Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review of Big Book Of Quizzes From Faithgirlz

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From the time my oldest daughter was a "tween" she's enjoyed the little quizzes that are geared for tween and teen girls and often found in books or popular magazines or on social media. Many of them are cute, and I understand why it's fun for the girls to do it and to ask the questions of their friends. But some of these little quizzes have content that isn't appropriate. Using inappropriate language or crude humor or encouraging sarcastic, unkind comments, some of them are not just good clean fun.

Enter the Big Book of Quizzes: Fun, Quirky Questions for You and Your Friends from Faithgirlz. Published by Zonderkidz (the children's branch of the Christian publisher Zondervan), this is a quiz book that I feel good about letting the girls use. From the book's description:

Welcome to the world of, well, you! The Faithgirlz! Big Book of Quizzes offers more than twenty quizzes delve into school, friends, faith, family, guys, and questions “All-About-You.” Take the quizzes on your own or with friends. Some funny, some thought-provoking, every quiz ends with wide range of answers to help girls think about themselves, get advice on tons of topics, and learn little “who knew?” facts about how they really think and feel—done in a fun format every girl loves.
Girls will love circling questions, asking BFFs for best answers, and LOLing at those “that’s SO me” moments. And, yet, each has a takeaway message that makes the Big Book of Quizzes a super entertaining, relevant, and interactive read for girls ages eight to twelve.

These quizzes are fun and clean. Some are designed to quiz yourself, some to be asked with your friends, and there's a whole chapter of quizzes girls can use to get to know their families well.

One thing that I particularly like is that all of the quizzes and answer sections are written from a distinctly Christian worldview, encouraging girls to live in a Christlike manner in their life and relationships. And the answer sections for each quiz give some tips for how to have a more full life by following God's will. There are Scripture references and examples from Scripture included.

This is a totally fun book and won't feel "preachy" to girls at all. But it will encourage them to live as Faithgirlz!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any way.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review of Beside Bethesda: a 31 Day Devotional by Joni Eareckson Tada

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In the New Testament Jesus came upon a man who was lying by the pool of Bethesda. At occasional times, angels stirred the pool and any who went into it were healed. This man was paralyzed, however, so he never made it into the water. When Jesus came by he asked the man if he wanted healing. And Jesus answered the man's cry and healed him.



Beside Bethesda: 31 Days Toward Deeper Healing is a thirty-one day devotional from Joni Eareckson Tada. As a woman paralyzed in an accident, she is familiar with a cry to God for healing. From the book's description:

Each day has a devotional reading, a few passages of Scripture, and a challenge/application for the day. Joni relates personal stories as she comforts and encourages in each day's reading.

I'm always blessed when I read Joni Eareckson Tada. When I realize what she's been through but see the joy and peace she has in Christ, I am encouraged and inspired. This devotional is another inspiring read.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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Review of Strange Glory by Charles Marsh

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I've always been intrigued by the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a German pastor who opposed the cruelty of the Nazis during World War 2. He spoke out against the churches that just went along with them. Because of his stance he was constantly ostracized and he was eventually imprisoned and executed for conspiracy against Hitler.


This story of Bonhoeffer's life- Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer - written by Charles Marsh, is a very detailed, very complete recounting. With excellent documentation and careful research, Marsh has written a very complete accounting of Bonhoeffer's life.

Although I've read other books about Bonhoeffer, this was one of the most detailed and descriptive. Marsh doesn't romanticize Bonhoeffer but portrays him carefully and gives us as readers insight into his determination to stand against the prevailing thought of the German church during the war.

For more information, I found an interesting interview with Charles Marsh about the book here.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.


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Monday, October 6, 2014

Review of Citizen by Rob Peabody

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Do you ever feel frustrated with Christians in general? Many Christians- often ourselves included-are content to roll along with the status quo. The fact is that we often don't act any differently than anyone else, even though we are citizens of a different kingdom.


When I read the book's description I was very interested in reading Citizen:

For Rob Peabody, the young pastor at a mega-church in southern USA, the realization that his faith had little real connection with the world around him meant that something had to change. He redirected his church towards the poor on their doorstep and then took the larger step of moving to the UK to establish the missional fellowship 'Awaken'.
 
