Sunday, May 24, 2015

Everyday Grace: Infusing All Your Relationships with the Love of Jesus by Jessica Thompson



Bethany House Publishers (April 21, 2015) 208 pages

Description:

I
t's hard, sometimes, to get over that thing your husband said weeks ago; or to resolve that tension with your colleague at work; or to fix a lifelong friendship that's taken a bad turn. The biggest problem with relationships is they always seem to involve sinners--including ourselves. So how can we form strong, resilient bonds with people who, like us, are bound to mess up?

Thankfully, it's not all on us. Through stories and biblical teaching, Jessica Thompson helps us move beyond trying to "fix" the people we interact with, and shows us a better way. Though our relationships may be marred by tension and frustration, because we are welcomed and known by Christ, they don't have to stay that way.


My Thoughts:

In this book, Thompson makes it clear that she's not giving you a "to do" list on how to have better relationships, because there are plenty of them out there already. The main message of the book(for me) is to remember Christ's love and sacrifice for us, and to remember that when dealing with the stresses that come with relationships. You can't go wrong with that advice!

There are plenty of Bible verses and events/people from the Bible discussed. There's also plenty of personal stories. I appreciated how honest Thompson was concerning her own struggles. There's plenty of good stuff in here. Because of that, I hate to admit that I didn't overly connect with it. Again, I connected with plenty of things here and there, but I never felt such encouragement that I was running to it. It seems like the main message was similar to Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full. I loved that book and it is the #1 gift on my list for new mommies. That book is much shorter, though, and focuses on the land of Mommy. This one covers more relationships, like with your children, husband, coworkers, etc. Still, it came off a bit repetitive to me, and with very little practical advice to put into practice, other than remembering Christ's love and sacrifice for us, I left the book a bit less than encouraged. Since I had a hard time connecting with it, I didn't feel the desire to just sit and read it for longer periods of time. Taking longer to read probably had more to do with my disconnect than anything else. There are always exceptions, but I feel like more often than not, reading non-fiction in a shorter amount of time(with plenty of highlighting for later encouragement) has the greatest impact on me. We're all different there, of course, and that most likely changes in different seasons of life

There's plenty of nitpicking I could do. I don't share the same beliefs about what the Bible teaches with everything that's in here, but that's no surprise by now, I'm sure. ;) Still, there IS plenty of good stuff in here, and I'm not going to tell you not to read it. I imagine many out there will get great encouragement from it.

I'll leave you with a quote from the book after a talk about judging other mommies on staying at home/working out of the home, homeschool/public school/private school, processed food/organic food, the time we allow our children to spend with media, etc.

"We all take pride in how hard we work. We are trying to earn our own approval or others' approval or even God's approval. We wear our "hard days" like a badge of honor, making sure everybody knows all the adversity we had to endure that day. Again, let's be sure we know the driving factor. We are looking for validation in our work. We are looking to prove that we can earn our keep, that we are worth something, that we have value and meaning. The problem is that the very thing we are looking for in our own work performance, we already have in Jesus' performance and in his work." (page 172)

(Note: It's driving me insane, but I quoted it as is. I'd love to capitalize the "his" in reference to Jesus, though.) :S

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Purchase Link:

Everyday Grace: Infusing All Your Relationships With the Love of Jesus


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Monday, May 18, 2015

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon



Greenwillow Books (May 19, 2015) 368 pages

Description:

What if the world holds more dangers—and more wonders—than we have ever known? And what if there is more than one world? From Heather Dixon, author of the acclaimed Entwined, comes a brilliantly conceived adventure that sweeps us from the inner workings of our souls to the far reaches of our imaginations.

Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he's a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path. Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that calls to mind The Night Circus and Pixar movies, but is wholly its own.
My Rating: 3/5 stars

My Thoughts:

Both while reading, and long after I finished this book, my mind has been debating whether or not I liked it. It's odd! I typically like odd books, but this one went so far away from my expectations that my mind has had a hard time deciding. I don't suspect it will appeal as much to those, like me, that adored Entwined. Entwined was a beautiful fairy tale re-telling that I don't hesitate to recommend to anyone and everyone. With this book, Dixon has proved that her talent is much too great to tie down to one type of book. The truth is, though, that I was wanting another beautiful fairy tale.

About of the third of the way through, I was so thrown off, I actually went to read the description of the book. (In case you're not aware, I prefer going into a book without knowing much of anything about it.) It was described as a cross between Pixar and The Night Circus. I haven't read The Night Circus, but I do love Pixar movies. I realized that I probably should have been imagining animation as I read it. Once I did so, I enjoyed it much more. Honestly, this would make an amazing anime movie. After seeing the Pixar comment, anime was the kind of animation I pictured and felt was most appropriate for the story. (I felt it was too dark for Pixar animation.) The description also mentions humor, but I just didn't pick up on humor.

