Friday, August 18, 2017

Friends, Partners, and Lovers by: Kevin A. Thompson

Friends, Partners, and Lovers

The number one cause of divorce isn’t adultery or finances or disagreements. It’s apathy–a lack of intentional emotional, physical, and mental investment in the relationship. It’s forgetting that as a husband or wife you have three distinct roles: friend, partner, and lover.

With engaging stories and clear, simple language, pastor Kevin A. Thompson shows how to live out those roles. Using solid biblical principles, he helps you and your spouse grow your friendship, be supportive partners through the good times and the bad, and develop a healthy and satisfying sex life.
(excerpt from back of book)

Friends, Partners  & Lovers is written by  Pastor Kevin Thompson with the intent of passing on the  wisdom he has gathered over years of working with couples through his church. The book is laid out into 4 main sections: Introduction, friend, partner, and lover (hence the title).  True to his intent, the language is conversational and Thompson leans towards providing practical advice. Each chapter includes a section of questions at the end meant to inspire personal reflection and interaction  with the material.

Some of the material  was  interesting as it seemed to be a simplified version of concepts we covered in different counselling classes despite  Thompson's claims that he has no counselling background.  This is also apparent as many of his concepts are overarching ideas.

As a result, I feel that this book is more suited  to healthy couples looking for ideas and concepts to help strengthen their marriage but have the foundation, wisdom, and communication to look at which concepts apply best to their situation, which need modifying, and which may not be acceptable at that time.

For example, the  chapter on lovers has some great wisdom to share on the sexual side of marriage and I appreciated his insight into how each side interacts with the other. However, some of his suggestions such as the 24 hour rule is  simply impractical in families with more complicated needs such as special needs.

I do wish Thompson had brought more attention to the  limits of his book and the acceptability of couples visiting trained professionals at any point in their marriage if the should so decide.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

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

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Return by Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Return

Beautiful and winsome, Betsy Zook never questioned her family's rigid expectations, nor those of devoted Hans--but then she never had to. Not until the night she's taken captive in a surprise Indian raid. Facing brutality and hardship, Betsy finds herself torn between her pious upbringing and the feelings she's developing for a native man who encourages her to see God in all circumstances. 

Greatly anguished by Betsy's captivity, Hans turns to Tessa Bauer for comfort. She responds eagerly, overlooking troubling signs of Hans's hunger for revenge. But if Betsy is ever restored to the Amish, will things between Hans and Tessa have gone too far? 

Inspired by true events, this deeply layered novel gives a glimpse into the tumultuous days of prerevolutionary Pennsylvania through the eyes of two young, determined, and faith-filled women.
(excerpt from back of book)

I am not a natural fan of  Amish fiction. That's why it takes a very special author to draw  me back into that world. Suzanne Woods  Fisher is just such an author and The Return is the latest of her books to bring me in.

One of the things I appreciate most about Fisher's books  is her characters. Without fail she brings forward characters  with hopes, dreams, and emotions  that  transcend the genre and are simply human. In The Return she offers multiple characters, most  notably Tessa and Betsy. I really enjoyed Tessa's character and I have a feeling Fisher remembers that age well as she  writes it with such accuracy.  Tessa's hopes and dreams regarding  Hans, her  envy of Betsy, her own wrestling with her own maturing made for great  reading and held the story solidly together.

Betsy also shone in both in her own way  as she wrestled through grief and forgiveness as well  as  a contrast to both Tessa and Hans. While I found Tessa more engaging it's Betsy that  begs reflection and shows her strength in that manner.

The plot was also interesting. I appreciated Fisher's use of Bairn to advocate for both the settlers and the aboriginals in the story.  While I am unfamiliar with the events the story was based around, Fisher includes lots of fun details including the Conestoga wagons and horses as well as people  like Benjamin Franklin helped anchor the story within its setting helping and richness and depth to the events. I love  when a story adds enough history to inspire me to do further research and I've definitely been inspired to read up on the real life accounts.

Overall, Fisher has brought another solid book that serves to add to its series or act as an enjoyable stand alone.
4 out 5  stars

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Name Unknown by Rosanna M. White

A Name Unknown

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins who helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpockets–instead they focus on high value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemary is beginning to question whether she can continue in this life when she’s offered the challenge of a lifetime–determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. After all how does one steal a family’s history, their very name?  
(excerpt from back of book)

Roseanna M. White is one of those authors that  makes my eyes light up when I see a new release. While I'm still relatively new to her works, they have yet to disappoint and in the case of A Name Unknown   continue to reach new heights.

First and foremost  plot (we'll get to characters later). I love how White builds and weaves her plot lines. This book has spunk and managed to keep me guessing until the very end (the plot twist, oh the wonderful plot twists). White doesn't skip on the adventure in this novel as readers  are taken through spies and intrigue, village distrust, and spiritual questioning as her characters attempt to navigate a world on the brink of change and war. White's ability to bring trivia to life in her plots is a wonderful  device that certainly helped  bring this reader along  as the plot does establish itself rather slowly in the early chapters. In hindsight, for those  who push through the slower chapters, they'll find themselves  rewarded with a  well paced novel the speed reflecting the slow build and wait of the political events surrounding our characters  with very personal trials.

Which brings us to our characters, I loved the main duo White brings to life here. Peter is an amazing hero in his unassuming ways. The fact that White  chooses to highlight a character with a speech impediment was pretty exciting  as representation  is awesome. That said, I just loved how instead of the swashbuckling hero we find in Peter's imagination readers see the less often championed strength of quiet courage and moral strength.

Adding to this delightful change, instead of  a whimsical or demure heroine we get spunky Rosemary, a  thief  on the  road to a  different life either through the next score or spiritual journeying. Her  honest frustrations, willingness to throw a punch, and genuine love for those who  were granted entrance into her heart made for a refreshing and energizing counterbalance to Peter.  

It goes without saying  Shadows of England is definitely a series to be  watching and A Name Unknown  brings a solid foundation and high expectations for book 2.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

Cover Art

A British nurse in WWI German-occupied Brussels, Evelyn Marche spends her days at the hospital and her nights working at a café . . . or so it seems. Eve’s most carefully guarded secret is that she also spends her nights carrying out dangerous missions as a spy for a Belgian resistance group.

