Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Strong and Kind by Korie Robertson

So, confession time.

I've never actually watched Duck Dynasty. My knowledge has been limited to the fact that they live in the Southern US, do something with hunting and ducks, and have a reality tv show.

I do, however, have kids and have an eye open for any book that may help me better raise my ever curious, creative, and somewhat mischievous boys.

Enter Strong and Kind.

Written by Korie Robertson with her mother Chrys and husband Willie's assistance, Strong and Kind explores the foundation upon which Korie and Willie have raised their own family.

Things I liked:

I appreciate the genuineness Korie presents in her writing. Her stories of raising her family are filled with stories filled with emotions that any parent can relate too. I loved the openness with which she shared her love and hope for her family and her own hard won lessons throughout her children's growing up years. (any DD fans out there? Is this openness common to the show?)

I also loved the simplicity of her concepts. Choose two traits. Listing off all the character traits we want to install in our children can become an overwhelming list that paralyzes. Korie's advice to pick two, almost as a thesis, and explaining some of the more overarching traits, makes it a much more achievable  plan to begin.

Finally, I appreciated Korie's admittance that no tools are one size fits all for children. As a special needs mom it's so frustrating to read parenting books that claim all one needs to do is follow their advice and they will raise wonderful children, only lazy or inconsistent parents would fail. Korie's point that we can all have the same goal but may require different tools instantly soothed this Mama's heart and put the whole book into perspective for me. Korie is a generation above myself and at times I could feel that generational gap in her writing. We were on totally different wave lengths but, by the end of the chapter, I could see where our end goals had far more in common. Different tools same goal.

Things I didn't like:

There wasn't a lot of new information in this book, a fact Korie acknowledges.

Overall opinion, 
I enjoyed my introduction to the Duck Dynasty crew through Korie and Willie's stories. Their approach to parenting was strong in that it is simple to understand but requires hard work to reap the rewards and see through. For people who already have a full bookshelf when it comes to parenting advice this book would probably feel redundant and of little value. For parents looking to add a solid, easy to read book to their new or growing collection Kind and Strong is worth a second look.

4 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.”

Monday, January 18, 2016

Live Loved

Confession time.

I'm horrible at devotionals and quiet time.
The problem is my brain is rarely quiet (please tell me I'm not the only one, anyone?)
So when I find a few minutes in this house full of boys to sneak into a corner my mind doesn't get the memo that it's time to quiet down or it goes into research mode where I'm looking up secondary sources, thinking out plot lines, or going off on rabbit trails, . . sort of like this one could become (has become).

Live Loved  offered a different spin on traditional devotionals and, turns out,  it's exactly what a busy mind like mine needed.

I'm actually amazed at the simplicity of this "devotional" and how well it fits both my personality and learning style.

The book itself is divided into sets of 2 pages each.

The first page provides a place to journal thoughts, ideas, complimentary verses, rabbit trails, or cross referencing - whatever you want or need to help out your understanding of the focus verse. On the second page is a picture to colour centered around the same focus verse (also colourable).

The concept is brilliant.

Colouring has been in the news a lot lately for its affects on stress and anxiety, however, colouring out your verse also serves as a fantastic way to settle the mind and meditate on the verse at hand. For the first time ever I haven't struggled to stay focused and have even found memorizing to be more of a natural byproduct thanks to the size of the lettering in the picture (staying in the lines required careful movements on my part thanks to a lost pencil sharpener and really gave me the time and repetition I need to remember anything)

I also found that the ability to colour and keep my hands busy allowed for better focus when it comes to my rabbit trailing.

Obviously, like any tool it's only as useful as you want to make it. If you want to make use of the colouring, the journaling, and the ability to look up context on your own Live Loved can provide a great way to bring some new skills, learning styles, and disciplines into your devotionals that may have previously been overlooked.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Midnight Jesus by Jamie Blaine

I chose to read this book.

I was drawn in by the author's blurb mentioning crisis intervention - a field I once pursued before prejudice kicked me out.

I was drawn in by the lure of stories, of humanity in a nutshell and yet still more complex and vast for our labels to ever hold.

I was drawn in by the title because midnight has always been a time that's dear to me, a time when I wrestle with faith and life, and to be honest most of this book was read around this hour.

When I read this book I found all that and more.

Midnight Jesus reads as a memoir in some ways, a collection of stories from those we would deem "the least". Yet, in these every day encounters in roller rinks and bike paths to the life and death questions being asked in courtyards in the dead of night Blaine brings readers to a place where faith and struggle coexist, where questions are okay and often unanswered in the messiness of life, and where Jesus is there in the midst of it all walking (or riding shotgun) through each moment.

Blaine is truly a gifted author. His ability to paint images and capture humanity was incredible and I often found myself poking my husband to read his sections that had to be read aloud (although I'm thinking I probably just read a lot to my sleeping or falling asleep husband, oops). His words aren't preachy yet they instill truth. 

There is human sorrow painted through these chapters, people who are lost and desperate but, like in life, there is humour and joy. I enjoy books like that because life is often a balance (or maybe a pendulum) of this.

