Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators by David H Ross

Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators: Mastering the Art of Drawing from Memory by David H. Ross is a book filled with mini-lessons about different aspects of drawing human figures, kind of super hero-type drawing.

I really like this book, my daughter and son are using it to learn some tips. I really liked all the horizon and perspective lessons (using the quartered box as a guide section was nice). The chapters are entitled:

1. A Perspective Primer
2. Introducing the Glass Mannequin
3. The Standing Figure
4. The Walking and Running Figure
5. The Crouching, Sitting, and Reclining Figure
6. Drawing the Head
7. Drawing the Hands and Feet
8. The Skeleton
9. The Muscles
10. Dynamic Action

There are lessons about muscles, motion, different steps in motion, etc. The lines of balance, poses of different parts of the body, and on.

I'm not sure I'd say that I love this book, but I think it is a good tool. It's a very nice quality book and I think the mini-lessons are not intimidating and can add on to already existing art skills.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review, I was not required to write a positive review.

The Midwife's Choice by Delia Parr

Back in the summer I read (and reviewed. . .see here) a book by Delia Parr called The Midwife's Tale. I have just finished the second book in this series (At Home in Trinity series) and really enjoyed it! This new book is called The Midwife's Choice by Delia Parr. It is set in the 1830's and is the story around the life, town, and family of Widow Cade (Martha), the area's midwife.

Martha's daughter, who had run away with a carnival in the previous book, comes back home to her mother's joy. She has been living with a family who was taking care of her, employing her, and allowing her to work as a writer. Martha is living above the confectionary with the two sisters who run it (her brother's place where she used to live had burned down).

Many different dramas fill the story, some having to do with her profession as a midwife, others just with her caring nature. She tries to help a newly-blinded man and his ward, assists with a stillbirth and discovers an abused wife, shares the joy of a friend's returned marriage, finds out giant secrets about a close friend, faces choices concerning love and her future, and tries to do the right thing in every situation.

It's a nice story with adventure, suspense, and Christian values. It's written in a historic setting, and gives you a good taste of life in that era. I enjoyed reading it and would definitely recommend it!

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

Friday, December 18, 2015

More For Girls Only! Devotions by Carolyn Larsen

Do you have a daughter or granddaughter who is in the pre-teen years? This devotional would be a wonderful tool in their spiritual development! This devotion book, More For Girls Only! Devotions written by Carolyn Larsen is spot on for this age group. It is printed with pink ink (!) and is more than just a story for the day illustrating good behavior. It is very Scripturally oriented. The day's reading begins with a Bible verse (or verses) and then a story illustrating either a desirable characteristic or an undesirable one. The story ends with some thought-provoking (and discussion-starting!) questions about the topic.

Following the story is "checkup time" which is a 1-5 scale (1=never, 5=always to answer how you feel you fall on certain questions (such as
I pray for missionaries
I know that others are affected by my choices
I feel God's love throughout the day
I know I need God's forgiveness every day
I'm good at waiting until I'm certain God has given me guidance

and so forth.

Following this is a "key" which gives you an interpretation, such as:
mostly 1's: we get it, you like to do things your way. But God's way is actually better for you. Ask him to help you believe that.
mostly 2's: Could it be that you don't trust God to guide you? . . .
mostly 3's:

etc. You get the pictures. Like those "quizzes" in magazines.

The next section is "Things to do" and gives several action items to check off and try to do that will increase your growth in that characteristic.

Following that is "Things to remember" which is a listing of verses that relate to the topic which can be used for Bible memory as well as some quotes by Christian writers on the topics.

I really like the format as well as the topics of this devotional. I have already used book one with my 11 year old daughter and it has opened up wonderful times of discussion and prayer for us. It doesn't take a huge amount of time, but I believe it is a great help in her life.

I definitely recommend this book. The age group it's written for is 8-12; it could probably be used with older girls, but I'd say it's best within this age range.

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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Rising Darkness by Nancy Mehl

This book, Rising Darkness, by Nancy Mehl is a book kind of suspenseful Mennonite-based book with a little romance as well. The concept of the book is that a girl who was raised in an abusive neglectful Mennonite home has left the faith and is on her way to becoming a great reporter. She has a lead that she hopes will catapult her into "great reporter" status. She has gotten a lead regarding an old robbery-turned-murder that has remained unsolved for many years and hopes to discover the criminal and expose him through her story.

The trail takes her into a Mennonite community, which falls into conflict with her upbringing and her turn away from the faith. She pretends she is someone who she is not and begins her investigation.

