Friday, January 31, 2014

Chasing God by Angie Smith(with GIVEAWAY!!!!)

Chasing God by Angie Smith

B&H Books (December 10, 2013) 229 pages

My Rating: 5/5 stars(and then some more)

My Thoughts:

Even if you don't read my thoughts, make sure you scroll down for the giveaway. This is a book you'll want to read!

It's this book that reminded me why I'll never go completely to e-books! I have this book marked up and dog-eared, and I know I'll turn to it time and again when I need a boost of encouragement! Considering the message of the book, I have to find that ironic! ;)

I've connected with author's writing in the past, but I don't think I've ever connected with one as much as I have Angie's writing! We've traveled very different roads, and lived very different lives, but OFTEN I was nodding my head that she "got" me so well. There were many times, I was shouting, "Amen!" (inside my head...because I don't want to scare my husband and children). There were many times Angie said something so wonderful, all I could do was utter the word, "Wow!" and put my book down for a few minutes to ponder.

In saying that, I want to step aside for a moment, and say that despite how much I loved this book, Angie and I do have different theology. I agreed with *most* of what is in this book, but our biggest disagreement is in relation to salvation. I believe God has commanded in His Word that baptism(full submersion under water at an accountable age) is required of us in order for Him to give us Salvation. (I'm just going to throw this out there, but ladies, if you're curious exactly why I believe this, I'll be glad to study with you and/or tell you why.)

Back to the book!

To me, Angie sums up the point of the book perfectly in the introduction.

"We try to fill in the gray instead of living in the black and white. We shape our theology to suit our taste, our times, our situations, and our desires. It's the mess we've made by desiring to understand Him more than we want to know Him, and we're growing more exhausted everyday.
The goal of this book is not to present you with a formula for living out Christianity. It's to offer my thoughts on the difference between looking for Him and looking at Him."(page 2, ARC)

Angie discusses things that are controversial, but she always does it with humility! She actually discusses humility in one of the chapters, and it was a huge wake-up call for me. As you might expect from me, I ended up in tears quite a few times through reading this book! Many issues she tackles were tough ones for me to admit to myself.

She tackles the subject of doubt! I wanted to give her a hug for discussing this! It enters my mind, and I hate it. I pray for God to take the doubt away, because I KNOW He exists and guides my life each and every moment. But, the doubt enters. It's a topic I think most Christians are afraid to admit, but I love that Angie is brave enough to put it in this book. I can't tell you just how much it impacted me to know I'm not alone in this area.

"It isn't a contradiction; it is a confirmation of our humanity due to our sin nature, despite the desire to believe perfectly. With our mouths we say, "I believe," and with out hearts we confess our inability to eliminate doubt." (page 89, ARC)

With the topic of doubt, Angie also gives us a little lesson on "Doubting Thomas". This was so precious, I can't imagine I will ever forget it. (There were lots of tears!)

There were many lessons within this book, including a lesson in prayer and in Bible study. Sometimes we imagine things perfectly in our mind. For me, I imagine a daily morning Bible study. I wake up a 5:00(even if I've been up all night) with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. My children don't follow me downstairs, as I make my way down. I sit with my Bible and my highlighters and my perfect notebook at my dining room table. I don't drink coffee, but a big pretty coffee mug in always in my vision. It just doesn't work that way! Our situations will never be perfect, and Angie discusses this very thing. She encourages us to just DO IT! Realistically, Bible study for me will(more often than not)need to happen with my hair thrown in a messy bun, and while I'm standing in the kitchen scrambling eggs, and praying that God helps me not lose my temper today.

This is the year that I desire to FULLY embrace a simplistic life, and this book has been a HUGE encouragement form me in that area! I can't recommend it enough! THIS book exemplifies just what a life changing read really is(for me, anyway)! There was so much in there that impacted me greatly that I simply have to leave you with these words. Read it!

*Thanks to B&H Publishing and Icon Media Group for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Congratulations to Annette!


If you'd like to throw your name in the hat for this book(and you do!), just leave me a comment.

For an extra entry, advertise any way you want and let me know how you did.

