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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

in front of God and everybody review

From the publisher:
If God wanted April Grace to be kind to her neighbors, He should have made them nicer!

Growing up in the country is never easy, but it sure is funny—especially if you happen to have a sister obsessed with being glamorous, a grandma just discovering make-up, hippie friends who never shower, and brand new neighbors from the city who test everyone’s patience. From disastrous dye jobs to forced apologies and elderly date tagalongs, you’ll laugh ‘til you cry as you read the Confessions of April Grace!

Here are just a couple of April's thoughts: On her sister, Myra Sue: "How anyone can be that dumb and still be able to eat with a fork is beyond me." On senior citizen lovebirds: "What if they started smooching right at the table in front of God and everybody?"

In spite of all the loony characters in her life, April Grace is able to learn from her parents as they share the love of God—to even the craziest of characters!

My Review:
First, this is definitely written for a preteen girl.  I had to often remind myself to read it from that perspective, otherwise the writing would aggravate me with it's simplistic characters.  To be honest, some of the characters just didn't seem to fit and I truly have no idea why they were included in the book.

The book begins with an event that happened when the main character, April Grace, was 8 or 9.  I assume it was the author's intent to use a bad experience in April's past to explain her feelings in the present, but to be honest I felt like it was not necessary.  April was born and raised in the Ozarks and had been teased about being a "hillbilly" by some rich folks.  As a result she seems to instantly dislike the St. James' who were moving in to the farm down the road because they appeared to be wealthy.

The St. James' aren't rich, however, and in a peculiar twist they end up living with April's family until they can get their place fixed up.  Through this April learns a valuable lesson best explained in April's granny's own words:

"honey, you just got to quit finding fault with everyone...There ain't never been but one perfect person in the world, and they killed Him.  If you keep looking at the things you don't like about folks, you won't every have any friends.  Or any fun, neither.  Folks don't act they way they do just to annoy you.  They act the way they do 'cause they're people."

If you are looking at this as a book for your preteen, be aware that while there is a really good message in this book, there is an implication of drug use by the crazy hippie neighbors, and April's sister ends up becoming anorexic (although this is discussed very little, it just sort of happens in the background).  This book can open doors for discussion with your preteen about how we view others, how our actions can influence the way others view us, anorexia (obviously), and many other topics.

Another point of interest is that this book is set in 1986, which is well before the target audience was even born.  Some of the references will be lost on young readers (breakdancing, the Cosby show, even blue eyeshadow!) but mom's reading along will fondly remember their own preteen years.  The author does do a good job though of demonstrating that childhood feelings are outside of time.  April may be living in the 80's but kids today are feeling the same things!

All in all, not a bad book from a parent's perspective.  My 11 year old is reading this now and I will update this review with her opinion as well when she finishes it.

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

Friday, April 22, 2011

When God created my toes

When God Created My Toes (Dandilion Rhymes)

From the Book Cover:
Did you know that you're God's finest creation?  When God created my does, did he make them wiggle?  Did he know I'd giggle?  Did he have to hold his nose, when God Created my toes?

This charming picture book allows children to imagine what it was like when God created them.  From the top of their heads to the tips of their toes, they will explore and understand God's delight in their lives.

Through rhyming lines and vivid illustrations children will gain confidence and self-esteem when they begin to fully realize how perfectly, intricately, and uniquely God made them.

My Review:
I admit, I really like this book.  My daughters did too.  The main character is a girl, not a toddler but a young girl, who seems to delight in herself.  She plays in the mud, she unsettles her father, and she paints the living room with her hand prints.  Combining the illustrations of a girl that sometimes causes havoc around her with words that remind her (and us) that God lovingly crafted her is great.  There are few enough words on each page and an excellent rhyme scheme that my two year old never lost interest and yet my 11 year old didn't either.  As a matter of fact the 11 year old often asks to read it to my 2 year old.

