Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"I Still Believe" Review

I Still Believe is the story of Christian music artist Jeremy Camp. Written by Jeremy Camp and David Thomas, this memoir covers Jeremy’s growing up years along with his journey to Bible College and the heartbreaking story of the loss of his first wife, Melissa, to cancer.

But the story doesn’t stop there. What follows is the incredible account of how God used these events in Jeremy’s life to bring hope and healing not only to Jeremy himself but to countless others who have been inspired by his music. Ultimately, this road led to success in the Christian music industry and also to a place where Jeremy was able to find love again.

I started listening to Jeremy Camp’s music probably around the mid-2000s and my top three favorites of his are This Man, Restored, and Walk by Faith. When I first heard his music, I liked it – especially those three favorite songs – but I wouldn’t have necessarily called him my favorite artist. I am definitely not claiming to be a music critic, but I often thought that Camp’s music lacked…something.

That changed when I saw him in concert with Casting Crowns in 2007. Now, my husband and I don’t often go to music concerts. We love music, we both play instruments, but we just don’t have the time or money to attend that many concerts. When we found out that Casting Crowns was going to be coming to Indiana, we decided to splurge and take the time to go see our favorite Christian band in concert. The fact that Jeremy Camp would be there, too, was a bonus.

At the concert, we really enjoyed Casting Crowns, but we were truly blown away by Jeremy Camp. His songs came alive when he was on stage, and he was so real. (It was also neat to see his emotion at being back in Indiana - this was soon after he had moved to Nashville, Tennessee). I think that is what doesn’t come through very well when you hear his songs on the radio – the emotion, the depth of faith, and the realness.

OK, so after that tangent about music, I will turn my focus to the book. Since I have seen Camp in concert, I somewhat knew the story of his first wife, Melissa, and what he went through during her illness and after her death.  I Still Believe is a more complete story of Jeremy’s life growing up, the journey he and Melissa went through, and the paths his life has taken since. I’m pretty sure this is an updated version of a book by this same name that was released a few years ago.

One of my favorite parts of this memoir was reading about Jeremy’s years growing up in my adopted hometown of Lafayette, Indiana. As a Purdue graduate, it was interesting for me to read about the decision he made between going to Purdue and going to Bible College in California. Since we are also about the same age (his birthday is actually the same as mine! January 12th! I am just one year older than he is), then I could really relate to the references that he gives about his time in college during the late 90s.

The spiritual aspect of this book is actually why he wrote the book in the first place. Jeremy’s journey of faith, grief, loss, and healing is emotional, heartbreaking, and real, but extremely relatable. While I didn’t always agree with some elements of theology or doctrine or whatever you want to call it, the gospel of Christ is clearly presented. Ultimately, Jeremy gives all the glory to God.

I also thought it was interesting to read about some of the ‘lesser known’ events and things in Jeremy’s life - how he met and fell in love with his wife Adrienne, his navigation of the Christian music business, and the stories of his parents.

Another really great piece of this book is reading about the stories behind Jeremy Camp’s songs. When you go back and listen to the ones referenced in this book, you get a whole new perspective on them – kind of how I felt after experiencing his songs in concert.

In order for a biography or a memoir to hold my attention, it has to be written well, and it has to be captivating. This book was both.

*Jeremy Camp’s latest album, Reckless, releases February 12, 2013, from BEC Recordings.*

I will give I Still Believe … 4 ½ BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House. 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, February 20, 2013

"A Dream for Tomorrow" Review

A Dream for Tomorrow is the second in the “Homeward on the Oregon Trail” series by Melody Carlson about a family who travels west on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1850s. In the first novel, Westward Hearts, Elizabeth Martin, along with her two children, her parents, and her brother embark on this long and arduous journey, and that book ended with the wagon train out in the middle of the prairie.

As the days go by on the trail to Oregon Country, the journey becomes more and more treacherous. Elizabeth’s family and the other emigrants encounter swollen rivers, dangerous mountains, and limited provisions. Even with all of this, Elizabeth finds herself being almost courted by a widower on the journey, Will Bramford. But Elizabeth is continually drawn to the scout of the wagon train, Eli Kincaid.

