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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Brave Beauty review

Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You by Lynn Cowell

Publisher Description:

What will my life be like? Who will I be? Whether girls put these concerns into words or struggle anxiously with these thoughts, during this season of change, girls have questions. Sometimes these questions also come with fears and they need a safe place to process these fears. From Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and blogger, Lynn Cowell, comes Faithgirlz Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You. For girls 8-12, Brave Beauty brings tweens 100 courage-building moments to reflect on Scripture and find confidence in God, rather than in someone, some place, or some thing, as culture will all-too-soon tell them to. Lynn will also prepare girls to:
  • Overcome confidence-defeating thoughts and stand on who Jesus says she is.
  • Shape her self-worth on Christ and overcome the temptation base it on environmental factors.
  • Build a strong foundation to face the fickle and flippant opinions of others.
  • Find approval of herself even when she lacks the acceptance of others.
  • Find security by turning to Christ as she steps through the exciting, yet scary world of growing up
Formatted as theme-based mini chapters, these moments can be read as one-a-days, one-a-weeks, or at the reader’s own pace. Simple and empowering, Lynn’s voice is relatable and conversational, making it easy for girls to feel like they’re spending time with a friend.

My Review:

When I was given the opportunity to review this book I expected that it would appeal my 9 year old daughter.  What I didn't expect was for it to appeal to all of us! 

While this is definitely written as a conversation with younger girls - simple language, examples that connect with preteen experiences etc - the topics are such that apply to all of us.  Who doesn't need to be told they are loved (section 1)?  Or that they can be brave (section 2)?  Or that they can be confident (section 3)? 

Admittedly, some of the sections are more applicable to prepubescent girls (it actually talks about pimples!) but it opened the door to some great discussion between myself, my 17 year old and 9 year old about our experiences.  I don't know that these discussions would have come about without a starter story like this book offers. 

I love the "Becoming Brave" sections at the end of most chapters.  They are simple, little sections that encourage the reader reflect on what has been read, on God's truth about the situation and apply it to their own life, to internalize the truth of Scripture.  We use these as journal starters for personal prayer journals.  But not all sections have these.  Some have "Getting to Know You" sections with short little surveys.  These encourage the girls to examine themselves and see where they are in that particular area of discussion. 

And most importantly, I see my daughter not only drawing closer to God, but finding who she is as well.  That alone makes this a book that I would recommend to others, and that I wholeheartedly recommend to you.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


I have the privilege of revealing the cover of the first book a very dear friend of mine has been writing for several years.  I remember sending texts and emails back and forth about "them", the nights that my friend just couldn't sleep because "they" kept her up all night.  And I remember the first time she entrusted me with the manuscript.....I fell in love with "them" too!  Now here we are, their story has finally gone to print to share with all of you.  So let me introduce you to "them" and the beginning of their story....Anticipation....

Thursday, March 9, 2017

31 Verses to Write on Your Heart

31 Verses to Write on Your Heart description:

Let His Truth Find a Home in Your Heart
Here are the words of hope you’re looking for when your faith needs a boost or a friend needs encouragement. Chosen by more than a thousand women as their favorite verses in the Bible, each one is worth learning, worth sharing, worth remembering,

You’ll find verses you already know and love: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Others may be less familiar but are no less powerful: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25). All of them capture the truth of God’s goodness, mercy, and love for His own.

Best-selling author Liz Curtis Higgs invites you to experience—
* a deeper, richer understanding of thirty-one treasured verses.
* a fresh look at how these timeless truths can impact your life.
* a new passion for memorizing Scripture, verse by verse.
* thirty-one creative ways to keep them in your heart forever.

With a study guide included, 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart is a daily devotional and a small-group Bible study, wrapped in a lovely gift book overflowing with joy!

My Review:

 I admit I am a Liz Curtis Higgs fan.  She hooked me with Bad Girls of the Bible, then More Bad Girls of the Bible.  So of course I agreed to review 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart.  And I wasn't disappointed!