I imagine Illusionarium will appeal more to the guy realm than Entwined ever could. The main character is even male. I had been picturing a female narrator. It is revealed pretty early in the story that a male is talking, but my mind still had to reprogram a bit. Sadly, he wasn't my favorite book guy. He would randomly break into fights, and I found it a bit crazy and ridiculous. Of course, he has growth through the story, but he never fully won me over.

Once again, it's on the odd side. There's dimensional travel, which I've had a hard time liking in other books in the past. There's also strange, deformed creatures. While I don't have much experience at all in the "steampunk" genre, I'd label this as steampunk.

I DO want to reread this book! I feel that if I could reread it while better knowing how very(VERY!!!) different from Entwined it is, I could enjoy it much more, but it just wasn't my favorite book the first time through.

*I was provided an e-ARC, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Purchase Link:

Illusionarium



Friday, May 15, 2015

Heart Sisters: Be the Friend You Want to Have by Natalie Chambers Snapp


About the Book:

Heart Sisters is for women who want to both be and have better friends and want a helpful guide to take them through the process.

Author Natalie Chambers Snapp uses her own and others' stories of successes and failures to illustrate what she has learned about girlfriend relationships. Healthy boundaries, honesty, tact, sharing, and agape love all play a part in being and maintaining a circle of close confidants. She also deals with the inevitable challenges that face many relationships including how to handle conflict; life changes like a new baby, move or divorce; and when it is right to "break-up" with your friend.

Discussion questions, space to journal, photos, and quick interviews of healthy female friendships are included within each chapter.

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My Thoughts:

I recently read a review where someone had reviewed a book that I loved, yet for some reason I had focused more on the negative, most likely in an attempt to make sure no one believed I agreed with certain things. This reviewer focused on the positive things, and simply said, "Take the meat, and leave the bones." I like that, and I'll say the same for this book. I'm not picking on publishers, but Abingdon Press IS one of the least conservative Christian publishers there are. No. I didn't agree with everything in here, but there's some awesome advice, so I'm still going to recommend it.

My "word" for this year is "socialize". My idea of socializing probably isn't the same as yours, but even so I haven't done as well with this challenge as I would have liked so far. I have severe social anxiety, plus I'm shy AND introverted. That's a pretty painful mix to deal with. I'm not going to be running up to anyone with a hug and shouts of joy anytime soon(a wave and a smile is much more realistic), but I'd like to get myself "out there" a bit more often. From that word, though, I've added several "relationship" books to my reading list, and this was one of them. I'm not so great at the friendship thing, but it seems like a given that learning how to a better friend and learning what to do in situations will help with the socializing thing. ;)

Snapp covers friendship from many different angles. What we should do and what we shouldn't each get their own chapters. She covers friendship within the digital world, in the office world, and even briefly touches on friendships with men. Before Jonathan and I started dating, I just felt more comfortable with male friendships, and had several of them. After we dated, and especially married, I started being super careful with the male world(which was my choice, not something I was forced or even asked to do). I no longer have male friends, and even in the cyber world, I try to keep high guards in place. It's too easy for things to happen, and I believe putting up those guards are important. I appreciated her including men in the book! She also talks about teaching daughters to be good friends, forgiveness, comparison, pride, and much more. She tackles a great deal in here, and again, there's some awesome advice. I can easily recommend it to Christian ladies, no matter where you are in the friendship journey!

Just to leave you with a quote, I liked this section. I let Satan into my mind too often!

On Satan's tactic of meddling in our thoughts:

"Yet when I say good night to my family and lie down in my bed, I can pass the point of no return if I allow Satan entry into my thoughts as I'm reviewing the day. Suddenly my family's tough day becomes about me failing as a mother. I'm not doing the best job with raising them, so they're arguing, telling lies, and misbehaving. I beat myself up over imperfect parenting moments and soon become convinced they might be better off being raised by a pack of wolves than a poor excuse of a mother like me.

Do you see how he operates? He doesn't even have to work very hard at this either. He gets the ball rolling then sits back and grins as we disappear into a downward spiral of lies. We make it so easy for Satan to convince us of the truth in the lies, but we make it hard to identify when he's at work. Since he is the great deceiver, it's often much later in the game when we recognize what's going on. " (page 78)

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.


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Purchase Link:

Heart Sisters: Be the Friend You Want to Have

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About the Author:

Natalie Chambers Snapp is first and foremost a follower of Jesus, then wife to Jason, and mom to one spunky daughter and two spirited sons with a crazy amount of energy. Choosing to follow Jesus at 27, Natalie is passionate about sharing the grace, mercy, and truth of God's love. She lives in the Midwest with her crew and tries to keep it simple by writing about the faith found in the everyday mundane. The outpourings of her heart can be found at www.nataliesnapp.com in the fleeting moments between being a wife and mother.


