Monday, February 1, 2016

Jesus Helps Me: Knowing My God Series by Callie Grant, with Illustrations by Missi Jay


Description:

Jesus Helps Me, new to the Knowing My God series, offers four levels of exploration: a quoted Bible passage, beautiful real-world photographs, supportive captions to relate the passage meaning to a child’s life, and thinking questions to personalize the experience. A parent guide gives tips for involving a baby, toddler, and child. In the Graham Blanchard book collection, Jesus Helps Me is a Learn book, which makes personal Bible study accessible to young children who, alongside adults, build a foundation for faith and a lifelong friendship with Jesus. These books grow with your child! Find out more about our Learn, Absorb & Praise™ framework for children’s books at GrahamBlanchard.com.

My Thoughts:

We've enjoyed all the Graham Blanchard books we've read so far, so we were thrilled to open up the pages of the newest addition to the collection, Jesus Helps Me. It's one of the "Learn" books. (All of the Graham Blanchard books fall into Learn, Absorb, or Praise categories.) It uses a similar layout to the other books in the Knowing My God Series, and uses nature to make points. This one stays in the bird range, making it a perfect book not only to add to the "faith" bookshelf, but also the nature, or even more specifically the bird shelf.

Within this book, John 12:44-47 is broken down using 3-4 sentences, and explained so your child can make better connections.

For example, baby swans are used to illustrate our belief in God(the first part of the verse). It explains how baby swans know to stay close to their mothers, and we know God by staying close to Him. Storks, kingfishers, arctic terns, owls, cardinals, and woodpeckers are also featured. Each bird gets a two page spread, with a real photo of the bird taking up a whole page, and then the portion of the verse being discussed, along with the mini devotional taking up the other page.



In the back of the book, there's a parent guide, which will give you suggestions on how to make the most of the book, depending on your child's age. There's also a few questions. I can't help but appreciate how the Graham Blanchard brand tries hard to better equip parents to teach their little ones while using the books.

In the end, we all loved this book, just like the others. My boys still enjoy looking through them, having them read aloud, or simply toting them around.

For more information on this book, Jesus Helps Me, and many others, visit the Graham Blanchard website, and take a peek around!



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

Thursday, January 28, 2016

NIV Beautiful Word Bible


Description:

The NIV Beautiful Word Bible in hardcover format is an exquisitely designed, full-color Bible filled with 500 illustrated verses that offers a one-of-kind visual treatment of Scripture, encouraging you to understand and experience God’s Word in a fresh way.


My Thoughts:

The NIV Beautiful Word Bible is a journaling Bible. When I requested it, that part wasn't clear in the description. I would have been curious about it anyway, even if I had known, but I was surprised when I got it. It IS a beautiful Bible, though. There are 500 illustrations throughout, but there's also tons of room for your own artwork and notes. (I didn't count the 500, but I'm taking its word there.)




It also has a turquoise ribbon bookmark that adds to its beauty, and I like the fact that it's on the chunky side. It's a little wider and shorter than the average Bible. The pages are the average thin type that is in most Bibles, though, so you'll have to be careful with what type of art supplies you use. Based on the included artwork, which is simply printed on the page, you can still see it through the next page.




The print is considered "standard" for Bible text, but it's too small for me to use as a reading Bible. (I tried.) My eyes are super sensitive and strain easily, and despite me attempting to bring as much light as possible into our house, it's on the darker side. Small print just doesn't work for me. That won't be a problem for most, but it is worth mentioning for those like me.




This complaint is nitpicking, but it has drove me insane that someone decided to use promotional material on the dust jacket. It has "Join the Conversation! #illustratedfaith" right on the front. *sigh* Thankfully, you can take the dust jacket off, and maybe that's what they thought people would do. Then again, maybe not. We live in days where folks find it appropriate to scroll through social media and post things during worship service, so who knows.