When a plane crashes as she’s en route to a rendezvous, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and she risks her life to conceal the pilot from the Germans, but as the secrets between them grow and the danger mounts, can they still hope to make it out of Belgium alive?
(excerpt from back of book)

With so many historical fictions based during WWII I had to go back and read the description again when I realized Kate Breslin's newest novel is actually based in WWI. Once I cleared up my generational confusion I found myself plunged into a world with intrigue, romance, and wartime redemption.

I confess, WWI is not in my wheelhouse of studies so  for those readers looking for historically accurate details I cannot confirm or deny anything. For readers looking for an engaging page turning I can heartily confirm this book is worth looking into.

I loved the complexity of Evelyn in this novel. While she bares many of the normal traits I'd expect in a heroine she had layers of complexity as she works through her regrets stemming from wartime decisions and her connection to the downed pilot. I enjoyed the realism  Breslin works into her characters dreams and fears as well as the timeline (though most of it is pre-story).

Speaking of story, I loved  the story and found Breslin's decision to include a back and forth between the main story and three years earlier was one that both heightens  character development and interest as well as the intrigue of the stories. Thanks to the slow unfolding of Marche's reasons for guilt just feels natural and shows Breslin's skill as an author.

One thing I did notice about Breslin's work is that, while her main characters are delightful and complex, I found the secondary characters to be less dynamic in their own stories. I had no problem viewing this book as a one-shot as there wasn't enough interest in the other characters to draw the story further.

Overall, High as the Heavens was an exciting page turner  that soared above my expectations.

4 out of 5 stars  

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Night Night, Train by Amy Parker

Night Night, Train is a unique children's tale following a family of dogs taking a trip to Sleepytown and all the things they see and do along the way.

At first, I was a little confused by the structure of the page. Each set of pages has two sections of text. One is in simple rhyming pairs of to the side of the  page. The other is a large block of text giving a more detail account of the dog's train based adventures. I was a little confused as the differing structures and rhyme schemes do not lend themselves to easily move from one segment to the next. However, separately they are brilliant. The easier rhyming section is perfect for my two year old's love of rhythm and shorter attention span while the larger story section fits my older child's skill and interest. While I'm not sure if that was the intended purpose it makes this book far more interesting for our whole family (especially as Mama and Daddy aren't reading the identical text every time, hurrah for variety)

The pictures really set the stage no matter how the story is read. With bright, inviting colours Night Night, Train welcomes kids into the story. I especially enjoyed how there were multiple pictures highlighting the exterior and showing kids exactly how the train looks. As Mom to a train obsessed kiddo it's surprising how often train books don't include good pictures of the train itself and as my 4 year old will tell you that's kind of the point.

For readers looking for a strong biblical lesson, this won't be your book.  Although a Tommy Nelson book, Biblical matters are mentioned in only two places choosing to focus more on the train adventure than anything more consequential.

That said, once you get over the differing structure schemes of the text Night Night Train proves to be a charming bedtime adventure that will help your kids get ready for bed.

Mama gives 3.5 stars while my little one gives it 4.5 stars out of 5 because, well, trains :)

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, July 10, 2017

On Love's Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson

On Love's Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.
(excerpt from back of book)

I started reading On Love's Gentle Shore with mixed feelings. By all accounts, this appears to be the last installment in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series and I am not sure I'm ready to say goodbye to the characters and world of North Rustico. Keeping that in mind, On Love's Gentle Shore was a great read and easily suitable for new and old fans of the series (although I highly recommend new fans find books 1 and 2 so that they can get a full appreciation of the little details Johnson resolves).

For older fans of the series, Johnson has beautifully woven in the characters we love with Marie, Caden, and Aretha all making strong appearances in the third novel, each adding to Natalie's story without taking away from her central focus. I love how Johnson is able to stay true to her characters and world while extending the story outwards as each of these ladies still shine in their roles. For Marie, On Love's Gentle Shore brings so much change, I love how her story line is brought to a resolution that seems so fitting. Aretha really shone for me, however. Although earlier books have talked about her past, Natalie's reappearance in North Rustico allows readers to see more of Aretha's character during the past. While it had direct impact on the plot it also felt like a bit of a shout out for Aretha lovers and I was so grateful to see this lady have her moment in the closing pages of the novel.

For newcomers, Natalie O'Ryan and Justin Kane provide a rollercoaster of emotions as they work out forgiveness, redemption, and relationships. Natalie is a fiery character who Liz has softened with realistic vulnerabilities. Natalie's backstory is painfully realistic and adds a sharper edge than some readers may expect from a Christian romance. That said, I think Johnson handles each issue and dimension she adds into her story with care and the mess her characters find themselves in make the second chance all the sweeter.

Speaking of which, the love story. Natalie O'Ryan finds herself in an odd love triangle throughout most of the book and I loved every minute of it. I normally hate triangles but it this case it really helps highlight the dimensions and choices in Natalie's life. This  definitely isn't a flowery romance novel but I loved the realism of it from flying potatoes to late nights at the lighthouse. This realism made the themes of forgiveness and second chances all the more powerful as readers were invited into flawed characters trying to make sense of big concepts and messy scenarios. 

Prince Edward Island Dreams is a series that only disappoints in it's lack of a 4th book ;) I highly recommend to fans of Christian fiction or P.E.I.

4.5 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Revell and Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest opinion."

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Beautiful Word Adult Coloring Book

The Beautiful Word  is one of the latest offerings in Zondervan's line of colouring books. Combining the more intricate pictures customary of adult colouring books with scripture verses for a fuller and more versatile experience.  

As far as colouring books  go, The Beautiful Word is a solid option for enthusiasts. 
The paper has a great feel for colouring. I was nervous to try markers due to bleed through potential but found pencil crayons worked well (I couldn't get the crayons away from my 2 year old long enough to test those). The pictures themselves have a great selection of images flowing from simple to detailed and with varying levels of difficulty. 
I really appreciate a book with selection as it allows me to find pictures that will draw me in regardless of my mood.

The variety also allows users to find the right level of difficulty to help them focus on the accompanying Scripture. This  book really tries to facilitate time for reflection and contemplation and,in my case, I found them to be fairly successful. 

