Monday, November 28, 2016

Coloring book review: All is bright

The perfect gift for the creatives and coloring-book lovers in your life! Includes bonus activities and kid-friendly coloring pages for the whole family!
This Christmas season, celebrate the birth of our Savior through beautiful design and devotion. Grab your colored pencils, cozy up with your favorite blanket and a cup of tea, and settle in for a night of peace and wonder with All Is Bright. For lovers of the Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest coloring books, All Is Bright is the perfect way to transform the Advent and Christmas seasons for your whole family, re-centering the holidays on the miracle of Jesus’ birth. Combining 31 days of rich content by the beloved and inspirational Nancy Guthrie with intricate designs that will reconnect you with the heart of Christ, this coloring book devotional journey reminds us all of what the season really calls us to: worship.

My Review:

I'm all about coloring books. I also happen to be ALL ABOUT CHRISTMAS. Honestly, though, after I received a coloring book/devotional/journal, this was just....mundane. A sort of been there-done that kind of book. The pictures were fun to color and look nice on refrigerators. You can use pencil, pen, or marker on the pages but I haven't experimented with water colors yet.

A lovely gift for someone who likes god and Christmas and coloring.

But...I'm really frustrated because it's just not special. There is nothing defining about this that would make me say 'get this one, not that one' because it's exactly the same as any other coloring book.

For eleven dollars, it's fine. Good, even. Just don't go blowing your bank account on it. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Netgalley Review: Hot, Holy, and Humorous

Do you want to be a hottie in the bedroom without sacrificing holiness? How can you make the most of God’s gift of sexual intimacy in marriage?
Wrongful thinking and behaviors regarding sex permeate our culture. Christians need to reclaim sexuality and enjoy it in the way God intended.
God does not shy away from the subject of sex. The Bible shows a better way in every area—including the marital bedroom.
In Hot, Holy, and Humorous, author J. Parker gives candid advice for wives from a foundation of faith with a splash of humor.
This book can boost your sex savvy and improve your marital intimacy. And guess what? With God’s perfect design, you and your spouse can enjoy the most amazing sex!

My Review:

While there are references to love and lovemaking in the bible, there aren't exactly a lot of hot and steamy passages, or any detail about trivial marriage things, like how Abram and his wife decided (probably together, I don't see any woman making such a decision on her own) that he should sleep with someone else for the good of the future. 
There are many (perhaps too many) references to Star Trek in the first chapter of Hot, Holy and Humorous. While I appreciate the first chapter describing how to spark common romance in the relationship, the constant Star Trek references took away from it. As it so happens, I'm the less romantic one in our relationship and I don't like the implication that I'm an emotionless alien.
But it got better. Parker breaks down how to write a love letter you don't totally hate, and mentions that if it makes the great poets roll in their graves your mate will likely love it anyway. 
Between common obstacles that spoke directly to my heart like having totally off sleeping schedules, not knowing how to buy lingerie, being okay with more than the missionary position, and how to initiate sex, I felt like Parker was the best friend I never had. The whole book being centered on God was a bonus.
My favorite idea: having sex in a homemade fort. 
This book did have more to-the-point descriptions and diagrams involved, which I appreciated. I'd actually probably give this book to my daughter when she's of age. But if you blush easy, you might want to stay away.

Monday, November 21, 2016

NetGalley Review: The Christmas Tree

The classic New York Times–bestselling tale of friendship, generosity, and the magic and wonder of the Christmas spirit
On his annual search for Rockefeller Center’s next Christmas tree, the chief gardener spots an ideal candidate: a stately Norway spruce located on the grounds of a convent. There he meets Sister Anthony, a nun for whom the tree has special meaning. Orphaned and sent to the convent as a lonely young girl, Sister Anthony befriended the then-tiny spruce whom she lovingly named “Tree.” Over the following decades, as the tree grew, so did Sister Anthony’s appreciation for the beauty and wonder of nature.
She is reluctant to see her oldest and closest friend chopped down and sent away to New York City. But when a fierce blizzard threatens the old tree’s existence, Sister Anthony realizes it’s time to let the world enjoy Tree as she has for nearly her whole life.
Accompanied by charming illustrations and a new introduction by the author, The Christmas Tree is a heartwarming story of love and friendship, a modern holiday classic for all ages.

My Review:

This is the story of a very lonely little girl, her tree, and a city man who doesn't even know he loves Christmas.

I love the whole format and flow of this story so much, I can't even say my natural bias because I love Christmas is even affecting it...much.

