Saturday, June 27, 2015

Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodles for Boys/Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodles for Girls by Rob Eliiot, and Illustrated by Jonny Hawkins


Rob Elliott's Laugh-Out-Loud joke books have brought laughter to more than half a million households. His last book invited kids into the action as he teamed up with cartoonist Jonny Hawkins to create Laugh-Out-Loud Doodles for Kids. Now the dynamic duo is back with two brand-new books for boys and girls who love to draw and love to laugh! Packed with jokes that will keep boys and girls giggling for hours, and unfinished doodles for them to complete any way they want, these books keep little hands and minds busy. Perfect for road trips, lazy summer days, or anytime the kids say, "I'm bored!"

My Thoughts:

These books are small. If I lay my hand flat on the top of each one, my hand is bigger, just to give you an idea. There's a book for both boys and girls. Flipping through, they're mostly the same style, though with different pictures and jokes. You might expect the girls' book to have rainbows and butterflies throughout, but it's not like that. The only differences I saw in the two books are the covers, the characters inside the girls' book are female and the names are for girls. The boys' book has male characters and male names. Otherwise, you can't really tell one is for girls vs. boys.

Each page has a joke, the beginning of a picture, and a drawing prompt.

Other than reading books, my next in line wishful hobby is learning to draw/paint. I haven't dedicated the time to it like I would like so far. I recently added a couple of drawing classes/lessons to our "curriculum" line-up for this coming school year. I figure if I want to learn to do something, I better involve my kids! ;) I've tried to encourage drawing here and there for them, but I hope there will be more confidence, particularly with my Grasshopper in the coming months/years with his creations. He has an imagination that regularly amazes me, but he is always more hesitant to draw, at least lately, claiming he can't do it. It seems more of a confidence issue vs. lack of interest.

For that reason, I love that these books give one's imagination a little head start, but ultimately the drawer is free to come up with what he/she wants. It gives me a chance to sit down with my little ones and tell them a joke or two, and encourage them to practice drawing and stretching their imagination. Not only will it ultimately build more confidence over time, but it's also a neat little keepsake for me. I've tried to write little notes on each page about conversations that were happening while drawing and what was being drawn.

They've been a fun way to spend some special time together and laugh together, even if my little ones didn't really get most of the jokes. One of the great things about my children is that they don't need a reason to laugh other than someone else is doing it,though my goal is always to teach "with", not "at". (Recently, one of my children pointed and laughed at a woman, proclaiming she had "clown" hair. I was horrified to say the least.) Many of the jokes went right over their heads, but if I laughed, they laughed along with me.

For older children that can read the jokes themselves, these would also be great drawing/imagination practice, but could be great for car rides or doctor waits. Even though my little ones are below the target age, we've still enjoyed them. The best thing of all is that one does NOT have to be a great artist to enjoy themselves with them, as we are proof! :D

*We were provided review copies of both books, in exchange for our honest opinions.


Purchase Links:

Laugh-Out-Loud Pocket Doodles for Girls

Laugh-Out-Loud Pocket Doodles for Boys


Friday, June 26, 2015

Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected by Kayla Aimee(With TWO GIVEAWAYS!!!)

About the Book:

You count a pregnancy by weeks and Kayla Aimee had only ticked off 24 of the 40 when she unexpectedly went into labor. She thought her church upbringing had prepared her for every circumstance but when tragedy struck and threatened to take the life of her newborn daughter, it felt as though once solid ground had turned to glass beneath her feet, destined to shatter everything she held sacred.

When swept into a story of suffering, we all find ourselves vulnerable, questioning everything we thought we knew as we wonder, “Where is God in this?” With everything feeling as fragile as her one and a half pound daughter, Kayla finds herself asking that same question as she faces her greatest fear: that she may have finally become a mother just to lose her only child.

Both poignant and humorous, Anchored recounts Kayla’s gripping story of learning to navigate her newfound motherhood in the most unexpected of ways, from holidays in the hospital and middle-of-the-night phone calls to the joy of coming home. With vulnerability and plenty of wit, Kayla lays bare her struggle to redefine her faith, her marriage, and herself within the context of a tragedy she never saw coming. For anyone who has felt their faith in God falter, Anchored extends a gentle invitation to join her as she uncovers a hope that holds.

