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.