Thursday, January 28, 2016

I Am: 40 Reasons to Trust God

“Have you ever tried to work a puzzle with pieces missing? How did you feel when you couldn’t finish that puzzle? Later, if you found the missing piece and finished the puzzle, how did you feel? When you finish a puzzle it is whole. The picture in the puzzle is how it should be. Peace is a feeling of being whole. God wants to fill in our missing pieces, make us whole and give us peace. One of God’s names in the Bible is The Lord Is Peace… Sometimes like Gideon we may have a problem that worries or frightens us. Maybe someone in your family is sick, or maybe you have a hard spelling test coming up, or maybe someone at your school is a bully. But because God is with you and helping you, you can have peace…

Book: I Am: 40 Reasons to Trust God written by Diane Stortz, illustrated by Diane Le Feyer, Tommy Nelson, 2016

Genre: Storybook Bible
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 4-8
Subjects: Bible Stories, Names of God, Devotions, Prayers
Summary:  God is known to us by many many names. The Bible is jammed pack full of names of God. All throughout the Bible, when things happened to God’s people, they would identify God by a name that showed what He did for them. In getting to know God’s names better, children can learn more of God’s character.
Notes: Through the use of beautiful illustrations – including a cover that literally has sparkles on it, the author and illustrator tell the basic Bible stories we often teach to young children. However, these two take it quite a bit further. Instead of merely simplifying the stories and putting them in kid terms, it uses the stories to teach about the character of God. Each of the forty stories tells a story from the Bible in kid terms, uses that story to identify a name of God and then has a little devotion that makes the children think about the story they learned and how it applies to their life. Then it has a short prayer. Each story ends with a little bit more though – a Bible verse to ponder or memorize and a teaser for the next story that also bridges the gap that can occur between stories.
If you are looking for something a bit more than the typical toddler storybook Bibles, I highly recommend this book. I would compare it to The Jesus Storybook Bible but it’s even more than that. It actually can be used as a devotion book for young children. It’s a great resource!
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 9:10 – Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion! I was delighted with it! The 4 year old I tested it on was thrilled with it. And her mom is adding it to her wish list of books to get her daughter.

Beyond The Silence

The woman hadn’t even been there a full day, and yet she’d turned their world around.

Book: Beyond the Silence by Tracie Peterson and Kimberly Woodhouse, Bethany House Publishers, 2016

Genre: Historical Fiction
Target Audience: Adult Women
Subjects: Gossip, Forgiveness, Loss of Loved Ones, Romance
Summary: Murderer! “You plannin’ on killin’ her like you done killed your wife, Colton?” The day his wife was murdered, the worst day of Woody Colton’s life turned even worse when the townspeople decided he was the one guilty, despite the evidence otherwise. That was also the day his son stopped speaking. The little boy has grown more and more thin and withdrawn. In desperation Woody hires a nanny for him. In no time at all, things are improving. Jimmy still isn’t speaking but he is laughing and eating and some of Woody’s old friends are apologizing. Lillian has brought joy back into the home. However, the murderer is still out there and he has not yet found what he is looking for.
Notes: Beyond The Silence takes place in 1891. A young woman from New York travels out to California to become a nanny to a hurting seven year old who watched his mother get murdered and was threatened with the murder of more of his family if he ever spoke and told anyone what he saw. The story is actually largely about four characters: the murderer, a young man with some mental disabilities, Woody, and Lillian. It varies between showing the point of view from each of these four angles. The spiritual elements are largely focused on forgiveness as Woody has to struggle to forgive those who have so greatly wronged him. He recognizes that he can’t be the man God wants him to be or the father his son needs until he deals with it.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Colossians 3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

At Love’s Bidding

He took the broken lamp from her, left it in the office, then waved her outside. Swinging the heavy door closed, he wrapped the chain in the handles and held out his hand to her. “Give me your key.” Miranda slid it off her wrist, but not until he’d palmed it did she realize her mistake. “You don’t need a key to lock a padlock.” He dropped the key into his pocket. “But I need this key to keep you out of trouble.” He snapped the padlock closed. “Now, let’s both be pondering how to get you back where you belong.”

