My honest review of books & other products

I love to read & I love to save money on good products for my family of six. Here, I'll share my thoughts on various books and other products in hopes it may help someone else!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Harvest of Grace

Sylvia Fisher is not like most other Amish girls her age.  Instead of marrying and managing a home, she prefers to milk dairy cows and manage a farm.  This different and independent attitude is not so appreciated by her father or her beau and she soon loses all that she holds dear because of it.  When further problems arise, Sylvia finds herself forced to leave her home and work for another Amish couple in a different district.  While there, she learns about herself and others in a way that changes her life forever.

This book is the third in a series called The Ada House Series.  While the author fills the reader in on some pertinent information and plot lines from the first two books, this book would be best read after reading its predecessors in the series.  I didn't realize it was part of a series when I ordered it and while I enjoyed it, it was difficult to follow the numerous characters whose stories were told in previous books.  I really think I would have enjoyed it much more had I started at the beginning of the series.

But, regardless of my lack of attention to detail and thus mistake in ordering the third in a trilogy, the book was fun, entertaining, and had a good message.  I'd certainly recommend it to any avid reader of Amish fiction novels--after you've read the first two:  The Hope of Refuge  and The Bridge of Peace.  Great work, once again, Cindy Woodsmall!

Thanks, Waterbrookmultnomah, for the complimentary copy for purpose of review.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Swagbucks Bonus!

I LOVE to get free or cheap items from Amazon (do they have at least one of everything in the world?  I can most always find what I'm looking for there!).  I do this by using giftcards that I earn from Swagbucks on a regular basis.
Search & Win

Swagbucks is a search engine, like Google or Yahoo, that rewards the searcher with points that are redeemable for various prizes (including Amazon giftcards!).  There is no monetary cost involved (however, I'm pretty sure they track what people are searching for advertising purposes, so if it's something you'd rather not have tracked, it might be best to use another search engine...though I'd not be surprised if google and yahoo sell information collected as well...)  This has been an inexpensive way for me to earn a little extra spending $ without doing any extra work since we use the internet daily anyway!

Right now, Swagbucks is offering a 70 point bonus for new sign-ups when you use the promo code HOLIDAYSWAG (good through December 31, 2011) and after sign up you should receive an additional 30 points--so that's a 100 point bonus (nearly 1/4 of the way to an Amazon giftcard already!).  If you don't already have an account, you can register HERE and start earning swagbucks for prizes.  One of the easiest ways to use this search engine is to download the toolbar so it's always showing on your screen and convenient to use when you wish to serf the web.

Disclaimer:  I will receive swagbuck points for each new account through my link.  However, my review of Swagbucks has not been tainted by this fact, it is my honest review.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Redbox Daily Deals!

Next week Redbox will host daily deals!  Hoping for a snow day to catch up on movies!!  :)

Redbox: Thx Redbox 4 my free video! Enter 4 ur chance to win daily prizes at *Please remember the FTC requires you to mention that you received a free sample courtesy of Smiley360 when sharing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Save 30% on "The Christmas Singing" and Other books--plus Free Shipping!

   Cindy Woodsmall's new book, The Christmas Singing is a fun, short read with a message of honesty and love.  While it's somewhat predictable, it's engaging and fact, I couldn't put it down!  You can read my full review of the book HERE .  AND, if you'd like to check it out for yourself, you can read an excerpt from the first chapter here .

There's also a video book trailer to whet your interest!  I wouldn't be surprised if we see this book as a tv movie in the next couple years...

If you enjoy fiction about the Amish community, with a Christian flavor, you'll enjoy The Christmas Singing.  Through December 20th, you can get a 30% discount AND free shipping on the book (AND on any other book from WaterBrookMultnomah!!  Great for Christmas shopping!!) using promo code Christmas11.

Hope you enjoy the book and the savings!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cindy Woodsmall--great again!

Cindy Woodsmall's fictional book, The Christmas Singing, is another great story by the author.  While fairly predictable, the short novel set in the Amish community is endearing and captivating.  Mattie, the main character, has left her home town because she believes the love of her life has not been true to her.  The story, of course, deals with a trauma that requires Mattie's return to her parents' home and facing her former beau.  The rest, I'll let you read for yourself!