Over the long, hard days of travel, the members of the wagon train grow to be a family of sorts. When it comes time to part ways, Elizabeth realizes that many decisions will need to be made. Some travelers will be going on with her and her family to where they have decided to settle. Others she may never see again. When it comes time to make a big decision, will Elizabeth follow her head or her heart?
For the most part, I enjoyed the first book in this series, Westward Hearts. I really like Oregon Trail stories, and that part of the first book was great. There were a few things in the previous novel that I thought were a bit out of place, and I didn’t always connect with the setting or characters.

But all of those issues were completely resolved in this second offering, which made it much more enjoyable for me. I don’t know if it was because I already knew the characters and setting or if the writing was just that much more engrossing, but I felt much more connected to Elizabeth and her surroundings in this book. I had much more of a sense of actually journeying with Elizabeth and her family. It was also really, really helpful that there was a character introduction list at the beginning of the book. I think all series books should do this! It makes it easier to remember what happened in the first book, especially when you are a book reviewer who reads many, many books in between.
I also thought that the spiritual side of this book was clearer than in the previous one. The gospel and other aspects of faith were seamlessly woven throughout the story and within the characters’ lives. I liked how Elizabeth and her family related to the other members of the wagon train, especially the ones who were difficult. They did sometimes come off as a bit too perfect, but it was a great example of how to truly relate to others, solve problems, and have meaningful relationships.

The romance side of this book was a bit lacking in my opinion, but that is probably due to the circumstances in which this book takes place. It’s harder to think on romance when you are just trying to survive. Towards the end, however, it got interesting, and I sympathized with the decisions that Elizabeth needed to make.
Many times the second book in a continuous series seems to just be a bridge from where the series begins and where the author wants the series to end up. Because of this, middle books tend to be a bit boring. There were a few places in this book that I thought were slow and somewhat tedious. But this seems to be the case sometimes with Oregon Trail books, since the journey itself would have been slow and tedious. For a middle-in-the-series book, I thought this one was better than most.

A Dream for Tomorrow was an enjoyable continuation of Elizabeth’s journey Homeward on the Oregon Trail. I look forward to reading the next installment that tells of the emigrants as they settle in their new home in Oregon Country.
I will give A Dream for Tomorrow ... 4 BookWorms.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Harvest 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."


Friday, February 15, 2013

"Safe in His Arms" Review

Having been raised by her father on a Texas cattle ranch, Margaret O’Brien has never felt like a normal girl. She prides herself in her ranching abilities and would rather be out riding the range than holed up in the house. But suddenly Margaret’s father has decided that she needs to find a good man and settle down.

When her father hires a new foreman for the ranch, Margaret can’t help but be suspicious. She can’t see how this man, Daniel Cutler, could possibly run the ranch better than she can. When she overhears a conversation that connects Daniel to a gang of bank robbers, Margaret is determined to get to the bottom of it.

As a series of events and accidents take place on the ranch, Margaret is conflicted over who she can trust. She might have to trust Daniel for her life, but can she trust him with her heart?

One thing that stands out to me in all of Colleen Coble’s novels that I have read is her ability to create characters that almost everyone can connect with in some way. Although my personality is not completely like Margaret’s, I was able to empathize with how she felt different from other women. As someone who would rather spend a Saturday watching college football instead of going shopping, I could definitely relate.

I also liked Daniel and his story, although I thought he was entirely too forward with Margaret when they first met. This kind of took him down a notch in my mind at the beginning of the story. I also thought that his back story was somewhat confusing at first. 

To me, Safe in His Arms was very much a fiction story. I really liked the twists and turns that occurred in this book. It’s just that so many horrible things happened to these poor people in such a short amount of time that it sometimes came off as a bit much. (How many times are these people going to get kidnapped?)

