Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert

Wildflowers From Winter is not just your typical romance. Well, it is, kind of, but it's more than just that! It's quite an in-depth character study, full of dramatic twists, and best of all--a happy ending!

This book centers around several different characters--Bethany, an architect trying to run away from a troubled past, Robin--a grieving young pregnant widow and Bethany's childhood best friend, and Evan--an aspiring farmer who has recently lost his brother. Bethany is drawn back to her hometown through a series of tragic events. She is faced with her childhood "enemy" who has tainted her view of God, and seems to be surrounded by individuals who have a loving relationship with God. She struggles with this and many other issues. As the story unfolds, more is revealed about Bethany's difficult childhood, details which help explain her attitudes and life choices. There's a romantic angle, a religious angle, much drama and soul-searching. It's a very well-written book which begs you to not put it down!

I enjoyed reading this book and would certainly recommend it. I did think it took a little while to get into it and figure out quite what was going on; the prologue set me off on the wrong foot. Actually after the prologue, I didn't think I'd even like the book! Take my word for it and stick with it. It's a good read--not just a quick superficial little romance, there's a little more depth to this one. The author does a great job of showing the characters as multi-dimensional individuals--like real people you may know! It's not all happy easy sunny days, but more like real life. I won't give away any more of the plot, because I hope you will read the book!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Finding Our Way Home by Charlene Ann Baumbich

What a sweet, enjoyable book! This book, Finding Our Way Home focuses on two individuals, Sasha--a famous ballet dancer forced into early retirement by a tragic injury and heart irregularity, and Evelyn--a 19 year old girl just out of high school and looking to fulfill her dreams for the future.

I do not want to go into much detail, because I'm hoping you will read the story yourself! I will say that it is a very nice book, very clean book, and very enjoyable to read! The two main characters have very strong personalities and each of their lives are involved in quite a bit of drama. From boyfriend/fiancee/husband issues, to parental relationship issues, to issues of depression and physical accomplishment, many different conflicts come into play in this book. They are all dealt with ultimately through Evelyn's word, "Grace".

Though the book is published by a Christian publisher, it does not seem at all like a "Christian" book to me. It doesn't really address God or His moving in their lives, though they do focus on "Grace" (but it seems to be more of a grace received from people rather than from God). It also includes a little ongoing story line about a kind of mystical snowglobe which gives a taste of superstition.

I liked the book, it was a gentle nice read, not objectionable to me (other than a little uncomfortable due to the kind of magical qualities attributed to the snowglobe). The characters seemed real and easy to identify with. Best of all, it had a happy ending :) which is what I like to see in fiction! Yes, I know that real life is not full of happy endings, but hey, when I'm reading fiction, that's what I like to see! :)

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth

Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth is a book about simplifying, becoming more "green" (eco-friendly), more family centered, more responsible. The author does this by highlighting things she and her family of 4 have done and drawing parallels to Amish culture. She writes about many aspects of Amish life and how they could be emulated by non-Amish who wish to have those characteristics in their own lives.

A lot of the ideas Sleeth talks about in her book are great ideas, things that individuals/families interested in simplifying (kind of a catch-phrase nowadays, isn't it?) can grab hold of and implement. Other ideas about families, community, finances, etc. are extremely appealing to me. Some of the appealing aspects which Sleeth talks about are possible for the Amish because of the community patterns they live in, making them unattainable for those of us who live in a non-Amish community.

I enjoyed the book, there are lots of great ideas with illustrations from the author's life. She does kind of put the Amish up on a pedestal, which I would caution against. Though some aspects of their culture are attractive to me, others are not. However, I would still recommend this book--it is easy to read and full of interesting ideas--probably anyone could find at least one idea they'd like to implement in their own life! It is published by a Christian publisher, but I think that anyone who is interested in living a simpler life would enjoy this book.

I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of this review from Tyndale publishers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Explore Yellowstone with Noah Justice

Second in the Noah Justice series of DVD's. . .this review may sound a lot like my previous review of Explore the Grand Canyon with Noah Justice. They are very similar in format. This Noah Justice episode finds him exploring and explaining geological features of Yellowstone.

My children enjoyed seeing the sights of Yellowstone, especially with a Young-earth Biblical Creation interpretation. So many documentaries and books about wonderful geologic formations are told from a "millions of years" interpretation; it was nice to hear the young-earth explanation for these occurrances. I also liked the Mt. St. Helens parallels--very interesting and helpful with some of Yellowstone's features.

As with the first Noah Justice DVD, I felt that the young man spoke too quickly and a little mumble-y, making it easy to miss details. There is a study guide to go along with the DVD--with little quizzes/activity pages. I wish there had been more printed information to accompany the DVD to highlight some of the main points which were a bit blurred in the fast-talking.

I would recommend this DVD to those who follow the young-earth interpretation of geologic events or those who are interested in learning about this viewpoint. The child narrator is an enjoyable host--my children really enjoyed it, and want to watch it again to pick up some of what they may have missed in their first viewing.

I received a free copy of this DVD/study guide from New Leaf Publishing Group for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.


