Monday, February 8, 2016

A Review: "The Life Giving Home" by Sally and Sarah Clarkson

Coming Feb. 2, 2016"The Life Giving Home:  Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming" by Sally and Sarah Clarkson is the story of the Clarkson family, how they created a home life for their family and all who enter their home that is welcoming, loving, and a haven of rest and peace. The Clarkson family truly embraced making their home a place that gives life and refuge to many, one that celebrates family, friendships, and faith.

The book is divided into two sections. The first one discusses thinking about home--what home means, what it could look like. The second section composes the vast majority of the book and is divided not by chapters, but by months. Each month revolves around a certain theme with some introductory thoughts and a section on what it looks like in practice in their own home life.

I truly enjoyed this book and all the ideas contained within, not just the practical ones, but also the whys of making home. Hospitality is not my strong suit, but this book gives me plenty of ideas that I can easily tweak and apply to my own family.

(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.)

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Review: "Rest Assured" by Vicki Courtney

Rest Assured Cover"Rest Assured" by Vicki Courtney aims at helping women who are overcommitted, over-connected, and generally overwhelmed to slow down and find true rest for their souls. The book is divided into two sections. The first deals with enemies of rest; Courtney examines four specific areas (busyness, pursuit of happiness, tethered to technology, and worry) that bring women down distract them from incorporating rest into daily life. The second section deals with recovery. She includes four chapters that focus on four different ways to truly make rest part of life. Each chapter in this book includes discussion questions for small groups or for the reader to tackle on her own. The final four chapters also include a one-week dare where the reader takes one week to focus on living out the principles that were just read about (this is where a small group would really come in handy for the accountability aspect).

While there was nothing entirely new in this book, Courtney's writing is so fresh and engaging that the principles all feel brand new. I've known about these concepts for a long time, but putting them into practice has typically been more difficult. The practical suggestions and ideas that she puts forth in this book are just the motivation I need to implement some of these into my daily and weekly life. It's a wonderful book that so many women need to read. I highly recommend it!

(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.)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Review: "Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage" by Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley

"Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage:  12 Secrets for a Lifelong Romance" by Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley is the newest edition in the many offerings from Focus on the Family:  Focus on Marriage resources designed to help strengthen and nurture marriage relationships. With marriage under attack from so many influences, both outside and inside the relationship, it's vital for all married and engaged couples to focus on marriage, strengthening it to help you navigate all kinds of challenges. In this book, the Smalleys combine solid Biblical teaching and personal stories to bring the reader 12 secrets, 12 truths, 12 ways to help fortify your marriage and help it last a lifetime. These truths include help understanding communication, honoring one another, serving one another, and seeking God above all.

While at first glance, these 12 secrets seem fairly basic. However, the more I got into the book, the more I realized just how much better I can do. Even being married for nearly 13 years, there are still so many ways I can improve and make my own marriage better. These may seem like simple techniques and insights to some, but they are highly valuable insights that would benefit many marriages, from those just starting out to those that have many years behind them.

I was truly blown away by this book and the insights that were offered. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for ways to bring some fresh insight and fresh perspective in your marriage journey.

Just as Joshua challenged his people to "choose this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15), so we need to choose, every day, to pursue a great marriage. We need to choose intentionality over passivity...Loving thoughts over self-centered thoughts...Loving actions over self-serving ones. And in the process of keeping your commitments and acting in love, you will find yourselves enjoying the true Promised Land Marriage. (p.258)

(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, December 16, 2015

A Review: "The Painter's Daughter" by Julie Klassen

The Painter's DaughterJulie Klassen's newest novel, "The Painter's Daughter", focuses on the story of Sophie DuPont, a young woman who works as an assistant in her father's art studio. Located on the north Devon coast, the area is popular with many artists and poets, including artist Wesley Overtree. After departing for Italy and leaving Sophie in a serious situation, Wesley's brother, Captain Stephen Overtree, offers Sophie a solution. She is now faced with a choice, each carrying significant ramifications.

The story in this one took me a few chapters to really get into it, but once I found my rhythm with it, the story really drew me in.  The main characters were really well developed and the plot flowed well. There was enough intrigue to keep things interesting and fresh. The visual descriptions for the locations truly made the reader picture the setting.

Julie Klassen has become one of my "must-read" authors. I have enjoyed most of her work; there have been a couple more recent novels that have not been impressive. However, this novel is definitely one of her better ones and I would highly recommend it even to people not familiar with her other work.

(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, November 19, 2015

A Review: "The Bronte Plot" by Katherine Reay

The third novel by Katherine Reay, "The Bronte Plot", follows the story of Lucy Alling. Lucy works for an antiques dealer and interior designer where she primarily manages the rare book collection. She often uses somewhat shady methods to achieve her goals, which eventually ruin a couple of important relationships in her life. She learns about her family history, and discovers that there are three generations of people in her family using similar shady methods for personal gain. After taking a trip to England with her ex-boyfriend's grandmother, she begins to find the courage to change and thus starts her redemption. She owns up to the choices she made and willingly accepts the consequences of her actions.

I found it difficult to really get into this book. The main characters really felt under-developed and a bit flat. The writing, while mostly good, jumped around and it felt like there were sections of it missing. The relationship between Lucy and her boyfriend, James, was a perfect example of this; it wasn't fully developed and was a little confusing at times. However, I did enjoy the section of the story pertaining to the trip to England. It was rich with literary references and made me want to dig into a Bronte novel. The descriptions of the sights were such that the reader could truly picture the scene.

I think "The Bronte Plot" was a decent read, and I liked the idea of the book. But the whole thing felt a bit flat and under-developed to me. Personally, I think Reay's best novel was her debut one, "Dear Mr. Knightley". I may try her future novels, but they are not must-reads for me.

(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.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Review: "Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook" by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison

I had never heard of the Trim Healthy Mama plan. The cookbook sounded interesting, so I thought I'd take a look at it. Let me start with the positives about the cookbook. The pictures they included with the recipes are beautiful (and there are ample pictures scattered throughout the book. There is a lengthy introduction regarding how to use the cookbook, including sections on what equipment to have handy, how to stock your pantry, and descriptions of their healthy special ingredients.

Now for the downsides. The book has a TON of recipes in it. It feels a bit overwhelming to go through it (it comes in at whopping 512 pages!). Many of the recipes sound intriguing, but nearly everything requires their special ingredients. I simply don't have the extra money or time to hunt down these ingredients. I prefer cookbooks that create healthy meals using more commonly found ingredients.

While a beautiful book, it's not a book for everyone, and it's not a book for me.

(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.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Review: "The Legend of the Christmas Cookie" by Dandi Daley Mackall

"The Legend of the Christmas Cookie" by Dandi Daley Mackall is a lovely children's Christmas story about the significance behind Christmas cookies. The book tells the story of Jack, a young boy who's feeling a little lost at home since his dad went away to find work. He comes home one day to discover his mom making Christmas cookies for the needy at church. They use carved wooden shapes to create the cookie shapes, and his mother uses this opportunity to teach Jack about the meaning of Christmas cookies--how they were used to tell people the story of Jesus' birth.

This is a sweet story complete with colorful illustrations from Richard Cowdrey. My boys enjoyed looking through this book and will like it even more once the Christmas season is upon us and we make our own batch of Christmas cookies. This book will definitely take a place in our regular rotation of Christmas read-alouds.

(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.)