Book:At Love's Bidding (Ozark Mountain Romance Book #2) by Regina Jennings, Bethany House Publishers, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
Target Audience: Adult Women
Subjects: Family Relationships, Prejudices, Identity, Dating Relationships
Summary: One little mistake. Just one. She let it go so she didn’t embarrass her Grandfather. And look what it led to. The wrong painting got sold and now the owners are furious. They are threatening to destroy Miranda’s family’s business and whole reputation. It’s up to Miranda to fix this mess. The problem is that it’s not simply a matter of going and picking up the painting. For one thing, it’s not where it was supposedly sent. For another, she’s not alone on this journey to reclaim the painting. Her grandfather is with her and he’s quickly losing some of his mental capacities! And if that wasn’t trouble enough, it seems that the auction house the painting was sent to is rather different than the one she and her family run back in Boston. This one doesn’t deal in painting and valuables. It deals in livestock. Stinky, smelly, messy animals! And in their attempt to reclaim the painting, Miranda’s family purchased this auction house – making those stinky, smelly, messy animals the responsibility of… well… Miranda! Surely nothing else can go wrong? Or can it. Enter auction house manager: Wyatt Ballentine, the man determined to keep her and her grandfather out of his auction house. Wyatt has a secret, a reason he needs to keep them away. That secret could change everything for Miranda.
Notes: At Love’s Bidding is set in 1873 in Boston and the Missouri Ozarks. It’s a time of strong focus on social classes – Miranda is from a wealthy, somewhat powerful family and Wyatt is a nobody living in the middle of nowhere. Yet the attraction they feel refuses to accept their differences. Wyatt is attracted to Miranda due to her gentle treatment of her mentally ill grandfather. Miranda is attracted to Wyatt due to his responsibility, trustworthiness and encouragement of her.
Wyatt is a very spiritually strong character. Miranda is a Christian, but caught up more in what everyone’s expectations of her are. Some of the spiritual elements in the story are as follows: Wyatt gives “the whole situation to God”, telling of his desire and trying to accept God’s will, even if it differs from his own. He recognizes that God’s desire is the shaping of his character, rather than filling Wyatt’s ambitions. Wyatt challenges Miranda to use the courage and strength he believes she has to be who God wants her to be rather than who her family or society wants her to be.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Exodus 15:2 - “The LORD is my strength and my defense ; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.
Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Royal Easter Story

“Can you help me find my way home?” Alina said with bright teary eyes as big as saucers.
“Of course! We will seek throughout the land to find your family,” the girls answered.

Book: A Royal Easter Story (The Princess Parables) by Jeanna Young and Jacqueline Johnson and Illustrated by Omar Aranda

Genre: Picture Book
Target Audience: Girls 3-8
Subjects: God’s love for us, showing love to others, Salvation
Summary: It’s time for the annual Easter Pilgrimage! The princess sisters are so excited! A bit overwhelmed, but excited. It’s their turn to lead the celebration so they are busy making decorations and gifts for it. Their excitement only grows when one of the king’s knights arrives with his five sons to escort the princesses on the pilgrimage. That plan backfires though, when Princess Grace challenges the knights to a race! Determined their way is shorter, the girls set off but when they pause for tea, they find something even more worth focusing on than the race. A little girl is in the bushes crying in fear. She has somehow gotten separated from her family. The five princesses gather up the little girl in their arms and bring her to their wagon to travel with them the rest of the way. They no longer care about winning the race, they simply want to find this little girl’s parents!
Notes: A Royal Easter Story is part of The Princess Parables series. It began as a series of leveled readers and has turned into picture books as well. Each book contains an idea from Scripture that it wants to convey through a story about Princess Grace, Princess Hope, Princess Charity, Princess Faith and Princess Joy. In this book there are a number of different focuses – some might say there are too many for the size of the story and the age of the target audience. However, all but one element of it is based off of Luke 11:9-13. The first theme of the book is the pilgrimage itself – the king explains that it is  “an annual celebration that helps keep harmony and peace between the  lands as we remember all that Jesus has done for us”. He explains that it is a journey to remember the resurrection of the Lord. So the first theme is that Easter is about Jesus’ resurrection. The second focus is how God is a good Father who delights in giving good gifts to His children – the king gives gifts to his daughters and reminds them of the greatest gift of all. The next focus is putting others first – the princesses had to forfeit their chance to win the race against the knights if they wanted to help the lost little girl. The next theme is asking, seeking and knocking – the book puts these words in capital letters when they fit into the story. In the back when it explains the parables from the story they point out that salvation is available to all who ask, seek and knock.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Luke 11:9-13 – "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. It passed the 4 year old’s test! :-)

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Legend of the Easter Robin

“Now the eggs will never hatch, Gran!” Tressa cried.
“We’ll have to trust the one who watches the sparrow and robins,” Gran said.

Book: The Legend of the Easter Robin: An Easter Story of Compassion and Faith by Dandi Daley Mackall, Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey, Zonderkidz, 2010 and 2016
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Genre: Picture Book
Target Audience: Girls 3-10
Subjects: Easter, Trust in God
Summary: A little girl watches the robins building a nest outside her Grandma’s window. She fears it’s still too cold for them or that a predator will get the robins or their eggs. As she prepares for their Easter celebration, her Grandma tells her the legend of the robin’s red breast. This story weaves in the story of Jesus’ death on the cross.
Notes: There has long been a tradition of using everyday objects, especially living things, to tell stories of God and His involvement in our lives. The Legend Of The Easter Robin is one of these. Through beautiful illustrations and a simple story of a young girl who is learning to trust God’s care for His creation, it shares the story of what the Easter season is actually all about. This book was tested on a four year old and her mother and met with both of their approval, as well as mine.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 – For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I enjoyed it!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

You’re The One I Want

And if Casper’s eyes worked, his brother seemed to be tearing up? Oh no—
“Aw Raina, if I had known I got you pregnant, I would have… I should have…”
Then as Casper watched – as everything turned to ice inside him – Owen reached out for the sofa and gingerly lowered himself to one knee. “I know it’s a little late for this, but… do you want to marry me?”
“What. Are. You. DOING?” Casper’s voice turned into a locomotive, tunneling out from some dark place inside him and he advanced on Owen, grabbed him by the shirt. “Have you lost your mind?”

