Thursday, December 26, 2013

Chocolate-Covered Cashews

I received from the BookSneeze program and Westbow Press E-Books Chocolate-Covered Cashews by Wiley Baxter in exchange for an honest review.
I was very intrigued by the preview of this book:
Wiley Baxter was 57-years-old when God brought a surprise to him. Over the next four days, it was revealed to him that he was the biological father of identical twin daughters and four grandchildren, which resulted from a two-year marriage he had 36 years before. Overjoyed and overwhelmed, he began a new chapter in his life.
However, only the first two chapters talked about the phone call that then led to meeting his daughters. And then finally at the end there was a brief family update. The eight chapters in between were about different events that occurred in the author's life previous to discovering he was a father. Each event was shared because, looking back, Wiley could see how God had taken care of him during those times.

In my opinion, this book had decent bones but was very poorly written. It seemed to have been written by an elementary or middle-school student, not a fifty-nine year old man. Or maybe an editor was not involved. Unnecessary sentences, even paragraphs, were in this book as if maybe the minimum number of words was trying to be met. Different wording like "head concussion" seemed very redundant/obvious. Another example of elementary writing is after telling the story of when his brother died. He said, "I was very sad that day." Really?

I really do not want to bash Wiley Baxter's book because he is trying to make some good points about how God has been with him even when he wasn't necessarily willing to admit it; hindsight is 20/20. But there is still a lot of polish work that needs done on this book. Two stars.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Biff and Becka's Stupendous Vacation

The BookSneeze program and Westbow Press E-Books provided me with another children's ebook in exchange for an honest review. This was a chapter book, suitable for elementary children.

This is a great story about a rabbit family who has to forfeit their beach vacation due to a cut in the father's pay. After Biff (the son) has bragged about the beach vacation to his friend, he finds it embarrassing to admit they are having a "staycation." He also finds it difficult to be excited about a vacation of staying home. But he, his sister, and his cousins learn that a great time doesn't require an expensive beach vacation.

Throughout the book the parents use Biblical principles to explain situations (missing out on the beach vacation, why bees sting, how birds search for food, scavenger hunts, etc.), to remind them to be grateful for what they do have, and how sin can darken our lives. All of these examples were done very well (not cheesy). And the activities that were planned were so fun; it gives me ideas for my family!

A discussion guide is included at the end of this book too.

The only negative from this book was that rabbits were used as the main characters instead of humans. The plot in this book is geared toward early to mid- elementary kids but the characters are rabbits, as if this was for preschoolers. This was humorous at one point when Biff's and Becka's mom says, "Hurting rabbits hurt rabbits" when explaining bullies.

Four stars.

Willie Out West

Willie Out West by Rhonda Walker was a children's book I reviewed for the BookSneeze program. Westbow Press E-Books provided me this book for my nook in exchange for an honest review. I am sorry to say I did not enjoy this book, except for some humorous pictures.
This book was obviously geared toward preschool age children but the very first page starts out with Willie the walrus exclaiming to his mom, "I am sick of swimming and playing dumb games." Even though the idea in this story is that Willie changes his attitude after a bazaar dream, his mother just smiles at him in response to his disrespectful attitude. I can totally see little kids mimicking Willie with, "I am sick of doing dumb things."
Willie then has a dream about going to Big West and being a hero. Nice idea but his motives are to "have a story to tell when I return home a hero." While Willie is in "Big West" there is symbolism used about being a "thick-skinned" walrus or a "spineless jellyfish" which would be lost on the kids for which this book was written. And then somehow, because of this dream of defeating the big bad one-eyed ugly whale, Willie started listening to his parents. Huh?
Sorry, Rhonda Walker, one star.

