Thursday, January 4, 2018

Troubled Waters

“You’re about the most controlling know-it-all I’ve ever met. You expect a lot from yourself – and your friends. You’re, in a word, obsessive. That’s great for business but not so great in relationships. You need to loosen up, have some fun, and stop trying to be in charge of everything. I know you’re afraid of losing everything you love, including Sierra, but you can’t control everything. Not life, not people.”
“I’m not controlling –“
“When I came on deck, you were declaring to the wind and seas that all would be well. As if they would obey you.”
No, he was… okay, maybe… if he could…

Book: Troubled Waters by Susan May Warren, Revell Publishers, 2018
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Adventuer
Target Audience: Adult Women
Subjects: Trust in God, Fear, Dating Relationships
Summary: Sierra wants to go back in time. If she could just not have made that promise to Esme, or just told Ian the truth right away, maybe she wouldn’t be sitting on the same boat as him feeling an ocean away. Ian wants to fix it. And by “it” he means everything.  His business that is falling apart, his niece running away and maybe most of all, his relationship with Sierra. When they join forces on a fundraiser voyage to fix the PEAK helicopter that targets Ian’s wealthy friends, they are at least confident that, as Sierra tells Ian, “We’re not going to encounter a rogue storm, go down in the middle of the Caribbean and end up on a desert island.” Except, that’s almost exactly what happens. When an accident occurs, Ian and Sierra do find themselves trapped together on a desert island. But maybe, just maybe, God has a plan to use this to bring them both to where He wants them.
Notes: Troubled Waters is the fourth in the Montana Rescue Series about characters living in a small town running search and rescue operations. This particular book deals with the characters who support the actual rescuers. Ian’s money funds it. Sierra makes cookies. Both long to feel like they are essential, or even just a little bit important. And both wrestle with trust. Ian has seen one person after another taken from him. He’s learned to control every single detail of life – and to guard his heart so that no one else dies or disappears, breaking his heart further in the process. Sierra has lived with a hippie mom and the men coming in and out of her life, and as Ian puts it, lives in “fear that you’ll be left behind. Forgotten. Fear that you aren’t important.” When the accident happens, they can choose to have faith in God and one another or cling to their fears.
These two characters were actually introduced in the prequel to the series and the issue of Ian’s missing niece is the secondary issue each book deals with.
The series overall is themed around Amazing Grace – each book dealing with some of the themes of the song – being lost and found and finding grace.
Personal Note: Every once in a while you read a book and feel as though the author must know you and have modeled their character after you. That’s how I felt about Ian in this story. When fear attacks a person can surrender to the fear and shut down, they can fight it by trying to control every circumstance of life or they can put their eyes back on God. Ian deals with it by fighting to control everything. So do I. And Sierra’s fear is that if she doesn’t prove her worth constantly, others will see that she’s not so important. And that’s even with a supposedly strong faith in God. I can strongly relate to that as well. So this note is a sort of warning – don’t read this book if you struggle with fear and don’t want to be challenged. Susan May Warren doesn’t hold back in her encouragement to move on from the fear that controls you and find freedom to truly live.
I personally found this to be the best of the series so far.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Enjoyment Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 142:7 – Set me free from my prison, that I may praise Your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of Your goodness to me.

Thank you to Susan May Warren for gifting her cousin, Ruth, with a copy of this book to gift to me!

I enjoyed it very very much!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Glimmer and Shine - 365 Devotions To Inspire

Part of our relationship is being honest and open, so we confess our sins. It’s not like we’re saying, “Hey, Lord, news flash: I cheated during the game yesterday.” Really, He already knows, but He’s reminding us, “Talk to me. Let me be your friend and watch me work this out for you.”
It’s one way the sinner and the King connect in relationship. He invites us to get close. We get close by confessing. He gets closer by forgiving (every single time).
You’ve been invited by the King Himself to join in and play a part. Will you participate in the relationship or let it pass you by?