The one area I didn't feel was quite as developed was the hand lettering section. Now, admittedly, hand lettering is not an area I have much experience in. That said, the tutorial read more as an introduction with tips rather than an explanation and seemed better suited for people who were interested enough to google further or had more exposure than just having heard the term like myself. 

The Beautiful Word is definitely filled with beauty, be it pictorial or words,  and would be a welcome addition to any creative or reflective time.

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.

Friday, June 23, 2017

One Dominion by Paul Richardson and Bob Beasley

One Dominion

One Dominion: Celebrating Canada, Prepared for a Purpose invites readers into an exploratory journey through Canada’s history, highlighting key moments of faith and Christian influence, from the founding of educational institutions and hospitals, to the creation of countless charitable organizations and architectural masterpieces. With inspiring accounts of individuals who founded our country upon the Living Word of God, One Dominion helps readers uncover a deeper understanding of Canada’s foundations and futures, through Scripture and the tests of faith passed by those who have gone before.
(Press description)

With the upcoming celebration of Canada's 150th birthday, there has  been a flurry of Canadian pride and  celebration.  When I heard that the Bible League of Canada had released their own book chronically key points and people from Canada's history of faith I was curious to learn more about this often overlooked aspect of Canadian history.

One of the biggest strengths of this book is the pictures. The gorgeous photo layouts and pictorial timeline give a "coffee table" feel to this book. The bright colours and smart layout make it so easy to pick up and flip through casually when you're short on time. My kids loved seeing the "Canada pictures"and it served as a great conversation starter. That said, I do wish the pictures had been labelled. There were some pictures I would have loved to look up the area or history but couldn't as there was no identifying marks.

It also seemed as though One Dominion suffers from a slight identity crisis. At different points in the book I felt like I was reading a  publicity promo for Canada, others felt  like a history book, still others felt like a Bible League promotional. In the end, it just felt like the book had too many voices and not enough central foundation pulling it together. It was far too  easy to loose track of what the point was being made. In all honesty, I wish there had been more historical stories, especially of the style they used in the inserts. These sections were the textual highlight filled with interesting, personal stories of Canadians of faith and the impact  they had on their communities  as  a result.

While Canada may pride itself on being a mosaic, trying to replicate it within the book just felt too rushed and chaotic. The book needed to be more narrowed down and, perhaps, a few pages longer.

3  out of 5 stars

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Captain's Daughter by Jennifer Delamere

The Captain's Daughter

When a series of circumstances beyond her control leaves Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater putting on the most popular show in the city. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage. That is, as long as the shadows from her past don’t catch up with her.
(excerpt from press release)

Jennifer Delamere's newest series brings adventure, romance, fun historical tidbits and yet, I found myself not loving this story as much as I wanted too.

First the good. 
I enjoyed the concept of the plot and  for anyone who enjoys theater, Delamere has included fun little details that help bring the world of the stage alive. Using Gilbert and Sullivan as an anchoring point was so much fun (although I've had Modern Major General stuck in my head since I finished reading the book). Having done some amateur stage work I loved the backstage details, the tech work, and the way Delamere captures the  life and hard work behind the scenes.

I also found the many plot lines to be engaging and varied enough to give the series enough interest for a healthy start. Although the love triangle is often overused within historical romance, Delamere adds a few twists and turns along the way to make Rosalyn's suitors stand out from other contemporaries.   

That said, I did find myself struggling with a few issues. 

The pacing. The first day takes a full third of the book. The issue that drove Rosalyn to run through the early chapters? Resolved in mere paragraphs without warning or preamble. This seemed  to be a common styling leaving the book feeling too brief and rushed in some areas while simultaneously too slow regarding alternate plot points throughout the course of the book.

I also found the title confusing. While each Bernay girl is a "Captain's daughter" there was very little mention of the  absent sailor, nor did the Captain factor in significantly to the plot. In fact, many of those mentions actually focused on the youngest sister's grief   at his unknown fate not Rosalyn, the title character.

While not the strongest novel I've read this year, there is definitely promise for the remainder of the series.

3.5  stars

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

With you Always by Jody Hedlund

With You Always

Jody Hedlund is one of those authors who sits on my to read list without ever getting off. With the release of her newest novel With You Always it seemed the perfect time to rectify that oversight.

While there are some plot points that were left frustratingly open for this completionist, if the following books match the interest and skill of With You Always Hedlund has gained another fan.

I really enjoyed the attention Hedlund gives to her plot lines. This could be a weakness if the author doesn't follow through in subsequent novels, however, I found the hints and lead ups for upcoming plots  to be tantalizing in their leading and encouraging in helping me as a reader question and explore how the characters world could expand following the covered events. Characters like Isaiah, Elise's sisters, and the alternate Mr. Quincy all have the potential to hold their own story lines in later books. I appreciate the forethought that these lead ups hint.

I also appreciated Hedlund's skill in research. While I was familiar with the history of orphan trains, I was unfamiliar with the stories of women such as Elise and Fanny during this era and the way Hedlund has fictionalized their realities sparks interest while giving voice to what seems an overlooked aspect of history.

As for the central story, I loved Elise. Honestly, her care and concern for her sisters, the allowance for a slow building relationship over months rather than days, and the inclusion of some friendly sarcasm gave Elise a fuller character. This really helps her to stand out amidst the events she faces in ways that feel true to character rather than mere plot devise.
Yes, the ending does feel a bit rushed but I'm curious how that pacing will play out in light of the sequel.

4 out of 5 stars (with potential to go higher if some loose ends are wrapped up later in the series)

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

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C. Wilson

The Imperfect Disciple

Too many discipleship books are written for perfect people who know all the right Sunday school answers.

This book is for the rest of us–people who screw up, people who are weary, people who are wondering if it’s safe to say what they’re really thinking. With incisive wit, warm humor, and moving stories, Jared Wilson shows us how the gospel actually works through us and in us, even when we can’t get our act together. The result is a faith that weathers storms, lifts burdens, and deepens our friendship with God.
(excerpt from the back of book)

The Imperfect  Disciple takes what  most  readers expect in a book on Christian discipleship and turns it on its head in all the right ways. I have read many books in the last few years and most books on discipleship and life growth are at best engaging and at worst exhausting in their never-ending list of things to do. Wilson strikes a fascinating balance in his simplicity - keep pointing back  to the gospel while sharing what you know best. The result is a book that is not only engaging but eye-opening, encouraging, and unflinchingly honest in it's message.