Throughout the story she meets some interesting characters and does some searching of her own. I will not tell you more, in case you decide to read the book :)

I thought it was an okay book, a bit predictable, and a bit unbelievable. I honestly didn't really like the main character Sophie at all. She wasn't really likeable, and I wish her character had been a bit more developed, or maybe a bit more like a real person. In the end there is a change of heart as well as some surprise entanglements. . . all in all I thought it was okay. Maybe a book you'd get out of the library and read, but maybe not buy. It was a good clean story, but not a favorite.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Amish Christmas at North Star by Cindy Woodsmall, Mindy Starns Clark, Amanda Flower, Katie Ganshert

This book, Amish Christmas at North Star is a collection of four stories about Amish families or connections that occur in or related to the town of North Star. The stories are written by different authors: Cindy Woodsmall, Mindy Starns Clark (and Emily Clark), Amanda Flower, and Katie Ganshert. I have read books by several of those authors before this book, so I was excited to get into this book. I generally like to read stories that are all related, which added to the appeal.

When I received the book, I dove right into it, enjoying the first story (by Katie Ganshert) a lot. The second one, though, for some reason, didn't "click" with me -- I actually put the book down for several days before picking it up to read more. The third was okay, not really compelling either. I did like the fourth one (by Mindy Starns Clark/Emily Clark.

The stories follow a bit in the lives of four individuals who were born the same night, at an Amish birthing center, assisted by the same midwife. They are all stories with a bit of romance, of course, and are good, clean stories, and interesting enough, though 2 are much more interesting than the other two. Though they are all about the same town, the stories didn't intertwine at all.

I guess I'd say that they are a good read, however, two of the four books were just kind of blah. I wouldn't recommend NOT reading the book, but just wanted to say that I was surprised that two of them were not quite pageturners for me.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Streams of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling

Streams of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling is book #3 in the "Song of Blessing" series. The book centers on mainly one family in the picture perfect town of Blessing. Most of the residents are of Norwegian descent and they all seem to work together in a seamless fashion. There are bits of trouble and sorrow, but they are worked through as family. Two of the women of this family are the founders and administrators of the hospital in the town, as well as being the doctors for the town (it's a teaching hospital filled with nurses and various other characters).

I have read the other two books that precede this book and I liked this one just as much as the others. It is a book that makes you wish you lived in a community like Blessing. It's a historical fiction book, a Christian book. . . A good part of this book focuses on Anji Moen and her children who returned to Blessing after the death of Mr. Moen. Anji finds her place in the town amongst family and then begins a relationship with Father Devlin; Father Devlin faces some tough choices in his life and Anji plays a part. . .I don't want to say more.

There's also a circus train filled with disease which devastates the town and its families. . .

And a mute mystery girl who is anonymously dropped off at the hospital pregnant. . .

I'd say it's a good book. I enjoyed it very much, as a quick read for entertainment. It reminds me of Amish fiction a bit (the community aspect) so I'd venture to say that if you enjoy Amish fiction you will probably enjoy this book! It is preceeded by two other books in the series, and although it is not necessary to have read them to enjoy this one, it certainly will help you sort out the characters :)

I received this book from Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

My post-college, pre-children life was as an environmental educator -- working at camps, nature centers, and such. The kinds of people I worked with were kind of stereotypical for that field :) and many of them had a life goal of hiking the "AT". Myself, I had no such aspirations -- I knew that if I were to attempt something like that (besides the incredible cost of time and money) I would be too focused on the hiking itself, going going going -- and not able to enjoy the actual experience. In those days hiking the AT was a topic of many discussions and conversations.

Now, many years later, reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, I am reminded of those days and wonder if any of those coworkers with lofty goals ever succeeded.

The book A Walk in the Woods is the author's recounting of his walking of the Appalachian Trail. His attempt, that is. Or attempts? At any rate, he's a regular guy, hiking along with another regular guy (not as in shape as himself) with the goal of completing the hike from Georgia to Maine. He talks about equipment, the hiking itself, the people, his new experiences, the weather, etc.

The book is very well written -- interesting to say the least (laugh-out-loud funny at many times!!) and is enjoyable to read. The first half of the book/first half of the hike -- was exciting and interesting. The second half (****spoiler****** he does in day segments and a last push, but does not complete the trail) is not quite so compelling a read. But at that point you're into the book and want to finish it anyhow. It's filled with political and historical commentary and even though some may disagree with some of his points or stands on topics, it's still an interesting read.

SO -- would I recommend the book? Yes, certainly. There is a bit of swearing (overlook that maybe?) which will keep me from recommending it to my kids, but it is a very interesting read.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cheap Chic by Caterine Mack and Carol Troy

Let me preface this review by saying that I am not the intended audience for this book. In the foreword by Tim Gunn quotes the authors saying, "We figure that anyone who's sharp enough to buy this book isn't sitting around spending huge amounts of time 'saving money' with homey handiworks when they could be out making the money to save them the time." Honestly, had I read this before requesting this book for review I would have passed it by. So for me, a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, raising kids and animals. . .doing what we can to live frugally. . .yup, this book is not for me.