-Must be 13 or older to enter.
-Winner will be chosen randomly at
-Ends February 7th, 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014


Recently, I was given a free trial to Grammarly. I'm not a grammar police! It will take you all of 5 seconds at my blog to realize that. ;) While I try to have "casual" good grammar, there are many rules I've either forgotten or tend to ignore(ending a sentence with a preposition).

Where do you stand on grammar? Do you consider yourself a "police" or are you more casual with it?

Even with my "far from perfect grammar", I still have a grammar pet peeve. I come across this mistake in my reading ALL the time, and I struggle not to take a pen and correct it right away! I'm amazed it's overlooked by so many editors. "I COULD care less" means you really care. "I could NOT care less" is typically what people really mean to say. If this is a mistake you make, I promise I won't correct you. ;) And, it took me far too long to realize I'd been writing, "Your welcome", when it's obvious it should be, "You're welcome", just to make you feel better.

What's your grammar pet peeve(s)? I think we all at least have one!

Now back to Grammarly!

The first post I had Grammarly proofread for me scored a whopping 47 out of 100. I knew I didn't have the best grammar, but I was still a little shocked. Thankfully, it turns out that I had put in a code, which triggered all sorts of errors. Whew!

I also learned that Grammarly has several different levels of grammar checks. I initially did the "general" option. I learned that I prefer my blog to be more casual and used the "casual" option for the remainder of my time. With the "general" option, Grammarly would catch each time I used the word "you"(unprofessional) or any contractions(also unprofessional). I'm content to use "I'll, instead of "I will" and "I'm" instead of "I am". I also like writing my blog like I'm actually talking to y'all, as opposed to being "professional". Of course, there's a time and place for professional writing, and I love that Grammarly gives me several levels of grammar checking to choose from.

My 2nd post earned an 84 out of 100, with 6 errors.

Some of the "errors" are really more of a review to make sure it's not an error. After reviewing, I only found 2 errors I felt I wanted to change. They were careless mistakes on my part!

I used the word "there's" when I should have used "there are".

I said, "the picture are" when it should have been "the pictureS are".

I proofread several times before posting and these mistakes still escape my sight OFTEN!

Grammarly always gives you an explanation for any errors/possible errors it notices. You can pick from a short explanation or a long explanation.

As a blogger, Grammarly is a great tool! I imagine if I were in a more professional environment, or writing college papers, it would be an absolute necessity for me!

Overall, I like Grammarly for catching comma errors, misspellings, and those little mistakes that hide during my proofreading. I think it's a pretty cool site!

Make sure you give it a try! Just go to Grammarly's webpage and put in a sample of your work to see how well you're doing in the grammar department. Let me know how you scored! ;)

*I was given a free trial of Grammarly.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Bedtime Prayers That End With a Hug by Stephen Elkins

Bedtime Prayers That End with a Hug! (Share-a-Hug!)

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (December 25, 2013) 168 pages

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

There was a point in my life that I didn't care for "sample" prayers. It's only been in the past few(couple?) years that I've grown to see their benefit and now enjoy them. I had to see them as *only* sample prayers to grow fond of them. I felt that it was wrong to simply "recite" a prayer, and felt it needed to come from the heart. Sample prayers give me many more things to pray about that I hadn't even thought about, and show me ways or words to use that I find pleasing. It's always a goal to improve my prayers life, and let me assure you, it needs improving!

That's why I like books like this, though. I want my children to feel comfortable enough praying that they don't hesitate to step up and be a prayer leader at any point, whether it's before a meal, or at worship services, or simply before bedtime. They'll lead and teach me one day, and while I have them to teach, I want to do everything I can to equip them to be the Christian leader God intends for them to be. There are many examples of things for a child to pray about throughout this book!

There are 52 devotionals throughout. They cover such topics as praying for grandparents, pets, the sick. Also included are such topics as worrying, being content, and forgiveness.

Each devotional starts with a Bible verse. (Due to the way these verses are abridged, I prefer reading the suggested verse from the Bible.) It's followed by a very short devotional, a Bible thought, a prayer, and a recommendation for a hug. It's always nice to get in an extra hug! ;)

The pictures are *adorable*! They are super sweet! (with frosting and sprinkles on top) I ADORE sweet little books with precious pictures that make me want to wrap up in a blanket and cuddle and read with my little ones. This one fits the bill with that! My only complaint is that the adults look like big kids. If there's not a child in the picture to compare size, you'd never be able to tell it was an adult. I like adults from the Bible to LOOK like adults when they are represented in pictures! (Just a little pet peeve of mine.)

