July 23, 2014

Reviewing "Penny Wise" by Neta and Dave Jackson

"Penny Wise" by Neta and Dave Jackson is the third book in the "Windy City Neighbors" series.  I haven't read the first two, but I will definitely be picking those up after reading this one! The "Windy City Neighbors" series is written in a parallel novel style where each book can be read individually but some of the same characters lives are intertwined.
The main characters in this book are Michelle Jasper, her husband Jared, and their 3 teenage children.  Michelle is a social worker and Jared is an air traffic controller, both very demanding jobs. Juggling all the "good things" that life has brought them along with the demands of raising teenagers proves to be quit a challenge.  When things start getting out of control a series of crises begins to affect the entire family.
 The charming characters feel very real and draw the reader in right off the bat. It feels like you are reading a story about a family you might meet at church or live next door to, and that makes reading the book even more pleasurable. This shouldn't be surprising considering how much success the Jacksons have found in writing novels, and if you are a fan of the Yada Yada Prayer Group series, I would highly recommend this book.
With faith being a prominent theme in this book. it encourages the reader to be persistent in prayer and to live a life focused on serving God and serving others. It's always refreshing to read a novel in which the characters can be role models for your real life.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review. 

July 17, 2014

Growing Herbs in the City


Attention city dwellers with only a small patio or a window sill: I was recently given a cute little herb garden growing kit for my birthday, and it's making me realize how fun it is to exercise your green thumb on a small and tiny scale.  This isn't an ad for herb garden kits, and I'm not getting paid for sharing this with you. I just thought it was fun and cute, and both of those adjectives automatically qualified this as a blog worthy subject.
Each little mason jar holds a different herb, and with the layered combination of perlite, pebbles and soil, each jar environment is self-watering.  Any word proceeded by "self-" frees up time in our busy schedules so that makes me a fan. While we work, play and do laundry, these little jars of genius are cooking up some healthy home-grown herbs that we can harvest as needed.
I planted these little cuties on Saturday, and by Tuesday, two of them had already sprouted! Here's the adorable little basil plant.

Now that I know how to make these, I think they would be pretty easy to replicate with many different kinds of herbs and veggies.  If you want to get this exact kit, head over to http://makerskit.com.  

July 11, 2014

Reviewing "Teen Study Bible, NIV"


The "Teen Study Bible, NIV" was edited by Lawrence O. Richards and Sue W. Richards and would be a good resource for the older teens in your life.  Containing many special features, I think this Study Bible would be a helpful supplement to your Teen's Bible collection. I am a fan of having several translations of the Bible, as well as some good Bible commentaries and Study Bibles. As you are reading through your chosen version of the Bible, if you come upon a verse or collection of verses that seems confusing, it really helps to have different versions to compare. 
In this case, this Study Bible has a lot of supplemental discussion sidebars.  The "Instant Access" sections apply certain verses to the life of a teen, and help them see how what has been written relates to their daily lives. The "Dear Jordan" sections are kind of like Biblical "Dear Abby" letters, in which teen ask questions about specific problems relating to their faith that they may be facing in their lives and get advice from the editors.   Each book of the Bible also has a nice introduction section which highlights key themes and previews the major events in that particular book via bullet points.  This would be very helpful to those of us who aren't teens as well.  There are Q & A sections that test your knowledge of Bible trivia and pop out sections of text called Bible Promises which highlight important verses that would be good to memorize. 
All in all, this has the makings of a great Study Bible for teens. As usual, use your own judgment when purchasing this for your teen. Some of the "Dear Jordan" sections may be a little on the mature side for a 13 year old, but would be perfect for your 15 or 16 year old.  


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

July 10, 2014

Reviewing "Seasons of Tomorrow"



"Seasons of Tomorrow" by Cindy Woodsmall is the fourth book in the "Amish Vines and Orchards" series. I've read each book in the series and this one is definitely my favorite.  It's the longest of the four books, and for good reason, since there are several very intriguing plot lines. When I got to the end, I didn't want it to end!  Woodsmall's characters are always very relatable and realistic. The raw emotions that go along with dating, marriage, family life and faith are practically seeping out of this book. I found myself reading very quickly at times so I could find out what happened next. Here is short summary from the publisher:

"More settled in her heart than ever before, Rhoda Byler feels a newfound confidence living in the Old Order Amish settlement she helped establish in Orchard Bend, Maine. Time has helped to heal the wounds of Rhoda’s recent severed relationship, and she finds that even her unusual gift of profound intuition is less of a burden as she continues to seek God’s wisdom for her future. She is happy to be working alongside the King family and the love of her life as they tend and nurture the settlement’s orchard.
Yet when Leah King’s involvement with Englischer Landon Olson becomes known outside of the Maine community, her disregard of the Ordnung could threaten all the Orchard Bend Amish are building. In the midst of addressing the discord, a shocking tragedy challenges the young settlement like never before, threatening to uproot Rhoda’s peace and the future of everything she holds dear.
When several members of Orchard Bend Farms are displaced, the estranged King brother is called upon to return. Can those who founded the new Amish community in Maine unite Or will the lingering pain of past hurts and present struggles result in the end of their dreams?"