Okay, well I requested it and promised a review, so here goes! This is as reprint of a book that is very fashion-y. It is a historical guide through fashions up to and including the '70's. It showcases famous and random individuals' own styles and highlights how to have a style like those. It also gives styles in different countries/industries/hobbies that can inspire day-to-day fashion.

The cover is bright and colorful, the interior pages are filled with black and white photos and line drawings.

All in all, it's not a book for me. If you are a fashion lover you may find it interesting and maybe inspiring, but for me, give me my blue jeans and white t-shirt and I'm all set.

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

Monday, August 10, 2015

Stealing Jake by Pam Hillman

Looking for a fun easy read? Stealing Jake by Pam Hillman will fit the bill! This book was a really nice vacation read for me -- entertaining story with a happy ending :)

The book focuses on two strands of a story that come together eventually. Someone is buying street children from Chicago, shipping (literally in boxes) them to a town to work as free labor (or else get killed) in a sweatshop setting. Another character in the book is a rehabilitated ex-pickpocket from Chicago who has become a follower of Christ through the influence of an older Christian woman with whom she now lives (in a city far away from Chicago) and runs an orphanage.

A boxload of orphans become freed from their crate and begin roaming the streets, living by whatever means they can; also they are trying to free the other kids who are enslaved. Livy (the ex-pickpocket) begins trying to help them though they are suspicious of her.

Add into all of this a sheriff deputy who has recently lost his father in a mine collapse and who is falling in love with Livy (without knowing her past).

SO -- yes, it's kind of predictable, and that is a good thing I think :) It's a happy ending, a little adventure, a little human interest, and a little romance. It is written as a Christian romance, so it refers to the life-changing walk with Christ.

I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it as a fun read!

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

101 Things Every Girl Should Know (book by Faithgirlz from Zondervan)

This book, 101 Things Every Girl Should Know is DEFINITELY a winner for teen girls!! GREAT book! It's full of practical, important tips and little instructions about how to do many many many practical things! Things like how to accept a compliment, how to bake a chicken, how to give good gifts, how to write thankyou notes, how to write in a yearbook, and so much more! The scope is very broad, things that girls will encounter in their lives.

More? How to say you're sorry, how to make someone's day, how to tell a joke, how to teach yourself to French braid. :)

I really like this book and will give it to my daughters. It is a very helpful book, with the explanations/answers just one to two pages long. Full of bright illustrations and easy to read. The topics are "clean" and easy -- no racy stuff, no bad language, nothing that parents would cringe at. Well maybe the slang :) that kind of makes me cringe -- so so so much cutesy slang -- but the authors are trying to grab teen girls' attention and probably want to try to sound like a peer/teen.

I like the contents of this book. The 101 things (well, it's actually 102!) are, in fact, helpful. Give them as gifts! Teen girls like to read this type of book!

(*****one side note -- the cover of the book came unglued right at the first page -- the binding is fine, the cover just came unattached -- not sure if it's just a fluke with the book I received or if the publisher should take better care!)

Other than the issue with the cover, this book is a wonderful book for teen girls. I would definitely recommend it. It is published by Zondervan, but really doesn't contain religious stuff, just "clean" stuff. It'll reach a broad audience.

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Drawing Fire by Janice Cantore

Great story!! The book Drawing Fire by Janice Cantore is a great suspenseful story with a little romance. It is the story of Abby, a homicide detective, and her unending search for answers in the deaths of her parents so many years before. A case comes up that offers Abby the opportunity to ask the governor (an old friend of her parents) about the cold case. She is stopped before she gets to ask much, but her identity is then known.

Another character, who is also searching for the truth from those murders is a private investigator, Luke. His uncle was also killed in the restaurant murders which killed Abby's parents. In his search for answers he has never uncovered the true identity of Abby.

As you can probably guess, Abby and Luke join forces, to some extent, to seek out those responsible for her parents' deaths. I don't want to give away more, so read it!

This was a great story, I really enjoyed it. The characters are nicely developed, "rounded" characters -- you feel as if they are truly real people. They are Christians, and there are references to that and God's will, etc. throughout -- along with that is the lack of bad language or objectionable activities -- nice.

The story wraps up nicely -- BUT leaves you wanting more! This is book one in a series -- and I can't wait for the next books in the series! I would definitely recommend it as a great suspenseful story -- with a little romance -- kind of -- or hints of what is to come, maybe.

