Saturday, September 24, 2016

Rise and Shine

Rise and Shine: A Contemporary Fairy Tale  *****
by Sandra Bricker

Overview: Shannon wakes up from a coma to discover she's been asleep for ten years. In that time, her husband has died and technology has gone crazy. She begins a friendship with her doctor, who has nursed her for the past ten years. Shannon has to decide what to do with her second chance at life and come to terms with the fact that she isn't who she was ten years ago.

Positive elements: easy to read, clean

Negative elements: predictable

Conclusion: I love retold fairy tales when I'm in the mood for a sweet story, even if it's a bit predictable. So far, the best retold fairy tales I've ever read are the Cinder series by Marissa Meyer. They aren't at all predictable and yet they follow the original fairy tales in a way.

This book, Rise and Shine, wasn't as creative, but you do really feel for the characters. The author does a good job of developing the love story in a believable way. One character I didn't understand was her late husband's sister...Millicent. I felt like she was just added so that the story would seem more like Sleeping Beauty. She didn't seem to belong to the rest of the story.

Also, in a few of the contemporary fiction books I've read lately, the heroine is white, and her best friend is black. Why is this? I want to enjoy getting to know each of these characters no matter their race.

I would recommend this book as an easy read for people who like retold fairy tales with happy endings. In the wintertime, with a fire in the fire place, this is a story you will enjoy.

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

Friday, September 23, 2016

Justin Morgan Had a Horse

Justin Morgan Had a Horse *****
by Marguerite Henry

Overview: There is a boy named Joel, and he trains a horse named Little Bub to pull a cart. When the little horse grows up, he becomes strong and fast. He gets famous, and they call him after his owner Justin Morgan. (This is a true story about where the Morgan horses came from.)

Positive elements: You learn that even someone who is little can do amazing things.  

Negative elements: Joel got sold!

Conclusion: People who like horses would like this book.

By Sabrina Staples, 8 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

When Love Arrives

When Love Arrives *****
by Johnnie Alexander

Overview: Plain, normal Dani is stalking the rich and handsome Brett Somers. He sees her taking pictures and goes to talk with her, not knowing she was taking pictures of  him. He lays on the charm and convinces her to go on a date that very evening. The unusual pair begin to fall in love. Dani battles overcoming her past misconceptions of Brett, and Brett battles overcoming the sins and hurts of his past. They both have secrets they are hiding which keep pushing them apart.

Themes: redemption and a new chance for love

Positive elements: easy to read

Negative elements: characters' past pre-marital sex mentioned, broken families mentioned, deaths from the past mentioned

Conclusion:  I have pretty much given up reading Christian fiction romances because they are so boring and predictable. I decided to try this one because the author's other books had such great reviews on Amazon. However, I am still rather disappointed. The story was so confusing with all the different charcters being somehow related or having dated each other in the past. By the end of the book, I was still trying to put it all together. Also, I felt like the main struggle Dani had against Brett was unbelievable. I just couldn't feel her pain. I thought the author did a better job with the character of Brett. However, the author spends too much time "telling" us how Brett is falling in love with Dani against his wishes rather than showing that development of his feelings through the story.

I know there is a large market for clean, feel good romances, despite if they lack depth. I would recommend this book for people who enjoy those kind of stories.

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


Monday, September 19, 2016

Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising  *****
by Pam Munoz Ryan

Overview: This is a great story about a Mexican girl named Esperanza. She has to go to America to escape from her terrible uncle. Her mother finds work and then after a terrible dust storm, she becomes ill. Esperanza's father had died before she left for America. In America, she has to live with some of her relatives. Esperanza has a huge adventure in America, so find out what happens!

Negative Elements: People die and her mother becomes sick

Positive Elements: Friendship and Love

In conclusion, I loved this book; it had a lot of action. I just didn't like how sad it was. I think ages ten and up would enjoy it. Find out what happens to Esperanza! 

By Summer Staples, 10 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Kit Kat and Lucy

Kit Kat and Lucy *****
by Lonnie Hull DuPont

Overview: The author shares her personal story of when two cats stumbled into her life. The cats bring with them an unexpected soothing presence and hours of fun and playing. 

Themes: cats, anxiety, moving, grieving

 Positive elements: The book was well-written, very detailed descriptions of the cats and their activities. I learned some new things about my cats, too. She has a chapter about a banty hen that adopts them for a summer. I have chickens so I loved reading about the activities of that little hen.

Negative elements: The pace was slow, a bit too much description for me...maybe because I'm not a cat person?

Conclusion: I read this book because I have a friend who adores cats. I think she will love reading about all the daily adventures of these cats, how they interact with one another, why they act the way they do, etc. I was hoping to hear more about the transformation of the author through having the cats. She does talk some about how they help with her anxiety, but it is really a story mostly about the cats. I also thought there would be more of a spiritual aspect to the book, but there are only a couple brief references to prayer.

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

From Heaven: A 28-Day Advent Devotional

From Heaven: A 28-Day Advent Devotional *****
by A.W. Tozer

This is a collection of short essays by Tozer on various Christmas themes. I love Tozer and his writings. This would be a wonderful addition your devotions in the month before Christmas. The book is small and hard covered and would make a nice gift as well.