My Thoughts:

As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I wanted to read it. In it, Kayla Aimee tells about her journey through having a micro-preemie, Scarlette. My Grasshopper was a micro-preemie, weighing 1 lb, 8 ounces. While our stories are very different, they are also very similar. I saw my own story in hers often, and with those memories, there was both pain and joy. It's a tough journey to survive, but we all made it through, thanks to God!

Anchored officially gets the award for making me cry more than any other book! What's so great about it is the humor intertwined through the pain. Often, I was laughing while also crying. I truly loved her humor!

I also felt comfort that I wasn't alone with many of my feelings, like the sadness and anger that my body failed my baby. (I had a "bad placenta", due to no fault of my own, even if I blamed myself, and my Grasshopper wasn't getting the oxygen or nutrients he needed to survive.) Also, I'm typically a pretty easy going person when dealing with other people. (The girl at Sonic would disagree as I recently told her they should change the email title from "Treat Your Kids to $1.99 Wacky Packs" to "Treat ONE OF YOUR KIDS to a $1.99 Wacky Pack" if they were only going to let me use one coupon and I could only use that one coupon for one meal.) ;) Still, I'm usually pretty easygoing concerning the public when I'm not losing my mind. I've always wondered if I over-reacted to reporting a nurse and removing her from Grasshopper's bedside while he was in the NICU. Reading Kayla Aimee's story made me feel better about that decision. It's never okay to stomp your foot in frustration, huff, and then GLARE at a tiny baby in anger because their beeping monitors interrupted a conversation, especially not in front of that baby's parents, and especially not when you're being paid to take care of that baby. It's also not okay for the same nurse to bring her germ-y children at the height of flu season into the NICU(against the rules, anyway), especially when not washing their hands, and especially when they were EATING, which was also against the rules, and especially when giving the wrong germs to my baby struggling to survive could have killed him. I was reminded that I made the right choice. We NEED to know that our precious baby is being cared for while we're away. Mercy, y'all. There were some horrible nurses happening in that NICU that were in the wrong line of work. There were also some wonderful, amazing men and women, and memories of them warm my heart! If you have a little one in the NICU, this book might give you the encouragement to do what you feel is best for him/her, even if it hurts someone's feelings.

Anchored covers life just before Scarlette was born, all the way through after coming home from the hospital, with various other memoir type life events and memories thrown in throughout. It was comforting to see someone else that had been through the therapists and doctors after coming home, and questioning whether we might be pushing too much, too soon, but also noticing the lack of milestones. And, even knowing that severe anxiety is part of the package. My Grasshopper is still tiny for his age, but he's doing so good, and this book has helped remind me to be grateful for how far he's come.

If you've had a micro-preemie that pulled through the struggle, you'll probably connect with this book. If you've never had one, I still recommend it, just so you can understand, just a tiny bit, some of the hardships these mommies are facing.

*I was provided an ARC, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Purchase Link:

Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected


Giveaway #1:

Would you like to win a copy of this book?

Just leave me a comment, with a way to contact you if you win, and I'll put your name in the drawing.


Giveaway #2:

I recently heard of a family grieving the loss of their own little micro-preemie. Even while in the NICU, I saw many of them come and go, and since leaving I've heard of many losses. My heart and my tears and my prayers are with each and every one of you!

I ordered this picture for a grieving family from ChristianFineArt a few years back. I chickened out of giving it to them, because I realized pictures like this offend some people. I would like it to go to someone that would love to have it, though, because I think it's beautiful. (I haven't posted a photo of the picture due to my fear of copyright issues, so click over to see it.)

Do you have a little one resting with Jesus? Or, do you know someone grieving not having their little one in their arms? If you'd like to enter for this picture, just leave me a comment with a way to contact you if you win.


Rules for both giveaways:

-Please let me know if you're entering for Giveaway #1 or #2 or BOTH.
-US only
-Must be 13 or older to enter.
-Winners will be chosen by
-Ends June 30, 2015(Sorry the time frame for these are so short, but I'm taking July away from blogging, so I need to end it before then.)


