Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Listen by Rene Gutteridge


Nothing ever happens in the small town of Marlo . . . until the residents begin seeing their private conversations posted online for everyone to read. Then it’s neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, as paranoia and violence escalate. The police scramble to identify the person responsible for the posts and pull the plug on the Website before it destroys the town. But what responsibility do the people of the town have for the words they say when they think no one is listening? Life and death are in the power of the tongue.

My Thoughts:

For a little while, I'd given up on Christian Fiction. It seemed that all the books I was reading was just ridiculous, to be honest. I was setting aside more than I was finishing, and my eyes were tired of rolling. ;) After reading Sandra Byrd's Bride of a Distant Ilse and remembering that there ARE awesome Christian Fiction authors out there, and disliking the content I was having to deal with in most secular fiction, I started a reading list of Christian books that have been proclaimed "well written" by trusted bloggers. I'd rather support Christian writers anyway! I had to add Gutteridge's name from my own experience. I remembered how much I have enjoyed her books, and how different they tend to be. Listen had been sitting unread on my kindle, so I quickly changed that.

As I expected, Listen is a book that will make you think. It gives you a lesson in the world of gossip and judgement without resorting to a sermon. I read lots of non-fiction books, but I always appreciate a more entertaining fictional book giving me the same lesson! On top of that, there's a mystery throughout, and I quickly made my way through the pages to see if my guess was right. (It was, by the way, even if I have to admit that I also had a close runner-up that I highly suspected, too, and I swapped between the two a bit.) Even if you figure out the main mystery, there's still plenty more happening to keep you guessing until the end.

My only complaint about the book is the fact that a piece of evidence that suddenly comes into play at just the right moment was a little too convenient for my tastes. It should have been found much sooner, in my opinion. (But then the story wouldn't have kept going!)

Still, I really loved this book! There are some things I would have liked to have ended up different, and one person that I'm left worried about at the end, but it's an entertaining, yet thought provoking read.

Misery Loves Company is one I've read in the past that was great, too!

*I feel the need to edit this in, based on my opening. There are better written books out there, so I don't want to mislead anyone in that area! This is an older book, and there are little things written here and there that could have been better. Some things I found a bit confusing, like what time period this is supposed to be in, which I even had a discussion with my husband about. Some things are never completely revealed, and you're left reading between the lines. There are some things that most people would call "ridiculous", just like I mention in my opening. The form of it in this book was right up my alley, though, so I really enjoyed it! Most of it didn't bother me, but my reading tastes are a bit different. In general, though, I found this to be a great book to read when most Christian fiction is getting on your nerves. ;)

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Alliance by Jolina Persheim


When Leora Ebersole sees the small plane crash in her Old Order Mennonite community, she has no idea it's a foreshadowing of things to come. Soon after the young pilot, Moses Hughes, regains consciousness, they realize his instruments were destroyed by the same power outage that killed the electricity at the community store, where Englischers are stranded with dead cell phones and cars that won't start.

Moses offers a sobering theory, but no one can know how drastically life is about to change. With the only self-sustaining food supply in the region, the Pacifist community is forced to forge an alliance with the handful of stranded Englischers in an effort to protect not only the food but their very lives.

In the weeks that follow, Leora, Moses, and the community will be tested as never before, requiring them to make decisions they never thought possible. Whom will they help and whom will they turn away? When the community receives news of a new threat, everyone must decide how far they're willing to go to protect their beliefs and way of life.

My Thoughts:

This book is so, so good!

I quickly grew tired of reading Amish/Mennonite fiction after only a few of them. I don't typically touch them anymore. The Alliance is unlike any I've ever read, though, and is definitely worth reading, whether you typically enjoy them or not.

Reading this book will probably scare you into learning survival skills, and make you think about a world that you might not have even imagined, if you're like me. Though parts of the story are slower moving, there's still plenty of parts that are heart-racing. I was quickly turning the pages through it all.