It is my opinion that Colleen Coble’s books always tend to go much more toward the fiction side of the scale rather than the historical side. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the setting or that the historical portion of the novel didn’t fit. I actually like both types of historical fiction books – those that focus very much on historical events and those that seem to just tell a story set in a particular time period. This novel seemed to be the latter.

At the same time, however, I actually like the more ‘fiction’ aspect to Colleen Coble’s books, even if they are a bit far-fetched. It’s nice to sit back and relax every once in a while with a novel and not have it be too realistic. I like having a mystery to solve, too. With this one, I figured most of it out, but not all of it, which boosted my overall enjoyment of the novel.

Another good thing about this novel was how faith in Christ played such a major role and how the characters grew in their faith over the course of the novel. There was an overarching theme of God’s unconditional love for us as well as His never-ending grace and mercy. It was also a great reminder that we should be thanking God every day for His many blessings.

I greatly enjoyed the first book in this series, Blue Moon Promise, and this second offering was good as well. I think if I had to pick, I would have to say that I liked Blue Moon Promise a bit better than this one, probably because I related more to Lucy than to Margaret. If you haven’t read the first book in this series, this novel gives you enough information about that first story so that you won’t be too lost if you read this one as a standalone novel.    

The second in the Under Texas Stars series, Safe in His Arms is filled with twists, turns, and danger around every corner, making it a fun adventure ride. 

I will give Safe in His Arms … 4 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from Thomas Nelson 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.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Bible Stories that End with a Hug" Review

About the Book: Little children love getting—and giving—hugs! Hugs generate warmth, affection, and a feeling of acceptance. Show your little ones just how much you treasure them while teaching them about the Bible and God’s unconditional love for his creation. Bible Stories that End with a Hug! features 75 easy-to-understand Bible stories with charming illustrations, lessons on how to apply the stories to your child’s daily life, memory verses from the Holy Bible (New Living Translation) and a special “Hug Time” during which you can share a great big hug with your child.


Stephen Elkins is a Grammy Award–nominated record producer and a multimillion-selling children's author and songwriter. He is owner and founder of Wonder Workshop, a multifaceted Christian media company specializing in the creation of juvenile books, audio products, and DVDs. Stephen has produced recordings featuring Christian personalities TobyMac, Rebecca St. James, Michael Tait of dcTalk, Steve Green, Max Lucado, Twila Paris, and many other notable musicians. He also wrote and produced the Joni Eareckson Tada song "The God I Love," which is used in conjunction with her book of the same title and is now the theme song for her nationally syndicated television show. Stephen lives in Nashville with his wife, Cindy.

My Take:

My husband and I really enjoy reading Bible stories to our daughter at night before she goes to bed, so it’s always fun to get new Bible story books to review.

After a few nights of reading this one, though, we were wondering if she might be too “old” for it. She is almost four years old and can already listen to and somewhat understand what we read to her from the Bible. The one-page stories and babyish drawings seemed more suited to babies and toddlers rather than preschoolers.

The “Hug Time” at the end of each story was cute, but to me it seemed like it was just a gimmicky thing to add to a Bible story book. Not that I don’t love giving hugs to my daughter, but the prompting of the hug was just odd sometimes. For example, after reading about Cain and Abel, it says, “Give the one who pleases the Lord a great big hug!” or after the story of John baptizing Jesus it says, “Give the one who will obey God and be baptized a great big hug!” I’m not even going to go into all of the confusion that this could lead to for a four-year-old.

Some of the stories are fine and easy to understand. There are even some questions in some of them that would be good to start discussions about biblical truth. But the thing that really bothered me about this book is that the Fall of mankind and Christ’s death are completely left out. At the beginning of the book, there is a creation story and a story of God creating Adam & Eve then the next page skips to Cain and Abel. So, sin and our need for a Savior are not mentioned at that point. Several of the New Testament stories in this book talk about sin and our need for salvation, but then the book skips from the Last Supper to Jesus’ resurrection. On one page Jesus is fellowshipping with his disciples. On the next he is dead, and there is no explanation. I realize that maybe the authors thought that it would be too heavy for this age group, but I think it’s almost worse not knowing!