I loved Wilson's method of delivery. 
He's not one to pull punches, stating his case without pretense. However, this directness is tempered  by the  ever present infusing of grace, openness, and vulnerability as Wilson invites readers into the gospel as it  interacts with every day life.

Wilson's background in preaching definitely comes through within his writing as the book is less a to do list (as many books on this topic are likely to fall  back on) and more teaching intermixed and conveyed through story. This allows the teaching not only to feel more personal but also more achievable. Wilson makes the concept of discipleship  not only a possibility but impractical and harder  to not involve in daily life as a Christian.

I really feel this is one of those  books that can be reread multiple times with different gleanings each time one goes through it just due to the  scope of material and the practicality of how life changes as we journey on.

5 out of 5 stars

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

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Chapel Car Bride by Judith Miller

After a sheltered life in Pittsburgh, Hope Irvine is ready for a new adventure. When her father takes a position as a preacher in a railroad car converted into a traveling church, she’s thrilled at the chance to accompany him. While accommodations in their new chapel car home are tight, Hope couldn’t be happier putting her musical skills to good use and ministering to the people of West Virginia alongside her father. But when their chapel car arrives in Finch, West Virginia, they find a coal mining community that has hit hard times and is suspicious of outsiders
(excerpt from back of book)

The Good:
One thing I know I can count on from Miller is at least one character who will grab my attention. The Chapel Car Bride  is no exception. The character of Luke is so refreshing as Miller chooses to have him visibly wrestling with how to live out his faith in real life scenarios. Luke's imperfections are so relatable (jealousy, family concerns, love) that his character leaps off the page to the point of overshadowing the rest of the cast.

I also appreciated the details Miller put into  the town of Finch to help it find it's foundation. While I am unfamiliar with the realities of coal mining and the towns that sprang up from the workers, Miller walked a careful line to bring her characters realities to life without exiting the narrative. While I appreciate a good world-builders it is so much sweeter when you don't have to exit your immersion in the story to get the details and Miller captures this wonderfully.

The Interesting:

The character of Nellie fascinated me. Although a secondary character, Miller easily allowed Nellie the most character growth and a sequel featuring Nellie would certainly not be outside the realm of possibility. 

The Frustrating:

While I found the plot interesting with  the  mining safety, the love triangle, and the illegal activity threatening the main characters. I found Hope and her father became overshadowed by  Luke and their own story line. This made  them  forgettable at times and left feeling more like plot devices at others rather than the central characters they should have been.

Overall I enjoyed this read. There was ample plot line and world building for an enjoyable afternoon read, however, thanks to the main  character getting overwhelmed by her own plot line, this is probably a one time read for me.

3 out of 5 stars

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

Indescribable By Laura Story and Jesse Reeves

Confession time, I'm a  life long fan of colouring books. Whether it was at Grandma's house as a child or curled up with dormmates in college, there is something relaxing and inspiring at bringing pictures to life with vibrant colours. This also means I'm always on the hunt for a good colouring book to add to my collection.

Indescribable by Laura Story and Jesse Reeves tries hard to live up to  its name but I'm going to do my best anyway :)

First Impressions.
 For the sake of full disclosure, I squealed when this book arrived. It is a paper cover but still weighted and feels like solid quality. The  colours are vibrant and shiny (which my two little ones immediately spotted and were drawn to like magpies). The pages are durable with the wonderful added bonus of perforated pages for easy detachment or simple laying flat which can make a world of difference for colouring in small spaces.

Closer Inspection.

One of my annoyances with adult colouring books is their extremes. Either a book is so detailed it takes forever or it's so simplistic there isn't any challenge. Indescribable has pictures on both ends resulting in variety. I love that I can find a picture regardless of my time frame, tiredness, or attention span.  There is also a strong variety in the themes of the pictures. Indescribable takes its cues  from Chris Tomlin's hit song. This means that each page brings to life different lyrics  and elements of the beloved song adding interest and selection that is an unusual highlight for the genre.


I'm not convinced the paper is thick enough to keep some of my darker markers from bleeding through (although pencil crayons colour like a dream). You may also be at risk for humming  Indescribable after colouring for too long ;)

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.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Taking My Life Back by Rebekah Gregory


On April 15, 2013, Rebekah Gregory and her five-year-old son waited at the finish line of the Boston Marathon to support a friend who was running. When the blast of a homemade bomb packed with nails and screws went off three feet away, Rebekah’s legs took the brunt of the explosion, protecting her son from certain death. Seventeen surgeries and sixty-five procedures later, she finally made the decision to have her left leg amputated.
(excerpt from back of book)

Gregory states early in her book that she sees herself as a survivor and her book bears testament to this statement. Although her book does spend a large portion of time exploring the events which took place at the 2013 Marathon and her following recovery, Gregory also spends much of the book guiding readers through  the life events and challenges that helped shape her into the woman she is today. This ability to see Gregory through milestones from childhood to the present  help bring her response to the 2013 tragedy and events following into a wider context and far more impactful story.

The stories themselves are compelling. Gregory paints her life with passion and is unapologetic in her testimony. There is a real sense of Gregory's heart within these  pages as she speaks of those closest to her, particularly  her little boy Noah. It is here, in  Gregory's ability  to convey emotion that the book shines brightest.

Structurally, the book felt somewhat disjointed at times creating an effect which was jarring in a way that was separate from the content.   This combined with sections where Gregory was still obviously working through the accompanying negative emotions (for example internet trolls) left portions of the book feeling disconnected by presenting very different tones and voices.

Rebekah Gregory is a gifted speaker. For fans of human interest or biographies Gregory's story is well worth the time for its passion and human perspective on a widely known tragedy. That said, the story structure does lend itself more strongly,at times, to spoken rather than written word.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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

Friday, May 5, 2017

A Stranger at Fellsworth by Sarah E. Ladd

A Stranger at Fellsworth is the third installment of Sarah E. Ladd's  Treasures of Surrey series. As one unfamiliar with Ladd's work, I can safely state that reading the previous two novels are not a requirement for full enjoyment of this book but if they are of the same quality they are definitely worth looking up as well.

