Sunday, October 15, 2017

Indescribable 100 devotions about God and Science by Louie Giglio

Discover the Wonders of the Universe with the Creator

It’s impossible to out-imagine God. He orchestrates time, creates light, and speaks things into existence—from the largest stars to the smallest starfish. God is a powerful, purposeful, personal, unparalleled Creator.

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens tell the glory of God. And the skies announce what his hands have made.”

Indescribable displays the majesty of creation with scientific findings, photography, and original illustrations. These 100 devotions encourage awe at God’s creativity with an in-depth look at

• Space, Galaxies, Planets, and Stars
• Earth, Geology, Oceans, and Weather
• Animals—from Hummingbirds to Dinosaurs
• Our Minds, Bodies, and Imaginations
(excerpt from back of book)

As a fair warning, I did not run this book by my kids, so this review is all from my perspective this time. Not that they won't love this book. Giglio has done a wonderful job which I'll explain as we go on, but, this book is probably most strongly suited for kiddos in grades 1-4 (with obvious wiggle room given your own kids interests and abilities). Since our oldest is just old enough to start homeschooling it's still a little too advanced for now.

When he is old enough I can see this being  a great  part of our morning routine as Giglio works to inspire a child's interest in both creation and creator. The pages themselves are laid out with bright, engaging colours, pictures, and page inserts full of fun facts for kids. The content is equally well balance with each devotional beginning with a verse, ending with a prayer, and featuring a 2 page devotional that presents a point of scientific interest before bringing it back to a scriptural truth.
For those of us with kids who just love reading the same thing over and over, there is a useful table of contents at the beginning for quick referencing.

My kids are busy kids, they love exploration and adventure. As a mom, I'm thrilled to find a devotional that taps into that aspect of childhood while pointing them back to the one who inspires that love and passion and the world that they explore.

4 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.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Hurt Road by Mark Lee of Third Day

Hurt Road

As a long-time Third Day fan, I couldn't  resist taking a peak into Mark Lee's new book Hurt Road. As a reader, I was pleased to find that this is a book that can be appreciated regardless of your musical tastes.

Mark Lee may be Third Day's guitarist but with Hurt Road he also proves himself to be a gifted storyteller. Mark has that special ability to share life and lessons by weaving them into the retelling of past events, not shying away  from the painful or the struggle but recognizing the value within those moments. 

Mark's writing style felt very laid back and conversational making the book an easy read technically. However, he did not hold back from conveying emotions that could  be more difficult to share as he walked through his time recovering  from a vehicle accident and his father's death in high school.

For those who are fans of Third Day,  there is the extra treat of backstage insight into the band's earliest days as Nuclear Hoedown and the slow journey of God's transforming work in the band and in Mark's own life.

4 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Friday, October 6, 2017

Eyes to See Reflecting God's Love to a World in Need

Eyes to See

Out of all the books I've read  this year, Eyes to See is one that will stay with me. 
From Compassion Canada, Eyes to See  is one part devotional and one part exploration of the roots of poverty and Compassion's work to address this global  issue.

The structure, while relatively standard for a devotional, provided excellent organization making each aspect of the daily reading easily referable (especially nice for those of us who take some time to process) and maintained a good balance between the different points the author was trying to convey.  One extra addition I found particularly interesting was the "action" portion of each daily reading. Considering the heavy nature of the theme, I loved how this particular section assists readers in bringing the material and themes into their homes and backyards with an achievable response, something that can be challenging with  difficult  topics.

The material covered was also impressive. It was no surprise, given Compassion's wholistic approach to care, that they would utilize a similar approach in their written material. Rather than simply looking at financial realities, Eyes to See  explores the brokenness that accompanies poverty: in community, in oneself ,  in our environment, and with God all using a solid Biblical approach to ground their presentation.  I loved this thorough approach as it seeks to help readers not only gain a solid understanding of the issues but seeks to start conversations and steps towards long term change and humanizing people who are far too often classified as "them"  or "other" 

Overall this is an accessible study on a hard topic.  Versatile in its ability for individual or group study, it could also easily be accessible for youth groups onward in age while  still feeling applicable.

5 out of  5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Compassion Canada and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Really Woolly Christmas Blessing by Bonnie Rickner Jensen

As those of us in Canada are getting ready for Thanksgiving this weekend, it seems the perfect time to start exploring this year's Christmas books. In all honesty, Christmas is my favourite holiday so it doesn't take much  encouragement for me to start breaking out the music and books, especially now that my kids are 2 and 4. I'm excited for a chance to talk about book content with our oldest instead of explaining why his younger brother was trying to eat the book ;)

That said, Really Woolly Christmas Blessings is a great book for all  the younger kids  in your family. Each set of pages focuses on a different blessing associated with the holiday season. This is achieved with a thematic picture, bible verse paraphrase, rhyming verse regarding the blessing, and suggested prayer. This two page  format is one that will be familiar to anyone with small children but is a great length for younger family members  while still functioning as a conversation starter for slightly older ones (I would say preschool through kindergarten).
As a mama, I appreciated that the topics ranged from the familiar elements of the Christmas story straight through to Christmas traditions our kids encounter including trees,  songs, and even snow for those of us  who get  that element of winter.

As  far as  the illustrations go, Donna Chapman has  done an excellent job capturing the engaging characters on paper while still keeping a style that is both memorable and soft enough to be appropriate  for pre-bedtime quieting routines.

4.5/5 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.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fiercehearted by Holley Gerth

Fiercehearted: Live Fully, Love Bravely

Have you ever met with a friend at a coffee shop? You know, the kind of visit where the conversation ebbs and flows between fond reminiscing, thoughtful silence, fulfilling laughter, and hard truths of life. They are those rare occasions where you can be vulnerable with someone who's on your side, even when it's hard. Fiercehearted is like one of those coffee shop packages wrapped up in between two covers.