I enjoyed this book, as I have each Woodsmall book I've read.  This is a short, quick read that held my attention and left me feeling uplifted.  A lighthearted, fictional read is certainly helpful and relaxing on occasion!

While Woodsmall incorporates a bit of a Christian worldview with her characters, it certainly is not overt.  The Biblical theme does not seem to infiltrate the novel.  I think, this might be my biggest disappointment with the novel and the reason I wouldn't give it a full five star rating.

Thank you, Waterbrook Multnomah, for the complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of my honest review.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Life and Lesser Catastrophes by Christina Schofield

In her book, My Life and Lesser Catastrophes, Christina Schofield shares her journey through tragedy and faith.  Schofield and her husband were in a serious motorcycle accident together as they celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary.  Christina suffered a concussion, from which she mostly recovered.  Her husband suffered nearly full paralysis.  Schofield shares the story of their family as they endured this life-changing hardship, the humility required, the doubt that attacked her, the sorrow, and the real-life physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles her husband's physical changes brought to their family.

Schofield writes in a conversational, informal, and friendly manner, even as she addresses difficult and heart-breaking issues from her life.  I enjoyed laughing with her.

The upbeat tone reflected in her writing style, I believe, stems from the author's upbeat spirit...and her love for Jesus.  I was inspired by this woman--who admits that she asked real questions of doubt, as I would--and who remains firm in her love for the Creator and Savior throughout her moments of doubt and confusion.  Her struggle to understand her role--to continue to hope and pray for a miracle OR to accept the outcome as God's will--seemed so real to me, as I'm sure it is to others.  It was a pleasure to read through the process by which she comes to better understand her Father, herself, and true love.

And, I'm still, a week after finishing the book, drawn to thoughts from this book.  Schofield recalls God's faithfulness to her at different times after the accident.  I'm amazed at and grateful for God's speaking to her through other people or events--with EXACT words that she requested to hear from Him.  I was and am amazed by her stories of God's power as He healed so many people in this modern-day-life.  And I'm inspired to get to know this mighty, caring, intervening God even more...that I, as Schofield, might love Jesus with all my heart, no matter what!

Thanks, Chosen Books, for the free copy of this book for the purpose of an honest review.

Ordering information here:  Chosen Books.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

No Picky Eaters

I am annoyed by picky eaters.  I don't really make a big deal about it (unless those eaters are my children!), but inside I always think, "Really?  You CAN'T eat this either?"  I mean, really, anyone could learn to at least tolerate, if not enjoy, foods for the simple reason that they're good for you!

So, I'll humbly confess this:  I don't care for winter squashes.  You know, the butternut-acorn-orange-mushy-filling types.  I don't know why, but I've never liked it.  (Oh, I should make an exception:  PUMPKIN--when baked in any sort of not-so-good-for-you baked good.)  When at someone else's home, I'll eat a spoonful, just to be grown-up about it, but I really don't enjoy it.  At all.  I think it's the sweet flavor--it doesn't seem right for a vegetable.  So, I really never cook it here at my own home.  Well, not anymore, anyway.  When I had babies, I used to dutifully cook it, mash it, and freeze it in baby-sized cubes to be served later.  But even then, I never made it for the teeth-bearers of the family.

And, I think I've done my family a huge disservice.  When I used to thaw and feed those baby-sized cubes to my offspring, they gobbled it up with happy, orange faces.  But now, even though I don't voice my own opinion of distaste, those little ones don't care for squash.  I'm thinking there's not been enough exposure...

I thought I'd try to overcome that aversion for all of us tonight.  We received some FREE butternut squash, and I found a non-sweet, mashed-potato-like recipe for the orange veggie.  And I ate it.  So did Chris and all four munchkins.  The one closest to baby-food days must have rekindled a memory of the love for the orange, because he ate it and ate it.  I ate it and didn't dislike it (which says a lot, considering my past relationship with winter squash!)  The others politely ate it (some more politely than others) without too much fuss of dislike (much of that probably had to do with our house rule that if you say you don't like something or otherwise comment negatively about the food Mom made, you receive another serving on your plate!)  In fact, the new dish brought out a response I've never heard at our table before regarding winter squash--"I love it!"  (Yup--littlest guy said that...he's so sweet!)