Book: You're the One That I Want (Christiansen Family) by Susan May Warren, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Adult Women
Subjects: Family Relationships, Sex-outside-marriage, Crime, Identity
Summary: When Casper went searching for Owen he never dreamed he would find a more mature, grown up version of his brother, a version determined to do the right thing, even if it destroys someone else. He also never expected to find a warrant for his own arrest as soon as he arrived home! Scotty never expected to find any man like Owen. He’s brave – willing to risk his life to save her. He’s kind – even to the woman who has never known anything but the rough life on the seas. He’s a family man – she didn’t even know families like the Christiansens existed! And he loves her. And he makes her want to believe in God. As for Owen? He never expected to find meaning and purpose in his life again after the fight that ruined his hockey career. Yet somehow, stranded in the middle of the sea with Scotty, Owen starts to find exactly that. Life’s tragedies have a way of refusing to let go of the pain they cause though and the hurt and fear they each feel could destroy the chances of any one of them experiencing anything life than their worst nightmare.
Notes: You’re The One That I Want is about the sixth and final kid in the Christiansen family from the Christiansen Family Novels series. Each book has focused on one of the siblings and in this book, we finally see the completion of Owen’s story – introduced in a big way back in book two. Owen got into a fight with some of the others on his hockey team one night and the result was an injury to his eye that completely ruined his hockey career. The rest of this series has shown Owen sleeping around, fighting with siblings and running away from his family. In this book, Owen returns home and faces up to his responsibilities – namely the girl he got pregnant and the son born as a result. He is also facing the faith he tried to walk away from. He finds a longing for his faith and right relationships with his family. He is also falling in love with a woman who concluded long ago that God doesn’t want her and depending on a God who will just betray her when she needs Him, will make her weak. Owen has to find out how much he truly believes and share that with Scotty.
I highly recommend not only this book, but this series, and in fact this author. Each of her books put a character in a situation that greatly challenges their faith in God and forces them to make tough choices about whether or not to follow Him.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Corinthians 16:13 – Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Parable Treasury

The farmer had a special plan for his chosen pumpkin, so the seeds and slime would have to go.

Book: Parable Treasury by Liz Curtis Higgs, Illustrated by Nancy Munger, Thomas Nelson, 2015

Genre: Picture Book
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 3-10
Subjects: Parables, Holidays, God’s Love, Showing Love To Others
Summary: A rejected gift, a sunflower reaching for the sun, a pumpkin shining it’s light, a beautiful Christmas tree – they all have one thing in common: they can be used to illustrate Biblical truths. That’s exactly what Liz Curtis Higgs does in this collection of picture books. She takes each item and weaves a creative story around it, turning it into a parable just like the ones Jesus told. Each story is focused around The Farmer and his children who learn lessons from things the farmer grows.
Notes: This a collection of stories written years ago, now reprinted into one volume parents can use each season of the year. It contains beautiful illustrations and each page also contains a Bible verse at the bottom of the page, further diving into the meaning behind the parables. The author manages to weave not just the one major point, but a small Biblical truth into each element of each story.  I highly recommend this book as a way for parents to teach children Biblical truths using common symbols of each season.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Matthew 13:34-35 – Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world."

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I enjoyed it!

Raising Grateful Kids In An Entitled World

We don’t just overindulge our kids with excessive stuff. We also tend to give in to whims and demands, allowing too much freedom too soon. Our kids are being exposed to “more, quicker, now” than ever before, and we have to ask why… why does our society indulge our kids so much? We do we as parents give in when we know we shouldn’t?

Genre: Non-Fiction
Target Audience: Parents
Subjects: Gratitude, Parenting, Culture
Summary:We’ve all seen them. The brats screaming at the grocery store demanding to get what they want. The 2 year old who has to have electronics to be entertained. The students who think they should get the grade without doing the studying. The 23 year old who is still living at home, barely making enough money to pay for their entertainment, let alone their needs. And we’ve seen how easy it is for them to become this way. Burger King says “Have It Your Way”. Every business has a thorough return policy. Electronics are marketed to toddlers. The government has taught adults that rather than work, they should just live off of welfare. We know the world screams “You are entitled to get what you want, when you want, how you want, as often as you want.” But what do we DO about this? Kristen Welch shares her family’s story in this book, describing the journey they took to stop becoming so entitled-minded and more thankfulness-minded.
Notes: More than a simple “Here is the magic formula to follow to get what you want”, Kristen Welch focuses on what Scripture says our focus is supposed to be and what steps her family followed, what struggles they had in the process and what some of the results were. Her children have not yet graduated high school so she is still in the process of raising them. Some of the main ideas she covers in her book are: helping children define the difference between wants and needs, dealing with technology, cultivating obedience and living out God’s love in your home. I highly recommend this book. I found the ideas presented very accurate – both to the culture we live in and Scripture. This is a book I would suggest every parent in the entire country read – whether their children is 1 year old or 20 years old!
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I was very challenged by this book!