I found myself enthralled by the plot. First, I loved how relatable I found the characters. Although originally from better circumstances, Annabelle comes across as a relatable woman trying to find her way in  the world. Her struggles, while both frustrating and amusing for former servant Crosley, seemed all to familiar after living in a girls dorm during my college years.
The relationship between her and Owen Locke also seemed far more natural than the genre usually allows. Ladd's ability to pace out her characters interactions adding in understandable obstacles from personality and history allow characters to breathe and grow. 

I also loved the breadth of characters. Aside from our stalwart hero/heroine there were some wonderful characters to flesh out the different levels. Hannah added an innocence to the story and helped move the plot along without feeling like a mere plot device. The villain(s) of the story were more complex with some even drawing curiosity or sympathy for the choices that led them to their position. I really enjoy when a secondary character doesn't feel like a plot device  and Ladd makes sure to give each of her players their own history to drive them.

There were a few loose ends related to the story, things like the eventual outcome of the wrongdoers and what exactly happened to Locke in the past. However, I acknowledge these may have been previously answered and only are minor notes for someone like me who wants all the answers :)

Sarah E. Ladd delivers a strong tale filled with living breathing characters who are driven by story rather than device. I cannot wait to journey along with more of her creations.

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.

(Re)Union by Buxy Cavey

First off, I love the versatility of this book and if my thoughts  are somewhat disjointed I apologize sometimes information takes more time to come out fluently  than time allows  :)

(Re)Union at it's heart has a simple message, easily condensed into 30 words or less and yet has  the ability to touch hearts and shift the worlds of its readers be they   "seekers, saints, and sinners."This is because Cavey presents not just  a book about the church,  or evangelism, or religion  instead he presents  a book about Jesus and how everything about faith points back to God in all his wholeness not just aspects and facets.

I was struck  by the versatility with which Cavey opens up his message. Filled with easily relatable cultural references alongside solid Biblical and theological understanding, Cavey doesn't insult his readers intelligence but simply introduces them to Jesus in ever increasing measures  (for example the one, three, and thirty words sections exploring the good news). This result in a book that is truly reader friendly in layout and material (although application and reception may be harder), and  is easily accessible to anyone willing to take a look, which,in my option, is how the gospel should be given.

For some more conservative or traditional evangelicals, the message of( Re)Union may come across as shocking. Though acknowledging many traditional ways of presenting the gospel (Romans Road, 4 laws) he also acknowledges the  sense of incompleteness the bring to the gospel and the need to broaden the picture. For some, it may be difficult to adjust to this new presentation of a Jesus-centered gospel rather than an Easter-centered one. For those who are patient enough to get through any reservations they will find Cavey presents a well-thought out and obviously well researched message of hope and  maybe even healing.

Bruxy Cavey is a talented writer who presents engaging stories, a sincere heart for people and faith, and a solid gospel message that it accessible to all. I cannot wait to see how the study version unfolds  during it's  release next year.

5 out of 5 stars

"An Advanced Reader Copy was provided courtesy of Menno Media and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon

Image result for sandpiper cove hannon

Hope Harbor police chief Lexie Graham has plenty on her plate raising her son alone and dealing with a sudden rash of petty theft and vandalism in her coastal Oregon hometown. As a result, she has zero time for extracurricular activities--including romance. Ex-con Adam Stone isn't looking for love either--but how ironic is it that the first woman to catch his eye is a police chief? Yet wishing for things that can never be is foolish.

Nevertheless, when Lexie enlists Adam's help to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks begin to fly. And as they work together, it soon becomes apparent that God may have a different--and better--future planned for them than either could imagine.
(excerpt from back of book)

Sandpiper Cove is Irene Hannon's second installment in the Hope Harbor saga.  Hannon does a solid job of creating a new and separate story within the familiar faces and space of Hope Harbor. In fact, I was surprised to find that BJ and Eric were barely mentioned within  Lexie's story but was pleased to see it gave both Lexie and Adam their own space to grow and develop as characters.

Now, don't get me wrong, I was pleased to see personal favourites from Hope Harbor's first installment were back . I was surprised to see how easily Hannon introduces new facets to both Luis and Charley as readers see them through the new eyes of Adam and Lexie (and can I just say, still not a fan of fish but Hannon makes Charley's tacos sound amazing!) It's so gratifying to read further into a series and see secondary characters who were so beloved in previous editions finding their own  ways to grow through the series.

The story itself I found to have a much more  solid pacing than its predecessor. I found Hannon to employ wonderful pacing when it came to unraveling Lexie's history, Adam's growth, and Brian's wrestling. Each of those stories could have easily felt out of place in the predominantly romance based book but Hannon allows the deeper plots to support her central story while also allowing a more natural entry point for discussion on faith.

Unfortunately, the general awkwardness that I found in following BJ and Eric's mental processes in the first book were still present in Lexie and Adam's story. While I felt the characters were more in line with their given age and life experiences, the awkwardness (which in fairness does seem prevalent in the genre) made reading jarring at time and caused me to have difficulty engaging the story until the internal monologue was finished.

Hanon's books are consistently easy reading and show wonderful skill in her ability to build world and environments for her characters. For fans of contemporary romance, Hannon's books are great for curling up with on a rainy, Spring day.  Non-fans of the genre may find themselves struggling with the awkwardness this genre seems to promote.

4 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Revell and Baker Publishing Group."

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Lucky Few by Heather Avis

 When Heather and Josh Avis decided to grow their family, adoption and Down Syndrome were never in their plans. Yet after adopting three children, two of whom have Down Syndrome, they quickly discovered that God's best for their life would be found in the most unlikely places, and how lucky they were to have journeyed there.
(Excerpt from back of book)

So, my husband probably rolled his eyes a little when I said I was reading another book on adoption. Every few months one slips onto the nightstand and usually sparks some wonderfully interesting discussions. This time, though, I was curious to see how Heather and Josh Avis had been taken on their own journey to parenting 3 very special little ones full of life, love, and loss while maintaining  the view  that they are "the lucky few" a view point that may seem sadly unusual for those looking in for the first time. Having finished this read, I count myself lucky for having  stumbled upon this gem of a book.