Overall, this is a sweet little book that I think most parents and children will fall in love with! It's also a wonderful tool to help children expand their prayer subjects.

*Thanks to Tyndale House Publishing for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Lost Art of Feeding Kids by Jeannie Marshall

The Lost Art of Feeding Kids: What Italy Taught Me about Why Children Need Real Food by Jeannie Marshall

Beacon Press (January 14, 2014) 240 pages

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

I requested this book in hopes that it would encourage me to cook better. Not only am I now actively attempting to lose weight(as opposed to "starting tomorrow), I also dream of ditching processed foods completely someday. I want to make better memories around our table, with better food. That takes a *huge* amount of encouragement in a world filled with so many processed foods.

It doesn't take long to feel and understand the passion that the author has for children eating REAL food. Her enthusiasm rubs off! Even if I was expecting the book to be more memoir than it was, it's still a large part memoir. (There's also a great deal of factual information. To be honest, when it came to those parts, I found it entirely too easy to skim.)She tells of when her and her husband first moved to Italy, and then had their son. She tells of the difficulties of trying to keep his eating healthy(with real food) and keep the media brainwashing from happening to him as processed foods are taking over Italy more and more.

There were times when I felt a little scolded. When she talks about baby formula, I was feeling like a horrible mother! I DID breastfeed(with formula as a supplement) for several months with all of my children. But, I also swapped them over to formula full time for various reasons at some point. I was really feeling the guilt factor. At the end of her talk, though, she does say that without the constant push and support to breastfeed that she had, it would have been too easy to give in to formula. For me, despite times of feeling scolded, the author always brought herself down to a realistic level in the end. She took the guilt away, but not so much that I became content to live as I am right now. She always left me with the motivation to eat better and feed my children better.

This book isn't Christian, in any way. The author MAY be Christian(I don't know!), but there's not a Christian element to it. I took a great lesson away from it anyway! I'm not a feminist!! This book made me realize how feminist I live, though. It was a pretty big wake up call. Sometimes, I feel like cooking and cleaning are such a waste of time, and unimportant. I want to get it over with, and get on with "more important" things. While that's still *partly* true, I want/need to put more thought and love into my meals and home, and therefore, my family. The author stresses that healthy meals are generally simple! Healthy and memorable meals don't have to be elaborate! It just takes time to learn.

The author talks about Micheal Pollan a great deal, so I imagine if you like his books, this one would be a good reading choice. I already have one of his books in line for my reading this year. If you're looking for encouragement to eat better, with lots of food facts, definitely give this one a try! I found it to be highly encouraging in my food journey and eye opening in many areas.

*I requested this book through Amazon Vine, and then realized I could get an e-ARC through Edelwiess. (I prefer reading on my Kindle(Fire) right now.) SO! Thanks to Amazon Vine, Beacon Press, and Edelwiess for providing me with an (e)ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo by Kent Nerburn

The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo: A Child, an Elder, and the Light from an Ancient Sky by Kent Nerburn

New World Library (October 1, 2013) 410 pages

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Thoughts:

A note before my thoughts:

One: There was lots going on in my head while reading through this book, so it's a long post. It's for me to remember more than anything, though. :)

And, two: There's one issue that will keep me from being able to completely recommend this book to you. The profanity! Oh, how I hate that it was in there. The author uses a tape recorder during his interviews and/or discussions with other people. Therefore, he quotes them exactly. While I still didn't like it in there, I DO understand his reasons. Still, you won't hear me say that a book is "worth" the profanity. It doesn't matter how good a book is and how much I like it/would like it, profanity is profanity!

Most of the profanity seemed to come from one person. I read longer than I typically would, thinking that if this one guy would move along, the profanity would go with him. At one point, I finally decided to skim, but after two pages, I realized it was "all or nothing" for me with this book. Thankfully, it did slack off greatly after the 2nd part of the book. Part 1 is perfectly clean. Part 2 has high profanity, and Part 3 has mild profanity.

Aside from the profanity, this could be one of my favorite books of the year! Paired with my reading from last year, it very well could have grabbed my #1 spot.

