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, October 23, 2012

Discipline is a good thing! Learn how with Crystal Paine.

I've followed Crystal Paine's blog entitled MoneySavingMom for a couple of years now.
Her posts are always informative, interesting, and uplifting.  They're also quite helpful and encouraging.  She blogs about, well, you've probably guessed it--saving money!  But she blogs about balance and discipline in areas beyond just money.  She is a cash-only-spending, homeschooling, Christian mom who writes (and speaks) about finding frugality and balance within the family.  Her posts appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike.  To homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike.  To moms and non-moms alike.  Her information is just accurate and educational, regardless of one's circumstances, if you want to get a grip on your finances and sanity (she looks at issues such as time management and clutter control!).

So, while I've not read Crystal's new e-book entitled, "21 Days to a More Disciplined Life", I have no doubt that it is excellent and worthy of your 99cents!  (That's the current price...subject to change, I'm sure!) If this is an area of interest to you, I'd blindly, yet highly, recommend Crystal's book--which is available HERE!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Great Bible Storybook for Young Children!

Roma Downey's Little Angels Bible Storybook is wonderful!  I've examined and used many children's Bible books over the years, so I was a bit hesitant to try another--fearing it would not meet our high standard.  But this book is all that it's cover looks like it will be...and more!

Each lesson contains about three pages of story taken from the Bible and paraphrased so young children can understand it (the story also includes a Bible reference if you'd prefer to look it up, as well).  The pictures that accompany the story are bright and colorful and add a lot to the message for kids.  The lessons each have a paragraph or so entitled "I learned that..." which helps parents formulate a "take-away" lesson from God's word, something a child (or adult, I've found!) can learn from the Bible story and apply to his own life.    A fourth page with each lesson contains a section entitled "I can..." and it provides some ideas for questions, activities, crafts and games that can help reinforce the lesson learned in the story and help give a hands-on reminder for the children.  The last page of the lesson also includes a short prayer asking God to help us implement the lesson in our lives and it has a Scripture verse that correlates with the lesson (the verse is from another part of the Bible, generally).

The Bible book begins with creation and covers 100 stories throughout the Bible, ending with a story called "Jesus Will Come Back" from the book of Revelation.  The whole book is colorful and energetic and creates a sense of fun and invitation to its reader.  My children (ages 5 and 7) and I have enjoyed reading it each day and we all learn something from it.  I'd think other families with young children would enjoy it as we have!

Thanks Tyndale for sending me a free copy for purposes of review!   

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hope for Organization?

I'd love to give "The Well Planned Day" software a try!  Looks like a great planner for homeschool!!  You can try to win a copy here!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bringing Up Girls

I love this book!  Dr. James Dobson has once again written a top-quality parenting book--this time focusing on parenting and shepherding girls in today's society.

Dobson spends some time describing the difficult society and environment today's girls are subjected to.  He examines the hyper-sexualized America that teens and even younger children are exposed to every day--through school, television, and even grocery-store checkout lanes.  He also discusses the trend toward materialism, aggression, and de-feminizing girls today.  His study reveals the impact these factors have on not only our girls, but on our society overall.

But, while the evidence is disturbing, Dobson does not leave the reader in despair...he includes information to help parents help their daughters and other girls within their influence.  He encourages parents by sharing findings that parental influence is so much greater and influential than society's influence.  Dobson gives some practical ideas to help grow our girls into mannered, godly, and virtuous women...including a great story in Chapter 17 about a "dating" charm bracelet one couple gave their daughter on her 16th birthday.  While I'd highly encourage reading the entire chapter (and book) for many more details, the gist of the story was that each charm on the bracelet represented a special gift the girl had to offer.  A pebble was the gift of holding hands with a boy, a pink gem was her first kiss, and so on--right up to a diamond charm for the first time she said "I do".  Each time the daughter did something for the first time with a boy, she had to give him the charm.  The meaning was absorbed by the girl as she exclaimed that the bracelet was a crazy idea--those charms were very valuable and she didn't want to give them away...and her parents explained that she is even more valuable than the gems and they didn't want her to simply give herself away!  I loved this picture!!

I'd very highly recommend this book to anyone interested in helping our society--whether you're a parent of girls or boys or not even a parent at all!  The information and principles conveyed are helpful for all of us!