Overall, I think it was a success.  After all, I can't tolerate picky eating--especially my own!  So finding a recipe for a healthy food that we all can tolerate (and one of us LOVE!) seems like a success to me!!

Here's the recipe if you'd like to experiment on your own family...

3lb butternut squash, cooked and mashed (See below if you need instruction on this)
2 eggs beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 medium onion chopped
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup crushed butter-flavored crackers

Combine eggs, cheese, onion, milk, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Mix well. Add egg mixture to the mashed squash and mix well.  Transfer to a greased 2qt baking dish and top with crushed crackers.  Bake uncovered @ 350 for 40-45 min or until knife comes out clean.
Serve and ENJOY!

Best method I've found for baking squash (including pumpkin!):

Wash squash very well (I even use a few drips of soap on mine).
Coat entire squash with olive oil (or another oil).
Put the squash directly on the rack and bake at 400degrees for one hour or until a fork slides in very easily.
Remove, let cool, cut it in half, remove seeds, peel off peel (comes off so easily!) and mash, chop, eat, etc.
(You may want to place a cookie sheet below the baking squash as a few drips can occur.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Out of a Far Country--Great Book!

I loved this book!  The story of Christopher and Angela Yuan, son and mother, is incredible and inspiring.  I was amazed at how God rescued a mother, a father, a marriage, a son, and a family.  I've come to enjoy reading about how God impacts the lives of others--and every changed heart is a miracle--but I immensely enjoyed reading about these changed lives and found the miracles encouraging and awe-inspiring!

Christopher and Angela alternate writing the chapters, so their story is told through very different views.  This keeps the story informative and emotionally charged.  I was amazed by the long-suffering, unconditional love that God gave this mother to bestow upon her son.  What an amazing moment when this prodigal son came home to the Father!

This is a great book for anyone struggling with a prodigal child, whether he/she is homosexual, drug-addicted, or in rebellion in any way.  It's also an encouraging story about a man who was a homosexual, but has given that sin to God, through Jesus, and is now sharing Christ with many--great for anyone wondering about the homosexual life.

Thank you Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for purpose of review--it was great!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Night of the Living Dead Christian

I'm not a huge sci-fi reader/watcher, but I do enjoy a good fantasy.  So when I read the words of praise for this book, comparing Matt Mikalatos to C.S. Lewis, I was intrigued and ready to dig in.  It turns out, that he's not quite C.S. Lewis, but he's not all bad, either.

"Night of the Living Dead Christian" by Matt Mikalatos is a fictional novel with spiritual truths weaved throughout.  Mikalatos uses various monsters to portray humans of various spiritual levels.  At times, the truths he reveals are convicting and challenging.  And often throughout the book, the author is very humorous--laugh out loud funny, actually (this really kept me going through the book as otherwise, my interest would have certainly dwindled!)  

If you're looking for the next C.S. Lewis, this is not him.  But if you enjoy a little sci-fi/fantasy, you will likely enjoy this book anyway!

Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing a complimentary copy to me for purpose of review!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

God Gave Us You

I'm supposed to be cleaning the house for a department-wide party my husband planned to be held at our messy home.  But instead, I'm drawn to the computer (or is it the lazyboy?) to write about the book I've most recently read.  It was a fantastic read!  I love the biblical emphasis and reminders of God's love throughout.  I love that it reinforces a parent's love and authority.  I love the illustrations.  I love the book design.  I simply love this new book!

I've read the story "God Gave Us You" by Lisa Tawn Bergren before this reading.  My sister received the book as a baby shower gift. Even then, I loved the story about how God brought a precious baby bear to Mama and Papa Polar Bears.

 But this new version is even better!  It's still the same story about God's wonderful plan to put babies in a family with a mom and a dad who love God and love their babies.  The new book is a boardbook...perfect for little hands to handle without fear of tearing pages.  Its size is great for little ones, too.  And the illustrations are just as bright and colorful on the new boardbook pages as in the original!