Heather has the wonderful gift of being able to infuse her personality into each word she writes. You don't just get a sense of her message but her heart and passion as well.
 Reading the book, I felt, was less being presented someone's story and more of being invited to share in it for a time being. Heather's writing is inviting and engaging as she seeks to introduce their own unique form of normal.

Although Heather keeps her tone more upbeat, she does not shy away from sharing both the highs and the lows of their adoption journey. For some, this may make the book an uncomfortable read.

You see, as you read about surgeries, family celebrations, the questions of family and strangers , navigating  life  with medical equipment, , and everything else that the Avis' have encountered and welcomed into their lives over the last decade it becomes apparent that it is no superpower but  rather their strong faith and willingness to say yes in scary situations that have allowed them into being some of "the lucky few." . Although adoption tends to be  a hot topic to begin with, to be truly open and vulnerable while protecting the children involved is a delicate balance that  Heather handles with grace. To see her openly talk about challenges with bonding, the joys of toddlerhood  in both easy and hard time, to see her own journey of understanding the other when it comes to birth families both present and apart are discussions that anyone considering adoption should be  aware of and this book serves as a gentle introduction to these important topics.

For myself, I loved sharing, even if only over a few pages, Heather and her family's journey. Heather's openness on the pages and  the sheer familiarity of family life that she shares with grace and humour allows for a read that is both eye-opening as well as  page turning. I'll confess, after  hearing the doctor's initial prognosis on one of the lovely Avis children I quickly popped over to the picture section to check on their  progress, with such engaging stories it's hard not  to root this family forward.

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.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spy of Richmond by Jocelyn Green


Richmond, Virginia, 1863. Compelled to atone for the sins of her slaveholding father, Union loyalist Sophie Kent risks everything to help end the war from within the Confederate capital and abolish slavery forever. But she can't do it alone.

Former slave Bella Jamison sacrifices her freedom to come to Richmond, where her Union soldier husband is imprisoned, and her twin sister still lives in bondage in Sophie's home. Though it may cost them their lives, they work with Sophie to betray Rebel authorities. Harrison Caldwell, a Northern freelance journalist who escorts Bella to Richmond, infiltrates the War Department as a clerk-but is conscripted to defend the city's fortifications.

As Sophie's spy network grows, she walks a tightrope of deception, using her father's position as newspaper editor and a suitor's position in the ordnance bureau for the advantage of the Union. One misstep could land her in prison, or worse. Suspicion hounds her until she barely even trusts herself. When her espionage endangers the people she loves, she makes a life-and-death gamble.

Will she follow her convictions even though it costs her everything-and everyone-she holds dear?
(media description)

Spy of Richmond once again pulls upon Green's immense skill in weaving historical detail with fictional liberty to create a world that lives and breathes  out its narrative. Readers can easily find themselves lost in streets of Richmond prior to its fall with all the sights, sounds, and emotions one could easily imagine running high in such a place.
While one would expect a novel placed during the civil war to be full of emotion and adventure, I was unprepared for the depth and breadth the plot had to offer. Everything from faith and moral quandaries, courageous overtures, mystery, intrigue, love and loss. A less skilled writer could have easily found themselves overwhelmed by such a story but Green easily directs her tale into an engaging page turner with clear direction and clean readability.

To my great enjoyment, unlike my previous introduction to Green's work, I found myself with a variety of well developed characters leaping of the pages in ways that were real, believable, and with the ability to endear themselves to this reader. 
I loved the character of Sophie  Kent. While main characters are meant to carry the story, Sophie was a flawed heroine wrestling with her faith, her beliefs, her family, and her country. She had  challenges to overcome but at the same time those challenges were plausible and added the human element to her character in a way that made her character take on different elements of interest.
Bella was another such character. While  I felt somewhat at a disadvantage not having read the  first three books in this series, I do know that Bella was first introduced in Book two of the Wedded to War series. I loved Bella's fierceness as well as the way she allowed that fierceness to be channeled and shaped by her love and humility. 
With these two characters at the helm, Spy of Richmond   had no shortage of female role models.  

While readers could take my path and just  jump into the series wherever (as this book is seriously worth reading) there is obvious benefit to having read earlier offerings in the series first to have a fuller appreciation and understanding of the characters which shine so brightly amid such dark events.
Either way, this is not a book fans of historical fiction will want to miss.

5 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Moody Publishers"

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson

Treasured Grace

Grace Martindale has known more than her share of hardship. After her parents died, raising her two younger sisters, Hope and Mercy, became her responsibility. A hasty decision to head west seemed like an opportunity for a fresh start but has instead left Grace in a precarious position. When missionary Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife agree to let Grace and her sisters stay at their mission for the winter, Grace is grateful. Until they hear from their uncle in Oregon City, the three sisters have nowhere else to go.
(excerpt from back of book)

Tracie Peterson is a well known name in the  world of Christian fiction and Peterson's fans will be excited to see another series occupying their shelves.
Overall, Treasured Grace falls  very much within Peterson's style: central female heroine in a researched historical setting facing period accurate challenges and potentially finding love along the way.

However, there were some changes, compared to previous offerings that long term fans will find apparent.

First, I found Peterson to provide a plethora of strong secondary characters like Gabe and Sam. Honestly, I would love a well written book in the series  to focus solely on Sam and his family as he had a certain draw to him as he grieved the passing of his lifestyle. That said, this strengthening of the secondary characters left me feeling that it was at the expense of the primary trio of sisters. I really wanted to connect with these girls, especially give the drama they were experiencing, but they just felt too far removed.

Second the historical events. While most books in this genre tend to tame down unsettling events, Peterson chooses not to shy away from the violence which was possible given her characters environment. Topics range from outbreaks of illness leading to the death of children, to rape, to the covering of a massacre. While I normally appreciate a book that isn't afraid to go into heavier topics, and I really admired Peterson's ability to address the emotional turmoil such events could have on survivors, there just wasn't the time for readers to catch their breath with  lighter events.
It felt a little unsettling considering the genre and the lack of warning.