Thanks, Tyndale House Publishers for sending a free copy of this book for review purposes!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sappy Song of My Heart

Not completely mind-numbing.  Kim Vogel Sawyer is an excellent writer and her novel, Song of My Heart, is well written and interesting.  She incorporates some great themes such as: love, forgiveness, honesty, and more love.  The characters are well developed and likable or despicable, as intended.  But I didn't really like the book.  It's just that the plot is so...predictable.  Of course, it's a romance novel, so what did I expect?  I guess I expected something a bit more, maybe a bit deeper, from such an accomplished writer (this is the first of her novels I've read--perhaps they are all this way and I should not have expected anything else?!)  I knew from the first page of chapter two how the book would end.  It's not my type of reading material.

I did enjoy parts of the book.  It was entertaining.  And I appreciate that Sawyer keeps the language and message clean.  But overall,  unless you enjoy sappy, predictable love stories, I'd probably not recommend it.

Thanks, Bethany House Publishing, for the opportunity to read this book for free!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fierce Beauty - Fierce Inspiration

A warrior.  That is the theme woven throughout this book.  Rather than a pampered princess, a woman seeking a life after God's heart should be a warrior in the spiritual battle around us.

Kim Meeder shares adventurous stories from her own experiences and the lessons she learns about faith from those experiences.  God uses sea turtles trapped in netting, crumbling ice bergs, and wounded dogs and horses to reveal his truths to Meeder.  Amidst these mini-lessons, Meeder reminds the reader that she must make a choice to live for herself, her desires, her whims OR to live for the King, to serve the King, to fight for the King!

I enjoyed the presentation--adrenaline pumping to very emotionally charged--of the lessons.  And found myself wanting to serve the King with all that I am.  Thanks, WaterbrookMultnomah, for the free copy of this inspiring book that you sent to me for purpose of review!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Christian's review of The Hunger Games series

Maybe it's my fascination with history.  Or my interest in preserving our nation and its heritage.  Perhaps it's my strange love of politics.  Could be there's a bit of a rebel hiding inside of me.  I'm not entirely sure why, because when I read the back of the book I was disturbed and disgusted, but I loved the Hunger Games book series.

I initially thought I'd not read these books.  I'm not one to enjoy war literature.  I shy away from gory, violent books.  I've even been one to judge such things as immoral, a threat to our society and sinful for me to read!  So, I'm not even sure what prompted me to even begin reading the books.   I think, maybe, it was the glowing reviews from friends and the promise that while it's clear when a wrong has been committed in the book, it is not terribly graphic.  Not sure.

But I did read all three and grew from them.  They are action packed, no doubt.  There are huge amounts of human lives lost.  Materialism and greed.  Shallowness.  There is government overstepping its bounds.  Sacrifice based on love.  Tenderness.  There are disparities between rich and poor, powerful and weak.  Rebellion against tyranny.  Gluttony.  There are families and children involved.  Friendship amid forced opponents.  Freedom.

As a Christian, I found the setting and circumstances of the book abhorrent.  I often find such disgust in literature.  And in life.  Yet, the overall theme is redeeming.  The message of freedom from a tyrannical government rings clear.  The idea that there are limits to what people can and should do to one another is overwhelming.  The theme of rebellion against torture and trodding on the weak is woven throughout.    The sinfulness, the shallowness of a culture, the devaluing of human life is clearly condemned by the writer--and a better way is  sought.  While the author does not indicate such, the most excellent way is through Jesus and the love He brought to us!

While the author does not seem to be a follower of Jesus (there is no indication of such belief in her writing!), sin is not glorified in these books.  Rather, it is condemned.  Yes, the story is gruesome.  Children are forced to fight to the death and their deaths are recorded in the pages of these novels.  But the murders are clearly portrayed as wrong.  The society that requires such "games" is fake, shallow, and hardly even look human any longer.  The government that instituted such a requirement of its children is the obvious villain.  The author's message is clear.

And the descriptions (which, I might add, are not as vividly described as some Christian authors may even include in their writings!) of the atrocities are not so far off from what has happened in our past, happens today, and may well be part of our own future if we do not protect the heritage our forefathers laid before us!  While I would not recommend the book for any reader under age 15 (I'm a strong believer in shielding children from the atrocities of life as much as possible!), there is much truth to what is contained within these novels.  A lover of literature will appreciate the themes and symbolism throughout.  A lover of history will take notice of the allusions to American and human history.  And a lover of our nation may be compelled to work to preserve our freedoms and the futures of our children after reading The Hunger Games.  As Suzanne Collins might say--there are much worse books to read.

