Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Friday, February 9, 2018

Book Review: All is Bright

Advent is one of the most important and special parts of Christmas to me. From the time I was a child, my mom made advent a part of our celebrations every year with lots of creative activities for us to do to participate in the celebration.

I am sure that this coloring book would have been well loved in our family! Not only are there coloring pages with accompanying advent devotionals for every day of December, but there are some great pages at the back for kids too! The kid's section has a small selection of readings and some nice large image pages that any younger or middle-aged kid would enjoy coloring without feeling the pressure of being super detailed and fussy. The main adult pages provide a wide array of images that correspond back to the main theme of that day’s devotional.

I colored several of the images with my Tim Holtz Distress Crayons so I could get a feel for the paper and weight and how it would handle being colored. The quality of the paper is pretty good. It’s very smooth without any feel of large fibers and I feel colored pencils would blend really well on paper like this. With my distress crayons and the light application of water to blend and smudge the colors, it worked ok but maybe not the best. The pages when dry and pressed still show some warping front and back on the pages and if you are someone who likes pristine pages a less water-based medium is what you are going to want to aim for on these pages.

Overall, it’s a really nice book that I think many families could enjoy together during the Advent season!

Final Rating: 4

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Additional photos:
Note warping on text page

Book Review: Beyond Suffering Bible

There are many reasons, as you may guess, that I wanted to have this book for my collection. As most of you know, I myself suffer with several chronic illnesses. It’s a journey I began as a young girl and one that expands and continues even today nearly twenty-four years after my first diagnosis. What Joni and her ministry ‘Joni&Friends’ have meant to me over that time has been huge, they are such a strong support of ministry to the disabled and of personal encouragement to those of us who carry those conditions and diseases, and to those who care for us as well.

This special edition of the Bible is written just for us.

In the New Living Translation, this Bible is an extensive source of resources and encouragements for the Christian going through difficult journeys. The beginning of each book offers basic introductory points as to the themes of disability that are given and referenced in that book. Pop-out sections throughout each book mark out and explain connections between the text and the theme of disability, and frequently there are entire pages dedicated to enlarging topics about the character of God and how we walk, how we trust, as believers. Throughout the Bible are also whole pages of study notes or devotional entries from Joni herself, or other comparable teachers.

It was really nice to find at the back a lengthy section with essays from noted Christian teachers and writers on topics like the biblical view of the sanctity of life, questions on why am I disabled, the Church’s call to minister to the disabled in their midst, and the hope of heaven, amongst others. It will make for fine reading in both the informative and personally encouraging senses. The publishers have also included a well-rounded easily readable dictionary/concordance in this final part of the book.  

I think that this book would make a great gift for anyone you know that is dealing with a chronic illness or for anyone who is the caretaking parent, spouse, or loved one of someone with one! I’m going to be making this one of the Bibles that I have close at hand for cross-referencing as I study the Scriptures and I’m sure it will become one that I end up frequently reading and frequently gaining a lot from!

Final Rating: 10

Extra photos below~~

Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Review: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

Thora Bell was born, raised, and brought up her family in the coaching inn The Bell- only to see her son die suddenly and pass the family business on to his gentlewoman wife, Jane Bell- who has seemingly never taken in interest in the inn. Jane is forced to take in interest however when she finds that her husband has left a massive loan on the books- and the bank is long past being repaid! With their livelihood, past memories, and future security on the line Jane and Thora must find a way to work together and to bring the inn back to its former glory and pay off the debt before they are left with nothing!

Two women from two very different backgrounds and lives are the highlights of The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill! I cannot remember anytime recently seeing or reading a book where the two main characters were women of different generations and I loved seeing it here!

Thora is a working woman and always has been. She is steeped and invested in her family business and known for her knowledgeable running of the inn and for her sharply honest tongue. Jane is born to a life of privilege that lies far in the past with both of her parents dead and her family home being left in ruins. She is not accustomed to the life she’s been thrust into since her husband’s passing but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have the mind for it, or the strong will to survive! Together Thora and Jane make an unlikely pair, but a pair that works together the harder the circumstances that surround them become!

