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!

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 !