Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Review: "Miracle in a Dry Season" by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Cover Art"Miracle in a Dry Season", the debut novel from Sarah Loudin Thomas, takes place in Wise, a tiny hamlet in the mountains of West Virginia. Casewell Phillips is a well-respected member of the community. He harbors a deep desire to marry, but hasn't found the right woman yet. Perla Long came to Wise with her daughter, Sadie, to reside with her aunt and uncle in order to escape her past, but finds it to be difficult to leave it all behind. Circumstances bring them together, particularly a severe drought which brings the community together in ways they would never have forseen.

The novel was full of likeable characters and some interesting sub-plots. The theme of sin, forgiveness, and God's grace ran strong through this novel. The story is mostly told through Casewell, which brings an interesting twist that isn't found in many Christian fiction novels. The characters are well-developed and the descriptions of life in this tiny Appalachian town are wonderful. This book was a nice debut novel and provides high hopes for future novels from this author.

(I’ve received this complimentary book from Bethany House Publishers through the Book Blogger program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)




Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Review: "The Family Project" by Glenn T. Stanton and Leon C. Wirth

The Family Project: How God's Design Reveals His Best For You - Book  -     By: Glenn Stanton, Leon C. Wirth
"The Family Project" by Glenn T. Stanton and Leon C. Wirth is a companion book to the 12-session small group curriculum created by Focus on the Family. With the idea of family in such disarray and under attack in public arenas, this book brings some clarity, definition, and meaning to "family". The book is divided into four sections which seek to lay a Biblical framework for family and marriage. Each chapter concludes with a reflection statement which sums up the main idea from each chapter, as well as a number of reflection questions for digging deeper into the ideas presented in each chapter.

I found this book a little hard to digest on my own, but believe it would be an excellent resource for a small group to go through together. There were a lot of theological ideas presented, which can make for heavier reading at times. The main points were presented clearly and each chapter built well on the previous ones. Overall, this is a good resource for bringing added definition and clarity to what family means.

(I’ve received this complimentary book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Review: "The Berenstain Bears: God Shows the Way" by Stan and Jan Berenstain with Mike Berenstain

"The Berenstain Bears:  God Shows the Way" by Stan and Jan Berenstain with Mike Berenstain is a slim volume that contains three separate stories. "Faith Gets Us Through" focuses on how faith can help see us through any difficulty that may come our way, as evidenced by a Scout pack exploring a cave. "Do Not Fear, God is Near" helps readers understand that with God, we have no reason to be afraid, a lesson Sister Bear learned to help conquer her own fears. "Piggy Bank Blessings" instructs about the value of saving money, as well as generosity toward others.

My boys rather enjoy stories about the Berenstain Bears, and this volume is a great one--not only because it contains three books, but also because the faith lessons taught in each story are ones that I am eager for my boys to internalize. Having stories like this that help reinforce certain faith concepts are fabulous. They have already been requesting re-reads of the stories!

(I’ve received this complimentary book through the BookLook program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Review: "The Chopped Cookbook"

Chopped Cookbook: Use What You've Got To Cook Something Great (Hardcover) Book
"The Chopped Cookbook", a beautiful hardback cookbook compiled by the Food Network, starts with the premise of using what you have in order to cook something great. They focus on common ingredients that most of us already have in our pantries and present all kinds of recipes that can be prepared quickly and easily.

The book starts off with "The Chopped Pantry", which contains a list of basic ingredients to help you stock and organize your own pantry. Then it launches into the recipes, divided into different categories such as pasta, chicken, eggs, vegetables, and salads. Many of the recipes contain full-page, full-color photos as well as number of servings, prep time and total time. There are also helpful cooking tips scattered throughout. Also sprinkled throughout are questions and answers with various judges from "Chopped".

This is a great cookbook for a beginner or intermediate home cook. One downside:  it isn't spiral-bound, so the book doesn't stay open on its own while you are preparing your meal. Overall, it's a great cookbook!