Holley's heart for the message she's sharing and its intended audience shines through on each page. With honesty and vulnerability, Holley bridges the gap between readers and author to share the lessons about leaning in and living a full  life of love and kindness (which certainly isn't always nice) she has gleaned through her own journey.

Holley's vulnerability in sharing her own past and struggles helps lend depth and credibility to her message.  While the call to live fiercely can feel  almost sermonized when shared  in the wrong ways, Holley comes across as walking alongside. You get the impression that maybe, at times, both author and reader are sharing some tears.

Yes, this book may invoke some tears. Holley lives out her message in the text going into topics that require some bravery and wrestling with hard emotions. Honestly, this is not a quick read if you want to get  the full impact, this is a  book to be read thoughtfully. 

5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book as part of the Revell book tour. The opinions expressed are my own and uninfluenced. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mercy Never Sleeps by Jamie Blaine

Maybe God still moves and speaks in mysterious ways—some even stranger than we might ever expect.

Jamie Blaine’s life isn’t exactly going as planned. When a twist of fate places the late-night psychiatric crisis guy on 24/7 call, his insomnia ramps up to desperate stages as he veers closer to becoming the very kind of person he’s trying to save.

After a well-meaning colleague offers a workbook promising “the divine secret of life,” Blaine throws himself into the stereotypical journey of self-discovery with hilarious and heartbreaking conclusions that are anything but clich├ęd.

Jamie travels time to untangle his own story of God through the wilderness, battling alligators, acrophobia, anaphylactic shock, Christian tricksters, Christmas, insomnia zombies, hymn-singing bridge jumpers, preteen bullies, paranoid ER patients armed with knives, hatchet-wielding housewives, septuagenarian pugilists, locust swarms, and ghosts of the present, future, and past.

If you’ve ever felt lost and stumbling, like you’ll never find your way to purpose, plans, or the promised land, Mercy Never Sleeps is a traveling companion, a field guide to making peace with your own rambling path home.
(excerpt from back of book)

Jaimie's books are filled with things you don't typically find in Christian literature: mental health crisis, spiritual doubts, sad stories with unknown endings and yet the presence of these topics adds a layer of truth and honesty that allows Jaimie to connect with his readers in a way that is so much more satisfying. While Mercy Never Sleeps  lends itself to a darker and jumpier tone that its predecessor Midnight Jesus there are still wonderful nuggets of truth when you look past the tension of the utter chaos and the  overlooked mundane. Jaimie's books reflect life in all its messiness and I love  having the privilege of journeying along on those pages.

As I mentioned  those familiar with Blaine's work may find Mercy Never Sleeps  to have a more jarring tone than his previous work as Blaine's own struggles with insomnia and what feels like compassion fatigue hold  a more central role in  the narrative. In the context of both books it helps illustrate how thin the line between helper and helped can be and just how equal we all are. However, reading Midnight Jesus first may help readers gain a greater understanding of the author (though both books can  be read on their own).

That said, even with the darker and more inward focus of the book, Blaine hasn't lost any of his ability to tell a story. Mercy Never Sleeps still has the power to hold a reader's story as Blaine's ability to share both the heart and detail of a recollection allow readers to enter into  the story and feel like they're in the story themselves. His narratives ebb and flow as the story demands adding in bouts of humour, reflection, and oddity that can only come from "life on a mission".  

4 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.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Promise of Dawn by Lauraine Snelling

The Promise of Dawn

Opportunities are scarce in Norway, so when Rune and Signe Carlson receive a letter from Rune's uncle, Einar Strand, offering to loan them money for passage to America, Rune accepts. Signe is reluctant to leave her home, especially as she is pregnant with her fourth child, but Einar promises to give them land of their own, something they could never afford in Norway.

But life in Minnesota is more difficult than Signe imagined. Uncle Einar and Aunt Gerd are hard, demanding people, and Signe and her family soon find themselves worked nearly to the bone to pay off their debt. Afraid they will never have the life they dreamed of, she begins to lose her trust in God. When the dangers of the North Woods strike close to home, will she find the strength she needs to lead her family into the promise of a new dawn?
(excerpt from back of book)

Lauraine Snelling is one of those authors I've always meant to look into but,  given how many of her books seem to center on Blessing, I've  never known exactly where  to start. With Snelling's newest series, Under Northern Skies, it seemed the perfect time to jump in.

  .In many ways I'm not sure how to categorize The Promise of Dawn
On one hand, it's a solid historical fiction. Snelling weaves an engaging picture of both the achievements and the risks facing new immigrants in  the early 1900's. While many recent historical fictions rely on a major historical event  or location to anchor their story, Snelling focuses more on the emotional side of things inviting readers to become anchored in the Carlson family themselves.  

As a result The Promise of Dawn  occasionally feels  like a character study of wife and mother Signe who solidly occupies the central role of the novel. Not that this is a bad thing. Signe's frustrations at her lonely and hard life, her love and concern for her family, her uncertainty of the future are the emotional anchors that draw the  reader in. Signe  is relatable on some level to so many with the honest portrayal of life  Snelling has laid  out on the page.

As a warning, I did find this book to have a slower start.  I'm not sure if that's part of the writer's style, the story itself, or my confusion over  the story's pacing (which made far more sense once I saw it as a character focus). That said, once the characters had  a  chance to develop, the Carlson's proved themselves to easily hold their own and this reader's attention.

For readers looking for a more  character driven piece this is a great option for the upcoming fall afternoons.

4 out of 5 stars.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."