Despite my complaints, the NIV Beautiful Word Bible is a beautiful Bible! If you're semi-artistic, this is a great option. You'll get some examples, and then plenty of room for practice and creativity. If you don't mind standard(smaller)print, this is even a gorgeous choice for simple note taking. If you have a daughter(or any special girl, for that matter) in your life, this would be a beautiful Bible to fill full of notes/special memories/advice/etc, and give to her on a special day. It has great "treasure" potential!

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cats in Paris: A Magical Coloring Book by Won-Sun Jang


I've turned into quite the cat person in the past year. In my childhood days, I was a huge cat nut, too. I collected cats of all kinds(and owls), and I remember my parents giving me my own little display area in between our kitchen and living room. I was proud of my collection! Through the years, I guess I've swapped between being a cat person and a dog person(though one really doesn't have to choose). Right now I'm definitely more of a cat person, as long as I don't neglect my allergy medicine! This is due entirely to Mr. Bing. He had two siblings that had both died, and when my Grasshopper discovered him in the middle of a flower bed, during the cold and rainy month of April last year, I couldn't leave him there to die, too. He was about 2 to 2 1/2 weeks old at that point, and was sick. I bottle fed him and nursed him back to health. I had FULL intentions of him going back outside, because I did NOT want a house cat to take care of at this point in my life. He won my heart completely, though, and he's my fur-baby now.

Now I'm the crazy person that watches all the funny cat videos, and sends them to my hubby. He doesn't share my love of cats, but he humors me. ;)

Meet Mr. Bing(from Christmas time):


Needless to say, I was super thrilled to get the chance to see Cats in Paris, and it's even more thrilling in person, as long as you like cats. Cats are the main subject, with a Paris tie-in, and they are on every single page. The first part of the coloring book has a mini story. This part is really where the Paris part comes in. After the story is done, the rest of the coloring book doesn't overly have a Paris feel to it. It's mostly just cat pictures. If you're wanting the book mainly for the Paris part, you might be disappointed, even if it is much stronger on the first several pages. If you're wanting the book for the cat part, I can't imagine you'd be disappointed.


The level of coloring varies slightly throughout. These drawings have more blurred lines than any other coloring book I've saw so far, so that part might make coloring it a bit more complicated for some. They do range in how complicated and intricate they are, though.


Overall, this is a charming coloring book, and if you love cats as much as I do, I think you'll love Cats in Paris.

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

Friday, January 8, 2016

My 2016 Reading Challenges

I've wanted this year to be a year of growth for me. I feel like I've wandered through life not growing like I should be. The reading challenges that I've chosen this year will help with that, I believe, in various ways. I've chosen this year to commit to more challenges(or at least greater challenges than normal), as opposed to just reading what comes along, to have the extra encouragement to read like I should. Plus, there's just great satisfaction in marking something off a list! ;)

**********************************************************

Most importantly, I hope to make it through the Bible a couple of times, because I very much need as much Bible as possible right now. I debated greatly whether  to mention this, and was hesitant to do so, but The Bible IS the most important book, and I don't want to come off like it isn't. My attitude stinks horribly, though, and this challenge is my top priority.

The congregation I worship with has a pretty awesome Bible reading plan that I'm loving so far. Each Sunday is dedicated to the Epistles, Mondays to Law, Tuesdays to History, Wednesdays to Psalms, Thursdays to Poetry, Fridays to Prophecy, and Saturdays to the Gospels. I'm attempting to double up on the readings each day, but so far this is perfect for me. 

**********************************************************

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

The Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge is during the month of January, so it's happening right now. I've loved participating in this challenge for the last several years.

This year, I want to make it through as many of the Anne books as possible, starting with Anne of Avonlea. I would love to make time for the movies, too! (the ones accepted as part of the challenge)

**********************************************************

The 2016 Reading Challenge
created by Tim Challies

No. I'm not promoting Challies as someone to follow. I'll just leave it at that.

That said, this reading challenge is pretty awesome, and there's tons of room for growth with the categories listed within it. I DO recommend it! While there are various levels listed, I'm ignoring all that, and simply reading as many of the them as possible, no matter which level is involved. There aren't specific books mentioned, but specific suggestions instead, leaving me room to pick my own reading choices.

