Thursday, October 20, 2016

Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom by Wendy Speake and Kelly Stuart


Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom (Kregel, September 2016)

What was God thinking when He created you creative and then gave you children?

Creative moms often feel as though they must lay their passions down. But God had something special in mind for the creative woman during this intense season of mothering.

In this Pinterest age of handcrafted children’s parties, Instagram photos of beautifully decorated homes, and blogs filled with poetry and prose, it is clear that we are in the midst of a brand new artistic renaissance. Not one born in Italian cathedrals or Harlem jazz clubs, but rather in kitchens, nurseries, and living rooms around the world. Mothers, working in the cracks and crevices of each hectic day, are adorning the world with their gifts, and they’re showing all of us the beauty of this Life Creative.

In this book, you’ll learn:

—Why the world needs your art
—How this Life Creative begins at home
—When art can turn a profit
—Your part in this modern day Renaissance

Life Creative paints the stories of moms, just like you, who are fitting their inspired lives into the everyday, ordinary places of motherhood. Women like home decorator Melissa Michaels and jewelry designer Lisa Leonard, author Angie Smith, recording artist Ellie Holcomb, and many more.

My Thoughts:

I loved this book! It was exactly what I needed right now, and I just want to hug it tight. The writing is perfectly lovely, and it made me cry.

I'll admit here that after getting this book in hand, I was a bit skeptical about it. I was afraid the focus was going to be entirely too selfish. I think most children these days just want their parents to look up from their phone or projects or books(ME), and pay attention to them. The last thing parents need is advice on how to spend more time away from their little ones. In my case, I'm with my children ALL THE TIME, but sometimes my focus isn't where it should be and I get greatly discouraged with my lack of "quiet". I needed great encouragement here, and I got it with this book. There was really no cause for concern in that area at all. The authors make it abundantly clear that those little ones come first. There are years in a mama's life that she has to put aside interests and projects, to an extent, and just love on those children and focus on what is truly important. It's such a needed message these days. (Of course, at the same time, there's still encouragement to use those creative outlets when the time allows for it, because it's still important, too, and a part of us.)

Another thing I was a little concerned about is the fact that I have absolutely no talents. I won't be creating anything any time soon that could be sold or even admired. This book is targeted towards those women that do have artistic talents, whether it's writing or singing or baking or........ Really, though, I think each and every mama could benefit from this book, and all mamas have some level of creativity(as the authors tried to convince us of, too). I may not have talent, but I do still enjoy my moments of peace, drawing and writing in my nature notebook, or in my "random thoughts" one, even with my children right with me. Though I don't have a wide range of talents(or any at all), I do have a wide range of interests. I crave beauty and knowledge and could spend entirely too much time in my books. This book still spoke so much to me, so don't dismiss it simply because you think you might not be artistic enough for it. I can assure you that you are!

There are so many lovely stories and beautiful quotes and Bible verses held within the pages of this book, and it is full of encouragement. It really is a treasure!

*I hate to even mention it, but I didn't care for some of the things in the worship chapter, so I'm not promoting that part. I can't, in good conscience, let you think that I possibly did.

*I was sent a free copy of this book.

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood by Sarah Humphrey


40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood: Devotions and Coloring Book to Nourish Mom (Abingdon Press, August 2016)

Nourishment for a mother’s soul through 40 days of devotion and . . . doodling!

Wouldn’t it be marvelous if mothering came with a concrete set of instructions—an easy recipe we could follow? Instead, motherhood challenges women to find their faith, their true selves, and their family through daily doses of trial and error. It is a brilliant and healing time of life that is full of joy, pain, and beauty with a small side of crisis (and humor). What mothers do not know, they learn. And through this lifelong process of learning, they nurture and care for the most precious gifts on earth: children. In a modern society where moms often have a full and busy plate, these 10 minute daily devotions focus on six key topics of motherhood:

—Reconciling with grief, hope and expectations

In addition to the devotions, these beautiful pages are adorned with handmade illustrations to help you refresh from long days or even occasional sleepless nights. So, grab your colors and a little quiet time for yourself while doodling at the kitchen table. You will be grateful you did!