Now that I got that out of the way!

When I first started reading this book, I actually didn't know whether it was fiction or non-fiction. I soon learned that it IS non-fiction. Apparently, Nerburn is one of the very few White people who can write a book about Native Americans in a way respectful enough to earn their approval. Do you understand how difficult that is, and what a special author that makes him?

Several years ago, I was honored to attend several powwows and meet many Native Americans. It is a whole new world of beliefs and traditions, and it is SO very easy to do something wrong. Yes, I found myself embarrassed and shamed a couple of times due to doing something Native Americans found offensive or wrong. It's a learning experience, and I don't think it's possible for a White person to enter the Native American world and NOT do something wrong occasionally. I worked hard to learn and "obey" the rules. (Note: I do have Cherokee in my lineage. My great(X3) grandfather (on my momma's side)was the last full blooded Native American. It's enough to make me drawn to the Native American culture, but not enough to "claim" myself as Native American. I'm still so very ignorant to Native American ways!)

During my time at powwows, I danced(both traditional and fancy). I practiced each week with a group of others, and I was invited into the circle to dance. It's through reading this book that I finally realized I had no business, whatsoever, dancing in that circle! I'm a Christian! I don't share the beliefs of most Native Americans, and for me to do something so spiritual to them, and something that I didn't think about at the time or agree with, was wrong! Believe me, that was a tough conclusion to accept. I've always looked back at my time in that world with fondness. I have many great memories. But, I did it for fun, and nothing else, and it wasn't right.

Back to the book!

I truly fell in love with Nerburn's writing style. I've heard others say that a non-fiction book reads like fiction before, but it wasn't until this book that I was able to understand that. There were times I had to remind myself that the events were real.

Nerburn adds a touch of mystery to his writing. He's honest, and doesn't hide his mistakes. There are times when he's shamed and embarrassed, and I FELT it with him. There are times when he's angry at the Native Americans, particularly one named Grover. Sometimes he's angry at the ignorance of White people. Sometimes he's skeptical and/or questioning. He's writes it like it is. I loved that! The more I read through this book, the more I wished I had read the first two books before picking this one up. (Due to the profanity, I won't read them now, but understand how much I desperately want to!)

The book is divided into three parts. The first part was more of a historical learning experience for me. In it, I learned about the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians. We, as Americans, are SO VERY IGNORANT as to what our history with the Native Americans was really like! We are doing our children NO favors by hiding that. I imagine very few, if any, of you have heard about that place. I hadn't before reading this book. It's not something I learned about in school, I can tell you that. It makes me FURIOUS that a place like this existed in the United States. We all agree that Hitler was a horrible man, and the Holocaust concentration camps are horrible places that should never have existed. Don't think, for one second, I'm aiming to downplay the horrific-ness of those events just because it took place outside of the US, but what we don't realize is that places similar were right here in the United States. Native Americans were tortured and abused and neglected RIGHT HERE! Yet, most of us don't know about it. It's mostly hidden from us, and we go on teaching our children a false version of the "Thanksgiving" holiday. What makes me even madder is that the people over these places claimed to be Christians(THAT is not a Christian!), and abused these children, and these adults, as a way to "teach" them the way to Christianity. Can you tell how my blood is boiling just thinking about it?!

In parts 2 and 3, Nerburn continues his journey, and I got the chance to "meet" more Native Americans. I learned more and more about their beliefs and lifestyles, along with some of their struggles and anger. I'm grateful that this book opened my eyes more to the issues that Native Americans face(d). I appreciate that the author helped me to understand just why so many Native Americans have issues with White people. I've struggled with that in the past, but I better understand that pain and anger now.

*IF* profanity doesn't bother you, I can't recommend this book enough! It's had a huge impact on me!

^Thanks to Amazon Vine and New World Library for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

**I use Grammarly because that little part of my brain dedicated to catching grammar mistakes has been taken over by my precious children's many demands. I have had to say "Goodbye" to proper comma placement and "Hello" to potty runs and poo diapers! Grammarly is a dream come true for a sleep deprived, blog post writing momma. ;)

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Knopf Books for Young Readers (January 28, 2014)

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

I snatched up this book for its beautiful cover. I knew nothing about it beforehand, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover it is a retelling of The Snow Queen.