This boardbook version of the story "God Gave Us You" would be the ideal baby gift for a newborn -- great for mom and dad to read with baby to help explain their crazy-parent-love that comes from the crazy-God-love God showers on each one as He knits us together in our mother's womb!

Thanks, Multnomah Waterbrook Press, for the complimentary copy for purposes of review!  I loved it (SO much better than cleaning house!!)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Surprised by Weber in Surprised by Oxford!

I didn't have high hopes for the book Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber.  It is a memoir by a person I'd never heard of before reading the cover.  It mostly takes place at Oxford, a place I've never been nor had great interest in being.  And, frankly, the cover didn't look too exciting.  But, it beat out the "business and culture" option for potential reading, so I chose Weber's book.

And, happily, I was surprised by Weber's memoir!  I found it fast and enjoyable reading.  I was intrigued by her journey to Christ.  Being reared in a Christian home and having come to Jesus as a child, I was fascinated by the logical and emotional journey Weber experienced in her own conversion. 

Weber was a literary student (now a professor), as I was (although her knowledge and intellect far exceed mine!)  So, I found her frequent use of literature, poetry and prose, pleasant and familiar.  She stirred a longing for more poetry and beautiful language in my own life (I found myself speaking/writing more poetically and with more flowery description as I read the memoir! :) )  Her style is light, even when the subject is deep.  It made for easy and enjoyable reading.

I'd certainly recommend this book to anyone experiencing their own journey to or with Jesus.  It's encouraging and interesting to read how He draws someone else in a method detailed especially for her own life...knowing that He does the same for each of us!

Thanks, booksneeze, for sending a complimentary copy for purpose of review.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Inspiration in PrayerWalk

I'm inspired!  I'm a walker, naturally (my daughter is right, running just isn't fun!), and I've been longing for a more intimate prayer life.  So, Janet McHenry's book has inspired me to become a prayerwalker, too!

McHenry outlines a few basics for beginning walkers--safety, apparel, etc.  She then spends a majority of the book providing insights into prayer--including biblical examples and instructions, as well as her own experiences with prayerwalking.  She covers aspects from solo prayerwalking or partner prayerwalking all the way to ideas about who and what to pray about.   While there are numerous books on the topic of prayer, this one is especially encouraging to me because it intimately combines something I need physically with something I desperately need spiritually (and emotionally, relationally, physically, etc.).  The author also provides questions suitable for a group study at the end of the book.

This book was reprinted for its tenth anniversary and McHenry includes a special update about her own life and prayerwalking.  I found her humble confessions convicting and inspiring for my own life!

Much thanks to waterbrookmultnomah's bloggingforbooks for the complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Billy Graham in Quotes"

Nearly four hundred pages of quotes make for some tough reading!  This was a good book, full of biblical wisdom, but not the sort of book you'd just sit down with for a good read.  Very handy, though, if you're looking for topical information.

I appreciated that each section was labeled with a topic (for example, "Billy Graham on America") and followed by a Bible verse that correlated.  The quotes were inspiring and convicting, as this man of God is full of wisdom from the Word and seems to offer that wisdom well.

This book makes me wonder a bit.  Not so much about Billy Graham (though, I do wonder about how a man who seems so godly and right on with God's word yet can relate to and share with so many presidents and leaders from various political backgrounds...really miraculous!) or his spirituality, but about ours.  I fear we may hold him up on a pedestal and take his word for nearly THE Word!  On several occasions as I read, my stomach churned a bit as I thought about this and cautioned myself to remember that "this is a man...he is not God!"  So while this book of quotes is inspiring and interesting (in small quantities at a time!), it is not God's word and does not even compare!!

Still, one cannot fault Billy Graham for our sometimes-near-idolatry.  He, himself, says:  "Become grounded in the Bible.  As Christians, we have only one authority, one compass:  the Word of God."  Well said, Billy!

Thanks, Booksneeze for sending this complimentary copy for review purposes!

Monday, July 25, 2011

FREE Book!!