When I started reading this book, I presumed it would be good for preschoolers, but it seems too simplistic for that age group, I think. And leaving the two key events necessary for salvation out of it completely greatly affected my rating of this book.

I will give Bible Stories That End with a Hug … 2 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."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"Five Days to a Clutter-Free House" Blog Tour

Five Days to Live Happily Organized-Ever-After
Professional Organizer & Time-Management Expert Create Plan to De-clutter the Messiest House

No matter how cluttered and disordered your house, professional organizer Sandra Felton and time management expert Marsha Sims encourage readers to transform their homes from chronic disorder to beautiful and organized.

In 5 Days to a Clutter Free House: Quick and Easy Ways to Clear Up Your Space, Felton and Sims share their systematic, team-based approach so even the most overwhelming de-cluttering job becomes doable. The “toe-to-head” approach cuts decision-making to a minimum so readers can transform their home in only five days.

“You can have a home that refreshes and inspires you,” write Felton and Sims. “Real, long-term change will come only when the heart and mind passionately embraces the dream of an organized way of life, which fills our lives with what we really love – beauty.”

The authors' enthusiasm and energy keep readers pushing forward to the goal, and their time-tested tips and habits help readers preserve their newfound clutter-free space. Felton and Sims detail their proven five-day method that begins by assembling a de-cluttering team, clearing surfaces and sorting everything that doesn’t belong into labeled boxes.

Each day the team tackles a new level, beginning with everything below the knee on Monday. By Thursday, the house should see a U-turn as open space emerges. Then it’s time to tackle the inside of drawers and cabinets before turning to the attic, utility room and garage. By Friday, surfaces should be clear, and readers can begin to have the organized home they always wanted but could never achieve.   

Once readers conquer the five-day plan, Felton and Sims give practical insights on living happily organized-ever-after including the ten minute tidy challenge and clutter-buster habits.  The authors show how to deal with common obstacles to maintaining a clutter-free house including storage needs, health issues, space restrictions and even family sabotage.

Available February 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

About the Authors:

Sandra Felton, The Organizer Lady, is a pioneer in the field of organizing. She is the founder and president of Messies Anonymous and the author of many books including Organizing Magic. Sandra lives in Florida.

Marsha Sims is a national speaker who has taught seminars on time management and organization, managing the front desk, and projects and priorities. She has been a professional organizer for fifteen years as the founder and president of her Miami-based company, Sort-It-Out, Inc.

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books for everyday life.  For more information, visit

My Take:
This book caught my eye when it came up for review because I like to try new and innovative ideas when it comes to getting rid of clutter in my home. Our house is not even close to being the next home featured on Hoarders, but, admittedly, my husband and I could both use some motivation to clear some of the clutter (especially our basement storage room and our garage – yikes.)

What I was not prepared for was the team-based approach that this book takes to clearing the clutter. This phrase (“team-based approach”) was used in the summary of the book, but I just assumed it meant sort of getting your immediate family to pitch in and help out, not calling in friends or extended family or even acquaintances to help you de-clutter your home. To me this seemed unrealistic. I for one would not want to subject my friends to my clutter, and since most of my friends and acquaintances are parents with young children, I’m thinking it would be pretty difficult to assemble a team for five days in a row. Even if different people came different days, it would be tough.

As far as the de-cluttering process is concerned, it is a good overall plan. The questions to ask yourself as you are trying to decide what to keep and what to get rid of really cut to the heart of the matter. I tried the method on one room in our house by myself (not the team concept), and it worked well. Of course, it only took me about an hour to do the first part of the plan in that one room, and then I spent another hour or so sorting everything that had been put in boxes. So, I was not “living out of boxes” for several months afterward. I think this would drive me crazy. And I know it would stress out my husband. Growing up as a military kid, if he came in and saw all of our stuff packed in boxes, he would feel as if we were moving at any second and would be way too stressed.