As one might suspect from the title, in this story, we meet Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. Ophelia has recently lost her mother, and she is still grieving. She is a quirky little girl, who tugs on her hair when she is nervous. She struggles to find her courage in the creepy museum where she spends her current days. Her dad is an expert on swords and that is just what the museum director needs. Ophelia's sister is changing more and more in the museum, and not for the better. When Ophelia discovers a boy behind a locked door, she is forced to learn just how far she is willing to go to save her world.

This is a dark, yet fun story! Parts of it were creepy, and along with some of my other creepy reading at the time, left me feeling a little spooked. I AM easily spooked, despite my love of darkish children's books. That said, I still feel it is not so creepy that most children won't be perfectly fine with it. I imagine some would laugh at the fact that I found it a bit creepy. (I did read it at night, in the dark!)Other than the creepy part, though, it was the perfect read for me at the time I read it! An adventurous, middle grade fairy tale re-telling? I'll gladly add more to my reading stack any day!

As much as I liked this story, I was disappointed in the ending! There was one particular mysterious aspect of the story that had been built up, and at the end, it was thrown under the rug without satisfying my curiosity. Maybe that means a sequel of some sort? The Marvelous Boy's story is gradually told through flashback stories. In the end, I wanted to know more about him, though.

Overall, this book had me turning the pages at great speed, and I'll gladly pick up more middle grade books by this author, in a heartbeat!

*Thanks to Knopf Books for Young Readers and Netgalley and for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming Mother-in-law and Daughter-in-law Relationships by Deb DeArmond

Related by Chance, Family by Choice by Deb DeArmond

Kregel Publications (October 3, 2013) 208 pages

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Thoughts:

I hate to admit that after being married 8 years, this is the fist book I've read concerning the MIL/DIL relationship. This is the kind of book that should be read as soon as a mother/fiancé knows that marriage is on the horizon. I don't care how wonderful a MIL/DIL is, it's a relationship that comes with difficulties. I read this book because *I* have great room for improvement!! I don't always react to situations in the best way, and I welcomed some advice on how to be a better DIL. I wish it had been around for me to read when I first became engaged!

Deb writes this book with the experience of three "daughters-in-love". With three boys of my own, and Lord willing, 3 future DILs, I devoured her advice(from both sides!). I already pray for my sons' future wives, and I hope that I can be the kind of woman that they will grow to love as more than what is typically thought of with the term "mother-in-law". Despite the fact that my oldest is only 5, I already have so much great advice to ponder during the many years we wait to meet our DILs. I like that Deb's DILs get their part in the book, too. I will pray greatly that my DILs will love me as much as those girls love Deb!

Not only is there a great deal of advice and Bible verses concerning the MIL/DIL relationship, but much of the advice can be applied to ANY relationship. I found this greatly helpful! One of my personal goals this year is to focus on strengthening the various relationships I have with many different people. I can keep much of the advice Deb gives in mind for more than just my MIL or future DILs.

This is a super quick and simple read, so even if you're already in the busy planning stages of marriage, read this book! If you plan on having a MIL or DIL at any point, or if you already are one, this book is for you, too! I can't recommend it enough!

*Thanks to Kregel Publications for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

Thomas Nelson (November 5, 2013) 328 pages


Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.

Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.

But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.

As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.

Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

As I kept hearing praise about this book, I knew it was one I'd have to read. When I discovered that it was written in the form of letters, I got worried. That didn't sound the least bit appealing to me. It took me a little while to completely get into the story, but thankfully, I did. It also took me a little bit to like Sam. She's built quite a wall around her, but through the letters, she shows who she really is, and I couldn't help but to like her then.

My reading experience was a bit different with this book than my typical read. With my fiction, I like knowing the least amount as possible before opening its pages. I also NEVER, EVER want to know the ending, until I reach that final page. There's a bit of mystery surrounding these letters, but I was so convinced I knew the ending that at about 1/4th of the way through, I gave in to the pull, and read the ending. I'm still shocked at myself! But, I was right, and I think I actually enjoyed the story more knowing for sure.