In Citizen he outlines the Kingdom-centered identity that is given to followers of Jesus. It's a wake-up call to the church in the West. Jesus' death and resurrection initiates and invites people into a life of so much more than the status quo. God is re-building, re-newing, and re-creating that which is broken and marred by sin, and he is doing this - setting things right in the world - through Jesus. As citizens of the Kingdom, we have been saved and set apart for this work. We have a new allegiance, a changed identity, and a new mission as we seek to establish the rule of God on earth as it is in Heaven.

In Citizen Rob Peabody begins by explaining how we are citizens of the kingdom of Heaven. He describes the awakening that he experienced when he came to this realization for himself. And then he looks at the identity of a citizen, the community in which a citizen should live, the risks a citizen should be willing to take, the need for unity in the Kingdom, where a citizen's allegiance lies, the choices that a citizen must make, the need to be full time citizens, and how citizens are ambassadors for the Kingdom.

Rob's personal story is related in the book's beginning. He and his family left a megachurch in Texas to move to the UK to be a part of a missional community in a post Christian world. He, along with other like-minded people,  founded the Awaken Movement. This is a nonprofit that assists the churches by providing resources and coming alongside them.

Citizen incorporates stories from Rob's personal experiences as he talks in an informal way about what it means to be a citizen of the kingdom. It's not written as a how to guide. And there are no lists of practical steps to be accomplished. Instead it's a conversation between Rob and the reader that informs and convicts. I walked away with plenty to think about and to consider about my own life and the way I live.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

Right now Kregel is offering Citizen for Kindle for $1.99. You can check out the Amazon page here.



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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Review of The Sweetness by Sande Boritz Berger

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I've always been draw to historical fiction from the World War 2 time period. I can't really say I "enjoy" it because the time period was so harsh and sad. But there is something about it that draws me.

The Sweetness is a novel set during this time. It alternates between the lives of two main characters- a young girl living in Poland and her cousin, a young woman living in New York. From the book's description:

Early in The Sweetness, an inquisitive young girl asks her grandmother why she is carrying nothing but a jug of sliced lemons and water when they are forced by the Germans to evacuate their ghetto. "Something sour to remind me of the sweetness," she tells her, setting the theme for what they must remember to survive. Set during World War II, the novel is the parallel tale of two Jewish girls, cousins, living on separate continents, whose strikingly different lives ultimately converge.

Brooklyn-born Mira Kane is the eighteen-year-old daughter of a well-to-do manufacturer of women’s knitwear in New York. Her cousin, eight-year-old Rosha Kaninsky, is the lone survivor of a family in Vilna exterminated by the invading Nazis. But unbeknownst to her American relatives, Rosha did not perish. Desperate to save his only child during a round-up of their ghetto, her father thrusts her into the arms of a Polish Catholic candle maker, who then hides her in a root cellar─putting her own family at risk. The headstrong and talented Mira, who dreams of escaping Brooklyn for a career as a fashion designer, finds her ambitions abruptly thwarted when, traumatized at the fate of his European relatives, her father becomes intent on safeguarding his loved ones from threats of a brutal world, and all the family must challenge his unuttered but injurious survivor guilt. Though the American Kanes endure the experience of the Jews who got out, they reveal how even in the safety of our lives, we are profoundly affected by the dire circumstances of others.


The conditions for Jews in Vilna during the war were terrible. I found an article from the Holocaust museum that relates some of the details of what happened. It is difficult to image what it was like.

The Sweetness is a hauntingly beautiful story. Through the excellent character development, we can feel what it was like to live their lives. Rosha, the young girl, tells her story in first person, while her cousin, Mira's story is related in third person. There are also other characters that we get to know well as the story progresses.

This is not Christian fiction, as I sometimes review. There are a few intimate scenes in the book- not heavy on detail but definitely there. There is also reference to abortion and suicide. The events are definitely disturbing at times. I thought that this helped to communicate the book's theme of the terrible times in which the characters lived.

You won't walk away from The Sweetness feeling happy and cheerful. In fact there were issues unresolved. Because the story is more of an ongoing look at the lives of the characters instead of one dramatic climax with a resolution following, I felt as if I needed more at then end. But I did leave with a feeling of hope. And that, perhaps, is the reason I read books about the Holocaust. Because throughout the horrific event, there are stories of hope, of the resiliency of people and of the kindness of some. That's what The Sweetness made me feel.

