Monday, August 1, 2016

The Berenstain Bears "God Made You Special" Review

Quick Overview:
 
Brother, Sister, and the Bear family meet a young cub named Tommy and are reminded that God has made all of us special in our own way.
 
 
Mike Berenstain grew up watching his parents, Stan and Jan, working together to write and draw these lovable bears. Eventually he started drawing and writing about them, too.
 
 
 
Get more information and purchase this book here: http://www.zondervan.com/the-berenstain-bears-god-made-you-special


 
The Berenstain Bears God Made You Special
Mike Berenstain
Zonderkidz Publishing
24 pages
Ages 4-8
 
 
My Take:
 
We love the Berenstain Bear books at our house. Even with our daughter reading more chapter books lately and leaving her picture books behind, we still pull out the Bears books regularly.
 
This particular book addresses special needs and how everyone should be treated with care and respect. It emphasizes how everyone is special and unique. I can see how this book could be used to help younger children understand that not everyone is that same and how that should be celebrated.
 
This Berenstain Bears books does feel a bit different from previous Bear books. I have actually noticed this in some of the more recent publications of the Bear family. The stories seem to be more "sugar-coated, Sunday School-type" stories rather than the humorous, playful, real stories that I grew up with.
 
That being said, this Bear story fits a real need in our current world, and I know kids will still enjoy it.
 
I will give The Berenstain Bears God Made You Special ... 4 BookWorms.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, July 15, 2016

"Some Luck" Review


About the book:

1920, Denby, Iowa:

Rosanna and Walter Langdon have just welcomed their firstborn son, Frank, into their family farm. He will be the oldest of five.
       
Each chapter in this extraordinary novel covers a single year, encompassing the sweep of history as the Langdons abide by time-honored values and pass them on to their children. With the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change through the early 1950s, we watch as the personal and the historical merge seamlessly: one moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis. Later still, a girl we’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own. 
       
The first volume of an epic trilogy from a beloved writer at the height of her powers, Some Luck starts us on a literary adventure through cycles of birth and death, passion and betrayal that will span a century in America.

Some Luck
by Jane Smiley
Publication date: October 7, 2014
Anchor Publishing
416 pages


About the author: Jane Smiley (born September 26, 1949) is an American novelist. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992 for her novel A Thousand Acres (1991). Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from Community School and from John Burroughs School. She obtained a BA in literature at Vassar College (1971), then earned an MA (1975), MFA (1976), and PhD (1978) from the University of Iowa. While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar. From 1981 to 1996 she was a Professor of English at Iowa State University, teaching undergraduate and graduate creative writing workshops, and continuing to teach there even after relocating to California.
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.



My Take:

Some Luck was a selection for my book club for this year, and I was looking forward to reading a new-to-me author. I actually like family saga stories, and it had been a while since I had taken the opportunity to read one.

First of all, you can tell the author is very talented when it comes to the English language and with the structure of the writing. The structure and function of the words were well put together, and the descriptions of the land and the areas did put a fairly good picture in your mind.

But as a story it left something to be desired.

This novel almost seemed more like a diary or a family photo album/scrapbook rather than a novel.

<Showing the album> "Oh, this is the year that so-and-so got married." <Turn the page> "This is the year grandpa died." <Turn the page> "Remember when we lost all the wheat in that storm?" <Yawn>

It just never grabbed me and drew me in as a story. It was like I was looking in on the outside of some other family and just being told what happened to them. Even the "love" scenes or tender moments felt forced.

I also just didn't care about the characters at all. By the end I couldn't even keep up with who the characters were anymore. As the characters kept getting married and having children, it became impossible to remember them all - especially when a specific character hadn't been mentioned for several chapters.

***SPOILER ALERT***

***

***

***

I actually almost stopped reading this book when the little baby girl died. I just can't handle stuff like that in books, and that really almost made me put the book down for good. But since I said that I would review it, I kept going. I think I should have just stopped...

***SPOILER OVER***

***

***

***

Overall, I just thought this book was depressing. I read for entertainment, and this just felt more like a documentary. I also find it hugely ironic that someone with the last name of Smiley wrote such a depressing book!

I will say that the tone of this book very much portrays what the book is about. If that was what the author was going for, then it was done very well. The book plods along much as a farmer plods along day to day while farming. I almost think that the author captures the humdrum life of an Iowa farmer a little too well.