I loved the leading lady, Leora. She has a great deal packed on her shoulders, but she's brave, even though she's also terrified. I also adored the fact that she was written to wear glasses. During my second pregnancy, something changed with my eyes, and contacts are super painful now. I've fought it hard until recently, when I finally accepted that it's glasses for me. Probably because of that, but I loved the glasses on a leading lady. Leora isn't your typical leading lady, but really there's nothing "typical" about this book. It's unique and refreshing!

There IS romance within the book, and even a love triangle, but it wasn't overdone. I didn't roll my eyes, so it wasn't corny. I felt the whole book, including the romance portion, was very well written. (Well, except for the repeated use of "could care less". "COULDN'T care less", people! I don't understand how this makes it through in so many books.) ;)

My biggest complaint is the fact that the story ends with a major cliffhanger, and now I have to wait a whole year to find out what happens. It's highly unlikely I would have picked up the book had I known this fact, and I'm super annoyed that it wasn't made clear.

Just to note, there's references to Matthew 24:1-26 , believing that it is a description of the end of times. I believe those verses to actually be a description of the destruction of the temple that was to come, not the end of times. As long as you know I don't support that line of teaching, and you don't mind waiting a whole year for the ending, I wholeheartedly recommend The Alliance! I greatly enjoyed it.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Long May She Wave: 100 Stars and Stripes Collectible Postcards

My Thoughts:

Some of the descriptions out there might confuse you concerning this item(ahem, Amazon and your talk of a deluxe 11x14 book). This is a small, but thick box, filled with postcards.

With this set, you'll get 100 postcards, with 50 designs. Each design has 2 postcards. (The back of the box says there's one to share and one to keep.) They each show a piece of artwork, in one way or another, involving the US flag through the years. Each one has a short description to let you know details about the artwork.

While it is a little different that what I was expecting(or hoping for), there is still a great deal of educational value in this set of cards. We appreciate the American flag around here, and we also appreciate art, so it works out well to put them together. Hopefully, looking at these cards will inspire some creativity within us.

Also, if you happen to be a collector of postcards or things involving the flag, Long May She Wave is a great set to add to the collection.

*I was provided a set of postcards, in exchange for my honest opinion.

NKJV Chronological Study Bible


The Bible that allows you to study Scripture in the order of events as they happened

The Chronological Study Bible presents the text of the New King James Version in chronological order - the order in which the events actually happened - with notes, articles, and full-color graphics that connect the reader to the history and culture of Bible times. It is the only NKJV study Bible arranged in chronological order.

Features include:

The entire NKJV text with translators’ notes, arranged in chronological order, provides absorbing and effective Bible study
Full-color illustrations of places, artifacts, and cultural phenomena give the reader a dramatic, “you are there” experience
Fascinating articles connect the Bible text to world history and culture
Daily Life Notes explain how people lived in Bible times
Time Panels and Charts show the flow of Bible history
In-text and full-page color maps of the biblical world assist study

My Thoughts:

This NKJV Chronological Study Bible is seriously the most beautiful Bible I've ever seen. When I pulled it from the box, and discovered its beauty, I hugged it. I kid you not! My Bumblebee was there when it was pulled from the box, too, and he begged me to give it to him. Call me the worst momma ever, but I couldn't do it. ;)

If you know me at all, you know I love the color blue. It broke my heart when I had to set my beautiful blue Bible aside due to the smaller print. While the blue in the cover of this Bible is much darker, it still thrills my heart to have blue in the cover, and I'm grateful for that color option. Speaking of font size, I'm also thrilled that this particular Bible has a very readable font size. It's not giant, but larger than most Bibles these days.

There are so many little details that make this Bible gorgeous and useful to any library. First of all, the pages are a little brownish around the edges, giving it an ancient look. The closer you look, the more you'll notice. There's also the faintest decoration of words at the edge of the pages. There are full color illustrations spread throughout. Some of them are artwork, and some of them are realistic pictures or scenes.