Book: Glimmer and Shine, 365 Devotions To Inspire by Natalie Grant, Zonderkidz, 2017
Genre: Devotional Book
Target Audience: Girls 8-11
Subjects: Sin, Confession, Forgiveness, Spiritual Growth
Summary/Notes: “Why sit around and wait for a miracle to come when we can be one?” Natalie Grant weaves an entire devotion book around the theme of her song – Be one. The book is divided into seven sections – Be Forgiven, Be Changed, Be His, Be Encouraged, Be Free, Be Brave, Be One. There are a lot of elements of the first section though – the idea that we have sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect glory, but that we can draw close and find forgiveness, acceptance, love. Considering that one of the characteristics of girls of this age is wanting to believe they know everything, have all the answers and are never wrong, I really like this focus. The daily reminders that no, they don’t have all the answers, but that they can find so much of what they long for in simply confessing their lack of perfection and drawing back to God, seems to be exactly what they need at this age! And what young girl doesn’t long to be strong and make a difference in the world around them – exactly what the final section is about! It’s also styled in the format that appeals to them – sections to color or draw or write or solve puzzles. One example is “Write down at least 10 things you like about yourself. God made you this way for a reason. You are amazing!” I definitely recommend this devotional for middle to upper elementary girls.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Matthew 5:16 – In the same way, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Thank you to Zonderkidz for the free review copy of this book! I thought it would be neat but am even more impressed than I thought I would be! It’s going to be a birthday gift for a special young girl in my life and I’m excited to see what kind of impact it makes on her life!

All opinions are my own. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Twas The Evening Of Christmas

“The pigeons were nestled all snug in their beds; while visions of breadcrumbs danced in their heads. The cow closed their eyes and the oxen laid down; the doves cooed so gently; the lambs made no sound.”

Book: Twas The Evening Of Christmas by Glenys Nellist, Illustrated by Elena Selivanova, Zonderkidz 2017
Genre: Picture Book
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 4+
Subjects: Jesus’ Nativity
Summary/Notes: It’s a retelling of the “Night Before Christmas” that tells the real Christmas story! I was hooked from page 1! Absolutely beautiful illustrations and the wonderful rhymes that make you start memorizing it from the first read! I used to want to memorize “The Night Before Christmas” until I realized I was trying to memorize something that had nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas. This is a perfect solution! My only complaint is that like most every traditional children’s story about Jesus’ nativity, it has the wise men arriving at the manger and calls them 3 kings. Theologians and historians have pointed out the Bible doesn’t give a number, they probably arrived when Jesus about two, not that very night, and they were not kings, but astrologers. But again, nearly every single story does the same thing. It’s just tradition. It’s still a gorgeous book that focuses on the true story and I’ll eagerly share it with all my students! I do like the imaginings of how the animals could have responded. Did all of God’s creation leap to awareness when He was born? It’s fun to imagine what it may have been like!
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 3/5
Enjoyment Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Isaiah 55:12 – You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Thank you so much to the publishers for the review copy! I think I enjoyed it even more than my students!

All opinions are my own.

Monday, November 13, 2017

His Steadfast Love

And although pushy wasn’t generally part of his personality, the service had taught him well that aggression was a necessary evil in war. And make no mistake, this was war. The misguided attraction that Cat OBryen wielded over him was way too dangerous for a casual hobnobbing type of relationship. No, he was going to have to stay on his guard in order to be the friend that Cat desperately needed, and he may as well start right now. “I don’t have to ply with compliments to get my way, Catfish,” he said in the no-nonsense tone he’d perfected in the service.
“I can just take it because I’m bigger than you.”
“I never figured you for a bully, Chase Griffin.”
“Yeah, me neither, but I guess you bring out the best in me, Catherine Marie.”

Book: His Steadfast Love by Julie Lessman, Self-Published, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Target Audience: Adult Women
Subjects: Faith, Forgiveness, Temptation, Friendship
Summary: She’s falling apart inside. Her family knows it. They can see clearly the hurt, but Cat refuses to let anyone help her. She’s bent on a course for self-destruction, claiming her need and right to be independent, even while part of her knows she’s making things worse for herself. Chase wants to help, longs to help, but he knows better than to get into a relationship where he’s unequally yoked. He’s a pastor for goodness sakes! He has no business pursuing romance with a woman trying her hardest to run away from God. But God is exactly what Cat needs. Now Chase merely needs to overcome his own fears long enough to resist the temptation of a romance with or rejection of the most stubborn woman he’s ever met in his life. But God (and chocolate) can do some mighty things when one surrenders!
Notes: His Steadfast Love is the third in the Isle of Hope series. The series features three siblings and their journey to love. Each book features one character who has either rejected their faith or not had a faith to begin with, and one character with a very strong faith who falls in love with the other one. There is also always a character wrestling with forgiveness.
In His Steadfast Love, Cat has to learn that God never rejected her or saw her as inferior to her sister. As with all of Julie Lessman’s books, there is a lot of passion – passion for God and passion for romance. Her characters are very passionate in their romances, but they are equally passionate about their faith. It is what drives them and is the standard they use to make their decisions. A Christian who enjoys romance will be absolutely delighted with this book!
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. — Lamentations 3:22-23