To me this book just didn't seem to have a lot of depth. Even the characters we spend a lot of time with - Frank, Joey, Rosanna, Walter - I didn't really feel as if I truly knew them. And ultimately there is just no hope. There is no real love or family relationship. There is nothing to keep me reading the rest of this series.

I hate writing a mostly negative review for a book, but I just can't find much about this book that was redeeming or that I can recommend.

I apologize for doing this to a Pulitzer prize-winning author, but I have to do it. (Maybe I should try to read the book that actually won the prize...)

I will give Some Luck... only 1 BookWorm.








Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, July 1, 2016

"Moonlight on the Millpond" Review

About the book:

This first book in the Tucker Mills Trilogy from beloved author Lori Wick follows Jace Randall as he leaves his childhood home to help his Uncle Woody Randall run the saw mill in Token Creek. Jace diligently focuses on work until he meets the visiting niece of local storekeepers. Jace pursues her until she finally agrees to attend a picnic with him and take a chance.

But before the relationship has a strong foundation, the couple separates because of gossip fueled by Jace’s sister. Later, when she admits her wrongdoing and shares her testimony of a new faith, the couple must decide whether to try again. Will the sister’s example of faith and transformation be enough to restore broken dreams?





Moonlight on the Millpond
by Lori Wick
"Tucker Mills" #1
Publication date: March 1, 2005
Harvest House Publishers
285 pages
Audio CD read by Barbara Rosenblat


My Take:

I read this book years ago, but I needed something to listen to in the car during the off season from football. (ESPN radio is my listening choice during football season!!!)

The audio CDs were available at my local library, so I decided to give this another read (or listen!)

I have read many of Lori Wick's books. In fact, Lori Wick was one of the authors who first got me reading more Christian fiction. I had read this one before, but it turns out that I didn't really remember much of it.

To start this book was interesting, and I liked getting to know the characters. I really liked the supporting characters in Jace and Maddie's lives. Jace's Uncle Woody, the housekeeper Clara, Maddies aunt and uncle Cathy and Doyle, the pastor and his wife....I loved them all.

As novel kept going, however, I started to not like Maddie as must as I did at the beginning of the book. It kind of just got boring after a while, especially when so many things kept keeping the two of them apart. It almost seemed sometimes that they spent more time apart than together! (And how many times can you use the plot device of someone getting accidently drunk and not remembering what they did the night before?)

***POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT***

I also wish that the ending could have been wrapped up a bit more quickly, and I really wanted to actually experience the conversion of the characters rather than it just being implied. I felt like I invested so much in their spiritual lives and then was just left hanging at the end.


***SPOILER OVER***

I will say that the narrator for the audio book was pretty good. Her voice was kind of rough-sounding, but it gave an interesting effect to the male voices.

Overall, I thought this book had potential but that ultimately it didn't really go anywhere. If you want to read something by Lori Wick, I recommend her "Place Called Home" series.

The audio book made for something nice to listen to in the car, though, and I will definitely pick up another audio book in the future.

I will give Moonlight on the Millpond ... 3 Bookworms.








Friday, June 17, 2016

"Skip Rock Shallows" Review

About the Book: Lilly Gray Corbett has just graduated from medical school and decided to accept an internship in the coal camp of Skip Rock, Kentucky. Her beau, Paul, is doing his residency in Boston and can’t understand why Lilly would choose to work in a backwater town. But having grown up in the mountains, Lilly is drawn to the stubborn, superstitious people she encounters in Skip Rock—a town where people live hard and die harder and where women know their place. Lilly soon learns she has a lot to overcome, but after saving the life of a young miner, she begins to earn the residents’ trust.

As Lilly becomes torn between joining Paul in Boston and her love for the people of Skip Rock, she crosses paths with a handsome miner—one who seems oddly familiar. Her attraction for him grows, even as she wrestles with her feelings and wonders what he’s hiding.
 
About the Author: Jan Watson won the 2004 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest for her first novel, Troublesome Creek. Her other awards include being named the best Kentucky author in 2012 by Kentucky Living magazine, a nomination for the Kentucky Literary Award in 2006 and second place in the 2006 Inspirational Readers Choice Contest sponsored by the Faith, Hope, and Love Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Jan has published six novels. As a registered nurse for 25 years at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, she incorporates her nursing experience in the hospital's mother/baby unit into her novels. Jan resides in Kentucky.
 
