help us care for our child's physical and mental well being in those foundational and sleep deprived early days.

Yet, as our little one grew I found it difficult to find a durable, accessible, and child-friendly source to help introduce our son to matters of faith and the heart. Although the market is full of books for bedtime full of familiar Bible stories I struggled to find one that was suitable colourful with age-appropriate story length and durable enough to handle my son's love of books (we're not rough we just love our books).

I was thrilled for the chance to review Words to Dream On and hopeful my hunt may have found a match.

When our new book first arrived I was instantly caught by the beautiful illustrations throughout the book and it's front cover. I love that the pictures reflect the story to help our son engage the story as we still work to help him gain some verbal skills. Pictures can sometimes be overlooked for importance but as I watch our son engage visually I'm beginning to realize how crucial a strong image can be  for our little man.

The second thing I noticed was the binding. Some books you pick up and they go straight on the shelf, they're the type that extra care is required. Words to Dream On, however, has a nice thick cover and binding which I had no problem handing over to my 21 month old to explore and begin discovering right out of the box! I love that this will easily be around for many years of bedtime stories.

The third thing we all noticed were the stories. After years of volunteering and a Bible College degree I often get annoyed by children's stories that paraphrase and "dumb down" to the point that you're left with only moral thoughts and nice feelings (yes, sadly they exist). On the other hand, I'm equally discouraged by children's stories that are so long a child loses interest (training up a child I'm convinced also includes attention spans). Stortz offers a perfect compromise though with a 3-4 page average story that includes pictures, a bedtime prayer, the actual scripture reference (so mom and dad or older siblings can follow along at their own level afterwards) and a short blessing to tie things together. While the stories themselves are somewhat paraphrased, they've been true to the story and child accessible to the point that when #2 arrives this summer I know that the age gap won't be an issue for both of them enjoying this book for at least a few years.

Finally, I really appreciated the order of this book. Chronological in nature, families can choose to read through in order building upon the narrative and seeing how God's story unfolds over time or families can use the handy index to find stories that more closely connect to real life or family devotionals that may already be underway.

Finding a good collection of Bible stories can be difficult in today's market but if you're looking for a book that is durable, engaging, and will appeal to multiple family members I highly recommend giving Words to Dream On  a second look!

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.”