Plain Peace

Plain Peace, by Beth Wiseman, is book number six in the Daughters of the Promise series. It was provided to me through the BookSneeze program and Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.
I had already read some of the books in this series, but not all of them. I can see how reading all of the books in the series could add to the enjoyment of reading Plain Peace but not reading all of them certainly doesn't take away or make the reader lost or confused while reading. Beth Wiseman does a great job of making the reader feel like this is a stand alone book. The family trees at the beginning help as well.
Anna Byler, the bishop's granddaughter, is the main character in Plain Peace. Because of her strict grandfather, Anna faces difficulties in trying to date. As in, no young man is willing to approach the bishop to ask permission to date his granddaughter. When a new family moves to town, their oldest son isn't quite as intimated - at first.
But that isn't all that is going on in this quick-to-read-book. There are plenty of hurting people, all trying to figure out where they fit in with family and friends. I love Anna's grandmother's quote about family: "Family is a gathering of people who love and accept each other for who they are, whether related or placed together by God for His own good purposes."
Four stars.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dandelion Summer

I finally took the time to read a book that has been on my "to read" list for two and a half years. Dandelion Summer by Lisa Wingate.
It took me a couple chapters to figure out what was going on but I am so glad I stuck to it. Great book! From the back:
All her life, Epiphany Jones has been tossed like a dandelion seed on the wind. Now, with the death of Mrs. Lora-the family friend who took Epie into her home-the sixteen-year-old must move to Dallas to live with her indifferent mother and new stepfather. Trapped in the low-rent area of blue Sky Hill, Epie doesn't fit in-and soon finds herself on the wrong side of the law. To make restitution., she's sent to work in another place she's not wanted: a home on the upscale streets of the Hill.

When J. Norman Alvord learns that his daughter has hired a teenager to stay with him in the afternoons, he's determined to nix the arrangement. Widowed and suffering from heart trouble, Norman wants to be left alone. But in Epie's presence, Norman finds a mystery. Deep in his mind lie memories of another house, another life, and a young black woman, a housekeeper, who saved him...

As summer comes to Blue Sky Hill, two residents from different worlds will journey through a turbulent past and find that with an unexpected road trip through sleepy Southern towns come a life-changing friendship... and clues to a family secret hidden for a lifetime.

A letter J. Norman wrote really touched me (this might be a bit of a spoiler so if you plan to read this book, hold off on reading the rest of this post). These are words he would say to a young father:
  • When you hear the first whimper in the night, go to the nursery and leave your wife sleeping. Rock in a chair, walk the floor, sing a lullaby so that she will know a man can be gentle.
  • When Mother is away for the evening, come home from work, do the babysitting. Learn to cook a hotdog or a pot of spaghetti, so that your daughter will know a man can serve another's needs.
  • When she performs in school plays or dances in recitals, arrive early, sit in the front seat, devote your full attention. Clap the loudest so that she will know a man can have eyes only for her.
  • When she asks for a tree house, don't just build it, but build it with her. Sit high among the branches and talk about clouds, and caterpillars, and leaves. Ask her about her dreams and wait for her answers, so that she will know a man can listen.
  • When you pass by her door as she dresses for a date, tell her she is beautiful. Take her on a date yourself. Open doors, buy flowers, look her in the eye, so that she will know a man can respect her.
  • When she moves away from home, send a card, write a note, call on the phone. If something reminds you of her, take a minute to tell her; so that she will know a man can think of her even when she is away.
  • Tell her you love her, so that she will know a man can say the words.
  • If you hurt her, apologize, so that she will know a man can admit that he's wrong...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Peace on Earth

I was provided Peace on Earth A Christmas Collection by Mary Engelbreit from the BookSneeze program and Zonderkidz publishers in exchange for an honest published review.

This is a beautiful Christmas book - for children and/or for the coffee table. The cover has snowflakes on it with texture - very fun. All of the illustrations are in the familiar colorful Engelbreit style.

Except for one story which lasts four pages, each page spread is something different - a Christmas poem, a Christmas carol, or the Christmas story. My favorite part is near the end: two paragraphs by James Freeman Clarke about how God made so many different kinds of people. "Let us not torment each other because we are not all alike, but believe that God knew best what he was doing in making us so different."

Four stars.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Christmas Candle

Through the BookSneeze program and Thomas Nelson Publishers I was provided The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado in exchange for an honest review.

This is a cute Christmas story set in the 1800's in England. The story is based around a candle maker the week before Christmas. See, it is said that an angel visits the candle shop the week before Christmas every twenty-five years. The angel touches just one candle and that candle is said to be the vessel for God to work. This is the year for the angel to visit and everyone in the village is wanting to be the recipient of this special candle.