I won't list ALL my choices, because I do want to leave some spur of the moment options available to me, but here are a few I've decided on:

A biography: Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria (I started this one last year, but had to send it back to the library before I was finished.)

A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien: I really want to make it through the Space Trilogy by Lewis AND Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  

A book I own, but have never read: The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart

A book about food: Something by Michael Pollan(whichever one I can get my hands on)

A book of comics: I would LOVE to read the whole adventures of Bone by Jeff Smith!

A book by your favorite author: I failed to read anything last year by one of my most favorite authors, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, and I'm ashamed of that. I want to catch up.

A book of poetry: The Poems and Prayers of Helen Steiner Rice (I've read a bit here and there from this one, and have enjoyed it. I'd like to read through all of it, though.)

A book recommended by a family member: My Jonathan doesn't read these days, but he does remember The Odyssey and There's a  Boy in the Girl's Bathroom by Louis Sachar fondly. I'd like to read those, and see what I think of them.

A book about prayer: Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell

A book about science: Christian Men of Science by Mulfinger and Orozco

I'll leave my choice at that for now, and add as I go along.

***********************************************************

I fully planned on doing The Modern Mrs. Darcy 2016 Reading Challenge also, but I realized that the choices there were pretty much on Challies' list, too, so I decided to skip it this year. There's only 12 books on it, but there's still plenty of opportunity to stretch your reading, too, if you'd like to check it out.

***********************************************************

Did you commit to any reading challenges this year? I'd love to hear about them. I'd be happy to take reading recommendations for my challenges, too! :)

***********************************************************

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Every Little Thing: A Flat Vernacular Coloring Book by Payton Cosel Turner


Description:

Enter a magical world filled with your favorite little things.

Wander through a 1980’s-inflected dreamscape of stuffed animals and boom boxes, dance along with a joyful parade of woodland creatures--each page of this coloring book invites you to explore a different kaleidoscope-like universe of pattern, shape and image. From the mind of Payton Cosell Turner—the creative force behind the celebrated wallpaper studio Flat Vernacular—comes this all-ages ode to the wondrous objects that make life beautiful. The coloring journey you take through these exquisite hand-drawn pages will inspire and delight.

My Thoughts:

Y'all probably know by now how much I love these coloring books, right? ;)


My sweet Jonathan got me some Prismacolor Colored Pencils for Christmas. I love them, and if possible, I enjoy these coloring books even more.

This one, Every Little Thing, confused me a bit with the description. I thought it was going to be an 80s based coloring book. I was born in the 80s and spent much of my childhood there, so I was curious. It seems I misunderstood, because there's really only 1 2-page spread that looks from the 80s. It has boom boxes, Popples, and various 80s things. Maybe others will understand more 80s type things in the pages, but it seems to simply be a huge, random mix of various items and animals.

Here's a sample of what you'll get:


The coloring pages are all spread out on 2 pages. This means that you'll color on the front and backs of pages. Many coloring books leave the back blank, but that isn't the case with this one. This might be an issue if you're coloring with markers, but I highly prefer colored pencils anyway, so I haven't had any issues with bleeding.

I somewhat like the variety of the pages, but I can't(by far) claim this one as a favorite. The drawings are super random. They're odd, but not the oddest coloring book I've seen. At least this one doesn't appear inappropriate. It's just random and odd. I wouldn't think of gifting this particular one to someone else, though. Still, I've had fun with it!

If you like coloring completely random animals and objects, you might have fun with this one. I prefer more classic type styles when coloring, but again, I've still had fun with it.

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


My Favorite Reads of 2015

I failed drastically to get my book reviews over here during 2015. While I have the desire to catch up, giving myself a fresh start on reviews sounds much more appealing. I'll probably dole out ratings, and maybe some general thoughts over at Goodreads. That way I'll get a bit of both worlds!