The story itself starts out with the guy in charge of Christmas in New York sees the perfect tree. It's settled in a little plot of paradise, carefully created and maintained by a man who loved beauty and the nuns who came to live there. Sister Anthony didn't start out wanting to be a nun, but during the story you get to see into her past and find out why her relationship with Tree is so special. This is a great story to read a little bit at a time in the days counting down to Christmas, whether you are in New York or not.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

NetGalley Review: Meditation for Moms and Dads

Meditation Practice for Moms and Dads: 108 Tips for Parents and Caregivers boldly claims that a thriving meditation practice is not only possible, but an absolute must for the parent/householder. It isn't an empty claim. The author, Shana Smith, is doing it. Her journey is profound, funny, and fabulous. This entertaining combination of tips, real-parent stories, and poetry demonstrates that parents can squelch the mindset of ""I can't"" to ""I will,"" and celebrate the opportunity to embrace parenthood and worldly life itself as a vital spiritual practice. "

My Review:

This book starts out with a brief introduction to meditation and great tips to combat those swirling thoughts that jump on you now that you've slowed down enough to think them. 

The tips themselves are a little new age, but not bad. I don't think I'll be explaining meditation to my kid as "seeing fairies in the forest" and no, I don't have guilt over sitting her in front of Peg + Cat for a half hour of quiet. What really bugged me was the art. Every few pages there are stick figure drawings. I'm not sure if her kids made them, but I wasn't expecting art at all in this book. If anything, the art in the book should match the art on the cover. 

Between the wording and passages that don't quite fit with my religious beliefs and the stick figure drawings (seriously...why?) I'm going to say skip this book. There are plenty of other meditation sources in the world, my favorite of which is visual or guided meditation. Look it up on youtube.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Author Idols Book review: Brilliant Cut

What do you do when home is a person, not a place?
Where do you go when the person is gone?

Desperate for a new beginning, Sophie Cavall trades Manhattan for Brooklyn, where she meets someone new. He's a fun-loving man, hardworking and good with kids, but a run-in with her former flame revives a yearning Sophie thought was long buried.

Even if it meant facing death alone, Oliver Black did the only thing he could think of to keep the woman he loves safe and out of the limelight: break her heart. 
But this time, there's no way in hell Oliver is letting her go.

The real enemy is closing in. The last piece of the puzzle may prove to be the most dangerous of all. 

In the third and final installment to the Diamond in the Rough series, Elisa Marie Hopkins explores love, loss, forgiveness, and the perseverance of two characters facing extraordinary challenges. There might just be light at the end of the tunnel…

My Review:

My author idols rarely let me down, and Elisa is no exception. She took an interesting turn in this installment of DITR, which is always a risk but turned out well. My husband actually was more interested in this book when I talked to him than any other book (by that I mean he said more than 'hmm' when I went on a rant.) 

I was pretty intrigued while reading the last chapter of book 2 about how Elisa would pull off Hablinski, but she did rather well. I have the pleasure of being married to a conspiracy theorist so none of what came up was new. XD 

You know that moment when you're about 90% through the book and everything is awesome and you have this profound feeling of dread and anticipation because it's too perfect and something either has to go dreadfully wrong or become terribly anticlimactic? You get that feeling in this book.

There were also some lovely moments in the book that took me back to my own early days in my marriage, as well as the typical cheesy moments in Sophie's vocabulary. Overall, it's still early in Hopkins' career but she's off to a great start.

Monday, November 14, 2016

booklook bloggers review: With all due respect

With All Due Respect is a handbook for parents navigating the difficulties of the tween and teen years. Roesner and Hitchcock help parents identify what successful relationships look like and give easy-to-follow lessons in enforcing rules, communicating lovingly, resetting relationships, overcoming fears and exhaustion, and handling rebellion. Each day features a story every mom can relate to, down-to-earth questions to think about, and a prayer to launch an action plan. As a result, the reader gains new skills and perspective, greater strength, and an ability to live out faith daily as never before. With All Due Respect is for all parents seeking not only to connect more deeply with and positively impact their teens and tweens, but also to grow more deeply in faith through the process.

My Review:

I expected about the same that I read online about tweens: give them space, but lay down the law. Mold their behavior to 'respectable' standards. I was given a refreshing change starting with the first chapter that stated "look at yourself first."

There were certain times in this book that I wished it was a little less faith based. I understand the need for god, but one chapter in particular made me feel like I wasn't a 'good enough' Christian. It asked questions like 'do you solve problems with the bible', 'do you make your family go to church', are you a 'scriptural parent' or a 'devotional parent'? Had there been a few more options like 'do you tend to give things to God when you can't do it yourself' or 'do you talk to your child about God without pushing your religion on your kids.' would have let me check a few boxes.