My only complaint, and it truly is just the education major in me coming out, is the placement of the words.  They are placed on a background of writing practice paper,  the stuff that looks like this:
only the words aren't written on the lines, but often through them.  I don't understand why they bothered to put the paper in if they weren't going to make it look like the words were written on it.  I think it would have been better to just continue the illustration and place the words over it.

Other than that small hiccup, this is a wonderful book with wonderful illustrations of a loving family.

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

Monday, April 18, 2011

Max on Life

Book Description from the publisher

We have questions. Child-like inquiries. And deep, heavy ones.

In more than twenty-five years of writing and ministry, Max Lucado has been the receiving line for thousands of such questions. The questions come in letters, e-mails, even on Dunkin Donuts napkins. In Max on Life he offers thoughtful answers to more than 150 of the most pressing questions on topics ranging from hope to hurt, from home to the hereafter.

Max writes about the role of prayer, the purpose of pain, and the reason for our ultimate hope. He responds to the day-to-day questions—parenting quandaries, financial challenges, difficult relationships—as well as to the profound: Is God really listening?

A special addendum includes Max’s advice on writing and publishing.

Including topical and scriptural indexes and filled with classic Lucado encouragement and insight, Max on Life will quickly become a favorite resource for pastors and ministry leaders as well as new and mature believers.

My Review:

Every one has questions, and often new Christians (even some experienced Christians) don't really know who to ask or don't want to ask due to embarrassment.   In this book, Max Lucado answers a lot of them.  Questions as basic as "I often wake up in the middle of the night....How can I calm  my mind?"  to "My parents aren't can I find Godly wisdom to make good choices?"  and LOTS more.  Max answers with common sense and scripture to back it up.  The book is broken up into sections such as Hope: God, grace and "why am I here?" and Home: diapers, disagreements, and "any home for prodigals?". 

I like that there is a topical index, enabling the reader to quickly find the answers Max provides, and a scriptural index that lists all of the scriptures used in the book.

I think that this would be a great book to keep in a church library or to give to a new christian.  We are often afraid to ask and this provides a way to get answers and directions to scripture references, without having to openly ask the questions.  While it is not an exhaustive list of questions and answers, many of them are covered.

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tree Craft

Publisher's description:
The eco‑friendly crafter can give their home a touch of rustic elegance by bringing the outdoors in with these unique and versatile projects that range from easy to ambitious. With using nothing more than found wood, twigs and branches, a few basic tools, and the step‑by‑step instructions, woodworkers and crafters can make the 35 projects that will add the natural warmth of wood to their decor. Inspiring readers with beautiful full‑color photography of completed items, this guide is packed with affordable and environmentally friendly ideas, and covers everything from where to find wood to choosing the right tools.
Utilizing twigs, branches, and found wood, this manual provides step-by-step instructions for versatile projects that range from easy to ambitious. Inspiring readers with beautiful full-color photography of completed items, the guide is packed with affordable and environmentally friendly projects for both inside the home and outdoors, including a curtain rod, coat rack, ring, chess/checker table, walking stick, and rustic seat. Also included is a gallery of contemporary rooms showcasing ideas for decorating a modern home with rustic accents. Covering everything from where to find wood to choosing the right tools, this guide is the perfect gift for thrifty and eco-friendly crafters, naturalists, woodworkers, and decorators.

My Review:
 So this is my first crafty book review and all I can say is what a way to start!  Now I am NOT a wood worker, wood burner, or wood artist by any stretch of the imagination.  However the thought  that I could use found wood (of which I have plenty thanks to a storm with strong winds and a downed tree in my back yard), a few tools (which I also have thanks to raiding my hubby's supplies) I could create something beautiful and I was hooked.

I wish I could share some pictures of the projects in this book with you.  They are absolutely beautiful and many require no more tools than you probably have on hand such as a saw, a small sharp knife, time and patience.  Let me say that patience is something I don't have lots of, so for the smaller projects you won't need a lot of that.  There are some great beginners projects that even those opposed to power tools can do such as wooden beads.  Simply take a branch, cut it into small sections and drill a hole through each section.

