Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wonderland: A Coloring Book Inspired by Alice's Adventures by Amily Shen


Follow the White Rabbit into this imaginative coloring book inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, featuring intricate pen-and-ink drawings by acclaimed artist Amily Shen. Meet the Cheshire Cat, attend the Mad Hatter's tea party, and play croquet with the Queen of Hearts in this evocative tale that invites you into a strange and beautiful new world of coloring.

My Thoughts:

I love this coloring book so, so much! It is wonderfully lovely!

As far as I can tell, Wonderland is being marketed as an "adult" coloring book, but it really looks to target talented children in the tween category, at least in my opinion. It's mostly coloring, but there's also a maze, and a "seek and find" game, along with little creativity prompts and exclamations to bring one's attention to something. As an adult, I love it perfectly great, but it can definitely be used for younger folks! (Which is true of all good "adult" coloring books, by the way.)

Each chapter starts out with a little summary of what has happened in the book, Alice in Wonderland. For that reason, it's probably best to use after reading the book, if you're concerned about spoilers.

The pictures are gorgeous and there's tons of room for creative coloring. It's a beautiful coloring book, and it's definitely a favorite of mine! If you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland or know of one, no matter what age, give Wonderland a try.

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Simple Pleasures: Stories from My Life as an Amish Mother by Marianne Jantzi


Young Amish homemaker Marianne Jantzi invites readers into her family s life and Amish community. The mother of four young children, Jantzi writes about her daily routines and heartfelt faith with equal measures of wit and warmth. Sewing, cleaning, cooking, gardening, and helping to manage the family store take up most hours in her day, but Jantzi finds time to pen columns for the Connection, a magazine beloved by Amish and Mennonite readers. Never sugarcoating the frustrations of motherhood, Jantzi tells it like it is, broken washing machine and bickering children and all. But through her busy days, Jantzi finds strength in simple pleasures of family, fellowship with her Amish community, and quiet time with God.

Hear straight from Amish people themselves as they write about their daily lives and deeply rooted faith in the Plainspoken series from Herald Press. Each book includes A Day in the Life of the Author and the author s answers to FAQs about the Amish.
My Thoughts:

Simple Pleasures is a very sweet book! It really was full of simple pleasures, just as the title suggests.

The writing is done in a very simple style. These days, the wordy, poetical style of writing is becoming more and more popular, and one has to wade through hundreds of words that circle around a topic. I'm left wondering, more often than not, what the author is actually trying to say. At least with this book, I knew exactly what was being said, and it was refreshing. That said, the writing style does take a little time to get used to.

I do wish that a better organization system had been used. The whole book is pretty much small journal entries. These go back and forth through time, and I hate to admit that part was a bit annoying. I would have greatly preferred it to all flow through time properly, making it a little more of a memoir. This style of organization is briefly mentioned in the beginning, basically warning us that the children's ages would go back and forth.

The set-up makes everything super random, so I highly recommend reading this book in small doses, so it's not so noticeable.

Again, though, Simple Pleasures is a sweet book, and I enjoyed seeing little moments in the author's life.

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

NKJV Apply the Word Study Bible


The Apply the Word Study Bible brings you to an intimate understanding of the Bible's message, helps you think about it and apply it to your lives. People of all ages and walks of life will enjoy the fresh style of the feature articles, which are directed at helping you approach life with the mind of Christ. You will discover that the Bible is a very practical book, just what is needed to guide you through every day. Featuring the New King James Version, the best translation for Bible study, abundant sidebar articles and vibrant full-color design, the Apply the Word Study Bible is the perfect companion for everyday living.

Features include:

New King James Version, the best translation for study
Hundreds of sidebar articles for seeing the relevance of Scripture for everyday living
Insightful introductions to the books of the Bible
Informative notes about people and places of Bible times
Full-color page design provides a helpful and interesting visual encounter with Scripture
Charts, tables and maps provide abundant Bible information
Concordance for helpful reference
Full-color maps to illustrate the Bible lands

My Thoughts:

This Bible is smaller than the average version. It's about the size of a typical paperback book. The copy I have is hardcover, with a dust jacket. The type size is pretty average, so if you're fine with reading most Bibles, this one will be fine for you. If you need a bigger print, I'd point you in a different direction than this one.

There's tons of extra little study notes liberally spread throughout the Bible. These notes mention people, events, things, and much more. There are maps and timelines throughout also. If you prefer the words of Jesus in red, this Bible has that feature.

The great thing about having various study Bibles is the fact that they all have different information to glean from the text, which is right there for you as you study.

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The I Quit Sugar Cookbook by Sarah Wilson


When Sarah Wilson gave up sugar for good, she developed a new repertoire of creative, go-to dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With 306 satisfying recipes for one-pan wonders, grain-free breakfasts, leftover makeovers, smoothie bowls, and more, this comprehensive cookbook makes living sugar-free simple and sustainable.