My Take:
 
When I first read the summary of this novel, it struck a chord with because it seemed to be similar to the famous Christy novel by Catherine Marshall. While Christy is the story of a young female teacher journeying to the mountains of Tennessee to educate the people there, Skip Rock Shallows is about a young female doctor going to a Kentucky coal mining town. Both of these women face opposition from the townsfolk – an outsider coming to their town to supposedly help them, and a female at that.
 

The issues and troubles that Lilly encounters in Skip Rock Shallows keep the story moving for the most part, even though it didn’t become really gripping until closer to the end. The secondary characters help in this aspect, as they were engaging and were able to keep things interesting. That was what was most fun for me in this novel – the adventures and people that Lilly encountered during her ‘doctoring.’ I always enjoy a fish-out-of-water tale.
 
However, the relationship and romance between Lilly and Joe felt kind of forced to me in this novel. I felt as if the reader was sometimes left out of the loop in that relationship. So, while the medical and community aspect of this book was interesting, one of the main plot points – the romance – sort of fell flat. I also thought that the writing was disjointed at times. There were times when I felt as if I had missed something, especially when large periods of time were skipped.
 
I did appreciate the author’s use of scripture in this novel. That is something I really liked to see in Christian historical fiction.
 
Overall, this novel was an easy read that was a bit slow-moving but did have an interesting plot and conclusion.
I will give Skip Rock Shallows … 3 BookWorms.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"Anchor in the Storm" Review


From the back cover:

In a time of sacrifice, what price can one put on true love?

Nothing slows Lillian Avery down--not her personal challenges and certainly not America's entry into World War II. She finally has a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. The demands of her new job energize her. But society boy Ensign Archer Vandenberg's attentions only annoy--even if he is her brother's best friend.

During the darkest days of the war, Arch's destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves--and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the large prescriptions Lillian has been filling?

As the danger rises on both land and sea, the two must work together to answer that question. But can Arch ever earn Lillian's trust and affection?


 
My Take: 

Sarah Sundin has become one of my favorite Christian authors over the past few years. I like how her series books can be read separately but also tie together, and her attention to the historical details is amazing.

This latest offering in the Waves of Freedom series was another excellent example of what I like about Ms. Sundin’s books.

After getting to know Arch in the first novel in the series, I was so excited that he was going to be one of the main characters in Anchor in the Storm. I also liked the character of Lillian, and I really liked the two of them together. Getting an up-close look at 1940s pharmacies through Lillian’s profession was fascinating. The historical details are top-notch, especially the descriptions of the town of Boston and the accounts of the sailors on the Navy ships. I had no idea that the German U-boats were able to get that close to the United States during World War II.

The spiritual aspect in Anchor in the Storm was very seamless in its presentation which is something that I really appreciate in a Christian novel. I think it could have gone just a bit deeper, but it was still portrayed very well. One of the best parts of the book was the reference to the hymn My Hope Is Built/The Solid Rock. It’s always been one of my favorites, and I enjoyed how it tied in with the themes in this novel.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

In this novel, Arch and Lillian both have internal struggles to deal with that bring them together but then also keep them apart. A romantic plot device that was used in this book was the closest Ms Sundin has ever come to the Big Misunderstanding which was fairly disappointing. I would have liked something else to be the mechanism for keeping them apart for a time as opposed to what was presented. But at that point in the novel, the suspense portion took over and kept the book interesting.

Speaking of the suspense plot of the book – it was so good! Once the mystery portion of the novel got going, I was intrigued, and it kept me interested throughout. I had my suspicions of who was behind everything (and I was right), but that didn’t detract from the mystery plot at all. Anchor in the Storm truly ended up being a page-turner, and one that I stayed up way too late to finish.
 
I will give Anchor in the Storm...4 BookWorms
 
 







Anchor in the Storm
by Sarah Sundin
"Waves of Freedom" #2
Revell Publishing
Publication date: May 3, 2016
400 pages





Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, April 18, 2016

My friend Michelle


 
There are approximately 30,000 Americans living with cystic fibrosis. One of them is my friend Michelle. When I found out that she has Cystic Fibrosis, I couldn't believe it. She is so full of life and is truly a fighter of this disease.