I love that one because there are so many uses for such a thing.  I plan to make some wood beads for Princess a to practice her fine motor skills by stringing them to make a necklace.  I have also unburied my woodburner (I bought a really inexpensive one YEARS ago and I think I used it once) and will use it to burn a letter on each bead so she can practice letters.  Maybe a set of capitol and lower case letters for matching.

I even made this little goodie:
which has a hole drilled through it so my little girl can wear it on a necklace (as the books shows) or she can use it as a backpack tag.  Not impressed?

The book also includes step by step directions to create napkin rings, picture frames, coat racks, chess/checker tables from tree stumps, hooks from branches and much more.  If you like crafting you will find a project in this book for you, and none of the projects involved expensive wood working materials such as a lathe or power tools.  Can't wait to get started on some new towel hooks for my bathroom and I bet the kids would love an outdoor checker set!

Live Loved

Publisher's description:
Imagine how your life would change if you were sure God loves you!

Using the same popular format as Grace for the Moment, Live Loved brings fresh, new devotionals based on the writings of Max Lucado. Included is a broad range of topics such as facing your fears, accepting His grace, and truly knowing God’s omnipresent love. Each devotional is accompanied by an ending prayer to nurture a stronger prayer life for new believers, as well as long-standing Christ followers. It’s a new devotional from one of America's leading Christian writers that will help men and women experience life from a whole new perspective.

My Review:
Another great Max Lucado gift book!    Fair warning to Max Lucado readers though, this is a compilation of excerpts from other books.  Those titles include It's Not About Me, Facing Your Giants, 3:16: Numbers of Home, Every Day Deserves a Chance, Fearless, and Outlive Your Life.  If you have read these books you will not find anything new, despite the organization of topics into the categories of Loved with a Steadfast Love, Loved with a Perfect Love, Loved with a Wise Love, and Loved to Love Others.

I originally agreed to review this book because my heart longed to be loved and while my head knew that God loved me, my heart just wasn't feeling it.  Lucado does and excellent job of organizing Bible verses and connecting them with his commentary to show just how much we truly are loved by the God of the universe.  He shows us how we are loved when we feel depressed as Jeremiah was, when we are experiencing problems, or when we are unsure of the future.  We see how God is unchanging and always with us.

Each subsection begins with a bible verse, goes on with an illustration by Lucado, followed by a prayer and more scripture references to reinforce the point.  Lucado seems to have a gift with bringing scripture references from thousands of years ago into today's situations and making us realize that God is the same yesterday and today and will continue to be the same tomorrow.  We can trust his promises.

If you haven't read all of the above mentioned books, this would be a great one to add to your library for pick me ups on days when you really need a hug from God.  It would also be a great gift book.

This book was received free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Lead Serve Love

Publisher's description:
Part inspiration–part application, Lead. Serve. Love. engages and challenges believers to put the gospel into action.

In Lead. Serve. Love., Gregory Lang provides a simple guide for helping the everyday person embark (or continue) their journey to live as Christ lived. There are 100 easy-to-remember, easy-to-follow three-word action sentences followed by a short, thought-provoking description of how to apply and live out the gospel message in today’s world. These practical ideas and supporting scriptures will inspire believers to become true followers of Christ.

My Review:
 First, what a great concept, three words a day to help you become more Christ-like.    A friend of the author refers to it as Three-ology theology.  Some of the sentences are "ask for forgiveness, share good news,  give second chances, and do your share".  The  thoughts behind the sentences are such that anyone reading them would have to honestly admit that they have merit.  Lang however takes it a step further by including Bible verses with each of the 100 sentences backing them up.

Do you share.  We all agree that we should each do our own share.  Lang says that we should do as much as we can in line with our individual blessings and abilities no matter how high or low the task is, even going so far as to propose we do it joyfully.  Good advice for everyone.  But for the Christian, Lang shows how it is more than advice with verses such as Acts 20:34 that tells us to work to take care of our own needs and of those with us, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-9 which tells us not to be lazy and gives examples.