Aside from the beauty of the Bible, there are tons of little things added throughout that make this an awesome study tool. From food to medicine to little daily moments that would have happened at that particular time period, along with so much more, you'll gain a better understanding of the verses being read.

This is a chronological Bible, so it's really not a Bible you'd want to use as your main one(which does make me a little sad, because I love it so much), but it's still an excellent option for chronological reading purposes. I also love that the dates are listed at the top of each page to give you a better understanding of where you are on the timeline at any given reading.

In the end, I think you can tell how much I adore this NKJV Chronological Study Bible! If you're looking for a chronological study Bible, based on my preferences, this one is a worthy investment.

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Busy, Busy by Eileen Spinelli, with Illustrations by Elina Ellis


Sometimes, when life gets hectic and schedules get crowded, children may feel a little lost in the shuffle. In this new board book, the animals are all quite occupied. Beaver is busy; squirrel is busy; frog is busy. Mole is digging, bear is fishing, and cat is pouncing. And like many parents, Mama is busy too. But she's not too busy for a hug! Children will love the busy animals and the warm conclusion. This lighthearted, lyrical book will gently reassure children that, in spite of how busy their families are, there is always time to share love. Ages 2-5.

My Thoughts:

Busy, Busy is a super cute book! It's full of lovely animals, and the illustrations are superb. My Bumblebee(3) fell completely in love with it, and has slept with it every night since it arrived at our house.

The scenes have so much to explore, and the closer you look, the more you'll find. The attention to detail was wonderful, and it's also nice that the pictures are so bright and appealing for little eyes, without being overwhelming.

The main point of Busy, Busy is that mommy always has time for her little one(s), so this is a perfect book for a mommy and child to read together. It's a sweet book, and I'm sure it will get plenty more love in the years to come.We've definitely been enjoying it!

"Mommy's busy,
always busy.
She has lots of work to do.

But she'd never
be too busy...

for a cuddle-up with you!"

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler


The battle is real.

As brothers, Xavier and Evan are used to battling each other. But now they’re discovering that there is a much bigger battle going on all around them. And it’s their turn to fight. Based on Ephesians 6:10–18, The Prince Warriors is the first book in Priscilla Shirer’s epic new series that brings to life the invisible struggle ensuing in the spiritual realm. Xavier, Evan, and their friends have typical lives until they enter a mysterious land called Ahoratos. There they meet their guide, Ruwach, who offers wisdom and direction as the kids’ initial adventure begins—an adventure filled with armor and danger and a very real enemy.

Written by New York Times Best-Selling author Priscilla Shirer, The Prince Warriors series was created for middle-grade readers and will include the fiction trilogy as well as Unseen: The 365 Prince Warriors Devotional and the Unseen app.

My Thoughts:

There are parts of The Prince Warriors that I loved, and other parts not so much. That's pretty true of almost every allegorical type of story that I've ever read, though. I can even say the same for one of my most favorite authors of all time! There's just always theology that I disagree with hidden(sometimes not so much) within the story. This book was no exception. I didn't agree with every little thing that was implied, but I also loved so much of the examples shown out in "real life" fiction.

Also, it dates itself with a phone app being a semi-big part of the story, at least towards the end. Without that, I feel it could have had more of a classic feel to it, but with the app, it seemed like it was working too hard to appeal to a modern, young audience. (Yes, I understand the target age IS a modern, young audience.) ;) (After reading the official description, I realize the inclusion of the app in the story might very well be an advertisement for the Unseen app, which annoys me to no end, just to be honest!)

Those things aside, I actually really liked the book. There's lots of food for thought scattered about, and it's something I'd love for my boys to read a bit down the road. It's an excellent book for reading discussion, and even a great family sort of "book club" pick. I do think that this book will appeal more for the younger crowd, and maybe a little more in the boy crowd, though I'm sure plenty of girls will enjoy it, too. I can think of several young readers right now that I think will love this book!

While a good portion of the story takes place in a fantasy world, Ahoratos, I loved that the other portion dealt with issues any average child will deal with: sibling squabbles, punishments, mean kids. Yes, some of the outcomes were unrealistic and too pretty, but it still provided good lessons in the form of an entertaining story.

