Monday, March 20, 2017

Your Magnificent Chooser by John Ortberg

Your Magnificent Chooser, written by John Ortberg and illustrated by Robert Dunn, teaches children the power of a person's will using whimsical rhymes and delightful illustrations. Starting with the premise that your will – aka your “chooser” – is a God-given gift, the narrative continues by emphasizing the importance of this gift and presenting some ideas of how this gift is used. It then addresses mistakes and new starts as well as boundaries to be respected. Appropriately, the book ends with an encouraging “find something great / For your Chooser to do.”

I have an almost-five year old who, since starting VPK last August, has been working to learn some challenging social concepts. I requested this book, hoping to empower her to see that she can make her own decisions instead of imitating others. To that end, this book fit the bill. I liked how it addressed situations with friends who might not want to do the same thing. I do wish it had addressed more how to respond to a parent who asks you to do something (like cleaning your room) when you'd rather play. The issue was brought up in the book, but it wasn't immediately resolved as the next page moved into the concept of clashing wills with a friend – and that was resolved by choosing to be friendly again.

I recommend this book to Christian parents (as it does mention God) who want to instill in their children a sense of self-responsiblity and empower them to make their own firm choices.

Visit the publisher's website for Your Magnificent Chooser to find related resources!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

When God Made You

The message of When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow, is summed up on the first page: “You, you, when God made YOU, God made you all shiny and new. An incredible you, a you all your own, a you unlike anyone else ever known.” From there, the narrative expands on the concept, branching out into several ideas:

1. God knows each child even before birth.
2. God loves each child as an individual.
3. God places talents and passions within each child.
4. A child's self-expression through his or her natural gifts brings joy to the Creator.

As a mother, I appreciate the messages in this book because I know when my four year old goes off to vpk, she faces a tough world. The culture will tell her that she's not pretty enough, that her talents aren't good enough, etc. This book stands against those messages. The little girl in the story is talented artistically, but it's framed in such a way that her talents are used to bring joy to God, not to be put into a competition where she may or may not be good enough.

I recommend When God Made You for children ages 2 to 6. It was perfect for my four year old as my daughter has common ground with the girl in the book – both have a younger sibling, both love to paint and create.

The illustrations are vibrant and complement the story. It was good to see a Christian children's book that depicts an African-American girl. It might just be my experience, but it seems like the majority of Christian children's books use Caucasians. I like to teach my girls that diversity is normal and good and this book is a nice tool to use for that purpose.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

Deputy Sam Brooks is responsible, structured and committed, if not a bit jaded. He surrounds himself with those like him and is avoidant of those who don't share his love of a predictable life – especially, his brother. His girlfriend, Sierra Rose, is the perfect girl for him as she's practical, organized, and can function under pressure. He sees her younger, impulsive sister, Willow, only as a friend until a church youth group outing to Glacier National Park goes wrong. As Sam and Willow brave the elements with a group of teenagers, Willow's admiration of Sam grows and Sam's interest in Willow heightens. Will Sam give up his safe relationship with Sierra for an unpredictable life with Willow? Read more in Rescue Me by Susan May Warren.

Rescue Me is the second novel in Susan May Warren's Montana Rescue series. It could function as a stand-alone novel, but I wouldn't recommend reading it as such. Many of the characters from If Ever I Would Leave You (Montana Rescue prequel) and Wild Montana Skies (Montana Rescue #1) return. While sufficient background information is supplied, knowing the characters' histories adds depth, plus the lingering mystery of Esme Shaw continues in the background.

Like many of Warren's books, Rescue Me, has one focal love story (Willow and Sam), while concurrently spinning another love story to be followed up on in a later publication. Normally, I'm not a big fan of that technique, but it totally works in Warren's novels.

Rescue Me commences by dropping the reader straight into the mind of Deputy Sam Brooks facing a dangerous rescue mission. It gripped my attention and by the end of chapter two, I wanted to stay up late to devour the rest of the story. (Alas, I made the responsible choice and went to sleep instead of staying up until morning...) The plot never dragged. The characters developed as their relationships became more complicated. Sparks of romance combined with the ever-present danger created suspense. In short, Susan May Warren knows how her craft and is quickly rising up my list of favorite authors.

Readers who enjoyed Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren will want to follow it up with Rescue Me. I recommend them both as gripping, romantic tales threaded with the grace and love of Christ.

Read an excerpt of Rescue Me by Susan May Warren on the publisher's website.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz

Temperance Tucker is fleet of foot, a fine shot with a rifle, and knows the eighteenth-century Kentucke territory. Yet, a painful past leaves her emotionally ill-equipped for her present life. She and her family operate the Moonbow Inn, a haven for frontier travelers searching for food and temporary shelter. When Sion Morgan enters, looking for a guide, Tempe has no intention of joining his crew. However, circumstances shortly land Tempe in that exact position and her faith is tested as she hazards frontier dangers, revisits families connected to her past, and grows very fond of Sion. Will Tempe and Sion's budding relationship thrive in the midst of the past pain and the harsh frontier of Kentucke? Find out in A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz.

It was a pleasure to read Tempe and Sion's story in A Moonbow Night. This stand alone novel features authentic characters that lingered in my mind for days after I'd finished reading. The characters' struggles made them relatable and their tenacity made them admirable. Frantz used these deeply developed characters and their life journeys to undergird the adventure and romance. A steady plot and beautiful narrative held my attention from the beginning to the end. Frantz's admiration of the early explorers, such as Daniel Boone, is evident, though she also addressed the Native Americans' side of the matter through the character of Raven.