The story is the anticipation of the angel coming and to whom the candle maker and his wife will give this special candle. All the while the new preacher is not on board with the candle holding special powers. So what will happen when the candle touched by the angel is mixed up with the others?

I rated this book three stars. I had a hard time following the story line at the beginning and keeping up with the characters. The writing style was just difficult for me: a chapter would start with all pronouns and on the next page the pronoun was finally identified. But it is a cute Christmas story and one I will probably enjoy with additional readings - maybe each Christmas.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Runaway Emotions

I was provided an incredible book by the BookSneeze program and Thomas Nelson publishers: Runaway Emotions Why You Feel the Way You Do and What God Wants You to Do About It by Jeff Schreve. This book took me a long time to read - simply because I wanted to take the time to process all of the great truths! 

Each chapter highlights one emotion, what Shreve calls a "smoke alarm." Those emotions, that seem to take over, are warnings from God. Shreve follows that up with how to handle it God's way. 
  1. Embarrassment: When You Feel Inferior
  2. Loneliness: All by Myself
  3. Frustration: A Real Nowhere Man
  4. Worry: When Anxiety Attacks
  5. Anger: The Beast Within
  6. Guilt: When Your Conscience Is Killing You
  7. Discontentment: Unhappy Campers
  8. Depression: When All Hope Seems Lost
Some highlights from the book:
  • The very first chapter (EMBARRASSMENT) reminded me that we have already been given everything we need (patience, strength, etc.), but we need to claim those gifts from God. 
  • I definitely had some "take-homes" from the ANGER chapter as well... "when we see life from His perspective, we will say, 'Lord, You did all things well! You did every single thing in my life perfectly, Lord, and I'm so glad.'" 
  • The GUILT chapter reminds the reader of Hebrews 12: 7-8 summarizing it by saying, "If you're not experiencing discipline, then you're not My child." That "the smoke alarm of guilt is a blessing." Schreve uses examples such as premarital sex or harboring bitterness. If you don't feel guilty about those things, then you aren't walking with God. 
 Five stars and highly recommended!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rosemary Cottage

I was provided Rosemary Cottage by Colleen Coble from the BookSneeze program and Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.
Knowing this book is the second Hope Beach Novel, I reserved the first book Tidewater Inn from the library before this book arrived on my doorstep. Many of the characters from the first book show up in the second book and the location is the same. However, reading Tidewater Inn is not necessary in enjoying Rosemary Cottage.
Rosemary Cottage has a little bit of romance on top of the mystery and suspense involved in Amy Lange's investigation into her brother's death. Amy is a midwife with parents who have their own plans for her, including leaving her brother's death labeled as a drowning. However, Amy has many reasons to be suspicious of her brother's death and she learns that things are not always as they seem.
A coastguard, Curtis Ireland, decides to help her with her investigation. He lost a sister in a boating accident and can relate to Amy's grief. But in their grief there is also anger and denial. The reader sees how these emotions cause them to become defensive and therefore interfere with their possible budding romance.
Through this story Amy learns, "No one was perfect. Trying to make believe only led to heartache" and from that realizes she needs to share her trials, not hide them.
Five stars.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Rainbow Egg by Linda K. Hendricks

This book was provided to me through the BookSneeze program in exchange for an honest review. I have mixed feelings on this book.
The story is analogous to international adoption. It is based on this chicken who lives in the woods with many other animals. This chicken is very happy being in the woods even though she has talked to chickens who live in chicken coops. One day this chicken realizes she has laid an egg. But because of her living conditions it becomes a burden to take care of this egg she has laid.
Meanwhile there is a chicken couple in the chicken house who wants to lay an egg but cannot. They try all sorts of ways - on their backs, on their heads (pictures included...).
As you can predict, the chicken who is burdened with the egg gives her egg to the couple who wants an egg. Very sweet as the chicken struggles with her love for the egg (and chick to come) but knowing she cannot take care of it in the woods.
In the midst of this story there is a redbird who sings and guides them in their decisions. That part was kind of random and after reading the book three times I decided the redbird is analogous to God but in a way as to not offend people...
Three stars.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Letters to Katie