This would be a great daily devotional book for anyone looking to incorporate more of Christ into their daily walk, who want to live it rather than just hear it.  For those who prepare church bulletins, this would be a great resource as well.  If you have kids, include a one liner in their lunches with scripture references.

All in all a great little book to carry with you or begin your day with!  Definitely a thumbs up!

This book was received free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review of it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

God Gave us You

From the back of the book:
When a charming polar bear cub climbs into bed one night, she asks her Mama a very important question--one that little "human cubs" often wonder about, too: "Where did I come from?"

As Mama bear tucks her youngest cub under the quilts, she gently, tenderly, and reassuringly communicates the message loving parents everywhere (bears and non-bears alike) want their little ones to hear: "We wanted you very, very much, and we are so very glad because--"God gave us you."

Perfect for bedtime, naptime, storytime or anytime, God Gave Us You provides a valuable opportunity to build children's self-esteem every day and assure each one that he or she truly is a welcomed, precious, and treasured gift from the Lord.

My Review:
 A sweet, simple story about the gift of a child from God.  The authors cover the parents prayers for a child, to God answering and a baby growing bigger and bigger in mom's belly, to hearing the heartbeat for the first time and finally being born and coming home.  Little ones are reminded every step of the way that a child is a gift from God to mom and dad.  The illustrations are charming and there are few enough words on each page that my 2 year old didn't get bored as I read and yet there are enough to convey a very special message, God chooses to create families.

Only two complaints about this book, both minor.  First, the book is specific about the baby growing in momma's belly meaning that this would not be a good book to demonstrate how sometimes God chooses for a family to have children by adoption.  Second, momma (even though she is a polar bear) goes to the hospital to give birth, meaning that those choosing at home birth or a setting other than a hospital may want to reconsider.  If neither of this situations are true for your family, then this is a great book!

You can read an excerpt from this book by clicking the Amazon link above.
This book was received free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review of it. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Final Summit

From the publisher:
David Ponder is back. This time the fate of mankind is in his hands.

This is mankind’s last chance. Centuries of greed, pride, and hate have sent humanity hurtling toward disaster, and far from its original purpose. There is only one solution that can reset the compass and right the ship, and it consists of only two words.

With time running out, it is up to David Ponder and a cast of history’s best and brightest minds to uncover this solution before it is too late. The catch? They are allowed only five tries to discover the answer.

Readers first encountered David Ponder in The Traveler's Gift. Now, in The Final Summit, Andrews combines a riveting narrative with astounding history in order to show us the one thing we must do when we don’t know what to do.

 My Review:
I had been so very looking forward to this book.  The Traveler's Gift was the first Andy Andrews book that I had ever read and I really wanted to see what became of this character.

The story opens with David Ponder in the later years of his life.  He had made a fortune, lost it all, and came back even stronger.  The lessons he had learned in The Traveler's Gift changed and shaped him into a better man.  However, he discovers that his mission isn't over.  Gabriel arrives and takes him to a secret location to join all of the other travelers throughout history in an attempt to save humanity from the path they are on.  David, as the only traveler living in the present time, is given the task of heading the group as they attempt to answer, with only two words, the ultimate question, "What must humanity do, individually and collectively, to restore itself to the pathway toward successful civilization?"

In typical Andrews fashion, he draws upon historical characters and their lives to illustrate each answer that the group gives.  Expect to see characters such as Winston Churchill, Joan of Arc, and Abraham Lincoln as well as some that played a critical role in history that you may never have heard of before this book.  The characters are developed well enough that the reader "feels" their personality without them becoming the focus of attention.

In addition to the story, which causes us to address the state of our actions as a society and the path it is leading us on, Andrews includes a study guide for each chapter making this an excellent book for a small group or to just lead the reader deeper in thought.  Something I wish I would have known about before reading it on kindle.

If you have read Andrews before you will be familiar with some of the characters, however you will not be bored.  I would definitely recommend this book!