Higgs chose 31 different verses (that's 1 a day for a month if you chose to use this as a devotional) to delve into and share with us in this book.  It is more than just "here is the verse and this is why it is important".  Rather it is more along the lines of a word study in which we examine the verse word by word, phrase by phrase and look for the meaning, the purpose behind it. 

I love that she uses many different translations when breaking things down, as it helps to clarify the meaning.  and I love that she even stops to look at the smallest details.  (Really!  She even includes the word "is" in part of the breakdown!  As in, "why is the word 'is' important here?".)  I also enjoyed the tips for study that she includes with each verse to help you really settle the verse in your heart. 

This is a great gift for someone just starting to memorize or study His word.  But it is also a nice refresher for those of us that have been in the word for a while. 

As an added bonus, Higgs has shared gorgeous images for each verse on her Pinterest board here for those of us that like to see them around the house.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

review: My Holy Bible for Girls, Journal Edition

Publisher's Information:

The NIV Holy Bible for Girls, Journal Edition is the perfect way to apply Scripture to your everyday life. Designed with the thoughtful writer in mind, a whimsical cover and journaling lines inspire reflection in God’s Word. This Bible contains the full text of the bestselling New International Version (NIV) translation.

Features include:
  • Lines on each page for journaling and notes
  • Thick paper perfect for any writing utensil
  • A presentation page for gift giving
  • A “How to Use This Bible” page to get started on the right foot
  • Ribbon marker
  • The complete text of the bestselling New International Version (NIV)

My Review:

I have an artistic inclined 8 year old.  She has begun to notice that sometimes I write notes in the margins of my bible, illustrate my personal study journal and has requested to do so in her own Bible.  Honestly, I was hesitant to allow her to do so in her regular Bible for fear that her notes and doodles would make it difficult for her to read the text.  This solves that problem for me.

While I have looked at (ok drooled over) several different journaling and coloring Bibles, this is the first one that I have owned, and I now think I might invest in one for me as well.  There is ample room for notes or doodling on each page.

This is the NIV edition, which I believe is the only translation this Bible is available in.  I won't use this review to discuss the translation, as that is personal preference.  What I will say is that the text size was easy to read for both my 8 year old and myself.  Although smaller than many children's Bibles that I have encountered, it appeared slightly larger than most compact Bibles I own. 

Despite the fact that the margins are extra wide to allow you space to record your thoughts, this Bible isn't that much wider than your typical hardback Bible, although it is thicker.  And while this will not be the Bible my daughter carries to and from church (we use the NIrV in our children's church program) its size and weight wouldn't make it difficult to transport.  Although I think many would chose to keep it for more of a personal reflection Bible.

It doesn't include any study notes or footnotes, sticking only to the actual text.  For us that allows us to let the Spirit speak to us as we read rather than getting lost in the thoughts and opinions of others as to what a passage means.  We do have and use study Bibles, but it is nice to be able to sit down and just meditate on His word, without distractions. 

And while there is currently only the NIV translation available from Zondervan, the cover is beautiful and attractive and you have a choice of 4 different designs:





Aren't they pretty?!?!  I also love that they include an elastic band attached to the Bible to keep it closed when not in use as well as a ribbon bookmark to save your spot while reading. 

And when I found these coloring sheets that you can cut out and they fit perfectly in the journal section my daughter absolutely fell in love! This is now her favorite Bible.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Larger than Life Lara Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall

This isn’t about me. This story, I mean. So already you got a reason to hang it up. At least that’s what Mrs. Smith, our English teacher, says.

But the story is about ten-year-old Laney Grafton and the new girl in her class—Lara Phelps, whom everyone bullies from the minute she shows up. Laney is just relieved to have someone else as a target of bullying. But instead of acting the way a bullied kid normally acts, this new girl returns kindness for a meanness that intensifies . . . until nobody remains unchanged, not even the reader.