My Thoughts:

I hate to say it, but I didn't like this book at all. I'd love to leave it at just that, but you'll probably be left wondering why. I really do hate being negative, though.

There are 40 devotions that include a coloring page, but there's also some extra devotionals thrown in the mix that doesn't have a day assigned to them. Some of the devotionals are okay, though a little on the shallow side. Some of them are a little out there for me, though. Right at the beginning, such a big emphasis was put on the meaning of names that it put a red flag up for the rest of the book. You're encouraged to find the meaning of your name, and your husband's name, and your children's name(s)(through various devotionals) and focus on those meanings while parenting. My name means "Palm Tree". I can't help but wonder what my parents could have possibly done with that! I just can't, in any way, parent my children based on what someone else decided their names meant. I attempted to choose masculine, old fashioned names for my boys, and don't think I even knew what meaning their names were assigned.

Out of curiosity, I did look up what their names mean, and I could focus on that for each of them, but I don't want to. There's so much more to them. (Of course, I DO realize names are important. I wouldn't have ever named my children Jezebel or Nabal, after all, but I don't think a name given by a parent should label a child.)

In defense of that method, though, this book does come off more for the very new mommies. I imagine most new mommies have just finished looking through baby name books and the meaning of names mean more to them. It's just not for me. Also, I may be blowing the name thing way out of proportion, but I've read those passages over and over, and they still bug me.

Aside from that, I just didn't like the wording so often. Here's a quote that I'll leave for you, and you can do what you want with it.

"Because of my sensitive nature, I have the predisposition to absorb every environment I walk into. Not only did I have my own life experiences and traumas to work through, but I also carried the experiences and traumas of others that I encountered. Some call it empathy, some call it hypersensitivity, some call it prophetic intercession, and some call it psychic abilities. What it is for sure is absorption, and many people are wired this way, especially women."

Now I'll move on the the coloring pages. Honestly, that was my biggest reason for wanting to check this book out. (And, of course, the curiosity of what would bring more joy to my days in 40 days time.) ;) The coloring pages are incredibly simple. I've made it very clear that I have no artistic talent, but most of these pages look like something that might be found in one of my notebooks(practice doodling), minus the handwriting, because I can't write that pretty. IF you're looking for a coloring book that could be colored with crayons, as opposed to smaller tipped colored pencils, this might be a decent choice for you. Maybe the point was to provide a quick little artistic page for those new moms to do while rocking a little one, in which case simple is better. For the average mother that is used to the gorgeous coloring books on the market these days, this one looks on the pitiful side. Also, the lines in the doodles are so bold, and the pages so thin, that it was hard to read the devotionals. The coloring page on the other side of the page was glaring through.

I really do dislike being so negative about a book, but I just can't recommend this one to anyone, unfortunately. My negatives might end up being positives for you, though!

*I was given a free copy of this book.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue by J.A. Myhre


Eleven-year-old Kiisa had no idea why her parents would send her away to boarding school. She wondered why they couldn t all stay together in their beautiful African valley home. But no matter what she said they were firm: she must go, and she must go to this school.

As she said a tearful goodbye to her father, he whispered, For such a time as this. . . . Remember that phrase, and try to open your trunk soon. You ll find something unexpected inside. When Kiisa opened the trunk, she was astonished to find a small heap of black and white feathers that quickly unfolded into a little bird, a wagtail to be exact. Her surprise only deepened when the bird started to speak, My name is Njili. I am one of the Messengers, though a small one. I have been sent to assist you with the Rescue. Kiisa had no idea what she meant, but she would soon find out.

Join Kiisa on the adventure of a lifetime a dangerous rescue mission that includes rebels, stolen girls, illegal logging, a hungry cobra, and more messengers who help in unexpected ways. Kiisa sets out to rescue others, but finds herself rescued from fear and bitterness as she learns that bravery is nothing more (or less) than being in the right place at the right time and taking action despite her fears.