* As a side note, I watched the movie based on the first book in this series.  It was a disappointment.  Critical pieces of information and meaning are omitted.  And it seems far more gruesome to see the hideous requirements of the tributes carried out on a screen than it does to read about them.  This visual picture seems to be more graphic than the books were, in my opinion....

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Captive Heart

I've long been fascinated by the Amish people.  Maybe because in my neck of the woods there are frequently horse-drawn buggies on the roads and bonnet-headed little girls at the country store.  Maybe it's just my love of Laura Ingalls Wilder and stories of days-gone-by.  Or, perhaps, (and probably most likely!) it's my own secret dream of a simpler, quieter life (though I do not think I'd enjoy the very dark nights or cold trips to the outhouse!)
Captive Heart, The, Dale Cramer, 978-0-7642-0839-3 Whatever the cause of my fascination, the book The Captive Heart, by Dale Cramer, intrigued me and even taught me some of the history of these people, the Amish.

The book is the second in a trilogy--which I didn't realize until it came in the mail--and is certainly best read after reading the first.  Cramer follows a group of Amish with a real historical basis from their days of persecution in the 1920s in the U.S. through their flight to Mexico.  I was interested to learn of the religious persecution the peaceful Amish endured in our nation -- and the ends to which they were willing to go to avoid the loss of their children and right to practice their faith.

Cramer bases the novels on actual historical characters and the outline of their lives, but the majority of the story is fictional.  He infuses adventure, love, and faith in this story from his own history (his own ancestors were among those who fled the U.S. in hopes of more religious freedom in Mexico!)

If you enjoy reading books about the Amish or simply enjoy love and adventure stories, this book may be a perfect fit for you!  It may even give you a new perspective on an old culture--the Amish!

Thanks Bethany House for the free copy of this book for purpose of review!!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Has God Spoken?

To some, perhaps to many, the answer to this title seems obvious.  Whether it's affirmative or negative may vary from person to person, yet many Americans hold an opinion as to whether God has spoken.

Yet, in his book, Has God Spoken?, Hank Hanegraff answers the question, not based upon opinion, but rather based upon fact and logic.  Hanegraff explores evidence based on the Biblical manuscripts, archaeology, prophecy fulfilled, and logical principles of literature, grammar, and more.  

This book is filled with great information and logic--great for a mind that works best with this type of presentation.  While the reading is organized and informative, it's so deep and somewhat overwhelming that it may take the average reader a while to get through the entire book.  (It did for me!) But the prize is worth the effort!  Hanegraff's well written book is convincing and convicting.  I learned much and better understand the history and setting of the Bible, the mindset of the Biblical authors, how nature speaks to truth, and the overall picture presented by the Bible.  

While I didn't agree with every bit of Hanegraff's understanding of historical/literary interpretation, I certainly appreciate the information, facts and logical approach in Hanegraff's book.  After reading this book, I can certainly answer, "Yes, God has spoken!"

Monday, January 16, 2012

101 Bible Adventures

We've been enjoying the new children's devotional book, 101 Bible Adventures by Carolyn Larsen.  Our family reads one adventure each night and the children, ages 4-12, are engaged and learning.  While the devotional book itself doesn't present many questions to consider, the reading material contains great thought-provoking, question-inducing information.

Each lesson includes a short, usually one paragraph, introduction by the author.  This is followed by a story straight from the Bible (NLT) and concludes with a thought from the author again.  Each adventure contains a one frame cartoon and a memory verse.

While the pages are not very colorful (ok, not at all colorful--mostly shades of black & while with one box in light blue on each page) it's really not a problem since the book is more of a read-aloud for the parent to read, rather than for young kids to read/look at.  

I do like that each adventure is mostly comprised of scripture--from The Book.  Many children's Bible story books are paraphrased--and this is appropriate for small kids.  But my children are all at ages now that they can comprehend the Bible itself (especially the New Living Translation that is presented in 101 Adventures)--and I'm so happy to be reading it to them!  The author chooses selections of the actual Bible that are concise and clearly tell the story without being too much for little ones.  We've really enjoyed it!

Much thanks to  Tyndale House Publishers  for the free copy of this book for purpose of review.