In a unique and multi-layered story, with equal parts humor and angst, Laney communicates the art of storytelling as it happens, with chapter headings, such as: Character, Setting, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax. And she weaves an unforgettable tale of a new girl who transforms an entire class and, in the process, reveals the best and worst in all of us.

My Review

Let me start by being totally upfront, this book is now required reading in my homeschool.  As a matter of fact, I am using it in a Creative Writing class that I teach in my local co-op as well.  It is THAT good!

Let me start with what I love.  Chapter titles like: Character, The Beginning, Villain, Setting, Dialogue, Conflict, Twist, Rising Action, Climax, and Resolution.  Not only is this a great, character building story, but it walks the reader through all of the key elements of a story and explains them from the point of view of a ten year old.  Not only that, it includes great examples of active learning as well.  For example, when Laney's teacher had them look up "suspense," she didn't understand the definition so she looked up the word "apprehension" that was in the definition, which made her look up another word until she finally understood the definition.  Way to go, Laney!

I like that this story addresses bullying without glossing it over.  Lara never makes a friend in this book.  Even Laney stays a few steps back, afraid of how others will react should she befriend Lara, despite the help Lara provides her in the story and Laney's growing respect for her.  Children this age can be very cruel and unthinking when a peer is different-especially different in a way that isn't socially acceptable.  Mackall makes sure that comes throughIt conjured up memories of my own childhood, and experiences my children shared with me during their elementary public school years.

There is a LOT of good in this story, but admittedly, there are things I did not like as well.  First was Lara's character.  This is a 300 pound 10 year old that somehow manages to keep a smile on her face and rather than respond in anger or display her hurt feelings when she is bullied or done wrong, she responds in verse.  Yep, poetry.  For example, when a boy in class passes a note to her comparing her to a pig (with the pig coming out the better of the two in his opinion), not only does Lara choose to keep the note from the teacher, who knows it is an unkind note, but she breaks out in verse.  
Hey, Joey Gilbert, thanks for the note.
In a class clown election, you'd get my vote.
I watched you pitch, and I think you're great.
But you'll get more power if you arm is straight.
I have a hard time imagining a 10 year old being mature enough to not only compose herself enough to thank someone for a cruel not, but to also offer constructive advice on his baseball pitching!  While I understand the purpose, teaching children to rise above bullying and be the better person, I just don't think it is realistic.

My final point contains a spoiler, so stop here if you are planning to read the book and hate spoilers.

The bullying gets so bad that Lara's parents decide to pull her out of school.  The class planned and/or participated in a horrible "joke" along the lines of Carrie without the blood.  And as bad as it was, Lara still refuses to name her tormentors.  On the day she arrives to collect her things, as she is leaving, the class children suddenly come to an epiphany that Lara is a wonderful person for covering for them and create rhyming signs to hold up as she drives away proclaiming their repentance.



And so on.  While it would be wonderful if a bully actually did repent of his/her misdeeds, this scene is so very unlikely.  Lara sees the signs, she smiles and drives off.  The End.  

And while I may not have liked the end, or how Lara was portrayed, it opens up a door for communication, provides an opportunity to talk about how to respond to bullying and whether bullies are still "good" people.  And that makes this a good book in my opinion.  And THAT is why it is now required reading in my house....

All the Pretty Things review

All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth

For a long time, Edie thought she had escaped. It started in an Appalachian trailer park, where a young girl dreamed of becoming a doctor. But every day, Edie woke up to her reality: a poverty-stricken world where getting out seemed impossible. Where, at twelve years old, she taught herself to drive a truck so she could get her drunk daddy home from the bar. Where the grownups ate while the children went hungry. Where, when the family trailer burned down, she couldn’t be caught squawlin’ over losing her things—she just had to be grateful anyone had remembered to save her at all.

And at the center of it all, there was her daddy. She never knew when he would show up; she learned the hard way that she couldn’t count on him to protect her. But it didn’t matter: All she wanted was to make him proud. Against all odds, Edie “made doctor,” achieving everything that had once seemed beyond her reach. But her past caught up with her—and it would take her whole life burning down once again for Edie to be finally able to face the truth about herself, her family, and her relationship with God.