This page-turning story, the second in The Rwendigo Tales (A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest is the first book), is an adventure that children, young adults, and even full-grown adults will not be able to put down. A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue creatively and convincingly explores universal themes like family, forgiveness, bullying, and courage by blending magical realism and compelling storytelling. Written by a long-time medical missionary to Africa and featuring realistic pen and ink illustrations, it draws first-world readers into another (equally real) world where young girls are captured by rebel soldiers, terrorism is a way of life, and environmental resources are exploited without a second thought. As Myhre s characters deal with these real-life issues in the news, readers of all ages will gain a deeper interest in global human concerns.
My Thoughts:

Several months ago, I read and loved A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest. I was greatly looking forward to A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue, and I wasn't disappointed. I'm also excited to read the final two books in the series. There's no worries about cliff hangers. Each story has an ending(so far), but there are connections. I would recommend reading the first book before picking up this one. The leading lady in this story is the sister of the leading guy in the first one. They are separate stories, but there are connections that will be better understood with knowing the first story.

I especially like the fact that a mother wrote these books for her children. For 4 years, a new story was given to them at Christmas, and that makes these books more special to me. The lessons hidden in the story and the story itself are things that this mother wanted her children to tuck away inside their minds. I just love that!

I enjoyed the details of life in Africa. The first one had a focus more on home life, but this one is more on school life, though both move away from home and school during part of the stories. Giving my children books that open their own worlds to the worlds of others that live very different lifestyles has become more and more important to me as they've gotten older. This series has proven to be excellent choices so far. There are also animals from the area discussed, which will most likely promote a little extra interest led learning. Aside from life in Africa, there are things within the book that children anywhere can appreciate. Courage and dealing with the mean folks in life are a couple of things included in the story.

Overall, I've greatly enjoyed this series so far. It's a pleasure to tuck these lovely stories away on our shelf for my boys! As a side note, I've also loved the beautiful covers, and I'm thrilled that they go together so nicely! It's always even more pleasurable to add beautiful stories to our shelves when they have beautiful covers.

*I was given a free copy of this book.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Pop Manga Coloring Book by Camilla d'Errico


Manga artist and Pop Surrealism superstar Camilla d’Errico presents her first ever adult coloring book, filled with portraits, patterns, and the stunning artwork her fans and collectors have come to love.

This one-of-a-kind book offers you the opportunity to collaborate with d’Errico, adding your colors to her gorgeous black and white linework. Featuring everything from haunting and surreal character portraits to pages filled with patterns and designs all rendered in d’Errico’s inimitable style, Pop Manga Coloring Book is guaranteed to provide hours of coloring fun and excitement.

My Thoughts:

This has to be the most gorgeous coloring book I've ever seen. It's also weird, but it's the kind of weird that I adore.

I enjoy Manga, but I'm more of a casual, armchair fan at this point. I'd love to explore it more, but don't have a ton of access to it. Plus, you have to be so careful to avoid nudity and profanity(which most of it includes). This coloring book is conservative, for the most part. (There's a page with "Helmet Girls" on them, and those girls are a little less covered than I'd prefer, but there's no nudity. IF this book is for a child, then you could easily tear out any pages you didn't care for before handing it over to them. This one is for me, though, and I don't feel the need to remove it.)

This coloring book seems aimed more towards children, since there are a handful of little "Be Creative" types of notes through the coloring book. I think most adults that are like me, meaning they appreciate oddness, will like this book more, though.

My only semi-complaint about the book is the fact that some(though not all) of the eyes are left completely blank. I don't know if this is common in Manga. I haven't ran across it yet, but again, I'm still pretty new to the world. I'm sure it's to inspire creativity and let the owner make their own eyes, but I am very much lacking in that area, and don't really want to ruin the pages. That said, there is a note that lets you know you can make photocopies of any of the pages to practice on before attempting the main one. Maybe with practice, I can draw some decent eyes. :P

As a bonus, I love that there's a new front and back BLUE cover hidden underneath the dust jacket. It's those little extras that make a book more special!

