July 24, 2014

"Beautiful on the Mountain" Book Review

"Beautiful on the Mountain" by Jeannie Light is a true story about a woman who left the fancy life she was used to and followed God's lead to minister to a tiny rural community in the Blue Ridge Mountains called Graves Mill.  After suffering the heartbreak of her husband leaving her, she was weighing her possibilities and trying to figure out how she was going to rebuild her life. She had big plans to raise sheep on some property she owned near Graves Mill, and while investigating her options, was asked to help the town re-open their inactive Baptist church.   She was petrified at the idea, and felt like she didn't have the tools to succeed at such a large task, but as time went on God led her to be the person that town desperately needed.

Jeannie Light has her Masters in Literature and also taught English. Her appreciation for words definitely comes across boldly in this text as she describes the details of her life in Graves Mill. Although very well written, it took me a while to get through the book. I enjoyed meeting the characters of Graves Mill and learning about Light's very interesting life there, but I probably would have enjoyed it a little bit more if the superfluous details were pared down a bit.  That aside, it was inspiring to read about Light's journey to follow God's calling in her life, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Memoirs with colorful characters and a good message.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review.

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.