As you can tell from my book review history, I am a fan of Amish fiction.  This series is a particularly good representation of the genre.  I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Christian fiction with lots of great characters, life lessons, and youthful angst.  It's a great summer read, and I would recommending picking up the entire series. If you've never read any Amish fiction, this would be a good place to start/ get sucked in. 

Head over to the Author's website to find out more fun info: http://www.cindywoodsmall.com



Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

June 23, 2014

Reviewing "Love Skip Jump" by Shelene Bryan


"Love Skip Jump" by Shelene Bryan is a great book that has the potential to be a catalyst for a great deal of change in your life.  When I decided to read this book I had no idea that the author lives in the city next door and is involved in some of the same organizations I'm familiar with and have worked with. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that she attends a wonderful and well known church nearby and has partnered with Children's Hunger Fund. Children's Hunger Fund is absolutely my favorite charity so that gave her instant credibility in my book.
"Love Skip Jump" details Bryan's journey into the life path that God was calling her to take.  She made some big changes in her life, and as a result of saying "yes" to some scary and exciting things, she is helping people all across the world. After traveling abroad and witnessing firsthand the vast poverty and need, she founded the charity Skip1.org which is dedicated to providing food and clean water to children around the world.
While our individual scope of saying yes may be on a smaller scale than hers, she challenges us (in a very effective way) to examine our own lives and the things God may be asking us to say yes to.  She gives many examples of circumstances in her life where she was led to say "yes" and the ripple effect that "yes" had on the people around her.  The joy and fulfillment she has found in this new life is contagious. So contagious that I finished the book in less than 24 hours.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to be inspired to make a difference in the world around them.  It could be the people you work with, or the family next door.  I believe we are given opportunities to love others on a pretty frequent basis. Being open to saying yes to peoples' needs, or even be a listening ear to someone who needs a friend is a great start. Read this book.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Reviewing "A Ranger's Trail"


"A Ranger's Trail" by Darlene Franklin is the fourth book in the Texas Trails series. I've enjoyed each of the books leading up to this one and "A Ranger's Trail" did not disappoint. The series takes place in late 1800s Texas, a turbulent time period filled with adventure and turmoil.   Franklin's descriptive writing style transports the reader onto the Texas prairie, almost to the point that you start to feel overheated and dusty. :)  The emotions of the characters feel very realistic and raw and although we live in very different times, I felt and identified with the characters' angst as I read.
Here is a short summary from the publisher:

In 1875 Buck Morgan rode into Mason County with the Texas Rangers to quell the violence stirred up by the actions a vigilante mob. The Hoo Doo (or bad luck) War erupted as suspected cattle rustlers were murdered by an angry mob.  Former ranger, Scott Cooley, gathers a gang to seek vengeance for the murders.
Suspected of cattle rustling, Leta Derrick's husband was murdered by the mob a year earlier. Now she is siding with the rogue ranger, Scott Cooley and refuses to help Buck Morgan stem the tide of violence.
Will their actions fuel the fire of vengeance? Or will Buck and Leta strike an accord that leads to more than just peace?

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Christian historical fiction. Many of the characters and events in the book are based on reality, so in a sense you are getting a history lesson along with an entertaining read.  The plot includes all of the facets of a good Wild West story, complete with horses, cowboys and cattle rustlers.  Although the plot does have a slightly predictable ending, I still thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading the next installment in the Texas Trails series.


Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

June 5, 2014

Reviewing "The Undergrounds" Issue 1

"The Undergrounds" is a family adventure graphic novel series written by Geert Heetebrij and illustrated by Jonathan Lareva.  The series centers on a suburban family which upon moving into a new neighborhood discovers a hole in their backyard. This hole leads to a network of tunnels which contain doors to fairy tale worlds. The children of the family and their dog discover the hole the day they move in, and can't resist exploring it by the light of their big sister's smart phone.  The catch to the fun adventure is that once the kids open the gateways to the different worlds, the villains of those worlds can freely enter the children's world.

I must admit, I've never been much of a graphic novel/comic book reader. But this first taste of this nine-issue series definitely left me wanting more.  I need to find out what happens next! This first installment demonstrated that this series is perfect for a family to read together. The amazing illustrations and creative story arc draw the reader in right away. I'm confident that kids would eat this up and spend lots of time gazing at the illustrations, imagining themselves in a fantasy world. I would recommend it to any family who enjoys reading and to adults who are still kids at heart.

There's a heartwarming story behind this series as well. It all started as a bedtime story for Geert Heetebrij's four children.  They wanted to see the story come alive so Geert decided to write it, and brought Jonathan along for the ride as his very talented illustrator. This first issue was crowd-funded on Kickstarter and is now available for you to purchase here: http://www.undergroundscomic.com/ 


Disclaimer: I was provided an electronic version of this book in exchange for an honest review.