Start quitting now, with recipes that include:
Bacon ’N’ Egg Quinoa Oatmeal
Gift-Wrapped Miso Cod
Caramelized Leek, Apple, and Rosemary Socca
Green Spaghetti and Meatballs
Two-Minute Desk Noodles
Broc Bites and Cauli Popcorn
Carrot "Bacon"
Red Velvet Crunch Bowl
Chocolate Peanut Butter Crackles
Strawberry Cheesecake Mug Cake

My Thoughts:

If you've been around here long, you know that I started the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan at the end of last year. (40 pounds are gone now, and I'm excited about getting closer and closer to my goal. :D To God be the glory!) It's a wonderful plan, but as a vegetarian, it's sometimes hard to get all of my nutrients. I've had some health issues that I'm struggling with in the past couple of months and they've been super scary. I have to be incredibly intentional with my eating, and at this point one meal gone wrong(or too light) and it messes with my body. It gets tiring to eat the same things over and over, though, so this book looked promising as far as adding some new ideas into my menus, and making sure I'm getting what I need into my body. (I do hope to do an official update post soon, for my own records more than anything.)

Obviously, from the title, this cookbook keeps us away from sugar. One of the many things that I love about the book is the fact that there are recommendations for vegans and vegetarians, too. There's a recipe for vegan "ground meat". I had to give up all my "soy meat" when I started my journey to better health, and I miss it sometimes. I don't miss the severe daily headaches, though, so I appreciate substitute foods, because I'm not going back! There's also a "carrot bacon" tip, along with many more. That said, there's also plenty of real meat recipes. I cook meat for my family, so I need those recipes, too.

My favorite part of the whole cookbook is the Abundance Bowls section. For lunch especially, I typically throw lots of various things onto a plate or in a bowl, and take the easy route. I enjoyed all the new ideas for these bowls. A close second on favorite things is the fact that many of the notes and tips and advice looks as if they've been handwritten into the pages. There are arrows pointing to specific things and circles, and it's just a fun and appealing addition to the whole thing. It makes it feel more personal.

Not everything within this book is Trim Healthy Mama plan approved, which won't be an issue for most anyway, but it appears to be somewhat easy to swap things up for most of the recipes. The same goes for vegetarian. Take out the things you don't need, and maybe even replace it with something else.

This is a big, chunky cookbook, and it's full of bright, lovely pictures. I think almost every recipe had a picture with it, though some were showcased on a separate page(but right next door to the recipe). The pages are thick and glossy, and there's tons of advice. I picked up lots of new ideas, just as I'd hoped.

If you stay away from sugar, The I Quit Sugar Cookbook is an excellent cookbook for new ideas!

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bride of a Distant Ilse by Sandra Byrd


Miss Annabel Ashton is a teacher at the Rogers School for Young Ladies in Winchester when she takes a brief visit to her family home, Highcliffe Hall at Milford-on-Sea. She believes her stay will be short but soon learns that she will not be returning to the safety of the school. Instead, she remains at Highcliffe, at the mercy of her cousin, Edward Everedge.

Annabel protests, but as the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died in an insane asylum, she has little say. Edward is running out of money and puts the house up for sale to avoid financial ruin. He insists that Annabel marry, promising her to a sinister, frightening man. But as the house gets packed for sale, it begins to reveal disquieting secrets. Jewelry, artifacts, and portraits mysteriously appear, suggesting that Annabel may be the true heir of Highcliffe.

She has only a few months to prove her legitimacy, perhaps with assistance from the handsome but troubled Maltese Captain Dell’Acqua. But does he have Annabel’s best interests at heart?

And then, a final, most ominous barrier to both her inheritance and her existence appears: a situation neither she nor anyone else could have expected. Will Annabel regain her life and property—and trust her heart—before it’s too late?

My Thoughts:

I always enjoy books by Sandra Byrd, but her "Daughters of Hampshire" series has taken my love of them to a whole new level. The first book in this series, Mist of Midnight, was one of my favorite reads of 2015(though I forgot to put it on the official list...that's what I get for not keeping up with my reading like I should). It's on my reread list, and I'm greatly looking forward to the revisit for many reasons. I have no doubt that Bride of a Distant Ilse will also be on my favorites list this year, and any year, for that matter. I loved every single minute of reading it!

In Bride of a Distant Ilse, we get somewhat of a Cinderella tale. Annabel Ashton is considered the illegitimate daughter of a woman who died within an insane asylum. She depends completely on her cousin, Edward, and his wife, Clementine. When their money starts running out, Annabel's situation gets more and more desperate. When strange objects start appearing, things get more and more mysterious.

