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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. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Running on Red Dog Road

Running on Red Dog Road: And Other Perils of an Appalachian ChildhoodRunning on Red Dog Road: And Other Perils of an Appalachian Childhood by Drema Hall Berkheimer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gypsies, faith-healers, moonshiners, and snake handlers weave through Drema’s childhood in 1940s Appalachia after Drema’s father is killed in the coal mines, her mother goes off to work as a Rosie the Riveter, and she is left in the care of devout Pentecostal grandparents. What follows is a spitfire of a memoir that reads like a novel with intrigue, sweeping emotion, and indisputable charm. Drema’s coming of age is colored by tent revivals with Grandpa, jitterbug lessons, and traveling carnivals, and though it all, she serves witness to a multi-generational family of saints and sinners whose lives defy the stereotypes. Just as she defies her own.


Running on Red Dog Road and an interesting first hand account of life in Appalachia (specifically West Virginia). We are transported back in time to the 40's and 50's when coal was still the primary source of energy, the war separated families, and (as is still the case in many Appalachian families today) grandparents raised the grandchildren.

Berkheimer walks us through her past is a personal and real way. She brings to life the truth of her grandfather's teaching that, "the places and people we come from sear into our very being and follow us all the days of our lives". Written in a simple, conversational manner you can't help but fall in love with the story. And for those of us who grew up in Appalachia, it is nice to see a story come out that highlights the beauty of that life.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A moment of weakness review

A Moment of Weakness (Forever Faithful, #2)A Moment of Weakness by Karen Kingsbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jade and Tanner could love be any sweeter "that" summer? And yet misunderstanding and misinformation leads to heartache. Jade finds herself wed to another, a man less than ideal. And yet......all hope is not lost when divorce and a nasty child custody case bring Jade and Tanner together again.

I appreciate that Kingsbury addresses real life, less than perfect issues. Even the "best" Christian makes bad choices in their life. It is how you respond to those choices that matter. I especially loved the prayer life/God conversations each had with God. Kingsbury does a good job of showing different views of what that can look like. And Tanner's acceptance of God's gift, all I can say is make sure you have a box of tissues!

While the story is predictable, and you probably already know how the story is going to end, it is an enjoyable pleasure read with a good moral compass. After all, isn't that what Kingsbury does?

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I am N review

I Am N description:

Yousef, whose mother threatened to kill him for having a Bible, now smuggles Bibles the way his family once smuggled drugs.
After Parveen’s employer beats her for attending church, Parveen begins to help other young Christian women who work in Muslim houses.
Abdulmasi kills hundreds of Christians in northern Nigeria with no remorse—until the day he chooses a new life of faith and sacrifices everything for a God of love.

What can we learn from these faith-filled brothers and sisters around the world? How can we pray for them? And what do their remarkable stories teach us about a God whose light shines in a dark world?

I-Am-N reminds us that we are each “N”—as radical Muslims in Iraq identify followers of Jesus the Nazarene. Wherever we live, we have camaraderie with those who are persecuted. So come meet their families. Read their stories. Deepen your faith in a God who gives us the courage to shine in a dark and hurting world.

My review:
 You almost can't turn on the news without hearing about ISIS or troubles in the Middle East.  In I Am N, The Voice of the Martyrs strives to move the story from sensational headlines to personal connections.  Each of the 17 stories are real.  Some end horribly in martyrdom.  Others end with new Christians reaching out to others in their community sharing the truth of Jesus despite the personal risks.  All will bring home the reality of what it truly is to abandon self and whole-heartedly serve God.

My church had already committed to praying for the Christians facing Islamic extremists several months ago.  You will see many of us wearing orange (because of the jumpsuits the prisoners are often wearing when shown on the news) bracelets with Hebrews 13:3 on them as reminders of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are living it first hand.  This book has helped to guide how I pray for these people. 

The only negative (besides the obvious need to write such a book) is that the writing seems very impersonal and almost cold.  Not that I think the authors don't hurt for those they write about, but as if they have distanced themselves from the horror.  The stories present the facts with little emotion.

As an effort to share the stories of those who are N, Voice of the Martyrs has truly succeeded.  I dare say you will be changed after reading this and will no longer be able to read the headlines or watch the news without realizing that every person being terrorized by ISIS has a story, has a family that loves them, has a desire to live....and yet their faith in Jesus love is such that they refuse to turn their back on Him.  I never thought I would see persecution like in the days of Nero.....yet here we are......