I enjoyed the constant talk about classic books from Sam, despite the fact that I'm so "unread" in them. I did hate that there were spoilers for some of them, because I DO want to read these books at some point! I'm sure it's assumed that most readers picking up this book will be well read in the classics. ;)

Overall, this was a very sweet book! I'm looking forward to seeing more from Reay!

*Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing me with a review copy through Booksneeze in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

Bethany House Publishers (January 7, 2014) 424 pages


Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch's daughter. Though he's initially wary of Julia Midwinter's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul--and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master--a man her mother would never approve of--but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec's help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village...and to her mother's tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a "good match" in Regency England.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

My Thoughts:

I'd been greatly looking forward to reading The Dancing Master. I had a little gleeful happy dance(in my mind) when this gorgeous book arrived in the mail. Unfortunately, it didn't overly work for me. That said, I was probably harder on this book due to who the author was than I would have been if this was a debut novel.

Julia is the leading lady. For most of the story, I didn't really like her. It's almost never a good thing when I don't like the leading lady. Of course, there DOES come a point where I feel guilty that I didn't like her in the beginning. It also probably didn't help that for most of the beginning of the book, we see things from Alec's point of view. I mostly saw Julia's bad qualities, even if Alec seemed blinded to them.

And, Alec. While I didn't dislike him at all, I definitely didn't fall in love with him by any means.

To be honest, I found myself a little bored in the beginning. I skimmed some in the middle. The ending is better!

I've grown to love Klassen's writing style, so I DO recommend(highly!!) you read her works. I plan on catching up with the ones I've missed. If you're new to Klassen's work, though, I'd recommend starting with a different book. Based on the 3 I've read, I'd recommend The Maid of Fairbourne Hall! If you're already a fan of Klassen's writing, then, of course, you need to read this book, too! ;)

*Thank you to Bethany House and Litfuse Publicity for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Julie Klassen’s “The Dancing Master” giveaway and “All Things Jane” webcast 1/23!

Best-selling author Julie Klassen will be hosting a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway and a live webcast event (1/23) to celebrate the release of her latest novel, The Dancing Master. Enter and RSVP today!


One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on January 23rd. Winner will be announced at the "All Things Jane (from Austen to Eyre)" Live Webcast Event on January 23rd. Connect with Julie for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Julie will also be taking questions from the audience and giving away books, Jane Austen DVDs, fun "Jane" merchandise, and gift certificates throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of The Dancing Master and join Julie and friends on the evening of January 23rd for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by signing up for a reminder. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 23rd!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

99 Stories from the Bible by Juliet David with Illustrations by Elina Ellis

99 Stories from the Bible by Juliet David with illustrations by Elina Ellis

Candle Books (November 1, 2013) 196 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

My Thoughts:

As with most Bible summary books for children, there are some in here that I liked and some not so much. I'd say the stories in here are probably best for 2-4 year olds. They are super summarized from the originals. As is, many of them lack important details, in my opinion. The summaries DO provide a great starting point for discussion, though.

Despite my examples of some I didn't like, I DID like many of them.

An example of one I didn't overly like: (The summary of Day 6 of Creation)

"All sorts of animals

On day six God said, 'Let there be living things on land too!'
So he created dogs, horses, and camels; lions, lizards, and snails; worms, wombats, and warthogs."
I'd prefer to add when reading that, God created ALL animals...EVERYTHING, to ensure that there is no confusion. My children have a pretty good grasp on that, as I'm sure all children who have been taught about God do, too. But, if this book is a child's first lesson in the Bible, there could be confusion.(I know! I'm being a bit picky there.)

Then there's the story of Ruth and Naomi AND the story of Esther. There's all kinds of information left out of those stories! To be fair, though, they are tough stories to summarize for a child. As is, though, it's impossible to grasp the beauty of those stories within this book.

Also, there was some information within the stories that was wrong. Those are stories I'll either skip or reword to be correct.

An example:

In the summary of The Ten Commandments, the author wrote that God told Moses to write down the ten commandments on stone. In truth, God wrote the commandments on the stone(Exodus 24:12, Exodus 31:18).

So, you'll have to be careful with this book, as with most all man written Bible summaries.

As always, in relation to Kregel's children's books, the pictures are adorable. They're bright and I will enjoy using them as visuals during Bible study time with my little ones. We have lots of cute options for Bible time on our shelves thanks to Kregel!