I received this book for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Midwife's Tale by Delia Parr

The Midwife's Tale by Delia Parr is a story of a woman (Martha Cade) in the early 1800's who is the midwife for the region. She is a widow and has two children -- one son grown and married and moved away, one daughter who has just (at the start of the book) run away with a traveling circus. She is an essential member of her community, and has helped with almost every birth around.

Martha takes a break from her midwifing role and searches for several months for her daughter, but is unsuccessful. She returns to her previous life only to find that there is a new doctor in town who might threaten her livelihood.

The book follows the story of Martha (Widow Cade) and her efforts to live life in the shadow of her daughter's disappearance as well as carrying on her normal midwifery duties.

There is a new family in the region, a husband and wife and several foster boys -- several tragedies -- larceny -- suspicion -- broken friendships --

I won't tell you how they play into the story, but read it to find out!

I don't want to tell you much more about the plot, because you ought to read it to find out ;) I did enjoy this book quite a lot! The characters are nicely developed and the story is interesting. I usually don't really like historical fictions in this era, but I certainly did like this one! I do recommend this book -- give it a try!

I received this book for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Detained by Don Brown

Are you a fan of military suspense stories? Police-legal action? This newest book by Don Brown (as well as his older ones!) will be a winner with you!

The book Detained, by Don Brown, is a suspenseful military-action/JAG Law type book. It's deep and a bit disturbing, full of action, and packed with multiple main characters who enter the story at different points and merge to come to the end of the story.

The book begins with Hasan Makari and his son Najib--Lebanese men who love Christ and the US. Najib has emigrated to the US, become a citizen, and enlisted in the Navy. In the beginning of the book Hasan is flying to the US to visit his son. Najib is on board ship, excited to see his father when they reach port.

Hasan is seized by members of a branch of the TSA without knowing why. He is transported to Guantanamo Bay Detention on false charges and is tortured as his captors seek to beat a confession (albeit false) out of him. His son is whisked off ship and brought to Guantanamo and also endures horrific treatment in an attempt to have him confess to false charges against him as well.

Navy JAG lawyer Matt Davis is (as a seemingly disciplinary measure) assigned to the case of Hasan and Najib. As he travels to the base, he becomes suspicious about the "rules" that the legal system at Guantanamo Bay seem to run under, as well as his role there. He becomes aware of a questionable death of one of his predacessors, and receives some threats to himself.

Another character, Emily Gardner, has received a huge promotion in her legal career, but uncovers some information that seems traitorous -- information that was "planted" to "test" her loyalty. I will not give you much more info than this :) because you'll want to read that yourself!

All the characters come together in the end to provide a slam-bang finish :)

All in all I liked the book. It was very tense, dramatic, and elicited strong emotions about injustice. I guess that what I didn't love was that it seemed that most of the book was these seemingly independent stories unfolding kind of slowly and deliberately and then--WHOOSH!-- it was resolved very quickly. It was an enjoyable book, not an easy fluffy read, by any means.

I would recommend this book for sure. My husband is reading it next and my dad after that. If you like this type of book (like Tom Clancy-type books) then you will like this one. It is not filled with swearing and sex, so that is a plus.

I received this book for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Infuse by Eric Prum & Josh Williams

Infuse, by Eric Prum and John Williams is a pretty book about infusing different flavors into olive oil, alcohol, and water. Now, before I write my review, let me say that I am not someone who drinks alcohol, so at least 1/3 of this book could not be appreciated fully by me. So -- that being said, infusions are a very fun way to expand your regular repertoire. Infused olive oil gives new life to old recipes, spices things up a bit. Infused waters seem all the rage right now, encouraging people to drink their water by increasing the flavor.

If you are new to infusing "stuff" maybe you'll be interested in this book. For me, it seemed like not very many recipes, mostly pictures. Now, they are gorgeous pictures!! but not enough for me to pay $25 for a book. This would make a good coffee-table type book, with all the pretty photos. I guess I was just looking for more in this book than there was. I wish that there were even more recipes. The ones that are in the book do sound interesting!

I really liked the dispenser top for the mason jars that the authors invented. Looks helpful!

All in all, maybe this would be a good gift-ish book, for someone who you are not sure what to buy for, or a good hostess gift. The price is steep, but the pictures are really gorgeous. I know I keep saying that, but to me the pictures are maybe the most appreciated part.

I received this book for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Chance of Loving You (collection of 3 stories. . .by Terri Blackstock, Candace Calvert, and Susan May Warren)

This book, Chance of Loving You, is a "romance collection." Three stories, each by well-known authors, all combined into one book. Sounded interesting!