Looking for Home review

Looking for Home Description:

 With his mother dead, his father gone, and his older brothers and sisters unable to help, eight-year-old Ethan Cooper knows it’s his responsibility to keep him and his younger siblings together—even if that means going to an orphanage.

Ethan, Alice, Simon, and Will settle into the Briarlane Christian Children’s Home, where there’s plenty to eat, plenty of work, and plenty of talk about a Father who never leaves. Even so, Ethan fears losing the only family he has. How can he trust God to keep him safe when almost everything he’s known has disappeared?

The first book in the Beyond the Orphan Train series, Looking for Home takes us back to 1907 Pennsylvania and into the real-life adventures of four children in search of a true home.

My Review:
When I was given the opportunity to review this book I was a bit confused.  I had never heard of the orphan trains.  Apparently (according to Wikipedia anyways)
The Orphan Train Movement was a supervised welfare program that transported orphaned and homeless children from crowded Eastern cities of the United States to foster homes located largely in rural areas of the Midwest. The orphan trains operated between 1853 and 1929, relocating about 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children.
In this series Richardson bases the main characters on the lives of 4 orphans and their experiences.  While names have been changed the events are as close to accurate as the memories of those the characters have been modeled after.

That being said, I think this would be a great way to introduce younger children to this time in history.  The main character, Ethan, is 8 years old in 1907 when this story begins.  He is the oldest of the children being sent to the orphanage with his 3 younger siblings and is tasked with looking out after them.  His older siblings had obtained work and thus were able to support themselves, but unable to support their younger siblings.  Ma has passed on and Pa is out "working on a boat" but we are led to believe that he has abandoned the family. 

As the first in the series this 12 chapter, 170 page book covers the children's trip to the local orphanage and their first year there.  It is written in such a way that an elementary age child would easily be able not only read the book but connect with the characters.  I believe this would also be a wonderful read aloud for lower elementary students as well.  And if you are a lover of living books, this would be right up your alley. 

Look for reviews of the next 3 books to come soon!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cable left, cable right review

Book description:

Knitted cables, with their three-dimensional twists and turns, are a common element in lots of patterns -- but most patterns don’t include directions for executing them. Cable Left, Cable Right, by expert knitter Judith Durant, eliminates the mystery with detailed, in-depth instructions for creating 94 different styles of cable, from perfectly plain to fantastically fancy. Close-up photos and clear instructions teach you the techniques you need, including design options like braids, diamonds, and pretzels so you can make your cables truly one-of-a-kind. This book is the perfect companion to any knitting pattern featuring cables, giving you the information and skills to make polished, beautiful, and unique cables for any project.

 My review:  

 If you knit, you should own this book!  I knit hats for a charity organization and found the cable patterns in this book can bet there are going to be several donated hats sporting patterns from this book.

I found the directions easy to follow and the step by step pictures were beautiful as well as helpful.  What I really enjoyed was the time that Durant took to include all of the possible chart symbols and what they mean as well as most of the abbreviations included in cable patterns.  This makes is easier to understand both written and charted patterns, including those not this book, not that you will need to look elsewhere.

With everything from beginner (how to do both left and right crossing single cables) to the more advanced (knitting cables WITHOUT cable needles) and tons of gorgeous patterns you will find yourself pulling this book down quite often.  And while I will be using the patterns for hats, I can easily see these incorporated in blankets, sweaters and even socks!  

Friday, November 6, 2015

Crochet One Skein Wonders review

Crochet One Skein Wonders for Babies Description:

Irresistible! This collection of 101 projects makes it easy and fun to crochet adorable clothes, toys, and accessories for the babies and toddlers you love. Each project uses just one skein of yarn, many take just a few hours to complete, and plenty are suitable for beginners. Hats and caps, bootees and socks, mitts, dresses, tops and bottoms -- plus blankets, bibs, soft toys, bottle cozies, diaper bags, and more -- there’s something here for every baby! These original patterns were contributed by 54 designers around the world, and each one comes with complete instructions, charts, schematics, and beautiful photographs.

My Review:

If a baby or toddler needs it, mom could use it, or it just looks adorable there is a pattern for it in this book!  Full of projects using both charted and written instruction as well as patterns for all ability levels you are sure to find the perfect project to give as a gift or make for your own child.  And the fact that each project can be made with one skein of yarn or less you just can't go wrong!