If you're a book lover/reader, you'll want to check out this site!  While I've not read any of these books yet, I've heard great reviews about the book Crazy Love by Fancis Chan...can't wait to receive my copy!  Let me know what you think after you receive & read your choice...

Click here to request your FREE book


UPDATE:  The free book is no longer available, but the publisher is offering a coupon for a discount (valid through Sept. 30, 2011) on the book Crazy Love, by Francis Chan.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Kashi Pita crisps are delicious and nutritious! 
Even my picky eater kids liked these! The crackers we received in the mail were gone within 24 hours—the six of us, plus my parents, loved them!! I didn’t have time to make the dip recipe that was included…we just ate them plain or with salsa and they were wonderful.  The pita crisps we ate were the origianl, lightly salty cracker-like crisps--they also come in zesty salsa flavor.  (Looking forward to trying these!!)  I especially love that I’m feeding my family something with nutritional value that they also enjoy! 

Thanks, Kashi, for making such a great product for the complimentary box of delicious, healthy pita snacks you sent for review purposes!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Great Future for "Futurecast"

Futurecast: What Today's Trends Mean for Tomorrow's World by George Barna is informative and interesting.  Barna summarizes data from surveys of Americans regarding various topics.  His compilations provide interesting and important information for Christians, the Church, and anyone concerned about our society and nation.  Impressive (and somewhat discouraging) are the changes Barna notes in attitudes and beliefs among Americans even from just 20 years ago.  I appreciated the reading, even though I found much of it disturbing simply because of the results Barna uncovers.

I especially appreciate Barna's conclusion in each chapter and in the book overall.  While much of the content is discouraging as Barna seems to reveal the disinegration of morality, family, and even the Church as we know it, Barna concludes chapter on a note of hope.  He not only realizes that there is hope, but he encourages the reader to do his part in fulfilling that hope and passing it on.  The final chapter, likewise, is encouraging among the disheartening statistics throughout the book.

This book is excellent reading for any Christian concerned with our nation's future and with the Church's future.  Barna's survey data are eye-opening and action-inspiring!  I highly recommend this book!!

Thanks to Tyndale for providing a complimentary copy to me for purpose of review!

***  UPDATE:  I just reread the final chapter in the book and had to post a bit more...this book is inspiring!  Barna draws the reader to complete loyalty, love, and submission to the Creator-Savior and inspires her to live the life Jesus intends for us!!  WE are the church...the body designed to share God's love and it's not too late to change our future one life at a time!!   I loved this book--and will suggest that every true follower of Jesus read it soon!  :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Great Secrets of the Amish!

I loved the book Money Secrets of the Amish:  Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing and Saving.  The content is great -- and Lorilee Craker's writing syle is catchy and amusing, as always!

Craker shares a number of Dave-Ramsey-type frugality tips in her book--yet she does it in a humorous, Amish-tinted way.  My husband and I consider ourselves fairly frugal people, yet I found a few tidbits sprinkled throughout Craker's book that were new ideas (or reminders of unused ideas past) to me that I'd like to incorporate.  I found myself inspired to work harder in areas I'm weak in or have become very lax about (--I'm not good at "fixing" things or finding another use for items in order to save money!)  Her research was thourough and her ideas realistic (she realizes that not everyone has the space, time, or talent to grow a large vegetable garden--yet she presents realistic alternatives that are still money-savers!) 

I appreciated the admonishment to train our children to be less concerned about material items, as well.  This is a huge part of frugality and is often difficult in our materialistic society.  Craker's book was a good reminder and inspiration to me in this area!

While her writing is not spilling over with Christian "language" or scripture, Craker's writing is certainly based on Biblical principles of stewardship, contentedness, and sharing. 

I'd highly recommend this book to anyone interested in getting a better grip on their personal finances or even looking for encouragement in the good work they are doing!  Thanks, Booksneeze, for sending a free copy for me to review!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wonderful art work!

When God Created My Toes by Dandi Mackall and illustrated by David Hohn is full of beautiful, colorful, and fun art work!  I was immediately drawn to the adorable main character and eagerly anticipated what each new page might bring. 