The reason she is alive today is because of the great strides that have been made in Cystic Fibrosis research and treatment. There is still no cure, and that is why I am walking in the 2016 Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Great Strides Walk in Lafayette.

Will you join me? Support me by making a donation to my Great Strides fundraising campaign today!

Great Strides is a fun, family-friendly event that raises awareness and support for people with CF and their families.

Please support me!
Help me reach my fundraising goal by donating to my Great Strides fundraising campaign. Your gift will help add tomorrows to the lives of people with cystic fibrosis by supporting life-saving research and medical progress. Your gift is 100-percent tax deductible.
 
 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"Understanding World Religions" Review

Confused by the varying religious viewpoints in your workplace, neighborhood, even your family?

Understanding World Religions—contrasting 50 world faiths with Christianity—can help.

Christians believe Jesus’ claim to be “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), though dozens of other religions propose varying pathways to God, heaven, or personal fulfillment. Describing these alternate viewpoints fairly and non-judgmentally, Understanding World Religions features major world faiths (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism), Christian-based religions (Mormonism, Unification Church, Christian Science), traditional religions (African, Chinese, Native American), and various hard-to-categorize beliefs (Gnosticism, Hare Krishna, New Age Spirituality, Wicca). This fully-illustrated guide is a fascinating and useful tool to help you understand others’ beliefs.



Understanding World Religions: A Bible-Based Review of 50 Faiths
by Len Woods
Barbour Publishing
Publication date: December 1, 2013
264 pages


My Take:

My overall thought about this book is that it is very well organized and easy to read. I like how each section for each religion has a table with basic information about that religion including sacred texts and beliefs about God, Jesus, human nature, salvation, and the afterlife.

This book is not meant to go too in-depth into each religion but to give an overview of each of the most common faiths around the world. It is repetitive, since each section covers the same aspects of each religion, but it is also very handy to have as a quick reference when questions come up. Even though it is more of an overview of each religion, it does do a good job of completely describing each.

This book definitely comes from a Christian perspective, but I found myself wanting each section to go a bit deeper into things Christians could say/do when talking to people of each of these different faiths. I realize, though, that this is not the point of the book. It's not so much apologetics as it is just informational.

Understanding World Religions is a good book to keep on hand as a key to understand these 50 religions.





Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Barbour Publishing through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

"Amish Cooks Across America" Review

The popular columnist and cookbook author The Amish Cook explores the traditions of Amish settlements across America, with more than 100 new recipes from Amish and Mennonite communities, as well as profiles of the communities themselves.

In Amish Cooks Across America: Recipes and Traditions from Maine to Montana, the celebrated columnist and cookbook author known as The Amish Cook explores why one Amish community in the Northeast makes Shoofly Pie while another settlement in the South favors Muscadine Pie.
   
Divided into chapters highlighting Amish groups in the North, South, East, West, and Midwest, with side trips to Canada and Central America, this recipe book doubles as a travelogue, sampling the cultural and culinary differences among Amish and Mennonite communities across the nation.
   
The Amish are the original locavores. In this collection of fascinating recipes, you'll find favorites from middle America, such as Scalloped Corn, alongside coastal specialties such as Grilled Lime Fish Fillets and Avocado Egg Scramble, as well as Western staples such as Elk Stew and Huckleberry Pancakes, and Southern classics such as Sweet Potato Surprise Cake.
     
This more-than-a-cookbook is filled with full-color photographs of food and the places visited, along with profiles that explore the origins and cooking traditions of each community. This is a book like no other--a delicious melting pot and a fascinating armchair tour of Amish America.


Amish Cooks Across America
Lovina Eicher & Kevin Williams
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication date: May 28, 2013
192 pages


My Take:

I love cookbooks.  And I love home-style food.

So I really enjoyed this Amish cookbook. Not only does it have good recipes but it has neat photographs and interesting insights into the places where these recipes were produced.

Most of the recipes in this cookbook were simple to prepare and used easy-to-find ingredients. There were a few that were not to our liking - we don't have elk where we live, and I'm not sure I would want to eat it even if we did - but most of the recipes I would try.

Some of my favorites were the Potato Chowder, the Homemade Baking Mix, and the Cheesy Enchiladas. My husband really liked the Broccoli Salad and the Apple Cake.