Something I thought was really interesting about this book was the look it gave to women working in the Regency era. This isn’t a book that is puffed up on a whirlwind romance in the halls of Bath’s best balls; it is an honest look at the working class of the countryside. Women are and always have been the backbone of farm and country industry. It was neat to learn about the strong connections of how woman and business in these small towns are truly dependent on each other and work to help each other.

Another thing I liked about this book is that it isn’t primarily a romance novel. There is certainly no end of potential suitors for both of the woman in this book but it never overtakes and overshadows the main conflict of the inn’s future. Both storylines complement each other but they do not fight each other for the spotlight. With this being the first installment of Klassen’s first series I was also rather delighted that this book felt like returning to the BBC’s Cranford and getting bits and pieces of all the lives of everyone in the village! I will look forward to the story continuing to unfold and for more to be revealed about all of the characters as the series progresses!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone- even those that have never tried a Regency set book before! I was very happy reading this and am looking forward to the end of the year when the next installment will be released!

Final Rating: 5

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Book Review: The Loyal Heart

I was really excited to get into The Loyal Heart as I had enjoyed Shelley Shepard Gray’s short story that was a part of the book “Among the Fair Magnolias”. It’s not every day anymore that you get a western theme novel so I was excited to see this story set in Texas! 

This story has a really intriguing premise, Robert Truax, former Confederate Officer and war prisoner has some to Galveston to check in on the widow of his former comrade and to make sure she is comfortable and secure. What he finds when he arrives at Maranda Markham’s home turned boarding house is that everything is far from okay. Maranda is in a deep depression, her home threatened by her mother-in-law, and worse of all her husband, Philip’s, name dragged through the mud after being branded a traitor after his death.

Robert wants to honor the promise he made to Philip and the other men in his company to watch out for and care for each other after the war but he hardly knows where to start after discovering the position Maranda is in! As he begins to remedy the situation she is in he finds himself in danger of losing his heart- something that was never part of the mission!

I thought this was a nice story from start to finish. However- It really didn’t draw me in or delight me the way that the previous stories of the author that I have read and that surprised me and rather disappointed me. The story moves both quickly in the development of the characters feelings for each other, and slowly, in the way that the plot progresses. Something that was really frustrating was the repeating of information over and over again. I really don’t feel like once a detail has been revealed and explored that it’s necessary to repeat it again a few paragraphs of chapters later. Readers are intelligent and want to be pushed to explore, not talked down to and a number of times I kinda felt that way.

I would say give this book a go if you are looking for a light vacation read that doesn’t take a lot of time or concentration! 

Final Rating: 3 

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Book Review: Come with Me

I have really enjoyed going through this new devotional! In Susanne Eller’s “Come With Me” she focuses us into the disciples and to see who they really are, what they did, and how we can learn from them- and Jesus! Each chapter is dedicated to a single disciple and walks you through what we know, or maybe don’t know about each of them and draws out a lot of truth that took me time to digest.

The format of each chapter is laid out really nicely and has special quotes to jump out at you from the text, and header sections that break up the reading if you wanted to read a chapter over more than one day. The end of each chapter has a list of discussion questions that would be great not just for personal use, but for a small group meeting!  There is also a memory Scripture, prayer, and a section that gives you a few ideas on putting things into practice in your life.

Something that I really appreciated from the author was her transparency in writing. She shares many personal stories throughout but while sometimes those can bog down a devo book I didn’t feel there here. Rather, I felt like I was in the company of a good friend who was taking time to mentor and disciple me with things she had learned. I highlighted a great deal in this book so I could make sure I could go back and find all of my favorite parts easily!

In the final chapter of the book Eller turns the focus back to you and I as “The Thirteenth Disciple” wrapping up and challenging us to put into practice what we learned and how we will walk with Jesus in our lives.