Thank you to the author for giving me a free e-book. I greatly enjoyed it!

All opinions are my own. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Found

Book: Found by Sally Lloyd Jones, Illustrated by Jago, Zonderkidz, 2017
Genre: Bible Story Board Book

Target Audience: Boys and Girls 1-3
Subjects: Bible Stories, Fear, Trust
Summary/Notes: Psalm 23 is precious to so many people. It's a place we turn for comfort, a reminder that God is watching out for us. This book paraphrases the psalm for little ones. It uses simplistic pictures of a cute little lamb and a shepherd and the sun, to help tell the story. Here's one example of it's paraphrasing: "Even when I walk through the dark, scary, lonely places... I won't be afraid." Then it concludes with a page that makes it clear the "shepherd" is God and that He loves us.
The book is cute, and a good way to explain Psalm 23 to little ones.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 23:1 - The Lord is my shepherd

Angels in the Bible for Little Ones

Book: Angels in the Bible for Little Ones written by Allia Zobel Nolan, Illustrated by Alida Massari, Zonderkidz, 2017
Genre: Board Book
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 0-3

Subjects: Angels, Bible Stories
Summary/Notes: This is a board book telling stories from the Bible where angels appeared. It covers the following stories:
-          The 3 visitors telling Abraham he would have a son
-          The angel caring for Elijah in the desert
-          The angel shutting the mouths of the lions for Daniel
-          The angel telling Mary she would have a son
-          The angels appearing to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus
-          Jesus and the children
-          The angel at the tomb telling the women that Jesus is risen
-          John’s revelation about Jesus’ second coming
The stories are simple, there is nothing that particularly stands out as good or bad. It’s just another Bible Storybook. It does list the reference for where the story came from under the title of each story. The biggest advantage is that it puts a variety of stories about angels in one place, to give kids a more realistic picture of what angels are. There are a lot of ideas about angels that contradict the Bible – dead people become angels, angels are cute little naked babies with good archery skills, etc. Teaching children from a young age what the Bible truly teaches about angels will help them discern the truth from the lies. I can definitely recommend this book to toddlers.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi


Psalm 103:20 – Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Jesus Storybook Bible

Book: The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones, Illustrated by Jago, Zonderkidz, 2007 (this new edition published in 2017)
Genre: Bibles
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 3+
Subjects: Bible Stories
Summary/Notes: There are so many children’s storybook Bibles out there. I’ve got at least 5 on my bookshelves alone. And one is pretty much like the other. They have a different style of pictures, but pretty much tell the same stories in the same way. But this one is different. This one doesn’t divide itself into “chapters” or “sections” for each Bible story, each one separate, as if it’s just a collection of works. No, this one shows how it’s really one story, one complete story, the story of Jesus. It reads as though it’s a continuing story, with each chapter covering the next event in the story. Here’s a snippet of the beginning “No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules or a book of heros. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life! You see the begin thing about this Story is – it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name.” When I first heard that introduction read at an Andrew Peterson concert, I was instantly hooked. And now having my very own copy to share with all the kids I teach excites me! I appreciate the author’s ability to show how the Bible is about one great story. I appreciate that it’s not dummed down for kids. And I appreciate the emphasis on how it is true. I HIGHLY recommend this storybook Bible for all children, but also for adults who want to catch a glimpse of the greatness of the story of the Bible. In fact, the author has put it together in a book targeted at adults – same story, but without the children’s pictures. 
Recommendation: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi


Luke 24:27 - And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.