I give this one 4 stars and an R rating for content.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.




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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Review of Raising a Princess by John Croyle

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princessAlthough I often read Christian fiction most often, I do enjoy reading nonfiction also. I especially like a book that makes me think, that convicts me, or that inspires me. I recently had the opportunity to review Raising a Princess by John Croyle, and it did all three.


About John Croyle: 

John Croyle was an All-American defensive end at the University of Alabama during a renowned title run under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Croyle declined a career in the National Football League and instead went on to found and develop the Big Oak Ranch for Boys. Over the next few decades they worked to start the Girls’ Ranch as well as the Westbrook Christian School. He and his wife, Tee, together have raised hundreds of young men and women, including their daughter and Big Oak child care director, Reagan Croyle Phillips, as well as their son and former NFL quarterback Brodie Croyle. For more information, please visit www.bigoak.org.

Because of his years spent working with boys and girls at the Big Oak Ranch and because of his experience parenting his own children, John writes with knowledge about the subject of teaching your daughter how to be a real princess. 

Many of the comments in the book were aimed at dads, but the information was also very relevant to me as a mom. And I think that it can be beneficial for me as a mom to think about these virtues that John is describing and question whether or not I truly display that virtue myself. Was I taught that this was important. And do I communicate its importance to my daughters. 

About the Book: 
The Bible defines godly womanhood in the frequently referenced chapter of Proverbs 31. John Croyle is one of today’s most respected child advocates. In his new book, Raising A Princess, Croyle asks, “How do you equip your daughter to become the kind of woman described in Proverbs 31? After all, a woman like that doesn’t appear out of nowhere. Somebody taught her to become the woman she was designed to be.”
Based on Croyle’s life and experience parenting more than 1,900 abused and neglected children at Big Oak Ranch, alongside his two biological children, this book is organized around eight essential virtues a parent can build in his or her princess:
- Praiseworthiness
- Righteousness
- Initiative
- Nurture
- Character
- Empowerment
- Servant-Heartedness
- Stability

In each of the book's chapters John examines one of these virtues. He describes what that virtue will look like and gives practical suggestions for instilling those virtues in your daughter. Throughout the book he weaves stories from the Ranch and from his own children to illustrate.

I was encouraged and inspired by Raising a Princess. I can walk away with practical ideas for my own girls. And I can definitely recommend this one as a good read.

This book can be ordered from the Big Oak Ranch website and all profits go to the running of the ranch.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.



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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review of Evergreen by Susan May Warren

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I've been enjoying the Christiansen family novels from Susan May Warren over the last couple of years. The books are romantic Christian fiction centering around the grown children of the Christiansen family one at a time. I've had the privilege to review all of them so far.
Take a Chance on Me
It Had to Be You
When I Fall In Love


I recently received Susan's novella- Evergreen- to read. Evergreen takes a detour from the lives of the Christiansen kids to look at their parents.

Evergreen is all about John and Ingrid Christiansen. They think they're destined to be empty nesters for the holidays, and each of them is handling the idea differently. The story is a touching look at the reality of kids grown and gone and the relationship that the parents have once the kids are moving on.

I love all of Susan's stories. I haven't yet read one that I dislike. But I have to admit that I didn't want to like Evergreen. And here is why. I am forty. I have children who are very quickly growing older. I have two teenagers already. I can see the day coming when they are leaving home. As I've read the Christiansen novels, I've loved each one. I read and I can relate to the lives of these fresh, young people heading into life, falling in love. Because in my mind, I'm still twenty-something. But when I read Evergreen, I had to admit that, perhaps I'm more like John and Ingrid than like their children. Perhaps I have a little more in common with their stage of life.

And despite my desire to dislike it, I couldn't. Evergreen was another great story from Susan. Her characters are always so easy to relate to. The story has moments of humor and moments that are very touching.

Evergreen is a novella, so it was a quick read and one that I could mostly finish in an evening. It makes for a great, short holiday read. And for fans of the Christiansen novels, it's a great side story that gives a little more insight into the family.

I can give Evergreen five stars and a PG for content. It's another great read from Susan May Warren.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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