My Review:

Every little girl longs for her Daddy's love.  The girl from the broken home.  The girl with a broken father.  And Edie was no exception.  And while this story doesn't focus entirely on her desire to feel loved by her father, it is there and it will resonate within the reader.

While I didn't do most of my growing up years in Appalachia, I have been in the region since I was 12 (no, I won't tell you how long "since" has been!) and Wadsworth does a wonderful job of capturing what rural, poor Appalachia looks like,
The guardrails provided somewhat of a barrier and peace of mind from the hundred-foot drop-off to the valley below-the valley that had become a dumping ground for everything from empty milk cartons to beer cans to old worn-out couches, and even the ocassional rusted-out car. The switchbacks were so narrow that if another car approached, you either had to hug the embankment to the right and pray you didn't puncture your tires from broken glass or hope one of you would be able to back up to where the road widened enough for both vehicles.
Wadsworth does a wonderful job of capturing the angst and longing of growing up in this environment.  This story has it all: a struggle to overcome the past, a desire to achieve more, success, failures, trials, hurt, angst, and self-realization.

As with many Appalachian families, faith is interwoven throughout the story.  For me this was the most "true" aspect.  Wadsworth doesn't gloss over her trials.  She doesn't spout off easy cliches about how she always knew God was going to make everything better. Instead she shares her doubts, her uncertainties about her salvation and her walk, and her journey to coming to really know her Creator.

So I will close my review with Edie's own words after her realization that so much of life is out of our control:
Whether we work or don't, whether we homeschool or not, whether we've had nurturing marriages or not, we walk in humility-knowing that we are dependent on God to use mostly our failures to teach us something of what it means to be a parent, to be a human being.
After all, isn't that truly what life is about, recognizing that God is in control?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Open Review

OpenOpen by David Gregory

Description from publisher:
 It wasn’t the end of the world. It was just the end of Emma Jameson’s world. Fresh off the heels of a devastating breakup and floundering in her career, Emma is struggling to come to grips with why God allows so much pain in our lives, why He seems so absent when she needs Him most, and why the Gospel accounts—our supposed guide for how to lead a contented Christian life—feel so completely irrelevant.

Then one day, a mysterious envelope arrives in Emma’s mailbox with the word Open written on the outside. Inside the envelope is a card bearing the following message: “For a real adventure with Jesus, go through the nearest open door.”

Skeptical, but having absolutely nothing to lose, Emma steps through the pantry door, only to find herself instantly transported back to the first century, where she is taken on a personal tour of various Gospel accounts by none other than Jesus himself—an experience that radically challenges Emma’s perception of the Gospels and what it really means to be a Christian.

My Review:

Another simple and yet very meaningful story from Gregory.  Once again he manages to share a side of Jesus with us in a way that enables us to connect and really get it in about 150 pages, making this a book that can easily be read in a day.  The language is easy to understand.  Gregory helps us to see the stories of Jesus life in a way that we can apply to our own life.

Emma is the girl that struggles with her faith.  She knows that Jesus is supposed to satisfy her, who goes to church, participates in groups, listens to Christian music, and does all the "right" things.  And yet, she doesn't feel like she is "getting anything at all from the Bible....none (of the stories) has anything to do with what I'm dealing with right now....reading stories...that (she'd) read a thousand times didn't provide the answers (she) needed.  Jesus wasn't enough."  She had begun to doubt her faith and then a mysterious letter arrived that would help her to connect with Jesus in a whole new way.

Together Emma and Jesus walk through several key events to help Emma see that faith isn't about religion, but about a person...and when we surrender completely to Him, our whole life changes.

I loved this book so much that I passed it on to a friend who was struggling with similar faith issues.  Like Gregory's other books, this is a great way to open a door for discussion and dialogue on topics that we tend to hide from our brothers in sister in Christ so that we can appear to be good Christians.