Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Review: "Motivate Your Child" by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller

"Motivate Your Child:  A Christian Parent's Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told" by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller is a practical resource for parents to help them build internal motivation in their kids.

The book is divided into two sections:  moral development in children and spiritual development in children. The authors say it best:  "The purpose of this book is to define those two tools [faith and a good conscience] and to provide you with hands-on strategies to give each of your children an accurate and reliable GPS for his or her heart. Passing on the faith to kids and helping them each develop a clear and strong conscience are strategic for success in life" (p. xii).

This resource is packed with valuable tips and insights that are suitable to parents with kids of all ages at home. This book will definitely become a valuable resource that we will return to again and again as needed while bringing up our two boys.

(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.)

A Review: "Supermarket Healthy" by Melissa D'Arabian

"Supermarket Healthy" is the latest cookbook from Food Network personality Melissa D'Arabian. In this book, she sets out to prove that eating healthy at home is easy, achievable, and affordable.

D'Arabian included a nice introduction as well as a list of her pantry staples.The cookbook is divided in to several main sections:  Breakfast; Snacks; Soups and Stews; Salads, Wraps, and Sandwiches; Veggie Mains; Pasta; Fish and Seafood; Chicken and Turkey;  Beef, Pork, and Lamb; Sides; and Dessert. Each section starts with a basic introduction and index of the recipes included in that particular section. Certain recipes include supermarket strategies (buying tips, ways to save, and insights about making choices while shopping), kitchen strategies (ingredient swapping, make-ahead planning, and time-saving tips), and entertaining strategies (ways to adapt the recipes to suit a larger gathering of people). Each recipe also includes a brief introduction of her thoughts on it.

As I looked through the cookbook, there were a number of recipes that I am eager to try. I appreciate that the majority of the ingredients are things that I either already have on hand or can easily purchase from my local grocery store--a nice change from some recipes that include highly specialized or difficult to find ingredients. The one downside to this cookbook is there are not enough photos of the food. I find that pictures help me to see how the recipe should look, as well as helping me to decide if I actually want to attempt to make it. I'm eager to get started with testing out some new recipes on my family in the upcoming weeks!

(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.)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Review: "Steadfast Heart" by Tracie Peterson

Steadfast Heart by Tracie PetersonTracie Peterson is one of my favorite authors. I have read many of her books and typically really enjoy her work. That being said, her latest release, "Steadfast Heart", just didn't do it for me. The book is advertised as a story about Lenore Fulcher, a young woman from Seattle who seeks true love instead of an arranged marriage, and Kolbein Booth, a lawyer from Chicago who travels to Seattle in search of his sister. He traces her to the Madison Bridal School only to discover that she is not there. Other central characters are Abrianna Cunningham, the ward of Mrs. Madison, and her lifelong friend, Wade Ackerman.

The book really fell flat for me. The characters lacked depth and the plot didn't really feel flushed out. I found the romance between Lenore and Kolbein to be completely implausible. They had only just met; he found her to be beautiful and she thought him handsome; then she leaves for San Francisco. Upon her return they are suddenly madly in love--but based on what? Having so many central characters made it difficult to relate to a particular character and didn't allow for great development of them.

 I definitely prefer her earlier works. I find that those books are Peterson at her best. This book was lacking in so many areas that I just can't recommend it. If you are new to Tracie Peterson, skip this one and try her earlier novels.

(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.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Review: "The Secret of Pembrooke Park" by Julie Klassen

The Secret of Pembrooke Park"The Secret of Pembrooke Park" is the most recent Regency novel from Julie Klassen. Abigail Foster's family faces financial ruin due to a bad investment by her father. After being forced to sell their family home and find more reasonable accommodations, the Fosters are surprised to learn that a distant relation is allowing them to lease Pembrooke Park, a home that has been left vacant for nearly twenty years. Abigail oversees the work at Pembrooke and discovers that there is more to the manor, and family history, than meets the eye. Rumors of treasures abound and secrecy shrouds Pembrooke Park. Abigail finds herself in the center of the mystery, made even more intriguing when letters and old journal pages begin to appear in her mail.

This story drew me in completely with the mystery and intrigue. The romance is well-done and not overly sappy. The overall plot keeps the reader engaged from the beginning. The characters were well-developed and likeable. Having been a fan of Klassen's since the beginning, I found this book to be among her best works and definitely a significant improvement over her most previous work, "The Dancing Master". A charming book that I will definitely read again!