The book is not really a story--but more of a collection of little poems from the perspective of a little child.  With each new page, the little girl wonders about when God created different parts of her...and the reader gets a sense of awe and wonder about this loving God who made her special..

The book seems to be written for toddlers--maybe 2 or 3 years old.  However, when I read it to my four-year old book-lover, his first words upon completion were "Will you read it to me again, please!"  I guess I'm not the only one drawn to this book!!

Thanks Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for providing a copy of this book to me for free for purpose of review!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wonderful Daddy Dates

Daddy Dates, by Greg Wright, is easy to read, easy to enjoy, and easy to be inspired by.  The author, father of four girls, shares his experiences with "dating" his daughters--and provides insight as to how the reader might do the same.  Wright provides reason for the dating idea, and practical examples.  I enjoyed his flowing, conversational style and his humor throughout the book.  I also appreciated his encouragement to intentionally know one's children (whether you're the mother or the father) and to parent with a purpose rather than simply coexisting with one's offspring. 

The book has a mildly Christian flavor (certainly some biblical principles!) yet is not explicitly about God or His Word. 

Thanks, Booksneeze, for providing this complimentary copy for purpose of review.  It has inspired me, a mom, to wisely use the brief time I have with my childrren, as children.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Lilies in Moonlight by Allison Pittman

Fairly predictable, but still enjoyable.  Pittman is writing a series of "baseball" books and this is the third.  However, it's not a chronological series, from  what I gather, so the characters are independent in each book (although some overlap.) 

I enjoyed the 1920's setting--flappers, prohibition, baseball.  The heroine is an emotionally damaged young lady who meets an exceptional, yet mentally failing, older woman.  That relationship transforms her inside.  The son of the older woman becomes a key character, as well. 

I appreciated the themes of forgiveness, redemption, and grace throughout the book.  These are clearly spelled out and the salvation plan is given, as well.  Encouraging for a Christian and perhaps an  invitation for a non-Christian.

I didn't like that the author uses quite a bit of sensual imagery in the story.  While it certainly fit the characters and sometimes was recognized by the characters as sinful, it is not always treated so...sometimes the character's indiscretions are left open to be judged by the reader as appropriate or not--or the author may present the actions as cute or fun, while in reality, they are flirting with sexual immorality and lust.  I'd love to see the author develop her characters without leading the reader to this point.

Overall, it was a fun book.  Not greatly moving, but a fun and relaxing read!  Thanks for providing it for me for free, Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers!

Monday, May 2, 2011


We Be Big: The Mostly True Story of How Two Kids from Calhoun County, Alabama, Became Rich & Bubba   By Rick Burgess and Bill "Bubba" Bussey with Don Keith

It took me a little bit to get into it, but once I caught the drift of these authors, the book was non-stop reading for me!  I laughed so often.  I cried.  And I was inspired!  God has used these two men for extraordinary things--and their story makes me want to avail myself more fully to the Lord, too!

The paths of Rick and Bubba seemed to cross several times in their lives before they eventually ended up doing a radio show together.  God clearly orchestrated the details of each of their lives to bring them to that point (even as it seemed they attempted to avoid His hand, at times...)  The impact their growth in their relationships with Christ had as they shared it with their audience is incredible!  In a society that media portrays as "godless" and uninterested in Christianity, God certainly showed up in a way that the secular media would not likely care to share.  Their testimonies encourage the reader to share Christ boldly, and gracefully, at whatever platform He provides.  Rick and Bubba did that.

I enjoyed the back and forth narration between chapters.  And the first person accounts were interesting and certainly bring the reader into the story. 

This is a great read and I'd recommend it!  Thanks, Booksneeze, for the free copy you sent for purposes of review!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Great for multiple ages!!! Life, In Spite of Me

Kristen's story in Life, In Spite of Me:  Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice is one of hope, inspiration, faith, and everlasting love.  It's a great read for teens and adults, as well.