Overall, this is a cute book, but needs some added details I feel were left out, some extra explanations, and some wrong information changed. I liked many of the summaries, though!

*Thank you to Kregel Publications for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge 2014

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

This is the 5th year that Carrie at Reading to Know has hosted the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge, and it will be the 4th year that I've participated(although the first year, I only watched the movies, Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea).

The L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge this year is being ran in connection with the 2014 Reading to Know Classic Book Club. The pick for the book club is The Blue Castle, so that is my reading plans this month. I was able to grab a free PDF copy(which is on my kindle now) from

I had requested a non-fiction title from Netgalley called The L.M. Montgomery Reader: Volume One: A Life in Print: 1 by Benjamin Lefebvre. I was saving it to read in January for this challenge, and I was really excited about it. I'm hugely disappointed that I can't seem to find it on my computer, and it's already been archived at Netgalley. I almost cried. If I can locate any kind of non-fiction on Montgomery, I'd love to use that as my January biography-type read.

This will only be my 3rd Montgomery read. I loved Anne of Green Gables and added it to my favorites shelf. I wasn't overly fond of The Story Girl, though, so I'm hoping for another favorites add this year! I'm going to be realistic and keep my reading goal with The Blue Castle, but it would be wonderful to get in at least one more Montgomery read.

It's not too late to join in the reading fun!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My 2014 Book Buying Ban

I have several small reading challenges(improvements) that I hope to work on in 2014. Among them:

-More Bible study! (which should always be my #1 reading goal)

-Read more classics.

-More diversity in my reading AND in the books I read to my children. (covers included here!)

-Read history and biography type books.

-Finish books I start(only the ones I'm actually enjoying...I let too many books I'm enjoying go unfinished due to review book needing priority!).

-Read more non-fiction with things I'm struggling with and/or want to know more about(social phobia, depression, autism, SLEEP)

-Take on fewer review books. (I still want to figure out a set number of books a month I'm willing to take on, and be strict with that. I haven't picked a number yet, though.)

My big challenge for 2014?

I challenge myself to not buy books!

My rules?

-I can't buy a book for myself under any circumstances.
-I can only buy books as gifts for others.
-I can only buy books for my children in relation to a holiday/birthday type gift.
-Paperbackswap/trading DOES count as buying books, because I still have to pay for shipping. I do have 3 credits left at PBS, and I plan on using them very wisely through this year. I can't buy or trade for anymore credits after that, though.
-I can receive books as gifts. Amazingly, I did get a book for Christmas! :)
-Free e-books don't count as buying, 'cause they're FREE!

I'll still be supporting authors/books, because I DO plan on giving them as gifts, and I'll work harder to promote those books I really love.

My contentment with books is just not at a good place. (My contentment isn't at a good place, period!) I keep adding more and more books into our home, and they sit too long unread. We're attempting to fully embrace a lifestyle somewhere between minimalistic and simple this year. I think this challenge will go a long way with working on my contentment in all areas. (I hope, anyway!) My goal is to read what I have on my shelf and only keep the ones I love. (My goal is to only surround ourselves with things we love, period.) The others will be passed on. I also plan to use my library(both physical and e-books) for a great deal of my reading, along with netgalley. Of course, I'll still be reviewing books in physical form! I'll try to pass most of them on, though.

By posting here, I know I'll be held a little more accountable. Keeping it to myself would be a setup for failure, I believe.

So, what's your big goals this year(reading and/or otherwise)?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Cover Reveal for Morning Glory by Amber Stokes With GIVEAWAY!

Morning Glory will be Amber's 3rd novel! I had the pleasure of reading Bleeding Heart a few months back, and I'm thrilled to see more from her.

I won't keep you waiting! The cover:

Isn't it pretty? I think it goes beautifully with the other two covers in the series!

About Morning Glory:

The Depths of Fear

The Dawning of Hope

Myghal’s story continues…

Summer 2014

In conjunction with the cover reveal, Amber’s doing a double “blog reveal,” as well! You can check out the book extras for Morning Glory (more coming soon!) on the Morning Glory blog, and you can keep up with all the exciting news for the series on The Heart’s Spring blog, the new home site for all three of the main books and the companion short stories!