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Become a Better Friend | Natalie Chambers Snapp’s ‘Heart Sisters’ and Girls’ Night Out Giveaway


Want to be a better friend and have better friends? Natalie Chambers Snapp wrote Heart Sisters just for you! She uses her own and others’ stories of successes and failures to illustrate what she has learned about girlfriend relationships. Discussion questions, space to journal, photos, and quick interviews of healthy female friendships are included within each chapter.




Help Natalie celebrate the release of her new book by entering to win goodies you'll need for a girls' night out with your heart sister!




heart sisters-400


One grand prize winner will receive:


Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 17th. Winner will be announced May 18th on Natalie's blog.




heart sisters-enterbanner
{NOT ON FACEBOOK? ENTER HERE.}

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Anzard by Christopher Conroy


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About the Book:

ANZARD tells the story of how a young boy named Justin Cavell learns to listen to that voice inside him and trust his instincts. He also learns how his dreams and wishes can come true: Justin becomes more aware of himself and his potential to turn his dreams and wishes into reality.

One dark and stormy night, as Justin is anxiously awaiting the return of his parents and praying for their safe return from a long overdue plane trip, he is visited by Poofy, a tiny, magical pixie who comes from the faraway planet, Spiritainia. Justin is escorted to this wonderful world of Spiritainia by the Anzard pixie, Poofy. Aside from Poofy, Justin is joined by his own Tribe of Truth – that include such memorable characters as Regal the Eagle, Turner the Turtle, Chumpah the Chipmunk and Billy the Goat – define Justin’s inner voice and help him in his quest of self-discovery.

Justin also learns to resolve conflict, which arrives in the form of an evil witch named Nosefeen, and captures Poofy as Poofy is guiding Justin to the Path of Possibilities. Through these adventures, Justin grows stronger and develops self-esteem, enabling him to return to Earth, find his parents, and guide them home safely.

ANZARD opens up a world of rewards for kids who learn to develop and trust their innervoice. The book helps them to become more aware and enlightened.

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My Thoughts:

Y'all know the cover pulled me in, right? It looked so beautiful and full of adventure, that I made my way to Amazon, and read the first few pages. It looked like it would be beautiful story, so I decided to read the whole thing.

Anzard ended up being completely different than I thought it would be from the beginning, though I liked it in a different way than I imagined. It's a very odd read, but thankfully I'm generally a fan of those. Admittedly, this one went even beyond my odd tastes at times, but I truly believe that most children will enjoy the corniness within Anzard. A rapping goat? Cooties? A witch and children used as basketballs? Yep. They're all in here.

I'm going to share one of the scenes within Anzard to give you a bit of the feel of the book. I actually had to stop reading to laugh a bit.

"In the background, the plastic skeleton was waving his bony arms frantically, trying to warn his friend the fish.

Mesmerized by the pill floating slowly down in front of his face, the tiny fish gobbled up the Zapbrane pill as Justin watched.

All of a sudden, the fish's eyes bulged and it race in circles frantically around the tank. Suddenly the fish jumped into the plastic rowboat and rowed across the tank to the coffin, jumped in, and lay down dead." (page 79)

Seriously, I'm laughing just typing it, which makes me feel a little bad! ;)

Aside from the oddness of the book, there really is some good lessons inside the pages. It teaches kids to not fall into the world of peer pressure, because that world will lead to stupid decisions. It also teaches them to listen to their instincts, and make the right choices. Look around and see if things look fishy, and make wise decisions. There's lots of adventure and fun and silliness in here, too!

This book also has somewhat of a Christian kind of feel to it. An anzard is the result of a wizard and angel marriage. This takes place in a church. That doesn't necessarily make it Christian, by any means, but when the goat raps about Adam and Eve, I got that impression a bit more. That is very, very light, though. It's a fun read for a "moral" lesson.

Overall, this is definitely a quirky little read, but I had fun with it!

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Purchase Link:

Anzard

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About the Author:

Author Christopher Conroy currently lives in Los Angeles, California, but was born in Ireland and raised in Canada. He grew up in a large family consisting of seven children, and a mother and father who by his own description were “loving, moral, fun and pure magic.” Conroy says he was heavily influenced by John Steinbeck growing up, and also likes Jack London and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but that the “main influence for ANZARD came from that magical place in my mind where I write.”

For More Information, visit Christopher Conroy’s website. (Scroll down a bit, and you can see some of the illustrations for the story. These aren't in the book, but it was fun to see them after I'd finished reading Anzard!)


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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin by Stephanie Ward(WITH GIVEAWAY!!!!!!)