I have to mention the romance. It was done to perfection! It wasn't overdone, but was incredibly sweet and melted my heart. I've had zero tolerance for romance within books lately, but I didn't roll my eyes one single time while reading this story. THAT is a huge compliment coming from me! ;) Sandra proves that one doesn't need all that extra "stuff" that most all Christian authors insist on these days to keep things "real". Seriously, it was perfect, and I'm grateful that I was once again able to enjoy a sweet romance without my sarcastic side coming out.

Despite the fact that the romance portion was beautifully done, there's a great deal more to the story than that. That's really such a small portion of the book. There's also so much historically to learn from the book, and it's all done in an interesting way. That is another thing I love so much about Sandra's books. They're like "living books" for me! (Charlotte Mason/homeschooling term)

While this book is considered Christian Fiction, I really do think that it will be enjoyed by a wide audience. Annabel is Catholic, and that plays a huge part of the story. I have to admit that my knowledge of Catholic things is hugely lacking, but this story gave me a small glimpse into that world, and I can't help but appreciate that.

In the end, I have to say that Bride of a Distant Ilse is an amazing story, and one I can easily recommend, especially if you enjoy Gothic Victorian romances. I loved it, and I can't wait for more from this series!

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Little Book Memories

I've never been the best at keeping up with the books that I read with my boys, but this past year or so, I've even gotten horrible at keeping up with my own. I want to remember these things, though, so as motivation hits me, and memories and moments happen, I want to do better. Baby steps!

Our Current Read Aloud:

Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn



Our aunt gave my Grasshopper the dinosaur research guide that goes with the first book last year. We ended up ordering Dinosaurs Before Dark, and the rest is history. Now I'm required to look for these books anytime I go to a used book store, and both Grasshopper and Firefly are excited when I come home with a new one. We've been using these some to go with our history studies this past school year, along with the Magic Tree House Research Guides. While I wasn't overly fond of the books at first, I have to admit they have been great for my boys. (Note: I did have to edit within the dinosaur books.)

We love Mercy Watson around here. I found the first 3 books at a thrift store several years ago, and this little pig has been special to all my boys.

The books say that Mercy is a girl. I have THE hardest time not calling this pig a boy, despite this being my third round through. I STILL refer to Mercy as "he". My mind just won't accept that this pig is a girl. I don't know why! It's a great struggle, though, and every time I read "she" in the book, which is pretty often, my mind rebels against it. I even try to remind myself that Mercy has purplish ears, but it's no use. ;) (Also, I can't remember if we've read past the first three books. One of the later books is called, "Princess in Disguise", so that might help my mind. I need to get a hold of those books, and see.) :P

Recently, my little Bumblebee brought the first 2 books to me from the shelf, and wanted me to read them. He actually listened well this time. He's been the biggest struggle for reading time, so I was thrilled! My Grasshopper couldn't resist jumping in beside me to listen, too.

(I decided to ask Grasshopper if Mercy is a boy or a girl. He answered: "Boy!" At least I'm not alone.)

I'm still (slowly) working my way through re-reading the Harry Potter series, but I've been surprised at how excited my Grasshopper is to read them. He has a few of the books that I've grabbed through the years. (It's rare that I see them when I'm out and about, unfortunately.) He thinks of these as precious treasures! We went on a 2 day trip recently, and he insisted that these books come with him. They HAD to come into the hotel room with us, too. It's all been a little surprising, but I won't complain. I haven't read any of them to him yet, nor has he read them himself(since he struggles with reading). He talks about Harry Potter a great deal, though, and has requested a book for his birthday. It's always amazing how much he picks up on things, even when I don't say anything about it. (My re-reading has been done on my kindle, so I haven't been toting the books around or anything, and I will probably attempt a read aloud of the first one soon.)

Super Happy Magic Forest is my Firefly's favorite book at the moment. He laughs hysterically when I read it, and he requests that I read it often. To be honest, I don't know why he finds the parts so funny that he does, but it's still sweet. There's lots of silly voice opportunities throughout, so I'm sure that's part of the appeal, and lots and lots of bright, fun pictures. (I did get this one for review, but will pay taxes on it, so it wasn't free. I don't know the legalities in these cases, so I mention it to be on the safe side.)

All my boys are pretty much past the ideal age for Goodnight Moon, but they ALL fell in love with it in their younger years. The first time I'd saw this book was when Grasshopper was born, and we got it as a gift. I remember looking through it, and wondering what all the fuss was about. There truly was something magical about the book for all of my little guys, though.


What are your favorite books right now?

Grasshopper: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Harry Potter, Magic Tree House, and Jurassic Park. (No, we haven't read Jurassic Park with him!) ;)

Firefly: Paw Patrol, Animals books, the Warren book(Warren the 13th and the All Seeing Eye), Mercy Watson

Bumblebee: PIG! (Mercy Watson AND Peppa Pig)