Looking at the extended forecast for temps in the 60's (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) I'm contemplating taking the big blankets down from our huge window/door in the kitchen--cannot wait for more sunlight in our house! What's next? Taking the plastic off the windows?

I'm a little leery, seeing as it is still only mid-March, and this IS Vermont. . .I suppose it's not too hard to put it back up if the weather turns :) I think I'll keep the plastic on for a little longer, however.

Explore the Grand Canyon with Noah Justice (DVD)

A Young-earth look at the Grand Canyon.

My family received this DVD from New Leaf Publishing group in order to review it. My children (11, 9, and 7) were excited to get to see it--so we watched it right away :)

The DVD is basically a child (Noah Justice) giving a lesson on the Grand Canyon and it's probable formation via the Biblical Flood, while showing scenes from the Grand Canyon and models of its formation. We have watched different documentaries on the Grand Canyon before and although this one isn't as "professionally" made as say, something like National Geographic, it was a great look at it from a non-evolutionary viewpoint. Our family subscribes to the young-earth theory of the earth, so it was a good fit for us. We enjoyed seeing the scenes and hearing how the different layers could have been formed.

I think my only issue with the DVD was that the boy spoke a litle too fast without very good enunciation. Some things zipped right past us without us understanding what he was saying. There is a study guide with "quizzes" which accompanies the DVD--I think we'll have to watch the movie a few times to get all the answers, since there's so much information given very quickly. I wish the study guide had included more printed information

I would recommend this movie for people who believe in Biblical creation and a young earth. It's a good concise look at how the Grand Canyon (and all of its layers, etc) were possibly formed.

I received a free copy of this DVD and study guide from New Leaf Publishing Group for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, March 9, 2012

God's Story Your Story by Max Lucado

Max Lucado's name and works are well-known, so when one picks up a new work of his, we kind of know what to expect. This book, God's Story Your Story (When His Becomes Yours) does not disappoint!

Each of the book's chapters begin with this phrase, followed by a different ending. The book begins with explaining about how our full story, life story, is larger than our own personal life--so much else is built in (our family history, our setting, etc). The book goes on to show that as children of God, our "story" is grander, fuller, and more purposeful than we realize on a daily basis. Our lives are carried by Him and focused on eternity.

The chapters of this book were a great encouragement for today's life in the world. There are so many things we don't understand, so many times we could and do lose hope. It's definitely encouraging to remember that our life is much more than what we are seeing right now.

The book ends with a discussion guide. I think this book would make a wonderful Bible study or Sunday School curriculum. I can certainly see how a group discussion would enhance its use.

I would recommend this book.

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Well, we finally got to go enjoy skiing! :) Living an hour from several famous ski resorts, we kind of had to, don't you think?! :) It was so much fun--okay, it was 60 degrees at the warmest today! Now that's some comfortable skiing!! The kids had a ball and so did we. We all took a lesson, the adults separate from the kids.

True confession time--it was SO much fun when we had our lesson and got a full 2 hours to ski without the kids! Please don't take that wrong, but honestly, with the kids, I'm watching/checking on them and not really "enjoying" it quite as much. Beautiful day, lots of fun for all.

Oh--best of all--it was REALLY affordable -- group rate with our homeschool co-op. :) We truly are blessed.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stand By Me by Neta Jackson

Another great book by Neta Jackson! Have you read any of the Yada Yada Prayer Group books? Or the House of Hope books? This book, Stand By Me, is in a new series, called the SouledOut Sisters. Though I call it a “new series” it’s really a spinoff, with favorite characters from the other series featuring in this book as well. I have read most of the books in the other series, so my point of view comes from already understanding the background of many of the characters. However, even if you have never read any of these, I believe you will have no trouble jumping right into this one.

This book focuses on Avis, principal of a city elementary school, worship leader at SouledOut church, mother to a troubled (grown) daughter, and temporary upstairs neighbor to 4 college students. She is torn with conflicting emotions and priorities and senses God is moving her to something, but what?

The four students, especially a new Christian named Kathryn (“Kat”) also focus prominently in the plot of the book. They are experiencing city life in Chicago for the first time (outside of their Christian college), learning valuable life lessons, and searching for their “fit” in life.

When I review books, I really struggle to not give out too much information, things that you will get to “discover” as you read the book, so I’ll leave it at that. The characters are engaging, the plot in compelling, it is just an enjoyable read!

My recommendation is no surprise--I would definitely recommend this book!! Truthfully I’d recommend all of Neta Jackson’s books. Her style of writing is very real, very interesting, very encouraging. This book, as are the others, is full of Scripture, prayer, praise, etc. Great examples of praying the Scripture as well. Having read the other books in the YadaYada series, I have to say that the development of the character of Avis was a surprise to me. I had a kind of mental picture of what she was like, how she behaved, thought, lived—and she was shown to be different from that in this book. More than that. More like us :) . It’s a great addition to the series.

There is also a reader’s guide at the end to aid in discussion if you use this book in a group setting—that’s always a helpful add-on as well!

I received a copy of this book for free for review purposes from the Booksneeze program of Thomas Nelson publishers. I was not required to write a positive review.