My Thoughts:

Wally is an Emperor Penguin, living in the cold of Antarctica. He dreams of warmer weather, though, so when he hears about the Galapagos Islands, he takes a trip.

We started homeschooling Grasshopper last year(this school year), but we decided for an easy going approach right now. We don't have an official curriculum, though I'm sure that will change down the road. We like to learn mostly through books we chose at the start of the year, and random ones picked up here and there, based on interests at the time.

That is why I love books like this one. We get a nice little educational package all in one book, with plenty of room to add extras along the way(books, movies, coloring sheets, games, etc). It's a quick read, but for a learning type of book, even if a fun one, it was the perfect length for us. It didn't hurt that the story rhymes, since those are my favorite to read out loud.

My little ones were introduced to Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands. There is a map included right in the book, so while I did point out the places within the book on our wall map, I didn't have to. I was able to move back to the map right within the book each time I talked about the places.

There's also several animals talked about through the book. My little ones learned a bit about the Emperor Penguin, the Blue-footed Boobies, Galapagos Giant Tortoises, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, Galapagos Penguins, and Marine Iguanas. Each one of those animals get a "real" picture, and some extra information about them in the back of the book, which I really appreciated. We learn the heights/weights of those animals, too, so I was able to add a bit of math in the story time.

Before starting the book, I grabbed the "ice" and 3 penguins from our Penguin Pile-Up game for the boys to hold onto and play with. I don't always have little visuals for the books I read, but my boys always have fun when I do, and I was thrilled it worked out well with this book. Each of my boys were excited that they had their own Wally. There was even a bit of play acting after the story and lesson was over. Grasshopper had lots of questions throughout, which means it kept his attention, and his interests. Firefly and Bumblebee enjoyed the story and listened well, too. (I still struggle with them during reading times many days!)

Overall, this is a fun and educational book. My little ones loved it, and I had fun reading it to them.

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Purchase Links:

Paperback(Amazon)

Kindle- Only 0.99!

Boomerang Books

CreateSpace

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The Giveaway:


Win a copy of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin

AND

A "Say Yes to Adventure" canvas tote


Would you like to win a copy of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin for your little ones(or someone else) AND a "Say Yes to Adventure" canvas tote? Of course! ;)

Just leave me a comment, with an e-mail address, so I can contact you if you win. If you'd like to share the giveaway, you'll get a 2nd entry!


Rules:

-US only
-Must be 13 or older
-Winner will be chosen by random.org.
-Ends May 19, 2015

Good luck!! :D

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The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh



G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (May 12, 2015) 416 pages

Description:

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.
My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

Warning: This book ends with a cliffhanger, so it's apparently to be a series.

The Wrath and the Dawn is a re-telling of Arabian Nights. I've only read bits and pieces of that book, but I was still able to appreciate both the familiar parts and the creative twists the author took with this book.

It took me to the halfway point to really get into it. I didn't hate it by any means, but it just moves somewhat slow for what I was expecting. There are hints that a great deal of fantasy elements might be in the next book(s), but the fantasy part was really very mild within this one. I have to admit, I was disappointed in that. There were little hints along that something big was about to happen, but it seems most of the action/fantasy will happen in the next book(s).

I also had a hard time liking the characters at first. The halfway point is about when I started to like them, and when I started to feel and understand the love/fondness between two of the characters. Before that, Shahrzad(Shazi) is just angry and wasn't all that likeable. Khalid was more behind the scenes than anything. The story mainly focuses on Shazi's point of view, but it changes occasionally to show a different person's point of view. It just took some time for them to grow on me, and understand why there was any fondness at all. It also took time for me to keep the characters straight in my mind. I typically do fine with keeping up with lots of characters within a story, and there are a good bit in this story. When their names aren't all that common in my part of the world, it's always a little harder to familiarize in my mind. Also, the fact that each of the characters were called by multiple names, based on cultural traditions and just nicknames, etc., things get more difficult for my brain. I had to flip back and forth a few times to figure out exactly which character I was reading about. That said, I did greatly enjoy the change of scenery and the chance to see a different culture than the average old YA fiction.

Once I settled into the story, I couldn't wait to read to the end. I enjoyed it, and just wish there was actually an ending, instead of the cliffhanger I got. I AM looking forward to reading more, and I definitely plan on reading the next book(s). It ended up being a dark, yet lovely and romantic story!

Content:
Pretty clean. B++t++d is used several times, and a++ a couple of times, but that's it as far as profanity goes. There are a few sex scenes(within marriage). 2 are completely off screen, and one is mostly off screen. (A little passionate kissing before fading to black) There's a bit of dark magic, but it seems more of a setup for the rest of the series. There's also some violence, but nothing over the top.

*I was provided an ARC, in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Purchase Link:

The Wrath and the Dawn

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