(I’ve received this complimentary book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Review: "Beautiful on the Mountain" by Jeannie Light

Beautiful on the Mountain: When There Was Trouble in Graves Mill, God Sent the Most Unlikely Answer  -     By: Jeannie Light, David Aikman
"Beautiful on the Mountain" is the true story of Jeannie Light's experience of life in the remote mountain community of Graves Mill, Virginia in the late 1970's. Light had previously lived an opulent lifestyle, which included life in a renovated plantation mansion. Following her divorce, Light received 700 acres of undeveloped land in the mountains, just outside the Shenandoah National Park and near the tiny hamlet of Graves Mill. Needing to be out of her plantation home, she rents a small home in the center of the hamlet while she struggles to figure out what to do with her land and how to proceed with life in this remote area. Even before she settles in, she is approached about re-opening the chapel. Despite feeling completely unprepared for the task at hand, she agrees.

Colorful characters and fascinating stories of life "off-grid" fill this memoir. The transformation of this little hamlet to a true community is great fun to read about. The one thing I felt lacking was there was not much discussion of the author's own personal faith journey. Faith was certainly part of the story throughout, but there was not much in the way of personal reflection regarding her faith. Overall, it was a nice, easy read, but not necessarily a repeat read for me.

(I’ve received this complimentary book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Review: "Parenting the Wholehearted Child" by Jeannie Cunnion

"Parenting the Wholehearted Child" by Jeannie Cunnion focuses on releasing our own expectations of parenting and allowing God's grace to captivate our and our children's hearts. By allowing ourselves to surrender to the beauty of the grace of God, it will ultimately trickle down to our children.

The book is divided into four sections. Part 1 deals with grace:  what it means, how it looks in our lives, and what it means to allow God's grace to rule in our our hearts as parents. Part 2 focuses on introducing our children to friendship with Jesus, as well as giving tools to help encourage that friendship. Part 3 includes chapters addressing different character traits and how to cultivate those in your children's lives. Part 4 shares how to lead with unconditional love as we instruct our children in obedience.

Overall, this was a book that sums up what Christian parents should desire for our kids:  a living, vibrant faith in Christ and a life that reflects Christ-like character. She offered many practical applications, as well as Scriptures and personal stories, to get her point across. This is a book that resonates with me and it's one that I need to read again and again. This would be a fabulous book for a small group to go through together, as well as for an individual to go through slowly to really digests all the great points Cunnion addresses.

"Until we accept God's wild, unrestricted love and absolute acceptance of us, we will struggle in vain to let it flow through us to our kids. But when his grace begins to transform our hearts, it also begins to transform our parenting. It's not about what we do. It's about what his grace does through us when we surrender to his wholehearted acceptance of us" (p. 48-49).

(I’ve received this complimentary book through the BookLook program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Review: "Notes From a Blue Bike" by Tsh Oxenreider

As a fan of Tsh Oxenreider's blog at TheArtOfSimple.net, I was eager to pick up her latest book, "Notes from a Blue Bike:  The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World". Her writing style is engaging and easy to read. Part memoir, part manifesto of living a simpler life, Oxenreider skillfully shares personal stories that highlight her family's journey to living a counter-cultural lifestyle.


I loved the stories that she shared. Motivating and thought-provoking, I found myself drawn in by her passion for the subject. Having lived overseas, Oxenreider brings a unique perspective to the table that many people have never experienced or may never get to experience. Drawing heavily on their life in Turkey, she illustrates how their life there was a springboard to living life with more intention upon their return to the United States.

Divided into seven main sections, Oxenreider shares how her family makes conscious choices to live more intentionally and simply in areas like food, work, and entertainment. They make travel as a family a priority to give their children a better worldview and as part of lifelong learning. It was easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm with which she writes. I left each section contemplating how I can incorporate some of these ideas into my own family life.

Oxenereider is quick to reiterate that each family needs to evaluate and make decisions based on what is best for your particular family, your particular season:  "We're each given freedom to choose our decisions, and that responsibility is the very definition of living with intention, after all:  making daily choices so that your life lines up with your passions and values. It should all make sense in your head" (p. 214).

This book is a great jumping off point for people to put some thought into what your goals are, how you want to live, what your priorities are, and how you want to raise your kids. It is never easy to live counter-culturally, particularly in a culture like the U.S. But with a bit of thought and some creativity, it is possible to make even small changes.

While Oxenreider writes out of her life as a mom of young kids, this book is not geared specifically for moms of young kids. There is a lot of great information in there for people of all ages, men or women, regardless of life stage. I would highly recommend this book!

(I’ve received this complimentary book through the BookLook program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)