Midnight Jesus is a book that should challenge ones preconceptions, confront our ideas about "the other", about the need and the right to question, to challenge. and our tendency to box up the gospel into a nice, tidy box. If nothing else, this book is a glimpse into the power of listening and the power of presence.

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.”

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Beyond the Silence - Tracie Peterson & Kimberley Woodhouse

Lillian Porter has spent the years following her grandmother's death isolated save for Sunday visits, a bitter, isolated and grieving grandfather, along with his dedicated household staff. When the chance for Lillian to travel west - fulfilling her mother's dreams and gaining the opportunity to make a difference in the life of a young boy - she jumps at the chance.

However, instead of fulfilled dreams Lillian finds herself cut off from her family and from a town who holds no favour for Lillian's new boss.

Lillian's boss Woodward Colton's life hasn't been the same since his wife was murdered and his son stopped speaking. Between loss, rejection, and strife Colton clings to his faith when Ms. Porter whirls into his life. Could she be the change the family needs or will the Colton's simply add Ms. Porter to their steady stream of loss?

Unlike most of the books I read these days I've actually been acquainted with Tracie Peterson's work for some time and found this book to fit well with the style I've seen from her in the past. I did however, find Beyond the Silence unique in a few areas.

First was the setting. The book itself places readers into an overseeing role. In my opinion, this allowed the book to stay more neutral and leave the appeal open to more viewers. Had the readers followed solely from Lillian's perspective this novel would have felt more like a mystery, Jimmy's view would have made this book more "internal," Woodward's yet another perspective. Each of these would have been more intense but appeal to a smaller niche.

Going off the overarching view, Peterson and Woodhouse also provide a wide variety of characters for people to gravitate towards or rail against (I'm looking at you Sheriff).
Personally, the highlights of this book were the interactions with Harry.
His sweet protectiveness of his friends and genuine interactions with Jimmy allowed him to steal every scene he was in, regardless of who he was with.
Amazing character although I was sad he was technically only a supporting one.

Mrs. Goodman was also a favourite character and another secondary character (I think in many ways they out shone the main characters for me on this read)
 She resonated as an in-story representation of the readers for myself. Mrs. Goodman saw the loss, the laughter, the good and the bad. She connected with the characters, I believe, the authors hoped readers would and served as a moral/emotional guide for the audience in many ways.

The story itself has a solid plot and will be highly enjoyable for fans of the genre.

I do wish this genre would give their ending more respect and allow things to unfold with a little more time (spoilers or I'd explain further, tell you what just let me know if you agree after you read it ;) )

4/5 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, January 2, 2016

The Midwife's Choice - Delia Parr

A little while ago I was introduced to Delia Parr through book 1 of her "At Home in Trinity" series.
When I was offered the chance to read book number 2, I hesitated.

I enjoyed the first of the series on first read but it didn't leave any discernible impact on my memory. I remembered the author and remember my dissatisfaction with the open ended nature of the narrative. I was a little stunned, to be honest, as I usually remember the high points of a book upon reflection and not my mixed reviews.

The pull to see what happened was strong enough that I found myself snuggled down with The Midwife's Choice  this past week and what a ride!

Any reservations I had about this series flew out the window with the second installation and I know this is a plot I'll be reflecting on for some time to come.

The Midwife's Choice picks up the story of Widow Cade and the growing town of Trinity. Martha Cade's daughter has returned after an extended absence and Cade is sitting on a precipice as change permeates all layers of her life. With her future profession at risk, her community under change, her home gone and her family facing dispersal, thoughts regarding the future can no longer be pushed aside. Wisdom comes from the strangest places though as wealthy women, beautifully wonderful old sisters, salty sea dogs, orphans, and a mysterious woman all find their stories weaving together into the tapestry that is Trinity.

First off, I loved the characters in book 2. Personal favourites Fern and Ivy were given a far more prominent role to my great delight (these ladies are amazing and just shone in every scene for me). I found their plot dovetailed nicely into new character Nancy's providing multiple angles from which to observe the central issue.

I was also pleased to see further development for the characters of Wil and Samuel. The series strength really lies in the wonderful characters. Even though Widow Cade is the unifying main character giving readers their "inside" eyes into Trinity the depth and breadth of the many characters makes Trinity leap off the pages.


I don't usually post spoilers in these reviews as, I feel, they take away from the enjoyment of watching the plot unfold but for this one occasion I am making an exception. Two different storylines within The Midwife's Choice focus on the realities of domestic abuse. Not a topic often willingly included in your typical women's fiction in evangelical circles. That said, I was impressed with the sensitivity that Parr broached the subject and the honesty with which she portrayed it. I cried for the effects on poor Peter, I marvelled at the resources of the sisterhood. I felt Widow Cade's struggle to understand and find the courage to stand up for her patient.
I was also impressed at how Parr naturally broached the temptation for weakeness behind false obedience in the church and the struggle of survivors to get away from these dangerous situations. It's books like this that include serious topics that help pave the way to honest and needed conversations.

*End Spoilers*

If you read book 1 and enjoyed it, you need to read book 2! This is a thoughtful, engaging, story that managed to hook me despite my prejudices and negative views going into page 1. Although darker that The Midwife's Tale, The Midwife's Choice balances that with depth, natural character development, and characters who come to life with each page.

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