Final Rating: 4.5

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Book Review: The Mark of the King

Whenever I run into a book with a setting or premise that I have never heard of or read before I know that book is going to come home with me! When I saw this book, “The Mark of the King” from Jocelyn Green on the bloggers list I knew I was going to be eager to read it!

This story begins in 1719 France where our heroine, midwife Julianne Chevalier, is hard at work attending a birth. Tragedy strikes and Julianne is sentenced to one of France’s most infamous prisons- and forever branded by a fleur de lis marking her as a murderer. When Julianne finds a ticket out of prison and a chance to find her brother she takes it and finds herself in a whirlwind of events that lead to her on a boat to the fledgling Louisiana colony!  

While Julianne thought she was coming to a settled colony she finds instead the swamps of New Orleans, the push and pull of Native Indian wars sponsored by the French and British, and sickness and suffering everywhere, as well as becoming a part of soldiers and settlers alike who are forced to fight the land at every turn just to live- and still there is no definite sign of her brother. Fighting many of her own personal and professional struggles, and deep personal tragedies Julianne seeks underneath it all to find redemption from the past that marks her.   

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot of the book but I was really intrigued and surprised at every turn in this book- and there are many twists and turns the author always kept me on the edge of my seat! I loved the author’s writing style and how she expressed the characters and described the scenes!  

Readers should be given slight caution that there are two or three scenes of a stronger nature in this book. They did not damper my enjoyment of the book but it may startle more sensitive readers and may be skipped over with little trouble if desired.

Though it took me a while between busy days and nights to find time to read I was very glad that I kept going with this book! I very much enjoyed it and learned a lot too about the history of Louisiana. I think it’s great when a book is able to weave a great story and help you to learn something too! In the end I enjoyed seeing Julianna find that God’s grace covers all and we are all able to start again with Him at our side.

Final Rating: 5 

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Book Review: The Confessions of X

When this book first came in my mailbox I was convinced that it was a book that I couldn’t like on a topic I wasn’t interested in reading about. And so it sat around on my bookshelf for quite some time as I read through other review copies on my list. When I finally got myself in the mood to sit and read this I was very surprised about it indeed.

This book takes you to a very long time ago, to the ancient Carthaginian world of Augustine, the great Christian theologian. The story is told from the eyes of his concubine, a woman whose name is lost to history but whose impact was strongly felt on the life of the man she considered her husband.
From the very first the language in this book sucked me in, it is stunningly beautiful and lyrical and has a loneliness and hunger to it that compels the listener to hear her and know her story. The world in which the woman lives is nothing like our own- and yet her story is so familiar in the storytelling world. It is one of falling in love with someone not of her own class but being loved in return and dearly cherished. It is one of the journey of life and the struggle of living side by side with someone on a journey they don’t know the end of.  It is one of being ripped apart when the odds can no longer pretend they are in your favor.

The woman’s story is told in the strong brush strokes of a hard and sometimes harsh life. There is childbirth, and death, life and love painted in strongly worded descriptions. And there are also the soft stirrings of her own heart as she seeks to understand the world around her and follows alongside of Augustine and is a part of his philosophical work.  

I was very struck by all of this story and several times found myself in tears. I could spend a lot more words here trying to explain the details of this story but I think it would only cloud the issue. While I don’t agree with all the events that take place in this story I could not help but be moved by it all the same. This book doesn’t really fit into a box that I can neatly check as being good or bad. The writing is amazing. The story that is told is amazing. But it is also one that pushes me out of my comfort zone. The writer’s notes at the back of the book help to clear up some of the historical perspective and context and I did find that very helpful in understanding this book.

In the end, I would recommend this book to someone who was looking for something very different from the standard Christian fiction fare. I would not recommend it for younger teen readers, I think there is too much in here that needs an older eye to discern. But I’ll tell you that if you do read it, it will change you, and that I guess is what all books are meant to do.

Final Rating: 4

I have been given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.