Kristen Anderson had a good childhood but  began to experience depression and sorrow as a teen.  The pain in her life led her to what "should" have been a fatal decision to lie down on railroad tracks as a train approached and end her life.   The result of that decision was the loss of her legs and so much more gained.  The story she shares following this event, a story of recovery, pain, hope, and the saving grace of her Creator (who not only miraculously saved her life when humanly, it should have ended, but also rescued her soul) is a story that should be shared with anyone struggling with depression or even "blues."  It's also valuable for anyone who loves a person with depression.  It's a great testimony for anyone questioning God's love for each person and a great inspiration for anyone in love with Jesus, as well. 

I appreciated the easy writing style of Tricia Goyer, who authored the book with Kristen Anderson.  Once I began reading the book, it read quickly and was tough to put down! 

One concern I do have about the book is the author's insistence on weaning herself from antidepressants so that she can fully rely on God.  While I rejoice with her in her healing from depression, I also strongly believe that some medically need antidepressants--and can trust that God has provided such for them in their well-being.  To deny this, or call it something other relying on God would also imply that a person should avoid medication for any medical condition if he is fully relying on God.  I believe that God provides medications for us as a means of healing us (it's only through God's grace that any of his creation might imagine/discover/create such medications!)

Overall--great, inspiring book and I'm grateful to WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending this book to me free for purpose of this review!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Great devotional book for teen girls!

Izzy's Pop Star Plan by Alex Marestaing is a great, creative devotional book for girls!  It is written as a daily blog and each day builds on those before it reads a bit like a novel!  I've never seen a devotional book in this format, and it seems that it is a great tool for teen girls. 

The story follows a girl (Izzy) on her journey as a contestant on an international, pop-star singing competition (much like the television show American Idol.)  After each "blog" entry, Izzy (or a commentor) includes a verse related to the content of the blog content for the day.  Usually, a brief prayer is included, as well.  The entries are interesting and cover a number of topics relevant to girls today--such as:  God's unchanging love, sharing Christ's love, doing what's right when it's hard, obeying parents, and so much more.  The story addresses mistakes Izzy makes, dating issues, fame/popularity, and more...all of it pointing to Christ and loving Him and others.

One concern that I do have with the book is that it is perhaps a bit superficial for a girl with a strong relationship with Jesus.  While the book and its content are Bible based and inspiring, I would guess that a strong Christian will need more than just this short daily reading to keep her walk with Jesus strong.  But that doesn't make the book any less interesting or encouraging for a strong Christian girl--she just will likely want to go deeper.  On the other hand, the lack of depth may be just right for a new Christian who is just beginning a daily devotional time or even a non-believer who perhaps has an interest in faith.

All in all, I, as an adult, found the book interesting and believe any 12-16 year old might, too!  Thanks to Thomas Nelson for sending me a complimentary copy to review!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

God Gave Us So Much

God Gave Us So Much by Lisa Tawn Bergren is a beautiful children's book that combines three stories in one book.  All three focus on Biblical principles explained through the eyes of a talking, loving polar bear family in terms young children can understand.  An added bonus is the incredible art work provided by Laura J. Bryant throughout the book.

The first story is "God Gave Us the World."  This story describes the variety God has incorporated in our world in geography, personality, preferences, and appearances.  It encourages little hearers to appreciate our differences and to be thankful for what God gives to us.

"God gave us Love" follows.  I read this lovable story to my kids on Valentine's is a great picture of how we love one another and even more importantly, how God loves us!

Finally, "God Gave Us Heaven" answers many questions kids (and adults, as well) might have about heaven.  While the story is mostly a back-and-forth dialogue between a bear cub and her papa, it is interesting and informative at the same time.

The book's target audience is children ages 2 to 5 years, but I believe it is well suited for somewhat older children, as well.  My six year old daughter actually enjoyed the stories more than my three year old did.  I think, perhaps, some of the subject matter is a bit difficult for a three year old to comprehend (but I still think it's valuable material to present to them--principles our children need to begin to learn at an early age!)   The artwork is beautiful and interesting for children of all ages!

Great book, thanks Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons

I didn't want to like this book. I'd read parts of Gabe Lyons's first book and wasn't impressed. But this book, The Next Christians:  How a New Generation is Restoring the Faith,  really surprised me! I enjoyed most of it and found a lot to think about.