I only gave From Heaven three stars because I felt like the book lacked a general progression toward Christmas. I have read advent books before that seem to prepare you day-by-day for Christmas with a growing anticipation. This book is simple a collection of seemingly random essays that all can be linked somehow to Christmas. Also, some of the essays seem to stop midpoint to be continued the next day. I know they wanted to keep the readings short each day, but that was a bit confusing to me. So, while the essays are great, I didn't enjoy it as much as other advent devotionals.

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

Unlocking the Bible

Unlocking the Bible  *****
by Jeff Lasseigne

This book uses simple and easy to understand language to explain the Bible. It covers topics such as how we got the Bible, how we can trust it, the overview of the Old and New Testaments, and explains the historical context of the 400 year break between the two testaments. It also covers methods of studying and teaching the Bible. Then, the second half of the book has an overview of every book of the Bible. 

I have read a lot of books about the Bible at Bible college and as a part of my own study after that. This book is unusual in that it is so easy to understand. The author explains that it is helpful to have a road map to help you understand the greater picture of the whole Bible. This book lays out a wonderful map. That way as you are reading through the Bible, you can see how it all fits together. It also helps having some of the historical events of the Bible times explained clearly, too. The author is also humorous and truly enjoyable to read. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who is just beginning to read the Bible or has been reading it for awhile but wants to understand it better.

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

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Everything is Possible

Everything is Possible  *****
by Jen Bricker

Overview: Jen Bricker never says "can't". She was born without legs but that hasn't stopped this amazing athlete from performing acrobatic routines all around the world.

Themes: You can do anything!

Positive elements: I loved reading about her adoption and how she later makes peace with her birth family. I also loved reading about how her parents really fought for her and supported her. And of course, it is inspiring to see the amazing athlete she has become. The book also has a section of photos, which were fun to look at.

Negative elements: The story is written like a pep rally, which gets annoying after awhile. She seemed to talk way too much about herself and how great she is. (I think this is just because she's young.) She does talk a lot about God as well, but it seems an afterthought to her achievements.

Conclusion: I am glad Jen Bricker wrote her story. I may not have enjoyed everything about it, but I think it's important for young people to know that people with disabilities are people, too. And you can accomplish a lot with hard work. Jen is still young, and I look forward to watching what God does in her life.

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

Monday, September 5, 2016

Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon

Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon  *****
by Dhan Gopal Mukerji

Overview: A boy tells his story of raising a prize carrier pigeon in India.

Themes: friendship, courage, life in India, eastern religion

Positive elements: The story was full of wonderful descriptions of life in India. We learned a lot about Indian animals, life in the jungle, and pigeons of course.

Negative elements: The story won the Newberry Medal in 1928. So, it's an old book and moves along at a slow pace. Our family enjoyed it, but I think for some kids, it would be too slow to really get into the story. There is also quite a bit of eastern religious ideas and beliefs in the book.

Conclusion: Although the book is a bit slow, it paints such a vivid picture of India that I'd recommend it as a book for the whole family to read and enjoy.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Christmas Angel Project

The Christmas Angel Project *****
by Melody Carlson

Overview: Five women meet regularly for a book club. The leader of their group suddenly dies right after Thanksgiving. The remaining four women are reeling in their grief and feel like just disbanding the group. However, they discover that just before she died, their friend made them each a Christmas present and left a letter for them to read. Inspired by her legacy, the women decide to reach out this holiday season and serve like their friend always did. They never imagine where God will take each of them as they reach out to others.

Themes: friendship, family, love

Positive elements: This is a sweet and clean love story...perfect for the fireside at Christmas.

Negative elements: none

Conclusion: It looks like Melody Carlson has found her niche writing these short Christmas stories. This is the first one I've read, but it looks like she's written a few and sold a lot of books. This story isn't a great piece of literature, but it was a quick, fun read.

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

Natural Color

Natural Color: Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for your Home and Wardrobe  *****
by Sasha Duerr

This is a beautiful, hardcover book on how to dye fabric using plants. I was pleased to see that these methods are pretty simple and use mostly things I have on hand. The book is divided by the seasons and shows you how you can use seasonal plants for various dyes. There is also instruction on how to do some more specialty dyeing such as block printing, dip dyeing, and fancy tie dyeing. She also talks about the art of dyeing and its history.

I want to first try dyeing with avacado pits. The pits can produce a beautiful pink or blue dye depending on some different factors. 

She shows you how to dye all kinds of fabrics as well. I'll probably start with a cheaper fabric, but you can dye silks and beautiful wools...all kinds of things.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to try a new project. The book itself is fun to look through because of the beautiful pictures and the smooth feel to the paper.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

An Unexplainable Life: Recovering the Wonder and Devotion of the Early Church (Acts 1-12)

An Unexplainable Life: Recovering the Wonder and Devotion of the Early Church (Acts 1-12)  *****
by Erica Wiggenhorn

This is a verse by verse study about the first twelve chapters of Acts. The study has daily scripture reading, studying and questions to answer. It's set up to go through five days a week for ten weeks. 

So far I have really enjoyed this study. It takes less than half an hour a day to work through. I am working through it alone, but it would make a good small group study as well.

Right now our church is studying the early church and how God designed the church to work. So, this study fits right in with what we're already thinking about. I do want to have "an unexplainable life." And I know that comes only through letting God work His plan in my life.

By the way, this is a beautiful book. The front feels and looks like a watercolor painting. And the inside pages are smooth and well designed. I know the content is what is really important, but this truly is a pretty book.

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