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bash and the Chocolate Milk Cows by Burton Cole


Anytime boring Beamer visits Bash, his crazy farm cousin, weirdness always rules. This time, Bash schemes a way for the cows to give chocolate milk on April Fool’s Day. Meanwhile, there's a robber on the loose, and Beamer is stuck with his crazy cousin, the pesky neighbor Mary Jane, and a goat of many colors. But somehow Beamer manages to learn an important lesson about baptism and the Great Commission. It's just another day at the farm!

Based on Matthew 16:15-16, this third book in the Bash series is hilarious fun for kids 8 to 12.

My Thoughts:

Before saying anything about this book, I want to make it clear that my blog is intended for female readers. My thoughts are for the ladies and I won't debate with men! (I Tim. 2:12 ) (I've never had an issue here at my blog, but Amazon is another story.)

I have to be honest and say that I didn't overly connect with this book, BUT I am far outside the target age. I had planned on passing it on to one of my nephews to get his opinion, but then I wasn't sure what the message concerning baptism was, so I felt a bit uncomfortable passing it on to any of them. I know perfectly well that my beliefs are different than most concerning baptism.

Here, I'll simply let the Bible speak:

Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

1 Peter 3:21 “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Acts 2:38 "Peter said to them, 'Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"

Ladies, I encourage you to study more on the subject! (Don't let what you've been taught stand in the way of a deep study on this subject!) Here are two excellent "Question and Answer" sessions at Come Fill Your Cup. ((Part 1 and Part 2)) And, also the article "What About Baptism?" There are lots of Bible verses and study throughout all of those!

The ending of this book ends with a baptism ceremony, of sorts. I DID like the part where Beamer taught the adults that baptism was urgent. It must be done immediately when the Truth is realized. Many adults tried to talk him into a future, more convenient day, but he wasn't having it. Baptism can happen ANYTIME. If you realize the Truth, fill up that bathtub/pool/whatever is around, and have a friend/spouse/relative put you completely under the water after repenting of your sins, and confessing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. You don't have to have a preacher do it on a scheduled day or even at a worship service. That part was great! I still wasn't clear, even after reading, whether the book is teaching baptism was still simply an act of symbolism. I also wasn't sure about the whole "follow-the-leader" scenario. I seemed like his friend jumped in and decided to be baptized to keep him from being embarrassed. Then others jumped in and decided the same, and I'm not sure they had the right reasoning in mind. Baptism is an important choice, and one that must be made with the right reasons. Otherwise, you're just getting dunked under water! I did as a child. I believe I was baptized because everyone else my age was doing it, and it bothered me for YEARS that I had the wrong reasons within my heart. As an adult, I made things right for sure, and was "re-baptized". It's okay if you disagree with that decision. I know I made the right one, and I'm now at peace! ;)

Aside from the ending.....(which again, I'm unclear on exactly what was being taught)

There's a great deal of pranks for April's Fools within the book. I imagine many would find them all humorous, especially within the target age group, but I just never fully connected. I think the fact that Beamer kept calling his cousin, Bash, weird kind of threw me off. I'll pick up a book called weird in a heartbeat, but I don't care for calling people weird. Also, this is the 3rd book in a series, and I imagine reading the first two books first would have helped.

There ARE good things in here, though. I enjoyed the little Bible lessons/devotionals within the family. Aside from my disagreement with the baptism part, I didn't hate it. I just won't pass it on. If I wasn't sure what it was teaching, imagine what a child would think. With my own children, I can discuss things, but it's not so easy with others.

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


How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird by Amy Lively (WITH GIVEAWAY!!!!)


"I want to love my neighbor, but I don't know how."

Most of us feel guilty about Christ's command to love our neighbor, but let's be honest--we don't even know most of the people living around us.

How can we love people we don't even know? Besides, doesn't it count as "loving our neighbor" when we send money to missionaries and put out yard signs for our church? Are we supposed to just knock on our neighbors' doors and tell them about Jesus?

"They'll think I'm weird."

