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 <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, 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 <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.”