Overall, I liked the book. I had to internally edit, as this book made it pretty clear that 'as a mother you spend more time with your kids'. When I work my 80 hours and my husband is the stay at home parent. It is a book I'll keep around in the event I need it when my 2 year old turns 12, but it's not one I'm running to get for any friends or Family.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

ebook review: Raising a child who Prays

In a society that is quickly abandoning its biblical standards, parents can create an effortless culture in their home that lends itself to the spiritual development of their child.

David Ireland, known for his dynamic teachings on prayer, provides a framework that helps parents elevate their prayer life, then parents can pass along the secrets to their little ones so they too may become spiritual giants over time. Parents will be equipped with practical exercises, sample prayers, and developmentally appropriate mentoring plans that will encourage their children to pray effectively now and into adulthood.

My Review:

I'll be honest. I want a child who prays, but I don't even really, truly know how to pray myself. So I got this book for some pointers, fully expecting to be told "welp, nothing doing if you don't have a solid relationship with the big man yourself."

Don't get me wrong, that's essentially what the first chapter says. But what struck me was that it didn't say "you have to be the end-all be-all perfect prayer-er." It said, instead, "practice. Take a tiny bit of time out of your day to say a prayer. Just start, and make sure you are doing it because you want Christ" Which essentially is what my husband told me when we first started discussing my conversion.

Ireland breaks it down into three steps: Purpose, Pattern, and Power. I love that the steps for leading your child to pray are the same steps for teaching yourself, and that example prayers are included for people (it can't be just me) who have no idea where to even start praying.

The effective teaching principles and engaging stories from the bible and more modern times kept me interested and reading on to the next chapter. I now have a framework for how to guide my daughter in a faith I just discovered, and would recommend this book to anyone looking for a little guidance as well.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tyndale bloggers review: Gratitude; a prayer and praise coloring journal

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal invites you to bring creative journaling and the calming act of coloring into your quiet time with God. This beautifully designed interactive prayer book from Tyndale’s Living Expressions collection helps guide your thoughts as you pray about concerns such as health, overcoming stress, personal relationships, and more. Gratitude gives you a way to celebrate and give thanks to God for the many blessings he provides. Filled with over 100 designs to color, plenty of space for journaling and sketching, and 40 needs-based prayers, Gratitude helps you express your devotion to God with your whole heart!

My Review:
So I dig most coloring books I come across, and I fall in love with just about every journal. So imagine my excitement when this baby showed up in the mail. The cover is so pretty and looks like someone really put a lot of thought and attention into it (and not so much like they were trying to make a buck on the coloring book craze going on lately) It's multitextured, has calm colors, and is hard enough to provide a proper base if you don't have a table and are coloring/journaling on, say, the bus. 

One irritation I usually come across in coloring books is hand cramps from drawing in so many tiny spaces. The illustrations in this book have a nice mix of small and open spaces to color in so your drawing time doesn't require a brace.

Some pages have straightforward prompts, but most of them have devotions or scriptures and leave the space for your own reflection or, if you're like me and like to write out your prayers, a prayer to match the devotion.

Know an adult who thinks millenials are silly? Do they think coloring is for children? Give them this book so they can color on the down-low and keep up their Adult image. Even if they start out only journaling, it's only a matter of time until they start saying "well you know, coloring can be a meditative state and bring you closer to God and calmer with everyone else." Then you can give them another coloring book and go halfsies on pencils. 


Saturday, November 5, 2016

NetGalley review: Minute Motivators for women

If it’s true that behind every good man is a great woman, then you’ve got an important job! Women are influencers. You influence your husbands, your children, your church community, your coworkers, your neighbors. That means you have a big responsibility. Take some time right now for yourself. One minute could make all the difference for you and for those around you.

About Stan Toler:
Stan Toler is senior pastor of Trinity Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and hosts the television program, "Leadership Today." He conducts seminars throughout the U.S. as the Model Church Instructor for INJOY Ministries, a leadership development institute for pastors. He has written over 30 books and is co-author of The Year Round Church Event Book.

My Review:
Light purple isn't used nearly enough in book covers, but it's fitting on this one. This book was way better than I expected it to be. In fact, the only reason I even picked it up was because I went 'Minute? Well it shouldn't take too long to read, then.'
I'm so glad I got to read this, though. Each passage is short, yes, but no word is wasted. I was highlighting a passage at least every few pages, and some motivators are so simple that you forget how effective they are because you just haven't done them lately.
Prime example: "Rest". It's explained to us that rest doesn't mean going to the beach or hanging out on facebook. It means taking a dang nap. And the last time I took a nap without feeling guilty was, honestly, elementary school. We forget little things like this that can make a huge difference in our lives.
It's notable to say there are more in this series, including minute motivators for teachers, leaders, teens, etc. This series would make a great gift for someone you care about.