If you enjoy the lovely side of Manga at all or surrealistic types of pictures, or just beautiful ODD pictures, this is the coloring book for you. I absolutely ADORE it.

*I was given a free copy of this book.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

NKJV Study Bible (as a Beautiful Blue Option)


The NKJV Study Bible, Second Edition is the most comprehensive study Bible available! It has the most complete study system for pastors, teachers, or students who desire accurate study in God's Word. Using the trusted New King James Version, The NKJV Study Bible has "the mind of a scholar and the heart of a pastor." Thomas Nelson's skilled team of scholars has produced the study system to reach for when accurate study in God's Word is the goal.

Features include:

More than 15,000 verse-by-verse study notes 150 Bible times and culture notes 114 articles on key Bible doctrines 350 word studies with Strong's numbers "Christ in the Scriptures" feature Topical index Deluxe Nelson concordance Full-color maps

My Thoughts:

I've used the NKJV Study Bible for years, and I love it. I have a Bible from most versions out there for reference, but as far as day to day use, I highly prefer my NKJV Study Bible!

This particular version is very similar to my other ones, with the same set up, but it has has a lovely soft blue/turquoise cover, with silver outer page coloring. (The pictures make it look like it's black and turquoise, but it's really a lovely blue, not black.) The colors alone are worth getting a copy. ;) Seriously, though, I greatly enjoy the notes at the bottom of the pages that give a little extra detail about the verses. You get great background knowledge concerning the different time period the verses were written in. Just for the sake of honesty, some of the notes do contradict themselves when it comes to interpretations of verses. I would never suggest you use those notes solely, and I recommend them for historical value more than anything else. Study God's Words more than anything, not men's. These notes are a great jumping point, though, and I greatly appreciate them, and use them regularly.

Also, I appreciate the size of the words. They're not huge, but they're not so small that I'm uncomfortable reading it. For the average person, they're just right.

I think most people have their favorite Bible version already, but if you're looking for a nice NKJV Study Bible, this is a beautiful option.

*I was provided a free copy of this Bible.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Download Your Free How-To Guide for Bring Your Bible to School Day


Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are preparing for Hurricane Matthew to hit. For students in hurricane-affected states who are facing school closures but still want to participate in Bring Your Bible to School Day, the alternate date is Thursday, October 20.

This brings about a good point: Any day can be a day you organize your friends to bring your Bibles to school together!

By signing up during the month of October for Bring Your Bible to School Day (even if you missed the official celebration), you can download a free how-to guide for teens, parents, pastors, and elementary students. It's full of helpful information that will help you organize a day to take a stand for religious freedom and bring your Bible to school with your fellow classmates.

(Sign-ups must be received by midnight (MT), Oct. 7, in order to be automatically entered into the Newsboys giveaway.)

Plus Bring Your Bible to School Comes to Adventures in Odyssey


Getting used to a new school isn’t easy, especially for someone as paranoid as Buddy Norman. In “A Predicament of Biblical Proportions” he envisions wacky worst-case encounters with townsfolk who seem like mobsters, snoops and fairy-tale tyrants—until he gets to know them. He’s also a little confused about Bring Your Bible to School Day. What’s it about? Should he participate? See Odyssey through Buddy’s eyes in this witty celebration of religious freedom.

Listen to this story through a two-week trial only on the Odyssey Adventure Club.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Time for Bed, Sleepyhead: The Falling Asleep Book by Dr. Daniel Amen, with illustrations by Gail Yerrill


Ten-time New York Times bestselling author and child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen teams up with artist Gail Yerrill to create a book that helps facilitate sleep. Time for Bed, Sleepyhead pairs whimsical illustrations with storytelling techniques to tire your child’s imagination in order to help them settle down at bedtime and fall asleep.

Read aloud the story of little bear and his friends as they have a big day at the beach, then return home to eat dinner, take their baths, and head to bed, falling gently to sleep alongside your little one.