For some tasty recipes and a good look into the lives of the Amish in America, this might be one cookbook to pick up.






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Andrews McMeel Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Z Blog Squad Easter Giveaway!

Can you believe it?!
 
 
 
Easter is only 26 days away!!!
 
To help celebrate, the good folks at Zonderkidz have agreed to have me host an Easter basket giveaway!
 
 
I am so excited about this giveaway!
 
 
Zonderkidz let me choose from among several categories of books that have been grouped together especially for this giveaway. Since my daughter just recently turned 7, my blog will be hosting the giveaway for the group of books in the 4-10 year-old age range.
 
 
And what a fun grouping of books it is!
 
 
Here's what you can win:
 
 
Info

 

Faith Builders Bible
NIrV

Full Text Bible with Features
 

 
 
 
 
Info
 
Angels in the Bible Storybook
by Allia Zobel Nolan
Informational Storybook Bible for Older children
 
 

 

 

Info
 
Think, Act, Be Like Jesus
by Randy Frazee
Devotional for kids ages 6-12; from Believe series





 
 
Info
 
7 Days of Awesome
by Shawn Byous
Picture Book; Story of Creation
 
 
 
 
 
Click on "Info" under each book cover above to get more information about each product.

And be sure to check back over the next month or so to read my reviews of these books!
 
He is Risen!
 
To enter the giveaway (U.S. addresses only), fill out the form below by March 12, 2016.    
Please enter only once.
  All books will be shipped in time for Easter! 
  
 
Congratulations to Ella P. -- you are the winner of the Zonderkidz Easter Basket Giveaway!!!
 
 
 
 
 
"The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay."  Matthew 28:5-6
 

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Your New Money Mindset" Blog Tour

About the book:

Your New Money Mindset: Create a Healthy Relationship with Money (Tyndale, October 2015)

Have you ever thought: If I just had a little more money I would be happy? Research has shown this belief to be false.
 
Through personal experience, Biblical passages and timely research, coauthors Brad Hewitt, CEO of Thrivent Financial, and Dr. Jim Moline, consulting psychologist, reveal that financial happiness and security have little to do with how much money you have, and a lot to do with the role money plays in your life.

Your New Money Mindset isn't just another book about managing finances. It's a book about reshaping your relationship with money by examining your attitudes and beliefs around money.

Your New Money Mindset:

-Defies the consumerism that infects our culture and sickens our hearts.
-Shows us how to replace the tension and fear we feel about money with contentment and peace.
-Guides us to live open-heartedly with our time, energy and money.
-Provides an online New Money Mindset Assessment™, which will help you pinpoint what attitudes about money you could work on in order to develop an openhearted attitude to life.
Regardless of your financial situation, we invite you to journey with us to discover how to transform your relationship with money by remaking your heart.
 
Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1IN4NP7
 
 
About the author: 
 
Brad Hewitt is president and CEO of Thrivent Financial, a not-for-profit Fortune 500 organization dedicated to helping Christians be wise with money and live generously. He speaks regularly on how a redefined relationship with money can help us find and live out our call in life. He and his wife live in Minnesota.

Connect with Brad:
website, Twitter, Facebook



My Take:

When I first picked up this book, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Is this a devotional book? Is it a self-help thing? Is it an inspirational piece?

What I found was that, in a way, it was kind of all three of these things.

What I like about this book was that it was easy to read, and for the most part, it kept my attention. Since I read a large chunk of it in one sitting, I felt as if some things were repeated quite a bit. But this is true of any book that focus on one thing.

What was the one thing this book focused on? To me it seemed as if the big takeaway was that in order to "get control" over your money (which is what so many people are looking to do), you need to change your thinking about money. When you think differently about your money, you will feel differently about your money and ultimately act differently with your money. This overall idea was so very similar to what our church does every year during our Stewardship month.

I thought that this book got that point across very well. However, if you are looking for more of a step-by-step, practical budgeting, how-to book, this is not your answer. The book seems to take on the "pre" aspect of getting your financial ducks in a row by focusing on the big picture - the "why" of things - rather than the nitty-gritty.

Overall, I thought this was a good book to get your head in the game when it comes to financial thinking. I wouldn't recommend it as a practical how-to, but if you need some help getting your thoughts in line when it comes to money, it would be a help.


See what other reviewers are saying about this book here -
Landing page:






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale Publishing through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."