About Amber:

Amber Stokes has a Bachelor of Science degree in English and a passion for the written word – from blogging to writing poetry, short stories, and novels. After her brief time at college in Oregon, she is now back home among the redwoods of Northern California, living life one day at a time and pursuing her passion via freelance editing and self-publishing. You can connect with Amber on her blog, Seasons of Humility.

About Lena, the Cover Designer:

Lena lives in a scenic small town in Massachusetts with her husband, two kids, and a very spoiled Black Lab. She writes fiction for young adults, mostly light fantasy with a healthy dose of "sigh-worthy" romance. You can visit her online at

The Giveaway:

US residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman, With Illustrations by Skottie Young

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Skottie Young

HarperCollins (September 17, 2013) 128 pages


(From Amazon: Because it keeps things more vague than I could.)

"I bought the milk," said my father. "I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road."

"Hullo," I said to myself. "That's not something you see every day. And then something odd happened."

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal, expertly told by Newbery Medalist and bestselling author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

I knew absolutely nothing about this book before reading it, except that it was by Neil Gaiman. I've wanted to try Gaiman's writing for quite awhile. He seems to be a Tim Burton to the writing world, which, of course, grabs my interest. Once I got to reading, I quickly realized just how short this book is. I hadn't looked at the page count, and I was expecting to settle in for a much longer read. I'm not complaining there! I actually loved the story! Even with the small page count, the book is generously sprinkled with illustrations, which I loved just as much, if not more, than the story. That said, I don't think one could work well without the other. I didn't time my reading, but I can't imagine it took me more than 30-45 minutes to read, and I'm not a quick reader.

With the Tim Burton reference, you might(or might not) be wondering, "Was it wonderfully weird?". Absolutely! I am thrilled to say, "Yes!". It actually kind of reminded me of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, as far as nonsense corniness. Of course, the story lines are in no way the same. I DO feel that some of Gaiman's other works will be a better Burton comparison. This one is fun and sweet and laugh-worthy. I'm kind of looking forward to the dark factor being added to the mix, which still amazes me. Lord willing, though, I'll be reading The Graveyard Book soon!

I liked this book so much, I'm hoping my library gets it in physical form soon. I think it will make a perfect read aloud for Grasshopper(5)!

I definitely recommend this read for ALL ages!

(As a side note, there is comments referring to evolution, in case that will bother any of you. At no point does the story dwell on the subject, though.)

*Thank you to my local library for providing me with an e-copy of this book to read!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

The Goose Girl (Books of Bayern)

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

This is now the third book of Hale's that I read, and I've enjoyed all of them. While they've been completely different, I still see many similarities. All 3 books that I've read have been fantasy, but the magic within them are so subtle, I'd say they've very *light* fantasy books. The magic is more natural than most fantasies. Also, the main characters have many difficult obstacles to climb in order to find their "happily ever after". They're full of good character qualities, but they have to grow to completely discover their strengths.

The Goose Girl was a beautiful story. Ani is very shy, coming off a little social phobic at times. She's next in line for the throne of Kildenree, though, so she's constantly trying to push herself to do better and be who she's expected to be. She struggles! It doesn't help that she's constantly trying to talk to the animals. The kingdom finds her to be a little odd, and not overly fit to fill the crown. She eventually finds herself on a journey to Bayern, where she will marry a man she's never met. Things don't go exactly as planned, and she finds herself running for her life. She discovers there's so much more to life than what she's learned in her closed off little world.

Since Ani comes off a little social phobic, I connected greatly with her. There were many times I *knew* just what she was feeling, and the battle she was facing. As you would expect, she grows a great deal through the story, and I learned lessons from her. I close myself off from the world entirely too often, and it's time to open my eyes to the struggles going on around me in the world.

This is the first book in the Books of Bayern series. From what I can tell, the characters from the other books are also in this first book. Even though the ending left me feeling mostly satisfied, there are still lots of loose threads I would love to be tied up in the rest of the books.

Overall, The Goose Girl is a sweet fairy tale(ish) retelling with a leading lady that any little girl could look up to. I'm looking forward to continuing my adventures in the rest of the Bayern books!

*Thanks to my local library for providing me with an e-copy of this book to read!