I also am not quite sure I understand the part of the plan that involves the boxes. When I cleaned out my one room, I put stuff away that same day. I don’t think I would have enough space to keep boxes stacked up in each room, and I think that if you are prone to clutter, you might end up living out of those boxes from now until eternity.

The second part of the book that tells about how to maintain your clutter-free home did have some helpful things in it. There were some good tips on different ways to manage your time and to change your mindset from one who is clutter-prone to someone who does not procrastinate about putting things away.

Overall, though, I felt that this book was more motivational than completely practical. Yes, there were a lot of practical tips, especially in the maintenance section, but it seemed like most of the first part of the book was just cheerleading. This made the book very repetitive, too. The real-life stories that were included were not so much case studies but just retellings of the de-cluttering plan that had already been explained.

Another part of the book that really bothered me was the assumptions that were made about the reader. I for one am someone who struggles with clutter and what to keep and what to give away, but I am not really a disorganized person. When I was in school and when I worked full-time, I was very organized in my school and work efforts. Because of our busy lives and all of our stuff, we are prone to clutter more than I would like us to be. But the authors seemed to think that if you have clutter then you are a free-spirit, disorganized type of person. Take this quote, for example: “We disorganized types especially enjoy living as free spirits, flying by the seat of our pants, kicking over the traces, whatever figure of speech you want to use to describe how we don’t like to function in regimented ways. And that can be a charming part of our exuberant personalities.” This quote does not describe me at all! I am a practical person who likes a schedule, not a free-spirit. But, I am still prone to clutter and procrastination. So, it just bothered me that the authors lumped me into the free-spirit category just because I have clutter.

I think the best quote to come out of this book is one that was in the margins from Billy Graham: “The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.” And that is what I choose to take away from this book.

I will give 5 Days to a Clutter-Free House … 2 BookWorms.

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."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow" Review

Charlotte Farrow is a kitchen maid for the wealthy Banning family who live on prestigious Prairie Avenue in Chicago. She has managed to keep the fact that she has a baby boy a secret for the past year. Only the Banning daughter, Lucy (title character in the first book in this series, The Pursuit of Lucy Banning), knows about the existence of baby Henry and has assisted Charlotte in finding someone to care for him.
When Henry’s caregiver must suddenly leave town, and with the newly married Lucy Banning Edwards on her honeymoon, Charlotte must decide whether to come clean about her son or let the older Bannings decide what to do with the child. Add to this a growing affection for the head coachman, Archie, and things truly become a dilemma for Charlotte Farrow. Will she have the strength to step out on faith and do what needs to be done for her child?

Set in Chicago in 1893 during the World’s Columbian Exposition, the history, opulence, and tension of the times come to life in this second installment of the Avenue of Dreams series by Olivia Newport.
The thing that was most exciting for me in this novel was the setting. There are lots of historical details about the World’s Fair and other events at the time that were just fascinating. I also thought that the information that was woven into the story about the struggles of the working class at this time was very interesting.

I also liked some of the secondary characters in this book. Archie was sweet, and he cared so much for Charlotte. I also liked how he was trying to make a better life for himself. Even though she exasperated me to no end, I thought Sarah, the new kitchen maid and sometimes nanny for the baby, was well-written.
The storyline, however, felt a bit one-dimensional to me. There didn’t seem to be much else that was covered in the plot besides the dilemma Charlotte faced over whether or not to tell about the baby being hers. There was the romance between Charlotte and Archie, but even it seemed to take a backseat to the main storyline instead of the romance being told alongside and interwoven with the main plot.

The faith aspect was pushed too much into the background as well. Although it came into play much more towards the end of the book, it just didn’t go far enough for me. It seemed as if Charlotte was taking beginning steps in the right direction (reading her Bible, starting to have faith that God can be trusted, and realizing that God loves her), but Christ and His sacrifice for us is never mentioned.
Overall, this book was nice. It just didn’t have that extra something to turn it into a really great book.

I will give The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow … 3 BookWorms.

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."