As I said, fans will find the majority of Treasured Grace an enjoyable read that has the potential to grow into a solid trilogy thanks to Peterson's overall skill in writing and weaving in a strong gospel message. For others, the tone of the book combined with a distant set of main characters will probably leave this book forgotten over time,

3 out of 5 stars

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

Thank You God for Grandpa by Amy Parker

In our house we talk a lot about family and for good reason. 
1. Family is important to us.
2. Our family is very spread out so it's  harder to reinforce this importance  through getting together.

That's why I'm always on the lookout for solid books about family to help our two little ones better understand such a big topic. Since we had already fallen in love with Amy's Night Night Daddy and were facing an extended absence from our own Papa due to a health concern, now seemed the perfect time to check out Thank You, God, for Grandpa.

First off, hats off to Rosalinda Kightley. Her illustrations of the gorilla family in their many adventures  were gorgeous and full of life. The use of colour and detail really help the characters jump off the page and engage little ones with short attention spans (not to mention entice other little ones who are too busy for story time ;) ) The book would just not hit the same level of excellence without Kightley's skill.

Even so, this book is a team effort and Parker comes through again with her customary charm and easy to read aloud style that continues to captivate my little audience.While I recognize not everyone has a positive memory with their grandparents both myself and my kids have known our  grandpas (or Papa in our house) as well as a Great Papa. Thanks to Parker's ability to hit general events and spin them into special moments for her characters, most people  with special memories of their grandparents will find something relatable in these pages.

Amy Parker excels at delivering sweet, simple stories  that remind readers of the best in family relationships and is definitely a go-to author in our library.

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, March 19, 2017

A Stolen Heart by Amanda Cabot

A Stolen Heart (Cimarron Creek Trilogy #1)

From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners--like her. Lydia won't let that get her down, though. All will be well when she's reunited with her fiancé. But when she discovers he has disappeared--and that he left behind a pregnant wife--Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring?
(excerpt from back of book)

For the first book in a trilogy, Amanda Cabot's A Stolen Heart packs a lot into its pages. between mystery and betrayal, fresh starts and new romance Cimarron Creek always has something happening on its sleepy little streets.

For me, the highlight of this book was the character of Aunt Bertha. She was such a delight to read and had so much depth between the secrets and losses of  her past combined with the joyful enthusiasm she used in helping Lydia get settled into her new life.  I really enjoyed how well  Aunt Bertha  was written to be her own character while still functioning superbly as a means through which the main character is given more depth and interest.

I was also intrigued by some of the mystery that was teased out in this novel. While I understand this novel leans more towards the romance genre, Joan's story absolutely grabbed my heart and I really hope that story gets more attention later on in the series. Between Joan's story and the mystery surrounding Edgar Cabot's ability to weave intrigue into her characters lives is without question.

As far as the main plot goes, Lydia's story will not seem out  of  the ordinary for those familiar with the genre. Cabot provides a well thought out story with well defined characters, in a very sweet  Texas town.My only issue is that it is the town and secondary characters like Aunt Bertha that stand out in my mind more than Lydia and the  sheriff placing this novel at risk of fading into the background until part 2 and 3 are released.

3.5 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of   Revell and Baker Publishing Group."

Friday, March 17, 2017

Words of Grace by Jacqui Grace and Dee Arrand

Cover Art

Colouring books have recently experienced a resurgence of popularity. Honestly it makes sense. Colouring is relaxing, engages our creative side, and allows us some positive indulgence in nostalgia. 
Jacqui Grace and Dee Arrand have combined this rediscovery of colouring with a simple devotional for a unique experience all of it's own.
Words of Grace  follows a simple format. Comprised of 4 weeks worth of devotionals each daily entry is made up of a simple, one page reading as well as a one page picture/doodle built around the day's verse. At the end of a week the authors provide some additional question meant to reflect  upon the week.
Overall, I found the devotionals to be simple and straight forward. This allows the material to be used by a variety of denominational backgrounds without really stepping on any theological toes. While this allows for a broader audience the readings did somewhat shallow at times but that may be more a limitation of the genre.
In fact, the real strength of this genre is the doodle. I found that the simple yet at times intricate designs provided ample time to reflect on the reading and the verse of the day. Given that the verse was embedded in the picture it made reflecting a natural extension of the process and would probably give way to easier memorization for those inclined to try.

If you're looking for an in-depth devotional colouring book based ones are probably not your thing and that's fine. If you're looking for a way to start incorporating a more artistic side into your devotionals, looking for assistance in meditating or memorizing scripture, or if you're a youth pastor/camp director searching for new ways to help connect your kids to the Bible Words of Grace could be just what you're looking for.

4 out of 5 stars

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Between Heaven & the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman

When reading Between Heaven & the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman a few  things become abundantly clear.
1.  He loves deeply whether it is his God, his family, or his music.
2. Chapman has a tendency to ramble when he isn't reined.
3. He believes he has been given a message to share and the gifts and space to convey that message.
I firmly believe all three of those points.

While Between Heaven & the Real World can ramble at times, this book overflows with the open, honest testimony of a man in his highest moments and most broken hours and the God who was faithfully walking with him every step of the way. The result, even in an advanced reader copy, was captivating.
The book itself has an easy, natural flow throughout its pages, hearkening to Chapman's gift at storytelling which comes out in full force. Despite being easy to read, this is by no means an easy read. Chapman openly talks about everything from childhood hurts and career uncertainties to challenges in adoption, health (mental and physical),and the death of a child. While some of these stories may not be unfamiliar to those familiar with Chapman as a musician or advocate, the frankness and faith with which he discusses his life and family opens up conversations that are often overlooked within the church.

For fans of Chapman's music there is plenty of background information shared throughout. Everything from his introduction to music, to the beginning of his career, to inspiration for some well known songs. Although I've been listening to Chapman since high school I was surprised to see what an up-and-down road he's traveled in his career and find his music more meaningful and accessible (to my surprise) seeing the story behind the song.