I recommend A Moonbow Night to readers who enjoy historical tales of adventure, faith and romance. I've read most of Frantz's novels and this is one of my top three favorites.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Beyond Suffering Bible, NLT

The Beyond Suffering Bible, published by Tyndale in the New Living Translation, aims to encourage readers that in the midst of extensive, ongoing struggle, God offers an infinite, glorious hope.

Included along with the Biblical text are:
  • Devotionals written by Joni Eareckson Tada, a woman who has been paralyzed since 1967.
  • Profiles of others who have experienced disabilities or filled a role as a caregiver.
  • Notes and articles by professionals who help those with disabilities.
  • Study notes interspersed throughout the text that accentuate what the Bible says about suffering.
  • Introductions to each book of the Bible that give background information as well as synopsis.
  • Topical reading plans on suffering, disability, and healing.
  • Reference resources: A NLT Dictionary/Concordance, maps, and a dedicated space for notes.
My thoughts:

A good blend of experiences from Joni, other people, and doctors provided authenticity and a well-rounded view of dealing with prolonged suffering. Ongoing suffering is not something the Christian world addresses frequently (at least in my experience) and there is a crucial, wonderful message that the authors really tried to bring out – God's heart for the afflicted. His tender mercies to the disabled. His protective hand in each life.

The book introductions were perfect for both those new to faith and those who are not. I found them simple to understand as they highlighted basic information and deeper themes of each book, some of which I'd not previously known or noticed.

I requested to review this book with the intention of giving it to a family member who is serving as caregiver to her husband. My expectations were met and exceeded. I recommend the Beyond Suffering Bible: Where Struggles Seem Endless, Gods Hope is Infinite to anyone struggling with disability or acting as caregiver on a regular basis to another person.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Newton & Polly by Jody Hedlund

John Newton is a youthful, adventurous sailor when he first encounters Polly Catlett. Her sweet voice and pretty face draw him, but it is her personality that captivates him. Devout and responsible, Polly is Newton's opposite in many ways. As they interact, attraction and passion begin to bind them together. But Polly's concerns regarding Newton are realized when his drunkenness gets him caught and impressed into the English Navy's service. As time passes, Newton's waywardness intensifies and Polly must choose to lay aside her hope of a joint future with Newton. Will Newton and Polly spend their lives pursuing desires that keep them apart from each other? Or will they embrace an amazing grace that can bring love and restoration into darkness and shame? Read more in Newton & Polly by Jody Hedlund.

Newton & Polly by Jody Hedlund snagged my attention at the beginning and carried it along a path to the depths of human depravity and the heights of miraculous, life-altering grace. The journey was unpleasant at times. Newton's irresponsibly was annoying and his later actions were disgusting. Even after his conversion, I found it difficult to really like him. That being said, I appreciate that Hedlund stuck reasonably close to the known historical facts and didn't gloss over Newton's behavior to make him more palatable. Some elements of the story that I enjoyed were: the humorous banter between Newton and Polly, Polly's character development, Newton's conversion, Mr. Catlett's stand for moral integrity, and the spiritual themes of grace triumphing over sin.

While Newton & Polly is not my favorite book by Hedlund, I do think it is well-written. I'm sure there are some readers who can can stomach Newton's descent into depravity better than I did and I don't seek to dissuade anyone who enjoys reading historical romances from reading Newton & Polly. My dislike of the story is based more on Newton's character than Hedlund's writing.

Read an excerpt from Newton & Polly by Jody Hedlund on the publisher's website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Sunday, October 30, 2016

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood: Devotions and Coloring Book to Nourish Mom 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:

-Self-acceptance
-Self-care
-Reconciling with grief, hope and expectations
-Generosity
-Presence
-Forgiveness

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!

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/2dPEdIC

My Review:

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood by Sarah Humphrey is the first coloring devotional I've done that focuses specifically on motherhood. The devotional section doesn't take long – probably five minutes or so to read, pray and respond – so I do it in the morning. The coloring pages take longer and give me something to look forward to doing after the littles are in bed for the night.

The devotionals are split into eight sections, each one containing five teachings. I found that some of the devotional thoughts were a combination of Biblical teaching and a sort of positive psychology or theory. I know that sounds odd, but I'm not sure how else to describe it. For example, in the first section, the author placed a heavy emphasis on name meanings as relating to a person's identity. I found it difficult to buy the concept that the meaning of my child's name is indicative of their strengths or potential struggles. I know that Biblical people often had names with special meanings, but I just wasn't convinced on this particular concept.

Some of the coloring portions are simple and some are complex. I prefer the simpler ones because I don't have a lot of extra time and can finish them without staying up overly late. Additionally, adding some outlining or coloring the background are possibilities to extend the coloring time if I want to. On some of the more complex pages, I had to leave a portion uncolored and return to it at a later time. In general, the illustrations were whimsical and reflected the devotion's theme well.

In conclusion, 40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood by Sarah Humphrey was enjoyable to read and color. I wasn't on board with everything Humphrey said in the devotions, but I still liked it overall.

About the author:



Often considered a dreamer and silly heart, Sarah Humphrey uses inspiration from her most beloved career, motherhood, to fuel her passion for writing, creative movement and teaching. She has and is authoring several books and children's books. Sarah currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and three beautiful, bouncy kids.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."