How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird helps you overcome fears about getting to know your neighbors and sharing your faith. You'll learn simple, practical ways to get to know your neighbors, using your God-given personality. As you venture out of the comfort of your living room and into the lives of your neighbors, you'll form authentic friendships, create a safer community, and find fulfillment in obeying Christ's #2 command.

Loving your neighbor isn't a random command; it's God's perfect plan.

My Thoughts:

This book is dedicated to loving and reaching out to the neighbors that live close to you. While I do think it's helpful as far as reaching out towards others, it definitely has potential for more value for those that live in communities where the houses are close together and many. That's not realistic for many. If you live in the country, or unsafe communities(which the author does recommend using common sense), this book probably won't be the greatest fit for you.

I feel like I keep saying I don't connect with books lately(and you'll see me say the same thing again later today), but after reading halfway through this one, I started skimming though the rest. I'm usually drawn towards books that have anything "weird" about it. Since it was right there in the title, and I've tried to add more "relationship" reading into my days lately, I thought it would be a good fit for me. I don't live in a community that I could watch my neighbors to see when they were most active, and therefore, the best time to approach them, as recommended in here. I'd have to hide in the trees, with binoculars, and then possibly see the neighbors. That would be very weird, and be completely against the point of the book. Again, I could still use some of the advice, but I'm just not the target audience for the book.

There is some great encouragement and advice for those wanting to connect with neighbors, but I do feel those living in closer set communities will benefit the most from it.

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


Purchase Link:

How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird



Would you like to win my copy of this book?

Just leave me a comment, with a way to contact you if you win, and I'll enter you in the drawing.


-US only
-Ends June 30th, 2015
-Must be 13 or older
-Winner will be chosen by


Monday, June 22, 2015

A Friend in Me: How to Be a Safe Haven for Other Women by Pamela Havey Lau

About the Book:

Young women long for relational connection with women further ahead of them on the journey. Yet, without realizing it, many of us tend to distance ourselves from those in younger generations. Can we really have close relationships with women who have different thoughts on church, different experiences with family, and different ways of talking about God? Where do we start?

In A Friend in Me, Pam Lau shows you how to be a safe place for the younger women in your life. She offers five patterns women need to internalize and practice for initiating relationships and talking about issues such as faith, forgiveness, sexuality, and vocation. Most significantly, she reminds you that there doesn’t need to be a divide between generations of women. Together, we can have a global impact—and experience a deeper faith than we’ve ever known.

My Thoughts:

For some reason, I thought this book was to learn how to be a better encouragement to teens. It's mostly written for older women to be an encouragement to ladies my age. Much of it can apply to teenagers, but when I saw that it wasn't overly written for me, ***I skimmed through the book***.

I have to admit, I very much want the encouragement and experience of an older lady in my life. In the opening note, another author recommends that younger ladies read this book, and then go and find an older friend. Maybe I'm just not being brave enough, but "picking" a lady out and informing her that she will now be my mentor just doesn't seem too realistic to me. Just recently, I read a blog post where someone mentioned not having older ladies in her younger years to encourage her, so she turned to books for her encouragement. (I wish I could remember the author of that post now, but I do know it was in connection with the passing of Elisabeth Elliot.) I thought that was a marvelous idea, and I determined to read more classics written by older ladies. I've been listening to podcasts a good bit lately, and recently enjoyed one by Mrs. Elliot on sulking, which I need to listen to again! ;) (Although I'm in no way saying books could replace real relationships, but it's better than nothing!) 

Reading through some of the advice in here for older ladies was pretty great in some areas. I've felt the judgment from older generations all too well. Some of the comments coming from older ladies have been ridiculous, and I've determined to never say such things to struggling young mothers. I'm left baffled at times whether statements are meant to be encouragement or competition. And, I'm truly not someone to get overly offended at every little thing. I hate those "What Not to Say to This or That Person". As someone that questions every little thing I say anyway, I'm left wanting to keep my mouth shut at all times. I constantly want to say, "Well, tell me what I CAN say to not offend you!" I've been the topic of many of those lists, too, and most of the things never bother me. I'm left wondering when we became a generation with such chips on our shoulders, ready to attack anything that comes out of other people's mouth. Being so easily offended DOES offend me! ;) Again, as someone that has felt the pain of bad comments from hopefully innocent intentions, there's some great advice as far as helping older ladies be a true encouragement to younger ladies, as opposed to hurting them and shaming them.