Honestly, I did not like this book or these stories. They were kind of romance for the sake of romance, and that is not the genre of book I love. I thought that since I like the authors, I might like their romance stories as well, but not really. The stories were kind of fluffy and unrealistic. . .just romance without much other story line. There was a LITTLE bit of story line, but not much.

The first story, by Terri Blackstock, revolved around a man who gets a lottery ticket, splits it with a waitress he just met, and they fall in love.

The second story, by Candace Calvert, is about a nutritionist who is entering a cooking contest, works at a nursing home, helps one of the residents, and falls in love.

The third, by Susan May Warren, is about a smart girl who lost her love and wishes she had him back. And she gets him back.

If you like romance books, and if you are looking for short stories, this may be for you! Not my style, not for me. The positive thing I would say is that they are clean stories, not objectionable.

I wouldn't really recommend this book.

I received this book for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

The authors who wrote stories in this book were Terri Blackstock (her bio is here), Candace Calvert (her bio is here), and Susan May Warren (bio here.)

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas is a fiction book that is a follow-up to another book I reviewed last year (see that review here). The story is that of a young woman (Margaret), a young man (Henry), Henry's mom and grandma, Margaret's sister, and a few other characters. Henry loses his father unexpectedly and is left kind of at odds in life. Margaret's parents don't want her or her sister. Henry's Grandma and Mother are widows.

Added into this mix are running moonshine (and illegal drugs), a miracle-working young girl, an unplanned pregnancy, a pair of 90-something year old lovebirds, and much more. Much, much more. Possibly too much more. To me the story seemed a bit boring on one hand, and too disjointed, running in many different directions in the other. There are many characters which are developed, their situations followed and explained. It is kind of hard for me to pick out what the main line of the story is.

Readers may enjoy the references to life on the farm and supportive women.

As with her previous book there is a "magic-y" component to this one as well. The younger sister, Mayfair, seems to have the ability to heal people of physical ailments. Not my favorite part of the book.

All in all, it's a fine story. Not a book to keep me up reading at night. Not one that I was eager to get back to. Just an okay, entertaining, clean read. Not a favorite of mine.

I received this book for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Acing the ACT by Elizabeth King

Excellent test prep book!!

Are you looking forward to taking standardized tests? Of course you want yourself (or your student) to give the very best representation via the tool of standardized tests. Of course, there are the inherent issues such as do standardized tests accurately reflect/predict a student's potential. . .but that is not at question here. These tests are used by college admissions, so you need to do your best at them!

This book, Acing the ACT, is small, short, right to the point book to give tips about how to do your very best on the ACT. The author gives ideas of how to answer certain types of questions, how to zip through the questions, how to look at each question, and more. She includes a full section of memorization -- things to memorize to have at the top of your head (formulas for areas, perimeters, etc).

The author gives a summary and helpful information about each of the sections of the test: English, math, reading, science, and the essay. AND -- she accomplishes this all in 131 pages! Small pages! Easy-to-read pages!

My daughter has a year and a half or so before she starts taking tests like this, but I will definitely have her read this to get her ready for the test. I think it is written in a way that it is easy and not intimidating for high-schoolers to read. The author did a great job and accomplished the goal which the book sets out to complete.

Thank you to the author for sharing such great, easy to understand tips.

I highly recommend this book.

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

The River Cottage Curing & Smoking Handbook by Steven Lamb

Fascinating, interesting, inspiring book! This is not just some cookbook, it is a handbook to teach you (me!) how to cure and smoke different meat items! This takes you from no knowledge about how curing and etc are done to where you think, "Hey, maybe I can do this!"

The book begins with a section of "Tradition and Science" which runs the reader through meat preparation and storage and how smoking and salting meats became a part of society as well as the author's personal history with meat curing. The "science" part steps through all of the important parts of the process, ingredients such as salt, fat, bacteria, molds, and so on.

The next section is an overview of equipment necessary for this type of meat processing. One encouraging part of this is that the author does not advocate only the most expensive and state of the art equipment, but invites readers of any economic level to get started in this field.

There is a section on ingredients, it is very thorough. The author introduces us to the different cuts of meat, different meats for different purposes, and goes through the necessary ingredients for curing--giving great explanations about the importance of each. (Side note -- great photos illustrating cutting/preparation of certain cuts of meat.)

The methods part comes next, curing, smoking, fermenting, etc. Again, the author makes it do-able, not emphasizing pricey equipment, but using what you have or can come up with (for some things) -- oh, and shows how to make some of it for yourself, such as different types of smokers.

The recipes are the second half of the book, each complete with photos, ingredients, directions, and explanations about the items.