For those familiar with his work in advocacy and orphan care, a solid portion of the book covers his family life including the journey to bring home the three youngest Chapman girls and the process of grief and healing the Chapman's underwent as a family with  the sudden, tragic loss of Maria. I  don't cry often in books but this is definitely one to have the kleenex nearby as you read through Maria's incredible journey to becoming a Chapman, her sudden loss, and the honest grief, confusion, and eventually hope that came out of the family's vulnerability and faith centered grieving. 

This is not an easy book to classify. It runs the gambit of emotions, highs and lows, victories and successes, but always clearly and boldly points back to the faith and God that has carried Steven Curtis Chapman through it all.

5 out of 5 stars

To get your own copy check out or Amazon.

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Adorned by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Lately, I've become more aware of the importance of other women in my life. Regardless of age, we all have things to teach, encourage, and support one another in, their can be a strength and beauty in these female friendships and mentorships. As a result, I was intrigued to read Adorned by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Unfortunately, sometimes, no matter how excited you are about a book, the actual text falls short of expectations.

In the book, Wolgemuth takes readers step by step through Titus 2 as it applies to women. A beautiful passage filled with instruction on women, both older and younger, and how they should and can interact. While there were parts (mainly surrounding her direct look at the passage) where I found helpful nuggets. Theological and culturally differences made this book a difficult and unhappy read.

First, theological. If I had to guess, most of this book led  me to assume that Wolgemuth is a conservative, traditionalist, not a strain of theology I've found very welcoming with my background. Wolgemuth's views on women in the home, a women's role in the family all seemed to stem out of an idealized view of this that seemed discouraging and, at times, unrealistic.

I also had cultural reservations. While there was a chapter on the foundational nature of a sound mind there was no inclusion for the presence of mental illness which has risen noticeably both inside and out of the church in recent years. While there was a chapter on the danger of slander, a few chapters later the author tells a story regarding a child on a tablet that reads as disparaging towards the mother. There seems to be an idealized notion of mothering in the home with no regard for how many mothers work tirelessly to keep food on the table and heat in the house outside of the home. Everything just read as too neat and people as too easily classified and categorized when the truth is the human race is far more messy and diverse than the narrow audience who would identify with this book.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Jesus Storybook Bible Gift Edition By Sally Lloyd-Jones

As hard as it is to admit, babies grow up. In our house, we're always on the hunt for books that will educate, entertain, and challenge our little ones as they grow. While we love our  Words to Dream On by Diane Stortz, our oldest kiddo has reached the point where he's ready to listen to longer and more complex stories. 

This is where  The Jesus Storybook by Sally Lloyd-Jones come in. Now, I confess, I'm not sure what the regular edition features but I'll be focusing on the 10th anniversary one as that's what we have (and are loving).

First off, the construction. With longer stories this book is meant for slightly older kids (I'm guessing 4 would be a safe lower age) this book still has a solid cover to help protect it's softer paper pages when not being read. The built in bookmark is a wonderful feature as is the blue colouring to help this Mama figure out where  the book was moved last.

Second, the pictures  are perfect. The bright, action filled images are colourful and captivating meaning that although our younger son doesn't have the language skills to understand the story he is focused during story time, drawn in by the bright images he can process. I love book with awesome imagery having kids with speech delays and this one certainly delivers.

Third, the stories. Sally Lloyd Jones has done a wonderful job. The stories are 4-8 pages long making them a perfect length for helping young children stretch their listening skills. The added length also allows for more complexity in the stories. Lloyd Jones keeps each story with a definite "story book" feel but adding in more detail from original, formal translations letting parents ask more intentional questions and engage with their children on a different level than books aimed at the 2-5 age group. The stories cover a wide variety of both old and new testaments and I was  excited to see less covered stories (like the prophets) showing up between these covers.
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.”

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Simplest Way to Change the World by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements.

Image result for The Simplest Way to Change the World by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements.

You know an author is invested in their topic  when the subject matter  doesn't just leap from the pages  but is embodied and nuanced through every word. Willis and Clements keep their book open, conversational, and up-front with  their topic of choice, always sticking closely to their chosen topic of hospitality.

Overall, I found the book to be a challenging read personally and an enjoyable read as far as books go. The idea that anyone can change the world through being hospitable and building community in their everyday lives was both simple and yet rang clear with truth. In today's disconnected, social media driven society Willis and Clements argument really touches a chord.

The  book itself was well laid out covering a Biblical understanding and mandate for being hospitable, practical ways to become more hospitable (even for introverts like me), and providing in-depth questions for reflections. The book even includes a section for group study which, for a book about getting  people together, just makes logical sense.

The author's writing style has a relatable honesty that made the book a joy to read. I loved the personal stories of both their successes and failures on their journey to learning hospitality. As someone who struggles to make initial contact it was so helpful to see how others have learned (and that others need to learn,  not everyone gets it from the start).

Willis and Clements have given a voice to an area I've seen struggling within the church but was unable to place firmly enough to bring to words. I highly recommend to anyone interested in the church, ministry, community, or just wanted to connect.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I love reading

I have a secret.

I love reading.

Okay, I'll confess, that may be the worst kept secret  of the  year. If you ever wandered into our  house you'd see books here and there and shelves that I swear groan under the weight of their load at times but reading is one of those things  that just energizes me and  passing along a love of the written word to our children is something my husband and I both hold dear.

As a college student I had a mind that wouldn't stop and a body that wouldn't start. Doctors eventually figured out that I possess a faulty gene or two resulting in Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. As a result, my body often can't keep up physically with my mind. Books were a life saver to me as they provided friends when I was sick, adventures when I couldn't get out of bed, knowledge when I was bored, and expression when I tried to write my own. 
Although my health has (mostly)stabilized, books have remained a constant in my world.

Throughout  the day, I round up my boys for cuddles and stories while  they're still young enough to want to snuggle with their mom and it's exciting to see the excitement in their eyes as they scan their rooms for where they  last left their favourites while snuggling up for the last story time, 
At least a few nights a week I can be found  in the late hours of night (or wee hours of the morning because sometimes you just can't help reading just one more chapter  - or three) snuggled up with my  softest blankies and pillows and a big mug of tea, diving into new concepts  or new worlds  hidden between the pages of the latest book to cross my nightstand.

After all, as C.S. Lewis once said 
"You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me."
Wise words in my opinion😉