Lyons opens the book with an explanation of the death of Christian America as we know it. But he soon follows this with the hope of a “new” movement of the Christian faith among Americans (and the world!) Lyons describes a sort of Christian he labels “restorer”--one who seeks to restore a broken aspect of humanity, culture, earth, etc. to what it “ought” to be, what the Creator intended it to be, what it should be-but isn't because of sin. The six characteristics Lyons attributes to the restorer Christians are: provoked, not offended; creators, not critics; called, not employed; grounded, not distracted; in community, not alone; countercultural, not “relevant.” He explores each characteristic with its own chapter. There is much good here.

While I found much to apply to my own life and mission for Jesus, I also found parts of Lyons's book disturbing. Just as the “restorers” are a classification of Christians (and, as the title suggests, these are the NEXT Christians), two other groups are the “culturals”--those who attempt to blend-in with the culture and thus lose much of their Christian “flavor”-- and the “separatists” – those who associate only with other Christians, attempt to preserve Christian values in society, and are “intent solely on getting people 'saved.'” In an attempt to keep this review brief, I'll just say that I find Lyons's judgmental and narrow-minded attitude disturbing—and scary. Because he believes the methods, decisions, beliefs of the “separatist” segment of the church is out-dated and ineffective in today's society, he subtly scorns them and encourages others to avoid their pitfalls. Lyons leaves little room for the guiding of the Holy Spirit here—and rather deems their lifestyle “wrong.” He also leaves little room for any combination of peoples' classifications – one cannot, apparently, have “separatist” characteristics (such as sending your child to a Christian school or advocating for laws against same-sex marriage) AND be a “reformer” at the same time.

I also felt concern over some of the “acceptable” things for Lyons's reformers to do—in the name of reforming. For example, he condones one reformer's removal of words describing his loving actions as being the body of Christ because the seller didn't want anything associated with religion on the shirts. Lyons affirms that the best decision was to remove the wording and sell as many t-shirts as possible because buyers will still get the reformation information—basics of the story of Christ-like love—without knowing it was through Christ's love. I guess, if it was me, I would wonder about whether this was the “best” way to get the shirts manufactured and sold...or would God provide another avenue that didn't require a “watering-down” of His story?!

So, while I'd gladly recommend this book (which Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers provided to me, complimentarily, for the purpose of review) to a friend, I'd certainly add this disclaimer—I still believe it's ok to vote only for pro-life candidates! :)

Check out an excerpt from the book HERE !

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan

Wonderfully worshipful!  This book, Then Sings My Soul, Special Edition by Robert J. Morgan contains the words and music to 150 Christian hymns, as well as a brief history of each hymn.  Most of the selected hymns are familiar to life-long church-goers (at least, to those over thirty years old....). 

As a member of a medium sized church, I fully enjoy the choruses we generally sing each week.  However, I've greatly missed the hymns of my childhood and after reading (and singing!) Morgan's book, I've realized why. Without telling me so, Morgan portrays the rich heritage and history we, as Christians, have in hymns!  As I read of the origins of some beloved songs of faith, I realized that my "fathers" have been singing some of these songs for hundreds of years before me!  The words of these very songs, that so encourage me and build my worship, did the same for the men and women  in generations before me!  I loved reading about how God impressed certain songs into the minds of their authors, so that the words flowed into a beautiful pattern without so much as an ounce of effort by the writer!  I enjoyed the testimonies written biographically by Morgan of some writers--their conversions and growth in Christ.  And, most of all, I love that I fell more and more in love with my Savior as I not only read the origins of each song, but spent hours singing and praising Him as I read through this wonderful worship book!  (However, it did take quite a bit longer for me to read this book since the four stanza hymns take a while to sing!) 

I am not a "music" person as far as talent goes, but I do love music.  This book made me long for the great songs of faith and heritage of my childhood.  I believe, now, that we've lost something in "giving up" these songs for the newer, more modern choruses.  I think I'll pass this book on to our worship leader at church and request page number 244 (Faith of our Fathers)!

Thanks, Thomas Nelson, for sending this book to me for free--it was a joy to read it!