I received Letters to Katie by Kathleen Fuller on my nook from Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.
Unfortunately, I did not realize this was Book #3 in the series and therefore was a little confused at the beginning. Had I read this book having more background information (as in reading the first two books) I probably would have given it four stars.
This was a great story to remind all of us the importance of family and faith - especially before wealth and possessions. Also a great reminder in waiting for God's timing - because that is always better than ours, and it is perfect.
I believe this is the first book I have read by Kathleen Fuller but it will not be the last. There is just enough excitement to keep the book moving but not so much that I was tense.
(I have put the first two books on reserve at the library because just enough details were given about previous events that I am curious how things happened.)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

When God Makes Lemonade

Thomas Nelson Publishing provided this book to me on my nook through the Book Sneeze program in exchange for an honest review. When God Makes Lemonade compiled by Don Jacobson was a fun book to read, reminding me of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. There are sixty-eight short true stories telling about how God worked their 'lemon' story into lemonade. Each story ends with a quick biography of the author including information on their other writings or blogs, as applicable.

Each story was encouraging and just awesome to read about people recognizing God as the One who turned their lemons into lemonade. The stories cover many topics: financial difficulties, grieving loved ones, near-death experiences, suicide, rape, blended families, disabilities, illnesses, and more.

This was a nice book to pick up, and read just as many stories as I had time for. Since each story was independent of the others, the stories could be read in any order. It would have been nice to have them grouped in sections by topic - especially for reference if wanting to share a story with someone going through a similar situation. Four stars.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The House That Love Built

I was provided this book by BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review. I was thrilled when I saw The House That Love Built  by Beth Wiseman on the available book list, as I have enjoyed previous books by her.
Wiseman did not disappoint. This book moved very quickly and I felt involved in the character's lives from the beginning. Brooke is a young widow with two children, not interested in looking for love or even making new friends. However, Owen moves to town and things begin to change.
Some aspects of the story are rather predictable but there are also some surprising twists and turns as well. The time spans between chapters varied - sometimes feeling like a chapter was left out. But Wiseman filled the reader in well.
Overall, this was a great easy read (with a cheesy looking cover) with lessons for us all on not keeping secrets, forgiving, and allowing God to work in our lives. Four stars.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Whisper Theory

Hmmm... I'm not sure how to rate this book. It was definitely different than I expected. It was advertised as a book for teens and since I almost have a teenager in the house, I chose this book as my next free book from BookSneeze in exchange for a review.

This book appears to just be a nonfiction story about college kids but at the end of each chapter there is a Bible study - Scripture passages to read as well as thought-provoking questions. The topics included temptation, sex, drinking, murder, and more. Definitely a book for older teens. And probably a great study for college freshman, as the plot has quite a bit of reality to it.

At one point I thought of giving up on this book due to the content. But I stuck it out and it got better and the Bible study part of the chapters redeemed the book.

So for rating this book... four stars for a college Bible study but two stars when advertised as a teen study.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Frog Tape!

I have been doing a lot of painting lately - which means a lot of painter's tape. I ran out of the 'blue tape' while painting an accent wall. One side was painted with 'blue tape'
and the other side was painted with the green Frog tape.
 Look at this difference! They were honest when they said "Keeps Lines Sharp!" WOW! I think the pictures speak for themselves! Go FROG TAPE!!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Removing Water Spots

Do you have water spots ruining the beauty of your wood furniture? Our dining room table - which I love - was really starting to show its wear and tear. Lots of little scratches and nicks are visible but the numerous water spots are what was really causing it to look bad. I tried polishing it. I tried the mayonnaise trick. (Pinterest fail.) Twice. I gave up...
...until I saw another idea on Pinterest: Use a hair dryer! It worked!!! I am so excited! I wish I would have taken a before picture of the whole table because I got rid of at least eight water spots. Three were rather large - like this one:
Be patient. This takes a while - like twenty minutes. But that is still less time than refinishing even a tiny piece of furniture! On high, I put my hair dryer close to the spot.
Once I realized this was working - slowly - I grabbed a book to read while holding the hair dryer. I definitely recommend having something to do that still allows you to rotate hair-dryer-holding-hands easily and doesn't require any kind of listening.
Keep the hair dryer close to the spot and be patient!
Ta da! The spot is gone!
When you are done, moisturize the wood. I used olive oil.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