Overall, despite a couple of complaints, I really like this book and the whole idea of it. I'm looking forward to my boys reading it and the discussions that I pray will come from it.

*Note: The Prince Warriors is the first book, in what will be a trilogy. While I can't call the ending a complete cliff-hanger, it does leave you knowing there's more to the story.

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Jesus Inspires Me: An Enriching Activity and Coloring Book by Missi Jay


Everyone loves the familiar faces on the Knowing My God series board book covers. And now these characters step out into an expanded new role as Soul Mates, Friends for Life™ who involve your little artist in their world of drawing, coloring, reflecting, solving, decorating, and imagining. With the breezy flair of artist Missi Jay, each original page in the book ties in facts and themes from the well-regarded Knowing My God series, while inspiring creativity and a personal connection with Jesus. The beautiful glossy cover and just-right size make this newest addition to the line a perfect companion to the Knowing My God books on any family trip. Are we there yet? With the Graham Blanchard Soul Mates showing them the way, young passengers might be willing to ride a little longer.

My Thoughts:

We're huge fans of all the Graham Blanchard books around here, so I was super excited for my boys when I heard that there was a coloring book tying in with all the books. I was even more excited for them when it arrived, and I saw how lovely it really is.

The Jesus Inspires Me Coloring Book is slightly larger than the average one(9.25x12 in). The pages are outlined with dark, thick lines, so it's great even for the littlest ones. There's mini lessons and activities throughout, along with Bible verses and of course, coloring. You can expand those lessons as much or as little as you want, turning it into a devotional, reading the books before coloring the pages, or simply using it and reading the pages as is. There's even pages dedicated to meeting new "soul mates". These pages give an extra lesson that we're all different, with different strengths and interests, but we're all children of God.

My Bumblebee's current love is sheep(along with turtles and frogs), so it was no surprise that he would have no other coloring sheet until he had colored and admired the page with sheep on it.

My Firefly decided his dog had to be colored with a Chalkie! Sometimes coloring takes more effort and encouragement than other days for my little guys. ;) (Coloring is never a forced activity around here, just to be clear. It's meant to be fun!)

The Jesus Inspires Me Coloring Book goes perfectly with all the Graham Blanchard books, and it's an excellent resource to add to "table time" activities. It not only provides fun, but also discussion. We love it just as much as we expected!

*We were provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Read more about the Jesus Inspires Me Coloring Book over at Graham Blanchard's page, and treat your family to a copy! You can also grab a FREE e-copy of Spiritual Parenting in the First Five Years by Callie Grant.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Facts by Maja Safstrom


An artfully playful collection of unexpected and remarkable facts about animals, illustrated by Swedish artist Maja Säfström.

Did you know that an octopus has three hearts? Or that ostriches can't walk backward? These and many more fascinating and surprising facts about the animal kingdom (Bees never sleep! Starfish don't have brains!) are illustrated with whimsical detail in this charming collection.

My Thoughts:

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts is a cute and interesting little book!

In its pages, we get random, yet interesting facts about 55 different animals. Each animal will get a 2 page spread with an illustration and at least one fact about it. Some animals get several facts.

Just to give you some examples of what you'll learn in here:

"Beavers' teeth are orange and they never stop growing!"

"Some butterflies never eat anything as adults because they don't have mouths...
...They must live on the energy they stored as caterpillars!"

"All clownfish are born male. When the female clownfish in a group dies, the most dominant male will turn into a female to take her place!"

While I got this book with my boys in mind, I have to admit that I LOVE books full of random facts like this. For someone like myself that is usually content to stay on the quiet side, sometimes it's hard to find things to say, especially in certain situations. I find that the more little facts like this that sit in my brain, the easier it is. Of course, it also makes me annoying, I'm sure! ;)

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts is a simple book, but super cute and interesting. I love it! It's great for both children and adults.

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