Throughout the book is great narrative, stories, and encouragement. It is VERY well-written, interesting, entertaining. It's readable for even a novice. Honestly, I read this whole book through! Not just like looking through it, but reading it for interest. The author of this book is very talented, both in curing/smoking meats as well as in encouraging the reader to do it for him/herself as well. It actually makes you think that you can do this!

(Okay, I will admit that the thought of the raw meat, curing, etc. maybe grossed me out a little bit, but it's the realization of what it really is, and the cured, smoked. . .and its safety. It's not like you're just chomping into a plain old raw meat! It seemed a little scary, but as the book progressed, the idea grew on me!)

All in all, it's a great book. Well-written, easy to read, inspiring and encouraging. The author did a GREAT job, and the book is just FILLED with gorgeous photographs that illustrate nicely the written word. My husband wants to read it next. We're definitely going to try some of these methods/recipes!

I very much recommend this book if you are at all interested in homes preservation.

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

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman

Are you looking for a fun dramatic read? Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman is an enjoyable book to open up! The story line is that Kelli's parents (father and stepmother) have just died and as she's cleaning out her dad's house she comes upon a strange clue. All her life she has known that her birth mother and siblings were killed in a tragic fire when she was younger. The new clue brings up questions and frightening possibilities. Perhaps her family is still living? Does she want to/can she explore this more?

This book is the story of Kelli's exploration into her (supposed) past and finding out who she might actually be, and who/why her father left behind. Kelli becomes involved in small town life and . . .

I don't want to give away any more information :) Read it! The book is well written, written in a way that you will want to read right through it without putting it down :) It's one of those books that you will look forward to reading. It's a nice story, maybe a tad predictable, but that's one of the things that makes a good story, right?

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. It's a great story, a good, clean story, a little romance, a little mystery, and a community that you'd like to live in!

I received this book for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Blessings for Morning by Susie Larson

Blessings for Morning by Susie Larson is subtitled "Prayerful Encouragement to Begin Your Day." It's a gift-ish book in my opinion. Like something you'd take to your grandmother in the nursing home, or give to a mom for mother's day.

The layout is a two-page series of 1 page of Bible verse with a "blessing" on the opposite page -- such as, "May abundant grace and profound peace be multiplied to you in every way. . ." and more. To me, it's not at all a devotional book or something to use to study Scripture. I'm not really sure what the purpose of this book is. I think it looks like a collection of greeting cards all bound together. There are pretty pictures and Bible verses and a "blessing" which I'm not really sure who the blessing is from, the author, I guess.

I really didn't care for this book and probably won't even use it as a gift to give.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Cookie Love by Mindy Segal with Kate Leahy

This book, Cookie Love, is a book with beautiful photos, enjoyable to look through, and inspiring you to make some cookies! Oh yes, there are recipes as well :)

The introduction gives the author's story of why she is in love with cookies and why she is sharing her recipes through this book. She sounds like a very interesting person and gives a little intro narrative to the sections of the book and even for the recipes. Some of the cookies are variations on familiar recipes, others are very unique. The photos that accompany the recipes are gorgeous, just beautiful.

At the end of the book are sections such as "tools of the trade" and "tricks of the trade." There is also an author's pantry section, where we get to find out what some of these exotic ingredients mentioned in the recipes are and why they are important.

Overall, though I love the looks of this book, the recipes in it are pretty impractical for me. First of all, many use specialized ingredients and others require many specialized techniques. For me, a busy homeschooling mom of 3 kids, I love to make cookies, but one of the appealing things of cookie making to me is that there is minimal work/time and yummy outcome. I think that I will stick to easier recipes than those in this book.

Maybe this book would be for you if you like to bake special fussy-type recipes; if you have the time and artistic sense to utilize these recipes, have fun! For me, it'd make more of a coffee-table book :) Pretty to look at the pictures and talk about them, but probably won't make them. Maybe it'd make a nice gift for someone? Or inspiration?

For me, however, this book is not a practical recipe book :) I'd suggest taking a look through the recipes first if you are planning to use the book as a cookbook.

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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Brave Girls Better Than Perfect

Brave Girls Better Than Perfect is a 90 (or so) day devotional for preteen girls. It has an eye-catching cover and I love the "brave girls" theme :)

I have a daughter who is 10, so we are constantly on the lookout for reading/devotional materials which will benefit her and be do-able for her. She took a look at this book already and asked when we could begin!

Reading through this book I like the themes and the way they are written. I did think the format was kind of weird and disjointed -- the different sections are SO different, almost look like they were separate books just mashed together with the same cover -- the different areas are: Truth Detectives, Bible Beauties and Beaus, Divine Design, Body Builders, Character Quest, and Mind Games.