(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, December 18, 2014

A Review: "Same Kind of Different As Me" by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

"Same Kind of Different As Me" is a collaboration, the tale of how two very different lives intersect. Told in the first person, authors Ron Hall and Denver Moore take the reader on a journey of their lives, both individual and corporate. Both were raised in the South, but with one being white and the other black, their experiences were vastly different. Moore grew up a sharecropper. It was all he knew until one day he hopped a train, did some traveling, and eventually settled in Fort Worth, Texas. Homeless and angry, he finds his way to the Union Gospel Mission. Hall grew up lower-middle class, but worked his way up in life to become an art dealer. His wife, Deborah, began to feel a call on her life to serve the homeless at the Union Gospel Mission. Hall went along half-heartedly, but eventually felt his heart begin to change the more they served. It was through their volunteer work at the mission that Hall and Moore met. Despite the major outward differences, they strike a friendship--one that has endured through the years.

This book presents so many issues for the reader to wrestle with. Poverty, homelessness (and the response to it), sickness and death. I found Moore's portion of the book fascinating to read because of his life experience. Not being able to relate, I found it extremely helpful to see things from a different perspective. Hall was a little more difficult to read through. Before he met Moore, he came across as a bit self-absorbed and materialistic. That changed, however, once he became serious about his faith and befriended Moore.

This is a wonderful book to help tear down stereotypes. So many themes of this book remain so relevant and are worthy of further discussion. There is a discussion section at the back of the book, which makes it perfect for individual reflections or for a small group discussion. This is an important book that would be a great starting point for thinking critically about issues like poverty, homelessness, and a proper response to both.

(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, December 8, 2014

A Review: "Unplanned" by Abby Johnson

21556369"Unplanned" by Abby Johnson is an incredibly important book in the pro-life discussion. Abby Johnson was involved with Planned Parenthood for eight years, initially being recruited as a volunteer while as a college student. She worked her way through the ranks, eventually becoming the director of the Bryan, Texas, clinic.

Despite growing up in a pro-life family, Johnson never really thought critically about her position on the matter. She was captivated by the lofty ideals of Planned Parenthood:  reducing the number of abortions by increasing access to birth control. Drawn in by this proposition and by the chance to help women in crisis, Johnson started her career path at Planned Parenthood. During her time there, she came into frequent contact with volunteers from the Coalition for Life who gathered outside the fence surrounding the clinic to pray for an end to abortion. Through compassion and gentle discussions, Johnson began to see that maybe the people on "the other side" weren't as bad as they were portrayed by Planned Parenthood.

Then came the day she was requested to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion. As she watched what happened to the unborn baby, she was horrified. It was that particular instance that caused a crisis of belief for her. She began to question everything she had ever done at Planned Parenthood. Her first stop was the nearby Coalition for Life who had won her over by their genuine care and concern for her, as well as their daily prayers for her.

"Unplanned" is a riveting book and an incredible look at the issue of unborn life from both perspectives. Because of Johnson's role with the organization, she offers a unique look at Planned Parenthood from the inside, revealing things that they would probably prefer to remain hidden (for instance, that they need to increase revenue by increasing abortions, something that goes completely contrary to their main talking point).

It is fascinating to read the thought process and beliefs behind why she wanted to work for Planned Parenthood. Her transformation from believing the pro-choice rhetoric and semantics to a Bible-believing pro-life Christian is amazing.

This book was initially published in 2010. It was recently re-released with an additional chapter containing follow-up information that has occurred since the book was previously published. Johnson and her husband launched a non-profit ministry called And Then There Were None, with the goal of assisting abortion clinic workers who wish to leave their work. So far, they have helped over 100 workers who chose to leave the abortion industry. Throughout the book, Johnson helps the reader to see that it's not just women seeking abortions who need help, care, and prayer; abortion workers are in just as much need.

"Unplanned" is an important book in the conversation of unborn life. Johnson is able to offer a unique look from both sides of the discussion. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking to understand the "other side", no matter which side you may be on.

(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.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Review: "Vanishing Grace" by Philip Yancey

Presented as a follow-up to "What's So Amazing About Grace", Yancey returns to the subject of grace in his newest book "Vanishing Grace". In four sections, he confronts the issue of why, since we have such good news to proclaim, Christians continue to lose influence and credibility among the culture at large.

This book helps Christians to confront where we have collectively gone wrong with our approach to culture in general and non-believers in specific. The first section looks at how the Church has failed to demonstrate love and grace to those who need it most. The second section examines three models of ways to approach love and grace better. The third section takes a look at three pressing questions:  is there anyone else? why are we here? how should we live? The fourth section addresses how the Church should engage with our culture.

While the book as a whole was deep and thought-provoking, it was the fourth section that was the most convicting. In the first chapter, he looks at how Christians should be involved with politics. In the second chapter, he revisits the three models he discussed in section two.

This is a difficult book to read in that it really causes you to think and examine your approach to culture and non-believers. But even if it may be a difficult book to read, I think it's a necessary one.

(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.)