You know that feeling when you just "hit the wall" with fatigue, aches, and chills? I had heard that this 'Oscillococcinum' was the wonder drug for that. Although it isn't really a drug - it is a homeopathic medicine with zero side effects. I have always been a bit leery of homeopathic remedies (I'm not sure why I trust man-made chemicals more than the natural stuff???). I had heard so many great things about this from different people that I rushed out to buy it when my son 'hit the wall' and came down with a fever after dinner one night about six weeks ago. 
There are these little vials (pictured in the bottom right corner on the box) packed in groups of three in the box. You take three vials, one every six hours. Inside each vial looks like large salt crystals - like you see on hot pretzels. These crystal-like things are tasteless and dissolve in your mouth. And they work! My son's fever broke overnight and he was just a little puny the next day and perfectly fine the next.
So then this week when my husband 'hit the wall,' I pulled out the Oscillococcinum again - but this time not until the morning after his 'crash.' He slept most of that day, his fever broke, and then he was almost back to normal.
Now I suppose these 'bugs' could have just been the 24-hour variety and the Oscilloccinum didn't really do anything... but others who have had the same thing this winter who didn't take Oscilloccinum have been down and out for several days, and close to a week in some cases. So now I am a believer in what we call 'the ossy-oxy-stuff'. (You can hear how to really say it here.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Love's Complete

I received this book on my nook from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review. Even though this was a children's book, I was interested in reading it since I have many friends who have adopted internationally - several from Russia.
The book is written in rhyming verse, just four lines per illustrated page. After observing the adoption process through my friends, the poem is very accurate - including the frustration and paperwork. However, as a children's book, I would assume it was created to be read to the child as a way to explain their adoption. It just seemed to have a negative tone to it. Yes, there is a lot of waiting but I would prefer to focus on the excitement and expectation in that waiting.
Also, the illustrations were very outdated. I mean, how many American women wear hats with veils?
Two stars.

Unglued Devotional

I received this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review. I read Lysa TerKeurst's blog and her email devotions and always seem to get something out of both so I was excited to see her new book on the BookSneeze list this time! And I was not disappointed: five stars!
There are 60 short devotionals to read - labeled as "60 days of imperfect progress." Each day begins with Scripture and a "thought for the day" followed by the text and a prayer.
Lysa is so real, sharing her life experiences and how God has shown her lessons through them. Many of them I remember reading as emails and it is so nice to have them all in one book. Like her daughter's 'to do list' which included telling people she loves them (Day 48).
There are so many take-aways in this book! Super reminders like to think about whether you are trying to prove something or improve a relationship (Day 13). Each day is full of wisdom on how to stay strong in the Lord and not come 'unglued' in our human-ness.

Friday, January 25, 2013

An Amish Kitchen

I received this book on my nook from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review. The subtitle is Three Sweet Stories to Nourish Your Soul. But it isn't just that; it also includes a reading group guide, recipes from the three novellas, as well as the herbal remedies used by Fern Zook, one of the characters, who finds her way into each story. But please note that the three stories are independent of each other.
The first novella, A Taste of Faith by Kelly Long, uses Fern Zook as the main character. She is twenty years old and lives with her grandmother. They are the 'go-to' home for herbal remedies and the story revolves around her life and growing independence. I enjoyed this story but thought it ended too abruptly and was very rushed at the end.
The second novella, A Spoonful of Love by Amy Clipston, also revolves around a young lady and her growing independence. This one, Hannah Kling, is running the family's bed and breakfast. She is trying to prove to her parents that she is capable of handling the B&B, even when a young Amish man comes to stay. Again, I enjoyed the story but wished it would have continued.
The third, and final, novella was my favorite. A Recipe for Hope by Beth Wiseman is about a family with three teenage boys, all in their rumschpringe, or running around years. The mom, Eve Bender, struggles with being good enough for her own mom, especially while raising three 'wild' boys. The story shows the ups and downs of two generations trying to interact and respect each other. There are some interesting twists in this story which makes it hard to put down. Again, I wish this would have been longer and not rushed at the end.
Four stars.