Each of the daily devotions features a Bible verse(s), a narrative about the passage, and a suggested prayer. The format for each of the sections is different. My favorite was the first one, the Truth Detectives, where there is a lie (which we tell ourselves or hear from others) and the TRUTH (from God's Word).

As a mom, the different formats throughout the book are a bit of a turn-off, but honestly, for using with my daughter, they will not be a hindrance at all. There are many many topics touched upon in this devotion book and I look forward to reading it and discussing them with her!

YES, I will recommend this book and I would also suggest it as a gift for a preteen. It could be used with a parent or adult mentor or even on her own.

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

Worry Less So You Can Live More by Jane Rubietta

This book up for review is "Worry Less So You Can Live More" by Jane Rubietta, subtitled Surprising, Simple Ways to feel more peace, joy, and energy. I thought the title sounded very interesting, who doesn't have some worries that they could/should relinquish? It'd be helpful to gain some more ideas for abandoning worry and seeking joy and peace in Christ. SO I chose this book to review.

Well, I'm going to be blunt at the start and say that I was bored and a bit annoyed with the writing in this book. It's full of little vignettes from the author's life, stories that maybe show a point-- a bit disjointed, but all having something to do with worry. I can't really put my finger on what I didn't care for, but it was a drag to push myself to read this book. There's not a lot of Bible references and not many concrete suggestions. . .it's kind of flighty and ephemeral. I'm sure that some will love this type of book, but I just could not connect.

To be superficial, the cover is beautiful :) But that's not enough for me to recommend the book. Personally I had a hard time just reading the book. Hopefully it'll be helpful to some, but it really was not for me.

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

Monday, March 16, 2015

10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know by Kari Kampakis

I have a teenaged girl, so books geared toward them are on the top of my reading list lately! Some of the books that are supposedly for young girls seem more directed at the mom or just a philosophical talk on topics -- but this one, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, by Kari Kampakis, is written in a way that girls will like to read. As a matter of fact, my daughter started reading this before I had finished it (2 bookmarks!) and is enjoying it and wanted to know if she can have it for hers. Of course!

I think this book is a great book for teen girls. It speaks in an interesting way and teaches truths about God and Christian living, through the teen years. Some of the topics that are discussed are (from the table of contents), "Popularity, Confidence, Reputation, Interacting with Boys, Self-Worship, Perseverance, Patience, Image, Inner Beauty, and Self-Talk." The chapters include examples, Scripture, hints of how to live, and more. Each chapter ends with discussion questions that can be answered solo or used in a group setting.

One of the sections talks about interacting with boys and highlights ideas such as not bugging a boy (!!) by being pushy; purposes and suggestions for dating; and the question, "Who is the center of your universe?" Another segment talks about your reputation and the importance of what you do now. Friends, talents, oh--I loved the section on "You don't want to peak in high school"!

I like this book, and am glad that my daughter is reading it. It encourages pure living and unselfishness and kindness. It's up-to-date and timely and encourages girls in following Christ. I definitely recommend this book -- it'll make a great gift and would make a nice group study as well!

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Harvest of Hope by Lauraine Snelling

Ahhh, just what I needed, a great easy read, entertaining, light, and happy :)

These oh-so-cold long days of winter get busy and whip by; I was happy to receive the book "A Harvest of Hope" by Lauraine Snelling to read. This book is number two in the Song of Blessing series (my review of book 1 is here.)

In this book, the same characters from book 1 appear. Miriam's mother has died in Chicago while she is doing her nursing classes in Blessing. Trygve realizes that he loves Miriam and wants to marry her (and his family enthusiastically approves.)

The "perfect" town of Blessing encounters some challenges, such as the stubborn/unscrupulous banker as well as a devastating fire. . .but I cannot say too much. I wouldn't want to give away all that occurs! There are happy things, positive advances, as well as slides into negativity. The same team of woman doctors/nurses are central to this book as the last--as is the big happy family feel of the community.

Again I will say that this town of Blessing appears to be an idealized town that most of us would love to live in!! :) It is set in an earlier time (early 1900's I think) and it is fun to read this book, you are taken in to the setting and characters' relationships. There are tears of sadness and loss and also tears of happiness and joy. There are positive character developments as well as negative.

All in all, it's a great book -- fun, easy, lighthearted (for the most part). I'd definitely recommend it for a great read, AND I look forward to the next book in the series!

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

Just Add Watercolor by Helen BIrch

Just Add Watercolor is a small book by Helen Birch, focusing on watercolor painting. It's a smallish book, a little smaller than a half sheet of paper. The one I have is a hardcover book, great and sturdy, easy to slip in a bag to read at your leisure!