I DO want to mention some of my favorite reads from 2015, because I read some awesome books last year, y'all. I read a huge amount of books. Many of them were in the history/biography/science realm. (Terrible Typhoid Mary was probably my favorite in that realm, though I greatly enjoyed Thunder & Lightning, minus the profanity) Many of them were with my children. (It seems mostly in the Magic Tree House Series, though tons of picture books were read.  James Herriot's Treasury for Children was among the most well loved.)  Many of them I hated. (Go Set a Watchman and Moone Boy, as only a couple examples, because there was lots in this category) Some of them I had great fun reading, and with tons in this category, too, these were my favorites: The Disappearance of Emily H., The Key to Extraordinary, Aspen Everlasting, Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, The League of Beastly Dreadfuls, The Ark, The Girl Who Could Not Dream There were some I felt the need to tuck away for my children, because many of the books I read don't stay to take up room around here. (The Imaginary, Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye) There were some that I wanted to discuss with others, and thought they'd make great book club picks. (The Nest, Undertow, Cruel Beauty)

Many of those I listed I even consider favorites, and I truly adored many of them. Other than the ones I hated, they're all worth reading, and I very much recommend them. (See, I told you I had an awesome year of reading!) There were still many, many reads that I didn't even list up there.

************************************

There were a few books that stood a bit above the rest, though. These are my top 5 reads of 2015, in no particular order, and I recommend them freely(one exception, which I explain below).



A Plague of Bogles by Catherine Jinks

Read this series in order! (How to Catch a Bogle, A Plague of Bogles, and The Last Bogler) While I read A Plague of Bogles in 2015, I have to mention the whole series. I absolutely love these books, and I'm currently finishing up the final book, The Last Bogler. I'm super excited to see how the whole series wraps up, but as always with a series that one loves, I'm sad there won't be more.

*************************************************************



The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I seriously love this book! I want to just wrap it up in a hug. I plan on redoing my boys' room soon in somewhat of star/planet type theme(regular bedding, because I don't care for bedding themes unless a baby is involved...and there's not) ;) I'm excited to incorporate The Little Prince in there somehow, though.

*Try to read the translation by Katherine Woods, as opposed to the one by Richard Howard.

**When linking to this book, I discovered The Little Prince Coloring Book, and now there is great excitement. :D

********************************************************


The Riverman and The Whisper by Aaron Starmer


I read both of these last year, and I'm on pins and needles of anticipation waiting to get my hands on the last book, The Storyteller. I can't mention this book without saying that I can't in good conscience recommend the books to the targeted age. There's some mature content. BUT, if you're an adult that enjoys awesome middle grade books, or a mature reader, this series is up there as the cream of the crop! This is awesome writing!

************************************************************



The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman

I still think this is one of the worst covers ever, but don't judge the story based on that. (That advice coming from the queen of judging books based on covers!) Sure, it's dark and a bit creepy at times, but it is fairy tale retelling at its best, in my opinion. As with most fairy tales, there's romance, but it's not gushy or overwhelming. Don't read it at night, but give it a try!

*************************************************************



The Boys of Fire and Ash by Meaghan McIssaac

This one is a bit more on the science fiction kind of side, but it was different, and I loved it. It reminded me a bit of Indiana Jones and Peter Pan, both, but still completely unique.


With all of these authors, I am looking greatly forward to reading more from them.

********************************************************

Bonus Books:


As a bonus, I can't let this post get published without mentioning the Trim Healthy Mama Plan and the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook, which I refer to most everyday. Those books have truly been life-changing for me, and I'm totally smitten with the plan. God has blessed me with a great week of weight loss. Yesterday morning gave me a 3 pound drop, and that didn't seem realistic. With 2 mornings in a row, though, I'll make it official. 25 pounds gone, y'all! :D To God be the glory! Best of all, I'm eating healthy, and cooking almost everything I eat from scratch(dream come true). I don't usually feel deprived. When I do, I make a coffee cup cake that's on plan, and all is well. If you want to pray for me as I continue on this journey, I won't complain! ;)

*********************************

What are some of your most favorite reads, 2015 or otherwise?

*********************************