There's also some advice I didn't agree with at all. This is most definitely a book to "Take the meat and leave the bones". I can't imagine that anyone would completely agree with everything in here. Pick and choose!

I will mention that the author includes a chapter on sex, which I appreciated. This is definitely a topic I could use advice on as far as being an influence with tweens/teens/young ladies. Again, I didn't agree with everything said within this chapter, so use your own judgment when taking some of the advice. Don't take it as Biblical advice, but the opinion of the author. There's many things covered in this chapter, but she recommends not stopping the discussion at "Stay pure until marriage", which IS excellent advice. I have no regrets about staying pure, nor have I heard anyone else that has regretted it. That said, too many women go into their pure marriage not having a clue what to expect. I love that she gave some advice and encouragement there. ((Young ladies, if you're soon to be married or recently married, and you'd like some advice and encouragement in that area, Chantelle at Happy, Healthy, Holy Home has a "Blushing Brides" series .))

(I'm coming back to add this in: The author also encourages us to make sure no one feels like "less" because they are no longer pure. I agree with this wholeheartedly. Some girls don't have a choice in the matter. Some make the wrong choice and have regrets. No one is "less" due to lack of purity. It's always tough making sure to encourage young girls to keep their purity and letting others that are trying to follow the right path know they're not any less special because they no longer are.) 

So, once again, I did skim the book, but there's some good advice in here, even if I didn't overly connect with it at this stage of my life. There's also things I didn't agree with, so take what you can from it if you're a lady that has encouragement potential for younger women. While it seems to fit more for older ladies, there's still good advice for younger ladies working with teens. It'll probably be one I'll revisit down the road a bit.

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


Purchase Link:

A Friend in Me: How to Be a Safe Haven for Other Women


Monday, June 15, 2015

John Shaw's Guide to Digital Nature Photography


Photography legend John Shaw returns with his much-anticipated guide to digital nature photography, complete with more than 250 extraordinarily beautiful photographs.

For over four decades, John Shaw’s authentic voice and trusted advice has helped photographers achieve impressive shots in the great outdoors. In his first-ever book on digital photography, Shaw provides in-depth advice on everything from equipment and lenses to thorough coverage of digital topics including how to use the histogram. In addition, he offers inspirational and frank insight that goes far beyond the nuts and bolts of photography, explaining that successful photos come from having a vision, practicing, and then acquiring the equipment needed to accomplish the intention. Easily digestible and useful for every type of photographer, and complete with more than 250 jaw-dropping images, John Shaw’s Guide to Digital Nature Photography is the one book you’ll need to beautifully capture the world around you.

My Thoughts:

I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to photography. I'm showing that with this review! I just have a plain digital camera that I'm trying to learn to use better. I want to learn how to take better pictures of my family and just the little moments in life. I don't have expensive equipment, and have no intentions of getting it any time soon. I'll be honest with you and tell you I feel completely UNqualified to review this book, which is why I've held on to it for much longer than I should have. I thought it would be a bit more on the basic side. Jonathan got me a new camera this past Valentine's day, and I realized that I don't overly know what I'm doing, even though it is a simple digital camera. Also, I had plans for Grasshopper and Firefly to use my old one a bit during their nature lessons and walks. Should they want to learn more down the road, I wanted to have a bit more knowledge on the subject, too. Though I believe this book is on the beginner level, and there really is great advice in here, a large amount of it went right over my head. It'll be one I'll revisit down the road when I've learned a bit more of the basics.

The topics covered are:

Getting Started
The Photographer at Work

Despite being over my head, I have more than enjoyed looking at the gorgeous photos within the book. There's a puffin(two pictures, though I don't know if it's the same bird or not) that I have just sat and stared at multiple times. They're just beautiful birds and beautiful pictures. Even if the photography advice ends up being a bit over your head, the pictures still make the book worth hanging onto.

Again, though, I want to dedicate a bit more time to learning the basics, and I'll gladly revisit this book.

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


Purchase Link:

John Shaw's Guide to Digital Nature Photography