I enjoyed this book. It is full of interesting information for someone who is a watercolor painter or someone just interested in giving it a try. Each double page features a piece of artwork with the facing page giving information about the artist and the technique, materials, and more. Different things highlighted are colors, different media, painting techniques, inspiration sources, and much much more. The paintings are vibrant and interesting (and highly varied!) and if you want to refer to one later, or find it later, you have only to flip to the front to this:

Check out this index! A visual index, complete with page numbers. I think this is a brilliant idea and addition to this book! Nice job!

I am not a painter, not an artist, but I do like to try new things! My children are also interested in this book, getting ideas of new things to try. I think this is a very interesting book. It shows such a breadth of watercolor art and inspires the reader to give the ideas a try! I would recommend this book -- to look through, to get ideas from, and even to use as a gift for someone!

Nice book! Thanks!

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

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Mothering from Scratch by Melinda Means and Kathy Helgemo

Mothers are so different from each other! Kids are so different from each other! Babies are so different from each other! We all know this, in a philosophical way, so why are we so concerned when we are not just like other moms? When our kids are not just like other moms' kids? We all tend to compare ourselves to others (not for any positive benefit, however!) -- why?

I just read this book, Mothering from Scratch. It is a great book for mothers of all ages! It is encouraging and helpful -- there are 2 authors and they go back and forth, giving examples of things from their own life, successes as well as failures. They identify things that are positive in mothering and some things that need to give way to better things. For the most part I felt that the book was very encouraging -- "you're doing a great job" type feeling from reading it. There are helpful hints to how to handle some situations better and how God will give you wisdom and guidance.

I felt like a big message of this book is to stop comparing yourself to others and do a good job with what you've been blessed with.

I'd definitely recommend this book. It'd make a great gift as well!

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

Keep it Shut by Karen Ehman

Keep it Shut is a great book written by Karen Ehman on a topic that applies to all of us. This book is written in an interesting, engaging style, not accusatory, but kind.

The book teaches us about our words, what we say and how we say them. It hits on all kinds of topics, such as talking too much, speaking in anger, gossip (of course!), encouragement, when to not talk at all, and so much more. The author speaks of her own experiences, both failures and successes. She uses Scripture to guide us in how to properly use our words.

The author is a "talker" and it seems obvious that this book would be written for "talkers". HOWEVER, I am really not a talker, more of a listener, and I do believe that this book applies to me as well! Some of the great points I'd like to share from the book are things like sometimes we just need to go to God in prayer rather than blabbering to everyone who will listen to us about what is weighing on our hearts. He really IS enough. Some other things are the power of your words, both for encouragement as well as destruction -- and the importance to use them wisely. The thought that sometimes it is better to just not speak, just keep silent. Your written (or texted) words -- and how you should measure them as well.

This book has been a good guide for me as well in helping my teenage daughter reign in her speech. She (unlike me!) IS quite the talker, and she will benefit from the guidance offered in this book -- at this age and hopefully as her life progresses.

I would recommend this book. It is an easy to read, helpful book. It's written in a kind manner, you will probably identify with the author, rather than feel preached at. Give it a read!

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

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Uncommon Marriage Adventure by Tony and Lauren Dungy (and Nathan Whitaker)

Another winner by Tony Dungy and his wife Lauren! Right upfront I'll say that our family are big fans of Tony Dungy so I was pretty sure I'd like this before I opened the cover. I actually have not read his book Uncommon Marriage (somehow I missed that, but I'll look for it now!) but this devotional does not depend on your having read that book.

This book Uncommon Marriage Adventure is a daily devotional intended to be read by both husband and wife, with some days written by Tony Dungy and others written by his wife Lauren. Some days' entries are a more geared toward the husband, some more toward the wife, some toward the family. The book is intended to be read by married (or soon-to-be) couples. It addresses 8 key topics which the authors identified as "The Core Principles of an Uncommon Marriage" --

1. Look to the Bible as your guidebook and to Christ as your living example
2. Stay in sync spiritually
3. Manage expectations and appreciate your differences
4. Work as a team
5. Practice committed love
6. Communicate well and often
7. Don't run away from conflict
8. Support each other in serving others

The daily devotions center on one of these 8 topics (2 weeks per topic). The authors seem very down-to-earth and easy to identify with through their writings. They're pretty much a superstar family (I mean, TONY DUNGY!!!!!) but as you read through you identify with struggles and issues that they mention.

Each day has a topic, a core practice (or principle), Scripture passage(s) and a narration followed by an application section. I found that this is very easy to read and is a good addition to a daily time spent with God.

I enjoyed this book and will recommend it to others. It might not be all brand new ideas, but they are ideas that we need to be reminded of throughout life.

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