My Thoughts:

My boys have been struggling with going to bed lately, meaning they keep me awake, too. That's not the best for an already exhausted, grumpy mama, like myself! When I saw this book, I decided it sure wouldn't hurt to give it a try.

Did it work miracles and put them to sleep? No. It did make me sleepy, though. ;) I already knew the answer, but I asked them if they were sleepy after finishing it. My Grasshopper answered, "No, but I can tell you are." (There are a couple of yawns written into the story.)

It is a sweet and calming story, with relaxing illustrations. It does use a hypnosis kind of method with the story. That may or may not be for your family. I imagine if you read by lamp, with the lights off, and children already in bed, it would have better results. We read bedtime stories piled on one of the beds, with the lights still on. Everyone goes to their own bed after the stories end.

In the end, this probably won't be a book that gets a great deal of rereads, but it is a relaxing book to add to the bedtime shelf.

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

Wee Alphas Postcards


This imaginative take on the alphabet features 26 Wee Alphas postcards, each created with a "hidden letter” to find.

Based on the award-winning Wee Alphas kids’ app, the postcards feature quirky illustrations of Biki the Buffalo, Ulysses the Unicorn, Yolanda the Yeti, and their furry, feathered, or finned friends. The cards are bound into a fold-out accordion format that can be displayed in its entirety, or they can be detached to separately display or share. Writing prompts on the back of each card will inspire any kid (or their grown-up) to pass along a super-special greeting.

My Thoughts:

These postcards are really cute! Each animal has a letter hidden somewhere in the design. It's not really a challenge to find them, but it is fun. My little guys have had fun with it.

They're designed so that you can send them to people as mail, but I can't say we'll be planning that. I wouldn't want to break up the set, and it just seems wrong to do so. ;) You have that option, though. (These are really postcards.) The back of each one has things pertaining to the letter on the front. For example, the letter "C" has:

Ciao, (blank)!

You are:

Chipper (with a check box beside each one)

Cheery wave, (blank)

P.S. Can you spot the hidden letter in Charlie the Chipmunk?

(Each one has something different on it. It doesn't follow the same format.)

You also have the option to keep these in the book form that they come in, or to tear them out and use them as flashcards or even artwork. (Each one is perforated for easy removal.) We like it in book form for now. It's just much easier to keep up with that way. (I'm sure we're not the only family that looses pieces to sets and games if we're not super careful.) :P

Overall, this is a fun little set of cards for a rainy day activity(for younger ones), or to actually send to people as postcards(for adults).

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

Take the Bible Challenge with Odyssey Adventure Club

How much do you know about the Bible and its influence on our culture, history–and the whole world? Focus on the Family and Bring Your Bible have teamed up to create a quiz to test how much you and your kids know about the Bible. Take the quiz to find out!

Don't forget to mark your calendars to celebrate religious freedom with other students across the U.S. on October 6—Bring Your Bible to School Day! Students from kindergarten to college will be bringing their Bibles to school and sharing God with their friends in just a few short weeks. Sign up to be a part of the movement to protect religious freedom for future generations.


By signing up, you’ll receive a free guide with tips, downloadable posters, sticker and T-shirt designs, information on your legal rights, and other fun, interactive activities.

You’ll also be automatically entered for a chance to win a free trip for four to hear the Newsboys, an award-winning Christian music band, in Dallas!

Plus Bring Your Bible to School Comes to Adventures in Odyssey


Getting used to a new school isn’t easy, especially for someone as paranoid as Buddy Norman. In “A Predicament of Biblical Proportions” he envisions wacky worst-case encounters with townsfolk who seem like mobsters, snoops and fairy-tale tyrants—until he gets to know them. He’s also a little confused about Bring Your Bible to School Day. What’s it about? Should he participate? See Odyssey through Buddy’s eyes in this witty celebration of religious freedom.

Listen to this story through a two-week trial only on the Odyssey Adventure Club.